Full Class Project 4 Ways to Make Project Based Learning Easy for 5th-12th Grade Educators

project based learning for k-12

Fighting classroom boredom is an absolute nightmare, and at Mindset & Milestones, we know that project based learning is the answer so we’re going to give you ideas and examples to incorporate into your classroom - regardless of the subject you teach. 

I’m Dr. Diondraya Taylor, founder & CEO of Mindset & Milestones, and as a teacher, I know that students disengaged or staring into their phones instead of at you can be demoralizing when you're putting your best foot forward day in and day out.

Over the years, I've used project based learning and developed full projects that saved me by bringing some life back to a dead classroom. Now, I want to share my project based learning gems with you.

If you want full, editable class projects from us every week, check out our Weekly Projects Newsletter.

I’ve already used the term 4 times now so I probably should give a quick definition. Put simply, project based learning is a teaching method that encourages deeper and more engaged learning through the use of hands-on projects and problem-solving. It’s more than a buzzword because it actually works! Your students are more engaged and we teachers get to keep more of our hair.

So let’s jump into our first project of the month: The Student Fast Pitch.  

Student Fast Pitch Project

The Student Fast Pitch Project takes project based learning to a new level because it has its roots in entrepreneurship education but can be applied to just about any classroom. In this project, students will pitch a product/company/service in a short format between 30 and 60 seconds long where they have to identify the following:

  1. The Audience they are pitching (and the problem they’re solving for this audience)
  2. Product/Company/Service in a capacity that is exciting and relevant
  3. Call-to-Action that drives the audience to do something after listening. 

We created a full project for this and you can access it within our free preview that includes our project of the month:

Once you get the project, here’s an example of what a student pitch may look like:

Introduction/Problem Intro: “Are you afraid to start your social media career because you don’t how to shoot incredible videos? That’s no reason to wait because the longer you sit on your ideas, the less likely you are to grow and somebody needs what YOU have to offer.”

Idea/Product Overview: “We can help you with the Phone Tripod 3000! It is the go-to product for people new to social media filming and it is the easiest piece of equipment in the world. All you need is your smartphone and our product does the rest! Ring light feature, study tripod stand, and blue-tooth remote for easy starting and stopping - ALL IN ONE!”

CTA: “So what are you waiting for? If you want to start your social media career like you always say you do, then take the first step and get your Phone Tripod 3000 at our website today!”

Now the project itself will get you on the fast track to incorporating project based learning, BUT we also know that projects are not a one-size-fits-all for classrooms so we’ve broken down a few different ways to use it.

Idea #1 - Pitch It Like New 🚀

The name of the game is creativity and competition! Students will take on the persona of being an early founder at a company like Netflix or Google and pitch it as if nobody knows what it is or why it matters, and their job is to make the audience want to take action.

I found it most effective to assign students to the companies and pick the companies in advance to help things move efficiently and keep the energy high because the quicker I pushed them to move to higher the excitement built!

This project idea takes a fast-paced, competitive, and fun twist on project based learning which will get the students back on their A-game. It's best for middle and high school students, takes about an hour of class time to get through the full activity, and will get them thinking outside of the box. Let me know if you want me to share a simple slide deck for this!

⏰ Here's the timeline for a 1-hour class:

  1. Introduce the activity (2 minutes)
  2. Go through 2 pitch example videos from Shark Tank with discussion (15 minutes)
  3. Discuss pitch best practices (5 minutes)
  4. Overview the pitch rules and assign teams (8 minutes)
  5. Students get 15 minutes to create their pitches (15 minutes)
  6. Students give their pitches! (15 minutes)**

** The amount of time for student pitches will of course vary, but depending on your class size there are two ways to manage this.

(Option 1) If you have enough time for all students to pitch in 15 minutes, give a prize! I mention prize recommendations below.

(Option 2) If you have too many student groups for them all to pitch, I like to let them know in advance that I am going to randomly select a certain number of teams to pitch so there's a chance that they may or may not be called which means they all have to be ready! Then I use a random number generator during the pitching portion to call the teams which makes the pitching in itself a fun and random event because the students don't know if or when they're going to pitch!

🔑 Important keys to project execution:

  • Double-up the Companies: There must be at least 2 student teams assigned to each company so that they feel pressure to make their pitch better than the other team pitching the same company as them! So if you have 6 student groups, then you will only need 3 company products/services for the students to pitch (e.g., Netflix Subscription, Hydroflask, Apple iPhone)
  • Speed: After going through example pitches with the students, the activity will start and you want to push them on time to go fast and get excited about delivering their pitch!
  • Prize: Giving a prize for this one really pushes the competition because not only do they have the internal competition of sharing their pitch with another team, but they also want to win overall. Could be something that costs money like Starbucks gift cards, but it could also be something free like skipping a homework assignment. Ideally, it's something that you think your students will actually care about. These two examples have worked best for me.
  • Company/Product Relevance: Make sure that the companies and products you assign are ones that are pretty widely used. I'll provide some examples below but also know that it's a great idea to make them relevant to your specific class. The key is just that students are largely familiar with the companies/products so they don't need to research the product very much to pitch it. Examples include: (1) Nikon Camera, (2) Beats by Dre, (3) Netflix Subscription, (4) Hydroflask, (5) Apple iPhone, (6) ChatGPT

And that’s it for idea #1! It’s quick and fun, but, like most project based learning, also pushes deep thinking and competition. This next one is more about creativity and new perspectives!

