Albert Einstein once said “creativity is intelligence having fun.” That’s what they are doing in this Selma Unified sixth grade class. Let’s make learning fun and engaging again – it’s the 21st century! For help on bringing these skills into your classroom, click on the “shop now” button above. Meantime enjoy this article showing how these teachers are raising the bar!


6 Common ESL Grammar Errors Conquered by Project Based Learning

Many activities help ESL students learn English, but collaboration helps bridge conversational learning with academic content. Project Based Learning (PBL) enables collaboration by requiring students to engage in partner and group structures that promote total participation and enable opportunities for differentiated instruction.

In PBL lessons and units, ESL students move more quickly toward academic language acquisition because the conversation moves from the school grounds into the classroom with instruction that promotes the inquiry process

  • questioning and investigating,
  • comparing and interpreting information,
  • and reporting findings

Students work in partners and groups. How these pairings and groupings are structured depends on the number of ESL students in a classroom and their language levels. Keep the following list of grammar problems in mind when structuring your PBL lessons.

6 Common ESL Grammar Errors

Some native English students struggle with these grammar concepts, but all ESL students struggle with them. It takes a long time in repetition and practice to overcome these errors. This is why collaboration is so important. The understanding of these grammar concepts may be learned, but usage and practice is limited unless English is also spoken at home.

The following list of six errors also includes examples taken from “Editing Line-by-Line“, a chapter written by Cynthia Linville, CSUS, for the book ESL Writers: A Guide for Writing Center Tutors.

Use this list as a reference to plan your own PBL lessons and/or units.

1. Subject-verb Agreement – subject doesn’t agree with verb in person or in number

  • He walk every day.
  • Ever teenager knows how to choose clothes that flatters her figure.

2. Verb-tense – incorrect time marker used

  • I was working on my paper since 6:00 a.m.
  • Even though this is my first day on the job, I have already found there were some different people here.

3. Verb-form – verbs incorrectly formed

  • I will driven to the airport next week.
  • I was cook dinner last night when you called.

4. Singular and plural errors – confusion about nouns that are countable and ones that aren’t.

  • I have turned in all my homework this week.
  • I set up six more desk for the afternoon.

5. Word-form – wrong part of speech chosen

  • I’m happy to live in a democracy country.
  • I feel very confusing this morning.

6. Sentence structure errors – Many things—verb left out; extra word added; word order incomplete; clauses that don’t belong together are punctuated as one sentence

  • As a result of lack of moral values being taught by parents and the reemphasis by school many children have little respect for authority.

Check out the Critical Thinking Unit from GoTeachGo

Add grammar practice to the lessons in this unit. These lessons provide a perfect addition to the student reflection journal sessions. Students have options to share in pairs, within groups and for the whole class.

Recommended Reading
The Attitudes of Secondary Students Towards Learning English through Project Based Learning

Visit Kate’s TeachersPayTeachers site for lots of great PBL units.


author: Sheri Rose, Precision Copy Editng.

The High Art of a Successful Project-based Learning (PBL) Unit

Project-based Learning (PBL) is a journey into cognitive awareness that produces results. If you’re looking for successful PBL units to use in your classroom, look to Kate Parker, CFO of GoTeachGo. Her PBL units on TeachersPayTeachers cover everything needed to facilitate successful PBL instruction and engage students.

This week’s blog examines the outline of one of Kate’s PBL units:

Drawing the Line: Global Theme Park Design.

This unit, as with all of Kate’s PBL units from GoTeachGo, begins with an explanation of what PBL is and what it is not.

As Kate says:

“Our Goal is Simple: Be the Bridge”

It’s best to let Kate do the talking on this one:
“Project-based Learning (PBL) is an approach that challenges students to learn through engagement in a real problem. It is a format that simultaneously develops both strategies and disciplinary knowledge bases and skills. It places students in the active role of problem-solvers confronted with an ill-structured situation that simulates the kind of problems they are likely to face in real life situations.

Many teachers want to introduce special projects or group assignments that will engage students and motivate them to take practical steps in applying knowledge. Unfortunately, many problem based learning units require too much of the teacher’s time in preparation and management. Other times, project-based units are incomplete, unfocused or uninspiring.  The soft skills, like critical thinking, are neglected—thus rendering the unit to the category of project centered, which is not project–‐based learning.


Kate’s units put students into problem-solving situations that inspire them. She also incorporates critical thinking skills for students to use while solving the problems, and offers in each unit a well-outlined, well-designed format for teachers to use.

