Number one for English language teachers

Editorial: Focus on projects

Type: Article

In July's editorial, Keith Kelly draws our attention to a vast array of project work to keep young minds busy in the summer months.

Dear colleagues,

We provide everything you need for project work in the classroom right here in one place!

Defining projects
There are a number of definitions of ‘project work’ on the internet. One of them suggests that project work generally requires more time, more effort and more independent work than normal. While I’d agree that project work does have students doing more independent work, I’d take issue with the first two points. A project can be a five-minute activity or one that takes a whole term. A project is also an opportunity for motivating learners. For me, project work should be fun, student-focused, curriculum-focused and structured, and help students develop integrated skills.

When I do project work with my students I always follow the above principles. I start by looking at the content curriculum because you can guarantee that you’ll find a wealth of ideas for getting students working on a project where they can develop their language AND consolidate what they are doing in other subjects they are studying. For example, I might ask myself what my students are doing in their science class this month and take a look at the curriculum guidelines or the class science textbook and see if there is an area of the content which I take a fancy to or one which I feel confident dealing with in my language classes.

Getting started on projects
The National Curriculum Guidelines for the UK are a good place to look for ideas on the whole range of subjects your students will be learning at any given moment. Also, why not ask your students? Road safety in Bulgaria* is always a concern for parents and young people in my classes. In fact, Bulgaria is one of few countries Europe with a year-on-year increase in deaths on the roads caused by traffic. Project work was the perfect opportunity to explore this issue with students: we measured speed reaction times of students, we looked at news stories involving celebrities, and much more.

This month’s Business Spotlight news lesson, Specialist or generalist?, has students discuss career directions with activities that include embarking on a project.

Project methodology
Lindsay Clandfield gives us a thorough grounding in the nuts and bolts of setting up effective projects for students to do during summer schools. Even if you’re not a summer schools teacher, this is a good place to go for quick ideas on how to get started. Another place to go for essential information with a range of ideas on different media to use in project work are the reference pages for working with teenagers on projects. On top of all that, there is a whole section dedicated entirely to summer school resources which has been updated this month.

Project work for young learners
If your learners are studying habitats in geography, for example, or food chains in biology, take a look at Carol Reed’s Amazing world of animals project for wonderful ideas for getting students to produce an e-zine on animals. The lessons are accompanied by a project map, which offers aims and outcomes, but also lists the thinking skills, key phrases and vocabulary used in each branch of the project work. The latest lesson in the project is on animal life cycles.

Animal vocabulary and new verbs of movement can be practised with lesson share winner Fari Greenaway’s speaking lesson on Animals and endangered species.

A word from the project experts
To get an insider’s perspective, I’d recommend reading the interview with Dr Lida Schoen. Lida describes her work on the project Young Ambassadors for Chemistry with the World Chemistry Organisation and also with the programme of Science projects in Science Across the World, which Lida reviews for us. Science Across the World gets schools to partner up in projects and exchange their students’ work in a process of intercultural communication through the medium of science – and all in a foreign language.

Internet research projects
Much of the communication our students experience these days is electronic so let’s make the most of it and develop their information-finding, comprehension, selection and application skills through Webquests like this Water Webquest, where students survey their own and their family’s usage of water. If you combine this with a class exchange through Science Across the World, you’ll have a ready-made audience for your students’ work. Survey work can provide a great context for grammar too! The Fun with grammar section this month has a new board game practising frequency adverbs. Ideal for talking about the habits and routines in the survey information students collect!

Mapping projects
The Interactive Atlas, which was published last month, is complemented this month by a resource focusing on key language to develop when using the atlas in class. If you’re interested in history and maps, be sure to look at Christoph Suter’s lessons on The Roman Empire, which get students to compare historical maps with modern ones. Take a look also at the resources on ancient Egypt, which have a long list of websites for project work.

Project apprenticeships
Take Austrian IT and Marketing students, English language learning, and gadget inventions and what do you get? You get a mini-project lesson* based on Alan Sugar and the Apprentice, where students are asked to dream up a new invention, create a presentation for it and pitch it to the class in one minute. If it isn’t impressive, they get the sack!

One young lady who might fail to impress is Amy, the young inventor in this month's Selections story, The science fair gadget by Ian Thomson, which is published with a complete lesson plan and worksheets by Adrian Tennant.

So, if you’re looking for a five-minute project, a lesson to fill, summer school project activities or a school exchange project based on the curriculum, we’ve got everything you need on onestop.

Enjoy and let us know what you get up to in your projects!
Best wishes,
Keith


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