Ready to Take on the Future: Project-Based Learning with BurlingtonEnglish
Warren Township’s Adult Education cafeteria buzzed with excitement as the school’s adult intermediate ELL students presented their year-end, All About Me portfolio projects. With the BurlingtonEnglish Career Exploration & Soft Skills, All About Me module as the anchor for their project, students explored their past work experience, personality traits, and work values to help guide them on their journey to pursue their chosen career pathway.
Brenda Gaston, adult ELL educator, is a passionate advocate of Project-Based Learning (PBL) and has been using it in her classroom for the past four years. She explained that PBL allows teachers to design their own curriculum based on the needs and goals of their students. For these projects to be successful, Ms. Gaston stated that she needs content she can rely on. She described BurlingtonEnglish as the perfect fit. “As a project developer, I am confident that if my students are spending time in class doing this, they will be successful. The Burlington content is valuable, meaningful, and realistic. They use mainstream vocabulary. The visuals and conversations are authentic; they look and sound like real people.”
Throughout the eight-week project, Ms. Gaston observed increased student attendance and a new energy in her classroom. She attributed much of the students’ enthusiasm to the engaging activities in Burlington. Many of her students dedicated hours of additional time outside of school, practicing vocabulary and pronunciation on their mobile devices to prepare for their final presentations.
For the culmination of the project, Ms. Gaston’s ELL students presented to an audience of English-speaking high school equivalency students and administrators. Students completed self-evaluations after their presentations to reflect on their experience. In her comments, Maria shared the following: “I worked hard. I did not think I could present myself … but I felt safe and I think the audience understood me very well.” Luz, another classmate, shared her emotional reaction to the experience: “I felt very confident … but most importantly, I felt like my brain opened and I remembered my successes from the past. It made me feel like I can continue learning a lot.”
The positive results were evident not only from students’ reactions, but from the data. Ms. Gaston boasted that 87% of her students showed learning gains after participating in the project. Additionally, many of her students moved on to the transition class and achieved their high school equivalency diplomas. The All About Me portfolio project gave students a sense of pride and accomplishment that many had never experienced before. Through Project-Based Learning, Ms. Gaston has successfully created supportive learning communities in which her students become confident, independent learners, ready to take on the future.
Debbie Gilman, Editorial and Marketing Support Specialist, Burlington English Inc.
Vicky Denkus, Marketing Specialist, Burlington English Inc.