6 Tips for Using Project-Based Learning in the Classroom
There are many reasons for English language teachers to assign projects. First of all, project-based learning stimulates collaboration between the students. We’re teaching the same things to all students in the class, but not all of them understand equally. Thanks to the collaboration triggered by project-based learning, the “helpless” students get inspired by the “helpful” students. Such differentiation is quite beneficial as a teaching method.
The main point of projects in the classroom is triggering the students’ creativity and interest to learn. That’s how teachers see it. Students, however, see it a bit differently. Stress., expectations. anxiety. grades., those are the things they associate with projects.
How can you turn that around? Is there a way to make the students excited about project-based learning in the classroom? Here are 6 tips that will get you there.
Set Goals and Make Them Visible
Before you assign a project for your learners, there are few goals you should define. For example, let’s say you expect them to think of a short story and present it through a comic. The goals you set should be:
How do you know they’ve achieved the goals? You need to set deadlines and evaluate the progress of the project. For example, each participant should think of their own character within two days. By the end of day 5, the plot should be ready. You’ll give them 5 more days to complete the story, and 5 more days to turn it into a comic. Then, you’ll set the date for a presentation.
Your students should know exactly what final goal they should meet with the project. However, they should also be aware of the smaller goals that lead towards that big achievement.
Make sure to set goals that are within the range of each student in your class. If you impose an overwhelming challenge, no one will enjoy the project.
You want to make the project timetable visible for your students. You can create it in your calendar app and share it with your students, or you can draw a huge poster that you’ll hang on the wall. Give them reminders before the mini-goal deadlines, so every team will be on track.
Think of an Engaging Topic
The project’s topic is the main factor that makes students interested to complete it. Project-based learning is based on solving a particular problem or question. If you ask your students to explore passive language throughout literature, they won’t like the project. If, however, you ask them to find examples of passive language in The Hunger Games or another book they all love, you’ll awaken their interest.
English language learners are often interested in American and British culture and society. You can think of countless topics from those areas. You can ask them to explore clothing styles throughout history, traditional festivals in different areas, or the differences in the laws.
Before you assign a project, see how your students react to different topic suggestions. Allow them to ask their own questions. If their questions are intriguing enough, you can turn them into prompts for the project.
Remember: the question should have more than one right answer. If you ask a direct question, such as “when was the Magna Carta signed?” – you won’t have a good foundation for research and critical/creative thinking.
Don’t Forget to Guide Them
Bill Richards, educational expert from BestEssays explains that many students get stuck with the projects because they don’t get the needed guidance. “Project-based learning is easy for the teacher when they give an extensive assignment and sit back, waiting for the results. Yes, the students need flexibility to explore their ideas, but they also need guidance. The teacher should monitor the way they approach and accomplish the goals. They should identify each student’s weaknesses and offer assistance.”
Your role as a teacher is important. Ask how things are going and maintain frequent interaction regarding the project. You need to clarify that you’re not grading them when you’re asking them to share updates. You just want to facilitate the process and help them get better results. They should feel comfortable asking for advice whenever they get stuck.
Relate the Project to Real-World Situations
What exactly will your students gain if they succeed with this project? Sure, they will learn a lot of details about the topic you chose but, how will this process make them better at English? How will it help them use the language in the real world?
Do you know why most students hate to write? They don’t see the point. They don’t see how the topic related to American history will help them order food at an American restaurant. That’s why you need to make actual connections between their goals and the topics you assign. Explain that each successful completion of a project leads to better grammar and vocabulary. Plus, the information they learn can make a great conversation starter.
Publish the Projects
Blogging is a huge trend among English language teachers. You can use that method as part of project-based learning. Create a classroom blog and start publishing each project your students complete. They will be able to learn from each other’s effort and engage in discussions.
You can take things even further: promote that blog on social media and invite people to check out the publications. When your students realize that many people will have access to their work, they will try harder.
Teachers often skip this step. They are happy when the projects are complete, and they give the grades. Reflecting, however, is the most important stage. What did your students learn from this project? When you give them a chance to reflect on the things they’ve learned, did they see the point in making all that effort.
Ask them what they would do differently, what obstacles they faced, and what were the highlights of the process. This should be a relaxed, insightful discussion that will help them do better with future projects.
Were you trying to find a way to make project-based learning more interesting for your students? The tips above should help. Do you have any experiences to share? What projects can English language teachers assign to engage their students?
Author’s bio: Karen Dikson is a teacher and blogger from New Jersey. Her works have been published on several well-known resources, including HuffingtonPost. Karen finds her inspiration in writing and traveling.