Today's Freebie LifePractice PBL Lesson: Pompeii and Circumstance
Today’s freebie PBL card comes with a video to help you learn how to Launch a project!
Pick up your free copy of the “Pompeii and Circumstance” LifePractice PBL recipe card here. (today only!)
I’m asked all the time, “How do you beat student apathy when working on projects?” That question says so much in just a few words, doesn’t it?
One of the components that is so vital to a successful PBL lesson is The Launch — that moment where you get your students hooked into the topic just deep enough that 1) they feel like they already know something and 2) they feel the topic is so incredibly interesting that they can’t wait to find out more! The Launch is part information and part entertainment — infotainment, we call it. It starts by asking a few questions to the group about the topic, pulling in what they might already know, then telling a story that is so compelling, at the end, the kids are mesmerized, their imaginations are going wild, and their minds are full of questions. You’ve got ’em hooked!
For example, a successful launch story feels as if we’ve just experienced a trailer for an action-adventure movie, packed with adventure, mystery, and intrigue. The launch story gives you just enough information to let you get the idea of what the movie is, but doesn’t give away all the details of the movie.
Toward that end, I’ve created a less-than-perfect example of a Launch story you might choose to use with your own students.
Please, I beg you, do not just show them this video. I created this to only show you the type of information you might include. You, however, will want your Launch to be very interactive with your students. Ask them questions about volcanoes, about Roman life, about slavery, about anything remotely related they might know about so they can feel they already know a little about the topic and not feel so overwhelmed with the challenge. In this case, the challenge is to go back in time and save the citizens of Pompeii.
Once you’ve got them interested by telling you answers about topics they already know, tell them the story of Pompeii. Include as many gruesome or thrilling details as is appropriate for your age level to hear. And by all means, do not just show them this video! Telling a story and showing a video are not the same thing. You’ll want to make eye contact. You’ll want to create dramatic pauses. You’ll want to raise and lower your voice and pacing in order to bring them along.
Emphasize the parts you’ll have them working on. Is this a project in Science? Then concentrate on the volcano aspects, without giving them the vocabulary of “pyroclastic flow.” Instead, they can “discover” that terminology as they work. Maybe you’re in a math class. Lead their imaginations about the logistics of time, distance, and numbers of people in your story. If it’s about this history, paint a visual story about the situation so they can imagine they’re there. If it’s a reading/writing class, encourage them to paint the story with their own words.
In a PBL setting, you’re able to (encouraged to) customize each portion of the project to fit both the academic needs and the interests of your students, so don’t be afraid to do something completely different than what’s in the video. Just hook ’em so you can cook ’em!
Above all, don’t worry if you’re not used to telling stories in this fashion for your kids. Just try it.
And let us know how your launch story went!
Pick up your free card here to try this PBL lesson with your kids!
Suitable for grades 3-12.
[EDIT] This was a free download for March 15 only. If you’re interested in this card, you can find it, along with the rest of our LifePractice PBL cards here.