Project-based learning (PBL) is one of the approaches of the 21-century teacher. We have already written an overview of the project-based learning, and in this article, I would like to concentrate on practical tips and ideas of implementing project-based learning in offline and online classes with teenagers.
Why is PBL so beneficial?
With the help of the projects, students can clearly see the objective of the course and, after the project completion, their results and progress. A teacher can plan the academic module to gradually lead the students to the project completion and, thus, objectives fulfillment. What is more, the lessons are not just separate units but have an interconnection that results in project completion.
The students are free to choose the strategies and methods of reaching the goals of the project. The teacher plays the role of a guide and facilitator, giving the students the language means. The students have academic freedom to solve a real-world problem and to apply the knowledge and skills they have and that they will need for life and work. Consequently, it is student-centered and promotes learners autonomy. It does not only promote applying technologies but stimulates students to life-long learning and increases their motivation.
Stages of the PBL lesson
Generally, one can divide the project implementation into 3 stages:
- Pre-teaching stage. The teacher introduces the topic and pre-teaches the grammar, vocabulary, functional language, language chunks that students might need to complete the project through reading and listening. The task for the project can be given at the beginning of the module or a topic, thus, after acquiring the new target language, the students will have to update their project as their language is enriched and improved. Alternatively, students can be encouraged at the beginning of new topic that they will have a project at the end of it, and they will complete the project during the last couple of lessons of the topic or module.
- Task completion. Students work individually, in pairs or groups, and the teacher monitors students’ work and assists when and where necessary.
- Analysis.Once the students present their project, the teacher takes notes of the most common mistakes (you can read about error correction here), grades students and the students reflect on how well they have completed the task.
Is it possible to implement PBL in general secondary school?
Option 1: Devote one lesson at the end of the unit to project completion. You may ask students to prepare the information at home so that during the lesson they collaborate and create a project. The next lesson they should present and discuss their projects.
Option 2: My 9th-grade students prepared projects as a final work after the topic “Environment”. Their task was to take one of the acutest environmental problems, analyze its causes and results and think of the ways to overcome it. They used the text from the textbook as an example and were free to use online resources. My students completed their projects at home individually. During the last couple of lessons of the term, they presented their projects as a presentation or a poster with a story in class and the classmates commented on them and asked some questions.
Your students probably have no experience in completing projects. So, don’t forget about the following things:
- Explain to them what you expect to get: a statistics bar chart (then make sure they know how to do that), a poster, a picture, a miniature or just a report.
- Give them a list of credible resources and explain where they can find information. Students can:
- Give students the materials they need: a computer to work in class, some space in the classroom, some books, paper, pencils, etc.
- Give students time to do that. If they work in pairs or groups it could be inconvenient for them to meet after classes. Give students a lesson or a couple of lessons (depending on the course length) to complete the project in class. And, of course, make sure you have time for project presentation.
- Demonstrate a good example.
- Assign the roles if you are not sure that students can do that on their own.
- Provide information on what plagiarism is and how to avoid it.
- Finally, give a rubric on how their work will be graded.
- Give hints on how students can improve their projects and what they can add to it throughout the course.
Here are some ideas of topics for projects that could be implemented in your class:
- Topic “Technologies”:
- An application or device that can improve people’s lives.
- Solve the problem of Internet addiction in your family (or your friend’s family).
- Topic “Ecology”
- Overpopulation: causes and results.
- Ways to overcome starvation.
- Topic “Home”
- My perfect home.
- Tour around my flat.
- Topic “Travelling”
- Plan a trip to another country
- Make a video-tour around your city
- My online (adult) students’ project: a tour around Riga
- Topic “Food”
- Create a video-recipe of your favourite dish
- The cuisine of the country of your choice
You can take any topic that could be interesting for your students. No one knows your students better than you!
Don’t be afraid to try things out. Project-based learning can qualitatively improve your students’ progress and improve their motivation.
Do you have your own well-tried ideas for projects? Share them in comments!