Project Based Learning or PBL is the new craze. It is all about student led and future focused. When I first heard about PBL I was a little skeptical. I thought it was awesome and a great way for general education students to work on communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking but I was still stumped on how our students with significant needs were going to be able to do this. If you are still a little confused on what PBL is all about here is a great graphic to show the difference between projects and PBL’s.

My school is a PBL school and all of us are required to either teach or help with a PBL project each year. Last year I teamed up with our speech paths and we had the kids plan a party to thank all of their friends for helping them throughout the year. While it was a great project and the kids had fun I really wanted to do something more this year. Keep reading to see the project I have planned for this school year.

When thinking about planning a PBL project in my severe needs special education class I knew things where going to have to be a little different. Instead of allowing the students free reign I was going to have a provide a lot of scaffolding and allow for the “student led” and “voice and choice” to come through during teacher driven activities. Even though this isn’t traditional PBL….our classrooms are not traditional and as long as we are trying that’s all that matters.

So, what do I have planned for this year? We all know questioning is a huge part of our special education classrooms. Almost all of my students have some sort of “wh” question goal. So, why not teach these through a fun and engaging PBL?

Drumroll please….. our PBL project is called “Dream Vacation”. I am going to have the kids plan their dream vacation. Throughout this project students will learn all about the “wh” question words. I am planning on only doing this project on Friday’s so it will more than likely take us to winter break. I made this bulletin board and plan on hanging our anchor charts up once we have learned about a specific “wh” question word.

Our launch item will be this Arthur episode. The hope is that it will get kids to start thinking about vacations.

After this I plan to have the kids branch off and watch some videos on different vacation spots. I have some bookmarked showing skiing, swimming, hiking, amusement parks etc. The paras will have a sheet to help the students mark down their favorites. I am then going to have them take it home and have them work with their parents to narrow down what they would like to do.

Then each week we will focus on a different “wh” word. They will have to explain “who” is going on the vacation, “where” they are going, “when” they will go, “what” they will do, “how” they will get there and “why” they think it’s a good trip.

Through learning about the “wh” question words we will start to build their “Dream Vacations”. The goal is at the end of the PBL students will be able to showcase their dream vacation. A huge part of PBL’s is the public product. I am thinking the kids can create a video, brochure or set up a little area that resembles their vacation. I would love to invite their families, our administration and community members in to see what they came up with. Make sure to check back throughout the year to see how this PBL is shaping up.

While attending a PBL conference this summer one major thing stuck with me; PBL’s are messy. Don’t be afraid to dive in and let the student’s take the lead. So, no matter how much my type A personality wants everything to line up perfectly I have to let it go. In the end everyone will learn more and grow.

Do you do PBL in your classroom? What projects have you done?


If you are interested in learning more about PBL make sure to check out http://www.bie.org/ The Buck Institute for Education does all things PBL and has a ton of information and pre-made projects listed.

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