The core idea of project-based learning is that real-world concerns capture students’ interest and provoke serious thinking as the students acquire and apply new knowledge in a problem-solving context. The teacher plays the role of facilitator, working with students to frame worthwhile questions, structuring meaningful tasks, coaching both knowledge development and social skills, and carefully assessing what students have learned from the experience. Project-based learning helps prepare students for thinking and collaboration skills.
Organized around open-ended questioning, project-based learning helps focus the students’ work and deepen their learning by centering on significant issues or problems. Projects begin by presenting students with knowledge and concepts and then, once learned, allowing them to apply them. It requires inquiry to learn and/or create something new - an idea, an interpretation, or a new way of displaying what they have learned.
Most importantly, it requires critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, and various forms of communication. Students across grade levels and content area learning need to do much more than remember information—they need to use higher-order thinking skills. They also must learn to work as a team and contribute to a group effort. They must listen to others and make their ideas clear when speaking, be able to read a variety of material, write or otherwise express themselves in various modes, and make effective presentations. The format of this approach allows for student voice and choice. Students learn to work independently and take responsibility when they are asked to make choices. The opportunity to make choices, and to express their learning in their own voice, also helps to increase students’ educational engagement.
Within the activities in this unit, literacy strategies partnered with social-emotional learning skills will help students understand what they see and feel. They will identify how language, structure, and facial expressions contribute to meaning; draw inferences about feelings, thoughts, and motives from their actions and image; and justify inferences with evidence. Reading strategies will include craft and structure, knowledge and ideas, phonics and phonological awareness, comprehension and collaboration, and production of writing.