Project work with teenagers
Gallacher, British Council, Spain
Project work is becoming an increasingly popular feature within the ELT
classroom. Common projects are class magazines, group wall displays about
students' countries and designs for cities of the future. A project
involves students in deciding together what they want to do to complete a
project whilst the teacher plays a more supporting role.
Some advantages of project work are:
- Increased motivation - learners become personally involved in
- All four skills, reading, writing, listening and speaking,
- Autonomous learning is promoted as learners become more
responsible for their own learning.
- There are learning outcomes -learners have an end product.
- Authentic tasks and therefore the language input are more
- Interpersonal relations are developed through working as a
- Content and methodology can be decided between the learners
and the teacher and within the group themselves so it is more learner
- Learners often get help from parents for project work thus
involving the parent more in the child's learning. If the project is
also displayed parents can see it at open days or when they pick the
child up from the school.
- A break from routine and the chance to do something
- A context is established which balances the need for fluency
Planning the project
To give learners an idea of what projects are and
what they should be aiming to produce, it is good to have examples of
past projects: a photocopy of a previous group newspaper or a photograph
of a wall display.
Some possible drawbacks to project work
- Learners using their own language
If the class are
monolingual they may use their L1 a lot (it often happens anyway in YL
classes) so you should decide whether the benefits of doing project work
outweigh this factor.
- Some learners doing nothing
By giving more freedom to the
learners you may also be giving them the freedom to do nothing! If the
project is planned carefully and roles decided at the proposal stage
this is less likely to happen.
- Groups working at different speeds
One group may have
'finished' the project after a couple of hours and say they have nothing
to do. Remind them it is their responsibility to fill the time allocated
to project work and discuss ways they could extend the work they have
Examples of project work
- A project based on readers
At a summer school I worked in
learners were encouraged to have a reader during the month course. This
is not always a popular requirement so I decided to have the learners
use the readers in a way they might find motivating.
- First I chose 4 different readers that had also been made into
films - The Full Monty, The Client, Dracula, Mosquito Coast. Each
group were given copies of their reader.
- The learners were then given free reign to do whatever they liked
as long as it was somehow connected to the reader.
- Examples of the work produced were:
- Summaries of the story.
- Crosswords / word searches of vocabulary from the story.
- Reviews of the book.
- Information found about the history of Dracula.
- Filmed scene from the book.
- Presentation of a clip from the film of the book compared to a
scene in the book.
- Biographies and photos of actors from the film.
- Music Project
If your class loves songs this could be a
- Make a CD Cover.
- Invent the band and the names and biographies of the band
- Video an interview with the band.
- Record a song. (Students often borrowed the music and wrote
their own lyrics)
- Write gig reviews.
- Photo shoot of the band.
- Design a poster advertising gigs.
There are also many other ideas but I hope this shows the variety of
work which can be produced.
Haines S (1989) Projects for the
Phillips D, S
Burwood & H Dunford (1999) Projects with Young Learners Oxford:
Fried-Booth D (1986) Project Work Oxford: OUP
Wicks. M (2000)
Imaginative Projects: CUP