6 Weeks to a Project-Based Learning Classroom: Week 1

Project Based Learning, Growth Mindset



Teacher “Growth Mindset”

Please note this page does contain our affiliate links.  This means that should you purchase from some of these links, we will receive a small commission from the sale at no extra cost to you.  Please know that the products on this page represent what we honestly feel to be the best products or programs out there, commission or no commission.


One of the biggest phrases in education right now is “Growth Mindset.”  The theory behind growth mindset is that teachers can encourage children by letting them know that a particular task/subject is not too difficult to grasp..even if they have struggled with it in the beginning.  It is a way to help students understand that their brain can grow and learn, even if they are behind in grade level.  

Growth mindset can also be applied to teachers!  Often we read about great teachers who use ingenious ways to encourage and motivate their students to learn, while berating ourselves for not having the same teaching philosophy or even the same motivation.  We also want to be a great teacher and implement these ideas or activities that we read about.  Though often, we feel overwhelmed at where to begin or that we just aren’t as good at certain tasks as others are.  

That’s where I come in!  I am here to tell you that you CAN learn how to implement project-based learning…and that it doesn’t have to be overwhelming!  

Learning About Project-Based Learning

I am that teacher that was so excited to begin a better way of teaching in my classroom.  I wanted to make sure I was doing the best I could to reach the students who needed reaching, especially those who didn’t think they could learn or were smart enough to learn.  

My whole school was actually on board with this shift in our teaching strategy.  BUT, we didn’t really know where to begin.  We had taken a trip in the summer to a school that we wanted to emulate, re-wrote our curriculum, and off we went into that first school year of project-based learning.

Our excitement was contagious!  You should have seen us rushing around on showcase nights!  (Well, we still do that, but it is usually not as bad as the first year was!)  Classroom doors had to be shut and locked because of the mess we had made inside–with no time to spare for clean up!   There are a lot of parts to making the parent night a success…and we (the teachers) were doing more than we should to make it all come together and look good!

At the end of that school year, we sat down as a school and evaluated our year.  We used the resources found on the Buck Institute website.  Did all of our projects meet the criteria for project-based learning?  Actually, several of our projects did not meet the criteria!

So, did we just chuck this methodology and go back to what we had been doing before? Absolutely NOT!  

Using our new knowledge (GROWTH!), we revamped our projects–well, the parts that didn’t work–and we started again!  (MINDSET!)  I must mention here that I work in a very supportive school system and our principal believed in us and our enthusiasm for this type of learning.  It is my understanding that not all school systems are like ours.  We are certainly blessed!

After the second year of project-based learning, we stopped and evaluated again.   It is a learning and growing process.  You can’t get it all right in the first year.  (Unless you live at school 24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

I will say to you, once you learn the premise and methodology behind project-based learning, you will never look at a lesson the same again.  You will feel guilt down to your soul if you try to not incorporate inquiry learning, community service and involvement, student-made projects, and parents in your students learning.


Action Steps to Implementing Project-Based Learning

To begin this journey into project-based learning, I am not going to tell you to throw out all of the awesome things you have been doing.  If you are reading this blog post, then you obviously are a teacher who wants to help their students in any way they can!  

So, I am just going to give you a few things to think about this week.  Just think for now.  (It is still too early to be writing things down–we still have more time to be summer bums!)

#1–Get your Teacher Growth Mindset on!  

Mentally scan through your content while you are daydreaming on the beach and pick out a couple of topics that you can easily turn into a project.  {Science and social studies are the easiest subjects to implement PBL in because usually students love those topics and are eager to investigate on their own}  Can you make this an inquiry lesson so that kids want to learn more without your pushing the facts on them?  Example:  I teach explorers in the first grading period.  To begin this lesson, I write this question on the board:  “Was Christopher Columbus a HERO or a VILLAIN?”  Students are immediately curious as to why he might have been a villain, because all they really know about him is that he discovered the New World and that should make him a hero.  

#2–Connect the topic you chose to a project

What is the end result that you want from this topic/project?  What could you do with this project to bring in a speaker from the community?  Could a community service project be involved?  (Remember, this is still a mental exercise!  Well…unless you are like me and have to write everything down quick before it is lost forever!)  What technology could you incorporate?  Could the end project be a tech project like a podcast or a video?  

#3–Come up with a DRIVING QUESTION

A driving question is one like the Columbus example I used above.  Another example that I use at the beginning of the year is, “Who are we and how did we get here?”  It is so simple, yet profound.  { I talk about this topic in relation to how humans came to be on the continent, not evolution}  What helps to motivate students in this area is a little drama on your part.  Now, I am not a dramatic person by nature.  But, I have definitely learned that a little drama can go a long way in the classroom! Play it up!  The kids will hang on your every word!

#4–Envision a classroom where students are taking charge of their learning

When I do this exercise myself, I see students setting in groups and discussing the lesson.  Using their Chromebooks to look up information that they don’t have.  Collaborating with other groups on a particular section of a project.  Walking around the room with an intentionality that can be lacking in a traditional classroom setting.  In this scene, that view puts me–the teacher–as a piece of the background.  I am a helping hand, not a person just spewing facts for the students to absorb.   

Can you see that happening in your classroom?

Okay.  Mental exercise over!  

You should have made a little progress into getting your teacher growth mindset on!  Keep these thought with you, in the back of your mind and wait until next week when we talk about the next step to beginning a project based learning environment in YOUR classroom!

Stay tuned!

Until next week,



P.S.  REALLY GOOD STUFF is having a back to school sale!  I love this store!  I can always find just what I need, especially when I am looking for a unique item!  If you haven’t shopped here, take the time to browse around by clicking on this link.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Leave a Reply