The daily activities Canadians take for granted may be mystifying for newcomers. Concepts such as shopping (ie: buying and selling) are global but the cultural interactions and language nuances are different all over the world.
Learning English is hard enough for newcomers, but when you add in the variations and subtleties within the language plus the difficulty of adapting to a new culture and home, a new level of confusion sets in! One way to create an excellent language base and exhibit real-life skills is to create an environment that replicates a specific experience. This can be achieved through creative, task-based projects.
About the author: Marie Frankovitch is currently teaching English in the LINC program in Edmonton. Marie completed the 250-hour TESOL Diploma with OnTESOL.
Using Project-based Learning for Teaching English to with Newcomers to Canada
Projects are a fun way to inspire your students to learn and use English in their everyday lives. Each project incorporates listening, reading, writing, and speaking, and each step can be used as a building block towards an assessment.
Projects are a great way to teach teamwork. The teacher needs to be engaged in and committed to the process so that the students can envision the outcome and are inspired to work towards the end goal.
A project theme can be based on a statutory holiday (Canada Day), a current event (an election), or an everyday event (shopping). Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and St. Patrick’s Day are very popular celebratory days in Canada, and make excellent choices for projects.
Everyday events that students can identify with (shopping, house cleaning, and home safety) are also good theme choices. The important aspect is the new language to be learned and used in the context of the theme. The depth of the project (detail and expectations) can easily be adapted to the level/abilities of the students.
Basic Points To Keep In Mind:
- Consult school administration: permission may be required depending on what your project entails. Some topics may not be appropriate depending on the subject matter or the culture/personal experiences of the students. A few of these topics include politics, religion, or music (yes, this may be an issue). Topics that are related to Canadian culture, government, community, and everyday activities are usually acceptable.
- Curriculum: the project has to be level appropriate and may need to follow or incorporate specific formats. You may need to ensure conformity to the guidelines. The less stringent the guidelines, the more lenient the project framework.
- Resources: what is available and what is needed? Consider if additional costs will be incurred.
- Timelines: time available versus how much time is required. Is the program full-time or part-time? How many hours are available per day?
- Will other teachers be on board? Will consideration be given for assessment opportunities? Most importantly…are the students excited and inspired?
- Keep in mind that fun and learning go hand-in-hand…. why not create a fun project?
How to Select Topics for Your LINC Class
Topics should be molded into a lesson in a manner that will make for an encompassing learning experience focusing on the four necessary skills (reading, writing, listening, and/or speaking).
Offer a choice of topics for the students to review and, further, vote/select on the topic to select. Each topic should give a basic outline of what could be covered and what the learning would be. For example:
For example: Elections
- Learning the voting process in Canada.
- Learning about candidates and their platforms.
- Setting up a polling station for all students to participate in the voting process.
This project involves many students, offering many speaking and listening opportunities.
When presenting the topic/idea to your class fill in any gaps verbally and have a class discussion on some basic details (how many candidates, how many polls, the value in learning about this process, etc.).
When I did this project with my class, I had one student who had recently received his Canadian Citizenship. He was now able to vote!
Through participating in this project, he learned the complete process (ballots, polls, ID, secrecy, registration, etc.) and reported back (after voting) that he was very comfortable voting for the very first time!
Projects can be scaled from very involved/difficult (like Elections) or simplified to cover only the basics (like no-bake baking). However, the more detailed, diverse, and involved your project is, the better your outcomes for student learning and experience.
5 Popular Topics for Teaching with LINC:
- Election: Outcome (Have an election)
- Shopping: Outcome (Build a functioning grocery store)
- Baking: Outcome (Making cookie dough / no-bake item)
- Events: Outcome (Creating and hosting a year-end party)
- Art: Outcome (Private view of an art exhibition)
The scope of each project can be adjusted to suit class size, the time allotted, and/or student abilities. No matter which project you choose, the students will have fun, build self-confidence, and learn new skills.