Sunday, March 1, 2015

Changes Over Time PBL!

Our 2nd graders wrapped up their 3 week project-based learning last week and Whew, it was fun!

You know it is a successful experience for the students when you hear collective moans that it's over. Seriously, I got to witness two of my students walking down the hall (I was behind them) talking about our PBL experience. We were on our way to the library where we were setting up our "Then & Now" Museum for the school. The first child excitedly says, "Man, I love projects like this, I'm sad it's over. " The other student replied with, "Yeah, I know, but it's not over yet, it's almost over. I bet we will do another one." And at that moment, they turned around, both now fully aware that I was right behind them. And they pleaded, "Can we, Mrs. MeGown?, Can we do another PBL soon?"


Before I go on, are you familiar with project-based learning (PBLs)?? If not check out this site for more info!

But here it is in a nutshell:
I have this posted on my website to help explain to my parents. :)

I also love this image as it contains the Essentials for a Successful PBL.

 In an effort to share about this PBL experience, I have to go back in time. Like just 10 months or so. My teammate and I went to a 3 day PBL training where we had the time to actually prepare and plan out a PBL that we would use with our curriculum. It didn't take us long to decide to cover the unit: Changes Over Time. We wanted something engaging that would hold students' attention. Learning about the past and how things used to be before technology might just blow their little minds!

I mean, really. The kids have no idea. 

Now, I'm only 35 but SO much has changed since I was a kid....


I showed this image to my kids after our PBL and for some, it really hit home. "You mean, you didn't have GPS in your car?!"

Nope, or a computer in my elementary classroom. 

Anyway, it was important to me that the kids grasped how much has changed over time so that they could imagine what the world would be like in the FUTURE!!

Ok, back to our PBL. Here's how it all went down about 4 weeks ago!

Every good PBL begins with an engaging ENTRY EVENT. 

We invited the Denton County Traveling Museum to come to our school and share their "Then & Now" Museum to kick off our PBL. Here are a few pics...

Showing Denton county map long ago!

 Washing board for washing clothes!

 He also talked about how transportation has changed!

The kids loved seeing a picture of an old typewriter. "It kinda looks like a keyboard on my laptop!", one child said.

One of the highlights was when our presenter shared about "Party Lines" and how people shared the same phone line! They thought that was pretty cool.

Our entry event was a success!

The next day in our classrooms, we discussed the neat things we had seen in the traveling museum. Then I introduced the DRIVING QUESTION. 

A driving question is an essential piece of the PBL puzzle as it keeps the class focused. This is what we came up with...

Once this was presented, the kids came up with a few ideas (we can research, we can call someone, we can have you (Mrs. MeGown) to tell people) but they really weren't sure. And the greatest part about that was IT'S OK that they didn't know.

In a PBL, the kids take control of their learning and I was just about to let them. :)

We shared that we would start off bringing in some of our own items from the past to share with each other. So we sent this note home...

We had some great OLD artifacts come in!

washing board!

 oil lantern and an OLD book!

an apple peeler!

a cassette tape! LOL

And an old picture of a great-grandfather veteran, just to name a few. :)

Throughout the week, we learned about Ben Franklin and all his amazing inventions. The kids couldn't believe how many things he invented!

Next, we created a "Need to Know" list of questions that could help us answer our Driving Question. 

This had to be more guided than I originally thought but then they got the idea.

I explained that they would be in groups to do their research and that we needed to narrow down to 3 topics. We chose Technology, Transportation and Communication!

Part of a PBL is student CHOICE so I wanted them to choose which group to be in....BUT I did this discreetly by having the kids write on a notecard their top 1, 2, 3 choice for groups. I wanted to avoid the kids getting in a group just because their best friend was in the same one. So, it worked out pretty well! The groups ended up having a great mix of ability levels. I was so glad I made the groups that way. The kids were happy since I had allowed them to choose. Most kids got their first or second choice.

 I prepared group folders for the groups, where they would keep all their materials for the PBL. They were excited! After all, they would be the experts on their topic and would get to share what they learned!

