Tired of the same old class protocols? My classes used to look like this:
The classes and students started to run together, and I kept looking at the clock. That doesn’t happen to me anymore since I have added projects-based learning to the curriculum.
Project-based learning engages and motivates your English language learners.
This blog post provides an understanding of the method, modifications for online learners, an example, some ideas and, finally, tips for success.
What is Project-Based Learning?
Project-based learning is a teaching and learning method in which learners gain knowledge and skills while investigating a problem or question that is extended over time. For English language learners, this can be more engaging than studying words and skills in an abstract way. The language is being used for an authentic purpose which gives the language context and relevance. Learners develop content knowledge as well as critical thinking, creativity, and communication within a meaningful project.
Can I Do It Online?
Yes! Demonstrate a version of the project if possible. Use drawings or examples to communicate what you mean (all that new vocabulary can be overwhelming). Use mobile device-related tools such as taking photos of the student’s drawings or writings, or take screenshots on the laptop, then print the student’s work for the next class. Keep the learner involved in the decision-making by allowing them to choose the design, layout, colors, or something from their culture that they want to teach you. Create a schedule of what you will do and when- this may turn into a project in itself!
Example of Using Project-Based Learning for Teaching English Online
One day my student was describing a kid’s newspaper in his home country.
That is when the idea of integrating project-based learning in the online English lesson evolved. The question we investigated was the differences and similarities in our respective countries. In order to illustrate and explain this investigation, we would design a newspaper that compared some things from his country, China, with mine, U.S.A., and write short news articles to teach each other.
The student was the expert in the style of a newspaper. This empowered him to seek out new vocabulary in order to explain it to me. Together we listed and described the items we would need to complete the project (paper, glue, and scissors). We set a date to start working on the newspaper. In each one-hour class session, about fifteen minutes was reserved at the end of the class for working on the project.
We ended up writing about desserts (chocolate chip cookies and bingtanghulu), famous islands (Key West and Haina) and wild animals (snow wolf and woodchuck). My student would draw a picture and handwrite his article inside the picture, take a picture and send it to me after class or in the next class. I printed his drawings/writings and together we determined the layout of the newspaper. I followed his model and would send the pictures to him of my completed work.
We put the newspaper together in our respective locations. We admired our work and he showed his mother. We discussed what we could do differently next time and how to improve the newspaper. On a side note- it is pretty great when the parents see artifacts coming from your teachings!
Other Ideas for Project-Based Learning
Write a song together
Create a poll that the student must seek out responses from family members and/or friends
Design a poster
Compose a collection of poems/articles
Create a book (virtual or by hand)
Compare sports teams in various countries
Read a book and write a review about it
Be creative- the ideas are endless!
Tips for Success
Keep notes about the plan so you can stay organized and remember what you have done and said you will do next!
Show the students your handwriting/drawings (by photo or hold it up to the video cam).
Try projects that involve friends and family members such as interviews or polls that identify simple food likes and dislikes, favorite colors, or ways to get to work and school.
Involve mini homework tasks such as the student writes the sentences by hand or draws a picture of ideas that you both had collaborated on online. This will help link the project to each class.
You do it, too. Model for the learner and have fun!
Try project-based learning in your next virtual class, I can guarantee you will not regret it once you see the results!