Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Projects and Student Designed Courses

by AJ

I tried something new yesterday. I began teaching an extra section of "English for Russian Studies Majors". I see them three hours every Wednesday.

Inspired by readings on project based learning and by the experience of one of Thammasat's excellent teachers (Edward)... I decided to relinquish control of the class to the students.

First, we read an article by Krashen about language acquisition. I then put them in groups to discuss the article as well as their own language learning strategies with English and Russian.

Finally, I told them to design the course... to tell me what sorts of activities and projects they wanted to do in class.

They all did an excellent job and came up with many good suggestions. More importantly, they took responsibility for implementing these suggestions.

We, as a class, agreed on three major types of activities:

1. TV Shows: We will watch "Sex and the City" (Chosen by class vote) for one hour every Wednesday. I will pause the show periodically to explain the story, dialogue, slang, culture, or vocab.

2. Music: Students will bring English language music to class, along with lyric sheets. We will listen to the music and then I will teach them new vocabulary from the lyrics. This will be done for one hour of each 3hr class.

3. Drama-Storytelling: Each group in class will present a mini "play" or story. They will act out the story in front of the class, then will lead activities about the story to reinforce the language learned. We decided that two groups will present during one hour of each class (30 minutes per group).

What's interesting is that these students designed a very effective language course that will be rich in comprehensible input. They will be using me as an English language "coach" and "consultant"... but they have determined the direction and organization of the course content.

This coming Monday, I will start another new class... "English for British and American Studies Majors". These are first year students who are in an all-English international program (all of their classes will be conducted in English). I plan to use the same student-designed approach with them (mucho thanks to Edward for the encouragement... he utilized this same approach with a previous class and suggested I try it).