Project based learning or PBL is something that my colleague (Machi Nakamura) and I have been working to incorporate with our lessons. While challenged by the minimum amount of contact time, PBL has helped keep students engaged and allowed for differentiation within the classroom. A project requirements could be adjusted in order to accommodate the needs and abilities of learners on both ends of the spectrum.
While Challenged Based Learning is an exciting approach to learning, I see this being more applicable to older students with more sophisticated language ability.
Looking closer at the application of PBL in the language classroom, I was happily surprised to find that a Japanese language teacher won the ACTFL Teacher of the Year Award. Yo Azama shows the viewer how he scaffolds the lesson and activities to provide meaningful practice. Looking closer at Azama-sensei’s presentation notes, the reader can see the additional resources that support the students for their culminating project of creating a brochure and video.
Teaching Foreign Languages Library clip
What is essential, “is establishing the learning atmosphere, how the class feels.” Instead of generating rules with her students, she invites them to “generate tendencies, [and] positive ways to be together.”
“They (students) suggest that they want each other to be nice, honest, respectful, patient; to have integrity and perseverance; to be safe to make mistakes and safe to share their views.” She adds one more quality to the list: “It’s important to play.”
In the classroom, I too have found that creating the culture is key to increasing student achieve. I strive to have my students feel…
- safe to take risks and make mistakes without fear of what people will say
- open enough to be able to share their personal stories in a foreign language in front of the entire class
Telephone pizza order
Another project that was a first this year had students “act out” the telephone pizza order in the Common Craft style. While it was not required, I recommended for the students to try creating their “skit” in this new style. I showed a Common Craft video (in Japanese) and then helped guide them along with the video creation process using simple story boarding, a digital camera, and Movie Maker. The students were excited and worked hard to create a finished product that could be shared with the class and other classes.
As always, any feedback is welcome.