Malissa Chavez-Thibault, Ed.D.

You’ve attended a PBELL training and you are now ready to put that knowledge into action.  You may be asking yourself, “What can I do to set my students up for success for their first PBELL experience?”  Here are four tips to help set the stage for a smooth PBELL experience for you and your students.

Develop Signals: 

In PBELL experiences students can work as a whole group, in small groups or partners, and/or  individually. Students typically get really excited to work together in small groups and getting their attention can sometimes be difficult.  Developing a signal to get students’ attention and come back as a whole class will reduce transition time between tasks. Some signal ideas are: Using a hand signal – teacher raises their hand and students raise their hand and everyone knows it is time to listen.  Ring a bell or chime to get students back together. Whatever signals you use, practice them prior to your PBELL experience so students feel comfortable and confident with the signals. 

Begin with the End in Mind: 

Collaboration is essential in a PBELL experience but can be difficult to implement so take the time to identify expectations with your students. Students will be more invested if they have a voice in what collaboration should look and sound like.  Developing a student-generated collaboration rubric is one way to support this process. Students then clearly know what is expected while working with their classmates and the rubric can be used as a self-assessment or peer-to-peer.


Identify group structures that students will use as they collaborate and introduce those structures prior to the PBELL experience.  For example, if you are going to ask students to engage in a consensus map, taking the time to clearly explain the structure and give them time to practice with it outside of the PBELL context will support the flow of the PBELL experience.

Be Vulnerable: 

If this is your first time doing a PBELL experience, let your students know it may feel different than a typical I do- We do-You do lesson for both them and you. Share the benefits of student-centered inquiry based lessons and remind them that you both will be learning from this experience.

Following these tips can help you set the stage for a successful PBELL experience. 

For more information on planning a PBELL, check out our Lesson Plan Guide, or visit the iTeachELLs Resources page.

Connect with Malissa Chavez-Thibault, iTeachELLs Instructional Coach at