Notes from May 5th Workshop Breakout Sessions


Below I have transcribed the notes from the teacher breakout sessions at the May 5th workshop on improving project based learning experiences for all students.  Please feel free to reach out if I can be of any help in the future.

Take care,



Linking the PBL Experience with Core Novels

  • Plan out the marking period between both teachers based on common objectives around skills, themes, or content

  • Use games to review content from Tiers I, II, and III (board games, trivia games, etc.)

  • Create models of settings from novels (using geographic concepts and terms)

  • Create character dolls about characters in novels (focus on unique cultures and traditions)

  • Use daily newspapers and online news articles during Tiers I, II, and III

  • Conduct research for projects at technology center (e.g. internet) and reading/literacy center (e.g. background reading in social studies textbooks, identifying main ideas, reading articles on assigned topics) during Tier II

  • Use social studies textbook for Tier I read-aloud to model effective reading habits


Online Resources to Help Students and Teachers (Some require special access for some features)


Successful Practices from Our Classrooms

  • Frequent meetings with teacher teams focused on students’ experiences

  • Flexibility … “the other teacher’s way often works just as well as yours”

  • Offer a variety of experiences through learning centers

  • Modify centers and other class activities to address individual needs

  • Use a board or other organizer to help students visualize rotation through learning centers

  • Provide clear verbal and visual directions

  • Use student-made word walls

  • Modify word walls to highlight sentences, synonyms, antonyms, etc.

  • Develop a system of class incentives

  • Practice and plan for persuasive writing through class debates

  • Develop lesson plans as a team

  • Use student checklists to facilitate creating portfolios

  • Teaching students to write resumes (to think about the future, to practice writing with brevity, etc.)

  • Plan projects based on student preferences (e.g. long terms vs. short term)

  • Use PowerPoint for student presentations … or try going without it

  • Use flexible grouping

  • Take “Simon says” breaks during long classes

  • Play musical chairs with students; student left standing answers questions about the core novel, social studies content, etc.


Sixth Grade Unit and Marking Period Plans: Lesson Ideas

  • First Marking Period

    • Activities related to land formation, plant life, environmental concerns, map reading, map scale, and airlines

    • Have students read part of the novel or textbook outside

    • Use sound effects during read-alouds

  • Second Marking Period

    • Create gardening experience for students that could relate content about agricultural products in other countries; students could use these experiences as a springboard for a short-term project to create their own businesses

    • Field trip to Ellis Island

    • Learn dances and songs from South and Central America

    • Make a timeline of immigration patterns in America

    • Write/perform sketch or monologue about an immigrant’s journey to the United States

    • Search the internet for immigrant interviews

    • Create student passports

    • Create maps of each part of characters’ journeys

    • Compare/contrast lifestyles of different characters

    • Create a cookbook about South American and Central American cuisine

    • Use virtual field trips

  • Third Marking Period

    • Use technology and writing centers for different types of writing: posters, personal narratives, reader’s/writer’s journal, open-ended responses, compare/contrast writing

    • Create a freedom quilt (see for guidance)

    • Build a model of Harriet’s cottage

  • Fourth Marking Period

    • Focus on environmental issues

    • Use content from “The Phantom Tollbooth” in lessons related to social studies

    • Use the technology and literacy centers for student research

    • Hold students accountable for effective use of their time


Seventh Grade Unit and Marking Period Plans: Lesson Ideas

  • First Marking Period

    • Discussion ideas: States’ rights vs. Federal rights, Which rights are most important?

    • Students create presentation addressing a modern version of the amendments to the Constitution (e.g. freedom from electronic surveillance)

    • Pretest students for knowledge about the thirteen colonies and early American history

    • Review Articles of Confederation and other founding documents

    • Create talk show skit to discuss/teach/review the Bill of Rights

    • Create preamble for the school or classroom

  • Second Marking Period

  • Third Marking Period

    • Discussion ideas: freedoms listed in first amendment, voting rights, suffrage movement, discrimination, social inequality, checks and balances throughout American government

  • Fourth Marking Period

    • Reframe project to create your own product rather than create your own business

Last Updated on June 20, 2010

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