Teaching can be intimidating. If you have taken on the task of homeschooling, it can be especially intimidating. How do you cover all the necessary subject matter and create the links for higher level thinking, which is the ultimate goal of education.
Technology has increased a number of great opportunities that any teacher can reference. Authority sites, museum sites, curriculum sites all offer ideas and opportunities.
Most of these sites also encourage project based learning and have ideas or interactive opportunities that community members can participate in. Take a look at your local libraries and museums to see what programs may be available in your area.
Some education websites also offer project ideas that meet new Core Standards for education. How do you pick a project?
1) Pick a core area and look at what the “meatier” end result should be. At the end of a particular unit or year, students should minimally be able to do what? (Remember that Core Standards were devised as minimum requirements for higher education and employment skills.) These “meatier” content and skill requirements are a great place to aim for deeper learning. Because projects take time, and have lots of “moving” parts, they make it easier to use integrated learning and teach to more than one modality in the same project.
2. Develop projects that target multiple standards. Use project based learning to “spiral” in standards you may have already targeted for continued practice and assessment. If you are a homeschooling parent, you will be more acutely aware of what areas your child is mastering and what areas need further understanding. Target those areas that need greater understanding and create ways to tie those skills to another project. When students see the links between ideas, they will more quickly develop the necessary literacy.
3. Project based learning encourages a higher level of critical thinking. If we want the knowledge to “stick,” then we must help students think critically. When designing or using lesson plans from project based learning curricula make sure that it targets your end result needs. Always keep you end result, or the driving questions, in mind. Design and implement with critical thinking in mind, and make sure the project based learning lesson demands it.
There are of course other reasons why project based learning works, especially for kinesthetic learners, and there is so much research to support it. I think we need to stop being afraid to try new ideas and to teach in new ways. We need to embrace education websites that support integrated learning and project based lessons and stop worrying that change will ensue. Change will ensue, and it is often a good thing — if not a great thing!
Let’s do what’s best for our students, our children, and our community and focus on project based learning and units that focus on deeper learning of the content, where students integrate the material, learn to think critically, and apply their knowledge in new contexts.
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