George Lucas Educational Foundation

PBL and minority languages

PBL and minority languages

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Hello, I'm writting from the Basque Country in Spain. I teache Basque language as a second language to students from 12-18 years old (I'm not sure about grades in the US). I'm currently implementing some humble projects with my eldest students, but my problem is the lack of real material. Basque is a minority language struggling to survive, and, although we have immersion programs and University studies, it cannot compete with majority languages such as Spanish and English, and whenever you want to search for information in Basque very little is found on the internet. Does anyone have any suggestion to implement PBL in my language classroom? Thank you

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Don Doehla, MA, NBCT's picture
Don Doehla, MA, NBCT
2015 California Language Teacher of the Year, Co-Director Berkeley WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center

Me encanta encontrarle aqui en Edutopia! I wish I knew some Basque as well, but even though I was privileged to live in the Bearn in France, I did not learn to speak Basque.

Your questions are excellent. I would encourage you to keep looking for as much authentic material as you can in Basque, and keep pressing onward. No matter which language we may teach, we all have a similar objective - fluency in another language for our students, in culturally rich contexts, using authentic materials in the target language for all 4 skills - listening, speaking, reading and writing, for the 3 ways we use language for communication (interpersonally, interpretively and presentationally - in oral and written contexts). Your projects can be the same as for any other language - what will vary is the linguistic content, and the cultural context.

For example, all first year students, novices to the language to be learned, need to do a unit we might call, "Who am I?" In such a unit, they will need demonstrate the following linguistic functions:
- greetings
- personal descriptions
- how to deal with gender differentiation (like masculine/feminine)
- how to communicate in the singular, 1st person forms (I am, I have, I go...)
- others?

They will produce memorized chunks of language, in both oral and written forms. The project? How about if they imagine themselves as a person connected to the culture being studied? I have done a project like this where the students pretended they were pirates in the French-speaking Caribbean. The Capitaine of La Grande Sophie (the name of the ship) posted a note calling for all willing pirates of the region to make their case why they should be chosen to be crew members on the ship. They prepared a poster of themselves as a pirate after doing a little research on appropriate costumes. There was more to it than that, but it was a lot of fun for a very beginning project.

I wonder what ideas others may have to suggest as well? I have set up a wiki space for teachers to collaborate in making projects by fluency levels, not by languages alone. We can develop some structures for projects and each teacher can fill in the pertinent details for their own language and the cultural elements to make them authentic. Interested? Check it out here:

I would love to have you join us! It is fairly new, so I have started by adding some basics about PBL in Wl and some documents to read for further inquiry. More to follow in the near future!

I hope this is a beginning for you Amala! In the meantime, check out the others posts here at Edutopia, the wiki mentioned above, and perhaps also peruse our work on Langchat on Twitter - see this wiki for more details on Langchat:

Hasta la proxima, Amala!


Amaia Irazusta Zarra's picture
Amaia Irazusta Zarra
Basque language teacher in a HIgh School in Pamplona, (Navarre) SPAIN

I'm very busy at the moment, but I'll keep in touch. You're doing an increadible great job! But how do you manage with time? I think I'd need a whole life to be up-to-date with this stuff! There are so many interesting activities that can be done, but there are so demanding! Anyway, thank you again and I'll post somme comment soon.
Eskerrik asko

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