Too often, teachers tell students exactly what they need to learn instead of guiding students with questions. Essential questions (also known as "driving questions") create authentic learning experiences to engage and motivate students. With strong essential questions, you'll never hear students ask “why are we doing this?”
The most engaging questions are open-ended and require research. They also give students choice by allowing them to align their learning with their own passions and interests. Essential questions are a key element of project-based learning, so we’ve outlined 14 essential question stems to help you get started.
Last month we invited you and your students to join classrooms from around the world in PenPal-A-Palooza 2020. Since then over 1,000 teachers from 70 different countries have joined this special event! To join PenPal-A-Palooza simply participate in any PenPal Schools topic during February 2020. At the end of PenPal-A-Palooza, we’ll recognize students who submit outstanding projects as PenPal Stars.
Meet PenPal Star Matt, a Grade 7 student from South Africa! Matt and his classmates recently participated in two PenPal Schools topics, World Explorer and Plant & Animal Adaptation.
If you’re looking to dive into project based learning with your class but are having trouble finding the right projects, we’re here to help! We’ll looking at 10 project based learning ideas for 2020, featuring some of our favorite PenPals! All of these project based learning ideas come from exploring PenPal Schools topics, so you can bring these PBL ideas to your classroom!
1. Ask your students to analyze fake news
How does Fake News affect communities around the world? Challenge your students to think about the characteristics of exaggerated or disingenuous media and its potential effects on society. In Facts, Opinions and Fake News, students create a public service announcement where they inform others how to distinguish a credible news story from a disreputable one or ask them to write a fictional story imagining a world where people believe every news story they hear.
You and your students are invited to join classrooms from around the world in the biggest PenPal exchange of the year: PenPal-A-Palooza 2020! To join PenPal-A-Palooza simply participate in any PenPal Schools topic during January or February 2020.
Now that more schools around the world have access to the internet, teachers are eager to connect their students globally. Global connections not only increase engagement for students and improve social & emotional skills like empathy, but they also require students to improve communication skills like reading, writing, and digital literacy. Global connections can take your project-based learning unit to the next level! According to Andrew Miller, “PBL naturally connects to global readiness as it focuses on complex issues, problem solving, and taking action.”
2019 was a busy year for the PenPal Schools community! Over the past twelve months, PenPals discussed a variety of academic subjects from current events and world cultures to robotics and environmental issues. In 2019 students on PenPal Schools answered 146,986 discussion questions, shared 457,012 comments, and published more than 50,000 projects!
Whether writing poetry and personal essays or designing flags and fashion trends, PenPals worked together to develop critical reading, writing, technology, and social and emotional skills. Students from 48 countries connected to share perspectives and publish projects!
We couldn’t be more excited to start 2020 off with two new PenPal topics designed and built with leading global publisher Oxford University Press!
Happy New Year from the PenPal Schools team! We hope that you and your students had a restful holiday season and have returned excited to pursue project-based learning and global connections in 2020.
In the first PenPal News of 2020 we share a couple announcements, featured PenPal topics for January 2020, and our most recent PenPal Stars!
Over 900 students from more than 17 different countries participated in the Giving Thanks Photography & Essay contest on PenPal Schools. Students from the United States, Mexico, Thailand, and Lithuania shared photographs and wrote essays about the people, places, and things that they are most grateful for. From the 900 contest participants, seven students were selected as contest winners!