We define, Project-Based Learning (PBL) as "a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge."
This pedagogy brings authenticity to the classroom because the problem is easily related to the world outside the classroom and challenges students to collaborate, communicate and think critically when addressing the problem.
These skills are directly linked to global and portable skills. Embedded in any good project are a solid set of language-based skills (e.g., research, writing a paper, putting together a presentation, etc.), as well as any other subject-related expectations that you choose to include (Maths, Geography, History, etc.)
So, what project-based strategy to use to teach early graders?
If you are an early grader's teacher, then check out the student-friendly PBL tips and strategies mentioned below.
Renovate the project
Having an early grader complete the entire project as you want is challenging. So, it is better to plan a less time-consuming, innovative and impactful project, i.e., renovate an existing project. For instance, if you want a particular rhyme based on one grade, you find a relevant project in 2 grades that could be modified. Be open to projects everywhere, find great ideas, and modify them.
One of the biggest challenges, also joy is the planning process. Usually, you plan upfront which takes a significant amount of time. However, you should plan assessments and scaffolds and gather resources to support project learning. While you might be able to do some of this during scheduled planning time, ask your leadership for creative structures to carve out time for planning. It is vital to get ahead and feel prepared for and confident about a project. You can also use a backward design process to effectively map out a project ready to go in the classroom.
Look for an innovative approach
To have your learners present what they have learned so far, you can introduce innovative approaches like 2-voice poetry and artform:
By 2-voice poetry, we mean a style of narrative poetry that showcases the similarities and differences between two unique perspectives or voices. You can have your students write and create an audio recording of the reading with the help of their parents if required and share it with you. Then, showcase critical ELA skills such as speaking and listening standards, technology and writing production, and narrative writing techniques.
The other, student art, is recommended as it can help represent their understanding of a "hidden voice" or silenced perspective in a contemporary issue using symbolism and specific art. You can ask them to write a detailed artist statement to submit their work.
Understand it is not 'doing projects
In general, students do a project for the sake of completing it, not for coming up with authentic knowledge representation. Therefore, you need to find resources to implement authentic PBL into your classroom, rather than just giving projects.
Make students–and parents understand the process
First and foremostly, you must know that there are several different methods of doing a PBL. You can either create a theme or allow kids to choose something of their interest, or make a combination of something in between. The opportunity for students to have choices through more autonomous learning leads to a more meaningful experience, some of the significant advantages of PBL. This cannot happen without students – and parents – understanding how PBL works so they can embrace and believe in this "long-term" approach to learning.
Developing quality Essential Questions takes practice
When teaching early graders, it is paramount to create an Essential Question by referring to resources, books, and educators for advice. The Essential Questions are not answered with a yes or no, and answers are not easily found through a Google search. These questions will help students become more curious, seek more information, and in the process, develop their skills for problem-solving and critical thinking.
Understand Project-based learning is a team effort
Having your students do a project cannot be as helpful as completing it together in a team. They may get a great learning experience and cover as many topics. Also, most students enjoy being in the lead, driving their learning, and becoming more reflective on their work; it will be great to use PBL resources to guide teachers and students and other educators that provide support along the way.
Also, asking for feedback from your students could be of great help.
Know that Project-based learning empowers students
Project-based learning experiences are very beneficial for students and you, as it helps them find out about students' passions and interests. It can help you learn more about them and from them through their PBL. You can ask students to take over the classroom and present the knowledge which they have gained so far; it will open so many new learning opportunities for everyone.
Also, to prepare them for the real world, you should provide learning opportunities that connect them with other people, perspectives, and experiences.
Understand that Patience is critical
PBL is a different method of learning. It recognizes that the academic year is a marathon, not a series of sprints. It enables students to design, create, publish, reflect and revise ideas, and it takes time. Patience is, therefore, an essential feature of any teacher who learns successfully and as part of a project! Over time, you will ultimately help students see the impact this has had on their learning.
Allow them to learn and grow through research
An essential aspect of the project approach is providing opportunities for children to participate in hands-on, meaningful experiences (Harris & Gleim 2008; Harte 2010; Helm & Katz 2011). Children who get opportunities to learn and grow in all developmental domains get meaningfully engaged in the project. Also, those who investigate or enquire by taking teacher-organized neighbourhood walk to answer questions that arose in conversations and group discussions. This will help children find answers and build their inquiry skills in real-time.
Do you have any tips in mind? If yes, do share.