Category Archives: Project Based Learning

Every Classroom Matters

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My Interview on BAM!radio for Every Classroom Matters with Vicki Davis, the CoolCatTeacher.

Dr. Ed Gragert, Craig Perrier and I will be talking about the Lesson For All at the online Global Education Conference on November 18th. Please join us to learn more. You can listen to the short interview on the link below.

Global Competence: Changing How Students Think About and Value Education.

Classroom 2.0 LIVE!

What an honor to be chosen as the Featured Teacher for Classroom 2.0 LIVE! If you are interested in Project-based Learning or 21st Century Learning, here is the recording.  Here’s the Livebinder link to all of the projects and resources mentioned in the presentation.

Make sure you visit the Classroom 2.0 LIVE site and check the calendar for upcoming events and archives. They are always a great resource for cutting edge education ideas and resources.

What’s the Most Valuable Trait in Learning?

If I was to choose one single quality that helps people the most, not only with success in school but also with happiness throughout life, it would be internal motivation.

Internal motivation is what drives passion. It drives the quest for knowledge, it drives interest and it drives repeat exposure to something…which in turn creates expertise. Some adults never possess that in their lifetime, and I think it has a lot to do with how we structure our teaching…therefore our learning.

I have a niece who is brilliant by all standard and practical measurements. When she was about 16, I asked her if she had any thoughts about college. She told me that maybe she’d like to major in guitar. Now don’t get me wrong, I deeply value music…both of my kids are musicians, and although my niece plays guitar, it isn’t her biggest strength by a long shot…it isn’t even something she loves to do or is particularly good at. Of all of the many interests she has ranging from science, medicine, social justice, engineering, economics, literature and the like…why guitar?

The question really is: why is it when we think passion we think extra-curricular? I think it’s because those are the times that we can be internally directed. It feels like playing, and when we become so engaged in what we’re doing, we do more of it, and become more skilled.  It’s like a powerful ongoing circle of interest, learning, practice and skill.

Many of the great inventors, scientists, writers, artists, whatever… the greats in any industry…many of them approach their craft like play. The motivation comes from within. They follow their interests and curiosities as they weave in and out…they follow the winding path as it leads to new understandings and possibilities. They are often the people we call geniuses after the fact. If our goal in education includes helping produce successful, accomplished, empowered, productive human beings…we need the cultivation of internal motivation as part of our learning culture.

If we want to create a system that supports internal motivation…and invites passion in science, math, literature, global issues, as well as music, athletics, art, theater and anything else….we have to start creating and supporting a system that includes 21st century learning such as innovation, choice, relevance and  self-direction.  Maybe you don’t think it’s possible to do that while teaching content. Many teachers, schools, and districts already do. A quick internet search with terms such as Project based learning, Problem based learning,  21st Century Learning, STEM, Genius Hour, or 20% Time will start to point you in that direction. 

Here is a related TedXTalk by Scott McLeod, author of Dangerously Irrelevant.

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Common Core & Project Based Learning in the Classroom

Off and Running in a Technology Infused, Project-based Learning Classroom!

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Month one: hold on, here we go!

Camp! We returned from our three-day Outdoor Education trip in Wisconsin on Friday, so of course we started talking, writing and then blogging about Camp Timber-lee. Such enthusiasm and detail! Wow…sure pays to find something kids want to write about rather than forcing contrived prompts they don’t connect with.

We started our first Project-based Learning unit with Mrs. Parisi’s class in Long Island, The Denton DynamosUS Government: integrating reading, writing, history, and current events by studying some significant US laws. Students will trace laws back through time by reading and comparing electronic and paper sources. They are in teams of eight, four from the Dynamos and four from our class.  So far we’ve had two joint Skype lessons, and we begin collaborative research in Google Docs on Monday.

Today we meet the Wilderness Classroom team on Google Hangout before they head out on their journey. We will follow Amy Freeman and a team of geologists from UC Berkeley and MIT as they camp, canoe, hike, bike, and dogsled around the world to provide interactive classroom lessons. Here’s their itinerary.

  • Understand how the Slate Islands were formed.
    (September 2013) 
  • Explore the Boreal Forest by dogsled this winter and study a variety of topics including; weather, geology and erosion, watersheds, predator-prey relationships, wolves, the night sky, the physics of dogsledding, Ojibwa culture, Expedition ABC’s, and much more. (January – March 2014)
  • Explore the Amazon Rainforest. Join us as we follow in the footsteps of Theodore Roosevelt!
    (April – June 2014)

Then there is iEARN, (International Education and Resource Network )…where their motto is “Learning with the world, not just about it.” We will be joining a Learning Circle with classrooms around the world to engage and collaborate in the My Hero Project.

The 100 World Challenge! I’ve written about it before, so click the link for more information. The kids love this weekly challenge, and it really helps develop word choice.

Lastly math. Our district is currently in the process of adapting our math instruction to meet the Common Core Standards. The infusion of MangahighLearnZillion, and Khanacademy  have really helped with re-teaching while allowing me to get quick snapshots of who is getting it and who needs more support. This instant feedback is critical to my teaching as I reflect and adapt to meet the kids where they are. We’re taking our time to make sure the train isn’t going with no one on!

As I add tech tools to my students’ repertoire, I add them to our  Symbaloo page. They have access to this wherever they are. This site will grow and change as we go.

All in all, a great start to the year!

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I almost forgot! Our class song:)

Starting Your Year with Student Blogging

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If you haven’t considered blogging with your students, now’s the time!

I’ve taught fifth grade for the past 14 years, I have never found a more powerful approach to teaching writing than blogging. It creates an authentic audience, and kids actually want to write. I have an easy step by step guide to starting off on a good foot.

 

 

Click the title below for a more detailed explanation with resources.

Overview of Lessons to Begin Blogging

1. Make paper blogs to teach blogging. Here’s the lesson plan:
Paper Blogs: McTeach lesson

2.  7 Random Facts About Me To teach what information can be on a public space, and what can not.

3. Establish Blogging Guidelines.

4. Quality Comments

5. Start with small assignments

6. International Dot Day: How will you make a difference in the world?

7. Include parents

8. Connect with a couple of classrooms

9.Let them explore with color and style to personalize their blog site

10.Don’t grade! At least not at first.

11.Blog at least weekly                                                                                                         

12.Be Patient

Here’s a great article about the State of Blogging:

The State of Educational Blogging 2013

There are more resources linked here.

PBL and the 21st Century Competencies

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PBL for the 21st Century Success: Teaching Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication and Creativity, looks like another wonderful edition to the Project-based Learning books published through the non-profit Buck Institute for Education (BIE).  Suzy Boss, lead author, and John Larmer, Editor-in-Chief  of BIE, summarized the book in their June 5th webinar. Although it was written for middle and high school, as 5th grade teacher, I think it would work for upper elementary as well. I’ll give a few highlights here, but it is really worth a closer look.

  • Focuses on integrating and explicitly teaching the 21st century competencies, the 4Cs: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication
  • There are chapters that focus on each of the 4Cs that provide:
    • Example projects
    • Classroom ‘Look fors’ that we should be seeing over time to demonstrate learning
    • Infographics that deliberately explain how the Cs can be integrated in every aspect of the project
    • Rubrics to assess the Cs at all of the four stages of the project

In addition, you will find:

  • Research highlights throughout
  • Non-fiction emphasis
  • Alignment with the Common Core and explanations
  • Reflection prompts
  • Tech tips to help support the development of the 4Cs

You will find the webinar archived here.

The book, as well as their introductory PBL books,  can be purchased here.

You can find all of their webinars:

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