Guide to Implementing your Project Based Learning Lesson

project based learning

“Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.”
– Jacques Barzun

We’re extremely excited for this new project! We want to help you implement your first (second, third, or 54th) lesson plan around project based learning with real project management software baked into the lesson plan. Our goal is to make this as comprehensive and useful guide as is humanly possible.

The lesson plan that we’re working from can be found in its entirety here ( and we want to thank for putting together such a fantastic topic which includes a matrix with details regarding core curriculum alignment. We selected it because it does a fantastic job of pulling together, off-site visits, community awareness and involvement, as well as peer learning.

We’re going to present you with one path to implementing this project, there are of course countless alternatives. If you find a better way, share it with us!

Getting ready.

Here’s what you’ll need for hardware:
Computers (with Google Chrome, ideally)
Digital cameras
Digital voice recorders

Here’s some people/sources you’ll need:
A photography expert/enthusiast
A storytelling expert/enthusiast
Audience – digital or in person

Technology add-on
We’ve prepared a series of Kanbanchi boards (can be easily copied clicking “Copy to my drive”) to help you manage this project , as a teacher, as a student, and from a classroom perspective. Kanbanchi is a free online project management software tool used and loved by thousands of people around the world. Here are the links:

  • Teacher Guide (“TG”) – a full and complete breakdown of the steps to implement the Community Photojournalism lesson plan. This is your personal project management destination.
  • Classroom – A teacher controlled Kanban board detailing the broader project, but accessible to the entire class. It serves as a place for the teacher to disseminate information to the class and keep track of material relevant to the entire class. This is the dashboard for the class, where students can see what’s upcoming for the project as a whole. Students will be able to see the project unfold from start to finish.

This lesson plan can be implemented with only the above two Kanban boards and you will have a robust, real world project management software tool for your own use as well as a project timeline communication tool. All the assignments can be inputted as attachments in the Classroom board and students can download and access it at anytime and it will give them a nice introduction to project management timelines and planning.

If you wish to dive deeper and have the students manage their own project management boards you can also have each student create a “Student Guide” described below and they will get first-hand experience in managing a project using modern software.

  • Student Guide (“SG”) – a student’s step-by-step guide to the deliverables for their implementation of the project and a place to store materials along the way. This is where all deliverables rest for the students. Depending on the technological depth you wish to have the students embark upon you can have them use this as a static guide or you can have each student create their own Student Guide and use it as a digital storage space for their work.

This guide starts with the implementation of the Teacher’s Guide and where appropriate we jump between the Classroom and Student’s Guide so that when you’re done you will have a fully prepared project. We start by walking through Teacher’s Guide project Kanban card-by-card. Feel free to take your notes, insert due dates, assign part of the project to assistant teachers, and everyone can work from here. Also, check out the screencast of these fantastic lesson plan.

Preparing for the Project

This is your opportunity, as the teacher, for instilling great project management practices. Preparing for the launch of this project will show your students how to manage a project and the time you put into this section will pay huge dividends throughout the entirety of the projects.

“Project Introduction and Resources” – Includes a link to the full lesson plan and introduces Kanbanchi, the free project management software we’ll be using throughout this process. Kanbanchi is a resource to guide you through the process and also house your notes, links, and materials.

“Find sample professional examples of photojournalism” – As you’re working through your preparation you will want to find a few examples of photojournalism that you can share with the class.
There are a couple of ideas from the lesson plan and others:

  • The Inside of a Photo Essay at:
  • Magnum in Motion at: (beware, some sensitive material on this site)
  • Hungry Planet, What the World Eats at:
  • A world-class collection of photo essays:
  • Humans of New York:

“Identify a local photography subject matter expert.” – Work through your network and start gathering ideas, having early conversations, and making calls. Don’t be afraid to call and ask, most people will be thrilled to come in and talk about their profession/passion for 15 or 30 minutes. The goal of the talk is to convey some key points about taking great photos for the photo essays.

“Identify a local storytelling subject matter expert.” – The perfect people you’re looking for are journalists, authors both fictional and nonfictional, as well as anyone that’s involved in conveying messages in a meaningful way. If you’re looking for another resource, here’s one that we think is great!

Even better is Alex Blumberg’s Creative Live course that you can find here:

“Identify what equipment is available and/or needed.” – We’ve touched on the basics, but here is where you set your timeline, set the details, and create your checklists and reminders.

“Who is the audience?” – Identifying an audience for the project, whether it’s disseminating it to people in the community, showing them on the big screen or arranging for a showcase is an essential part of the process and will help to inspire great and timely work.

“Brainstorm topic ideas.” – Having a list of ideas ready before you head into the classroom will help you populate and steer the topics to accessible, achievable, and appropriate places.

“Set your timeline” – Fix the timeline for the entire project so that when you launch the project with your students they have a clear project timeline, highlight the deliverables.

