The Honeybee Project was a multi-step project that was used for classes in three different high school levels. It integrated all the English skills and provided the students with opportunities to harness these skills and to apply what has been taught in the class. I developed the project for the classes I was teaching in the College de Champigny high school. Specifically, the project was designed for the class of Grade 3 students that I was handled. The school is located in Quebec City, Quebec, CA. The school has 700 students.
Some of the school facilities include a library and 2 computer laboratories with 40 computers each. The school likewise has a pedagogical internet site which teachers, parents, and students can access all at the same time. Most of the students in the school come from very affluent families. The fees the school charges are quite expensive and only students in the higher socio-economic classes can afford them. Majority of the enrolled students are French. There are only a few foreign students. The classes that I handled were in three levels. They were all special English classes. The Grade 2 class was for advanced students.
The grade 3 class was composed of students attending the enriched programme. Finally, the students in the Grade 5 class were all part of the Language Arts Programme. Having taught the students for several months prior to the project, I was confident that they would be able to work on the project with ease. All the students were considered advanced students. They could speak quite good English. This made it easier for me to explain the project. Also, students were able to complete the tasks with relative ease. Working with the Grade 3 and Grade 5 classes was easier. The students in Grade 2 were younger.
This meant that I had to exert more effort to make them work on the project most especially when it came to conversing in English. The project was divided into two parts. It took 7 periods of 75 minutes each to complete parts I and II. Also, another two periods were necessary for the Oral Presentations. Part I of the project required the students to work individually. The purpose of Part I was to evaluate the students’ ability to read in English. Also, this part of the project was meant to evaluate whether students could apply the information they have gathered in the course of their reading to answer questions.
Part I required students to conduct a research on the internet using Web Quest. They also utilized the library and its resources to gather the information that they needed. This step involved reading authentic texts from published sources and from the Internet. The information they gathered was then used to answer the questions. Part II of the project entailed cooperative work. Students were provided a booklet which would give them on the steps and tasks that they had to complete. Also, roles and sales pitch templates were given to assist the students further.
The purpose of Part II was to evaluate the students’ ability to work cohesively with their mates. It was also meant to evaluate the students’ ability to apply all their English skills in a creative manner. In this part of the project, the students were assigned to groups randomly. Each group had 3 members each and each member was given a specific role. One student was assigned as the gatekeeper and recorder whose main task was to take note of all group decisions and to ensure that all members are given the opportunity to give their input.
Another group member was assigned as the Captain and English Monitor. His task was to keep everyone working and to ensure that the group is focused on a particular goal each day. Also, he had the responsibility of ensuring that every member was speaking in English. The last member was assigned as the visual artist. He was in charge of all artistic work that was required in the project. The goal of each group was to create a business whose main products were honey and another hive product that the groups had to determine.
They were tasked to create all necessary materials that were needed for a fair show such as flyers, brochures, business cards, co-cards, posters, banners, and a kiosk. The culmination of the project was an oral presentation where the groups presented their business and products. Also, they had to sell their products to the class and convince everyone why their product was the best in the market. Every member of the group had to participate in the presentation. Each group was evaluated by other groups in terms of their presentation and their kiosk. The project was developed to meet various competencies of the MELS program.
ESL competencies, cross-curricular competencies and broad areas of learning were addressed in the project. ESL competency 1 which states, “To interact orally in English,” (MELS, 2003) was addressed since the students were required to present their company and product to the whole class. Also, groups were required to communicate in English while working on the project. ESL competency 2, “To reinvest understanding of oral and written texts,” (MELS, 2003) was met specifically by Part I of the project where students had to read and gather information in order to answer the questions in Webquest.
The information they had read on beekeeping was likewise utilized to complete the other exercises in Part I such as the vocabulary crossword and the Venn diagram. Also, in Part II, students had to conduct some research to help them come up with ideas regarding the product that they would see. ESL competency 4, “Exploit technology information and communication,” (MELS, 2003) was likewise addressed by the project since students had to utilize the internet to gather information in both parts of the project. Cross-curricular competencies as stated in the MELS program were also addressed in the project.
CCC 1, “To exploit the information,” (MELS, 2003) was addressed since students searched for information using the internet, magazines, books or any written texts. The information they gathered was then used to answer the questions posed in Webquest for Part I and to come up with their product for Part II. Furthermore, CCC 4, “To implement creative thoughts,” (MELS, 2003) was met by the project. Students had to be creative as they developed the promotional materials such as the banners, flyers, brochures, business cards, and logos.
