#PBLclouds – the story

In January I participated in a twitter chat #hackingPBL and was so inspired I bought the book Hacking Project Based Learning by Ross Cooper and Erin Murphy. I had learned about Project Based Learning (PBL) in college at SUNY Frediona from Dr. Mira Berkley. I already knew PBL is good for kids. If you don’t know what PBL is read this. I’m not going to get into that now. I want to tell the story of the first time I tried a PBL in my kindergarten class. I reached out to Erin on twitter for a little idea bouncing because she has experience with the logistics of PBLs with kinders. She was very supportive! Fast forward to February. I am a member of the Wake County Teacher Leader Corps (#wakeTLC). We meet 5 times a year to improve our own instruction as well as support other educators in our schools. This year’s focus is a self guided group project. I knew back in November at Fall Convergence #WonderWake I wanted to get into trying PBL in my room. So I joined a group working on PBL. At #wakeTLC in February we listened to Erin Gannnon talk about PBL and she introduced me to a resource bie.org. I began searching right away for ideas to get me going on my first PBL. I found one on weather and clouds. A perfect fit for the weather unit I had just begun. So it was time to change gears! It took me about 2 weeks to wrap my brain around it and plan for it. I decided to photo/video document my learning process and my kinders’ learning process on twitter using #PBLclouds.

Day 1: I launched the PBL reading Eric Carle’s Little Cloud and then let my kinders paint a cloud. I of course forgot to take photos on our first day!

Day 2: After launching, I needed to teach my kinders how to collaborate. We created an anchor chart together.

Day 3: Next, we took a pre-assessment of what they already know about clouds and weather.

Day 4: I strategically grouped my students taking into consideration kinders who bring devices from home and tried to balance my talkers and my thinkers. Their first task as a group was to decide on their roles.

Day 5: I invited our school technology facilitator, Molly Harnden, to come collaborate with me because I was about to give my kinders a mission I had never tried before. I asked my collaborative groups to work together to find a video that teaches about the different types of clouds. The task included using YouTubeKids to find 4 different videos about the types of clouds and deciding together which one was the best. This was a very involved task and required my kinders to be critical of the information they found as well as reaching a group decision. Each member of the groups had a role and each role had a specific task for this mission. Leader – listened to each member’s opinion of the best video and decided which video got the most votes. Recorder –  wrote down the title of the video they chose. Digital leader – worked the iPad to show videos. I chose this mission because my kinders were using YouTube already for entertainment. So I taught them to use a safer version – YouTubeKids and how to use it in an effective way for learning.

Day 6-8: Each group shared the video they chose and why they picked it with the whole group using Reflector 2. This took 2 days longer than I anticipated. I had to learn to be flexible!

Day 9-14: We went outside to observe the clouds. Each group kept track of the clouds they saw using a graph. There were protocols for each role during observations. Leader – listened as every shared and decided what the recorder would record based on what they heard. Recorder – recorded on the graph.  Noise Monitor – used a pointing protocol to make sure that the group members were taking turns to talk.

Day 9-10: The groups built models of the cloud types we learned about with cotton balls. I had done this activity for the last 4 years but this year was different! In the past, it was very teacher directed and I had to tell them what to do with the cotton balls to make each type of cloud. This year, they worked with their groups and didn’t need my help at all! They were even able to model 6 types of clouds where in the past we only did 4. The groups even came up with a way to color the clouds black for the storm clouds!

Day 12: This is where karma was on my side! We scheduled a Science Fun for Everyone field trip at the beginning of the year. The theme was meteorology! I was so proud of my kinders being able to answer the scientist’s questions and make connections to what we were doing.

Day 13: We watched a few videos of TV meteorologists and made notes of what we noticed. We watched each video 3 times. The first time was just to watch. The second time I asked my kinders to think about what they saw in the video. The third time I asked them to pay close attention to what they heard the meteorologist say. We made a list.

Day 14: We went over the list we made the day before then the groups decided on what they were going to say in their video and who was going to say it. Each group took a video using a green screen for their weather forecast. Molly was a big help teaching my class to take videos!


Day 15: Groups used Kiddle (another great resource brought to us by Molly!) to search for images to use behind their Green Screen video. Molly and I taught the groups how to use the DoInk Green Screen App to create their video and the groups shared their finished products. We critiqued each video using the list we made on day 13.

Day 16: I was able to get a local, self employed meteorologist to come talk to all 100 kindergarteners at #WeAreBrierCreek! Big thanks to Josh Nagelberg for coming out to talk to such a big group of kids! They loved seeing the connection between what they are learning and a real life meteorologist!

Stay tuned for future posts on this PBL. My plan is to write one as a reflection of how #PBLclouds went, another as a reflection of lessons learned from #PBLclouds and Hacking Project Based Learning, and another with my next steps and where I’m going in my PBL journey!

Questions or comments on #PBLclouds? Post below! Thanks!

First blog post… Eek!

Hi! I’m a kindergarten teacher always looking for something new to jump into. I’m starting this blog to share with the world my journey  as an educator. I’m passionate about play based learning. I also love technology. It’s a challenging balancing act in my classroom but I love it!

I was inspired by the wonderful folks at #wonderwake Fall Convergence at NC state, a Wake County technology conference. George Couros presented 3 amazing sessions and a life changing keynote. I’m convinced that I need to have a positive digital footprint and what better way than through a blog? I’ve been meaning to start this for a week now and never got around to it. I try to keep myself as busy as possible! Today, checking out at the grocery store, the young man told me he wants to be a writer but he hasn’t started yet. My advice- just try. Don’t expect perfection. Just write and put it out there. So here I am. Taking my advice. Just writing and putting it out there.

I also keep hearing this amazing song in my head as I type – “Failure is an option. Failure to deliver is not.” – Kevin Brookhouser. Wish I could find it on YouTube!

Full disclosure – this is way outside of my comfort zone and is absolutely nerve wracking to put myself out there. But as George Couros said, “it’s not about you. It’s about the kids. Go backward from there.” So here I am starting today. Some of my blog posts will be about my background and others about the present or my hopes and dreams. All of them are for the kids. My purpose is to become a better educator than I was yesterday always for my students.

I welcome any and all feedback – it’s the best way to grow!