Do Frogs Like to Travel?

I never thought about this until we did our first PBL project on animals earlier this year, and a grade 2 student chose this as her question. This was one of the first signs to show we were on the right path, and that this project was destined to become one of our favourites.

My How Might We from our 2nd F2F

So far, I have come full circle in my thinking during this PD experience. In our first f2f, I thought my focus would be on PBL. In January, I decided to shift my focus to gifted students and learn how to best select age/ability/interest based assignments that are appropriate, meaningful, and self-motivating for grade 2 students. It was interesting to read the feedback I received on the Crowdsourced Inspiration activity, which overwhelmingly recommended PBL as the best approach. So now I'm back to my original How Might We Question: How might we make PBL a regular part of our elementary program?

Fortunately, my teaching partner and I decided to make PBL our main focus this year and are discovering there's a lot to learn! I've included a brief summary of our experience so far this year.

Project #1 Neighbourhood Animal Project

-each student chose a local animal of interest to study and formed 3 questions (2 closed and 1 open) to answer

PBL Worries

  • What’s the difference between a good question and a bad question?
  • Students will not find answers to their questions.
  • It will be a classroom management nightmare with their lack of independence and vast range of reading levels.
  • Will I have enough resources at the right reading levels?
  • Will I become too overwhelmed and feel like bailing on the project?

Resources

-teacher librarian and tech guy
-variety of library books and online resources (Epic and PebbleGo)
-grade 4 reading/research buddies
-people in our community (ornithologist and zoologist) to speak with kids and answer questions through Google Hangouts

Take Aways

-needed all of the above resources
-tricky finding some material at low reading levels
-loved their questions and it was a great way to see all of their thinking that is often hidden
-kids were more engaged
-easier than I thought with fewer classroom management problems than imagined
-not the end of the world when kids can’t find answers
       -instead they can be creative and use background knowledge to offer a best guess
-more time consuming finding appropriate reading level or alternative resources (YouTube…) than previous projects
-keen to try it again but still a little worried

What to do Next?

 

We're about to begin our second PBL project on countries and would love to hear your ideas on how to improve our program.

4 thoughts on “Do Frogs Like to Travel?

  1. Hi Keri,
    I enjoyed reading your post, particularly, because I too teach Grade 2, and we just completed our first PBL project. We spent first term working collaboratively on our final product - a Mouse Library, complete with elevators, lights, different zones and even a laser printer! I'll be writing a blog post shortly about our process so stay tuned for that. But...in the meantime, the big consideration for me with implementing PBL was the actual question and the authenticity of it. It is rather difficult for our little guys. After completing a 3 day PBL course this past summer I really wanted to try and hit as many of the standards as possible. We ended up achieving all 8, producing a gold standard project. We were amazed and I firmly believe it all had to do with the question posed. Our question happened on its own without any teacher lead. We chalked it up to luck as it came out of a lesson on a learning tool that we have used for years - but never had a project like this come out of it. In a nutshell we introduced our kids to a small stuffed mouse as a learning tool to remind students that they sometimes have to work 'quiet as a mouse' and other times we are loud and collaborative. After reading the book 'The Library Mouse' and handing out the mice to our students, they wrote a book with their mouse. The papers were 2"x2" and we used mini pencils. This was the key... even our reluctant writers wanted to write with their mice. After a few writing sessions and many requests for more paper - one student asked "Where will we put our mini-mouse books? They will get lost in our library." Old me would have gotten a bin out and set it on the shelf. New me said "that is a fantastic question, how do you think we could solve that problem?" I honestly expected them to build a shelf to add to our library, but it evolved into a HUGE project that we all couldn't have been more proud of. These opportunities are the golden ones; however, we as teachers often need to plan and cover certain skills which requires us to 'lead' our students, sometimes, compromising authenticity. I am now hooked on PBL, but I am concerned that I won't have another 'golden question'. While sharing this concern with some curriculum leaders, QFT - Question Formulation Technique, was recommended. I've modelled this technique with our Gr. 3 students and will be visiting again shortly to see if any 'golden' questions came out of it. If your students are able to create great questions, the rest of PBL is easy peasy, and I have not doubt that it will become a regular part of your program. I hope this helps and would be happy to chat more. Not sure if you have attended any PBL workshops, but we are hosting one in August at Hillfield Strathallan College if you are interested. I attended it last year and it was FANTASTIC!

    1. Post author

      Thank you for your detailed comment. Your Mouse Library sounds amazing. I can see why the children were so engaged. : ) Our summer homework was reading a resource about PBL, and it often spoke about the importance of finding a golden question without teacher direction. I also find that a bit intimidating. Our head of curriculum speaks’ very highly of QFT, and several staff members are currently using it right now. I hope to find the time to read up on it and give it a try this term. I am also hoping to participate in the 3 day workshop this coming summer at Hillfield Strathallan to learn more about PBL. I definitely have a lot to learn! Thanks again for sharing your experience.

    1. Post author

      Hi Justin,

      Thanks for the suggestion. I will definitely check in with our curriculum director and see if we can join the institute this summer. I know we have a lot to learn!

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