Monday, October 22, 2012

Did I waste my time?

     I have spent the past week and a half working on two PBL lessons in class.  The first was a lesson on multiplying and dividing fractions and mixed numbers.  My Top Chef Challenge was taken straight from the reality show and the students bit on the idea.  The idea was to take a few recipes that fed 4, 6, or 8 people and use it to feed our teaching staff of 75.  We started with a KWL chart, downloaded three apps (recipes, converting, and substitution), drew knives to pick teams, and threw in a mystery apple.  There were a few twists along the way.  All three chefs ran out on an ingredient and had to find a substitute ingredient (used an app) for their dish.  Paula Deen pops by and the chefs had to take an original recipe and cook for her in a Quickfire Challenge (dividing fractions and mixed numbers).  There was a writing component where students reflected on the experience and wrote about the math and apps used.
     My second PBL required students to write a picture book using the Storybirds program.  The topic was what makes Earth unique and able to sustain life.  We watched a video of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  From there we watched a few short videos on Goldilocks Planets.  Students transitioned to research using a few links that I provided.  Additional research was to move beyond what I included on the handout.  The book was to teacher the reader about 5-7 unique features of Earth that are different when compared to the other seven planets from our solar system.  They were to discount the possibility of colonization on the other seven planets using the plot from Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  The book was to conclude by taking the reader to a Goldilocks Planet where students explained the possibility of colonization based on the traits mentioned earlier.  Students sent the URL code of the book to Edmodo where I copied it and posted it to a Tizmos dashboard program for others to read.  I titled this page New! Student Artifacts.   
      Overall, I expected some excellent artifacts. Surprisingly, I had to return half of the Top Chef group projects because the math was wrong. Ughhhh!  I planned to use a rubric to grade the Storybird but had to throw it away three books into grading because I quickly realized that all of my students would have failed.  The books lacked strong research and mimicked a free writing exercise.  I am sure that I have plenty of room to adjust and stengthen the two of these but I can't help but feel deflated.  Have I wasted my time?  Is this what I can expect after investing a huge chunk of time into an assignment? 


  1. I think you have good ideas and have made a good start! I bet students will remember these activities more than they would a worksheet covering the same topic.
    I remember having many of the same disappointment feelings when I first used PBL in my classroom. One of the things that I found to help me along the way was to have various checkpoints along the way rather than just waiting until I saw the finished product. I discovered that if I did checks along the way of the individual pieces, then the products not only contained more correct information but were better overall.
    I would be interested in hearing what students thought and if they considered it a waste of time? I have the feeling you have accomplished much more than you may see right now!

  2. Sounds like 2 phenomenal projects, Mike. So many excellent learning opportunities - and certainly real-world based! I understand exactly how you feel though with the final products! After my recent forages into PBL, (or my fledgling attempts), I voiced the same concerns to Marty. I know, when I do a stand-up teach, what I am introducing to my students and I know how to cultivate and lead them to comprehension and utilizaton of the new information. I just don't know if or what they are "getting" when they are left to learn through their own discovery. I hope whatever it is that is longlasting and worth the time and effort that it took to develop the problem, support its unfolding and grade its product. One thing I'm concerned with, finishing up having my 7th & 8th graders creating review sessions on verbs for their classmates is what about the errors! I appreciate Melissa's input because that's where I'm guessing I could have caught the mistakes before they showed up in the presentation and on the student-generated quiz. The PBL process is already a long process and right now, one without as much depth as I'm used to. Adding the process check/redirect/correct will add more time. I'm going to have to research Foreign Language learning and the PBL model. Any advice? Direction?

  3. I am not a PBL expert but I would be more than happy to work with either or both of you to try to tackle some of these issues together!