Debbie Carona (@DebbieCarona) began her session by showing a number of videos of student work. Once we all had an idea of what may be possible with regard to student learning, she began walking us through the process.

THE HOOK

Debbie begins by explaining that great PBL projects begin with Entry Events or a “Hook.” This could be anything from a video to a challenge from the Head Master or a video conference with an expert. It doesn’t have to be anything big, it just has to grab the students’ attention so that they can start to make good inquiries. In a recent project on geology, 2nd graders began by creating a landform in Play Dough.

DRIVING QUESTION

Once you have them in, a driving question gets students further engaged in the next step – wither it is a one day or six week project. A driving question has a number of key characteristics. It is provocative or challenge, open-ended or complex, and linked to the core of what you want students to learn.

NEED TO KNOW

Once students are excited and have buy-in, Debbie says that students need to then begin to ask students what they need to know. This would be the “W” part of a “KWL.” At this stage, students start to ask deeper questions to begin researching information.

One challenge at this stage is finding information at an elementary level. Teachers may need to curate content and scaffold the process so that students can then begin to gather content. This all leads to research and in-depth inquiry. One great suggestion for safe researching is to curate content into Google Docs and then have the students access the content via a link or QR code. Britannica (or another online encyclopedia) as well as resource apps such as “Landforms” are another great way to get materials that students can then explore. It’s the exploration and inquiry that leads to increased motivation.

To support this process, Debbie says that they also use a lot of mind mapping tools such as Inspiration. Not only do these tools help them to collect ideas and draw connections, but the “bubble nature” also helps them to prevent plagiarism as it forces them to put content in their own words.

REVISION & REFLECTION

While these two elements occur throughout the entire project, and at every stage, each project also progresses through a more formal phase of it. Here, the students start to improve their work and create products. They incorporate more formalized feedback loops and make connections to real world scenarios. This reflection and feedback may occur in small groups or whole groups.

Reflections could occur as text, images, exit tickets, back channels, or even Kidblog posts. All of these things help to take the pulse of the class to see who’s still on board.

AUTHENTIC AUDIENCE

“This is where so much of the pride comes in.” says Debbie. By giving students an audience, they take more ownership in the process and rise to the occasion.

A FEW EXAMPLES

Debbie showed a number of excellent elementary projects that she completed with her students. They all had a number of things in common.

  • Students used digital and physical resources.
  • While the teacher served as the curator of content, the students explored and asked questions independently.
  • All of the examples had an interdisciplinary element – including reading, digital citizenship, and other curricular areas.
  • Each project was published to a larger audience – whether public on the web or to the broader school community.
  • Every project had a real world connection and connotation that allowed them to apply their learning.

Debbie wrote a great blog post about one of her projects and published all of her slides.