Students were asked to re-design an Italian cafe in their local suburb that met
the needs and requirements of the business owner, and that was clearly inspired by an Italian city of their choice. Their proposal had to be completed digitally and include a description of the current cafe, a summary of the clients’ requirements, a new layout, new furniture, and a convincing explanation of each design choice they made.
Context: Yr 9/10 accelerated Italian
Time: 9 weeks
Learning objectives: To engage students of different ages, abilities and levels of language acquisition; to learn for a real purpose, to create something for a real audience, to make students aware of the Italian community around them, to teach students how to learn independently, to teach students how to present information in a clear, concise and engaging manner, to teach how to adapt and manipulate language structures to create authentic language (as opposed to literally translated language ); to teach students how to meet a client’s brief; to teach students the importance of presentation when doing business; to acquire new language structures and vocabulary relating to house and suburbs; to learn about an Italian city; to learn how to write a brochure for a city.
Product: Students re-design an Italian café in their local suburb that meets the needs and requirements of the business owner, and that is clearly inspired by an Italian city of their choice. Their proposal must be completed digitally and include a description of the current café, a summary of the client’s requirements, a new layout, new furniture, and a convincing explanation of each design choice they have made.
- Brochure on Italian city: research an Italian city of your choice and write a brochure promoting that city as a tourist attraction. This city will be the inspiration for café redesign.
- Redesign a room in your house: choose a room in your house that could do with a revamp. Interview your clients (ie. Your parents) to understand what their requirements and budget, then redesign the new room. The students presented Present an interior design brief including furniture, accessories, paint, an accurately measured floor plan and a convincing explanation for all design choices (this gets peer-critiqued and is followed by the co-construction of our assessment rubric for the final product).
Exhibition: Proposal delivered to client. Best design awarded a voucher by the owners.
Co-constructed Assessment Rubric
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Adapting to other subjects and contexts
The original project and suggested adaptations can be multi-disciplinary. For example, Design & Technology can focus on interior design principles and technology for designing of floor plans; English can focus on using persuasive language and visuals to pitch your proposal to a client
Maths: Using perimeter and surface areas to design spaces and ratios to real spaces draw to scale on floor plans; working out budgets
STEM: Designing an eco-friendly cafe` (including the physical space and the menu)
Business and Commerce: Designing a business plan for the cafe`
Personal Development, Health & Physical Education: Designing a healthy cafe` menu (perhaps attached to a gym)
Do you have any other ideas teachers could find helpful? Click here to add them to the comments section.
This was my second PBL unit with this challenging and diverse class of students from the Italian Bilingual School who all have varying levels of fluency in Italian. After our first project, I had asked students if they wanted to continue with PBL or go back to traditional teaching. They all preferred PBL; however, they agreed with me that we still needed to address grammar and HSC skills, and consequently we co-constructed a timetable for Term 2 that we were all happy with: for every 6 periods a cycle, one would be spent on developing HSC skills, two would be spent on grammar, and the rest on PBL.
I had originally designed this PBL unit for Yr 11 Italian, but once I arrived at the school and met the Yr 11 class, I felt the pressure to stick to exam-based teaching as they were not as advanced as I had originally imagined as an outsider to the school. I thought it perfect, though, for this accelerated class as they had enough prior knowledge to get the project started and we had the luxury of time to work on useful skills and topics that were not exam based.
I struggled with this unit as I found it difficult to find a grammatical focus for it and consequently I feared the students would not recognise it as learning. Traditionally, language units are built around a particular verb tense, for example, and there was no way to do this with the café project. What I did instead was provide students with a model to follow and adapt; however, the weaker students used Google Translate, despite my advice against it, and the language was a mess. I used the hurdle tasks and drafts to teach grammar to students one-on-one. I would mark their work with them in person, providing a grammar explanation for each and every mistake. It was incredibly time consuming and difficult to time manage, so I introduced silent reading of novels and comics in Italian as a way to find the time to sit with individuals whilst the rest of the class was engaged in reading. Unfortunately, some students did not recognise this one-on-one feedback time as ‘grammar learning”. Although I disagree, I had to acknowledge their perceptions and find another solution for grammar learning.
As per the co-constructed timetable, I also dedicated one hour a week on grammar. Each week I choose a particular tense to teach the class; however, this was ineffective: for the more fluent students it was a complete waste of time as they already knew it all, and for the other students it was far too rushed and superficial as I attempted to fasten the pace not to bore the more advanced learners.
During the one-on-one feedback time I collected a vast amount of data on each student which I used to inform my next PBL unit plan.
Although overall students produced high quality work, I would hardly call this PBL unit a success; however, it was a necessary and crucial step in my process of trial and error for this unique group of students, and as a result of it, I developed a more effective formula for teaching this class of diverse learners.
Sadly, when I introduced the next PBL experience to this class (the eBook hologram project), a group of students approached me a few days later expressing their desire to abandon PBL and to learn via traditional methods. They told me that they did not see the relevance of using technologies such as eBooks and holograms to their learning of Italian and wanted me to teach via textbooks and the grammar-translation method. It was incredibly disheartening to hear, but with the support of my Head of Learning and Curriculum, I stuck to my plan. I knew that I had learned immensely from the “failures” of the Café project and that the next one was going to be a success.
Have you experienced a similar trial & error project that took you on a steep learning journey? What “errors” did you make and how did they improve your future teaching practice? Click here to share your experience in the comments section.