Making a Project a Task

Inspired by the book While we’re on the Topic by Bill Van Patten, I have been thinking about how tasks, as opposed to activities, fit into my teaching. And mostly recently, I have been exploring how a project in the World Language proficiency classroom can become a task. My most clear understanding of a task in this context is when students research, write up and present information, the class then does something with that information, like infer, rank, rate, group or compare.

In this example, students present information in a guessing game format and the rest of the students have to infer who the person is that is being described. Then, when students present a famous French-speaking person, the rest of the class listens to rate, rank, group and compare the people.

Please access documents from the folder or linked below.

  1. I begin with a pretest to see what famous French-speaking people the students know by asking the area of expertise of the person. I do this as a google form and after we share the answers in charts. (You can copy mine from the folder linked above and edit it.) Then we do a guessing game. The teacher reveals one by one twenty clues in French on slides about an American or internationally known celebrity. After each clue, the students write down a guess. They can change their mind as to who it is along the way, but at the end they have twenty guesses written down. The last slide is the picture and name of the person. To score, they tally how many times they wrote the correct answer.
  2. Students in pairs create their own guessing games about an American or internationally known celebrity. They use my presentation for some language and ideas on how to build clues from general to more specific. They are very quiet and secret about their person. I gave my students a template to fill out with clues and a template for the slides, which I shared with them online.
  3. The student-generated guessing games begin. In my class I had all the games submitted to me and was able to present them without the class knowing the authors. I read the clues. There are many surprises and laughs. Nobody shares how many points they got because that isn’t the point, but it makes it fun.
  4. Now for their individual projects students chose a famous French-speaking person from a list. I go over the project overview and some useful vocabulary. They fill out a note taking form about the person by researching them online. Then, their project is to make five slides about that person to present to the class or a poster with a crossword that asks for information on the person.
  5. Students finish their projects. As they finish, they get paired up and the students who are presenting practice with a partner. Students finish their work for homework.
  6. Student presentations. The other students fill out this organizer while listening to presentations. Then, students read the posters, take more notes and do the crossword puzzles.
  7. In a post-test in a Google form (found in the folder linked above) students rate the people they heard about for how interesting they were. The teacher then displays the ratings as graphs and the class discusses. The teacher shows the findings from another class or the year before and the class compares. Next, students group the people they heard about in terms of area of expertise with a handout. And then, students rank the people based on different criteria. The class, in an effort to use student opinion to inform instruction, then go back to the teacher’s original list of people to study and edit the document for the following year’s students, commenting on whether there are enough people listed for an area of expertise and whether the people listed are interesting enough to warrant researching. The class conversation is in French and the teacher jumps in to ask guiding questions, like “why do you feel that way?”, “what did that person achieve?” and “what was that person’s contribution to society?” The students refer to their notes as they discuss.

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