What Do You Do When They Beg for Worksheets?
I was contacted recently by a teacher friend in Virginia whom I’d previously worked with about shifting her classroom environment more to a PBL setting. Ginny Ogden is a high school Spanish teacher whose kids have all been shifted for about half of their day into a PBL setting. The students had no say in this PBL schedule. And it’s not for their entire day. These two factors alone can drop some significant hurdles into the Project Based Learning process.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not demonizing anyone here. I just want us to recognize it’s a tough situation. High school students are often some of the slowest to deeply embrace PBL because, let’s face it, it’s harder and they’ve spent how many years…what percentage of their lives learning how to “do school” a different way? And now we’re changing the rules. In many kids, this can cause frustration levels to soar!
And Ginny’s students were no different. In fact, she reached out to me completely exasperated because only a few days before, students were complaining about how hard they were expected to work and asking why couldn’t she just give them vocabulary worksheets like their other teachers? Ginny was devastated and felt as if she was between a rock and a hard place.
Don’t worry, this has a happy ending…
Ginny was heartbroken. She knew she didn’t want to go back to worksheets. She wanted her kids to want to learn. So when she reached out to me, she was at a truly low point and ready for some help. I was happy to help.
Like a good PBL coach I listened, asked questions, and then I threw her in the deep end.
But she wasn’t alone there in the deep end. I also got in with her. I also recruited Maria Magdalena Ortiz-Smith and Jennifer Miller, two outstanding educators in Dodge City Kansas, to jump in as well. And once I explained the situation to them, they could not have been happier to jump! Jennifer is a 4th grade classroom teacher and Maria works with English Language Learner supports as part of her job.
What we needed was Ginny’s class to have a little more authenticity to their work. Something that they could bite onto and that would bite back a bit if they began to slack off.
Enter Jennifer Miller’s 4th grade class, and more specifically, the 10 English-Language learners in her classroom. She also invited 4 other ELL students to the party!
You see, Ginny’s Spanish 2 and 3 classes were challenged to write a fun book for english language learners in Spanish that would help them learn English…with a bonus twist!
Boy, you want to talk about nerves, excitement, and engagement! Ginny’s students went from begging for worksheets to creating both fully-illustrated written and exciting audio books!
Because, you see, Jennifer’s students will be judging which book is the best. And the best book will be published! A handful of Ginny’s students will not only have written a book, but a book in Spanish and the stakes are high!
And boy, did the work attitude change in that classroom overnight!
How did they pull this cross-country connection? Stay tuned for part 2!
If you want to know more about bringing PBL to your school and community, let me know!
- www.LifePracticePBL.org – learn more about practicing real life right now!
- www.GingerLewman.com – check out keynotes, workshops, and blog posts!
- Lessons for LifePractice Learning – the daily realities are shared and how to make it all work!
- LifePracticePBL project unit cards – get integrated project unit inspiration, elementary – high school!
- Practicing PBL Facebook group – join the conversation where educators are sharing and growing!
- Self-paced, self-directed, PBL online class – learn how to build your PBL class, on your own timeline!
- Building PBL Coaches online class — sometimes instructional coaches are asked to coach educators do things we’ve never done ourselves. Come learn how to coach PBL learning environments.