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.