Vol. 6. No. 3 — December 2002
Resource Books for Teachers: Project Work (New Edition)
Diana L. Fried-Booth (2002)
Oxford, Oxford University Press
The use of projects in the classroom is not a new one, and reflects the search for ways to make the learning of a foreign language as meaningful an experience as possible. Projects are a means by which learners become active participants in an experiential learning model. They also assist in the development of independent and cooperative learning skills. Learners are more likely to feel personally involved in the learning process and motivated by the tangible end product. Projects give teachers a means by which to involve the whole child in the learning process by involving the full range of skills and talents available. It also provides a planning approach for multi-level classrooms. The flexibility of this approach also provides the teacher with cross-curriculum and language skill integration.
Project Work was originally published in 1986 in an attempt to provide meaningful activities for language students and allow them to “develop confidence in using English in the real world, the world outside the classroom.” (p. 5) This new edition is a result of the growing acceptance of projects as a teaching and learning tool and reflects the pedagogic and technological changes that have taken place since the mid 80s. The projects themselves have been piloted and contributed by practising teachers from around the world.
The first 25 pages of the book comprise a learning module aimed at the teacher. This starts with the background of the book and explains the methodology and the organisation of the projects. This is followed by a detailed breakdown of the actual process of organising a project in the classroom, from the initial planning stage through the physical environment to language monitoring and final evaluation and assessment. There is a range of practical ideas as well as review and monitor templates, which aim to make the life of a busy teacher just that much easier. The troubleshooting section highlights potential problems along with practical solutions. In the Multi-tasking section, the teacher is presented with a breakdown of the tasks involved in a particular project together with how the four language skills could be developed. The accompanying tables and flowcharts “provide a structure for the monitoring of skills, language, and activities which emerge from a project.” (p.25) These flowcharts, as well as observation record and other templates, are photocopiable.
The main body of the book is devoted to a bank of projects for a variety of age groups and language levels. The projects are divided into five thematic units: Media (6 projects), Culture (7 projects), Trips (3 projects), Local (7 projects), and Classroom (11 projects). The projects can be fairly easily adapted to fit in with local conditions and expectations. [-1-]
Individual projects begin with the title and a brief description the nature of the project itself. Each project is divided into sections, which assist the teacher in planning and implementing the project. Level categorises the language level of the project, into elementary, false beginner, lower intermediate, intermediate, intermediate, upper intermediate, and advanced. Projects are identified as being suitable for one, or a range, of these levels. Age range identified the suggested age group, either with a numerical value or a descriptor such as adolescent, older adolecsent or adult. Time indicates the amount of time taken to complete the project in a particular teaching situation, allowing teachers to extrapolate for the own classrooms. General aims include the end product as well as less tangible aims such as motivation and values. Language aims outline the specific language skills highlighted. This might be as specific as comparatives and superlatives or as broad as the four language skills. Location indicates where the project actually takes place. This may be within the school, in the classroom or library, or in the wider community, in museums, cinemas or the home. Resources outlines the specific equipment required. While an attempt has been made to keep costs down, some projects may be out of reach financially for some teaching situations. Teacher preparation outlines considerations such as grouping, inviting speakers, budgeting, research, and ensuring availability of resources, both human and physical, which the teacher will need to plan for prior to the commencement of the project. Student preparation explains the project to the students and outlines what the project will require of them. Procedure covers the stages involved in the project from the planning stage through to the production of the end product. There is often a copy of a completed project included to demonstrate one possible end product. Follow up provides suggestions for extension activities as well as language development activities. Variation explains how the project could be adapted to different levels, language foci, themes, and cultural circumstances. Comments are sometimes added by teachers who developed the individual project in an effort to share experience, offer advice, or simply comment on the success of the activity in that particular situation. All contributors, and their locations, are acknowledged.
The final part of the book includes an Appendix of useful websites, a comprehensive bibliography and a topic index, which refers to both page and project numbers.
The main weakness of this resource book lies in the lack of definitions of key language descriptors, such as elementary, intermediate and advanced. Although this is a relatively minor point, it may lead the less experienced teacher to abandon a project, which does not immediately fit with their perceived level of difficulty.
Project Work is generally a well-organised resource book, comprising a variety of practical suggestions for the classroom teacher. These suggestions are put into a language and pedagogic framework, which can be adapted to suit the specific needs of the classroom teacher. A welcome addition to any professional’s bookshelf.
Kaye M. Dunn
Higher Colleges of Technology: Fujairah Women’s College
© Copyright rests with authors. Please cite TESL-EJ appropriately.
Editor’s Note: Dashed numbers in square brackets indicate the end of each page for purposes of citation..