When you’re starting project-based learning for the first time, there are a lot of stakeholders to get on board, from administrators to colleagues and parents. Too often, teachers forget about the most important people: the students! Here are three ways to introduce project-based learning to your students to get them excited, engaged, and eager to learn!
Get students excited with a launch event
Project based learning should feel different to students from the very beginning. An exciting launch event sets the tone for the whole project, so make it special! Project based learning is effective because students are applying skills in a real way, so your launch event should feel authentic, too.
You want to create a sense of urgency and authenticity, and most importantly spark curiosity so that students are excited to create, solve problems, and ask questions. This is a great place to bring extra creativity into your classroom! We love the way teachers at Manor New Tech High School in Austin, Texas hook students with the use of videos, costumes, and guests. This entry video for a multi-disciplinary project is a great example, because it creates an authentic scenario for students, sparks engagement through role play, and is a lot more exciting than a handout.
"You want to create a sense of urgency and authenticity, and most importantly spark curiosity so that students are excited to create, solve problems, and ask questions." Click to Tweet
Clarification is key
Once you’ve gotten students excited with a quick and engaging launch event - now what? Turn their excitement into motivation by clarifying what they’ll actually be doing. Students may start to disengage if they don’t understand exactly what’s expected. This can be tricky because effective project-based learning enables students to choose what they’ll create. You should provide students with a clear framework from the beginning so that they can focus their brain power on learning and creating.
You can (and should) clarify the purpose, process, and product for students.
Make students feel confident
Project-based learning can feel new and different to both you and your students! Build confidence in your learners by recognizing the knowledge and skills that they already have. Aligning your project to your curriculum helps students make connections between their project and other class activities. This can be as simple as using a K-W-L chart, which also helps students take ownership of their own learning.
Choice is another way to help students feel confident and in control of their learning. There are a lot of ways to provide choice for students, like allowing them to decide who to work with, what materials or resources to use, and what to create. Frequent and consistent opportunities for reflection or feedback from teachers and peers can also build confident learners. This helps students stay focused on the learning process instead of rushing to complete a task.
"Frequent and consistent opportunities for reflection or feedback from teachers and peers helps to build confident learners." Click to Tweet
Project-based learning can sometimes feel chaotic, but that shouldn’t prevent you from adopting PBL practices in your classroom. You don’t need to feel like you’re pulling teeth to get students engaged through project-based learning. Remember to start with a great launch event, keep expectations clear, and build confidence in your learners throughout your project and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a project-based learning rockstar!
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