Monday, July 29, 2013

Project Based Learning Pre-assessment and Planning

Project based learning has appealed to me as an instructional tool for awhile.  I never really knew where to begin. In my classroom this year, I think I would like to try at least one project based learning experience in each subject.  The subjects where project based learning seems to make the most sense to me are science and social studies.  These are subjects with a wide variety of content and areas where differentiation is often sorely needed.   In my classroom, social studies will be the first subject where I try project based learning.   Some interesting PBL units for social studies would be to take a topical approach.  For example, students can study fashion changes throughout history, changes in transportation, changes in communication, etc. With elementary students, it makes sense to me to model the process.  I would probably do one whole-group small project as a class where we go through the process together to model my thinking and see what issues come up.  We could probably make a list of project ideas and vote on what idea to choose. Before my students can choose a project area to research on their own, they will have to be familiar enough with the basic content of a unit. Thus, we would first introduce the major events and themes of a unit. A couple of issues I want to keep in mind while trying project based learning with gifted students are metacognition and perfectionism. I realize how much more this year I need to emphasize thinking about thinking in my classroom.

Before beginning a PBL unit, I would do a project pre-assessment where students make a list of possible project ideas and then create questions on the topic after narrowing it down.  I also would like them to analyze what resources they will need and what they hope to accomplish. 

After that, they will make a plan for their project. In their plan, they will list research due dates, due dates for choosing a product, and due date for final product. We will use a calendar template to plan out the process.  Hopefully having them help create their own essential question and ideas for a rubric will aid in their metacognition growth.  I have often found gifted students to be perfectionists when it comes to project details.  Sometimes they get so caught up in certain details they lose sight of the original goal or what is actually being graded on the rubric. Sometimes, they also feel so much pressure for it to be perfect they give up and do nothing.  I want each student to identify some skills (procedural objectives) to focus their effort on while working on the project.  Some students may choose that they need to work harder on typing and research, writing and grammar, creativity and detail, or organization and time management.  For the students who feel everything has to be perfect, I am hoping this will allow them to focus their effort on certain skills and feel less overwhelmed. Ultimately, students would use all of these skills most likely in a project; I just do not want them to think all of these skills have to include their best effort.  

How do you encourage your students to really think through a project based learning experience in your classroom?  How do you encourage metacognition in your classroom (thinking about thinking)? You can get a copy of the project pre-assessment and project plan here.


  1. I do something very similar with my gifted kiddos when we are beginning a research project. It really helps them with planning and
    1) K Without looking up any Information, write what you already KNOW about your topic. 2)Think about what you already know and write what you WANT to learn about your topic. 3) L
    Find three facts using internet, books, personal interview, or magazines. Write the facts you LEARNED about your topic.
    Reread your K-W-L chart. Stop and think for a few minutes. Are you sure you want to continue with this topic. Why or why not? Explain on the back.
    I also give them a Research Rubric and a handout on How to Write a Write a Winning Research Report that I found somewhere online a few years ago!
    I'm loving yours!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  2. I'm new to PBL. Your post caught my eye because I'm trying to implement it this year, too. I made two projects for first grade that we will do at school. Your idea of one project per class is a good one. Mine are for Social studies and reading. I got tons of ideas from the internet. One guy I saw at a conference was Erik Maverik at and a ton from
    Thanks for your post!

  3. Looks like you have a great plan set in place for your project lessons this year. I love your focus on the students setting their own goals for their projects, it is sure to help them think about what they want to get out of their learning.

    Kaylee's Education Studio

  4. can you make these documents accessible please!

  5. i would love to try these pre-assessments! Would you share the student forms?

  6. This is awesome! I am a first year teacher and love implementing PBL but it is so hard to find good resources out there to help implement it. This is probably the single best resource I've found since I started teaching! Thanks for sharing :)

  7. I can't access the link. It gives me an error message. Could you repost or email? I am very new to PBL and I would love to use these templates!


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