Thinking on Education: The Importance of Project-Based Learning

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We all want students to experience authentic, meaningful learning within the classroom.

To that end, project-based learning (PBL) is an effective teaching method.

PBL focuses on what students learn more than what teachers teach, as Diana B. Turk and Stacie Brensilver Berman explained in their January/February 2018 Social Education article, “Learning through Doing: A Project-Based Learning Approach to the American Civil Rights Movement.”

“[W]e see project-based learning as an approach that focuses both on the content of curriculum and what students do with what they learn,” the authors explained. “Organized around real-world challenges that students engage in and ultimately master in their learning, PBL units look and feel very different from traditional classroom learning.”

Most importantly PBL is not a one-and-done lesson — this method usually lasts at least a week or more. Turk and Berman added that PBL is teacher-shaped but student-driven, a key component of engaging students. PBL units must also be authentic and as real as possible — both within the classroom and without.

“It must be minds on as well as being hands on,” Turk and Berman said. “Only by engaging in projects that invite transfer — the extension of learning from one project to another, across and outside the curricular realm — do students truly come to own the material they learn and see the value and meaning of the work they are engaged in. Those are the prerequisites for real learning to take place.”

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Successful PBL units make students think differently about the content they are learning, encourage them to ask questions they didn’t think of before, and engage them within their community, Berman added in a March 2018 National Council for the Social Studies podcast, “Passionate about Project-Based Learning.”

Teachers are often nervous about implementing PBL into their classroom because it can sometimes be loud and messy. But the skills students gain are essential to their future work within a company, the community and their families. Through PBL, students learn how to question and research, how to collaborate and communicate effectively, and how to identify a problem and chase down a solution as part of a team.

Here are some tips — culled from multiple experts and resources — for using PBL in the classroom:

1. Teach team skills.

Many teachers go into PBL without teaching students how to work well with others. But these skills are not instinctive for most students. Teachers should model and teach how to be an active listener, engage in respectful discussion and debate, and share the work.

Mari Venturino shares some good ideas for how to do this in a September 2018 Kids Discover post, “Teaching Teamwork.”

2. Assign roles.

Unique roles within a group makes everyone work together on the project. The type of project will dictate the exact roles needed, but some general roles are: group facilitator, note-taker, progress tracker, teacher liaison and materials manager. In a January 2018 Getting Smart article, Jamie Beck also suggested four roles that work well:

• Head Coach: The one who understands the activity, keeps the team together throughout and understands the final solution well enough to explain it to others.

• Journalist: The one who leads the team in organizing results and creating the final product.

Resource Manager: The one who gets supplies for the team, and is the only person who can ask team questions from the teacher.

• Assistant Coach: The one who ensures everyone shares their ideas and contributes.

You can find further tips and downloadables to help you and your students understand collaborative roles at Teachers Pay Teachers.

3. Track ongoing progress.

Many teachers don’t rely on just one final deadline for the completion of a project, because students need clear measurements for what they should be doing and when. To do this effectively, you could set intermittent deadlines for some or all of the following:

• Identifying and validating the problem

• Gathering data and research

• Organizing and identifying pertinent data

• Creating a presentation plan

• Finalizing the presentation

• Presenting

• Reflecting on the project

4. Teach students how to prepare for a presentation.

project based learning

PBL does not always end in a written research paper. Students can tailor their final presentation to the subject studied. 

For example, a social studies project may result in students creating a newspaper about the event or movement, or even doing a reenactment of the event.

Students can also present their topics in a variety of ways, such as: a TED Talk style speech, a video, a play, a broadcast, a diorama, a hands-on demonstration, a children’s book, etc. You should be open to allowing the students pick their presentation style depending on their subject, rather than choosing one for them.

If students will be presenting their findings outside of the classroom, teachers should also prepare them for this.

5. Grade through rubrics.

Studies Weekly PBL
Courtesy PhilipCummings.com

It is challenging to assign a blanket grade to group work and projects. Rubrics allow you to grade the intended outcome for the project both individually and as a group. Students should see the grading rubrics before starting the project so they know how they will be graded.

Good rubrics don’t just assign points, but also describe the reasoning behind those points. Effective rubrics outline where a group is below a standard, approaching the standard, and completing the standard.

Students should also evaluate themselves and each other through another rubric that details their collaboration skills — including how well they listened, communicated, did their assigned role, kept on task and contributed to the final product.

Find some great rubric ideas at our Pinterest board.

6. Allow time for reflection.

Studies Weekly projects

Students should always have time to reflect on the group’s efforts and the final project. This can be done through a peer/group rubric, but can also be accomplished as a class. Reflection time gives students the opportunity to share the following:

• What worked in their group

• Frustrations they had with the project

• What surprised them about the project, or topic

• What they learned about the subject

• What they learned about themselves

• Further questions they have about the subject

• Possible roles they’d like to try for the next project

Emily Murphy explained that reflection time is important for both the teacher and learner. In her December 2018 Edutopia article, she shared a highly successful PBL experience. But she did not realize how differently her students felt about their project’s outcome than she did until they talked as a class after the project’s completion.

