How to Use Middle School Project Based Learning

Learn how to implement Investigation Lab PBL in your Middle School ELA class in just 4 easy steps!

Getting students engaged takes equal parts of relationship building, motivation, and interactive activities.  The reward is genuine learning - the kind that lasts throughout the year.

To make this happen, I have implemented some middle school project-based learning that I call Investigation Lab and this is how I use it:

1. Introduce the concept of the Investigation Lab.

I explain to my students that once a week, they will have the opportunity to show what they know by choosing a project from a list that is based on the standard(s) that we are studying.  

We will review classroom expectations as per our agreements and I will tell them that they can choose to create the project based on any story we have read (or will read) in the class.  I show a few examples and then connect them to the next step - the rubric - as examples or non-examples.

2.  Go Over The Rubric

I give a very specific rubric that ensures that each student will turn in quality work to get full points.  There is a reflection sheet that each student turns in with any project that asks them to first "grade themselves" using the rubric.  

As I go over the rubric, I also show examples of quality work and examples of not-so-quality work and use the rubric as my justification.

Students keep a full-page copy of the rubrics in their folders/notebooks so they can track their points and I keep a page of rubrics for each student for each quarter as I grade them.  

3. Give Details On Points and Deadlines

Next, we go over how many points need to be earned in the marking period and what the deadlines are.

Project point values range from 10 points up to 50 or so points depending on the amount of work that must be done to complete the project. If a student has an entire grading period and will have 1 day per week to work on projects, I usually require students earn 100 points per grading period. 

Some projects need to be presented.  I create a presentation day on the last Investigation Lab day of the marking period and have students sign up for who will go first, second and so on.  I set the due date for all projects one week earlier.  This way, if someone has extra time as per their IEP or 504, it's built into the schedule.

4. Go Over The Housekeeping

Lastly, we go over what materials are available to them, where they will store their work from week to week, and how / where to hand in their work.

Students must turn in a reflection sheet with their work that tells how many points they believe their work is worth based on the rubric.  It's always interesting to see their rationale for their grades.

I keep all of the materials like scissors and glue, as well as the student reflection sheet in one area that I call the "Investigation Lab Station" so that everything is easy to find.

Investigation Lab Station for Middle School Project Based Learning!

Now, one day a week, students have time to work on their projects, receive feedback on graded projects, and talk to me about their progress.  I love being able to walk around the room and talk to the students about their work. It's fun to see what they are thinking and to continue to not only facilitate learning but build those relationships.  

Get a free sample list of projects for theme in my free resource library. Or if you are ready to implement Investigation Lab in your own classroom, all the resources are done for you!  Just click here.

Are you looking for a fun and engaging way for your Middle School students to practice their knowledge with the reading standards? This middle school project based learning set of 91 different projects is perfect for getting even your most reluctant learners on board!

Thanks for stopping by!


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