Increase Engagement with Project Based Learning

Teacher’s Corner Webinar – April 2022

Hello Teachers! April is almost over which means summer is just around the corner! There is still so much to accomplish before the end of the year and it can be tricky to find new ways to keep students engaged. Watch our Teacher’s Corner Webinar where we discuss Project Based Learning, why it’s important, and how it can break up the monotony of the classroom. Find out how to incorporate fun along with digital resources and tips for managing time.

Resources included:

Read the transcript below:


Hello, teachers. Thank you for joining us for our April Teacher’s Corner. We know this is a very busy time of the year. Summer’s right around the corner. You’ve got a lot on your plate, so we appreciate you taking the time to join us today. And hopefully what we are talking about today will help you with the several weeks or couple of months that you have left in the year.

So today we’re going to be talking about how to increase engagement with project based learning (PBL). I’ve got Angel and Agustina here for our Teacher’s Corner team, and today what we will be talking about what project based learning is and talking about why it’s important.

Take advantage of some of the digital resources that are available out there. We’ll show you what some of those are and then how to use it across multiple disciplines. Also go into grading strategies and how to manage your time going through the project.

At the end of this webinar, you’ll actually receive a recorded version of it in case there’s anything that you missed or want to review again. And we’ll also include links of all of the digital resources that we’ll talk about today. So now I will send it over to Angel to get us started.

Project Based Learning (PBL)


So what is project based learning? Basically, it’s going to be the process of learning through the students taking control of designing, developing and completing a project. Typically, there’s going to be some type of group collaboration involved, and a lot of those can be competitive in nature, or just by having an outcome set in mind. So some examples can be like the egg drop, researching a disease and how it affects its community, mapping out family’s genealogy, creating your own government, and then using that to maybe have debate, designing a restaurant layout or planning a family vacation.

It’s important because it provides real life situations for students and it allows them to overcome problems. So they need to be critical thinkers in order to tackle the question and find a solution. Sometimes teachers can intentionally throw something unexpected in or try to sabotage a project, not in a mean way, but so that those students can be adaptable and interact to the changing environment of their project.

A lot of times students may not have already had questions about the type of project that you have, so it allows them to turn on that inquisitive part of their mind and really dive deep into those subjects. Gives them experience in project management. A lot of times, they are group projects. So you may have three to four people working together, and each of them managing a part of the project. Students will need to overcome things to persevere and to be successful in those projects as well. Communication is important in group settings. It allows students to develop their communication skills, and it empowers them because they are in charge of the situation. The best project based learning projects actually have very little of the teacher’s guidance and it’s mostly student led. So it empowers those students to kind of take charge of their learning process in that.

For some of the digital resources that are available, they can always go back, look at the annotations from their eBooks that they’ve highlighted along the way or taken notes on. Depending on the project, they may want to use Zillow or Google Maps, Google Sheets, HyperDocs or just their rubrics. So if they are, say setting a budget or about to graduate college, they can use Zillow to find what living situation is in the area that they’d like to live. Maybe they are planning their vacation and they need to find out how long it would take to drive versus fly, so they could use Google Maps for that.

Publishers also have plenty of resources that are available. So definitely take a look back at some of our others that really deep dive into those publishers’ resources. However, we were able to find specific PBL resources on TCI. HMH, Cengage, and then the Savvas Realize platform has a group collaboration, so those groups would be able to communicate through that resource. And the best PBL projects actually incorporate several different subjects at once. So being able to use those different platforms can assist with that as well.

Using Project Based Learning Across Multiple Disciplines


Just as Angel mentioned, a lot of PBLs do contain multiple disciplines in them. And those tend to be the most fun for the students and the teachers, if you like collaborating with other teachers across subjects. Normally your high school will have an English, social studies, a world language, science and math, then you can have art, technology, some business, psychology- any of those courses, economics or something like U.S. Government that isn’t the normal social studies course. A lot of these and these examples use at least two or more of these subjects. The biggest one that I would recommend for a high school is actually using the student’s career choice, especially as you get towards senior year. If the student doesn’t have a career in mind that they would like, then you can have students just pick out of a hat, a random career.

But just as a teacher, you know that if you asked a 17 year old what a teacher does day to day, and then you wrote down what a teacher does day to day, it would be completely different. Having the student actually research the career that they want to have will be super beneficial to them before they actually get into that career. And a lot of those career choices, like a teacher, uses a lot of different subjects to actually do their job day to day. Even just setting up your classroom desks takes critical thinking, and geometry and psychology for the students that you want to keep apart.

For budgeting during a time period, that uses a lot of social studies, it can use science and you can use math. So like Angel said, you can set up stipulations for your students. Budget during a time period where the main resource in the country is just gone. You need to find a different way to budget. We literally just saw that a couple years ago where one of our main resources was gone because of what was going on.

Creating an artificial island. This uses social studies. You can create a government within it. You can use science. You can use technology if you want to actually map out in a graphic design application on your computer. It uses English if you want to write the islands charter. It uses a bunch of stuff.