Her PBL units are time savers, student engagers and adaptable to instructional needs. One of the many great things about Kate’s PBL units is the amount of research done. She has already found resources such as videos, photos and print sources for reference, and she has created poster displays, handouts and forms necessary for collecting data, assessing progress and evaluating outcomes. Kate’s research, references and resources save teachers enormous amounts of time so they can spend more time engaged with students.

All of Kate’s units provide integrated curriculum structures. In the unit Drawing the Line: Global Theme Park Design, the skills emphasized are “math, visual arts, geography, social studies, strategic planning, strong collaboration skills, critical thinking skills, critical thinking and problem-solving elements.” Every lesson begins with a review of the critical thinking skills used for learning, the critical thinking skill used the day before, and an introduction or reminder of the critical thinking skill that will be used during the current day’s lesson.

Included also in Kate’s PBL units are team building lessons for instruction and review. Her units are so comprehensive they consistently receive high rankings on TeachersPayTeachers, and the feed back she gets is stellar.

Anatomy of  Drawing the Line: Global Theme Park Design

This is a typical look of the table of contents in one of Kate’s PBL units:

Here is just one page of resources Kate provides in this unit, and all of her units include page after page of useful tools.

Here is an example of a data gathering handout from the unit.

And here is an example titled “Team Presentation Rubric”.

Kate’s units are so intensely comprehensive that each one could be taught for an entire school year. The great thing about her units is their adaptability to different instructional needs, and teachers will have a deal of time trying to find Project-based Learning units as well put together as Kate’s PBL units. She has spent time preparing for teachers a means to help them educate students for the 21st century. Thank you Kate!


               Visit Kate’s TeachersPayTeachers site and take a look at her work. 

She has truly brought the writing of PBL units to a high art.



posted by guest blogger Sheri Rose

Try This Back-to-School New School Twist on an Old School Question

Back to school. 

It’s that time of year and students, parents, and merchants are getting ready.

And so are you.

What you do on your opening day sets the tone for your entire school year, and there are plenty of ideas for how to start.

Whether you are a first year teacher, or a veteran educator, using a first-day
ice breaker helps students ease into your class procedures and expectations,
and helps them get comfortable within the new social setting.

It also provides you with insight into the personalities and mindsets of your students.

Typical Ice Breaker Structures

Most ice breaker activities use one of these structures.

  1. paper and pencil find-the-person-who questionnaires.
  2. anticipatory sets to get students thinking about content
  3. intriguing examinations of topics from different perspectives

Some of the best ice breakers combine all three elements into one activity.

Try this one:

This question only requires a simple recall of events.

— What did you do during your summer vacation?

Ask the question this way to encourage inquiry.

— Guess what I the (teacher) did during my summer break?

Try this activity, and you will have students making inferences, drawing
conclusions, and supporting them with evidence — and writing something — on the first day.

Follow it with the second activity and gather information for the Project Based
Learning (PBL) Unit Have Passport, Will Travel, written by Kate Parker,
CFO of GoTeachGo.


Think and take Mini-Lesson #9  

Can you guess what the teacher did this summer?


Content Objective: Assessment for Informational Writing and Paragraph Structure

  • Use of Transitions
  • Use of Evidence to Support Assertions
  • Clarity and Coherency of Content
  • Evidence of Closure

Critical Thinking Skills Focus:

  • Look For Evidence and Drawing Conclusion
  • Making Connections

Total Time Approximations:

15 minutes – Mini-lesson
20-25 minutes – Partner activity


1. Gather Props that indicate things you did on your summer break

  • plants for gardening
  • pictures of family who visited
  • reunions
  • trip souvenirs
  • T-shirt w/logo
  • anything else that represents what you did during your break.

2. One roll of small carnival tickets
– alternate numbering 1, 2 on the backs.
3. Some kind of overhead display option, whiteboard
4. Two Critical Thinking Question Sets; one per activity (See lesson activities below for sets)

Typical First-Day Question with A Twist: Guess what I did this summer?

Before students enter your classroom, display
the following set of directions on the board in
front of the class:

1. Choose a seat, put your things down, and take
out 1 sheet of lined notebook paper.
2. Put your name on the paper.
3. Title the assignment:

What my teacher did this summer.

Procedural Suggestions

1.      As students enter your classroom, smile and welcome them, hand them a small raffle ticket, and invite them to choose a seat.

2.     Once all students are in the classroom, observe who noticed the directions written on the board, who is actually following them, and who is busy socializing. This gives you a quick insight into how to structure your lessons for individual classes.

