Using Project-Based Learning to Teach World Languages
The world may be small and flat, but it is also multilingual and multicultural, and it is becoming increasingly interconnected as time progresses. As a result, cross-cultural communication skills are becoming increasingly important for mutual understanding and cooperation – how’s that for some alliteration?! Increasingly, our students’ need for the ability to communicate with their peers, both domestically and internationally, grows with each passing day! As a result of the rise of global culture, the borders separating our countries are becoming less significant. My definition of who my neighbor is has shifted as a result of this. Now, we are no longer cut off from the events taking place around the world. Recent events have demonstrated this to be true quite effectively! There are numerous examples for everyone on the planet. We need to be able to communicate effectively and efficiently across the thousands of kilometers that separate us.
The essentials are constantly in the forefront of my mind, as is the case with other World Language teachers, to create a standards-driven, communication-centered curriculum for my students. I am also interested in addressing the necessary skills students must acquire for the twenty-first century, as outlined in a wonderful document from the Carnegie Institute, which can be found at http://www.p21.org/index.html. What is the best way to determine whether or not I have achieved my desired result? authentic assessments for evaluating target language proficiency while also providing opportunities for greater engagement, working in collaborative teams, developing critical thinking skills, managing limited time and resources, emphasizing global themes, as well as preparing students to take the new AP French exam, which will be offered to start next year! On top of that, I want them to be able to use the wonderful technological tools that are now available to them effectively. Does this sound familiar? As teachers, we put in a lot of effort! It’s really difficult! Yes, monsieur, it is extremely difficult!
The Rationale for PBL
To bring it all together, I’ve come to project-based learning as an alternative. Taking part in projects allows students to engage in real-life communication in a variety of settings, with real people, and from around the world. According to the California World Languages Standards, and the fluency stages of the Language Learning Continuum, which can be found in chapter 2 of the California World Languages Framework, I try to align my projects with the standards. It is also important for me to remember 21st Century skills in addition to those from ACTFL, as well as the many things I have learned about literacy and cross-cultural issues during my time in the United States. I’ve discovered that the projects address all of these issues and even more. I’ve made an effort to ensure that they also provide students with the opportunity to be creative and to explore their own potentials and aspirations, among other things. It’s a lot of fun to watch something like this in action. What about some real-world examples?
Stage 1 Fluency Example: The Menu Project
During this project, students take on the role of a restaurant owner who is tasked with developing and designing a menu for his or her restaurant, which will be located in one of the target language countries of the world. All authentic dishes from the target culture of their choice within the Francophone world must be included on their menus, which must include at least five categories and twenty-five items. They must choose an appropriate name, establish an address, phone number, website, and Twitter account name that are consistent with examples they find on the internet of authentic restaurants in the target culture, and then market their establishment. It is necessary for their menu items to be priced in the local currency and converted in a way that is appropriate for the target culture. The students then give a speech, either in small groups or in front of the entire class, in which they address the group as if they were a restaurant owner, making recommendations for good dishes, specialty items, and so on. They must say at least 15 sentences and can choose to present life or via a video conferencing system. For the menu and the speech, I have rubrics, and I’m looking for Stage 1 fluency, which is formulaic language and sentence structure (memorized chunks of discourse combined with lists of works). I’ve found that the kids gain a great deal of knowledge about a country of their choosing while also having a great time being creative!
Stage 2 Fluency Example: The Children’s Story Book
Stage two fluency is referred to as “created language” in this context. This stage is based on the premise that students take the formulae that they have learned so well in stage one and combine them to form sentences that they have written themselves. Rather than being memorized sound bites that are returned in the same formula, these statements are individualized, self-directed expressions of thoughts and ideas that are directed by the speaker. Although the sentences are frequently complex, they do not contain subordinate clauses of the type that would necessitate the use of specialized verb forms. They also do not have to be arranged in a specific order to make sense – if we were to rearrange them, they would still make just as much sense as they did in the original arrangement. This means that the sentences in each list have no significance other than as a grouping of related sentences.
I’ve created a project to assess this level of fluency, which I’ve dubbed the Story Book project, to measure it. Students create a group of characters who live in one of the countries where the target language is spoken. As if the main character were narrating his life from the perspective of a five-year-old, the authors write the story (which requires the imperfect tense in French). In the following section, the students describe a significant event that occurred in the character’s life, such as his first day of school, as well as the events that transpired during that day (which necessitates the use of the passé composé in French). The authors must conduct extensive research into the lives of children in the target culture and create an authentic and visually appealing setting for the story’s setting. I typically ask students to write approximately 5 sentences per page, for a total of approximately ten pages. They work on rough draughts as well as peer editing each other’s work. As well as that, I go over the draughts and highlight what is correct while also making some suggestions for improvements. Every step of the editing process is a learning experience in and of itself.
