The way English Language Learners usually face graded readers is based on comprehension activities about content and vocabulary checking. The way, we as teachers, may work on reading skills can be more engaging and self-paced by students introducing some tools that can boost students’ curiosity and engagement to go further from reading. Taking this into consideration, I found out that the four language English skills can be developed integrating the assessment criteria, learning standards and discursive elements with the tools that Gsuite for Education offers both to teachers and students. Then, #FollowTheRipper PBL was born.
In the third term, we looked for a book that could combine a rich grammar content, extended vocabulary and the possibility to learn about British culture and Literature, taking the title as a starting point to add both the academic contents from our Spanish curriculum in English Language and the chance for students to apply them in a real meaningful down-to-earth context. It gave us the possibility to work differently on each chapter (combining listening with writing; reading with speaking…), because each chapter was considered as a unit, but related among them all. “Jack, the Ripper” was our choice.
The project was introduced with the engagement element in form of a video. Then, we set the classroom in groups, gave roles and presented the way we would be working on. After that, I created the activities for each chapter. They were hyperlinked so that students could search for more information and investigate about the content or topic related within that specific chapter. For example, I used some locations (Whitechapel Road) to add a link to Google Maps that could give students the necessary visual information to develop their writing skills using prepositions of place, relative clauses or sentence structure. I think it is pretty productive for students to be given visual resources of information that will give them the opportunity to deepen into the reading; its locations, its places…etc. We used Google Classroom to share homework, to revise and assess their work and to give them individual feedback through the comments function of Google Docs and Presentations.
Most of the activities from each chapter were developed in the classroom. Thanks to the flipped learning approach, my students could have access to the grammar contents watching lecture videos about what was going to be carried out in the classroom. For example, students watched the video about the relative clauses, answered the questions on Edpuzzle and the quiz with Plickers to work cooperative dynamics in the classroom to work on speaking, writing and reading skills with these activities. We also worked on with this website to extend our knowledge about what the book was telling and to improve out language skills. It also helped students to contrast what they have previously learnt and to go on further in the plot. For example, the website mentioned above contains some of the letters that were written by Jack the Ripper to the Police. It helped us not only to work reading and writing skills by understanding critically the text, but also by doing writing tasks, in order to transcribe or paraphrase the content to include the grammar focus we were working on (turning the content into the reported speech and working on speaking in pairs in a role play). On the same way, we worked on the writing skills about the cultural topics described in the book (examples here) and the listening skills creating language content with Google Presentations.
Thanks to the gained classroom time, students could develop a lot of products in which they have to include their key competences. Working collaboratively was very easy thanks to Google Presentations. They could work autonomously and could work on their speaking skills using the appropriate vocabulary, grammar structures, intonation and pronunciation. In relation to this, students created their own culture topics videos using the Chrome extension Screencastify with our Chromebooks to do a compare-and-contrast speaking activity to talk about Lord Mayor’s Day festivity in London with the ones we currently have in our city or country. First they had to search, curate and gather information from the sites they had been shared on Google Classroom in advance. Then, they created their product combining both Google Presentations and Screencastify. They were also advised to use images properly, so websites such as Pikwizard, Pixabay, Freepik or Unsplash were strongly recommended if necessary. Some of the results can be visited here, here, here or here.
In relation to the final product, we decided to create a virtual tour using Tour Builder by Google. It was an exciting experience for students due to the fact that it enabled them to visualize what they were actually both reading and learning. Tour Builder was awesome for us to locate the different places where Jack The Ripper murdered his victims. Tour Builder is an interactive tool that can give teachers and students fantastic opportunities to trace a book’s narrative by creating different points in which several points of information can be included. Furthermore, it can be enriched with pictures and videos that can easily viewed with Google Earth. My students had to create their locations just after we worked on the different tasks and activities in the classroom. It was like a visual summary of what we have learnt along the chapter which conducted them step by step to their final product. Click on the images below to visit some of them.
Regarding students’ reflection was worked on the tool Blogger. It’s quite important for them to express what they think verbally to develop their metacognitive skills. It was also another great chance for them to work on writing skills because they were told to use the grammar content of that chapter to express what they had learnt, how they had done it and the difficulties they had met. As a teacher, it was quite enriching to know what they were actually learning and how my didactic purposes were going on. Some of them can be visited here, here, here or here
Finally, different assessment tools were used along the project. Rubrics (this is the one used for the final product) for the for writing and speaking skills, teacher’s observation of the learning process, online quizzes and interactive videos with Edpuzzle. But most importantly, the feedforward I could have from my students helped me to be with them in the classroom individually to give them further support on what they had more difficulties on. Working on differentiation requires to handle another learning strategies from the teacher in order for all students to be successful in learning. We got that by giving them personalized resources and motivating them to let them know they can do it. And we finally did it.
This project has given the opportunity to students to work on the English language skills differently. Thanks to the methodology we used, it has been possible to do many activities to check their progress in reading, listening, writing and speaking giving them all a lineal coherence towards the creation of our final product: the Tour Builder. As many of the students think (you can read some of their end of project reflections here, here, here or here) they have learnt something more than just reading comprehension: English culture, speaking skills improvement, be more organized or learn skills on writing on a blog.
On the contrary, there are some points to take into account:
- Students tasks submission should have been more punctual.
- Some of the listening tests were considered a bit difficult for them.
- Writing skills in relation to text structure and sentence connection using connectors. It was somewhat complex for some of them to do it.
- Some parts of grammar were considered as difficult such as the verb conversion in the reported speech.
Generally speaking, they have realized that what the contents and tools they have learnt and created goes beyond the classroom walls. The flipped learning approach along with PBL and the development of cooperative dynamics in the classroom is the perfect combination to lead English Learning towards higher thinking skills where students become creators of their own knowledge.