Idea #2 - ReInvented Product 🧹 (1 hr)

You've heard of a broom, but have you ever heard of a jumbo painting stick🎨?! This activity lets all the silly wacky ideas rise to the top in the best way by prompting the students to take a common household (or classroom) item like a broom, a coffee mug, or a rug and find a new purpose/function for that item. Then they will pitch the item with respect to its new function!

Unlike yesterday's activity with assigning companies to pitch, I actually think it's better to lay out some items for students to choose from or to say that anything they can safely carry in the classroom is fair game and then let their creativity run wild!

This activity works really well for introducing younger students, like middle school or even upper elementary, to project based learning, but if your high schoolers need to let out some zany energy then this might be the one for you! This one takes about an hour but could very well be less depending on how many students you have because we want everyone to pitch this time and we'll keep these pitches closer to 30 seconds than 60.

⏰ Here's the timeline for a 1-hour class:

  1. Introduce the activity (2 minutes)
  2. Go through 2 pitch example videos from Shark Tank with discussion (15 minutes) [optional]
  3. Discuss pitch best practices (5 minutes)
  4. Overview the pitch rules and assign teams (5 minutes)!
  5. Students get 15 minutes to create their pitches (15 minutes)
  6. Students give their pitches! (20 minutes)**

** Similar to idea #1, the amount of time for student pitches will of course vary, but I would make sure to find a way for every group to pitch. If you need more time, you can just watch one pitch example and skip the discussion because this idea is less about getting the pitch "right" and more about pushing them to see things differently. So we want to see as many pitches as possible!

🔑 Important keys to project execution:

  • Tons of Options: Students must have tons of options to choose from when it comes to picking their item to re-invent, and if you think your students can manage then I highly recommend letting them choose anything they can safely carry in the classroom as opposed to deciding for them. It will make for more interesting pitch presentations just to see what people choose.
  • Awards: Instead of prizes, I find that this one is more fun with awards like "most creative pitch", "best reinvention function", and other fun superlatives that really celebrate the diversity of thought and the ability to look at one thing and see something else. Not as much about winners and losers, but about everybody contributing to a full picture of what the world could be if we look close enough.
  • Pitch Presentation Extras: Really encourage the students to do more than just talk with these pitches. Encourage sound effects, live demonstrations, or even doing their pitch as a funny skit and going full infomercial. This will make the pitches more entertaining and it's easier to do since everyone by default has a prop given that they were assigned a common item. Leverage that!

I cannot WAIT for you all to try this and tell me how it goes because my students raved about it for days after!

Reminder, if you have not downloaded this project, make sure to do that below!

Idea #3 - Applied Inventions 🔬 (1 Week)

This one is for my teachers in traditional subjects! If students have ever complained about the relevance of your coursework to the real world, then project based learning is here to help. Idea #3 calls for students to create a product or service that incorporates a real-world application of the lesson you taught last week! More specifically, the function or purpose of the product/service they pitch must be made possible by the knowledge or information they have learned from your class.

Here are a few examples of products/services your students might pitch depending on the class:

🌎 Geography Class: travel service that optimizes travel routes based on city density

🧮 Math Class: Product invention for new blueprint templates that prioritize scaling models up and down using proportions

🫀Biology Class: Youtube channel that teaches kids about the different types of skin burns and how to treat them

This project is best for older students, like high schoolers, to think critically about the purpose of a particular classroom topic and demonstrate their knowledge by applying it to the world around them. These pitches given that they may require a little bit more explaining should be closer to 60 seconds, and it is often harder to get everything into 60 seconds than it would be to write a 5-minute presentation. This will require them to be incredibly thorough about their word choice and demonstration methods.

⏰ Here's the timeline for a week of class:

Session 1 (1 hr) - Introduce the activity and talk through examples in detail along with best practices drawn from watching

Session 2 (1hr) - Allow students to brainstorm ideas for a full class session AND research whether or not their solution already exists to determine how to make theirs different

Session 3 (1hr) - Students will finalize the idea along with identifying the audience group and determining their call to action then write a draft of the full pitch script

Session 4 (1 hr) - Practice their pitches while working in the extras like demonstrations (even making props) and sound effects to make their pitch top-tier

Session 5 (1 hr)** - All student groups pitch their ideas!

** Similar to Idea #2, the amount of time for student pitches will of course vary, but I would make sure to find a way for every group to pitch. This may mean adding in more sessions for pitch time, but given how much work they are putting in, we want to see it come through!

