#GoingToWarwick PBL: a truly learning trip

As a vocational teacher of English, I have always been interested that both England’s culture and history should take part in my students’ process of learning another language. I am truly convinced that these elements are tightly interconnected, so language teachers should integrate it into the design and development of any learning goal.

The #GoingToWarwick project has been an example of what I have said before. It was born from a student who made the following question after working the listening and speaking skills with a video: “Domingo, are there any more beautiful castles like that one in England?” Then, inspiration came to my mind in just a couple of seconds and my answer was: “Yes, there are. Would you like to visit that castle? At that very moment, the #GoingToWarwick PBL was born.

I have read quite about active methodologies, specially PBL and cooperative learning, which are the perfect complements for the flipped learning approach, due to the fact that they enable students to develop their key competencies in the classroom, a “micro-society” that represents the way they will work in the future: collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creation. I especially enjoyed the reading of “Aprendo porque quiero” by Spanish PBL expert Juan José Vergara, who states that students’ interest on a topic may depend from different factors, their spontaneous interest on a specific topic is one among some others. And that’s what I did to start building our project.

First of all, I created an engaging element: it was a video inviting to my 7 Graders to feel engaged and motivated in order to wake their curiosity up for learning about such an attractive and great British landmark. Then we planned what the final product should be: a video, a writing, a podcast, an infographic, a presentation… I have worked this PBL with two groups of 7 Graders and they had different preferences on what to do. We finally decided to create both a middle product in form of a podcast and a final product in the form an infography with the most important things they had learnt about Warwick Castle. The audioguide was recorded using Spreaker Studio and a QR code to be added in the infography using this QR code creation tool.

The following step was to include everything together in a single place so that students and families could check what their kids were learning and to anticipate future contents of the project. Consequently, I created a Google Site where they could find: the engaging element, the purpose of the project, the tasks and their activities, the didactic guidelines (contents, assessment criteria and learning standards), the key competencies we will acquire along the project and the tools to be used. Finally, there is a tab where the students’ creations were uploaded for any interested visitor to the site to watch them.

The flipped learning approach has been the epicentre of this PBL. All the contents developed: the simple present, there is/there are, the frequency adverbs and time adverbs have been first introduced to students with flipped videos they worked at home. I think that one of the key factors for a flipped learning unit to be successful is that students not only should watch the videos but also work with them. I uploaded the tasks on Google Classroom with clear instructions about what to do and a copy of the Cornell notes as a deeper learning strategy to work at home.

The project consisted of two parts: Task I and Task II. In the first one, we focused more on content such as the target grammar to learn, vocabulary and the four linguistic skills for this stage: reading, writing, listening and speaking. In the second one, the project led to the application of what students had already learnt in the first one. As the reader can notice from the “Task” section on the site, all the activities suggested to students have a significant meaning throughout the project. All of them are linked together and guided the students to what was expected from them, in this particular case, the creation of both a tourist audioguide and an infography. In order to do that, they had to buy the plane tickets, book their train tickets from London to Warwick or working with Maths to calculate the equivalent of distances and prices in Spanish units of measurement. Google Maps and Google advanced search functions were quite useful for us.

Regarding the tools used I would like to point out the great ones that Gsuite for Education offers to our school. Students’ learning meeting point is Google Classroom which gives them the opportunity to search, read, create any content using the in-apps in the suite such as Slides, Docs or Maps. Regarding myself as a teacher, any app is very accessible and easy to work with; no matter if I want my students to virtually visit Warwick Castle with Google Earth, having a walk on a 3D experience with Google Streetview or watch a video on YouTube to get more information or work collaboratively with Google Drive. it is simply amazing.

I have also let parents to be witnesses of our progress using the Classdojo app for communication with families. There are two important things to highlight this app. On the one hand, I have included gamification in the project thanks to the positive reinforcement given to students with points. They could exchange their “coins” for prizes such as moving the group on one day, starting their snack five minutes before or even becoming the DJ of the Day (yes, we listen to music in our classroom while we are working. I would recommend it to you). On the other, families can be informed immediately of any reward their children have achieved and see what we are currently doing in the classroom thanks to the “Stories” section of the app.

Regarding assessment, there has been a variety of tools depending on the activity or content to be assessed. We have applied different types such as diagnostic (to check what students know about a topic), formative (to check what students have learnt during the project) and summative assessment (to check the students’ general linguistic skills with reading, speaking, listening and writing tests). We have used Chromebooks in the classroom to gamify both the diagnostic and formative assessments, obtaining great engagement from the students. Apps such as Quizizz, Kahoot or Google Forms have been our best allies.

I would also like to thank Alejandro Salto Carrera from Coventry, England, (former student at our school and a current University student to become a teacher of English) for his kind collaboration on the project. He has done an amazing job with all the students connecting with them via Google Hangout. It was an amazing conversational experience because we realised that there was a great participation because of the students’ motivation and curiosity to know more about Alejandro’s experience not only in England but also at Warwick Castle itself. He gently moved there to take some photographs and to record some videos to share and comment with the students. We are truly thankful to him for the great and unique contribution to the #GoingToWarwick PBL.

Finally, I would like to say that we have all enjoyed and had fun going through this project in which students have learnt differently and more actively in the classroom. I have met different difficulties in both groups concerning, for example, group work (at the beginning, the creation of a collaborative environment was deeply worked) or digital competence to communicate and create content properly. I have also taken in mind the specific dynamics for all students in the classroom to develop the contents required, despite any learning difficulty.

Generally speaking, this project has not only enriched but also enabled students to develop their key competencies using content to create new products that will be useful for them in the future.

Personally, the #GoingToWarwick PBL has shown flipped learning as a meta-strategy that frees the classroom time for students to have an answer to the question that inspired this unforgettable experience.


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