This post originally appeared on the blog Performing in Education.   

Have you heard of project-based learning? Read this post to find out what it is and how to do it in YOUR school!

What is Project-based Learning?
Project-based learning (PBL) is a teaching method where 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 standalone. It can be added to the teaching you are already doing in your classroom. PBL allows for more real world application and in-depth understanding of the concepts your students need to understand.

The first time I did project-based learning in my classroom, students were voluntarily doing extra research and activities for their project at home.

What are the benefits for students? 
Project-based learning is exciting for students. The first time I did PBL in my classroom, students were voluntarily doing extra research and activities for their project at home. I am constantly impressed by the level of interest students take in these projects. Student interest equals engagement, which will raise your test scores without all that boring test prep. In the long run, PBL helps students practice life skills like creating a budget or starting a business.

Download PBL in my store now!

What are the benefits for teachers? In project-based learning, students work to investigate the concepts by making their own choices. Once you’ve set up the parameters, the students do all the work. You are just there to facilitate. PBL also involves far less paper than worksheets, and far less grading. Students receive a final project grade, and observational grades throughout.

What do I need for Project-based Learning?
The following components are needed for a project to be considered Project-based learning:

  • Significant Content – At its core, the project is focused on teaching students important knowledge and skills, derived from standards and key concepts at the heart of academic subjects.
  • 21st century competencies – Students build competencies valuable for today’s world, such as problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity/innovation, which are explicitly taught and assessed.
  • In-Depth Inquiry – Students are engaged in an extended, rigorous process of asking questions, using resources, and developing answers.
  • Driving Question – Project work is focused by an open-ended question that students understand and find intriguing, which captures their task or frames their exploration.
  • Need to Know – Students see the need to gain knowledge, understand concepts, and apply skills in order to answer the Driving Question and create project products, beginning with an Entry Event that generates interest and curiosity.
  • Voice and Choice – Students are allowed to make some choices about the products to be created, how they work, and how they use their time, guided by the teacher and depending on age level and PBL experience.
  • Critique and Revision – The project includes processes for students to give and receive feedback on the quality of their work, leading them to make revisions or conduct further inquiry.
  • Public Audience – Students present their work to other people, beyond their classmates and teacher.

Source: Buck Institute for Education

How do I plan a PBL activity?
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 will 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 allow for choice to go with the driving question.

The first time I did project-based learning in my classroom, students were voluntarily doing extra research and activities for their project at home.


 What others have said about my project-based learning activities:

Engaging, ready-to-go lessons that provide excellent support to a math curriculum to engage students and motivate them for learning. Ultimate PBL

Absolutely wonderful resource for helping me in my quest for an inquiry based classroom. Thank you! My kids are doing the Thanksgiving Dinner Activity this week and LOVE it! Ultimate PBL

I am using this right now with my 5th graders. They love it! It is funny to see how shocked they are by how quickly their money goes. Excellent product! Personal Budget PBL 

Save some time and grab one of these pre-made PBLs! You can buy a bundle, or try just one out here.


Performing in EducationI’m a full time curriculum designer who’s been in and out of the classroom. I blog over at and have been selling resources on Teachers Pay Teachers for four years. I’ve taught 4th, 5th, 6th, middle school, gifted, and reading intervention. I started designing curriculum to provide fun, high-interest activities for students who need a little extra motivation. I’ve also presented professional development sessions, online, and in person!