My school, like many, invited a speaker in to do a professional development talk on the faculty workday proceeding the December/January holiday break. I have to admit, I am pretty nerdy and generally love speakers. I usually get fired-up to try a new technique and I often think of new lesson plans on the spot while listening. For this reason, I always bring a notebook to speakers. I don't necessarily take notes, but I jot down my thoughts on how their presentation could be relevant to my classroom practice.
So, generally I love speakers, but I must respectfully disagree with the one that my school brought in most recently. He spoke vehemently against projects, inquiry-based learning, authentic assessments, and really any sort of performance based learning. He also lumped all of the above into one method. So, while he gave the argument that all of these methods are too taxing to the learner, here are my reasons for why I will continue to do projects. I might choose to address some of the other methods later, but for now, I will stick with projects.
1) Engagement! Students get the opportunity to explore a topic that truly interests and excites them.
2) Pacing! Students can work at their own natural skill level with guidance from me. This means that advanced students can incorporate more advanced grammatical structures and higher level words, but the struggling students can stick to the rubric's requirements and still find a lot of success.
3) Projects allow students to incorporate technology, music, video, and other outside interests that I don't necessarily use on a daily basis.
4) Speaking practice! My projects all contain an oral speaking component which students can practice beforehand. As a result students can target pronunciation, fluency, and other speaking skills that we don't practice as much during our spontaneous speaking activities.
5) Vocabulary and more vocabulary! Students use the vocabulary in a manner that makes sense. They are forced to contextualize their learning and this usage in turn causes them to both remember and apply the vocabulary with much greater accuracy than any paper/pencil test (at least in my experience)
6) Listening skills and peer critique! All of my students are required to fill-out some sort of peer critique sheet while their classmates are presenting their projects. As a result, students have to both comprehend what they are hearing and give useful feedback. Giving peer feedback is an excellent life-long skill.
7) Public speaking practice! Again, this is another lifelong skill that every student should have numerous opportunities to practice (in my opinion).
8) Focus on form! Students have to really consider what grammatical structure best conveys the meaning that they desire.
9) Culture! I think that projects are one of the best ways for students to explore/experience a taste of another culture. I love when my students are willing to try to cook from a Spanish recipe or learn a dance from a video.
Here are some of my arguments for why I will continue to use projects in my classroom. What are your reasons for using projects? If you don't use them why not?