Critterkin + Popplet = Creative Critters

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Let’s talk a little about Project Based Learning or PBL as they call it on Twitter. The last 7 years of my teaching career I basically did one project a year. My state project. It’s a really good project, and the students learn a ton. After jumping head first off the cliff called the comfort zone I realized that I needed to be doing a lot more projects. Thank you Twitter and PLN. I am not talking about sending home projects for the kids to do. I am talking about hands on, total engagement in the classroom. I have created several this year, my student teacher has created several, and it’s been very eye opening. This year my students know quotation marks better than ever before. They get the apostrophe right on a possessive almost every time. I owe this all to PBL. Macaroni used to make quotation marks and apostrophes. Writing comic strips. Creating on iPads, iPhones, etc. I’ve seen quicker progress and the knowledge is sticking. I am on board for PBL. It works!

Everyone that follows me knows that our school is having a blast working on a project called “Start with the Heart”. This is a school wide collaborative effort that uses Project Based Learning to not only teach our TEKS, but to also teach children compassion, kindness and that everyone fits in. The last two weeks grades 3-5 have worked on designing critters to put on our mural. We have a ton of critters, and they are definitely all one of a kind. Today my 4th graders used their iPads to take a picture of their personal critter. They then uploaded the picture into the Popplet app which is extremely easy to manipulate. I use this app for everything. Seriously. My kids can create Popplets in their sleep. After my students uploaded their picture I told them that they would use the Popplet app to brainstorm for their expository that they would be writing. They used the boxes to describe their critters. What is their name? What do they eat? What bothers them? Do they have a family? Where do they leave? How do they show kindness? When they were finished brainstorming they simply emailed their Popplet to me. That’s one of my favorite features. Now they will take their Popplet and write their descriptive expository. This super easy lesson hits so many of my TEKS, and the kids truly enjoyed it.They are working with a book that they love. They have a personal connection with with this project, so they work that much harder.

The thing about Project Based Learning is that the teacher has to think outside of the box. You have to think of ways to bring in the hands on part but still cover your TEKS or standards. But isn’t that what we want our students to do? to think. Let’s spend time planning more and really thinking about how we can make our lessons more engaging for students. As educators, we owe it to them.If you don’t know where to start tweet Jena Ball or Marty Keltz. They founded Critterkin. It’s a wonderful book series that can help you hit all your TEKS, bring PBL into your class and engage yours students wholeheartedly.

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