by John Larmer
Editor in Chief
For this week’s Hangout, we were joined by Matt Baer, Dean of Students at Riley Street Middle School in Hudsonville, Michigan, Alicia Peletz, Instructional Coach at Rochester Career Mentoring Charter School, a high school in New York, and Katrina Martinez, Director of the K-8 Legacy Preparatory Charter Academy in Dallas, Texas.
We focused on the following Driving Question:
“How can you manage the day-to-day work of students and teams during a project?”
Here were some of the highlights:
Question 1: How do you prepare students for PBL?
Our guests talked about building a culture that supports PBL. They mentioned orientation meetings to explain PBL to students, the use of team-builders, and emphasized the importance of creating relationships between teachers and students.
Question 2: How do you launch a project?
For Entry Events, our guests explained how they’ve used guest speakers, video clips, and field experiences (such as a Renaissance-themed scavenger hunt in the city of Rochester). Matt described an Entry Event in which the teacher dumped the contents of a school vending machine on a table to start a project about nutrition.
Question 3: How do you form student teams?
Teachers in Katrina’s school group students by thinking about both their strengths and weaknesses so they can build their capacities and support each other. Matt suggested conducting an inventory of students’ skills and interests, and Alicia pointed out that putting friends on the same team is problematic.
Question 4: How do you help students work well in teams?
One idea was to do content-related team-builders during a project; another was to use visuals such as an “accountability board” to keep track of tasks and deadlines, or a project wall for younger students. Student-written contracts for how they’ll work as a team are also helpful.
Question 5: What are some of the pitfalls of managing a project?
One interesting idea was to not have rigid expectations for what a product should look like to allow for student voice and choice. If projects are going too long, scale back on the products – and watch out for Driving Questions that are too big to answer.
Here's a summary of some key takeaways:
Consider these helpful resources for managing your project: