When I was a kid, I didn’t like to take tests. For some reason, I could not translate what I learned about World War II to a timed multiple-choice quiz. The agony and anxiety of racking my brain for the right answer scared me. If I had the chance to be creative, I took it. I once acted out The Odyssey by Homer in world literature class as one of the characters, and received an A! I realized I did so much better being CREATIVE than taking a test.
There’s a lot more to assessments than tests. Enter project-based learning, where students can show off their creativity in ways that tests could never measure. This type of learning style can be used with almost any subject. Here are a few great ideas of how to integrate project-based learning into the four core subjects: English language arts, science, social studies, and mathematics.
What is project-based learning?
Project-based learning is a teaching method used to encourage students to develop problem-solving skills by creating projects in response to a challenge or question, according to the Buck Institute for Education. It’s beneficial for students to show off key knowledge that relates to a historical or present-day issue without having to take a test.
Benefits of project-based learning
Your student doesn’t just memorize facts to take the test; he or she learns to relate information to real-life circumstances and situations. They can delve into their own creative thinking to take learning to the next level.
- Act out a play. Instead of struggling through the “thee’s” and “thou’s” of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, a student can “translate” Romeo’s famous monologue to modern English. Then, have them act out the scene, complete with a costume made from what he or she has around the house. This project puts their acting skills to the test and shows how they can interpret the material.
- Do a “Choose Your Own Adventure” project! Think about the “What ifs” so they can explore their family history and reflect on risk-taking. Have them write a story on a family event that could have taken a different turn or have them pull some experiences from a family vacation.
- Create a magazine or newspaper article. How do you teach The Great Gatsby to a high school homeschooler? Create a magazine depicting an important aspect of the “Roaring ’20s” before he or she reads the novel. Have him or her research why the 1920s were so “roaring.”
From astronomy to Earth science, there are all kinds of possibilities for project-based learning opportunities in science. Homeschooling has a great advantage: you and your child can make all the messes you want! (Within reason, of course.)
- Do something musical. Integrate music into science with this fun lesson from Beth Vernon of Missouri. Encourage budding songwriters to create a rap about plate tectonics or the order of the planets. They can answer the question, “What impact does science have on us today?”
- Interview an expert. What causes tornadoes? Have your child research how tornadoes are formed and interview a local meteorologist about the impacts weather has on people. Your child will learn why it’s important that we have meteorology today.
- Use a journal. For a simple but effective project, they can keep a journal for a semester as they study science. Your child can ask questions, record observations, and use all senses to answer questions like, “Why should we protect the Earth?”, “Why does a snake shed its skin?” and “How do sodium and chloride react to one another?”
- Use STEM activities! Can you combine the Boston Tea Party and STEM? Of course! Figure out how to keep your tea bag dry in cold water. Students can use this fun activity to learn how engineering and history go hand-in-hand.
- Use evidence. Pack your magnifying glass because there’s an H.S.I (Historical Scene Investigation)! This interactive program has the K-8 crowd examine “evidence” from a time in history and solve cases. Why didn’t Patrick Henry sign the Constitution? Your child will have to find out!
- Name that state. Have you ever thought about what each state’s name means? Your child can research and discover the true origins of all 50 states. Bonus points if you can figure out what states’ names were changed from their Native American origins.
- Build something. Ever dreamed of building your own city? With Geometricity, students will discover how to write permits, design and construct a city, and promote tourism using geometry skills. Check out this link for more information!
- Play a game. Have you heard of the game, “Two Truths and a Lie”? The math version is the same, except you have to figure out two truths and a lie about a mathematical topic. See this example regarding graphs, done by a Texas teacher. Yes, you can sneak writing into math!
- Use art in math. Those pretty designs called “mandalas” are used in math, too. Have your student measure the circumference, diameter, and more, of a mandala! Using this teacher’s idea, your student can explore what makes a mandala symmetric.
Project-based learning is a great way for you to assess your student creatively. There are so many projects out there — take a look around the Internet to enhance your homeschooling experience.
What are your experiences with project-based learning?