Why WE Love a Group Project!

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One month into the new school year and I’ve finally found some time to get back to blogging! I also happened to have just finished the first project of the year with my new first grade (high school) students. For me, the first project of the year is always an interesting one, it tells me a lot about how successful I’ve been in motivating and interesting my (600) students, as well as allowing me to really get to know their individual personalities and characteristics!

Luckily for me my first project has been an absolute success, and so, as a first post of the year, I would like to share why we (my students and I) love getting involved with a good project!

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1) It helps us all to get involved.

I have large multi-level, multi-interested (yes, I just made that up), multi-motivated (I also made that up) classes. By giving the students an opportunity to work in groups on an extensive project it helps the lower level students who struggle in class to really get involved with the work and produce something to be proud of. Regardless of the group members English level, they all need to have a role if they are to complete the project on time.

O.k. true story time, last week I had a student crying after class because she was finding life at the high school in which I work too hard. English conversation class is one of the harder subjects for her as her English ability is around 7 or 8 years behind most of her classmates, this week she was smiling and laughing with her friends in her group while they worked together to complete the project. Their work will be put on the wall by where she sits as a positive reminder of what she can achieve.


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2) It creates a supportive environment.

As described above, it gives the higher level students an opportunity and need to help the lower levels students in the aim of achieving a common goal. This is important for the rest of the course as there will always be times when students need help, and I want to encourage the students to support each other. Group projects encourage this.


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3) It is a great opportunity for positive reinforcement.

If the students do a great job it gives a really easy opportunity to provide the students with some really great feedback and rewards for good work that they will carry through for the rest of the year. It also allows me to display their work so the students can see what it is possible to achieve. When I told my students what their task was I got the usual cry “teacher, too hard”. Now there work is hanging on the wall for all to see and admire.


4) It is FUN!

Project based language learning is fun. It is active, engaging, Picturepractical and real. It provides stimulation textbooks often can’t. Plus, when everyone is working hard and contributing, we get to listen to K-pop in the background. Life just doesn’t get any better than that :-/ !!!!!!!!


5) It produces ‘real’ language.

Don’t you just love it when a student asks you ‘teacher, how do I say XXXX in English?’ to which I always reply ‘I have no idea (sometiPicturemes a lie), can you explain it in English to me?’

Project based learning allows the students to learn the language which is important to them, not the textbook. Students are also acquiring meaningful input from both their sources of information and their peers.


6) It promotes student autonomy.

Yes, I teach in Asia, YES, my students can be autonomous (expect Picturea rant about this topic soon). Projects are a wonderful excuse to hand the decision making process over to our students. They have a goal, they have a time limit, they have support, but they make the decisions.


7) It encourages creativity.

The work my students produces always blows my mind. If you teach in APicturesia and think your students can’t be creative then, well, I strongly encourage you to check out a couple of links on this website. I firmly believe all students are capable of both being creative and expressive; it is our job to help them find a way. Projects helps us do this.


8) It is adaptable and flexible.

The project can be as big or small as you want. A project can take Picture10 minutes, and entire period or an entire year. You can adapt it to fit your circumstances, curriculum and students. I am going to include some links to example project based lessons at the bottom, some are month long projects, and some are as short as twenty minutes.


What do I Mean by ‘Project’?

For those interested, I am also a huge advocate of task-based language teaching (TBLT). To try and offer some form of clarification, my use of projects differs to tasks in a couple of ways. A task usually has a pre-task, and task stage followed by some kind of feedback or review element.

A project, on the other hand, I use separately, often as an extended follow up to a task or topic based lesson. For me, a project usually lasts for at least one full period and involves the students working together to produce something. I use projects to reinforce learning that has been happening in the (usually task-based) lesson. A project involves giving the students an objective, but it is completely up to them to organise themselves.

For example, in this group project, the students’ had to produce an infographic about the class. First they had to chose a topic for their infographic, then choose categories, decide who would be in charge of each category, make questions they would ask ten people in the class, record the results and finally produce an infographic. I will upload the full lesson plan in the next day or two, but for now here are some of my students’ infographics from this lesson as well as some other products of various projects to look at.

If you have never tried using projects in your foreign language classroom I highly recommend giving it a go!

If you also use projects, what do you love/hate about them! I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below!

Don’t forget you can follow me on twitter or ‘like’ the AlienTeachers’ facebook page using the buttons at the very top to keep updated with AlienTeachers!

Winter Sports

Comments

sedick sadien
03/04/2013 06:35

I simply like your articles

Reply
Alex (AlienTeachers)
03/04/2013 19:00

Hi Sedick,

I’m really glad you enjoy reading my articles. Is there anything in particular you like about them?

Thanks again for the positive feedback, it’s really appreciated,

Alex

Reply
purpleHand
04/04/2013 23:42

‘teacher, how do I say XXXX in English?’

HAHAHA!!!! I laughed out real loud.
Yes, I work at a very quiet office and everyone stared at me.

Reply
Alex (AlienTeachers)
04/04/2013 23:58

haha, I’m glad I gave you a laugh 😀 Ye, I certainly get some interesting translation conversations going, especially from my high school boys!

BTW, for some reason it won’t let me reply to your other comment on the ’10 myths’ blog, not sure why! I’m not ignoring you though and appreciate the comment 🙂

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