“Every teacher begins the year building classroom culture and routines. As a project- based learning teacher I focus on establishing a combination of collaborative skills and social-emotional-learning competencies.
On the first day of class, students are wondering two things: “What is this teacher like?” and “What is this class like?” Therefore, I avoid the boring activity of going over a syllabus and model the interactive nature of my PBL classroom. So, my first day is dedicated to a team-building activity. I like to use the 5 Square Puzzle because this silent challenge demonstrates how difficult it is to work together without communication, but any team challenge works well. [A side benefit of the 5 Square Puzzle is that I learn about some of my students’ personalities: Who jumps in and takes over? (leaders) Who loses focus quickly? Who sits back and analyzes? (philosophers).]
Team-building activities are not just for fun and getting to know one another. A post- activity debrief is critical. I lead a whole-group discussion focused on collaboration and how difficult that is without communicating. Next, I display a slide of the CASEL competencies. I ask students to silently reflect on which skills they needed to be successful in the 5 Square Puzzle. We then discuss how SEL skills are central to any well-functioning team. From day one, my students are practicing and reflecting on SEL skills.
Later, when we start our first PBL project, I can refer back to this activity when a group is struggling to be productive… “
Read the rest of this post as part of Larry Ferlazzo’s Edweek column: Want to start the year off right? Teachers share their best tips. Scroll to the bottom as mine is the last contribution. I share several other strategies that I use at the beginning of the school year.
Learn with me!
Are you interested in professional development for your school on how to integrate SEL or implement PBL? I would love to have a conversation on how I can help. I have limited availability during the school year but am scheduling a few workshops and book studies. Check out my workshop page or drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to chat and co-plan meaningful PD for the educators at your school.
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