How to Develop Successful Readers Through Project Based Learning

The first step in developing a Project Based Learning unit is to determine the instructional goals to be taught during the project. These are not the goals of the students but the core standards that need to be addressed during the unit. The standards may cover different subject areas such as science, social studies, math, ELA... This post focuses on how reading informational text develops successful readers through Project Based Learning.

Through project based learning students can become better readers. I suggest using reading strategies during the reading and research phase.


The reading and research phase of a project probably takes the most time during the project. Reading informational text not only develops reading skills but it helps students build knowledge of the content. Research shows that poor readers with high knowledge of content outperform good readers with low knowledge of content. So, especially during the implementation of a PBL unit, building knowledge is an essential component. And, students are motivated to read the text because they have more of a purpose to read. Students involved in project based learning are trying to answer real-world questions and solve problems.

During the reading and research phase of the project, it is recommended that you use comprehension strategies to improve student reading. (Dr. Nell K. Duke, Inside Information) This book is excellent in developing reading skills through project based instruction.

These are excellent ideas for mini-lessons and discussions during the pbl unit:
  • Previewing - Briefly looking over the text to gain information about content and structure
  • Searching - Look for specific information in a text
  • Skimming - Looking or reading through text quickly and superficially. (Because students get so bogged down in reading word for word, I teaching a whole lesson on searching for information and skimming text.
  • Monitoring, clarifying, and fixing up - Using reading strategies to help with meaning
  • Activating and applying prior knowledge - Good readers integrate what they already know (prior knowledge) with new information they read. They get so excited when they have prior knowledge and apply text-to-self.
  • Inferring - Students use prior knowledge and text to figure out something that is not directly stated.
  • Self-questioning - Ask questions about text that is read 
  • Visualizing - Forming visual pictures of the text content
  • Visually representing - Using graphic organizers and other physical tools to help remember and organize the information
  • Highlighting and annotating - Students will use marks and notes to call attention to particular texts
  • Gisting and summarizing - Students will note main points as they are reading the text.
Because most of my pbl units include reading informational text, it's important for students to use reading strategies so they gain knowledge about the subject.

If you're looking for an excellent resource to use during project based learning, I recommend Newsela. It's perfect for differentiation because students read the text at their own reading level. And, Newsela provides quizzes and recommended writing prompts for current events and nonfiction reading.

If you would like to learn more about my project based learning units, just click on the image below.


Through project based learning students can become better readers. I suggest using reading strategies during the reading and research phase.

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