Where can I find projects for English classes?... Right here!

Project-Based Learning

and Cooperative Learning

for English as a foreign language by Bob Wilson at autoenglish.org

Projects for English class How to make great groups A little theory
PROJECTS (in  Powerpoint  and Word)
These projects are for educational purposes only. You download them by clicking on the images or titles. You may then change them to suit your particular class projects.
Make your own comic Project
Project Make a Comic PPT (click to dl)
Write Poems Project
In teams, students learn how to write an acrostic, an "I am" poem and a poem with a rhyming scheme. I have used this project twice now to great effect. At the end of the word document there is an assessment rubric.
Write Poems Project (click to dl)
Teenage Problems Discussion
Teenage Problems Discussion PPT
Assessment rubric for the discussion docx
Personality Types Presentation
This project is for older students, say from 15 to adults. They will have to do research so access to internet is important.
Personality Types Presentation PPT
Opening a Restaurant Project
This project is a lot of fun and goes down very well with teenagers aged from 14 to 15 years old.
Opening a restaurant docx
New Technologies Survey
This project is especially good for inner-city schools where the class can spend an hour in the town square talking to tourists.
New technologies Survey docx
More Projects to come
I willl be adding more tried and tested ideas for project-based learning as I get the time.
Comments and Suggestions
Please use the autoenglish facebook page to share your ideas or if you have any questions.

INTERESTING VIDEOS
Happy Schools
Sir Ken Robinson
This is the fellow leading the revolution in education. Watch all his talks, He's also very funny.
Do schools kill creativity?
This is the most watched TED talk ever. 10 million views no less!
Changing the paradigm.
14 million views!
PROJECT-BASED LEARNING
COOPERATIVE LEARNING
This is a very relaxing explanation.
 
 

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION TO PBL & COOPERATIVE LEARNING

Projects for class are back! The latest research in education now clearly indicates that learning in groups can get excellent results. Amazing people backing this trend include Sir Ken Robinson, truly a knight in shining armour and Elon Musk, current world genius No.1.

What is wrong with the traditional classroom?
-The traditional classroom principally teaches people how to sit still in silence for 6 hours a day.
What jobs and professions demand that skill? Not many.
-Within 7 days of taking an exam we have forgotten 80% of what we have studied.
Want proof? See Hermann Ebbinghaus's Curve of Forgetting.
What's so good about project-based learning?
-Students learn skills companies really need:
How to work in a team.
Leadership skills
They develop their creativity and learn to think outside the box.
They see that new knowledge means new possibilities.
They learn by discovery and sharing and so become both independent learners and team players at the same time.
They quickly develop IT skills such as search engine skills and presentation and video-making techniques.
-Because working in groups is fun, learning becomes an emotional experience and so new knowledge is retained. This is what the research says:
Emotionally charged classes are remembered better.
Pleasant emotions are generally remembered better than unpleasant ones.
Positive memories contain more contextual details which helps the memory.
It's the emotions, not the information, that helps us remember.
We pay attention better in a class which is also an emotional experience.
Indeed, our attention  is activated by various kinds of emotional arousal.
Emotion helps the memory at encoding, consolidation, and retrieval.
(For more info visit Dr Mc Pherson's website here.)
-Meaningful learning takes place.
This means that what they are learning is connected to what they already know. This is in stark contrast to our typical textbooks which divide knowledge into discrete units which have nothing or very little to do with one another.
How to form successful groups. (Cooperative learning)
What tends to go wrong.
-In groups made up of friends, students have a great time but underperform.
-Groups contain freeloaders who contribute very little but reap the rewards of others.
Optimum group composition.
-Most sources claim that groups of four generally work best. If groups are bigger, freeloaders may go undetected and get the free ride they were looking for. A freeloader is a student who is simply unmotivated. We need to find ways to motivate them!
-Mixed sex groups generally outperform single sex groups. So for a group of four, we are looking at two females and two males for optimum performance. Check it out in the field.
-Groups of mixed ability generally function at optimum levels.
Different people have different strengths - this is shown by what we now know about multiple-intelligences.
 I once worked with a group of four students with very high logic or mathematical intelligence. They were delighted to be together but when it came to using their imaginations for putting together a project they had tremendous diffiulties.
Many methodologies recommend that each group contains: one person who achieves high grades in English, one student who has difficulties with the subject and two average performance students.
one student who achieves high grades in English
one student who has difficulties with the subject
two students with average grades in English
This is a magic formula no less and provides the best environment for peer learning and teaching to occur. It is in fact party time for our students' metacognitive skills. They will learn how to exteriorize their ideas and difficulties and discuss and set goals and outcomes both for themselves and their group.
-Mixed cognitive learning styles
In learning theory there is a continuum called extrovert introvert learning styles. Extrovert style learners are described as "learning best by talking and interacting with others". Introverted types prefer quiet reflection and privacy and process information by exploring ideas and concepts internally. (Read more here.)
I have found it very useful to find out where students lie on this continuum and then make sure each group contains two extrovert style learners and two introvert style learners.
To find out, students answer the following questionnaire:

