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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Project-Based Learning for Primary Grades

Project-Based Learning for Primary Grades

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Hello! First of all, I'd like to say that I am thrilled to have discovered Edutopia groups. Finally, a group of teachers who are inherently interested in improving their teaching practice and sharing what they know. I am very excited to learn more from all of you! OK, now my question - I am very intrigued by the thought of PBL as a perfect strategy to differentiate content for my students. I have not seen a great deal of information on how to plan projects in a primary level classroom. I am currently teaching 2nd grade (thinking about moving up next year). I would LOVE to hear some ideas from teachers who have tried PBL in their own classrooms! Some of the topics that I could use for projects are: life cycles, rocks and fossils, producers and consumers, simple machines, ancestors. Thank you! Kim :)

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Lynn's picture

I enjoyed hearing about your desire for PBL. I am presently taking a class in our district that is PBL. I am working on my teaching skills and am learning to empower students more on computer PBL. I am presently having my fourth graders create web quest, moviemaker and photostories on the colonial era in history. Students will be making a web quest on inventors next month. This takes a lot of time and preparation. Make sure students read a lot of web quests before they start creating one of their own.

Jeannie's picture


Why don't you start simple? Example: Have 4 groups of kids. Give each kid in one group some info on frog eggs, each kid in another group info on tadpoles, the next group info on metamorphs, and the last group some info on full grown frogs. Each group reads the information and works together on some simple activity (answering questions or making a diagram). The next day, take one kid from each group to make new groups. Each group now has an expert on each part of the frog's life cycle. Each group member shares what they know, and then they all work on a poster about the frog's life cycle. Instead of a poster the kids could also do a skit, a flip book, or any other project activity.

Brenda's picture
First grade teacher

I like your idea of starting with groups of four. I teach first grade and have been wondering how to implement it in my class. I would like to do more with it....

Elyse Burnett's picture

I also teach First Grade and find that it is easier to begin the projects as whole group and then break off into small groups. How do you allow them to intially "discover" information without directly giving it to them condsidering the reading and sometimes writitng limitiations.

Wende Baker's picture

I think maybe the frog/small group thing might work for my first graders. What other ideas are there?

Felissa Jodar's picture
Felissa Jodar
Teacher NNTT from Barcelona, Spain

Another example might be a plant: the flowers some work, other leaf, other fruits and other group's usefulness to people. For example a sunflower.

Rich Sliwinski's picture
Rich Sliwinski
First Grade Teacher

I'm taking a course this summer and one of the things we are working on is PBL. I'm having a lot of trouble writing the essential questions. Can anyone give me some ideas about a good way to go about it that you've learned from experience? This may just be an excuse: but it seems difficult to do for younger kids. I've done the reading and watched the videos, but I would like to hear from people who have done it.

Suzie Boss's picture
Suzie Boss
Journalist and PBL advocate

[quote]I'm taking a course this summer and one of the things we are working on is PBL. I'm having a lot of trouble writing the essential questions. Can anyone give me some ideas about a good way to go about it that you've learned from experience? [/quote]

Hi Rich,
Here are some examples of driving questions that participants in PBL Camp have been brainstorming: http://pblcamp.pbworks.com/Driving-Questions (They all have to do with using the Gulf disaster as the starting point for meaningful learning.)

Sara's picture

I am part of a new school that is going to be multiage, with grades 1-2 mixed and 3-5 mixed, with no more than 10 kids in each section. We are working on PBL development and wondered if anyone else out there that has used this effectively has ever felt that the math component can be challenging to always include. We want to start off the year with citizenship but I'm struggling with the natural aspects of math that would play in to this.
My other struggle is (hoping it's b/c I've never done this yet) since the students help drive what the final project is going to be based on the questions generated how have others created standards-based assessments to go along with the projects? Leaving all my old standard ways of teaching behind I think I'm struggling with the openness. Any thoughts and/or suggestions?

Kim's picture

Hi Kim, (nice name)
I have 2nd graders and we have been working on making presentations using slides in Google. Our driving question was "How are farmers and farming important to our world?". This year we have studied nutrition and now we are learning about plants. There are so many themes you can tie into this subject area. My students are in groups of 4 and are working as a team to create a presentation about what they have found out.
Our students do have Chrome Books and I have them set up on Google classroom. I shared with them a preset slide presentation, that was different for each group. Their job was to fill in information and add pictures. Of course this takes a huge amount of time, but I have never seen students so engaged and excited about learning. Our next step is to present this information to an upper grade class and perhaps even our classroom parents.
We will be revisiting this driving question all year long loading it with new information. If you are interested in seeing some of their work please notify me.


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