They work well as long as:
- The topic is centred on the learners’ interests
- There is not any real need for extensive or time-consuming research
- Students can present their work orally to the rest of the class.
One particularly successful format is based on our love of lists. Students in small groups work towards compiling a top five.
Examples of top five topics are:
- Our top five favourite English records/music videos (including a final presentation with their number one song or video or lyrics).
- Our top five authors/books/poets (not just English speaking) – students can be encouraged to say why they like the author, give a description of the type of book or read an extract from a poem.
- Our top five adverts (magazine or TV) with a final round up showing the ads and describing why they are effective. This works well with students studying business.
- Our top five TV programmes (restrict to English/American ones if appropriate).
- Our top five designers/painters /paintings/buildings– including an oral description of, for example, one painting.
- Our top five discoveries/scientists/areas worthy of research – including discussion of the contributions made to the scientific field and to mankind.
- Our top five teenage fashions/teenage status symbols (e.g. mobile phone, moped).
- Our top five websites – this can include a description of the site, its users and the reasons why it is so good.
- Our top five things to do at the weekend.
A short project can be presented in one lesson, prepared and researched and completed in the next lesson.
The main advantages are:
- It gives students controlled opportunities to provide their own content in language lessons.
- It can be tailored to their school’s curriculum or their own specialisation.
- The oral presentation of each group’s findings can take as much time as is appropriate, depending on the enthusiasm and language level of the class.
- The final oral presentation stage gives excellent practice in extended speaking which is useful for higher levels. It can also be appropriate to the oral component of students’ exams and gives them extra practice in talking about topics close to their hearts.
- Students often tell you about people and things related to their own culture which can be very informative and is a genuine information gap exercise. The project can be a good round up of a term or a school year.
By Clare Lavery