As students write their stories, they can’t help but draw parallels between their own lives and the lives of the characters they have created in their imaginations. Creating a good context for created language is made possible by the compare and contrast paradigm. It also provides an opportunity for students to practice their knowledge of how to narrate in past time frames and demonstrate that they understand how to use the various past tenses that are typical of the second-year language curriculum. We frequently find that students experience what we refer to as “linguistic breakdown” as they use a variety of verb forms, but this does not always occur at the syntactic level of the sentence. Even though their verb forms aren’t always correct, they have the ability to make sentence structures flow well together. To be completely honest, I think this is fantastic! When I concentrate on the fluency stage rather than on specific verb forms, I find that my students are actually making significant progress on their path to language acquisition. They will eventually become more proficient in their use of verb forms, but for the time being, they are clearly capable of communicating at a higher level of fluency, even if their accuracy is not yet up to standard. Accuracy is important, of course, but in terms of communication fluency, this is a less serious problem for communication than sentence structure.
Stage 3 Fluency Example: The ABC Book Project
I am aiming for planned language in stage three fluency, i.e. paragraphing, in which there is a topic sentence, which is supported by concrete details and commentary, and a concluding sentence, which summarises the most important ideas. To do so in French, students must be able to construct complex sentences that include main and subordinate clauses, the subjunctive or “if/then” type sentences, and the imperfect and conditional tenses, among other things (other languages may require knowledge of other paradigms as well). I worked on this project over the course of a semester, breaking it down into smaller parts as I went along, and with the province of Québec as the primary focus. Many different aspects of Québécois culture are studied, including short stories, poetry, song lyrics, historical texts, current events, and more. As part of their inquiry, students complete smaller projects along the way, but as a result of their work, they write a page on each of the topics they chose. I assign them the task of writing 20 pages, one for each of the 20 letters of the alphabet, in whatever order they choose. In English, an example page might look something like this:
The letter Q stands for Québec City (title sentence). Located on a bluff overlooking the Saint Lawrence River, Québec serves as the province of Quebec’s capital city and administrative center (topic sentence). It appears to me that the people of Québec have a lot to be proud of and that they should be (detail). They must make wise investments in the preservation of their historical monuments to ensure that the diversity of their historical heritage is preserved (commentary). If I were to visit Québec, I would want to stand on the Terrasse Dufferin and look out over the Saint Lawrence, so that I could take in the beautiful view of the river and the Ile d’Orléans that the city has to offer (commentary). If I were to visit Québec in the winter, I would choose to go during Carnaval so that I could take part in the numerous activities (commentary). Interestingly, the regional accent in Québec differs from that of French-speaking regions. (commentary). If I go to Québec, I intend to practice speaking French with the locals and hope that I will be able to understand their accents without any difficulty if I do so (conclusion). To ensure that students stay on track, I provide them with a page template that they can use to keep track of their work on a single page, let alone twenty.” I ask them to create rough draughts of each page for me. When they turn in their draughts, I mark up the sections that are incorrect and return the pages to them. The students may resubmit the pages with corrections as many times as they need until they are satisfied with their work. In this way, I am reinforcing their own editing process while also assisting them in focusing on the details that they might otherwise overlook when writing. This project has proven to be tremendously enjoyable, and I have discovered that by the end of the semester, they have mastered complex sentences and paragraphs to a high degree.
By connecting my classes with classes in three Francophone countries – France, Canada, and Senegal – I hope to improve the effectiveness of my project-based approach next year. I want the students to collaborate with their peers all over the world in writing digital stories, which they will then post on the internet for their friends to read and comment on, as well as engage in discussions about the stories they have written with their peers. I intend to have the students experiment with a variety of story genres, such as comic strips, manga, short stories, and poems, as well as other types of writing, as their interests develop. A significant contribution will be made by the numerous web 2.0 applications that are now readily available to provide students with the tools they need to write and create their stories. I anticipate that the project will provide more opportunities for engagement, creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration than previously existed? Specifically, they will learn to communicate in French while also developing 21st-century skills!
Let’s have some fun while we’re at it, too! Participate in the discussion. Make a post on the Edutopia WL group with your idea. Do you require inspiration? Do you have a question? Have you discovered a cool website, app, or tool? Let’s work together on this as well! Are you ready to get started? Thank you in advance for taking the time to share your thoughts? It is better to work together!