🔑 Important keys to project execution:

  • Clarity of Application: The key to this activity is that students think hard about how they can apply your classroom lesson to something that they see in the day-to-day world and create a compelling product/service out of it. That said, it's important to drive home the point that they must make crystal clear in their pitches how this is connected to some part of the classroom lesson. It may also be helpful to add a 2-minute Q&A after this pitch for them to explain their application.
  • Awards: Similar to idea #2, fun with awards like "most creative pitch", "best real-world application", and other fun superlatives will really help students to feel recognized for the work they put in.
  • Helpfulness of Idea: It is important to stress to students that the goal is this project is for them to find a use for the lesson that is relevant to a customer audience which might mean they do some research on the customer or even do some interviews. The more helpful their idea is to their customer, the better they will see the relevance.

Idea #4 - Innovators Unlocked 🔬 (1 Month)

Ready to see what your students can really do? This Innovators Unlocked Project is a big opportunity for students to pour into an idea that's been in their heads or to create something new within your classroom. It challenges students to create a product or service of their own from start to finish and pitch it to the class! They keep talking about starting a Youtube channel if only they had the time? Call their bluff and use project based learning to do it. They're complaining that your class won't ever help them? Change their mind.

This project is a Tik Tok-ing high schooler's dream because the rules are looser and they have more free reign to build something completely new. These pitches definitely need to be around the 60-second mark, but these should be the most polished and well-executed 60-second pitches they've ever seen because they'll be demonstrating a month of work in this project. However, this one is great to do during the holiday seasons, spring break, or just times of the year when there will be a lot of days off of school because so much of the work is independent or explorative as opposed to listening to a lecture.

⏰ Here's the timeline for a month of class:

Day 1-2: Introduction and Idea Generation

  • Day 1:
    • Introduction to the project: Explain the purpose, objectives, and expectations.
    • Brainstorming session: Encourage students to explore their ideas, passions, or projects they've been contemplating.
  • Day 2:
    • Individual work: Students choose their project idea and start drafting a basic concept.

Day 3-5: Research and Customer Identification

  • Day 3-4:
    • Research phase: Guide students to research their target audience and any competition in the space.
  • Day 5:
    • Group discussion: Students share their findings about potential customers and their needs.

Day 6-8: Idea Development and Refinement

  • Day 6-7:
    • Refinement of project idea: Students further develop and refine their concepts based on research and feedback through social media, informational interviews, or scholarly articles.
  • Day 8:
    • Peer review: Pair students with constructive feedback on their ideas, focusing on strengths and areas for improvement.

Day 9-12: Pitch Development

  • Day 9-10:
    • Scripting phase: Students begin writing their pitch script in detail and testing different messaging for effectiveness.
  • Day 11-12:
    • Work sessions: Dedicated class time for students to make progress on their pitches with guidance available as needed and to create prototypes or props to make their pitches more effective.

Day 13-15: Polishing and Pitch Preparation

  • Day 13-15:
    • Polishing phase: Students refine their pitches, ensuring they meet quality standards and align with the target audience's needs along with memorizing the pitch.

Day 16-18: Practice Pitches and Feedback

  • Day 16-17:
    • Practice pitch sessions: Students practice delivering their pitches to small groups of other classmates and receive constructive feedback.
  • Day 18:
    • Final pitch refinement: Students fine-tune their pitches based on the feedback received.

Day 19-20: Pitch Presentation and Reflection

  • Day 19:
    • Pitch presentations: Each student presents their polished 60-second pitch to the class.
  • Day 20:
    • Reflection and discussion: Students reflect on the project journey, share what they've learned, and discuss their experiences with the class.

🔑 Important keys to project execution:

  • Choice for Team or Individual Pitch: When students are doing self-driven projects like this, I always make sure they have the option to work on their ideas in a team or individually. This gives space for students to run with an idea they're passionate about or join a team that has a cool idea if they don't have one themselves. It can even be fun to do mini pre-pitches and give the students a chance to hear about the ideas on the table and join a team.
  • Presentation Audience: Working on something for a full month is a big endeavor and the students are more likely to feel like they're working up to something when there's an audience for them to pitch to. Invite the principal, your colleague who has a prep period during your class, or even the school librarian. Just make sure that the pitch day feels a bit bigger than talking to the same group of students
  • Business Resources: An endeavor like this is big and the students may need some additional resources on business, entrepreneurship, and pitching to dive deep and really build out their ideas. Especially if you already know your students are entrepreneurial, it may be time to bring in some more thorough entrepreneurship curriculum or programming to support them. Whether it's YouTube videos or the content from us at Mindset & Milestones, it will be worth it to give them more to pull from.

I get students asking all the time why they have the learn the Pythagorean theorem or how to write a research paper, and this project is my favorite way to make those questions stop. Now this particular project has the capacity to be built out even further and ask them to create a visual brand for their idea or do a customer research report. You can get the pdf of this project for free, but if you want an editable version of this project and 3 more then check out our Weekly Project Newsletter. When you sign up, you get 4 editable projects and a new, editable full project from us every single week!

Project based learning is fun and exciting for students so we make it easy for teachers. This is only the beginning of how we can support you with project based learning so make sure to save this article link because the next time you see it, it may be just a little bit longer!

Stay innovating!

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