Project-based learning encourages students to take risks and to initiate on a totally new thing. It is a powerful tool to teach students a lot of skills and tacit knowledge. In language teaching, students will find the tasks more interesting and meaningful to engage in. They will have more chances to use rather than learn the target language. Taking part in group discusion and giving a short presentation are the good ways to practice speaking skill; searching for relevant information requires students to read extensively in English; writing reports or brochure is proved to be effective for students’ writing ability. Other than that, internet skills will be improved dramatically when students work on the collaborative tasks, such as sending and getting emails, sharing on the social network…However, the most important component we may not emphasize on is the life skills. Time management, project management, and teamwork are such significant skills for a successful life in the future. In this article, I am going to share a few techniques to help students build their team before starting off the project.
To illustratte the activities in the classroom, I will take one of the four projects implemented by Faculty of Foriegn Languages, TNU as an example. The English Excursion Project is a hands-on one which students are expected to demonstrate their basic skills of the target language by preparing a travel brochure to describe their favorite destination. They are going to do a mini-research of a place of interest by collecting, processing and organizing information about the place. At the end of the semester, the students are supposed to deliver a brochure and to produce a virtual tour through a PowerPoint presentation in which theyl work as a tour guide to provide assistance, information and cultural, historical and contemporary heritage interpretation to English-speaking visitors.
On the first day of the class, I begin the lesson with a survey about the places of interest. Students will be asked about the destinations they would go if they had a lot of money. After that, they will write the places and the justifications on a sheet of paper, and then share with different people with the same interest. It is likely that they can form the group according to their similar concern. This is one of the grouping techniques my students really enjoy. As the students are in their team, it is very important to help them to learn about one another. It is always true as in an old saying: “every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are”. The students are in the same program, therefore they think they know each other well. However, when I ask them if they really know their partner well, they couldn’t know some even basic information about the others except for the name and the age. To be able to get along with one another smoothly in the process of working and learning, they need to understand the strengths and weaknesses, the interests and hobbies, the expectations and abilities. That’s why I often ask them to make a good communication and then take turn to write a description about the group members. Getting the team a name is also one of the effective strategies to construct the sense of teamwork and responsibility. Teachers can request students to make a short presentation about their group if necessary.
These activities are very powerful for students to make a start. …!