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5 Authentic Project Ideas for ESL Learners

"Why even do this?", students might ask when they are not sure why they need to complete certain tasks. Student motivation and engagement are possibly the most important variables in the learning process. Identifying clear objectives and providing students with a purpose for carrying out various activities will more likely engage them as they will see the benefits of completing the proposed tasks. Because most of my high school ESL learners need a lot of motivation in school, I like to assign different authentic projects during the school year.

In this blog post, I am presenting my favourite, authentic activities that hopefully will appeal to your students, too.

This creative and interdisciplinary Halloween project is an ideal activity that your student may carry out around Halloween. This project not only requires learners to draw and describe their costume, but they also need to critically analyze their choices of design and character that should transmit a message, represent them as individuals or reflect their values, qualities, and interests.

This short story guide not only focuses on reading comprehension activities and the analysis of point of view, Gothic elements, and plot, but it also contains a mock trial activity that encourages students to reenact the trial of the narrator to decide whether he is guilty or not guilty by reason of insanity. While carrying out this creative assignment, learners develop several skills. They reinvest understanding of the text as they select and organize relevant information from the short story to prepare the mock trial and develop analytical, critical thinking, and public speaking skills.

This project requires learners to research a career path they would love to follow, or they would like to learn more about. Most students are not sure what they want to do after high school, so this assignment gives them a chance to become familiar with various career choices they could opt for in the future. The main goals of this project are researching a career path and creating a visually appealing and comprehensive brochure, video, Power Point presentation, or a written text that they will present to their peers.

In the last semester, I love incorporating student choice projects into my curriculum as it helps my senior learners stay motivated before they walk out the doors of their high school to start a new chapter in their life. This assignment allows students to choose from a wide range of independent project ideas such as writing a blog post, an article, a short story, a song, a poem, a book report on their favourite book; and preparing a speech on an issue they care about or creating a vlog. This project is always a popular activity among my high school ESL learners as it gives them the flexibility to choose what they want to write about and how they want to deliver the final product instead of completing a curriculum-driven assignment requiring all students to produce the same type of text on the same topic.

If you need some differentiated project ideas to wrap up your novel unit, try these final assessment ideas that you may use with almost any book. The different writing prompts require learners to produce various text types:

  • Article - Critical book review

  • Comparison essay

  • Chapter (a new ending for the story)

  • Letter

  • Expository essay

  • Listicle

  • Character analysis essay

Every time I assign the above activity in class, the most popular options are the following tasks: letter to the author and character analysis essay. I believe these text forms are the most appealing assignments because they help learners to personally connect with the author or one of the characters in the book. The first option requires students to share their favourite part of the novel while also expressing their point of view on what they would have liked to be different, and the latter encourages them to analyze a character they sympathize or feel a strong connection with. These assignments not only assess students' understanding of the novel and their writing skills, but they also provide them with the opportunity to choose the way they wish to showcase their skills.

Happy teaching!

Kynga C.


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