Series Internationals Network Deeper Learning: Supporting ELLs Through Project-Based Learning

Supporting ELLs Through Project-Based Learning

Lesson Objective: Develop scientific content knowledge and language skills
All Grades / All Subjects / Engagement


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Discussion and Supporting Materials

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?


  • Private message to Estela Del Real

As a teacher assistant, this lesson is wounderful.  It helps ELLs to engage more in the classroom and it provides a sences of unity in the classroom as well.  I would like to work in a classroom setting like this in order to learn and help students over all.

Recommended (0)
  • Private message to Nirmala Ramsaran

As an ENL teacher who will co-teach biology next year, this video has helped me to get an idea of how to support my ELLs with their vocabulary and content. It love how students were able to communicate with one another in their home language to support their understanding of the content. I love the point about building literacy in both languages because it is important that our learners know that there is value in using their native language. More importantly, I am a strong beilever in learning by doing and I think PBL is the best way for ELLs to grasp the content because they are making direction connection to it through their personal experience and engagement in the activity itself.

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  • Private message to Donna Bralow

If I was in this class I would have had a stronger interest in science.  I loved seeing the excitement in the classroom.  Reading a text first in a persons native language helps them to better understand the English text.  This is a great skill to use in research assignments.

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  • Private message to Donna Bralow

I think if I was in this class as a child I would have loved science.  It was great to see the excitement in the classroom and peers working together.  Reading content in a person's native language first  helps the student understand the text in English.  This is a great way to complete research assignments.

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  • Private message to Sandra West

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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  • 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: 432

Data Provided By:



Claire Sylvan
Jordan Wolf


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