Projects for real (13 of 15): explaining Agile


Most of the project management resources I’ve been linking to are about traditional project management, or the so-called ‘waterfall’ approach. What about Agile, Scrum, Kanban and all the other jazzy words from contemporary PM practice? Without going into too much detail for now, here is something to be used as an introduction: a post by Natalia Babaeva about explaining Agile to her grandfather. And if this doesn’t help, here are fun quotes from project managers who talking about Agile to kids: really interesting! “Son, you know when dad arrives from work, very hungry? Agile is like when we keep bringing him tapas rather than keeping him waiting for an elaborate main dish.”


Projects for real (12 of 15): more toolkits


To continue the topic of ready-made toolkits, here is another PBL toolbox, made by John Spencer: scroll down through the introduction and subscribe to get your free copy. The introduction and other articles it links to are also worth reading, as well as the podcast episode by the author. He stresses the need for self-directed learning and metacognition skills – just what we need to prepare the kids for future work, isn’t it? And the toolbox contains more help for this: you get a beginner’s guide (which looks like a cool presentation you could make to teachers as an INSETT session), a description of the project management process and a lot of worksheets and guidelines for students in the Microsoft Word format, i.e. easily adaptable. There is a special folder for self-, peer and standards assessment, too. An amazing resource that can save you a lot of time if you decide to make your next project a project ‘for real’ 😉


Projects for real (11 of 15): toolkits for PM and PBL


Now this resource is gold. The Educational Foundation of the Project Management Instituate actually has a toolkit for teachers – even better, two toolkits! They note the differences in traditional project management terminology and project-based learning for schools and have different sections for this. The materials you can download for free include all the phases of a typical project, from Initiating to Closing, and focus on the process (just the way I like it!). Every document pack has a teacher’s guide, sometimes with a powerpoint slide deck that can be adapted for the classroom, and documents that can be printed for students to complete. This is something I’m definitely going to take into my classroom!

Projects for real (10 of 15): a book for kids


Last time I wrote about non-ELT materials that can be used to speak to younger learners about project management. The topic is far from exhausted, and here is a fantastic free pdf-book I’ve found: How to put a man on the Moon if you’re a kid by Fergus O’Connell. First, it’s very clear and digestible for younger teens if they are at least A2; second, it highlights all the basic elements of the process of project management – just what I’ve been looking for. And, as a bonus, there are lots of interesting quotes and literary allusions that will keep even an adult satisfied. Great lesson material!

Projects for real (9 of 15): speaking simply


The more I’m reading about the topic, the more I realise that the best materials are not in the ELT domain. It’s probably to be expected: like ‘core skills’ and ’21st century skills’, project management skills are interdisciplinary. And yet it would be nice to see something adapted for English language learners! Well, you’ve got to start somewhere. Here is a good simple article from a Kids Encyclopedia that would work for secondaries. It only covers traditional waterfall structures, but can be used as a source text for an activity or two, or for homework reference. If this seems a bit too serious, here’s an extract from a book I’ve stumbled upon: about a father (who is a PM of course) explaining project management to his daughter who wants to build a really good treehouse. Even though it’s way too long for classroom use, now I really want to buy the whole book: I love how simple and practical the text is.


Projects for real (8 of 15): learning enthusiasm from STEM


Don’t you sometimes wish you were a science teacher, not a language teacher? When I see all those cool CLIL handouts, I certainly do. We can borrow a lot from the way science is taught, especially because STEM subjects lend themselves really well to project-based learning. I was walking in the park today listening to this podcast with Janet Kolodner, where she spoke about her ‘project-based inquiry Science curriculum’,  and trying to see how these projects can be adapted to the ELT classroom. And then it dawned on me: when we ask the learners to ‘be linguists’, ‘research the language’, it’s just as practical as making car wheels or a volcano, or perhaps even more so! And answering difficult questions can bring the joy that Professor Kolodner speaks about here, in this short video(if you are not a big fan of podcasts): “Why do scientists continue to do the things they do when it’s such hard work? Why do we continue learning, trying to learn?.. It requires experiencing the joy that goes with the parts of that that are fun and experiencing the meaning of all of it.”

Projects for real (7 of 15): classroom considerations


Another thing I’ve read recently is this old ELTChat summary. Even though the focus is mostly on the product, it was interesting to see so many views from different participants coming together and sometimes contradicting each other. As a note to self, here are a few tension points to explore:

  1. Should classroom projects always be collaborative, or they can also be individual?
  2. Should projects be only done during class time, or the classroom can become ‘porous’?
  3. How practical is it to have an ongoing project for several years and/or groups?
  4. Should the teacher be assigning roles and setting timelines for the learners, or should it be them?
  5. Do we grade projects, and if yes, how?

I’m now halfway through the series: there’s still time to find answers for each point!


Projects for real (6 of 15): teams and team roles


Here is a very interesting writeup of an old IATEFL webinar by Adi Rajan: “Using project management principles in the classroom” with Nathan Arthur. It’s a great summary that almost doesn’t make me wish I had watched this webinar myself – but if you happen to have a link, please share. In short, Nathan Arthur spoke about his own experience teaching EAP students: he focused on the process of project management, helped the learners with the scope and introduced constraints, elected project managers and monitored the learners throughout. It’s interesting that he didn’t introduce EPM (English for Project Management) till the end of the project (I wonder if the students are going to to find the terms just as necessary!).

All in all, I agree with Adi that there should be more to project management in the classroom than Nathan had a chance to talk about; nevertheless, it’s an interesting post to check out, if not for project management per se, then for teambuilding principles in the classroom. I wonder if he ever developed his ideas further…


Projects for real (5 of 15): now in your homes


Why write about projects when everyone’s switching to teaching online? Well, real world project management skills may be even more important now, when students are left to their own devices (literally).

And – here is a post by Dr James Wellborn about developing project management skills in teens. It keeps just the right amount of focus on the phases and processes of projects and speaks about project goals, time frame, resourcing and other useful elements of project management. The post is not related to English language teaching, but can be a very useful reference point for any teacher (or parent, as the post  suggests) of teenagers. Even better, there is an example project: a family dinner that the kid (or learner) has to plan using the constraints given by the sponsor (teacher or parent). Really interesting!

Projects for real (4 of 15): PM basics on video


Don’t you think it’s time to return to the Projects for Real series? We’ve talked about principles of ‘adult’ project management that can be taken into the teen classroom; about a very important distinction between real project-based learning and a fun project-looking task; about the language needed to talk about projects in English and how it can be put into a lesson. The next great find I’d like to share with you is this series of short videos introducing the basics of project management. Mike Clayton from Online PM Courses has done a great job covering the most important concepts, and the videos are really high-quality: fun, visual and educational. The vids still need a bit of extra ‘selling’ to the students if you decide to bring them into the classroom, but they are the best I have found. (And my teens’ eyes almost did not glaze over, which is saying something.)

As a bonus, Mike has a short 3-part series about project management lessons from Game of Thrones – not bad at all 🙂