Tag Archives: visible thinking routines

Top Ten Posts of 2020

Since I actually stayed true to my commitment to blog weekly this year (I only missed a couple of weeks) I thought that I would share out the most popular posts of the year.

10. The Power of Making Thinking Visible Online

Based off from the popular book, this post includes free templates for face-to-face or virtual use of Visible Thinking Routines.

9. When Teachers Choose to Escalate

Too often we blame kids without reflecting on how our approach to a situation has made it worse. This is especially problematic when we teach children of color without reflecting on our internal biases.

8. How PBL Gets All Kids in the Game

An analogy between different kind of students relationship with sports and their relationship with school. PBL is the “game changer” that invites all kids into meaningful learning.

7. The Power of Class Rituals

This might be my personal favorite as it is all about connecting and building culture in the classroom. How have you developed rituals, especially if you are teaching remote?

6. Using PBL Themes for U.S. History

This one is for the history teachers who want to teach thematically, instead of chronologically. Includes a free download of my projects for the year.

5. Why I’ve Been Afraid to be Antiracist

This was the first of the Anti-racist series in which I share a personal story of getting into “good trouble.” The second half of the post was written by my friend Dara Savage, sharing how she dealt with racism that her daughter experienced at school.

4. 5 Social Distancing Group Work Strategies

This post continues to be popular as teachers struggle with remote learning. It is challenging, but here’s some ways that it can be done.

3. 26 Anti-racist PBL Ideas

This was a collaboration of ideas from many friends at PBLWorks. Check out K-12 anti-racist projects across the content areas.

2. 10 SEL Ideas to Launch the Year

Written back in August with Covid in mind, these are great to introduce in January when school starts back up. It’s a great time to renew norms, build culture with some team builders, and reflect on goals.

1. How to Teach Students to Manage themselves

This post was far and away the most popular of the year. Probably due to two downloads: a Google Sheets student scrum board and Group Contract Scenarios. Check them out if you missed them the first time around, they are still free.

Honorable Mention:

The Marriage of SEL and PBL actually comes from 2019, but it was the second most visited post of the year so check out how SEL seamlessly integrates with PBL.

Questions? Interested in SEL and PBL Consulting?  Connect with me at michaelkaechele.com or @mikekaechele onTwitter.

My students can’t handle PBL

Don’t touch!

“My students can’t handle PBL because it is too open-ended.”

I hear the same old comment from teachers of some of our most endangered learners-early childhood, English Learners, Special Education, at-risk kids in high poverty. When I have the chance to observe these same teachers, I often notice that they have strict classroom management with little student freedom of movement or expression. These teachers are in control. They are often afraid of losing that power in their class.

But the opposite of control is freedom, not chaos. These teachers have the same attitude as the aristocratic elite did in Renaissance Europe: “Democracy will never work because you can’t trust the masses. Anarchy ensues.”

But PBL is not anarchy or chaos. It’s freedom. Freedom for students to take control of their learning. But freedom always has boundaries. Democracies have the rule of law, culture, and tradition. PBL has structures, protocols, and a culture of inquiry and student growth.

In the PBL classroom, the shift is from strong teacher control to structured protocols. Students have some freedom within the process to pursue their passions. But the main thing PBL provides is structured inquiry. It is driven by teacher and student curiosity to discover new things.

In reality, it’s not the students, but the teacher who is not ready for PBL.

Experienced PBL teachers don’t need to control students. They inspire and motivate through engaging projects. They teach students to analyze content, manage themselves, and demonstrate their learning to the community through thinking routines and feedback protocols. There is an overall structure to the PBL process and a day-to-day structure of how class functions. And as far as our neediest students are concerned, these structures give guidance to grow now and also develop SEL competencies for lifetime success.

So how does a teacher become a PBL expert? Learn about the process through books, a workshop, or colleagues. Attempt a small scale project that is outside of your comfort zone. Take some risks with student voice and choice.

You don’t need to give up structure in your classroom, but you do need to give up some control!

Shift from lectures to discussion and inquiry routines. Give students and yourself permission to fail. Your students may not be ready for a complex, open-ended project in the same way that they are not ready to write an extensive research paper without scaffolding, coaching, and multiple drafts. You teach them how to write a paper through the writing process. You teach students how to manage PBL through facilitation and coaching. Some things won’t go well, but overall if you commit and trust the process, students will blow your minds with what they can do!

Questions? Interested in SEL and PBL Consulting?  Connect with me at michaelkaechele.com or @mikekaechele onTwitter.