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Project-Based Learning and Different Age Groups
Roberta says: I want to introduce it to my Junior High students.
I suggest you begin with an introduction to project-based learning with your students. Maybe you show a highly motivating video from one of our external resources such as Buck Institute or Edutopia. Help them understand how it will be different.
Then do a focus group with them. Let them have control over at least a portion of the program activities. Let them decide what they want, what they want to call the activities, write the description, and if possible choose the teacher. Then ask them to recruit students to the activity. The more voice they get, the more likely it is that they will come.
I’ve done this with middle school students. On the next webinar, I am going to share a few of the activities that we did.
Anyone else want to share some strategies on how to get started with middle school students?
Katherine asks: How do we engage multiple grades in the same project?
I have done this many times. It is not as difficult as you would imagine especially as students get older. It is possible with elementary students too, however. I would suggest that especially in the beginning, you not group more than two grade levels together for elementary students. I would group them K-1, 2-3, 4-5. This way students are closely aligned developmentally.
For secondary, you can include 6-8 and 9-12 fairly easy. Let them all participate in the focus group to design the program so you ensure input from all grade levels. While they are different in the knowledge that they have, you can vet this out in the mapping activity and group more knowledgeable students with students who are less knowledgeable. This raises the learning. Be cautious with students who have just transitioned into a new campus (usually 6th grade and 9th grade). They will be uncomfortable and unsure of their new environment and you will need to make sure they are not excluded or bullied. After you develop a PBL culture, the older students will begin to mentor the younger students more naturally.
Anyone else want to provide some help?
Thanks for your response Kathleen. Have you had all grades work on one project and those groups of grades work on specific parts, or do you recommend separate projects for the different groups of students?
kkeys, it depends on how many grades levels are in the activity and also depends on the knowledge base. I have seen 3rd grade students who were struggling with certain concepts more than their 2nd grade peers.
When you are first starting out, I would only group 2 grade levels at elementary. Until students get use to this way of learning, it can be a lot to manage more than that. At middle school and high school, it should not be difficult to combine groups. As I said in an earlier post, you just need to be aware of potential barriers for students who are new to the campus.
You will see in Webinar #3, more ideas about grouping, but I will give you a glimpse. I suggest that once the topic has been decided upon and the group has decided on a project, then grouping them by role is helpful. Some students will be naturally gifted in writing, some in building, some in technology, etc. When you group this way, grade level seldom matters because they are just working together to get the work done. Then they all come together at points, (just like we do at a real job) to discuss each groups work and how it will all come together cohesively.
Podcast #1 should be posted soon (you will get a notice). I encourage you to listen to it. I share thoughts about student personality and how to set up the environment for success.
I look forward to hearing more from you. Thanks for the question. Kathleen