Perhaps the best way to motivate and engage students is to challenge them to solve a real world problem. Project based learning is a powerful tool! while teaching skills and standards is important, embedding them within a meaningful task makes the learning last well beyond the assessment. The words of Will Richardson changed my teaching as he pointed out, "We spend way too much time on things that are taught "just in case" rather than helping kids learn "just in time".
If you are new to project based learning, but would like to give it a try, post this challenge to your students and watch them learn!
Can our class complete one week with a trash-free lunch?
Pose the challenge to your class.
Begin by investigating the amount of trash currently generated by one class in a day. Replace the trash liner in the lunchroom for your class and have all class members deposit their trash in that liner for the day. Remove the liner and, as a class, examine the contents. Sort, identify, and analyze the trash while wearing gloves.
As a class evaluate the contents and create a plan for reducing the amount.
Research alternatives to categories of trash and strategies used in other schools using online research.
Use the class plan and new knowledge to strive for a trash-free lunch each day for one week.
Collect and evaluate the gathered trash each day.
Record and document data and results.
Produce a multimedia product to share the project and outcome.
There are many skills and standards to teach "just in time" within this project. Sorting and classifying, measurement, research, civics, speaking and listening in classroom discussions, and multimedia production are just some of the possibilities. Based on your grade level standards, there are most certainly more.
Here is the multimedia product created by my second graders: