How to start project based learning

Project Based Learning: Start Here

The Basics

What is Project-based Learning? 

Project-based learning is a teaching method where students gain and apply skills by working on a long project where they complete an in-depth inquiry into a specific topic or question. Like all teaching methods, it’s not standalone. It can be added to the teaching you are already doing in your classroom. PBL allows for more real-world applications and an in-depth understanding of the concepts your students need to understand.

The Elements of PBL
The following components are needed for a project to be considered Project-based learning:

  • Significant Content – At its core, the project is focused on teaching students important knowledge and skills, derived from standards and key concepts at the heart of academic subjects.
  • 21st Century Competencies – Students build competencies valuable for today’s world, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity/innovation, which are explicitly taught and assessed.
  • In-Depth Inquiry – Students are engaged in an extended, rigorous process of asking questions, using resources, and developing answers.
  • Driving Question – Project work is focused using an open-ended question that students understand and find intriguing, which captures their task or frames their exploration.
  • Need to Know – Students see the need to gain knowledge, understand concepts, and apply skills in order to answer the Driving Question and create project products, beginning with an Entry Event that generates interest and curiosity.
  • Voice and Choice – Students are allowed to make some choices about the products to be created, how they work, and how they use their time, guided by the teacher and depending on age level and PBL experience.
  • Critique and Revision – The project includes processes for students to give and receive feedback on the quality of their work, leading them to make revisions or conduct further inquiry.
  • Public Audience – Students present their work to other people, beyond their classmates and teacher.

Why Project-based Learning?

Project-based learning is great for the classroom for many reasons.

  • PBL makes it easy to differentiate. Read this blog post for more information.
  • Classroom management gets easier with PBL because students are engaged in learning. This blog post has more info on setting your classroom up for PBL success.
  • Any and all types of technology can be included in PBL!
  • You can incorporate multiple subject areas into one PBL.
  • PBL can be done any month of the year. Holiday-themed PBL is a student favorite!

Getting Started Resources

Free Planning Resource

Use the planning guide to help organize your ideas for each project. This will help customize each PBL to your specific classroom and help you brainstorm ways to bring in other subject areas.

Recommended Blog Posts

The following blog posts will walk you through the process of planning and implementing project-based learning.

  1. How to Plan Project-based Learning

  2. The Driving Question

  3. Differentiated Instruction for PBL

  4. Classroom Management during PBL

  5. Rubrics and Self-Assessment


The Self-Paced Course

I also offer a completely online, self-paced course that teaches you how to implement PBL from the beginning of the planning process all the way to final products and grading. This is a great comprehensive training that also includes the resources you need to get organized for PBL. At the end, you’ll receive an 8 hour PD certificate, and you’ll have planned a full PBL to put into place in your classroom!

Click here to see what’s included in the course.

Pre-Made Project-Based Learning

Planning project-based learning is a huge task. It can be time-consuming to align it to the standards and figure out how to bring in multiple subject areas. I’ve already done the work and we’ve tried and revised each project many times. Each PBL includes all the printables students will need to keep their work organized, as well as detailed teacher guides to walk you through the entire PBL. The teacher’s guides include the following:

  1. How to get your students ready for each part, sometimes including videos to watch and articles to read
  2. Differentiation ideas
  3. The standards each part of the project relates to
  4. How to make connections with the other subject areas
  5. How to complete each part of the project, including teacher examples

Find all of the premade lessons here.