One of the first things I had the kids do was a Thinking Map (Circle Map) to tell what they already know about their topic. They were given some time to think on their own to fill in their circle map. Then they got together as a group to share and discuss further. They kept their circle maps in their folder. 

Here were a few from the Technology group.

After discussing what they already knew, they immediately wanted to hop on the computer and research to learn more. But we were gonna kick it old school with some library books too! I checked out a plethora on each topic and had them available for the kids.

We revisited our "Need to Know" class list of questions each day to add more. Then I decided that each group really needed their own list.

They also kept these in their group folder. 

One of the Need to know questions that came up was "HOW will we get our information about the past?" Kids spouted off..."computer! Books!...we could ASK SOMEONE WHO KNOWS!!"

Once we realized that we could ask others to help learn more as part of our research, we decided to interview someone who may know more about their topic.

Here is what we sent home to explain to parents...

And here is the interview sheet...

I had the kids write down 3 questions relating to their topic before this was sent home. 

They had about a week to complete their interview and brought it back to class to share with the class. Many kids interviewed their grandparents and some their great-grandparents! 

Sharing our interviews!

The kids really enjoyed sharing their interviews and I think they learned a lot! This was one of the points where I could witness their authentic engagement! YES!

One tough thing to remember during a PBL is to have ongoing assessments and checkpoints. Plus, we teachers need GRADES! We gave them this interview assessment to share 5 things they learned from their interview.

For a couple days the kids researched, taking notes on what pertained to their topic. But then it was time to narrow it down and actually put it all together.

We came up with a list of "Must Haves"
This is where we gave more specific details about what we were wanting the kids to learn. 

After giving this to the kids, we had them narrow their research and then plan out their research plan. 

They also planned out WHO would research what....

This was a great example of how plans can be revised and changed!

In hopes for some cooperative learning, we had group jobs! The kids had some time to choose their job or elect others for the group position.

I LOVED doing this because it really did help them work together and feel like they each had an important role! My favorite job was probably the "Quiet Captain"! They would try so hard to shush their group if they got too loud. ha ha

The next day, we went over some important rubrics!

Group Rubric...

I made it on RubiStar so it's a little wordy. More for the parents, but I just gave the kids the "gist" of how to do really well when I explained it!

and an Individual Rubric!

We then discussed ways we could actually present everything we learned. Would we give a speech to the school? Or make a big poster? Would each group share to the other groups in the class? After some discussion, we decided to put the info on 2 places...a big Project Board and a PowerPoint presentation. Kinda symbolizing the old and new of project presentations. :) What the kids didn't know at this point, was that we had already planned the idea of a "Then & Now" Museum in the library to share with the school! This was to be revealed later. :)

Each day I would refocus the groups and check in on their progress. They absolutely loved the time that they got to work on their projects.

 Each student typed up their paragraph of their chosen topic in their Google Drive in a shared presentation. The "Recorder" for the group had it in their file and shared with the group. Such cool technology!!

One piece of the PBL I wanted the kids to include was their idea of a FUTURE Invention for their topic. One that would really benefit the world!

After a brief meeting to discuss their ideas, the kids started drawing up their Future inventions. 

I suggested that half of the group worked on the drawing while the other half wrote a detailed paragraph explaining this new invention.

The Communication Group came with the "Trampoline Phone"

The Technology Group came up with the School App for Kids, for those kids who are sick and miss school. They can just learn through the School App which provides a camera into their classroom so they won't have to miss any "learning time". The teacher could upload the assignments straight to the app. Pretty cool idea. 

And the Transportation group...Flying cars!!

Once our Must-Haves were almost finalized and the paragraphs were typed, it was time to start their project boards.

They had to plan out their project board first before they could go after it. I gave them a checklist that they needed to do before I gave them their board. 

They had to sketch out where they wanted each of the "Must-Haves"on a blank Project board sheet I made.

Some were more clear than others but they seemed to know what they were doing!

It took about 2-3 class periods for the groups to finish their project boards. (didn't get any pics of them making the boards :-/) I gave very few directions/suggestions on how they should do their boards. I really wanted it to be all their work. This was a challenge for me. I love this kind of stuff and a part of me wanted to hop in there and design it with them. But, I refrained. 

