Project Based Learning

Last week, as I was continuing to work on my Medieval Ages unit, I realized that I had planned to lecture on England, France, Spain, and Russia in the Medieval Age. These lectures aligned with VASOL WHI.12a in which students should describe the emergence of nation-states (England, France, Spain, and Russia) and distinctive political developments in each. However, looking at the essential knowledge, I knew this would be a huge task. Instead of lecturing for a few days, I decided that this would be the perfect time to try out project based learning with my World History I class. From the past Google slides presentations this class have completed, I knew that this would be a bad avenue to go down. So, instead, I decided to have them get into groups to research a particular nation and then create a poster on it to present to their classmates.

For this assignment there were a total of five groups and each croup could choose one of the following countries: England, France, Spain, Russia, and the Holy Roman Empire. In project description I provided them, I made clear that their grade would be based upon the research sheet EVERY student should complete, the content of their poster, the layout of their poster, and their group presentation to the class. Additionally, to make sure that all the content required by the SOL was covered, I created a chart for students to use for their country that included the topics they must cover, which I adapted directly from the SOL (chart included below).

(image excerpt from the Project Guidelines all students received)
Things your group should cover: 
Below is a chart that outlines each country and lists the things you MUST cover in your poster.

Country Things to Include
England • Location and Geography (must include a drawn map on your poster)

• William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings

• Common law had its beginnings during the reign of Henry II

• King John and the Magna Carta

• What is the English Parliament?

• The Hundred Years’ War between England and France

France • Location and Geography (must include a drawn map on your poster)

• Who is Hugh Capet?

• Who is Philip II Augustus?

• What is the “estates” in France?

• The Hundred Years’ War between England and France

• Joan of Arc

Spain • Location and Geography (must include a drawn map on your poster)

• Ferdinand and Isabella – what did they do?

• The Reconquista

• The Spanish Inquisition

• King Charles V (aka: King Charles I of Spain)

Russia • Location and Geography (must include a drawn map on your poster)

• Russians convert to Orthodox Christianity

• Alexander Nevsky

• Importance of Ivan the Great

• What is a Czar?

Holy Roman Empire • Location and Geography (must include a drawn map on your poster)

• Importance of Otto I

• Struggles in Italy

• Effects of struggles in Italy on the Holy Roman Empire

I also did my own prior proper planning for this assignment and gave students a list of pre-approved places where they could research their country. I included my own lecture slides I would have used in class, gave them page numbers from their textbook, and gave them a few possible websites they could do research at. I constantly reminded students that two of the best sources of information were actually the lecture slides and the textbook pages. Additionally, I printed out these slides in color for the students so they could use the pictures from the slide on their poster. That way, students did not spend an entire period looking for images to include.

Jeanne d'Arc
Image of Joan of Arc I printed out for the group who researched France

The presentations have yet to be given, but from the work they did on their posters that was due by the end of class on Friday, I have a feeling that this assignment has worked really well. In addition to that, I get the sense that the students also enjoyed working on this assignment, something I will have to ask them about on Monday.

While they finished their posters, I realized that I should have asked each group to create a quiz for their classmates to take after/during their presentation. This would mean that students not only became masters of their content and teachers of it, they also could take ownership of the assessment portion of the class. This is an idea I will save for the next time I do this project (which I might do for my African kingdoms and civilizations unit a week from now). Instead, I will be creating a note sheet for students to use while groups present. This note sheet will, again, be a classwork grade.

Anyway, I will write a quick note about planning. This weekend has been a flurry of work as I prepare to take over a second class on Wednesday (World History II). So far the planning has been going well, but I still fear that my classes, along with my other graduate school responsibilities will catch up to me in the last week of the semester and I will find that I have more work to do than I can possibly complete.

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