Project Based Learning (PBL) is a common feature in U.K classrooms where a topic or a theme is used as the basis for a range (or sometimes all) subject areas. The premise is that if you can hook learners with an engaging topic which can excite them, then you can use this to teach some of the less favoured or trickier concepts.
When I taught in and primary school I used a range of project topics to excite my learners about the curriculum. I brought superheroes like the Hulk and Captain America into my literacy lessons where we created comics together and I used ‘secret codes’ to send kids on Maths missions. The result was a class full of on-task, engrossed learners who enjoyed themselves and made progress!
So how is this useful in Language Learning?
With my own language learning I have found that I tend to employ some key features of PBL in my short-term goals (for more on my goal setting see my previous post). Just like my pupils, I get really motivated by an engaging context. Most recently, as you can see on my Instagram, I have been using Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl as my context for all aspects of my language learning.
Not only does it provide a range of useful (and some less useful) vocabulary during reading practise but, with a little creativity, it can be the basis for my practising past present and future tenses, a stimulus for discussion with my language speaking tutor and a context for creating my own comprehension questions. If my partner is feeling particularly helpful he will record himself reading a few pages aloud which I can listen to on the tube on the way to work which aids my listening skills. The major benefit of having this core stimulus is that it allows me to have a consistent focus where my knowledge can be built upon. Being familiar with what came before in the storyline gives me a grounding in what may be discussed in upcoming chapters.
The most important thing about choosing a stimulus for learning is it has to be enjoyable. Perhaps a children’s book isn’t for you. You have to find your own motivating stimulus.
Maybe you love films? Find one in your target language and watch 5-10mins at a time, breaking it down, pulling out the vocab and using it as a focus to gain all the learning you can from it.
Love politics? Learn associated vocab. Translate the political news from a foreign broadcast. Prepare a short debate about a key issue to discuss with your language teacher.
The ultimate key is finding what you love!