Whether this is a year for the Winter Olympics ™ or not, learning about winter sports is a great way to tie in social studies, science, writing and reading standards. It is the perfect way to cross connect your standards all with Project Based Learning.
So how do we hit all these with one topic?
It’s easy with Project Based Learning! Don’t let the title scare you away. PBL as we refer to it, can be easy. The planning does take a lot of work. My average planning for a PBL can take about a month or more. Yikes! But I am making ALL the parts to it. Once the planning is done, you have everything you need for years to come. Well at least until your school changes their plans…ugh! Life of a teacher.
A PBL unit is different than a regular unit. We stay in it for about a month or two since they are so robust.
You can also “piece mail” your PBL together by gathering resources that your school has and ones that you find on-line. Or you can purchase one that is fully planned out.
A Project Based Learning unit always begins with a Driving Question. I like to tie it into an attention getter to get the students excited about the new unit.
A Driving Question is THE question we visit all unit long.
This is one that I use: How can we as students make a Winter Sports game using recyclables and classroom supplies?
Then we begin to learn about Winter Games, otherwise known as the Winter Olympics. We do this by looking at videos online, looking at pictures, reading close reading articles, reading mini books and we have comprehension questions to assess what they learn. The students get a good idea about what the Winter Games are about.
Lessons have the scaffolding (differentiation) that is needed for your student’s success
Lessons are designed to be used for various levels of your students and the teacher can pick the level that works for the students in their class
We then move into our Informational Writing. A lot of teachers get worried about this part. But we have broken it down into such an easy process, it will be a breeze.
Here is how it works:
We figure out what the students already know about the Winter Games. Then after they have read their books or their close reading articles, they add in what they now know. I describe it like a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich. We have Peanut Butter on bread and Jelly on Bread, together we have a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich.
We have differentiated levels, so some students will write 2 facts, 3 facts or 4 facts.
It would look something like this:
My “I know” fact (Peanut Butter)
Skiing is a winter sport.
My “I learned” fact (Jelly)
Cross Country skiing is skiing with two long skis and two poles.
The next step is to combine what they already know and what they learned to make a new sentence.
It is an inference sentence. (Peanut and Jelly Sandwich)
My new sentence:
Cross Country Skiing is a winter sport that uses two long skis and two poles.
Depending on their level, they will do this 1, 2, or 3 more times.
We then add these sentences together and in the unit are ways to teach them how to add a introduction sentence and a conclusion sentence.
Before long they have 4 sentences if they are working at the easiest level and 6 sentences if they are the hardest level.
Of course, there is more to the in between with editing and writing the final draft, but the confidence that they feel when they wrote all that is so exciting. I love the look in their eyes when I say, “Look, you wrote that!” A smile goes from ear to ear.
Giving students choice in a project or lesson gives them ownership.
Now we plan for the STEM part. Now that we have learned all about the Winter Games, we will take it one step further and pick a game to research and a country to represent.
Due to all the COVID classroom restrictions, your school may have restrictions on how group work is done. This next part I will explain it in two ways and you can choose the path that works best for your school.
Students have opportunities throughout the project to choose: Such as what sport they want to research and make? What country they want to research? They also choose how their presentation will go. I go into more details about how this works in the unit.
Students are put into groups depending on what sport and country they chose.
Valuable Skills and Problem Solving
Next, they will work on the STEM part. They get to be an engineer, contractor or architect and build a winter sport game using the supplies given, which are recyclable and classroom supplies we have on hand.
In that group they will design their sport on paper first. They will discuss the supplies that they need. They will read close reading articles about their sport and their country. Then they will decide if they are going to write about their sport or their country. For my highest students I have them write about both. They will do the same process as we did for the informational writing on Winter Sports, but this time for their sport or country. Depending on your level of students you may need to provide additional assistance on this process.
During the writing process, I break it up and have the students work on their country flag and map. They will plan it out and work together to make them both. This can be done with recyclables, construction papers, or markers; depending on your supplies.
They will take their STEM drawing they made earlier and put it into action. I have students bring in recycling all week, we get a lot!! This helps their ideas spawn as they look at all the cereal boxes, cups, etc. We save lunch trays, milk boxes, and we use classroom supplies like string, yarn, markers, water bottle lids, water bottles, construction paper, etc.
Here is one we made for Curling
Here is what we used..
- 1 Cereal Box
- 2 Sheets of White paper
- 2 pennies
- 2 Qtips
Once the informational paper has been done and the game has been made, you can prepare the for the culminating event.
Creates a “Need to Know”
The students can’t wait to show off their WINTER GAMES and to show all their skills they gained
The students get the opportunity to present their sport, flag, map and writing to parents or other classes.
A Culminating Event is where families, staff, or other classes are invited to come see what you have all learned in your unit. This may not be as practical if you work in district that does not allow for parents to come into the classrooms right now due to restrictions. An alternative would be to have the students do their presentation and video tape them. You could also do a FB live video.
In the presentation, each group will get up and present their country, map, flag and facts about it. If a group wrote about a country then they will read their paper. If not they will just tell a few facts about it and show their country flag. Then the group members will read what they wrote about the sport they chose and show their game they made.
When all the presentations are done, groups will separate around the room and will set up their game and their flag. Parent and visitors can walk around and try out the games.
Critique and Revision
Students get to critique each other’s presentation and projects using a rubric. The students are then given time to revise their work before the final presentation.
We always take a few days to work on the presentations. The students need time to practice reading their paper and practice showing their games. Most of the time students realize they have made a mistake and this gives them a chance to fix it. We do a dress rehearsal and I let the students critique each other and REVISE their work. This is part of the PBL Teaching.
How to do the project independently?
If students are not able to be a part of a group or they are distance learning. All the same will be done above, they will just do it on their own.
What if PBL is not your thing?
If PBL is still not your thing, you can skip parts of it or we have a non PBL Unit that focuses more on the STEM aspects and a unit that is just Close Reading Passages and informational writing.