Have you ever looked around your classroom only to be met with blank stares from your students who are completely disengaged? 🤔
You are definitely not alone! This time of the year tends to bring on the November blues as everyone has settled into their routines and the reality that there are still seven months of school left takes its toll on both students & teachers. But there IS something that you can do to get your students excited about learning, and the solution is to introduce Project-Based Learning!
Project-Based Learning is exactly what it sounds like - a teaching tool that allows your students to learn in an engaging manner and create real-world connections. This is especially important if you are teaching a second language classroom because when students are able to successfully apply their learning in a real-world context it creates a much deeper form of understanding.
Keep reading to learn about the basics of Project-Based Learning (PBL) and how you can use it in your French language classroom!
BENEFITS OF PBL
Project-Based Learning can help your students become critical thinkers, problem solvers, independent workers and lifelong learners. Think back to when you were younger and were given the opportunity to create something on a topic that you were passionate about. Chances are, you really enjoyed the task and put in 100% effort when researching, learning and while finding a way to present your findings.
For many students, this may be their first opportunity to be in charge of their learning and when facilitated correctly can have many benefits, including:
Improving their problem-solving skills
Developing critical thinking skills
Refining their management skills
In-depth learning through curiosity (inquiry)
Creating feelings of empowerment, pride & confidence
GETTING STARTED WITH PBL
So this all sounds wonderful, but where to begin? There are a couple of different things that you can do to prepare your students for successful Project-Based Learning.
SURVEY STUDENT INTERESTS: Get to know your students and what their passions are. This sounds very much like something that is obvious, but if you don't know what excites your students when it comes to learning you won't know how to capture their attention. This can be done using a Google Form, a mind map or even just a piece of paper you hand out asking them about 3 topics that interest them or that they would like to learn more about.
DETERMINE YOUR SUCCESS CRITERIA: Decide what you are looking for when it comes to assessing this project. Too often I see teachers who try to cram a bunch of curriculum expectations into one assignment and it ends up being really overwhelming for both themselves and the students. Pick one or two strands and create expectations that you will be assessing, then once your project is up and running you can co-create the success criteria with your students using your assessment as a guide!
DESIGN YOUR PROJECT: If you're looking for an open-ended project to get started with PBL, check out this Project passion that will provide you with everything you need! This no-prep independent research project includes pre-made templates for your students to follow their interests and complete an inquiry project on a subject of their choice. Simply have your students pick a topic and put together a creative presentation to showcase their findings. You'll also find supplemental pages, including an explanation of the project and connection to Ontario Curriculum page Instructions pages for students, graphic organizers and a rubric for marking. Also included is the Google Slides version of this project that you can use for virtual or distance learning!
SET A TIMELINE: Create a timeline for your project. I totally understand that sometimes life can be crazy, especially in the classroom but is it important to keep both yourself and your students on track. Otherwise, the project can drag on and may not have the same benefits as it would when done over the course of a couple of weeks!
RESOURCES FOR PBL
Getting excited? Me too! Take a look at some of the other Project-Based Learning resources that you can use right away in your French classroom!
This French animal research project is a definite hit with my students; they get to choose from over 27 different animals and create a project based on the animal of their choice. It’s fun, engaging and who doesn’t love learning about animals!? This is definitely a great starting point to PBL, especially with younger grade levels.
The Crée ton propre parti politique project is one of my favourite ways to teach about the Role of Government & Responsible Citizenship. This can be a tough topic to engage your students in but this resource is a great way to get your Ontario students to start researching, learning, and applying their views. This is the perfect opportunity for a group project and it will spark strong discussions within your students. They will put together a creative presentation to showcase their findings, and even host a class federal election.
Finally, make sure to take a look at this Famous French Francophones Project! This is an awesome inquiry project for junior students that allows you to meet your intercultural awareness curriculum expectations at the same time.
As students get older, they want to become more independent and in charge of their own learning. As teachers, we want to help them with this and using Project-Based Learning is a sure way to foster their creativity, their problem-solving & research skills and help boost their confidence.