Series: Internationals Network Deeper Learning

Supporting ELLs Through Project-Based Learning
Lesson Objective: Develop scientific content knowledge and language skills
All Grades / All Subjects / Engagement

Thought starters

  1. How does Deeper Learning happen in science with students who are new to English?
  2. In what ways do students and teachers both leverage students’ native languages as an asset for learning?
  3. How does project-based learning lead to deep and integrated learning of language and content?

This is a wonderful example of a typical high school unit including a lab/simulation component.  It is a well-planned "lesson" that many effective biology teachers have taught for decades.  We need more of videos of secondary science and math videos on this wonderful resource (Teaching Channel). All of the aspects the very effective teacher and Clair Sylvan state as fundamental science best practices of teaching science effectively that the science education community has advocated for decades, including:

“hands-on”, “small group”, “more than just words (vocabulary)”, “graphically represent”

Organizes (white board chart) “(lab) procedure guides” “own words to describe each step” “heterogenous groups” “(meaningful conversation) kids talk to each other about what they’re doing” “(academic) conversations in (native) own languages”, “develop understandings in their native language”, “developing literacy in 2 places”, teacher using visual/physical representations when demonstrating “unzip” DNA, peer support.  However, I'm unsure why it is labeled a PBL, unless it's using the buzz word to attract viewers.  I suggest more commentary on characteristics of science PBLs and how they may be different from historic science best practices be included.

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Peers assisting peers I find definitely helps students understand concepts better.
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I work at an international school in China. Our school is trying to be a PBL school. Since I teach English to ESL you have lesson plans, etc. for English?
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I have always felt that utilizing peer groups with group projects enables students to go deeper than individual seat work. To share, work toward a common goal, value everyone in the group, all are life skills needed in todays world.
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Is there any place that I could find out the complete lesson plan and see the handout activity
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  • Supporting ELLs Through Project-Based Learning Transcript

    Teacher: First thing, what are some of the species we had? Jar Jen 00:09, you

    Supporting ELLs Through Project-Based Learning Transcript

    Teacher: First thing, what are some of the species we had? Jar Jen 00:09, you said you were number one.

    Narrator: If you’re not yet using projects and you’re serving a lot of English language learners, think about how I can transform my class into one where hands-on, small group work is the main mode of instructional engagement.

    Teacher: This machine here is going to make copies of DNA, just like the copy machine makes all the beautiful handouts.

    Narrator: The project is always hands-on. The project is always giving them something more than just words to grab onto. In my class, biology, it’s hugely important to be able to graphically represent what you’re thinking of.

    Teacher: What our goal is today is to amplify DNA. What we need to do is make a lot of copies first.

    Narrator: If that’s doing an experiment on plants or it’s creating procedure guide to how to extract DNA, they have an idea in their mind what that looks like. By the time they’re sitting down to do the project, they know what the stuff is, they’ve seen it, they have pictures, they have drawings. They’ve creating something. Now they’re putting words to ideas.

    Teacher: Which word are you using to describe step one, step two, step three?

    Narrator: Group work is a vital component of what we do. The real conversations happen when kids are able to talk to each other about what it is they’re doing. In our classroom, we have a lot of different conversations going on in a lot of different languages. We want English to be the common language at the table, but we also are encouraging, when possible, for students who speak the same language to talk to each other and develop understandings in their native language.

    Teacher: I like how you have something similar to what Yon Ling 01:57 has.

    Narrator: I want them to realize that if you know it in your native language as well as in English, you’re developing literacy in two places.

    Teacher: What happens to the old DNA? Unzip.

    Narrator: You’re doing the same thing you would do for other groups, but you’re adding to our consciousness that this group needs that attention. You’re also constructing in your projects and in your small group work opportunities for these kids to be supported by their peers and to support each other.

    [End of Audio]

School Details

Flushing International High School
144-80 Barclay Avenue
Queens NY 11355
Population: 444

Data Provided By:



Claire Sylvan
Jordan Wolf


TCH Special

Grades 6-12, All Subjects, Civic Engagement

TCH Special

Grades 6-12, All Subjects, Civic Engagement

TCH Special

Grades 6-12, All Subjects, Civic Engagement

Teaching Practice

All Grades / All Subjects / Collaboration