The use of project based learning (PBL) in primary classrooms is a natural connection to the fundamentals we encourage our young students to practice everyday in our classrooms. Connecting these practices can help these young minds stay engaged through activities and connections to their world. To accomplish PBL in the primary classroom it is important to remember that as teachers we do not need to reinvent the wheel.
The following are tips for primary educators to remember and practice to make PBL a worthwhile experience to promote student learning and practice of fundamentals.
Grouping: This idea ties right into our daily rules and routines. Having students work through a project provides a learning experience that also focuses on student practice. Ideas such as keep your hands to yourself and sharing with others are an important part of the group work. As they work collaboratively they should say nice things to each other (or say nothing at all). In a classroom with many students (and not so many for that matter), students should always use their “conversation” voices with each other.
Centers/Stations: “Chunk” the activities into learning groups or centers. If thinking about using Defined Learning then we could create centers based around the resources available. One center could be the career video where they watch the video together and practice classroom rules such as 1,2,3 Eyes on Me. Another center could focus on the guiding questions from the career video. Students could complete these either as artwork, an oral conversation, or a written response. A center could be the product station with students working on one of the products to engage in a hands-on activity. A final station could be the research station where the teacher provides library books and/or other videos. Using a centers or stations approach will allow for student movement and promote attentiveness. This approach can also help address the curriculum through authentic and meaningful learning using project based learning. Working together and supporting each other in their group can promote growth and ownership. It also encourages students to be kind while learning how to interact and problem solve together.
Content Connections/Selecting the Performance Task (PT): Begin by identifying a topic from your curriculum that will most benefit your students and will be easily relatable. Match a performance task to the standard(s) to be met. Another option would be connecting the theme of the task to a book you’re reading or a book you have in your classroom.
Dissect what parts of the PT will be used. How will they be set up in the centers/stations? Look at tying in other standards that might be met across the curriculum. This will be beneficial when setting up the centers that were mentioned earlier. It will provide more opportunities and flare to the centers/stations.
Assessment: Everybody talks about assessments. As you know assessment at the primary level looks a little different than the rest of the classrooms. For activities tied to tasks we are trying to help students understand what they are learning. Group work is a strong part of assessment at the primary level. Some key factors include questioning/exploring, creation of objects, and cooperation within the groups. More often than not, the assessments are about participating in the learning process and simply being an active part.
PBL is a great way to meet these skills and experiences! As you could see we could use PBL and the strategies to assist our students to learn and grow. It allows for meaningful experiences and practice to be a good human while making content connections in the primary classroom.
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