This week I found a few interesting PBL projects. I teach 7th grade ELA, and, by luck, my nephew who will be entering 7th grade in a few weeks is visiting me this week! With his input, I found several projects that would be workable for my students.
-This project is similar to one I had my students complete a couple of years ago. In an effort to teach proposal writing (rather than a persuasive essay), I asked my students to choose an issue, or problem, that they felt passionate about and which directly affected their lives. We spent several weeks researching and conducting surveys and then wrote proposals. The students either mailed the proposals, or sub,otters them in person. This project would have been much better if I had followed the essential elements of project design. My nephew, however, thought this project seemed boring.
-This project excited my nephew the most, but as I looked at it more closely, it seemed like a poor fit for my ELA classes. The driving question is weak and there are no standards listed. I would be recreating the entire project. I still might do this project, however, because the one class I regret not taking in college would have been this project (more or less). The year I taught sophomores, I began planning a year-long project of this type based on Robinson Crusoe! But then I returned to Middle School and forgot it. I have used Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for writing assignments in the past, and this project reminded me of that. If I were to use this project, I would have to focus highly on research and writing skills.
-This project is also similar to one I have done in the past, and is my nephew’s 2nd choice. I like it because it requires students to think about how to convince other people to buy something, as well as about how they are being influenced by commercials. I could probably use most of this project as is, but if I choose to use it, I will add more about media influence and persuasive techniques.
Students Against Violence (could accompany The Outsiders)
-I like this assignment because it could accompany The Outsider, which is a book that we already read. I probably will not choose this project, because it will require too many changes. I don’t like the driving question and I’m not sure about the overall purpose of the project. I like the idea of exploring teen violence, but I’m not sure that a media campaign would reduce teen violence.
I spent a lot of time researching Driving Questions. The best discussion of good driving questions came from Grant Wiggins. Here are my 3 favorite quotes:
“Compelling questions focus on enduring issues and concerns. They deal with curiosities about how things work; interpretations and applications of disciplinary concepts; and unresolved issues that require students to construct arguments in response.”
“Essential questions propose recurring priority inquiries. A small but important distinction between compelling and essential questions has now emerged from the examples. Do you see a difference? Our essential questions are more open-ended and not as specific to historical particulars as the C3 examples highlighted here. Ours will “recur over time” (the 7th indicator, above) by design; the compelling questions, by contrast, seem more tied to specific content. They do not seem to address “enduring issues” as well as they might.”
“The best essential questions can be used for both topical inquiries and long-term recurring investigations that signal overarching ideas and intellectual priorities.”
This research on driving questions helped me to see that many of the projects I found did not have good driving questions.
I think PBL will fit with my teaching style because I like managing projects. I would prefer for my students to learn through discovery as opposed to cramming their brains with information. My concern about PBL is that I do not tend to organize things well enough before starting. I am hoping that this class will help me to prepare adequately BEFORE assigning a project.
jAs I mentioned above, if I had to choose from these four already created projects, I would choose You Gotta Get This! However, I will include a portion where my students must analyze commercials and their effects before creating their own commercials. I’m looking forward to working out the details.