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PBL ideas for secondary ESL classroom

  • 1.  PBL ideas for secondary ESL classroom

    Posted 28-10-2017 15:42
    Hello!  I am trying to change the way I teach ESL to my high school students.  I want to begin a project based lesson that will engage my students, and I'm having trouble coming up with a great topic that is broad enough for the students to find something they find interesting and engaging.  The idea I'm currently working with is, "How might we help immigrants and refugees new to our community navigate their new lives?"  I am planning ways to incorporate technology, reading, writing, listening and speaking activities to the projects that my students create to answer this question.  I'd love ideas or feedback!

    Andie Merkowitz
    ESL Teacher
    Minuteman High School, Lexington, MA

  • 2.  RE: PBL ideas for secondary ESL classroom

    Posted 29-10-2017 06:59

    I designed a highly engaging PBL experience around the topic of immigration which I have facilitated with newcomers as well as with students whose ancestors arrived long ago. Students construct their family's immigration stories using hand-painted papers and write to their sequence of images. They create stunning and often poignant published books. You can take a peek at some of the student work on my website by clicking on the link below  then, click on Videos on the sidebar. Once you get to the videos page, scroll down to the bottom where you will find two links under Coming to America. While the project was filmed in classrooms at the elementary level, the process works with students at all grade levels. In fact, when I offer teacher workshops, I am told it the project is equally powerful for adult learners.
    Please let me know if you have any questions. Welcome to the Picturing Writing and Image-Making Web Site
    Picturingwriting remove preview
    Welcome to the Picturing Writing and Image-Making Web Site
    View this on Picturingwriting >

    Abdullah shares collage about the car bombing he witnessed when he was 4 years old

    Beth Olshansky
    Center for the Advancement of Art-Based Literacy/UNH Durham, NH

  • 3.  RE: PBL ideas for secondary ESL classroom

    Posted 29-10-2017 09:09
    Hello Andie,
    Great idea to use PBL! I do that all the time. I find the best way to the great idea is to find out what the class is going to get excited about. At the beginning of my semester, I always play a game where the students have to share two really cool interesting things about themselves...something they love... something they are good at... something they are passionate about. This helps me to find the topic that they will get excited about. You would be surprised to hear what really interests them. I find it is too easy to fall into the trap of assuming that they are all immigrants so that they will all be interested in "immigrant" things. It kind of pigeon holes them. They are teenagers and are usually very passionate about things that normal teens are passionate about. They are not usually interested in topics that make them feel anymore different than they already feel. I think if you want to stay with the topic of helping...take out the immigrant or refugee reference and make it how do we help those who are new to our community navigate their new lives. Better yet...see what they are passionate about. If it is mostly music...have them write, create, produce a music video that has a message. If not music...may be they can write and publish a small newspaper (maybe 2-4 pages long). It can be a video one or one they can publish on a blog.
    I hope this helps you. Keep up the good ideas!

    Judy Wong
    United States

  • 4.  RE: PBL ideas for secondary ESL classroom

    Posted 31-10-2017 16:01
    Hello Andie.
       It is a good thing to talk about here and i do really appreciate the topic. As a matter of fact, i teach ESL learners in a setting where my learners do behave as though they were immigrants or refugees whereas English is an official Language in Cameroon;coincidentally your project directly concerns me because i teach in a  purely francophone Government Technical High School.
       However, i do use all the language skills which are: Listening Reading Writing and Speaking ;but the issue is how to use them effectively to help bring learners to use the language correctly more or less. The beggining was very challenging because i used to bring authentic materials to school (real objects) to demonstrate;relate them to real life situation. Behold i used to do this in form of games. So i used to do it thus; after displacing the objects,i pick them up one ofter the other and ask the learners to tell me how they are called and what they are used for. It was so wonderful because learners could tell what they see and how they are used. At one point,i discovered that it was a little difficult to bring them each time to school and i decided to go for little story books containing picture. That is how i managed to transform majority of them.

       So i would  recommend you try create small presentation groups ;give them topics to work on prior to the next class and make them perform that on stage. Another way of bringing them to engage could be through drama because it is going to help them as far as dialogue is concerned.

       In conclusion , i think we can bring learners of ESL to engage and navigate easilly in our societies by presenting to them authentic materials, creating forums that would cause them to interact with each other. Also i would propose that you bring some young Natives speakers English to go interact with them once in a while if possible. Again, you could always organize exchange programs with some students and schools to go spend time with them. I have this strong conviction that by so doing, they are going to be inquisitive and they would also like to make friends as a result,they would breakthrough the language barrier. It is quite challenging but it is also challengeable.

    Aloysius Tegomoh from Yaounde Cameroon.
    Teaching English in G.T.H.S ESSE Center Region.

    Aloysius Tegomoh

  • 5.  RE: PBL ideas for secondary ESL classroom

    Posted 01-11-2017 11:36
    Wanted to send a quick thought on the PBL idea. I'm trying to incorporate this as well, and found that to get the students started in what I hope was the right direction, for the first quarter I asked them to introduce themselves. I left it up to the students how they did it, though they had a loose rubric of items to be included. It was amazing what I got in response - raps, poster presentations, power points, a movie, songs, etc. The students went crazy with their creative, and I learned a lot. From these initial projects, I also got a better idea of who they were and what interested them, so I feel like the next round of projects I have a better grasp on possible topics.

    I would recommend giving them choices, in topics and responses, so that they have a lot of latitude to show you how clever they are.

    Jana Moore, Ph.D.
    ELL Coordinator
    Moanalua High School

  • 6.  RE: PBL ideas for secondary ESL classroom

    Posted 29-10-2017 10:18
    Good morning,
    Great idea to use project based learning.  Is your topic of interest to your students?

