Launching an Authentic PBL Project

Post date: Jan 21, 2013 10:11:18 PM

21. Launching an Authentic PBL Project: Choose Your Own Adventure


I had a lot of fun! This week I launched my first official PBL Project with my seniors! My students will be taking one day each week (Thursdays) to work with a group of three and answer one driving question:

What makes a story engaging?

They have from now until the end of the semester to research the answers to that driving question through surveys, interviews, and good old-fashioned research. They will use what they learn to collaborate on an original Choose Your Own Adventure story. They will then publish their story using Google Forms and showcase it on a wiki site with a publicity plan.

So how did I kick it off? I chose to have a two-day launch.

Day 1: Round-Robin Writing:

  1. I asked all students to close their eyes and imagine what the setting for the perfect story would look like.
  2. Then I asked them to take out a piece of paper and spend five minutes describing their setting.
  3. THEY WERE NOT ALLOWED TO DISCUSS THEIR PLACE WITH GROUP MEMBERS (I group my classroom seating in groups of six).
  4. I put the timer on and they wrote.
  5. Five minutes later, when the timer went off, I asked them to pass their paper to the person on their left, read what the person had written and then begin developing a story in that setting. They had five minutes.
  6. Five minutes later they passed their papers again, etc. for the whole period.

They had a blast! They were laughing at how the stories developed after each person added and they got really into adding their own part to the story. Even my “work-challenged” students participated!

Day 2: Story Analysis, Driving Question/Need to Know, and Sample Books

  1. They pulled out the stories from yesterday and I asked them to put a smiley face next to places that they thought were funny or really liked. A confused face next to places they didn’t understand or thought went over the line, and a sad face for places that were boring or just plain bad. Then I asked them to discuss the faces with their group members (they contributed to writing it, right?)
  2. Next, I wrote the driving question “What makes a story engaging?” on the board and asked them to imagine they had to write a research paper that answers that question. I then asked them to write some questions on post-it notes about what they would need to do or research in order to answer the driving question in a research paper. There were some great answers: surveys, interview authors, interview readers, read book reviews, figure out what is “in” right now, etc.
  3. Finally, I explained that they would be in groups of three. They would do research on the driving question and then “test” their hypothesis by creating an original Choose Your Own Adventure story.
  4. I knew most of them had no idea what a Choose Your Own Adventure story was so I’d picked up some old copies on eBay over the summer and passed them out. I gave them a solid 30 minutes to read them, reread them, switch and read them, and then reread them again. (I remember having my fingers in three different places in the book trying to decide which decision was the best).

The consensus? This is going to be a really fun project for everyone involved and I’m pretty sure we’ll be hitting almost every ISTE standard there is with it!

I’ll be blogging about my progress with this project throughout the semester: Stay tuned for an update!

For more about PBL and the reasons for implementing this specific assignment, see my blog post here.