Why would you use Project Based Learning activities or PBL math? Well, do you hear a lot of students asking “why do we have to know this?” Are your students bored? Are you bored of the curriculum you are teaching? What would it look like if all you taught was memorization day after day, and you NEVER taught your students real world examples? Would you still have passion for your job? Have you ever given the students worksheets that just have repetitive questions over and over again? The students just memorize that specific phrase, but anytime it’s worded differently they miss the problem. Rote memorization is NOT your friend.
Now what if you gave your students a lesson that they LOVED? That they BEGGED TO COMPLETE? What if this lesson taught REAL WORLD skills that students understand? How would you feel if your students were active learners? What if THE PARENTS CAME UP TO YOU TO THANK YOU for the lessons you are presenting your students?
I remember the first year that I started using PBL in the classroom. The students were SO engaged. Given the gifted cluster, I learned about Project Based Learning activities during my research on math enrichment. I differentiated and adjusted the content so that ALL of my students could participate. ALL STUDENTS SHOULD HAVE CRITICAL THINKING AND ENRICHMENT ACTIVITIES. This is why I started creating my own curriculum. My students LOVED their project. And I loved the process so much I was hooked. Parents approached me during the Open House and THANKED ME for this specific lesson. One parent exclaimed “I’m so happy you’re teaching my student this. If this was the ONLY lesson they learned this year, I would be happy. They will be able to use these skills in the real world!!”
So what is PBL?
PBL is not really just about projects, it’s about the PROCESS. In Project Based Learning, you use a project to TEACH a material. PBL is student driven, and the students LOVE having their own choice. The teacher is a facilitator, but the kids are really the masters of their own learning. Ideally, the goal is to not just to use Project Based Learning as an end of the year review. If you can, use PBL to teach the real world application of skills WHILE the students are learning the materials.
- Students learn the content through a project for deeper understanding
- Students have voice and choice during the assignment
- Students make real world connections to the content
It’s so important that we give opportunities for our students to have their own choices! PBL activities are a great way to encourage students to pick their own path to demonstrate their learning. When you let the students decide their own options, you’ll see your classroom engagement soar.
We use math in every day life, and may not even notice it! It’s so important to show your students all of the connections between math and the real world. They’ll leave the classroom more engaged, and be looking for more connections to their math lessons outside of the classroom. This also helps reinforce the important of math to your students.
Your students are engaged? Check. Your students are making real world connections? Check. And your students are fine tuning their test prep skills? What more could you ask for! If you need a little more, here is some research on PBLs to back it up.
What does it look like?
Things You Should Know About PBL Math
Students may need access to outside materials. They may need to grab a computer, a book, or a calculator. Have all of the materials on hand to help the students. Students have to be collaborating. Sorry rows of desks, you’re out. For Project Based Learning Activities, students must be in small groups. They help one another through the tricky parts. Set the work stations up so that students are in mixed groups with levels – and keep a rotation schedule handy so you can check in on the different groups with ease.
What Should The Teacher Do?
The teacher needs to be able to work with all of the students throughout the project. Make sure to have a system in place so you don’t have 40 students screaming “HELP!!” at the same time. You should be monitoring all students understanding – so go in with a group rotation schedule for your students. The teacher needs to be monitoring internet access, and at times teaching large concepts to the students whole class.
How do I Get Started??
In elementary, project based learning is structured to keep students on track. We are teaching some unique skills! Don’t aim too high or start with a large 8 week project. The longer the project the more the student will learn, but you need to have your time management set up properly. Do you know why teachers love to do PBL at the end of the year? No more formative assessments, you can focus on activities that keep your students engaged, your schedule is flexible, and you know how to group your students.
BUT THEN SOMETHING CHANGES. I tried PBL at the end of the year, but then I never looked back.
What if the project fails?
This is PART of the process. I have an “EPIC FAIL” mistake chain that my students celebrate their mistakes using all year long. If as a teacher I fail, I need to reflect on it. LEARNING IS GOING TO GET MESSY. DOING BIG THINGS GET MESSY. IF YOU ARE TRYING SOMETHING REMARKABLE, IT WILL GET MESSY. How can we fix this challenge? Trust the process. You don’t have to have a perfect result to be a good teacher.
Here are some of the (over 1,000) reviews I’ve had on my PBL products from teachers LIKE YOU.
“Great activity for the last few weeks of school. My students had a blast working on this project. “
” This was just what I was looking for! We had pizza boxes, chef hats, and mustaches to go along with this fun activity. It helped us review fractions, decimals, and area/perimeter before testing. My fourth graders had blast!“
“Can’t wait to use this at the end of our fractions unit. Love the differentiation built into the product! “
“Wonderful, real-life application for the kids to get excited about! Thanks!”