“We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers.”
—Carl Sagan, Cosmos
In addition to Lessons, Flashcards, and extra Resources, ESL Library is now developing project-based learning (PBL) modules. You’ll find these materials in our Group Projects section under the category Reading & Discovery.
There are many ways to use ESL Library’s projects. You can use them as inspiration or templates for creating your own projects, or you can follow the step-by-step modules provided. Whatever you do, don’t feel the need to follow the guidelines too closely! After all, project-based learning (PBL) is all about putting your students in the driver’s seat.
Here are some of the key components of PBL that our team took into account when developing ESL Library’s first few Group Projects.
1. A Driving Question
Project-based learning (sometimes called problem-based learning) is inquiry based. While every project should start with a driving question, encourage your students to adapt and answer it based on their own interests and needs. As the teacher, your job is to get your students excited about the topic. Can you find a related video, article, or guest speaker that can get their minds buzzing?
Here’s a video we recommended as an intro to our Peace Project, which some teachers will introduce on International Day of Peace (Sept 21).
2. Real-World Tasks
One of the main reasons to learn and do research in a group is to practice working towards a common goal. During the group project, your students will have to work through several steps in order to complete their assignment. Make sure that they are practicing a variety of everyday language skills that we use at work, home, and in our communities, such as negotiating, persuading, and evaluating. ESL Library’s group projects focus on the 4 C’s (Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication, and Creativity).
In our Earth Summit Project, students prioritize the earth’s environmental problems. They develop a budget (and practice expressing percentages in English) for addressing the most significant ones.
3. A Finished Product
Throughout the project, students should be working on an end product (video, poster, skit, etc.). In the ESL context, you may want your students to create something that showcases all of their language skills, including listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Each student in the group should have the opportunity to contribute in an equal capacity. Encourage your students to explore each other’s strengths and weaknesses. See Shelly Terrell’s tips on ideas for students to present their knowledge.
In our Public Health Project, students develop a campaign to promote a new WHO day similar to World AIDS Day that promotes awareness about the health concern they are researching.
4. Opportunities for Assessment
Projects provide many different opportunities for assessment, including formative and summative assessment. When it comes to assessment, your students will appreciate it if you are attentive throughout the process rather than just at the end. Keep a close watch on the groups, and have regular check-ins to make sure all of the groups and members are on track to meet their deadlines. You may want to assess your students individually and in groups. Peer and self-evaluation should also be part of the process.
Look for useful Assessment Tools that you can personalize in our Resources section.
5. An Audience
Just like in the real world, your students should have a goal that goes beyond getting a final mark from the teacher. Naturally, the whole class can be the audience, but other students and teachers as well as parents and neighbors can be invited to the presentations too. Holding an open house or exhibit to show off your completed projects is always fun and is a great way to ensure high-quality work. Again, make sure that your students are involved with every detail, from creating posters or newsletters to planning refreshments and welcoming guests.
Don’t be afraid to give PBL a try! Project-based learning is new for us too. We’ll be adapting our theme-based materials and adding new types of projects (with different types of end products) as we build up this section. Thank you for all of your feedback and requests.