George Lucas Educational Foundation

PBL for 5th grade unit on governments of the western hemisphere

PBL for 5th grade unit on governments of the western hemisphere

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I have been asked to create a PBL for 5th grade unit on governments of the western hemisphere. I am looking to find units that have been successfully implemented, and I have no idea where to start.

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Mike Morgan's picture

You'll find that the best unit is the one you create. I don't have any pre-designed units to recommend. But I have some recommendations for successfully implementing the PBL unit. Try to emphasize the focus on developing group norms for team expectations and ask the kids to revisit those agreed upon expectations at the start of each period they work on the project. Ask them to identify and assign roles within the group. I know that sounds like a cliche. You'll need to guide them through that process as they get familiar to the responsibilities. Model what the roles could be. But one thing my "education professors" never really focused on was the importance of designating specific responsibilities for roles like "time manager", "record keeper", or "materials manager" to keep them from seeming less important than, say, a "task manager."

Emphasize the importance of the process and the development of critical skills during the process, not just the final outcomes built around the content standards. Check in often and give feedback on your observations of skills and dispositions like organization, collaboration, leadership, curiosity....etc. But make sure you can explain what it is you're looking for in them.

Ultimately, working in the PBL setting with the emphasis on critical skills, deliberately, and still building the content skills, you should try and develop a scenario that leaves as much up to them to create the product as possible. If I were you, I'd build out of something like the following:

#There's some sort of world crisis (make the crisis appropriate for the age). Each team will play the role of a different government of the western hemisphere. Some how, perhaps by drawing a card, they choose their form of government. Let them then research briefly to choose an accurate country to be that matches that government. Ask them to plan for a U.N. debate to solve the crisis. At the debate, the country's will present their plan for solving the crisis. Their proposals would need to outline the actions that countries must take in organizing their efforts and mobilizing their citizens. With the current crisis at hand, limited funding is available to take action before all goes to @#$%! So, only one proposal can be accepted and the debate will be held before the U.N. panel of "elders" or something (your principal, other adults) who will choose the best proposal. Have them design some sort of visual graphic as a task to represent their main argument in the proposal.#

Hopefully, you get the idea. And you may not like it but there you go. Oh yeah, incorporate plenty of short observation-based rubric checks of the critical skills along the way, time for small-group to whole-group reflection and individual self-reflection for homework. And don't make the project homework unless you need them to read something. You'll be surprised to see that if you set it up well and the kids get into it they will, at times, assign themselves homework.

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