Tips to Prepare Students for Project Based Learning

Are you thinking about implementing project based learning in your classroom this year? Are you worried about when and how to begin? Do you wonder how to organize your activities? Do you know how to get your students to take ownership in their own learning?

I have a few tips for you to prepare your students for project based learning. With these tips, your students will be comfortable with the basic format of project based learning. These activities can be integrated into any subject area.

A group of students works on a project while the text says, "Tips to Prepare Students for Project Based Learning"


Try beginning a unit or activity with great read-aloud books about problem-solving or world issues and support inquiry. There are some excellent books that spark curiosity. Therefore, your students will want to deepen their learning about a topic.

Here are some great read-Alouds:

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One of my favorite tips to prepare students for project based learning is to listen to Ted Talks. You and your students can learn so much from them. I'm always so impressed with the knowledge and passion of the speakers. There are so many topics which address world problems, science, current events, education, health, homelessness, and more.

Share videos with your students about a topic that they will enjoy. Discuss the videos as a whole class or give small groups a set of questions to discuss. Your students can even practice giving their own TedTalks. One of my favorites to show students is about Building Useless Things. Your students will love this TedTalk.

Questions may include:

  • Have you ever invented anything to solve a problem?
  • How has failing at something helped you?
  • What was your biggest take-away from the video?

Working as a Team

Project Based Learning involves cooperative learning, problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration. Involve your students in working in teams on different activities. The skills they learn in working in collaborative groups are life-long skills they need in solving complex, real-world problems. Try implementing some problem-solving activities that your teams have to solve. I recommend 3-5 students on a team.

Journaling and Reflection

Provide students with a way to journal about things they wonder about or questions they may have. Google Forms is an excellent way to set up a template for journals. Make sure to set it up so you can respond or give feedback. I use Google Forms for reflections on projects, too. You may want to video reflections to give students practice in presenting to an audience.

Practicing the Interview Process

Students chat with an expert using technology during a PBL project.

Most of my project based learning units require students to interview experts. This takes lots of practice, knowing how to write open-ended questions, and how to ask extended questions based on the expert's responses. Students can interview the school principal, community members, or parents who can offer great information about a project or unit of study. Try Skyping with experts, too. There so many ways for students to connect and learn from others all over the world. Our students Skyped with students in Iran. They loved asking questions and learning from their new friends. Click HERE to learn more.

Implementing Current Events and Student Interests

Involve your students in keeping up with current events. Sites like Time for Kids, Scholastic News, Newsela, CNN10, and The New York Times Learning Network provide students with updated news and current events. By engaging students with current events, they become aware of world issues and problems. And, when you learn more about student interests, it will help you in deciding on relevant topics.

Using PBL Language

When teaching, familiarize your students with project based learning vocabulary. Use the terms driving question, essential questions, student choice, inquiry, critical thinking, reflection, collaboration, and revision. When students know what the terms mean and how they are used, they become comfortable when they are actually involved in a project based learning unit.

Integrating Technology

There are so many apps and websites that are perfect to use during a project based learning unit. Let your students get acquainted with the technology tools that you may be using during a project. By doing this, you can focus more on the project and not on technology. To learn more about blending technology into project based learning, click HERE.

Teaching Media Literacy

Work with your librarian/media specialist in teaching students how to find quality sources for their project. It's important for students to learn the difference between real and fake news.

Involving Your Students in Collaborative Projects/World Organizations

If you don't feel comfortable in planning a project based learning unit, try searching for projects that are already created. The Buck Institute has many project based units that would work for your classroom. Pen Pal Schools is a new collaborative website that provides ongoing projects and matches your students with schools all over the world. Another site to check out is Project Pals. Encourage your students to learn more about environmental organizations, The Nobelity Project, Free Rice, and Clean Water projects.

Thank you for listening to our tips to prepare students for project based learning. To learn more about implementing project based learning, Click HERE.

Find great tips to help prepare students for project based learning. Click through to see all 10 tips you can implement right away with your upper elementary or middle school students. Ideas include Ted Talks, read alouds, journaling, and others. Great ideas you can use immediately in your classroom or homeschool studies! {3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th grade, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth graders, home school} #sweetintegrations #technology #projectbasedlearning

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