Using Project-Base Learning (PBL) with ESL students requires a lot of creativity and ongoing support and feedback, but it’s certainly not impossible to implement. Since ESL students learn vocabulary, language, culture and content simultaneously, PBL offers a practical opportunity for them to develop these skills while also developing their self-confidence in English. More importantly, it places the vocabulary directly in context.
Here are some ideas for projects that your students are guaranteed to love!
It’s important for students to become familiar with their local community. When language is a hindrance, ESL students can be shy or reluctant to enter certain establishments, including those that may be important for them to know!
Start by creating a map and brochure of your community. Make a list of the most important places in the area and have students order them alphabetically. Next, students need to learn where these places are located, so they can create a map. They can also research three facts about their community or give directions to a new studen
While the idea of a tea party is, admittedly, a rather British one, it can still be fun to do with ESL students. The name can also be changed to something more applicable to your area.
The basic idea is for students to choose a country or use their own, and research a popular food that could be shared at a tea party. Once they’ve chosen a food, they need to create a shopping list of the ingredients they’ll need and a recipe to make the food. They also need to work together to generate an invitation to the party, plan the decorations and other things needed for the event and create a guest list and seating chart. They can also do a brief presentation about their chosen food.
Create a Menu
Level: Beginner – Intermediate
A common favorite, this topic requires students to imagine that they are a restaurant owner in a target country or neighborhood. They will need to choose a name for their restaurant, create an authentic address, phone number, website and twitter account, and develop a menu for their restaurant. Their menu should have 3-5 categories with at least five choices per category. Each item should also be priced in the local currency of their chosen country/neighborhood and should be competitive.
This task works well with beginners or low-level students who are still dependent on formulaic language, but it can easily be adjusted to cater to higher level students who can form their own language. It’s also a good segue to role plays where the students pretend to run their restaurants, recommend daily specials and popular dishes, help their “customers” to do price conversations (if applicable) and practice an authentic situation the students will face in life.
Create Your Own Field Day
Field days are a big part of school life. They typically involve activities, games and schedules. And, like so many parts of school life, they’re a good choice for PBL. In creating their own field day, students can brainstorm games and events to play on the day. From their list of games, they can choose a specified number for which to write the rules, draw instructional diagrams and provide game information. They can also create the schedule for the day, promotional posters and a lead event.
The project not only enables students to become familiar with the activities and events of a field day, but also lets them explore the organization of activities, providing logical explanations and giving directions and advertising. It also allows them to share field day events, sports and activities from their own countries.
Create a Personal Budget
Not only will students practice essential life skills with this project, but ESL students will benefit from practicing the language used in making choices, hypothetical situations, careers and the home in addition to other aspects of grammar. This project also gets students thinking about the career they’d like to pursue.
They’ll research a variety of careers (including average salaries and qualifications), think about the type of house and car they’d like to own, their daily habits, transportation costs, etc.
Design a Library
While some may argue that libraries are becoming somewhat redundant thanks to the internet, it’s still important for students to know how to use a library. This is where this fun project fits in!
Take your students to your school library and even a local library if possible. They need to look at the layout as well as organization of the library so that they can decide what they like and dislike in a library. This is crucial for the next step.
Next, the students can design their own library space and choose the book series that they would like to include. They also need to choose magazines they’ll display at their library (while motivating all of their choices) and can design the covers. Since technology is really important, they can also select a pre-determined number of technology items and justify their choices. This can be done with all elements of a library’s contents. Think about the décor, too!
When their libraries are ready, they need to send out promotional texts, emails, tweets, etc. to encourage people to come to the newly revamped library. They can also create a website, think of technology projects or programs to offer to students in the area and show off their libraries on Instagram or other forms of social media.
Think About It
There are many options for PBL tasks with ESL students. Since most language books cover the same basic topics, the trick is to think about how these topics relate to daily life and the impact they have in our lives. From there, think about how you can relate the topics to real life. This is how you can turn almost any topic into PBL for your students, making the topics not only more interesting for your students, but also more relevant and immediately accessible.
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photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/35468136000@N01/5256361266″>little sandwiches with the crusts cut off</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
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