Launching the Project

Now that the preparation is done it’s time to bring this to the classroom. Your hours of preparation coming up with subject matter experts for the project, for ideas to sprinkle into the brainstorming, and learning about what an amazing photojournalism project looks like are about to pay you huge dividends.

“Four Corners Exercise” – Rather than trying to explain this tried and true strategy for ideation here’s an exceptionally thorough description of how to do it:

How you run this exercise will set the stage for the direction that you take this project overall. The lesson plan from has some great guidance to direct this towards a very particular end point of a community-focused project, however if you have another avenue that you want to explore this is where you will want to set the stage.

At this point we need to jump into the Classroom Kanbanchi and make sure to transfer the notes from this exercise into the card for “Notes from our 4 Corners Exercise”. If the students did the notes on the computer, then just attach the notes, if they did it by hand on paper simply take a photo of the page and attach it. The best project management system is one that is executed, real life project management isn’t always pretty, but it is always effective.

“Intro of Photojournalism” – Here’s where you start sharing the nuts and bolts of what photojournalism is by showcasing some of the professional examples you selected in the “Find sample professional examples of photojournalism”. Highlight a couple of ones that you think are relevant and will be interesting to the class. This is inspiration time! The goal is get your students walking away excited about the project.

Again, insert links to your examples discussed in class, as well as others, in the Classroom Kanbanchi under the “Intro to Photojournalism” card.

“Consider and select the “Driving Theme” question” – It’s time to take the ideas that the class has generated in the previous exercise and if you’re sticking with the suggested path you should be thinking about: “How can I tell an interesting story that helps people understand my community?” We’re getting ideas flowing and directing the thinking towards our overarching category. In the Kanban card for this is a series of questions and ideas to keep the conversation going or just to get it started.

“Community subject matter expert visits.” – It’s time to start bringing in your photographer(s) and storyteller(s). It’s perfectly fine to re-arrange this and bring in the experts anytime before the students start preparing for their own site visits, but the earlier you do it the students may get a little inspiration.
Another great opportunity to take some notes, photos, or highlights from the visits and input them into the Classroom Kanbanchi so that students can reference it later for refreshers, inspiration, etc.

“Student brainstorming to narrow theme” – Your Kanbanchi has a link to the Brainstorming Guide as well as a number of exercises that you can implement with the students.
Once again, make sure you have a student reporter, teaching assistant, or you take the output from this exercise and attach it to the Kanban card in the Classroom Guide Kanbanchi for student reference.
This step also aligns with the Student’s Guide Kanbanchi first Kanban card titled “Prepare your ideas for your topic”. This makes for an exceptional deadline for a deliverable as well as a great homework assignment.

Scaffolding & Managing the Project

This is the meat of the project and the focus starts to shift to the student creation portion. The Student’s Guide Kanbanchi will start being used heavily from this point forward and with access to each student’s Kanbanchi you will have insight into how everyone is progressing and spot check work without directly intervening.

“Pitch the ideas” – Included in this section is the Pitch Process attachment that provides a structured methodology for students to work out their ideas in small groups. It’s a fantastic methodology and we suggest taking the time to read through it carefully and prepare how you are going to introduce it to the class. Also included are the Pitch Process Cards which will help students to “sense check” their topic ideas on their own.
Aligned with this section of the Teacher’s Guide is the Classroom guide and the attachments for students Pitch Process Cards and the Process.
As a homework assignment or in-class computer assignment you can direct the students to upload the output from the Pitch Process Cards and any other notes or comments from Pitch Day into their Kanban for “Prepare ideas for your topic”.

“Decision day” – This card in the Teacher’s Guide aligns with the Classroom and Student Guides. This is the trigger for the students to come to a decision.
Direct students to input their decision as an attachment or as a comment into their personal Student Guides (if you chose to implement that path).

“Identify a Personal Research Question” – This is the point in the project when the students take their idea and turn it into a discrete question for development into their photojournalism project. If the idea is the topic, this is the story that they will tell about that topic.
Attached to this card is the “Personal Research Question” handout that also includes the “Need to Know” list that corresponds to the following card.

“Prepare a need to know list” – Here the students are fleshing out the questions that they will need to be able to answer through independent research and/or through interviews. There are a number of sample questions included in the Kanbanchi. This also makes for a great homework assignment as a follow up to the working out Personal Research Questions. Students should also be encouraged to think about photographs that they should be collecting, images that represent their questions and could help in telling their stories.

“Identify People and Places” – The students likely have some ideas on who they should interview that will have come out of the process of choosing an idea and developing their Personal Research Questions. An important component of this is to help them “sense check” the people they want to interview with regards to identifying people who are realistic.
The Classroom card is titled “Who should/can I interview?”

“Arrange site visits and interviews” – This is one of the more logistically challenging aspects of the entire project. Helping the students to identify who, how, and where to conduct interviews and to arrange them. This aspect of the project is a great time to bring in help from teaching assistants, parents, whatever help you can muster.
Attached here is the “Interview and Site Visit Checklist” to help you in organizing.

