In post-secondary, students are often required to work on culminating projects comprised of various assignments submitted at different deadlines throughout the term. My teaching partner and I wanted to bring the experience of a post-secondary culminating project into our classroom, but in a way that was both manageable and meaningful to our LINC students.
When doing major projects, my teaching partner and I are always looking for ways to optimize Portfolio-Based Language Assessment (PBLA) for all four skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing). As we focus on teaching our students English to prepare them for post-secondary education and the workplace, we find ourselves utilizing creative ways to incorporate PBLA with scaffolded learning. Thus, we came up with the idea of a cereal box book report.
What did students do?
We asked students to read an ESL novel of their choice that was appropriate for their Canadian Level Benchmark (CLB). Students then completed several assignments for different competency areas (CA) in all four skills.
Components of the Culminating Project
In eight weeks, students completed the project which was broken down into five assignments:
- Novel Selection – Students chose a popular literary novel that was re-written for ESL students.
- Reading Notes (reading CA iv / writing CA ii, iv) – Students had three weeks to read their novel and write notes about its contents. Notes on the novel identified items such as author, copyright date, setting, genre, protagonist, plot/conflict, favourite quote, and new vocabulary learned.
- Rough Draft of Cereal Box Book Report (reading CA ii / writing CA iv) – After reviewing students’ reading notes and checking for accuracy of content, students took teacher feedback to type their notes into MS Word. Students were also required to write their opinion of the novel with key details to support their point of view. The assignment handout required students to read and follow detailed instructions on how to format their document in MS Word using APA guidelines.
- Final Cereal Box Book Report (listening CA i, iv / speaking CA i, iv / reading CA ii) – Students then took information from their previous assignments and displayed it on a cereal box. The purpose of this task was not only for students to follow instructions on how to design their cereal box, but also prepare a book report in a visually creative manner that would be a conversation piece for others. Students then showcased their cereal box book reports at an exhibit to their peers in the LINC program. The exhibit allowed for discussion of the novels to promote and encourage other students in the program to read the literary works.
- Book Report Oral Presentation (listening CA iv / speaking CA iv) – Finally, students did oral presentations for the class using PowerPoint to summarize the contents of their novels and their experiences of the culminating project.
What books did students read?
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
- Billy Elliot by Melvin Burgess
- The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
- Falling Leaves by Adeline Yen Mah
Some class time was given, but most of the assignments were completed by students in their own time. As a result, students had to manage their time carefully to meet deadlines and work independently. Detailed assignment handouts with skill-using and assessment rubrics were given to students to help guide them in their learning. Teachers also modelled their expectations for assignments with samples of work for their own ESL novel.
Students Thoughts on the Project
At first, students were a bit overwhelmed with the idea of reading a book on their own and completing such a big project. However, as they worked on the assignments bit by bit, they started to see the different things they were learning and the skills they were developing:
- time management and meeting deadlines
- English communication skills
- MS Office, keyboarding, and computer skills
- understanding academic honesty, plagiarism, and APA formatting
Of course, a project of this capacity can easily be shortened or extended, while learning tasks/assignments and competency areas can be easily adjusted for your LINC students!