 I did recommend using construction paper as a background or border for their paragraphs and also told them to try to cut and glue nicely!

Once Project boards were done, I had the kids jazz up their powerpoint slides where they had typed their paragraphs. They had to agree on a theme for the background and add pictures to their slides. This didn't take the kids long at all. For some kids, they really got into choosing their font and adding graphics. 

I gave each group a checklist before they said, "We're DONE!"

Once we were almost done wrapping up our projects, I revealed an even better way to present their research. Since a successful PBL needs a "Public Product" or an audience, we decided to have our very own "Then and Now" Museum in the library! We set up a google form for other grade level classes to sign up to walk through our "museum"!

I also felt it was important that each child be a part of the museum. Really, they would stand by their project board and laptop with their presentation and answer any questions as classes came by.

I set up a schedule for my class so they would know when they were "on shift"!

 Some groups were smaller than others so several kids had 2 shifts. ;) 

Project Boards are READY! This was truly 100% the kids' work!

 The communication group wanted to make an iPhone frame to display their info. :)

 The Technology group chose a creative design with the whole thing being a big iPad. Can't you tell? :)

And I loved the Transportation groups' sky around their info!

Here are some pics from our Museum revealing our final projects!!

We even had our Soccer Adopt-an-Athletes come by to check it out!

The kids were THRILLED to show off their work and I could tell they were proud.

So the final piece of the PBL model that I wanted to address was REFLECTION!

Literally 15 minutes before the kids came in the day after our museum, I had prepared a Reflection sheet.

I wanted the kids to have a chance to reflect on what they learned and how things went. But I also wanted to be sure I used it to help tweak it for next year. 

I got some pretty great responses! (please forgive the crooked pictures) is my personal reflection...

I definitely want to do this again but there would be a few things I would change.

I would have more group topics besides transportation, tech, and communication. This would make the groups smaller.

I would have them choose to do either the Project board OR the powerpoint. Doing both was really cool but it took a lot longer.

Lastly, I would have the kids bring back their old items from earlier in the PBL to display at our museum. That would've made our museum even more interesting to have the actual items. 

Just jotting these ideas down so I can pull up this post next year when we decide to dive in again!

To those of you who have never done a PBL or have been "on the fence" about actually doing it, I highly suggest you try it.  It may be scary because it does take time and everything isn't planned out exactly since the kids really help with that. I definitely had to learn to let that planner in me go and I was able to find ways to have a few things prepared in case it went the way I thought. And that worked well!!

If you would like to try this Changes Over Time PBL with your class, I will share it with you HERE!

Thanks for hanging in there with this long post. Hope you enjoyed!

Have you done a PBL recently? Comment below to share your experience!


  1. Hey, we always use PBL's. This year our school adopted the Engage! Learning Model. I love some of the things you were doing; I could definitely implement your organization into my classroom! :) I also teach 2nd grade. We only implement the project based learning in science and social studies, but our older grades implement it in every subject. I love watching the kids learn! They are so engaged!! I would love to keep seeing how you organize this time! At points, my children tend to get a little too rowdy or off task.

    Thanks so much for this post,

    Oh, I also started a new blog recently. . . :)

    1. Hi Tess! Thanks for sharing ;) This was only our fourth big PBL so certainly not an expert but I also love how engaged the kids can be! The kids did get rowdy at times...I think having the cooperative learning jobs thrown in there really helped: Quiet Captain, Encourager etc. They really did take ownership of their job, it was so fun! I also handed out tickets (part of our classroom reward system) to those kids/groups doing a great job. Of course, you always have a handful of kiddos that need EXTRA reminders/encouragement!! I plan to head over to your blog! Have a great Spring Break!

  2. Fantastic job! Love seeing all of the phases of the PBL! Thanks for building your professional learning community - AND including me in it! You're fantastic.

  3. Thanks for sharing so many details about your project on change! Thank you for the learning sheets! I adore the whole topic of change, because it's broad and easy to get the standards in. Love how you included parents and the community at large! Brilliant stuff!