Over this week, I’ll be sharing 5 posts-all of them focused on ideas for online learning with your BMLs. Since some teachers have limited access to their students and learning materials at this time, these ideas are quick-win strategies you can implement right away. This is blog post #5 out of 5. You can find the others in previous posts.
If you really want to make excellent use of time and minimise heavy day-to-day planning, projects are definitely the way to go. They’re a value-packed way to engage and motivate students but they also enable independence and curiosity.
Typically, projects pair hands-on learning experiences with conceptual knowledge in order to produce a culminating task or ‘product’. Because of this, they offer a naturally-authentic ‘curriculum,’ rich with a variety of language experiences. This makes them ideal for fostering BMLs’ language skills. Projects can be designed as short or long as you want to make them. Why they’re particularly appealing during this pandemic is that students can have regular check-ins with you to stay on-track; but they can carry out the self-study components from home. This helps them take ownership and responsibility for their learning but in a way that’s manageable . The key is to offer regular check-ins with students to ensure they’re staying on-track and getting the right feedback.
LEARNING COMPONENTS & MAINTAINING EVIDENCE OF LEARNING
There’s usually several tasks students complete before coming to the final learning product. These might include: research, experiments, interviews and data-collection, for example. Scaffolding students’ progress with a graphic organizer or a task checklist to help them stay organized is critical to their success. Other ways students can track their learning journey includes: keeping a photo record of the tasks they’ve done, maintaining a learning journal and recording websites they’ve visited. Journals can show student brainstorms, summaries of research, diagrams and results of experiments, etc. These are all authentic artefacts of students’ learning. Going through these items with students can help them to self-assess, get clear feedback and plan ‘next-steps’. Teachers can also use this opportunity to observe students’ discrete skills like writing, planning or working independently. This gives a clearer picture as to what students may need more guidance around.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT TOPIC
Choosing the right topic to explore is critical. It should be something relevant and meaningful for all students. It should offer multiple entry points for a variety of learners and could even provide a real-world context like the Sustainable Development Goals, for example. The trick is to get this balance right for the age of the learners, the different language and ability levels as well as the resources students have available.
Project-based learning is an authentic way of exploring concepts but it can even be more relevant during these unpredictable times. This approach removes the teacher as the ‘sage-on-the-stage’ and empowers learners to be more active in their learning processes. For BMLs, this can provide wonderful learning opportunities to share topics related to their cultures and languages but you’ll need to remember that some BMLs may not be used to self-directed learning. Especially if you’re working with newcomers or children who’ve changed school systems, they can find it hard to transition to a more autonomous learning model. If the child is used to traditional or ‘rote learning’ as a basis for their education, they’ll likely need more support to understand and manage their projects. In this case, you’ll need to ease them in gently and break down the project components into specific activities that match their comfort levels. This will still allow them to tackle a reasonable level of challenge while developing awareness of a different way of working and learning.
While most teachers use some form of project-based learning within their teaching, I would encourage them to make projects a main focus now, more than ever. Projects can stimulate curiosity and interest and these are keys to helping students experience more joy and pleasure in learning.
Alison Schofield is an educator, consultant and co-founder of the Centre for Educators of BMLs. She loves sharing her expertise with teachers around the world. She’s especially passionate about literacy and learning approaches with BMLs. If you have any questions about this article or even an idea for another article, feel free to reach Alison at: firstname.lastname@example.org