While Y’all Were Chatting About PBL…

Last night while #edchat was focusing on PBL I was attending my daughter’s pre-school open house. Let me first start by saying that I had a heard time deciding what to do about my daughter’s daycare/preschool this year. The one she has attended since she was 6 months old is A Beka based, and even though I think A Beka is effective at memorizing and teaching students to read, I strongly disagree with everything else about it.  I was worried my brilliant (no I’m not exaggerating, she is extremely smart) daughter would be cheated of this important developmental year.  But I decided to keep her there afraid the change would be too stressful on her.

So yesterday’s #edchat was about PBL. The conversations were very interesting. Many times I wanted to jump in there but since I have protected tweets, my tweets would not show in the searches everyone would be using for the chat. So I sat with my mouth shut.  While reading the tweets I kept thinking about activities I need to do with my students, how I am going to fit them in, etc. I love that we sometimes have the remind that PBL is not “project” based learning but “problem” based learning.  All learning should lead to questions, not results (aka a project). The one tweet I did send out was the reminder PBL focuses on the process not the product.

So with my mind full of this, and still 30 minutes of #edchat left, I go into the preschool. I visited with the teacher but whole time watching my clock because eager to hear about this new “Creative Curriculum.” So the curriculum meeting started off talking about what the A Beka program was missing, what skills were not being taught.  He then pointed out many different areas that were being ignored.  Emotional, physical, & cognitive development was not part of the old curriculum.  The new curriculum would focus on the those three and have the learning of reading/math/letters/etc tied into them. You know the ideal PBL environment.

It is so important that kids learn more than basic memorization skills.  They need to learn how to interact with each other, how to problem solve (yeah I know I always harp on that one!), and build on other knowledge. The pre-school director gave an example learning the math skill of big, bigger, biggest. He said in the past they would give a worksheet of 3 sizes of balls.  With new program the teacher could teach a poem about size of balls, then bring in 3 objects that were the same but of different sizes.  The students now have hands on learning.  They are questioning about the objects and still have learned the same skill.

Assessing will be done more formatively.  The teachers will assess whether or not a student had learned the skill while doing an activity or or through play.  If the student does not master that skill, the teacher will reteach to that student. Also the students will now have portfolios to display mastery.  The portfolios will be kept from birth to end of K4 and will all be digital. (Can you imagine my excitement about that?!)

Another really cool change is that everything will be differentiated instruction.  I could not imagine doing that with a classroom full of pre-school aged kids!! But I’m glad.  I know my child is not going to be on the same level as other kids. They will use a scale to keep up with where the students are achieving.

So I tell you all of this not just to remind you about what PBL is (because that’s part of it) it is also to point out that if this is being done in a room of over 20 4 year olds (they have a HUGE room and many teachers and is a great environment, not as bad as it sounds lol) why can’t it be done in a classroom of older students?  How sad am I going to be in 2 years when my child is no longer assessed her ability to be creative, to learn, but to memorize?  I dread the day she again brings home worksheets and text books instead on a digital portfolio.

These ideas do not need to stop because a student now enters kindergarten. I think it was brave for this pre-school to take this non-traditional leap.  Teachers in our public schools need to change the way they are teaching. School systems need to change what they are demanding of their teachers. Parents need to let go of their children bringing home traditional grades.  Can this please happen before next year when my child will enter school?

3 thoughts on “While Y’all Were Chatting About PBL…

  1. Chris says:

    Very cool, Amanda. So glad things worked out for your daughter…I know that truly makes you happy as a parent! It’s one of the best feelings in the world.
    I read this a few weeks ago where it said that business leaders aren’t looking for new employees to show what they’ve memorized, but rather take what they’ve memorized and use it to problem solve, collaborate, and be creative. Just seemed fitting for this post. Thanks for sharing.
    Chris

    http://ali.apple.com/acot2/skills/

  2. ktenkely says:

    Happy for you and your daughter, sounds like the preschool is making some excellent changes. Hopefully, she will be one of the lucky kiddos who gets to carry that experience into kindergarten with a thoughtful kindergarten teacher who has a strong philosophy of learning.

  3. Justine says:

    That is great for you and your family! I know the stress and worry of starting your child in a new school. Being a teacher myself, I am always mindful what I see and react to at my son’s new daycare, and that can spill over into worry and anxiety about ‘is he in the right place’. Differentiation is easier said than done, and likely already going on in many classrooms where the students’ experience is the goal, not just the conformist end product. Kudos to the teachers at the daycare for having a vision!

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