The nowadays reality (on the one hand – a very high degree of students’ boredom in the framework of classical education and the lack of connections with the real world; on the other hand – the students’ engagement and excitement of the digital world (the social network spread and gamification of the world) makes appear a new approach to teaching – Deep Learning.
There are different frameworks and methods that can be used in the classroom to implement Deep Learning.
Challenge Based Learning (CBL) is an approach that helps students understanding the world around them and solve real-world problems. I think that approach was designed for middle and high school students, probably students in grades 4 and 5, who can be ready for this approach as well. CBL helps develop and improve the following skills: Leadership, Creativity, Media Literacy, Problem-Solving, Critical Thinking, Flexibility, and Adaptability. Technology is a tool for students to explore, connect with each other and a teacher or/ and consultant, record their thinking and findings, and communicate the result of work to the community.
What do we need to have in order to CBL happen? Computers, media creation tools, the Internet, and mobile devices for any time, anywhere access to information, content, and communication, a collaborative workspace that is available to everyone 24/7. At a minimum, the workspace will include a calendar, a place to store notes, documents, and other digital assets such as PDFs, video clips, and audio and video podcasts.
Students can create different types of products, including a challenge proposal video, a set of guiding questions, research plans and results, solutions with testing plans and evaluation parameters, a solution video, student journals, and individual reflection videos. CBL requires some sort of prior knowledge, higher-order thinking skills, and good digital skills.
As an elementary school teacher, I can see some challenges in implementing this approach in my classroom—first, age restrictions and some online tools’ complexity. As a result, it can be done only in the classroom setting with a teacher’s support or at home with the parents’ assistance.
As a foreign language teacher, I can use CBL only with the students who have already reached Intermediate High or Advanced levels and can speak, read, and write in a target language. Unfortunately, students can reach these levels at the end of Middle school.
The more appropriate framework for elementary students who are learning a foreign language will be Game-Based Learning.
“The ALLURE method of game design uses learning, engagement, and assessment principles inherent in complex game mechanics to create a spectrum of highly engaging learning experiences, digital or non-digital.” This method is frequently used in our school in WL classrooms.
The other features of GBL are:
- Networked or Sensory Environment
- Fast, Random, or Simultaneous Access
- Frequent Rewards or Feedback
- Narrative or Fantasy.
A good example is the Kahoot Games. Students can access at the same time, it is challenging (it is written in a target language and assesses the knowledge, gives immediate feedback). The last Kahoot game I created was based on Christmas and New Year Celebrations, similarities and differences between Russia and The USA. Students love to play these types of games and sometimes challenge themselves and create their own games for classmates to play. We make the games after the presentations to check for understanding.
Another type of popular game is a Rival Game when a student or a group of students has a goal to compete against another student (or group); it pushes students’ abilities and makes them cooperate against a challenge.
(Simple and Complex ALLURE Version, by Victoria Mondelli and Joe Bisz, 2019)
Role-play is the most powerful game in language learning. Students are engaged in a variety of authentic situations and play different roles.
So, Game-Based Learning is known and widely used in WL classrooms in our school. It does not require a high level of language proficiency. It is age-appropriate for elementary school students. It is fun and engaging, authentic, and easy to implement.
Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a “teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects.” This type of project contains curriculum and instruction; the students work on it during an extended period of time, trying to solve a real-world problem or answering complex questions. The final product is presented to a real audience. This method also requires a good command of Russian or any other language. I use this method when the students are ready to do in a target language in the unit’s framework, for instance, “Healthy Choices.” The students collect the data of their classmates’ food preferences, analyze the menu of our school, research healthy and unhealthy food choices, make a list of recommendations on how to improve the school menu, and present it to the owner of our school cafeteria. Students work on developing their content knowledge as well as critical thinking, collaboration, and communication skills in a target language.
Design thinking aims to examine a problem from a human-centered perspective and develop a creative solution to this problem using different innovation strategies. A human-centered approach means that we analyze our students’ personal needs and create a learning process that allows a variety of human experiences for specific students.
Each student has a device (I-pad or computer) and access to various apps for language learning (Linguascope, Quizlet, Kahoot, This is Language). The WL teachers do not use textbooks; they constantly modify and adapt materials to the students’ needs and proficiency level. In each theme, we have essential questions in English and Russian; the students self-evaluate themselves at the beginning of each unit in order to understand what they already know and can do. After that, we discuss the theme and write a lot of questions that the students would like to be able to ask and answer in a target language and brainstorm about a possible format for the presentation of the final product. Students have the right to choose any format to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. For now, the rubrics of summative assessments are based on ACTFL standards. During my learning journey with COETAIL, I have started to think about how not only to implement the ISTE standards in my teaching but also incorporate them in rubrics for assessments.
There are so many frameworks of teaching nowadays. We can use any of them depending on what learning goals we have and what matches the best to our students’ needs. But we need to remember that students are learning when the situation is relevant, the language is real, and activities are meaningful and exciting.