This is Part 4 of CraftEd’s four-part series about creating exciting exhibitions of student PBL work that excite parents, engage students, and make YOUR job of setting up an open house much more interesting! Missed earlier installments? Catch up easily:

Part 1 Understanding Exhibition

Part 2 Plan For Your Exhibition

Part 3 – Tips for Curating Student Work at an Exhibition


Creating a Successful Exhibition: It’s all in the preparation of ALL participants

At this point, you’ve spent an incredible amount of time planning your project and planning the logistics of the event – for the final touch, you’ll want to think about preparing for the actual night/event. Specifically, it’s important to take a few steps to prepare both the audience and your students.


To prepare your audience:

  • Consider what you want them to experience, feel or be compelled to do as a result of your student exhibition. For example a 5th grade project at Lake Elementary was on the study and process of water in CA. This class decided they wanted the audience to  “follow the water” down CA through walking directions in the room. Another class at Lake Elementary provided listening stations with PSAs and asked each participant to make a pledge directly related to their Call to Action. While a second grade class decided they wanted their exhibition to be “process oriented” with “scientists at work” receiving feedback from their audience as “end-users.
  • As you can see from these examples, it’s important to consider what the audience’s role in the learning process. Do you want them to:
    • Provide feedback as an expert or “end-user” (if so provide sentence frames on index cards or “poll anywhere” they can do feedback immediately on phone and project” or maybe “i used to think…now I think” is at the door on butcher paper for them to fill out , vote on the best “pitch” using a token system
    • Make a pledge based on CTA from student PSAs
    • Be a test-end-user
    • Prompt Q &A-have students wear “ask me about” buttons or give visitors question cards when the enter the room

Prepare your students for the big event by:

  • Give them structure for the event: specific locations, timelines and roles.
    • Perhaps they’ll be a greeter, an ambassador, a surveyor, a historian (documenting), etc.
    • BONUS fun idea: you or a student may even want to write a program to be distributed for the evening that includes student names, roles, a diagram of the room and any important times (i.e. certain show times or performances).
  • Be sure to do a rehearsal in the days before. I used to always start with a fishbowl protocol (linked below) to model expectations and debrief as a class. This is also the time to do any remaining assessments. DO NOT attempt to assess student learning or oral communication during the actual exhibition event; your job is to celebrate all the learning in the room and your hard work when the actual exhibition comes!
  • Teach students how to solicit interest from audience.
    • Show them how to spark up a conversation and give them some sentence frames and even cheesy one liners to bring audience members over to hear about their learning. And don’t forget to go over what to do if they don’t know an answer!


Something I often tell teachers I work with is “it doesn’t get easier, we just get better”. In PBL progress is the goal, not perfection? Exhibition is a great way to take your projects and learning to the next level. So if you are up for the challenge, I highly recommend you go for it this Spring!

It’s never too late to learn how to do an Exhibition – Email for last-minute virtual coaching to run through your exhibition plans and questions!