Creativity was also required to ensure that their presentation was interesting and relevant. The project was likewise linked to the Broad Areas of Learning, specifically, media literacy. The students were tasked to make use of the internet sources to gather pertinent information. Also, the students used different software to design and develop the promotional materials that were required for the project such as the flyer, brochure, and the business card. Media literacy was also evident in the oral presentation of each group as some utilized PowerPoint to aide their presentation.
Reflective Analysis Cooperative work is a very valuable tool in ESL teaching. It provides students with avenues to practice their English skills and at the same time help them develop social skills. Working in groups allows students to interact with other and to foster the sense of community and cooperation. Cooperative learning has been viewed as an effective way for teachers to reduce classroom management problems and to increase student involvement and ownership in the projects they work on. Kyle, Kagan, and Scott, 2002) The Honeybee project allowed students to work in groups to complete tasks that based on a real life situation. Business and marketing are elements of a life that lies ahead for the students. The project gives the students to try their hand in the two fields. Scaffolding and ZPD in the Honeybee Project Scaffolding refers to the process of providing students with temporary support or structures upon which they can build their skills.
As the students progress, these structures, known as scaffolds, are slowly removed until the students can work independently. Hammond, 2001) The Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) refers to the gap between the child’s existing abilities and what she/he can learn with the guidance of an adult or a more capable peer. (Cummins, 1994) In the project, there was a pre-writing discussion before the students worked on the tasks. In the discussion, all necessary information was provided. Also, it was at this point that the information packets were handed out. These served as guides for the students as they moved from one step of the project to the next.
An initial discussion focused on the kind of information that students would expect. Having established the foundation for the project, the students then worked in their groups where they brainstormed on the name of their enterprise and the other materials needed for the project. The students were also provided with pictures to serve as models for their work. Also, definitions for every item in the project were provided such as the sales pitch vocabulary. Students also received feedback on their work from their peers and from the instructor as well.
This feedback was essential for it told students what they had to do to improve on their work. In the project, the students received appropriate scaffolding. The support provided focused on the steps and structures that were necessary for the students to create their business, product, and marketing materials. Since students were unfamiliar with how to create an enterprise and how to market or sell a product, the support provided was very valuable and kept it within the Zone of Proximal Development. Moreover, this reduced the students’ stress towards the unfamiliar and challenging task.
Also, in the project, the topics that were used allowed the students to make use of the general knowledge they have from their own culture such as marketing and sales. The students were also in charge of coming up with their own theme for the marketing materials that they had to develop. The use of the knowledge that the students have relates to Cummins’ assertion which states that, “Conceptual knowledge that students possess in their first language constitutes a major component of the cognitive power that they bring to the language learning situation. (Cummins, 1994) Several components of language acquisition were explored in the project. Learning new vocabulary was accomplished through the students’ reading of authentic texts that were focused on one topic, beekeeping. Incidental vocabulary learning that results from reading greatly complements vocabulary teaching. (Coady & Huckin, 1997) Furthermore, the use of authentic texts in the project is supported by the notion of literature-based instruction.
Asking the students to read texts and to learn the vocabulary through their reading coincides with the concept that language learning must move from the whole to the parts. According to Custodio and Sutton (1998), “Language is not learned from the part to the whole, but from the whole to the part, and… all language functions interrelate. ” Also, Krashen (1985) states, “A good strategy to foster vocabulary learning is the use of various texts treating the same subject or genre, which refers to narrow reading.
This helps students to build schema and background knowledge and facilitates vocabulary learning” (Krashen, 1985, p. 52). The project helped students develop vocabulary since the students were required to read authentic texts to gather the information that they needed. The project also emphasized the focus on form or metacognitive strategies. According to Livingston (n. d), “Activities such as planning how to approach a given learning task, monitoring comprehension, and evaluating progress toward the completion of a task are metacognitive in nature. ” These activities were all present in the project.
The students worked in small groups which required them to speak in English at all times. This meant the students had to focus intensively on their own speech. They had to identify the mistakes they made in their speech and to correct these. Furthermore, the students had to focus on their group mates as they spoke. The project also required the students to read English texts as these materials contained the information that they needed to complete the project. Finally, students had to complete a self-evaluation where they had to determine their progress in their English learning.