3.     Settle them in, introduce yourself, take attendance, and go over your behavioral expectations, and daily and weekly routines and expectations. Tell students that every day there will be a short lesson (some call them bell-ringers) and that they will be expected to complete the lesson each day. Let them know your procedure for collecting and grading the assignment.

4.      Let students know that they will complete the first activity of the day by themselves, and you will collect it because it helps you understand how to help them when you know how they think as  individuals. Tell them the second activity will be done in partners, and for the partner activity, they will need their tickets.

Watch to see who fumbles about trying to find the ticket. 


5.      When the fumbling stops, check for the raffle tickets by asking students to hold them up so you can see how many still have them. This will also give you some first-day insight into the organizational skills of your students. Give out more to those who have misplaced them. Tell them to hang on to the tickets for the second activity.

6.      Allow for a few more minutes to set up for the mini-lesson for those students too social to notice the directions on the board. Walk around and observe, and help where needed. They should all have or be in the process of getting the paper set up with their name and the title on the page. Some may have even started to make a list of what they think you did over the summer. That’s okay. It’s another authentic assessment that shows which students are able to make inferences and are ready to get to work.

Mini-lesson Activity

1.     Once everyone has their papers set up, tell the students they will be using the critical thinking skills of looking for evidence and making connections using their own experiences to draw conclusions that lead them to smart, intelligent answers.

2.      Show students the items you brought to use as clues to what you did during your summer break, and show them one item at a time. Have students write the name of each as you show them. After you have shown all the objects, have students answer the following questions in paragraph form based on what they see in all 3 objects.

This activity will assess your students’ paragraph writing abilities and understanding of transitions in paragraph writing, so it is recommended that you don’t frame the paragraph for this activity.

3.     Display the main question on the board, and include these questions to be covered in the paragraph as part of the display, like so:

Main Question:  Can you guess what I did during my summer break?

  • What are the objects? List all three before you draw your conclusions.
  • From looking at the objects, what do you think I did during my summer break?
  • What evidence from or about the objects suggests that I participated in this activity?
  • What connections did you make to your own experiences that helped you draw this conclusion?
  • Use sensory clues to help you describe your ideas: smell, sound, sight, taste, touch
  • Were you right?

4.     Let students share their findings with the class. When the sharing stops, tell them how you spent your break as it connects with the items. Ask for a show of hands to see who got it right.

Lesson Extension Activity – Partners – Two Lies and One Truth

1.     For the partner activity, tell students to turn their papers over and write two lies and one truth about what they did during their summer break. Let them know that they will be trying to fool their partners, so they want to be clever in the clues they write.

2.     Then have them look at the number on the back of their tickets. If they have a  #1, they find someone who has a  # 2, and if a #2, find someone who has a #1. They may need to move about, so instruct them to take their papers, pencils, and tickets with them if they move.

3.     Once everyone is partnered up, instruct students to turn their papers over, and write their partner’s first and last name on the back.

4.      Next, students read their two lies and one truth to their partners, and their partners try to guess from the list which is true. Students then write about what they found to be true by answering the following question in paragraph form.
What is your partner’s clue?

  • Based on this clue, what do you think your partner did during his/her summer break?
  • What evidence from the clue helped you decide?
  • What connections did you make to your own experiences that helped you draw this conclusion?
  • Use sensory clues to describe your ideas: smell, sound, sight, taste, touch
  • Were you right?

5.    Once both partners complete the activity, have them trade papers, read what their partners wrote, discuss, make adjustments, and ask them if there was anything else they would like to have done. Prompt them to discuss places they would like to visit and make lists of them on their papers. This information will help you when planning for the PBL unit — Have Passport, Will Travel.

6.   Students then introduce their partners to the class and describe one thing their partners did during the summer.

7.   They may read from their paragraphs.

Set-up for PBL Unit  –   Have Passport, Will Travel

1. Finally—Show them the Essential Question for the PBL Unit Have Passport, Will Travel, to let them know they will be studying how to plan for travel to places they would like to see. Encourage them to discuss this question outside of class and come to class the next day with ideas to share.

Essential Question: What are the benefits of planning before you travel.


2.      Make sure to make brief notations about your observations throughout the lesson or directly after your class session.


1.     Monitor the time throughout the lesson, and end the second activity 3 to 5 minutes before the bell rings. Review with students how the critical thinking skills used helped them understand the requirements of each activity

2.      Remind them that the mini-lesson/bell ringer directions will be displayed daily, so they need to look for them each day and get started on the activity right away.

3.     Collect the tickets for the next class, and remind them to gather their things together in time for the bell.

4.     Leave them knowing how much you enjoyed working with them and how much you look forward to seeing them all tomorrow.

