The impact of bilingual learning in project based learning

Teachers know the value of collaboration in the classroom when students work in groups. Evidently, it is part of many classrooms across the United States. Especially in science classes, project based learning increases in demand to encourage engagement between subject and students.

In fact, project based learning continues to thrive in many classrooms as teachers encourage students to metacognition and critical thinking skills.

Whether it is a science class or language support group, project-based learning is making a path for English Language Learners (ELL) students to acquire language skills in unconventional ways. 

What is project based learning (PBL) in general?

In general, project based learning or better known as PBL is a teaching strategy. Many teachers implement it in the classroom to enhance the learning experience of students.

Usually, students work in teams with a project based on real-life issues and find a plausible solution.

More importantly, students have a set of guidelines and reflection questions to use throughout the project. Although PBL uses science activities, it is implemented in many bilingual learning classes as well.

Students learn the most about science experiments and insightful concepts when they interact with hands-on projects. In fact, school districts have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards or NGSS as part of any science curriculum.

What is more amazing is the NGSS interweaves other disciplines into their standards. It establishes a connection between science and other subjects.

But what about the need to implement project based learning (PBL) programs in bilingual classes?

bilingual learning

The need for bilingual project based learning (PBL)

The demand for bilingual PBL is still in its starting stages. School districts are still adapting to the NGSS as part of the science curriculum while considering bilingual learning in PBL classes is far out of the ordinary.

However, teachers still plan lessons for PBL in the classroom when they take a few steps to organize a particular unit for PBL. It takes time and dedication to consistently reinforce students to complete certain tasks or opportunities to learn.

But with guided reading and helpful rubrics, teachers encourage students to move forward and meet their goals of completion. In planning classes, teachers need to distinguish between immersion classes and bilingual PBL. 

Both types of programs are different. Within bilingual PBL, students work on a project or a set of guidelines to investigate a series of subtopics, which integrate into a whole concept. More importantly, bilingual teachers select the topic to focus on during the project.

With a wide variety of options, teachers choose from the introduction to vocabulary to reading strategies for English Language Learners (ELL). More amazingly, ELL students work together with native English speakers to enhance their language skills.

By interacting with other classmates and becoming active learners in a particular topic, ELL students gain a depth of knowledge about culture and language proficiency.

Relevance in bilingual classrooms

How can teachers focus on bilingual learning when they need to support ELL students? It is not easy to engage ELL students whose English is their second language.

So, it is important to seek other ways to improve language acquisition for these students. As teachers organize and collaborate with one another, teachers will see an improvement in communication skills when working with PBL activities.

The notion that ELL students only learn from rote memorization of vocabulary and listening to others speak is only a small aspect of language learning. Now, teachers know bilingual PBL activities engage ELL students in developing language skills to succeed in the classroom.

Helping ELL students with success in bilingual learning

Assisting ELL students to succeed in our classes, teacher training is the key to integrate language acquisition with PBL. The possibilities are endless when PBL uses bilingual concepts in a bilingual class of science or math.

Students begin to demonstrate their language skills when provided with instructional steps and guidelines. Without proper training and professional development opportunities for teachers to improve in PBL skills, ELL students lack guidance to move forward in bilingual learning.

It is when teachers have enough educational tools to support the learning experience of ELL students, which is the main focus of bilingual PBL. When teachers strive to commit to giving a chance to excel, teachers of many diverse content areas manage to help ELL students acquire a second language.

In conclusion, bilingual PBL is not far from being part of the norm curriculum in many classrooms. Moreover, ELL students continue to struggle in English speaking groups.

The need is there to support ELL students. But how can teachers do it? It is not a simple task.

In fact, bilingual activities implement successfully in PBL classes along with NGSS standards. The integration of English for students is not part of the whole class rather isolated events.

Many ELL students need to take separate classes to meet language standards. With bilingual PBL programs, teachers provide the support ELL students need to boost self-esteem and language acquisition in the classroom. 

Barbara Mascareno

Barbara is an educational writer, teacher, and instructional designer. She loves to write K-12 education content, teaching strategies, bilingual education approaches, and foreign language.

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