ESL Project Ideas for Beginners

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

One of the exciting aspects of learning a new language is the ability to work on projects. This lesson provides teachers with projects intended for beginner ESL (English as a second language) students.

ESL Beginners

ESL students, at the beginning of their English language journey, require special considerations. First of all, new ESL learners absorb and retain knowledge differently. This is one reason why projects are such a valuable asset. Projects can be tailored to the strengths and creative leanings of each individual in your classroom. Before you assign a project to your students, there are a few items to think about.

  • Is the project age/level appropriate?
  • Can the instructions be easily understood in English?
  • How much time and what resources will the project require?
  • Do all students understand the task and feel comfortable asking questions?

Once you feel confident answering the above questions in the affirmative, it's time to choose one of the project ideas below.

Word Search Tally Project

This project is a great way to encourage students to actively search for new vocabulary outside of the classroom. First, prepare a list of 5-10 vocabulary words that you are teaching in class. For example, if you are doing a lesson or unit on transportation, your list could be as follows:

  1. Airport
  2. Bicycle
  3. Bus
  4. Car
  5. Ship/boat
  6. Train

Next, instruct students to divide a blank sheet of paper into columns so that each word has its own column. Then have students copy one word into each column.

During the week, students should put a checkmark in the appropriate column each time they see one of the vocabulary words outside of class. They should also put a brief note about where they saw the word. For instance, if a student saw the word bus on a website, they would put a check in the bus column and write down the URL of the site.

At the end of the week (or whenever you feel the students have had enough time), you can either collect the papers or ask students to present their findings to the class. Since everyone was looking for the same words, have a class discussion about which words are more common than others and possible reasons why. You can repeat this project as many times as you see fit.

Vacation Information Project

This project needs to be set up before a designated school holiday because it requires students to collect information during their time away from school. Winter or spring break is ideal and summer is even better if you will be seeing the same students again in the autumn. It may be helpful to copy and paste the following instructions into a document that you give to each student:

When you return to school after the break you will create a visual presentation about your vacation. To do well on the presentation, you will need to do the following things during the vacation.

  1. Take pictures of activities, events and locations
  2. Keep a journal of what you do and where you go
  3. If possible, collect a few souvenirs or other items from your travels

Important! You do not need to take pictures of everything and write down all the things you do during vacation. Only take pictures of things and write down information that you want to include in your presentation.

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