How to Create a Project-Based Learning Lesson

As we discussed the pros and cons of project-based learning in our last article, let’s dive into how to create a project-based learning lesson.

Project-based Learning (PBL) is not a new term or concept. It has been around for over a century, but there has been a considerable push in teachers’ teaching, with the outcome being some projects within the last decade. It encourages students to use critical thinking skills and start to develop 21st- century skills by answer a question or solving a problem. There are thousands of PBL activities and lessons available online for any need you may have. Search the internet, and you can find them. Let’s take a look at a few.

Create a PBL Lesson

Project-Based Learning Examples

Dozens of educational websites provide PBL projects for teachers. These projects include questions, resources, and curriculum needed to complete the project. Students will use this way of learning to apply new skills, answer an essential question, and share what they learn while they research new and important concepts. Each day will be different in a classroom working with PBL. Teachers should look for a PBL lesson created by someone else because it will save time and the process and planning are easier to implement. Students will enjoy coming to school to work on his/her project.

My PBL Works

A great educational website for the PBL project is My PBL Works. There are many PBL lessons over various subjects, including ELA, Fine Arts, STEM education, and World Languages. My PBL Works has many PBL lessons from PreK-12th grade. Most of these projects start with a question or a problem, and students have to solve or answer them. Three of these projects are available for free and are great for upper elementary, middle school, and high school. To start, register for an account, and you will have a bank of PBL projects to search through.

Teachers Pay Teachers

Another website that offers PBL for teachers to implement is TeachersPayTeachers. As you research PBL projects on TeachersPayTeachers, be cautious. Because these are projects created by teachers, they may not be authentic PBL projects. Many creators mark PBL as an option to get more sales. Many of these projects involve more than one subject.

Creating a Project-Based Learning Lesson

After you search for PBL lessons, you may not find the resources you want or a lesson you like that will work well with your students to meet the standards you want to teach. Consider creating your own project-based learning lesson. Many teachers create their own plans and project for their students applying project-based learning. Planning a PBL lesson can be time-consuming, but it will ensure your lesson implements all your ideas. This is also a great way to know you teach the standards you want your students to learn. You can use your specific curriculum and team up with other teachers to develop a PBL project that works for your classroom. Here are six steps to creating project-based learning projects.

six steps to create PBL lesson

Part 1: Ponder Authentic Project Ideas

Getting started is the most challenging part when planning a project-based learning project. To get started, consider your standards and objectives you must meet. Think about the resources you have available and the time frame you wish to have the project completed. Think about the students in your classroom and think of real-world ideas. Think about students’ learning styles and how to make learning meaningful for each student.

In this step, you need to decide whether you will give your students a problem to solve (Challenge-based), a question to answer (inquiry-based), or activity-based. Activity-based learning is where students develop their own understanding based on activities given by the teacher. If you decide to do an inquiry-based project, be sure the project encourages students to think critically. It needs to be a question that students can’t find the answer on Google.

Part 2: Plan with the Final Project in Mind

Once you have identified the standards you would like to meet and have come up with an original project, skip to the end. What do you want your students to create? Some common project-based learning final projects include public service announcements, slideshows, art projects, and performances. Consider your students’ learning styles to help determine the project. You should plan in time for students to share their final projects and learning, and this presentation should be part of their grade.

Once you decide on the final project, all planning and activities should prepare the students to construct their final project. Some of the activities could even be parts of the project. For example, if your students create an advertisement for a company that persuades cities to go green, one of the activities would be to create a company name and logo.

Part 3: Benchmark Your Project

As you plan, it is important to benchmark your project. While designing your project, this is the most crucial step. This is so important because it makes sure you are using the best practices like scaffolding and formative assessment. Examples of formative assessments for project-based learning include rubrics, checklists, and peer-evaluations/self-evaluations.

What is Benchmarking?

Benchmarking is breaking down your final product into manageable activities of milestones. During these phases, you will need to identify the content and skills required to finish each phase. Once you have developed the benchmarks you wish to accomplish, you should formatively assess these skills and content. To do this, be sure to plan the formative assessments. Depending on the time frame you have to complete the project, you should have between 3 and 5 benchmarks.

Part 4: Plan and Build Your Rubrics

With the end in mind, the next step is to plan your assessment tools. Because this project is pretty extensive, your rubric should reflect this. In this step, you should finalize the knowledge and skills you want your students to master. What standards will you be assessing? Write each of your criteria in the proficient box on your rubric. Use your Bloom’s Taxonomy verbs and to come up with the other columns in the rubric. Go one level up for an advanced column and one level down on Bloom’s Taxonomy for developing or emerging. Don’t forget to include the 21-century skills you would want to assess as well.

Once you have completed your rubric, decide which rows will be useful with each benchmark. Provide a smaller rubric to each student for each benchmark. We suggest using each row of the overall rubric at least twice during the project-based learning project. This way, students can reflect and have a chance to improve.

Now that you have a teacher rubric and smaller rubrics for formative assessments, take each rubric and produce student-friendly language. Standards given by the state aren’t often easily read by students so putting it in a language they can understand is essential. Using “I Can” statements will help students understand their goals and the rubric.

Part 5: Plan Daily Lessons

Now that you have the project and how you will grade the project, it is time to plan lessons for each day using the available resources. Design a calendar with the time frame you have in mind. For example, if you prepare for the final product to take an entire nine weeks, plan the daily lessons for those nine weeks to ensure each lesson’s teaching. Plan how long each benchmark will take. For example, if you have three benchmarks in 9 weeks, maybe planning three weeks for each benchmark will work. Then narrow it down to specific days. Again, work backward. What needs to take place the day right before the project is due? As you design your lesson plans, be sure to incorporate quality resources, your curriculum, and critical thinking skills.

The Final Step

Now that you have created your project-based learning lesson, it is time to implement. This is where the fun starts. Introduce the project to the students. Get them excited about your plans and goals. As students work, be sure to monitor both the students and the project outline. Things may need tweaking for a high-quality project to be accomplished.

After the project is complete, assess the outcome. Did students learn the skills needed? Did the process work well? What would you change next time? What questions came up that you didn’t plan for? Were your goals for the project met? Be sure to take the time to reflect not only as a teacher but as a classroom. Have students share their feeling about the project and what worked well and didn’t work well.

Resources for Creating

Also available are resources for teachers who may need help to do a project-based learning project or who have a question regarding project-based learning. Teachers can research different ideas, templates, and even rubrics to help do their own projects. Here are a few of these resources we know will be beneficial.


Edutopia offers ten project ideas for teachers to utilize while teaching with PBL. These ten ideas are free. They are driving questions that will help students make a meaningful inquiry-based experience. These are not complete PBL projects; instead, they are just questions and ideas to get a teacher started creating a PBL project.

Edutopia also offers blank templates to help teachers know how to create documents and project-based learning experiences for their students.

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