“Had we skipped the step of reflecting the day after the meeting, I would have made many incorrect assumptions. The reflection period prompted teachers to spend time considering student perspective and to ask, ‘Are we following their agenda or ours?’” she said.

PBL is not a new teaching method. According to Education Week, it’s been a part of education for more than 100 years.

But — with so many technological advancements giving students easier access to information and resources — there are many opportunities in classrooms today to thoughtfully and meaningfully implement authentic, real-world project-based learning. This will better prepare students with essential collaborative skills needed for today’s interconnected society.

For further reading, the Buck Institute for Education offers training and resources for teachers who want to learn how to apply PBL in their classroom.

Studies Weekly’s consumable newspapers and magazines work well with PBL. Students can use the print and online editions for primary source research and data gathering, and then turn around and cut up the print edition and/or incorporate Studies Weekly’s videos for their presentations. The possibilities are endless.

Visit https://app.studiesweekly.com//online/pdod to learn more.

Studies Weekly Integrates with Google Classroom

You asked, we listened.

The Studies Weekly online platform is now integrated with Google Classroom!

Now, with just a few clicks, you can assign articles, images or videos to the entire classroom. The Google Classroom integration works with our entire platform, making your job smoother.

David Bagley, Studies Weekly vice president of sales, explained that many teachers across the nation use Google Classroom, and have been asking for this integration for some time. He’s very excited Studies Weekly can offer this to teachers.

“The best part of this integration is that it allows teachers the flexibility of reaching so many students instantly and to track progress, go paperless in the classroom, and communicate with both parents and students. And it works with any device,” Bagley said.

You will now see the Google Classroom icon on the Studies Weekly platform, and it works individually with every digital source. Teachers can assign a single video, image, article or assessment to students’ classroom. For extension activities, teachers can customize assignments and pull in other media from the platform as well.

Getting Started

To connect your Studies Weekly account to your Google Classroom, your students’ Studies Weekly usernames must be their Google Classroom email.

For those that want to use the integration now, you will need to log in to your account and manually change your students’ usernames to their Google Classroom email.

1. Select your classroom in the Studies Weekly platform

Studies Weekly Google Classroom

2. Navigate to edit each student

Studies Weekly Google Classroom

3. Edit the student’s usernameStudies Weekly Google Classroom

At the beginning of each school year, your auto-rostering program can link both platforms, but make sure to check this username requirement for all students.

How to use the Integration

1. From an article, navigate to the Google Classroom Icon in the corner.

Studies Weekly Google Classroom
2. Click on it, and select the Classroom you are sharing it to, and the action from the Classroom options. Click “Go.”

Studies Weekly Google Classroom

3. Add your own notes, points, due date, etc. Click “Assign.”

Studies Weekly Google Classroom

4. The assignment shows up in your students’ Classroom stream.

Studies Weekly Google Classroom

Assigning Specific Sources

You can also assign specific audio, images or videos from an article, or search for them and assign them individually. To do so, simply look for the Google Classroom icon on each source.

Studies Weekly Google Classroom

 

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Of course, all Assessments, Crosswords and Mispilled are integrated as well.

Studies Weekly Google Classroom

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Sign on to your account at Studies Weekly online, and let this new integration save you time and sanity!

New K-2 Leveled Readers

The K-2 New Leveled Readers are a great addition to any classroom and are perfect for guided reading sessions. Teachers can choose books that are approaching, on or above grade level for each student. Each level has a different subject to avoid comparison with their neighbor.

Accessing the Leveled Readers

To print these booklets for your students, simply log into your online account. In the blue menu bar select the “Reading” tab. Select the publication and week number. Scroll down, past the article, past the lesson plans, past the worksheets until you get to NEW Leveled Readers.

From here, download the book of your choice. Once downloaded, choose a print option.

For A Mac:

  • In printer settings go to the preview tab and choose layout.
  • Make sure the two-sided box is checked.
  • Under Two-Sided choose Short-Edge binding
  • Click print

For A PC:

  • Choose the Layout tab
  • Choose Print on Both Sides
  • In the drop-down choose Flip on Short Edge
  • Click print

The pages will print in the proper order. Simply take the page from the printer, fold it in half with the cover on the outside, staple the folded edge and your booklet is ready.

Leveled Reader Characteristics and Structure

Since our leveled readers are mainly for beginners, our layout uses large text and clear spaces between words. Each page only has about two or three simple sentences per page and we incorporate illustrations to help the reader gain understanding as they read. The content is typically on a subject that is familiar to the student and has a simple plot.

