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  • Writer's pictureTara O'Brien

Project-Based Learning Creates Motivated Learners!

Project-based learning is highly motivating for students of all ages. Project based learning is a cooperative process between the teacher and students. They build an ongoing series of learning engagements together. The teacher plans out the end-goal and envisions several pathways to achieve that goal. The students pick the pathways. The teacher plans in possible objectives and implements them throughout the process. This type of learning requires trust on the part of the in the process and trust that she will find opportunities to infuse learning objectives into the progression of the project. Teachers who are flexible, creative, and knowledgeable about the age and stage of their students thrive in teaching this kind of curriculum. Project based learning is most often used in the early years and primary. It can be integrated into the curriculum as stand alone time or even be the basis of a school`s whole curriculum.

I'll share an example of a project I put together in Preschool with four and five year old students several years ago to illustrate how the process can go.

Several years ago I taught a preschool class absolutely fascinated with birthdays. All of the children chatted constantly about their birthdays, what kind of birthdays they would have, and who they'd invite. During their free play they role played birthdays, they visited the writing center and made invitations, and they made crowns and decorations for parties. As a teacher I observed their enthusiasm and curiosity and decided to facilitate a stand alone project about planning a birthday party together. Posted below are some photos of learning engagements from the project (two thinking routines using graphic organizers and an early literacy meeting).

I started by planning out the end-goal, have a birthday party in class with a beloved character from a story. Then I considered all of the objectives and learning engagements I could integrate along the way and how to differentiate them to fit the needs of my students. I considered student choice and made alternatives to all of my plans. I started by using read-alouds and storytelling to encourage discussion, assess background knowledge, and develop speaking and listening skills. Then I used interactive writing to write everyone's ideas for planning a birthday party to develop early literacy skills. Next, students drew pictures about how they wanted the party to look and shared these pictures with classmates (again developing communication and thinking skills). As you can see, the engagements and objectives all fit together step by step. We proceeded through the planning process of this transdisciplinary project and integrated art, language, and math objectives into the process. Students created decorations, invitations, baked a cake, and made a pinata. After a few weeks of planning and creating we celebrated Clifford's birthday!

Project-based learning is highly motivating as students play an active role in their learning. A project can take on so many forms and integrate any, or all, subject areas. Give it a try!

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