Project-Based Learning (PBL) is taking off in primary and secondary classrooms, as teachers are experimenting with new and innovative ways of engaging students with 21st century skills. PBL encourages student motivation through self exploration and query-based learning. Here are great tips for getting started or improving your practice.

Try Project-Based Learning “20Time”

Laura RandazzoTpT Teacher-Author and Literature teacher Laura Randazzo blogs about her experiences with project-based learning in her classroom: “I’ve decided to launch a massive — and terrifying – project with my freshmen this spring designed to change, or at least challenge, their mindset. A million particulars still need to be decided, but I’m cannonballing into the waters of self-directed, project-based learning. More details will follow, but basically I’m going to guide my students through an experience where they choose a worthwhile project to complete (somewhat) on their own. I’ll grade only the process, not the product. I promise I’ll keep blogging about my adventure and post materials as I finish creating and trying them out with my students.”

Her students will participate in a 20Time project, a 12-week experience where they’ll choose a worthwhile project to complete (somewhat) on their own using 20 percent of our class time.” In her blog, you’ll find resources, insights (and humor!) — perfect for high school teachers beginning this exciting process.

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Performing in Education

Performing in Education writes in her blog about PBL: “Project-based learning is a teaching method in which students gain and apply skills by working on a long project where they complete an in-depth inquiry into a specific topic or question. Like all teaching methods, it’s not stand-alone. It can be added to the teaching you’re already doing in your classroom. PBL allows for more real-world application and in-depth understanding of the concepts your students need to understand.”

Kid in a Candy StoreScreen Shot 2015-03-04 at 2.45.31 PMScreen Shot 2015-03-04 at 2.48.19 PMShe walks readers through an example of this type of project, as her 5th graders created their own candy stores. “This project was implemented in six 1-hour blocks. I began by showing students a video about the candy store ITSUGAR and then held a short discussion on what it would be like to open their own candy store.” Ready to try it, too? She offers a few suggestions:

  • Begin with 2-3 standards you’ve been teaching.
  • Ask yourself what students can do with these standards in their real lives, and how they’ll do it.
  • Create a driving question based on this information. Plan out what you want students to do each day during the investigation.
  • Create a few activities that go with the driving question and allow for choice.

Creative Classroom-Based Projects

Digital Divide and ConquerDigital Divide and Conquer says, “I’m just going to throw this out there: I love projects. It doesn’t matter if it’s reading, math, science, whatever — I just love projects. Giving students a large-scale (or long-scale) project, seeing them attack problems, deciding where to start, and/or working within a group is one of the best things we can do as teachers. Yes, it takes a lot of work to make sure students are progressing and making appropriate progress — but it’s what we do. Let me clarify this a little more: I love projects that take place in the classroom. I don’t always trust projects that go home and then come back a little too perfect because of major parent involvement.”

He blogs about an example project where students design a city. “If you’re looking to incorporate more project-based learning opportunities into your class, take a look at Geometrocity: A City Made of Math. It can be completed individually, within a group, or even as a class project. Your students will literally be designing, planning, and building a city using geometry!”

Additional Resources for Project-Based Learning

2 Brainy Apples2Brainy Apples adds from her experience: “Sure it’s difficult for students to complete these tasks at first. Chances are, students haven’t been required to think in that way. But after you’ve shown exemplars and had students work collaboratively, they’ll soon learn how to become independent, real-world problem solvers. At first, I tried to control how the performance tasks would turn out….HUGE mistake! Now I sit back and watch. I’ve seen some of the most impressive projects as a result. With an authentic performance task, there’s more than one way to complete a project, and no two projects will be alike.”

Ms. Terra Cotta Time CompanyEvil Math Wizard posts about the Ms. Terra Cotta Tile Company project that her class has begun. It’s ideal for upper elementary, she says. “Basically, I pretend that I’m ‘Ms. Terra Cotta,’ and I own a tile design company. My students become my designers and they each have ‘clients.’ Each client’s portfolio includes a tile project that s/he needs designed, such as a patio floor, shower surround, or kitchen back splash. My students create a design, choose tile colors, make a bid, and then present the design to their clients.”

And More PBL Resources to Try


(Feature image: Thanks to happydoodleclass for the Children I Love Reading Books graphics, Prettygrafik for the School supplies clipart, and Clipart Coach Academics for the School Clipart.)