As your students begin to advance, each level increases in complexity. Start using our new leveled readers for yourself and let us know what you think in the comments. For more ELA ideas you can read our article on blending social studies with ELA.

New Professional Development on Demand and Online Walkthrough

We have made several additions and improvements to our online Professional Development page. From online walkthroughs, worksheets, classroom strategies and more, we’ve added all new content to help teachers use Studies Weekly to its full capacity. A lot of what we teach in our in-person training will be readily available online.

Accessing PD on Demand

Once logged into your account, click the “PD Training” tab to access the PD library.

From here, you’ll see multiple series of videos and reference guides that direct teachers on how to get started and set up their online accounts. Our Chief Product Officer, Kim Molgilevsky, even shares classroom strategies that can add structure and substance to your lessons.

1. Getting Started

This series guides you through what to do when you first receive your Studies Weekly box. It explains what you’ll receive and how to sort your publications. It also gives you instructions on how to register online. Read  this article for more information on getting started.

2. Online Walkthrough

Our Online Walkthrough Series provides detailed instructions on how to set up your class and utilize your online account. This video is part of our Online Walkthrough Series where we walk you through all of our additional resources on Studies Weekly Online.

3. Classroom Strategies

In the Classroom Strategies Series, we list activities and samples that are perfect to boost student comprehension skills. For example, we have a compare and contrast pop-up, a display tray activity, Cornell Note-Taking and more.

In addition to these three series, we provide worksheets that coincide with what is being taught. For example, here is the Display Tray Worksheet:

At Studies Weekly, we are constantly looking to help our customers utilize our curriculum and provide them with the resources they need to teach their students more effectively. Our goal is to make using Studies Weekly easy, allowing teachers to plan less and teach more. For full access to our PD library, go to studiesweekly.com/online/pdod.

Schools and Districts can also request in-person training(s) by contacting our customer service team at 1-866-311-8734 or by emailing support@studiesweekly.com. For more information about our in-person training, read about our training options.

 

Accessing Your Online Video Library

Here at Studies Weekly, we believe in engaging students by telling the stories of history. One way we are able to do this is through video. We have thousands of wonderful videos that you and your students will enjoy. They come with your subscription, so just log in to get started.

  • Log in to your online account

Videos Within The Articles

First things first: when accessing your publication online, each article is connected to numerous videos and bonus sources related to the topic at hand.

To find these videos, just click on the “Watch Video” or “Bonus Sources” button. It’s so easy to find the perfect video for your lesson when they are all in one place!

Almost every article within the week has a video attached to it. So, there is no shortage of videos within your account.

Searching for Videos

In addition to the videos in the publications, you can access any video in our collection by using the search bar. This comes in handy when you decide to teach a lesson that isn’t on the schedule for the week.

For example, if you decide to teach a lesson on the effects of 9/11:

  • Go to the Search area of the blue menu bar and type in 9/11
  • In the left-hand menu, click on Videos
  • To start exploring simply click on the video of your choice
  • Click play

Not only do we have videos on social studies but we have science videos as well! Our most popular science series is Project Time with Discovery Dan. In each episode, the audience follows Discovery Dan and his wacky experiments.

 

Studies Weekly Science VideosFrom primary source interviews to virtual field trips and more, we offer exclusive videos on just about anything you can think of regarding social studies or science.

So sit back, relax and prepare enjoy teaching and learning with your students!

Getting Started with Studies Weekly

So you’ve received your Studies Weekly blue box and you’re thinking, “Now what?” Receiving a whole new curriculum can be intimidating and nerve-racking at first. Learning how to use this new material may be the cherry on top of your stressful back-to-school prep, but no need to fear! We are here to make your life easier when it comes to getting started with Studies Weekly.

So first things first, let’s open the box.

After opening the box, inside you will find three things. First, is the instructions page. This page will go over how to collate your publications so that they are separated by weeks. Next, you will find the teacher resources. These will either come in one larger supplement or four separate ones. Finally, you’ll find the student editions. Each student edition comes compiled in four quarterly bundles consisting of enough weekly units to last the entire school year.

Now we come to one of the hardest parts about Studies Weekly, sorting out the publications.

Collating the publications may seem like a pain but trust us it’s worth it in the end. You can have your students sort the publications, or have some upper-class students to help you sort them into the individual weeks.

To begin, remove the first quarter of each student edition. Next, separate each week and put them into piles (each week has a different color to help you stay organized). After each week is complete, gather each pile and use either an alligator clip or large paper clip to keep the pile together. Then, place the weeks back into the blue box until your ready to start using them. Once the first quarter is done, repeat the same process for the next three quarters.

We print our publications in four quarterly bundles to help save money and ultimately keep costs low for our customers. Here’s a great explanation why:

Now you’re set for the whole year! To start setting up your Online Account, register or login to Studies Weekly online.