    Background:  last night I had a conversation with my senior in high school grandson.  First was the subject of computer coding, which educations are pushing, but my grandson saw no value in learning to code.  I also recently took a class in coding.  Second was what the majority of his friends, many of whom are former ESL students, are doing.  The young people are joining the military so they can get help with college.
    Conclusion educators may see the shortage of qualified computer programmers in the near future and teach coding in high school.  Young people see the military as a means to an end; college education and a better future.
    Application to your topic choice:  do you high school students see anything for them in your topic choice?
    Personally, I do not know enough resources to help an immigrant or a refuge although I may feel great emphathy for them.

    Do you students know the 'unwritten' rules of culture? As looking someone in the eyes when speaking? Shaking hands vs giving a kiss- used in both France and Spain-?

    I wish you well.

    Peggy Latham
    ESL Teacher
    Elko County School District

  • 7.  RE: PBL ideas for secondary ESL classroom

    Posted 29-10-2017 10:53
    Hi Andie,
    PBL is great for high school ESL students. Good luck with your efforts! If this is a topic your students are interested in (and giving them choice is always a plus), then a slew of ideas come to mind.

    1. Interviews ideas:
    Ss interview former new arrivals and/or their parents to find out what they wished they had learned, or learned sooner.
    Ss interview current new arrivals (in their home language) about what they want to know.
    Ss interview staff at school to find out what would be helpful for new Ss to know.

    2. Project ideas:
    A travel brochure for your community: What are the must-sees? What's the weather, transportation like?
    A poster for the school entry hall welcoming new arrivals and pointing out key features of the school.
    Starting a "student ambassadors" club where designated students learn to introduce the school and program and take new Ss on a tour of school.
    A video talking about the school and community that Ss create, perhaps speaking in some of the multiple languages of your new arrivals.
    Like at a museum, an audio tour of the school and/or community, with brief explanations of the room, building, organization, historical site, etc. (podcasts)
    Lining up a guest speakers series where individuals from school (like those who sponsor extracurricular clubs) and from community (like those representing health or social services) come and talk with new arrivals but have their "speech" and visual aids vetted by your students first for comprehensibility.
    Field trips (maybe after school or on Sat) to community locations where your Ss introduce the new Ss to key places in town or even how to navigate the local transportation.

    So just a few quick thoughts, Andie. I'm sure others in our community will have many more. It sounds like your Ss are in for fun and language learning!
    Write back in a few months and tell us how it went.
    Deborah Short
    ESL Researcher

    Deborah Short
    Academic Language Research & Training

  • 8.  RE: PBL ideas for secondary ESL classroom

    Posted 29-10-2017 12:02
    Sounds like a great topic to me! I'd also suggest, having the students to submit on pieces of paper or three-by-five cards, with no name, ideas they'd like to cover. That way you will have more student participation because it's something they are really interested in. Then you can make the final selection or selections from the topics submitted, and maybe even have different groups working on different topics for the project.

    [Lisa] [Porter] [MBA, TESOL Cert.]
    [ESL Instructor]
    Independent Language Consultant
    [Gwinnett Technical College]

  • 9.  RE: PBL ideas for secondary ESL classroom

    Posted 29-10-2017 12:43
    What a great idea! Here's what popped into my head when I read your post: There is a YA book called Outcasts United: the story of a refugee soccer team that changed a town by Warren St. John. It might be very inspirational reading for your students. Along with that I came across a bunch of related materials (see links below), including a TED Talk by the coach, and some news videos about the team. Apparently there is also a full-length movie. I found a study guide for the book, and two different sets of lesson plans that include projects related to the book. And maybe an even bigger project could come out of the book if you have a Welcome Center or Multicultural Center in your town, they could find ways to volunteer or share their time and talents. Another interesting book is The Immigrant Advantage: What we can learn from newcomers to America about health, happiness, and hope by Claudia Kolker. Any one of its chapters might inspire a project for your class.

    Best wishes on your project. I'm looking forward to hearing what others suggest, and I hope you'll report back on your progress, whatever you decide to do.

    TED Talk: Don't feel sorry for refugees – believe in them.


    Fugees – Part one


    Fugees – Part two


    Study Guide for Outcasts United


    Lesson Plans for Outcasts United


    College level lesson plans for Outcasts Unitited


    Outcasts United: An American Town, a Refugee Team, and One Woman's Quest to Make a Difference, - Adult version


    Movie trailer


    Melinda Sayavedra

  • 10.  RE: PBL ideas for secondary ESL classroom

    Posted 29-10-2017 13:30
    I am familiar with you great school. Former students (from Belmont) of mine have attended the school and have had wonderful experiences and outcomes. I think you have many opportunities for project based learning.  I would love to brainstorm with you about things you could do.  If you don't mind I prefer not to do this on line but perhaps later we share what we came up with on line with this group. What I suggest is that we speak on the phone or meet (I live a town boarding Lexington) and I work in another town within 10-15 miles from your school.  I work in a high school now too.
    Thank you, Kathy Lobo
    ESL Teacher, Newton South High School, Newton Massachusetts

    Katherine Lobo
    ESL Teacher

  • 11.  RE: PBL ideas for secondary ESL classroom

    Posted 03-12-2017 13:49
    I encourage you to think more broadly. Pull back and present the standards of the content they need to master, and or a topic for the project. Students then frame a guiding question and create a project provides evidence that they have addressed the question.  This may be historical research, an experiment, a debate, a video, a poster, etc. The possibilities for evidence are endless.

    This cannot be considered project-based learning if you pose the question and they execute the project you have created. The markers of pbl are student voice and choice. Students are driving their learning, they are in the center. Teachers are on the sidelines, coaching their learning.


    Donna M. Neary
    Louisville, KY