Tag Archives: PBL

March Mystery Madness

Thrillers, suspense, crime novels, detective fiction – whatever you call them, mystery books make for some of the most exciting literature out there. The mystery genre has been around for over two centuries. The Enigma Society has announced a new contest for teen writers to create a short story (or film or podcast) with a dastardly murder … a gathering of suspicious characters. WHO, with WHAT weapon and WHERE? 

That is all up to you. You will have the next three weeks to craft your story, plot the murder, and have your readers ask cunning detective questions. 

I wanted to go beyond a scenario and create an authentic challenge. I contacted my local public library to see if they wanted to get in on the literary action and expand this mystery writing contest beyond the walls of my classroom. Because librarians are the best, they agreed to participate and host this mystery writing contest. And who knows, if it is successful we might turn it into an annual event for all middle school students.  The director of the library and teen librarian have agreed to create an introductory video to launch the contest. In the meanwhile, here is the contest rules and regulations.

Students will have three weeks to write and create an original mystery. I also created a playlist to guide students through the writing process, focusing on the elements of mystery. Click on the image below to access the hyper doc that I modeled from the original Clue game board.

Murder Mystery Gameboad

Education never ends, Watson. It is a series of lessons with the greatest for the last.

– Sherlock Holmes

And with that, my friends, you will have to stay tuned for more.

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Reflections of Project Based Learning

This past fall I embarked on a project based learning opportunity with my media literacy elective class for 7th and 8th graders. It has always been a project based course, but this semester I gave my students an authentic challenge and ten weeks to fulfill the requirements.

Authentic Challenge – How can we develop an award winning movie short to highlight a problem in our world and create a film festival to showcase these movie shorts?

As my students were working on their own videos, I created a video to document the process using Adobe Spark.

Whereas, I wanted my students to make a movie that was 5 minutes in length, that was very difficult for many of the students. Most of the movies were around 3 minutes in length and all follow a documentary style format. Despite examining PSAs and short feature films, all felt the documentary format was the best to communicate their message and meet the objectives of the project.

Last week, my students presented their films to the entire 8th grade during a film festival  assembly.  This was the scariest and most stressful part of the process – most students confided – but it allowed for an authentic audience.

I compiled all the students’ films on YouTube and created a playlist with all their films.

At the end of the process, I asked students to complete a reflection that asked questions about the process and their final product. Students were honestly candid on the reflections. Many told me that it was too much work for an elective class and they learned how challenging it is to produce and edit a short film.

MSK PBL Reflection on Google Forms

Among my own reflections, I observed many students losing steam producing a video over ten weeks of creation and editing. As many times as we viewed the films and offered suggestions for edits, students did not always following through with the edits. The students stamina for the project wavered depending on the day. Next semester I am thinking of breaking up the semester into two projects, one non-fiction and one, a fictional film.

I shared the student videos with Rushton Hurley, author and founder of Next Vista for Learning, an educational nonprofit dedicated to saving the world from ignorance, one creative video at a time. I met Ruston at an Google Summit in Connecticut back in October of 2019 and then we ran into each other again at this past month at FETC. I spoke with him about how to  get students to see revision as an opportunity rather than a tedious task. How do we move students from one and done to seeing revision as an on-going process to better work.

Rushton shared this video with me along with a blog post he wrote regarding the same dilemma. The video portrays “the lesson that we get better as we get and effectively act on constructive critique.”


The great thing about teaching a semester long class is that I have the opportunity to reflect, revise, and re-do. Next week I get to launch the project with a new group of students and this time I will approach revision and editing in a new way to support my student’s stamina and attention to detail.

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Give More HUGS: Building a Culture of Caring Through Collaborative PBL

Have you ever thought about getting students actively involved to promote literacy in the community and around the world? This past school year I partnered with the global nonprofit organization Give More HUGS  in a year long Project-Based Service Learning (PBSL) initiative. My partnership with Give More HUGS helped my students  to become advocates for quality education, civic engagement, creativity, collaboration, and social change. Students participated in multiple projects from twitter chats, book drives, and research projects throughout the school year with this amazing organization and its awesome team to promote literacy.

Give More HUGS is a 501(c)3 non profit organization  with a mission to provide students in need with school supplies, books with inspirational messages, art supplies, extracurricular activity scholarships, mentorships, and encouragement to inspire a lifelong love for learning, reading, and creativity.

Twitter Book Chats

My students read at least one outside reading book each marking period. Each quarter I offered one book title for students to read in a book club setting, which meets on Twitter after school hours to discuss the book. Moved by Malala Yousafzai’s campaign for equality education among all people and the collaboration with Give More HUGS, I selected Malala’s autobiography for the first Twitter book chat of the school year because of Malala’s positive impact on the world and the idea that anyone can make a difference to help make the world a better place. I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Reader’s Edition) by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick offers insight into Malala’s strength and courage to promote equality education for young women in Pakistan and around the world. The Twitter book chats helped engage students in authentic discussions about the book and share their responses, connections, and questions.

