A PBL Pathway to 21st Century Deeper Learning Schools

Projects From A Box

What is Projects From A Box?

Projects From A Box is a unique set of materials to help teachers (Grades K-12) new to project-based learning (PBL) get started and expand their tool-kit with a different model of instruction. The set also works well in after-school programs. Projects From A Box starts students with a pre-selected literature or informational text and at least one ELA standard and one critical thinking skill. Students working alone or in teams plan the project using mini-template cards to guide each activity. This approach frees teachers to spend their time as guides-on the side with project-based learning logistics made easy. Students, not the teacher, are the musicians; the teacher becomes the conductor.

What is the content?

The content is ready-to-download introductory project-based learning task cards and a Teacher’s Guide. The material translates directly into projects for novice project-based learning teachers and students or parents. A student instructions guide student teams to collaborate and communicate, develop their thinking and problem solving skills, organize a project, select a product to make with technology, make a presentation and assess what they have completed. Students fill their boxes with artifacts they make according to each selected task card. In the time span scheduled by the teacher (usually 8-12 hours) the students finish their artifacts and make a presentation from the box.

What is the teacher’s role?

Teachers are guides on-the-side. The printable Teacher’s Guide prepares them to set up and manage cooperative groups, develop thinking skills and use the Common Core standards to direct student work over a two-week, one period per day timeline. Teachers facilitate, coach, give feedback and assess student work. Management of students’ work is reduced by the engaging nature of the projects and the instruction cards that lead students through the tasks. The box is the major organizing tool. Each team organizes materials and keeps them in the team’s box. They can also personalize the box with information about themselves and the project.

How does Projects From A Box align with the Common Core?

The new ELA standards call for students to read literature and information text. Projects From A Box provides the materials that align every project with one or more standards with a story, article or informational text selected by students or assigned by the teacher. Many of the task cards require written responses and there is always the final oral presentation. Thus, all of the ELA strands—reading, writing, speaking and listening–are involved. Lastly, the assessment cards in the box allow teachers or students to select the focus of assessment on either the standards or the 21st Century skills.

How important is problem solving?

Problem solving appears throughout the box. Projects From A Box takes this essential skill from a seat in the back of the bus and moves it to the front. This is a one-of-a- kind tool for preparing kids for learning how to solve ill-defined problems across the curriculum from the moment they open up the box and begin to organize the contents. An ill-defined problem is one that is loosely structured and challenges students to make it clear or more “tightly defined”. (a two step math problem about trains on the same track is a well-defined problem). The 2012 PISA exams include a section that examines students’ ability to solve ill-defined problems with higher order thinking skills across non-mathematical curricula as well as in the usual section on tightly defined problem solving.

Which students can complete PBL from the box?

All K-12 students can learn how. No exceptions. The first set of task slides allow fit all grades with ELA-based projects in literature or informational text across the disciplines.

Where does Projects From A Box fit in the curriculum?

It works best to replace English Language Arts lessons or units. It aligns with all ELA strands in the Common Core standards that are developing reading comprehension, writing, speaking and listening skills. It fits with social studies, history, technical subjects and the sciences. It fits after school or Saturday programs to ensure that students are learning the required content in a fun but different way. In fact, the research (see the Teacher’s Guide) outlines how project-based learning, the instructional model used in Projects From A Box, is likely to produce higher test ELA test scores than other approaches such as direct instruction when teachers implement the methods well.

What is the parent’s role?

Parents can buy their own sets and work with their own children at home.

How does a teacher start?

Each box comes ready for one teacher to work with up to three students. It is fully stocked with needed materials and instructions to facilitate self-directed learning teams. Teachers also arrange to supply reading texts and technology tools called for by different tasks. The  box provides teachers with all instructions for setting up, managing and assessing a project-based learning unit. Principals and professional developers may take advantage of this unique set by ordering multiple kits and arranging for a professional development day to introduce all staff to PBL practice.

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Phone: 847-835-2149
Fax: 848-835-4209
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