In project based learning trainings, it seems like there’s always something important left out: organization. I believe that organization is a key piece of the PBL structure. These 4 steps will get you organized and ready to start any project based learning scenario!
One of the major stresses that comes with implementing project based learning is organizing it all. There are a lot of moving pieces that you don’t have with traditional lessons. There are people to schedule, and there is a good deal of research material to keep track of. One of my strengths is organizing these moving parts, so I’m excited to share my tips with you!
Step 1: Plan with Intention
The most important organization tip I can give is to plan with intention. Knowing how you are going to organize your inquiry, critique, and more, is the first step to project based learning that is not chaotic.
Step 2: Organize Guests & Helpers
There are a lot of people to organize over the course of a project based learning scenario. In any given PBL, I have to schedule:
- Guest speakers
- Audience/community members
I do this in two ways. First, I keep a calendar on my desk (and on the learning wall) that notes who is coming in when. Second, I use Signup Genius to set up the dates and times people are coming in and email them reminders. I also put phone numbers on my personal calendar, so that I can make sure they get a phone call the day before as well. There’s nothing worse than expecting a guest speaker or audience member to come in, and they forget to show up.
Step 3: Prepare Student Organizational Procedures
Procedures are key in project based learning. If you want everything in your classroom to run like a workplace, and not a circus, you will need to be consistent on procedures for a lot of different things.
Organizational procedures are just as important as collaboration procedures. Before your class even begins, plan how you will have them organize their research and work. This includes having a plan for:
- What organizers students will need to record information (will you create these, or will your students?)
- Where students will keep individual research
- Where collaborative groups will keep their work
- Where large end products will be stored as students are working on them
- How to prevent disruption if a student, or the teacher, is absent
These procedure organizers are from my online course, Implement Project Based Learning from Start to Finish. In the course, there’s an entire module on procedures for PBL.
Step 4: Create a Learning Wall
This learning wall can be done on a large bulletin board or any wall in your classroom. Just make sure that you have room for the following elements:
- Articles and Q&A about anything on your “Need to Know” list
- The driving question displayed
- Copies of resources you provide
- A daily and weekly task list
- The project calendar
I refer to this learning wall at least ten times a day. We use it to keep us on track with our goals and tasks for the project, as well as to share ideas.
A digital “wall” can be used as well, if you’d prefer to keep everything in a Google Drive that everyone can access. Even though we have 1:1 devices, I prefer to have a physical visual of all of this, but I do still drop digital copies of a lot of it into Google Drive – in case students choose to do some work from home.