“Research: Engage with published material on the subject” – Now that the students have a well thought out list of information that they need to collect in order to tell their story (or answer their Personal Research Question) it’s time to start researching. Helping the students understand that great interviewing is only accomplished through preparation is an important lesson here. Students should be as well versed in the material as possible before interviewing someone so that they can ask questions that aren’t easily answered on Wikipedia or through a simple Google search.
In the Classroom Guide this card is entitled “What can I learn before I interview someone?”

“Preparing for your interview.” – As students have identified who they will be interviewing they can leverage their “Need to know list” to come up with questions to ask. In addition to in-person interviews, students could consider that many community leaders and personalities will be difficult to get scheduled for an in-person interview, however these people may be willing to answer a few questions via email which is another professionally used method for gathering information.

“Role play for the interview” – Perfect practice makes perfect. Now that students have their questions all prepared it is time for them to work on the actual delivery. This step will help them feel more comfortable during the actual interview and is an excellent way to help get better results out of the exercise.
Attached here is the “Interview Role Play” document that provides a structure and peer assessment framework that will provide great feedback to each of the students.

“Equipment distribution” – As the time for interview is nearing it’s time to gather up the equipment and prepare it for distribution. Attached is the “Equipment Log” document to help you keep track of who has what, when it was returned, and the condition of the equipment at checkout and return.

“Conduct the interview” and “The Site Visits” – The students and chaperones will be heading out to conduct interviews and take pictures. There has not been a lot of discussion up until this point about the “photo” portion of this photojournalism exercise, but this is the perfect time to remind students to be sure to collect pictures of the interviewee, experience, the site, and whatever else they think will help them tell their story.

“Debrief and reflect on the interview” – This activity is an opportunity for the students to think about their experience. This would lend itself to a great partner or group exercise where the students discuss their experiences and gather peer feedback on what the interesting, noteworthy, exciting portions of their experiences they should share.

“Organize and Inventory Material” – The students should have collected a fair bit of information by this point in the project and it’s a good point to run through how it compares to their “Need to Know list”. It will remind them if they need to do some additional self-directed research, if they need some more photos, etc.

“Review Writer’s Workshop tools & techniques” – Before asking the class to start in on a draft of their photo essay this is a great time to weave in some tools and techniques for better writing. You can break the project into sections and craft a mini-lesson or two into the preparation for the draft. If you’ve already done some writer’s workshops during the term, this is a perfect chance to do a review.
Attached is a grading guide, “Writer’s Workshop Rubric”.

“Complete a draft” – Just as it sounds, students should have a first draft of their story at this point in the project timeline. Be sure to add the due date to the Classroom guide.
Attached is the “Writing Standards” guide that shows how the project will be graded. Depending on your preference you can add it to Classroom guide so that students can see it.
“Peer review and critique” – Designed as an in-class exercise to be completed in pairs, students have a chance to read and look through another student’s photo essay and provide constructive feedback.
Attached is the “Peer Critique Sheets” which guides the students through the exercise.

“Read aloud Peer Critique and Revisions” – Students have already received written feedback, but this is an opportunity to share their revised work orally with another student in a similar framework. Worth noting here is that when a story is read aloud it often comes across different than when written. Students should be listening for aspects that don’t flow well or are confusing when spoken.

“Recorded Presentation of Material” and “Create a Narrated Slideshow” – These two components can be completed together and are best done so. There are a number of ways to complete this technologically and the tools available to you will be different, but here’s a suggested way using free tools.
If you’re using Google for Education or if students have access to a free Google account you can do the following:

  1. Create a Google Slides presentation of the imagery that they want to use.
  2. Download the free Chrome extension “Snag-it” available here:
  3. Students then just need a headset with a microphone or a computer with a microphone and they can record it as they click through the slides.
    Once you have the extension added you simply click on it, select “Screen” and make sure that the microphone is enabled.

“Share the project” – Now that the project is completed it’s ready to be shared. Revisit your “Who is the audience” from the beginning of the project and get ready to share. You can also have students share in class, but having an external place to share will be worthwhile.

“Teacher assessments” – Grading time. Attached here is a rubric for the photojournalism project as a whole.

“Student self-assessment” – An unstructured opportunity to see how the students feel about their performance on this project. It could be as simple as asking them how they feel about it or asking them to write about their own performance as an open-ended essay as a homework assignment. If you prefer you can provide some questions for guidance.

“Debrief and reflect on the project” – In life, work, and school too often projects simply end without any debriefing. We highly encourage you to engage with this exercise and the attached “Teacher Student Reflection” to discuss the outcomes.

“Teacher reflection on the Community Photojournalism Project” – What did you think about this exercise? Will you do it again? What would you do different? Take the time to do a post-mortem and think about how you would improve upon it the next time around.

Thanks for taking the time to read through this guide and to go on the Community Photojournalism adventure with us! We hope that the tools provided and insight was helpful and made your life a little bit easier.

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