Planning for Project Based Learning

24 April 2015 / Leave a Comment

Hello, everyone! I am Susan from First Grade Friendly Froggies. I am so excited to be a part of this amazing group of bloggers!  I'm learning so much and getting so many wonderful ideas for my classroom.  I hope you are, too!  

I want to share how I plan projects for and with my students!  Our school's charter emphasizes hands on learning with two different pedogogical methods: Project Based Learning and Integrated Thematic Instruction.  Project Based Learning (PBL) is the buzz word (or phrase) in education these days, but what is it?  It's so many different things depending on where you look!  If you are interested in learning about PBL, I encourage you to check it out here: The Buck Institute!  Integrated Thematic Instruction or ITI emphasizes the integration of all subject areas into units of study.  You can read about it here....there is so much more to it!  The key to planning great units is collaboration!  I am so fortunate to work with a team of first grade teachers that supports each other and at a school where collaboration is encouraged and supported.  Every Tuesday afternoon is reserved for collaboration with grade level teams!  This time is essential for quality planning.  Every year each project seems to get better and it can only happen with our whole team's input!

I find that once we get started on a project,  the project almost runs itself...with the help of the students! 

The Froggy Express Post Office
I'm using my current project, our school post office project, as an example for this post!  Every year, our First Graders run the Froggy Express Post Office for our school!  All of the students look forward to it!

Our first grade team met recently and mapped out the dates for the project.  This includes the launch date, announcements to the classrooms, mailbox arrival, first pick up, first delivery, last pick up and last delivery!  We then drafted a letter to the teachers giving the dates and details for the project.  

Once the overall project timeline is established, we break it down to when and how we will introduce the details to our little postal workers.    To plan for the kick off of this project, we first discuss the mission...why do the post office?  With the involvementWe develop a "mission statement" for our post office:  
To provide a fun way to write letters to our friends on campus and to deliver the mail in a timely manner!
Like any great project or unit, I look for several great books to introduce the theme or topic.  I seem to add more books each year!  :) This year I added these books to my collection with the focus on letter writing.  Reading quality literature that engages the students is a perfect way to launch a project! Here are a few titles that are perfect for this project!

This year, after reading Letters from a Desperate Dog, we then talked about the parts of the letter!  

This serves as an anchor chart for students' reference.

This led nicely into writing our own letters!  We start off writing to our first grade friends in the other classes.  (This also ensures that each child will receive a letter on the first delivery day!) :) The students use the sample above to plan their letters.  They make sure they include all of the necesary parts of the letter.  You can grab an assortment of stationery by clicking the picture below! 
This is also that time of year when handwriting seems to slip!  Does that happen in your classroom, too?  Writing letters is the perfect way to encourage students to use their best penmanship!  This is also a great opportunity to review asking and telling sentences and conventions!  Before they can reach for an envelope, they have to show me the letter and I look for penmanship, punctuation, and capitals!

Next, it's time to learn how to properly address an envelope!  We had to come up with addresses for each classroom and displayed this an anchor chart, as well!  The students helped develop appropriate addresses for the classrooms.
Our amazing art teacher integrated a lesson into our unit this year!  She prepared a presentation for the kids about how postage stamps are designed!  Then after looking at lots of  images,  each  student had the opportunity to design their own beautiful postage stamp!  I took their artwork and shrunk them down, color copied them and now they have those to cut and glue onto their envelopes! This was a great addition to our unit this year!

Postal Jobs
Then we get to learn our jobs!  Yay! We learn four jobs for the post office.  Nixie Clerk, Facer, Sorter/Bundler and Mail Carrier.  This is when the excitement really begins!

Our little "Nixie Clerks"  have to check for return address, delivery address, and stamps!  Once this is done they get to "cancel" the stamps with rubber stamps, and stamp the envelope "return to sender" or "postage due" if necessary!

The next job is that of the "facer".  The "facers" get to highlight the routes and sort by color.  Then all of the envelopes are "faced" in the same direction!  This makes it much easier for the next group, "the sorters", to sort the mail by room number!

 Ok, hold on to your envelopes, because the next job is the most coveted! Mail Carrier!  Woohoo!  After the mail has been sorted and bundled,  the mail carriers deliver the mail to the individual classrooms on their route!

Don't turn me into the USPS!  These cool mail tubs were donated along with the official shirts!  How cool is that?  

Being there experiences, study trips, are so important to every project!  Soon we will take this project on the road and take a field trip to the post office to mail some letters in the US mail!  First we will write a letter to the President!  Did you know that your students can write letters to the President of the United States?  Check out this page on Enchanted Learning which has some information for your students.   Next,  we will also write letters to our favorite Disney Characters!  To prepare for these two activities, I asked for each student to provide two stamped envelopes with their return address on the envelopes.  What  a great way to give your students an authentic audience!

So that is a brief, whirlwind look at how I plan for PBL.  I hope you'll check out my blog, First Grade Friendly Froggies and see what fun projects we're learning about!


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