Subtle Things Make or Break a PBL Classroom Culture

I had the honor to read a story during a PBL project in my friend’s classroom. Customary to her classroom, I gave her a hug as she welcomed me back. We stood by the door and as each student walked in, we greeted them with a handshake, dap (fist bump), or a hug. The students took their places ready for the read aloud. Before reading, we reviewed and shared some things great readers do, how those strategies would help us connect the text to our PBL project. As I read the text, we continued to build upon making connections. One student had a great connection building upon another student’s connection. When he spoke he stumbled around what he was trying to say. I stopped him and explained how great readers also connect thoughts with others and provided a quick demonstration with the teacher. While we role played, I could see his eyes light up with understanding and asked for a redo. He tried again and said, “I want to connect and build on what Kierra said…”. Next thing you know, every student who wanted to add on to a thought from another student used similar phrasing.  At the end, students reflected how those connections and phrases from the story could help support our PBL project. The class continued right along with their PBL project as I stayed and participated. Later, the teacher and I debriefed what aspects of a healthy classroom culture are most important to sustain when implementing PBL.