Voice and Choice in PBL (Part 1)

Author: Audrey Lash, Second Grade Teacher.

It’s exciting when a plan comes together! Most of our grade level PBLs align perfectly with our writing. Writing has supported us in retelling a grandparent’s story, developing folktales infused with cultures of another country, persuading business owners to “invest” in our business, and informing an audience of animal that should get to live at our school. We’ve planned it so that every subject is infused with what we teach. We’ve examined what avenue or writing genre that each PBL could utilize. Writing has been our vehicle to apply our understandings and inform our audiences. These authentic experiences give students important exposure and understandings of various writing  genres. For many in K-2, it’s their first time learning that’s there’s more than just storytelling.

Last year, our Inventions PBL was set in a time earlier in the year.  Our driving question was/is “How can we identify a real world need or problem and design an innovative solution?” Students had created primarily persuasive pitches based on their designs and inventions for a real world problem or need. They were to persuade a panel of judges like shark tank that their invention was innovative and realistic. This year, our Inventions PBL has shifted to the end of the year due to curriculum mapping. This has worked out perfectly for us because now our kids have even more choice in how they inform their audience. It’s a great time to be an innovator! Students are investigating problems and solutions. Our entry event began with several kid inventors on the Ellen show. How could we be just like them? What do we have to do? We’ve been discovering and sorting big problems and smaller / reasonable problems. This has helped us think critically about what we might be able to solve for ourselves. Students will soon identify a problem in their life that they’d like solved. They’ll design solutions, collaborate, and give feedback to each other.

As second graders, they’ve learned about poetry, narratives, nonfiction texts, and persuasive letters. Now, they get to choose how they convey their invention. Which genre would help you best describe your design and problem? We’ve set up a writer’s menu of choices as we’ve reviewed each genre this week.


They’re so excited! You could definitely tell each day which genre a student would pick or shine through. For four days, we had a review lesson on a specific genre. I gathered lots of invention pictures from the internet. Some were very wacky ones at that! I’d model a genre around that picture (as seen from the anchor chart). And, then I’d pick a new invention picture and they’d practice that genre. They loved poetry the first day; so many describing words and playful word designs. Persuasive letters were another favorite because they remembered capturing their business audiences’ attention at our business fair.  These writing lessons have also given them some ways to think about inventions of their own. Would this invention work? Is it really useful? What problems did an inventor go through to make this? One student said, “You have to think reality!” He meant realisitc, but you get the point.

We spent a lot of time on narratives in quarter 1 and 2. We used that time to ground ourselves in narratives about our lives, about others’ lives, and fictional character lives. We spent time learning the art of persuasion and poetry in quarter 3. We took some time in quarter 4 to explore nonfiction. Surprisingly or unsurprisingly, hardly any students voted for narrative writing as their choice to inform their audience. Could this be because they don’t remember narratives? Could it be because they see a nonfiction item better told through other genres?

The tallies:

  • Poetry: 6
  • Narrative: 2
  • Persuasive: 7
  • Nonfiction: 6

Voice and choice is integral in engagement. Students love choosing what they research, design, and explain. We give them voice and choice with technology, too. But, choice in genres has been one of my favorite forms of engagement. They’re overly excited to create. They’re using this year’s knowledge and showcasing what they excel in. I had one girl tell me, “I just love poetry. I love how you can be so creative with lines and you don’t have to stick to any one form.”

Upcoming posts will showcase their identified “problem” and solution.


One thought on “Voice and Choice in PBL (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: Voice and Choice in PBL (Part 2) | PBL in the Primary Grades (K-2)

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