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by Erica Fischer on Apr 8, 2017

World Language Classroom Projects with Purpose

World language classroom projects with purpose

Discovering how to create successful language based classroom projects was the topic of last week’s #langchat. Participants discussed how to guide learners in communication-oriented fun projects and the pros and cons of past project experiences used in their world language classrooms.

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Grecian Urn Projects

Last week, the #langchat began with a discussion on past projects which could be considered ‘Grecian urns’. “In a nutshell, Grecian urns are projects that are fun, but don’t really advance [students] towards any particular goal or standard,” explained @doriecp. For many Spanish language teachers, for example, making a piñata seemed to take up way too much class time and met few beneficial language goals. @magisterb480 said, “Roman City Projects [where] students made structures that one would find in an ancient city and then wrote an English paper about it” proved to be unhelpful to language advancement. @MmeFarab added “make a menu, tissue box reports, ‘food day’, and elaborate family trees” to the list of ‘Grecian urn’ projects.

As for a possible reason? @MmeBlouwolff shared, “Group work where [students] have to plan something together is one way we lose the [target language] fast in my class.”

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Expanding Vocabulary-Centered Projects into More Communicative Tasks

Creating projects that move beyond simple vocabulary activities to more communicative tasks may be a challenge for #langchat teachers. However, when this is accomplished, language goals and standards are better and more efficiently achieved in the classroom. @welangley said, “make the task broad enough for large vocab but narrow enough for specific vocab.” @MlleSulewski suggests having students “create something that [they] have to explain in the [target language] to someone else.” “Giving students a real audience and a here and now purpose” is also important in building communicative projects (@MmeCarbonneau). @joyeuse212 shared:

Awareness of how much time is spent using the [language] vs. how much is spent crafting/creating the project is key.

@SECottrell said, a “second key is making sure there is an end goal of something to DO with the vocab: communicate something with it, don’t recite it.”

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Fun and Useful Projects

#Langchat participants shared a few of their favorite fun yet useful classroom projects.

  • @Marishawkins said, “One fun ‘project’ is I like when students tweet like a character from the book.”
  • According to @magisterb480, “If you can tie a ‘fun project’ into a reading/novella chapter there could be some value to it.”
  • @campspan gives “a lot of choices for Navidad projects-cook, watch videos, make buscapalabras, act out Año Nuevo customs, etc.”
  • @SECottrell shared, “I highly recommend the in-depth training & resources from @NFLRC through the #PBLL Online Institute!

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Incorporating more Target Language into Artistic and Crafty Projects

Sometimes the target language can get lost when creating artistic or crafty projects. @MlleSulewski incorporates more of the target language by leading with input. “Tie your input to your end goal for students; give them the [language] they need to succeed. Have the project accomplish something. Connect [with] a wider audience,” she said. @magistertalley said, “Students can create things in the target language to share with other learners at school and online.” @campspan added, “[there are] lots of options for projects following a novel.” @senoraMThomas tries “to plan one craft each unit. [She] tries to support culture to make a stronger memory. [Students] love culture and want more of it.”

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Communication-Oriented Projects

To end the discussion, #langchat teachers shared some of the projects they have adapted or would like to adapt in order to make them more communication-oriented.

  • @magistertalley would like to adapt the Mythology project. “I think it could be a good thematic project focus in the [target language].
  • @MmeBlouwolff said, “I used to do a cocktail party where [students] came dressed as [a] person and had to chat to learn about one another.
  • @GMancuso13 suggests a “collaborative project with pen pals!”
  • @magisterb480 shared, “Inscription writing is a good communicative Latin task – written in abbreviations, make modern connections to texting, etc.”
  • @MCanion said that an ideal project would consist of “[students] designing daily lessons to drive their own learning rather than [teachers]. [Students] create the graphics, vocabulary cards, and games.”

Thank You

Special thank you to all who participated in the discussion on World Language Classroom Projects with Purpose. Thank you to our lead moderator Megan (@MlleSulewski) for leading the conversation. Have a topic you would like to chat about? Please submit your ideas to the #langchat wiki!

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Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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