Students  participated in four Twitter Book Chats to address the complex issues raised in each book. Because Give More HUGS strives to promote equality education, I invited the HUGS Ambassadors and Give More HUGS members in the Twitter Book Chats because of the shared interests and goals of equality education for all. This experience gave students an opportunity to use social media to participate in a 21st century book club and social movement to make this world a better place.

Genius Hour  “Shark Tank” Project Pitches

Every Friday in my classroom is Genius Hour. Genius Hour in the classroom was inspired by Google’s 20% time, where employees at Google get is 20% of their time to work on a special project.  Once a week students have one class period to explore, learn, create, discover, and research a topic that interests them. The only conditions are that students choose a topic that is researchable and will “have a positive impact on the community,” no matter how big or small it may be.  At the end of each semester, students share what they have learned in a presentation of their choice and how their work has made an impact.

Once students selected their Genius Hour project, I required students to design an elevator pitch to explain their passion and project interests. Students took two weeks to craft their pitches.  I invited Give More HUGS founder and director, Chris McGilvery and a few of the HUGS Ambassadors into my classroom for students to present their Genius Hour elevator pitches in a “Shark Tank” style setting. Eight lucky projects were selected as “Brilliant Ideas” or “Social Change  Makers” by the HUGS representatives.  The eight “winners” were highlighted on the Give More HUGS blog and offered a wider audience to promote their social action Genius Projects.  You can Read more about this collaboration on the Give More HUGS blog.

Book Drive

Impressed by many of the projects students created, Chris encouraged students to participate in Give More HUGS as Ambassadors. Two students pursued that role and are official Ambassadors for GMH planning projects and raising awareness. One student in particular combined her Genius Hour project with GMH and organized a book drive throughout the school. She and a friend collected nearly 1,000 books during the month of May. Each book will be inscribed with a personal message and sent to schools and organizations that lack resources. In addition to the book drive, the students created campaign called S.P.A.R.K. (Spread Passion and Reading Knowledge)and designed tee shirts to raise awareness and money for schools in need. In designing the project my student stated, “We chose this project because we believe that books are a key learning tool and also to spread our love of learning. We both value our education and the opportunities we have.  We want to spread our passion for reading and learning to others.  We decided the best way to “ignite their spark” was to motivate them by giving them books.”

SPARK

Click here to purchase a t-shirt and support Give More HUGS.

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Get Your Game On! #ISTELitChat Talks #Gamification with @BeGeeky 3/39/15 8:30 PM EST

#ISTELitChat Talks #Gamification w/@BeGeeky 3/29/15 8:30 PM EST

After attending EdCampSWCT this past March I was enamored by a session led by Matthew Dandola (@BeGeeky) sharing how he turned a tedious Wordly Wise vocabulary practice workbook into an intriguing story driven, role playing game that seems more Game of Thrones meets Dungeons & Dragons for his middle school students English Language Arts. After extensive research, Dandola chose Classcraft as a platform to create a world outside of his classroom where students craft the stories of their characters through weekly journaling and for bonus points adding Worldly Wise vocabulary for robust narratives about how characters are working together, and sometimes against each other, to earn powers win the game — or face consequences.

As described on Classcraft’s website, to play, each student must choose a character from three different character classes: the Healer, the Mage, or the Warrior. Each has unique properties and powers and is designed for different types of students. These are customizable as the game progresses and can be accompanied by pets. Classcraft is played in teams of five or six students for the duration of the year. This encourages students who might not normally socialize to work together to win the game. All team members benefit from cooperative efforts and learn to consider the needs of others before they take actions in the game. Powers and consequences are customized by the teacher. Participation in class activities is a must to survive.

Whether you are big into gamification or not, you need to join the next #ISTELitChat where we will talk all things #gamification. Learn more from Matthew Dandola’s and other #gamification tools for your classroom.

Questions for #ISTELitChat on #Gamification 3/29/15 8:30 PM EST:

Q1: Introduce yourself, where you are from, and your role in education.

Q2: What does #gamification mean to you?

Q3: What does #gamification look like in your classroom?

Q4: What #gamification applications or tools are you utilizing now to support learning in your content area and students interests in gaming?

Q5: What does one have to keep in mind when designing a game for content area learning?

Q6: How do you get all students to buy into the #gamification aspect of classroom learning?

Q7: What are ways that you envision using #gamification with your students?

Q8: What advice do you have for someone just starting out and interested in bringing #gamification into their  class and content area?

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