Originally posted on 10/16/2019
When working in a PBL classroom, differentiation is a must.Every student needs appropriate scaffolds to meet the standards and requirements of the project. How do you teach new skills within a project while simultaneously scaffolding and differentiating? Sometimes it feels like you need to clone yourself or even have three teachers in one class in order to meet the needs of all of your students.
Utilizing a station rotation model within projects can help teachers meet these demands. Using this model has truly helped me to maximize project work time as I am able to tackle three goals at once:
When I use a station rotation model in my PBL classroom, I structure the timing to ensure that students can do meaningful work at each station.For example, in a 90-minute block, students may spend 25 minutes at each of three stations, which allows time for transition and instructions. Here’s one example of the stations I might use in project work time.
Station 1: Online Instruction Depending on the number of devices, there are a variety of ways to implement online learning within a project-based setting:
Station 2: Conducting Mini-Lessons with Teacher-Led InstructionStation rotation models give teachers an opportunity for small group instruction, as well as opportunities for formative assessment. For example, during my teacher-directed station, I may give a quick 10-minute lecture on a topic essential to the project. After some discussion, we use this station to also do a quiz or a writing activity. Within this small group, I have found that students are more willing to speak up and ask questions as opposed to when they are in the larger group of students.
Station 3: Keeping Student Groups on TrackIn my own classroom, I have found much success in creating weekly “Mastery Trackers” that enable students to check off tasks/activities when they work in groups or independently. Items on their tracker might include a primary source analysis at the independent station, or a quiz in the small group station, or a group meeting about their project.
One key that I found to be useful in using a mastery tracker was to purposefully integrate project milestones with descriptions so students could work independently without my direction. Once students truly understood the process of the rotation model, my expectations, and how to use their mastery tracker, my class was essentially automated, giving me more time to work with students that needed the most help.
The station rotation model may not be useful for every project, but certainly can be very helpful for differentiating support for students.
Originally posted on www.pblworks.org July 31, 2019
The guest lecturer came in… and we were bored to tears. This was the scene in my U.S. History class. What I thought was going to be a riveting lecture on the post-Civil War Reconstruction era nearly put me to sleep, along with my students. It also went way off of what our project focus was… which was reparations and colonization.
How did I let this happen?
In my new-teacher zeal to be as authentic as possible, I thought it would be good to bring in a local professor for a lecture. (I realize now that it would have been more authentic to have someone from a historical society come in, or even for students to visit buildings still in existence that were built by slaves.) In my failed attempt to be “real world,” we did not get the full impact of what a guest expert can bring to a project. This taught me that while it can be very useful to bring in outside guests to sustain the inquiry in projects, if the experience is unmanaged and poorly planned it can lead to a disaster. As teachers, we do not have ANY time to waste, and we certainly want to maintain good community relationships by not wasting the time of guests!
Here are a few tips to get the most out of your expert classroom visit: Communicate ahead of time about how to speak to the audience
Using local experts is a surefire way to prompt inquiry with students. Working with experts makes learning “real” and inspires students to think about their project more deeply. Guests may cause students to question what they have discovered so far, often digging deeper into an aspect of the presentation that they feel enriches their work. Managing guests’ interactions with your students through planning and support will ensure that they add significant value to your students’ projects.
Originally posted on www.pblworks.org 3/27/2019
In 2010 I was tasked with creating a women’s studies course. It was the first of its kind in my district. Never mind that this was only my second year of teaching and I was literally just figuring out how to do my grades! After a lot of trial and error, research and project planning the course was ready to go, or so I thought.
For the next three years my students and I delved into topics that were relevant to them and often pushed my own understanding. We covered everything from equal pay, to women’s health, to gender stereotypes and international women’s issues. As an educator I had to re-immerse myself back in my women’s studies course from undergrad and think about how to make this relatable to a high school audience.
We began the course by exploring the historical waves of feminism; we read “Ain’t I a woman?” “Baby X”, “I want a wife” and “Feminine Mystique.” Throughout the year we moved into different issues women face. We watched videos on colorism and intersectionality, and brought in survivors of domestic violence to discuss their experiences, after which my students planned a domestic violence awareness event to educate their peers on dating abuse. Documentaries like Miss Representation and Good Hair helped set the stage for debunking stereotypes about women. Students were surprised by how many of the stereotypes they believed and where they originated in their own socialization. Books like Half the Sky ignited passion in students to move to action for issues such as menstruation stigma.
Our culminating project was a community show and forum called “Pass the Mic,” where students hosted a debate on the role of women in hip hop followed by performances paying tribute to women in the music industry. The event was a major success, with over 200 attendees each year. Students planned and executed everything from contacting forum guests, to designing the staging and promotional materials, to managing the show itself.
Designing to the Edges: Women’s History ProjectsCreating and teaching this course was one of the highlights of my teaching career, as it taught me about “designing to the edges”—creating content while keeping in mind those furthest from opportunity. While we were covering these topics because of the nature of the course, I wondered why every course didn’t include women’s history. This women’s history month, I think about how the narratives of women, particularly women of color are often left out of the curriculum.
PBL projects can be the way to reintroduce those concepts. Current events surrounding women’s rights can present a very authentic entry point. I was often inspired to create a unit based on issues happening in local and national news. For example, a discussion on raising the minimum wage and its origins in the progressive era can also touch on how today tipped workers are mostly women, who are impacted greatly by such policies. In STEM, research on the works of notable yet oft-forgotten female scientists and mathematicians can be brought to the forefront, connected to major tech corporations’ current efforts to figure out how to attract and retain more women. Additionally, as many companies are updating their maternity and paternity leave policies to meet the demands of expecting families, students can explore how other countries tackle this issue. The wage gap which still exists in many industries can be viewed from a women’s rights lens, highlighting the U.S. women’s soccer team and WNBA as major leaders in this fight.
For those interested in exploring this in their project design, I suggest partnering with local women’s organizations to find speakers. Also, utilize online resources (I have linked a few below) to encourage students to analyze and challenge laws such as wage discrimination, maternity leave, and domestic violence.
Including the voices of women is important work that has the capacity to reach beyond the classroom. This year’s Oscar winner for best documentary short, “Period. End of Sentence” began as an initiative led by a high school English teacher in Oakwood, California. The film is about students who helped women in India create their own pads to increase their access to education. Projects that give voice and perspective to the current and historical issues women and girls face help students learn how far we still have to go to achieve gender equality.