5.      Have them turn in their assignment as they leave the class.



These activities make a great introduction and way to gather information for the Project Based Learning (PBL) Unit Have Passport, Will Travel, written by Kate Parker, CFO of GoTeachGo.


Be sure to visit TeachersPayTeachers to examine lots of great PBL units of study from GoTeachGo.

How to Outline an Essential Question that Develops Content Knowledge and Engages Students

Relevance, engagement, and motivation —three words tossed around and fretted about in education since students learned how to get teachers and adults to do their work for them.

Teachers constantly look for ways to motivate and engage their students, and that’s a good thing; however, when motivational strategies move into modes of entertainment, learning remains passive and, critical and creative thinking declines because the performance is only relevant to the entertainer.

Time to rethink.

Students need to actively engage in their learning to develop innovative and intelligent thinking skills. Change the focus from entertaining to interesting. Make it an adventure — an exploration and discovery through inquiry. Make it something they have to do themselves to find the answer. In this way, students become active participants in their own learning, develop self-motivation, and learn how to entertain themselves.

Inquiry? Yes!

The key to developing interest in learning stems from the question. In Project Based Learning (PBL), it is called The Essential Question or the Driving Question. Think of it as the controlling idea that controls the path of discovery.

According to Jeffrey D. Wilhelm in his article “Essential Questions”, adding inquiry or starting with an Essential Question made all the difference in the engagement levels of his students.

Turning Essential Questions into Standards-Based Inquiries

Essential questions help teachers outline lessons using content standards to develop content knowledge. These questions begin the inquiry process through activities like those found in PBL units and actively engage students in finding answers and/or solutions.

Look at this example that uses an Essential Question to begin an inquiry into the relevance of the narrative elements of characterization.

1. Ask one Unit Essential Question of a philosophical, thematic, or open-ended nature.
—What strategies do good readers use to understand what they read?

2. Choose a standard to focus the inquiry.
—ELA Standard Focus: Narrative Element – Characterization

3. Ask one Lesson Essential Question for each standard focus
—How does understanding narrative elements help us understand characters’ actions and motivations?

4. Chose five vocabulary words necessary to further understand the standard.
—Character, Plot, Setting, Conflict/Problem-Solution, Motivations, Actions

Now take a look at the same Essential Question as outlined for a standards-based unit that further develops the inquiry process.

Here is another example using two Essential Question outlined for a standards-based unit on the development of democracy .

Essential questions require open-ended inquiry on thematic topics. They prompt students to use critical and creative thinking skills, persuasive and comparative skills, lead to other questions, and ask relevant questions that have meaning to students—and they require students to reflect on their thinking throughout the inquiry process.

Teachers Benefit From Using Essential Questions

Take a look at the way this teacher applied Essential Questions to moniter her professional goals and objectives.

One question:
What atmosphere facilitates powerful learning?

One answer:
An atmosphere of inquiry.

One outcome:
A start to instructional design

Below is another example of the kinds of Essential Questions teachers can ask themselves as they reflect on how they want to approach the ways they
perform their job.

Inquiry Leads to Understanding

Learning starts with the need to know, and the key to making meaning for students, teachers, and most everyone comes in the “Ah-ha!” moment of discovery. The Essential Question begins the inquiry and develops the organized thought processes that drive the exploration—and the thrill of learning comes
with discovering the relevance of the outcome.

So—engage students with well-structured inquiry based instruction,
and they will motive themselves to find answers.

Think-and-Take Lesson #8

The mini-lesson for this week is to emulate one of the outlines above—either for your students or for yourself— or start with an Essential Question in one of the PBL units from GoTeachGo to structure your outline. Then visit Teachers-pay-Teachers to purchase the entire unit.

1. BAM: Body and Mind – Why are children’s life expectancies lower than their parents?
2. Drawing the Line: Global Theme Park Design: What do monuments tell us about the cultures they represent?
3. Head Banger Nation: Does risk of injury mean kids shouldn’t play sports or have fun?
4. Have Passport Will Travel: What are the benefits of planning before you travel?
5. Comic-Con: How do laughter and entertainment enrich our lives?
6. Publish or Perish: How are magazines put together?
7. Selling Out The Kids: How does advertising influence to do things and buy things?
8. Time Travellers: What America be like today if disease and hunger had not taken so many lives?

You can also go to Greenville County School District to access their comprehensive list of Essential Questions.

Be sure to visit TeachersPayTeachers to examine lots of great PBL units of study from GoTeachGo.