Project learning can inspire the best of high-performance teamwork, or it can be devolve into unfocused chaos. How can we support each other to keep our eye on the prize? Share your project ideas, questions, and implementation experiences.

PBL for Secondary Grades

Melissa Gill 6th grade reading teacher from Wyoming, Michigan

How are secondary grade classes organized? Right now they are seperated by subject and I have noticed from the little information I can find, that PBL is more cross-curricular collaboration.

My 6th grade team is moving into our own building and our Superintendent has given us the opportunity to organize and run the building that we see fit. We want to do PBL, but have no idea on how to go about organizing it and running a school based on it. I am open to anything and willing to try anything. Any and all suggestions are welcome!

Thanks!

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Former senior editor at Edutopia.

Hi Melissa, I'm looking

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Hi Melissa,

I'm looking forward to hearing what other community members have to say.

I'd draw your attention to two examples:

- Edutopia's package on High Tech High.

- How New Tech teaches group dynamics.

You can also find out more at the topic page on project learning.

Hope this helps!

Malaika

Project Learning Consultant for PBL Associates

Organization ideas for PBL classrooms

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Melissa,

A simple idea that I have seen have a lot of success is to put 4 core teacher classrooms right next to each other. In other words, have a math, science, english, and history class next to each other instead of putting all of the math classes next to each other. I think to be more helpful, we need to know more about how many students you will have. Will there be more grades in the building? How many teachers? Where are the students coming from (earlier schools)? Where are they going? Different building for 7th grade?

High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

A re-organised school

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Hi Melissa,
Recently, I worked at a school in Sydney where we adopted a mix of Harpaz's Community of Thinking and PBL. Our classes were organised like this:

Each key learning area (History, Geography, Maths etc) was assigned to part of a larger topic for a term, and we taught in large spaces.

Let me give you an example:
I taught a unit called 'Marco Polo and the Silk Road'. This was a mix of English (travel writing) and History (case study of China and Mongolia) and Religious Education (world religions). We had 90 students in the room, and 4 teachers - 2 English and 2 History/ RE.

Students selected from a wide range of activities and tutorials to attend, working towards a final product - a digital journal of themselves following in Marco Polo's journey.

Let me know if you want more info.

Middle and Upper School Project Learning

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You are in an enviable situation, Melissa, and looking at the designs of other middle schools will certainly help you and your colleagues. A very fine school in NC utilizes several problem solving approaches, but is limited by the egos of the teachers who want to keep the best ideas within their own classes. It is essential that you and your colleagues spend the time to work through designing projects that the students will benefit from, not just bring accolades to specific teachers. Is the administration open to paying the teachers for extra planning time after school and during the summer? This is essential to the on-going collaboration among the teachers. A daily planning period together is also a key element. This is the time when the teachers can continue building a unit, helping each other when something is not going as planned, and discussing ways to include student input into the project that may become significant once the students are involved.

Project learning is much more student driven on the secondary level. It is more work for the teachers and more worthwhile than anything you will have ever done! Wish I were there!

PL ps:

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Do not exclude art, music, drama, or pe! The input from and collaboration with these teachers will keep the Project part of the Learning active and stimulating to all students, not just the studious ones.

Team placement

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Quote:

How are secondary grade classes organized? Right now they are seperated by subject and I have noticed from the little information I can find, that PBL is more cross-curricular collaboration.My 6th grade team is moving into our own building and our Superintendent has given us the opportunity to organize and run the building that we see fit. We want to do PBL, but have no idea on how to go about organizing it and running a school based on it. I am open to anything and willing to try anything. Any and all suggestions are welcome!Thanks!

In my school, each team became a "school-within-a-school" meaning that approximately 100 students are divided into 4 classes of 25 students, which are then scheduled an English, math, science and social studies teacher on rotating basis. The collegial atmosphere of the team is enhanced by having the four classrooms near each other. Outside of specials and lunch, the four classes of students rotated through the day from one subject to another. Since these four teachers have the same students, they are given a common free period where they discuss students and seek remedies for problems. This shared period allowed us to avoid piling up on homework and tests on any one given day. This period also allowed us to meet with parents, other teachers, guidance counselors, and administrators to discuss our students. We even created a "name" for our team and printed up "membership cards" to foster a sense of unity. We also created "edutainment" activities that added to the team spirit. If you are interested in curriculum, I can comment on that next time.

S.T.E.A.M. Academy English, Space Coast Jr/Sr HS, Cocoa, FL

PBL & Collaboration

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Teachers meet colleagues that are teaching the same students - especially in middle school where students are teamed throughout the day. Another approach in high school is "school within a school" or "themed academies" (STEM, Medical, Teaching, Business, Fine Arts, Agriculture, etc.) Generally these academies have a cadre of students that have a core group of classes. Beyond that you can find tons of resources, that utilize standards from other areas. Often they combine English with 2 - 3 other subjects. Its a great way to connect ideas across the curriculum showing relevance and relationships between subject areas.

Information Media Teacher

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Looking for a teacher in the approximate same time zone to do collaboration between our 8th grade students using technology. This could be using a wiki, skype etc. I am in Wisconsin. We have done research topics like social issues, global issues, country reports... Open to the specific topic, most interested in establishing real collaboration using technology.

PBL in Wyoming Michigan

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Melissa,
Kent ISD is looking to offer some workshops in the 2010/2011 School Year on PBL. Please watch our websites or send me an email to make sure that you are notified. Looks like PBL will be a big initiative next year. Hope we can help.
Amanda Walma
amandawalma@kentisd.org

Seventh Grade science teacher from Orinda, California

Consider the Take Action Project

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This is for single subject science class rooms although useable by social sciences too, within a traditional school day. Can be fired right up to get the ball rolling. We have almost no collaboration possible between different departments in a high-achieving, suburban middle school but my 7th gr science colleague and I do this anyway. Here's the link to our web site that includes student sheets and a blog link: www.takeactioncurriculum.org and blog at http://takeactionscience.wordpress.com. Hope to see you and others in the same boat there with us :-) Sue

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