Planning a greenhouse, planning a vacation, especially if you add stipulations into those of what the student needs to do. Creating a business plan and depending on the business, that can go more towards one subject than another. And then researching a disease. All of these are cross subject, and they’re really, really fun. And they can either take a week or the entire year to complete.


One of the biggest hurdles for teachers when setting up a project based learning is grading, because we already have so much to grade that we don’t want to create more rubrics, more grades, and try to figure out how you’re going to compare somebody’s song about the economy to somebody’s essay about the economy. So first of all, there are a bunch of rubrics online, and we’ve included some in this presentation that will help you in this. A lot of the rubrics grade projects based on the work, the effort and the ideas. If the idea is good, but it could be better, push your students to make it better. If their questions have led to more questions, if the value of the content is obvious, so if they are writing a song about cockroaches, and your class is economics and it has nothing to do with economics, that’s not going to get a good grade for their idea.

The work, so whether the actual time that they took to make the project was valuable. The problems are actually real, because that’s what all project based learning is actually based on. And it’s connected to the community is really important for a lot of those subject areas, like social studies, science, economics. And then the effort it took. So if your student wrote a song about cockroaches and it took them all year and they worked really, really hard for it, maybe you want to give them something. But that’s up to you. The choice is actually genuine and the student owns it.

Make sure your grades are broken up, so you don’t want your entire project to be one grade. If your student had to research for their song, then that can be a grade. If they had to write a template for their song, that can be a grade. But everything can be completely broken up week by week or day to day so that your assignments are actually testing the skill that you want your students to learn.

You can also base your project on the state standards or the national standards that you have for your course, so that you know that the grades you are giving to the students are actual grades that they will need to learn the skills that they need in your classroom. And then a lot of the times just replace the normal grades, if you can, that you give to your students. So if they have a homework assignment, a quiz, a test, an essay, whatever it may be, that you are giving to them because you need to test that they learned a skill. If their project shows that they learned that skill, you don’t need to do the work twice. You can give them that grade that you would for the project and replace it with that test grade.

And then make sure you talk to your students about the grading. There is nothing worse than a student coming back to you after four months of working on their project and saying, I didn’t know I would get a zero because my song was about cockroaches and I needed to write about the economy. If you give your students a rubric, make sure you talk to your students about that rubric or the state standards. Make sure they have copies that they have highlighted, and annotated and whatever it may be so that they cannot come back later and say they had no idea what they were getting graded on.

Time Management

Another big, big hurdle is time management. These are the projects that you just planned for all summer, and then they actually only took one week to complete. Make sure your planning time is much less than what the actual project time is. Make sure you set out rubrics for yourself, checklists for yourself, so that if you want to do it year after year, you can just do some tweaking depending on how well it worked, and then you can go from there. Each year that you do it, it takes minimal time.

So the biggest thing to time management is using online rubrics. There are so many that you do not have to recreate the wheel here. And using that gradual grading. Create grading checklists for yourself. So based on those rubrics, you can literally just print out the rubrics and then put a check mark or an X based on whether the student completed that task or not, and then give them the grade that they should get based off of that. And then you know that you’re using the rubric that you gave to students, and you’re not adding anything in later.

Setting strict deadlines, so you don’t want a student to come back at the end of the year and say that they have not even started their project. If you do week by week or biweekly and you do weekly check-ins with your students, give weekly grades to your students, then that helps them a lot with the project time at the end of the year. So sticking to those mini projects. And then it also helps, if they didn’t do the first week that they needed, but they did the second week, that’s okay and they can get those two grades, but it doesn’t have to affect their final project if they missed one week of work.

Integrating projects into your daily teachings. This really, really helps students learn the material in your class. It really motivates them to learn what you’re actually teaching. And then it eases their stress about how much time they have on their project. So a lot of students in high school work have sports, whatever it may be, and they don’t have that time outside of school to work on their projects. So if you are teaching a specific skill that they need for their project, and then you give them 15 minutes or 10 minutes at the end of the day to tie in those skills to their project, then that really helps them and they are motivated to learn, because they know they’re going to need exactly what you’re teaching to finish their project. Especially if you start the lesson off with, you will need this for your project, and if you don’t listen, you cannot get it done. Then you definitely have a class full of listening students.

And don’t be afraid to extend the project. If you have a novel that your students are writing, and you plan for it to take the month of November, and your students are absolutely in love with the process and you want it to be each chapter until the end of the year or whatever it may be, extend it. If they want to write it in the summer, whatever. Extend the project. If your kids are having fun with it and it has to do with what you are teaching them, that is the best outcome for a teacher.

These are the resources that we used to get those rubrics for you. A lot of these resources include those rubrics, and they have them for the students and for the teachers. They have them based on the project you want to do, or if you just want a general one. It talks about the actual value of project based learning. And it gives you some ideas of actual projects that you can use.


Thank you, Angel and Agustina, for sharing that. Again, teachers, thank you for joining us again. We will have this sent out, the recording, and also posted on our website as well, along with all of the links to those resources that were provided. And please join us again next month. And then we’ll be taking the summer off. So I hope you have a great rest of your day!

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