Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Incorporating project work into regular EFL classes

Instead of doing international projects just for the sake of doing projects, I am always looking for good and productive ways of incorporating projects into regular curriculum work. As I have mentioned countless times before, it is not a simple task in our present, rather unique and unusual, senior high school (or senior secondary school - i.e. the school preparing 16-19-year-olds for further studies at polytechnics or universities, for example) system.

This year I am making a conscious effort to this end - firstly, to look into creating a working online platform for true exchange between young people around the world, and secondly, to bring some authentic language use into the EFL classroom. Our WHAZZUP? project Ning has been active for over two months now, with quite pleasing results. According to google statistics, the overall visit rate was up over 70 % from January to February.

Today being St. Patrick's Day in the Irish communities around the world, and with our new EFL course book actually having a unit on Ireland, I had already taken this into account in my initial course planning, and saved the Ireland part for this week. As an introduction we had already done a quiz on some basic, general knowledge about Ireland and looked at the pictures our textbook offered.

It so happens that one of our partner schools in the WHAZZUP? project is St. Michael's Holy Faith Secondary school in Dublin. Some girls from my English class, who also take part in our optional 'international project course', had sent the Irish girls (it's an all-girls school, another interesting discussion point for us Finns where all schools are mixed these days!) some questions concerning St. Patrick's Day in the project discussion forum, and fortunately some of the Irish girls had already had time to reply. We then read the replies together, and also looked at photos of the Irish girls in their green kilt uniforms at school on the Ning (school uniforms being another oddity for Finnish students).

After this students discussed the St. Patrick's Day tradition in small groups and wrote some additional questions to the Irish girls, so hopefully we will learn a bit more from them soon.

I thought this was quite a good way of bringing some real life into the language classroom today. The only reservation I have here, is what I'm always a bit weary of when it comes to international school projects - using your partners as informants to liven up your national curricular requirements. What mights the Irish students get our of all this?? Well, to my consolation, I hope that they will, in turn, have something in mind one day that we can help them with!

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