learning styles questionnaire

This is a word document you may alter and share at your will. I have squeezed three questionnaires onto one page in order to save photocopies.
Make sure students know that the results are just an indication which students may perfectly refute and reject.
So, each group or team should contain:
one female student with an extrovert learning style
one female student with an introvert learning style
one male student with an extrovert learning style
one male student with an introvert learning style
-Assigning Roles
One way to help motivate students in a group and to allow them to develop themselves as autonomous learners is to assign a role to each student. This measure also encourages freeloaders to take part as they have nowhere to hide. Everybody has clearly defined roles. In my classes I have tried to relate assigned roles to every student's particular strength and cognitive learning style.
Bob Wilson's Group Roles Julián Sanz Mamolar's Roles Juan Carlos Palomino's Roles
Boss Leader Coordinator
Secretary Timekeeper Supervisor
Boffin Recorder Observer
Spokesperson Scribe Spokesperson
By comparing all the marks my classes obtained over a term, I found that the best performing groups had the following composition:
Boss = Female with an extrovert learning style
Secretary = Female with an introvert learning style and strong English skills
Boffin = Male with an introvert learning style
Spokesperson = Male with an extrovert learning style and strong English skills
 
These are the tasks I gave to each role for a project which involved making a presentation.

Below is my latest idea for assigning roles in groups of four. I have drawn from personality and learning style frameworks, lean management and first principles thinking. Lean management defines processes which should occur in companies in order to achieve successful outcomes. I have included the Japanese terms and their approximate translation. I have used first principles thinking  as advocated by Elon Musk in order to try to work out what are the four essential roles for a successful group of four people and I have added their functions. I have used a cell structure in order to show that all players are bound by a shared responsibility for the success of the team.

Notice that I have dispensed the terms 'boss' and 'boffin'. 'Boss' is a rank and I want all members to feel that they have equal status. 'Boffin' is not an insult but it means something like 'nerd'. 'Expert' is a positive word. 'Communicator' is more both for internal and external communication and therefore more complete than 'spokesperson'. Again, 'producer' is a more powerful role than 'secretary', 'supervisor' or 'timekeeper'. It has strong connotations to do with the movie business and companies.
Evaluation
A contract
-Students need to be aware that in order for group work to be worth it, they have to respect the rules and take it seriously.
Students also need to see you walking around with a clipboard in your hand. Does wonders. Here is an editable work doc you may download for the purpose:

Project Observation Sheet

Rubrics
-Rubrics are a great way to evaluate students because you get a description of their progress as well as a mark. Download the following rubric and adjust it to your needs:

Rubric for Project-Based Learning

I used this rubric for a documentary-making project so you will need to change the criteria being evaluated and the descriptors. I have squeezed three rubrics per page to cut down on photocopying expenses and environmental impact.
I now use Google sheets to evaluate my students' project work. It means I don't have to use paper anymore. You can access a template here:

Rubric on a Google Drive Spreadsheet for Project-Based Learning

What should we be evaluating?
As with everything, I am continuously considering this and I have a strong hunch that we are doing it all wrong. First principles thinking says we should be evaluating skills that our students are going to need when they go out into the world and hopefully find fulfilling and prosperous functions in the societies of their times. I stumbled across this list of skills
According to the World Economic Forum, the skills required of our young people for the year 2020 in the labour market are the following:
1. Complex problem solving
2. Critical thinking
3. Creativity
4. People management
5. Coordinating with others
6. Emotional intelligence
7. Judgment and Decision making
8. Service Orientation
9. Negotiation
10. Cognitive Flexibility
Link to World Economic Forum here.
My feeling is that we should be moving towards helping our students require the above listed skills.
I will finish now with a quote from a marvellous expert in education called Jerome Bruner who recently passed away at the age of 100!
“I’m becoming increasingly convinced that the powers of mind reach their fullness not simply in accumulation – in what we come to know – but rather in what we can do with what we know, how we are enabled to frame possibilities beyond the conventions of the present, to forge possible worlds.” Jerome Bruner.
 

 

 

 

   

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