Project-Based Learning: Vision Boards for the New Year

“Write the vision, make it plain.” As an ESOL educator, I love being spontaneous in the classroom and finding numerous ways to engage my students in the language learning process. So when I had the opportunity, off the cuff, to encourage my collegiate Saudi students to create vision board projects in January, I could not but applaud their efforts when they managed to construct some wonderful vision boards, either digital or traditional, truly impressing me.

Typically, when I am teaching a specific lesson from the textbook, I try to incorporate an extraneous (in the sense that it’s not included in the curriculum or course book) activity that will supplement my students’ knowledge, awareness, and skills of both the thematic and linguistic content that I want them to master. This project idea emerged after having first touched on the topic of New Year’s resolutions—or goals, as I prefer to call them.

“Has anyone ever heard of a vision board or know what it is?” I asked my intermediate level students upon starting the semester in January 2019. There was silence and looks of bewilderment. I then proceeded to describe a vision board to them, and I capitalized on classroom technology by showing them online samples of vision boards. Here are some examples you can use:

Though celebrating New Year’s Day isn’t a formal holiday in Saudi Arabia, setting and articulating goals for ourselves is or can be a universal custom. As young men (I taught all male students) navigating the challenges of college life and imminent adulthood, I wanted my students to see the value of establishing a vision for their lives, be it for 1 year or 5 years.

During the instruction giving process, I asked them to be as creative as they wanted in constructing their vision boards, which they had a week to complete. When presentation day came, some students made PowerPoint presentations to showcase their 2019 goals while others presented handcrafted posters or notebook displays of their unique ideas. Some of the goals overlapped, which showed their common interests or desires (e.g., traveling, getting high marks, eating healthier).

Example student vision board.

This project was not a required assignment in the course syllabus, so when every student came prepared to “show and tell” their vision boards, I immediately knew that they responded well to the task. They volunteered to present them without me needing to coax them; I was a silent observer while they demonstrated agency in and over this unfamiliar assignment.

The students really thrilled me with the amount of thought and effort they put into an assignment that wasn’t exactly a part of the curriculum but was something that they enjoyed creating because it was a unique product of their imagination and innovation. My greatest hope would be for them to incorporate vision boards into their annual goal planning, a cross-disciplinary life skill that can lead to more successful living and being in the world.

Example student vision board.

Example student vision board.

Other lessons that might connect to implementing a vision board project might include lessons encouraging students to develop themselves personally and professionally; for example, in a business English class, students that are entrepreneurs could create vision boards tailored to their specific industry or company. These individuals would write and choose visuals representing the direction they want their businesses/industries to take in the coming year(s).

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a fun and inventive way to help your students plan for the future by visualizing their dreams in concrete form, then consider implementing a vision board project either during class time or for homework. Students will feel empowered to take charge of their lives when they have a visible representation of those goals in front of them, and all the more so when they publicly verbalize them to their peers in a trusted and safe learning milieu. Here’s one final thought to share with your students: “If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.”

Happy New Year 2020!

About Charles McKinney

Charles McKinney
Charles McKinney is a TEFL/ELA educator, part-time freelancer, and current School for International Training (SIT) TESOL graduate student with 9 years of global teaching experience in Asia, Africa, and Europe. His research interests are many, some of which include active learning pedagogy, English as a lingua franca, and cultural intelligence (CQ). He recently attended the second annual TESOL Kuwait mini-conference in Kuwait City, where he currently teaches English literature and journalism at an American private school. Using this article as fodder for a presentation on project-based learning, Charles looks forward to presenting at the TESOL Kuwait international conference in February.
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4 Responses to
Project-Based Learning: Vision Boards for the New Year

  1. This is very fantastic strategy that help the learners to learn more. It is very better to set vision because it provides future direction and plan.
    Thank you for best work for Transforming society your inspiration to us is very appreciated.
    Keep it up for improving the practical experience of learners through using participation method and using modern technology.
    This project improves the critical thinking for the learners.
    Thanks
    David Ndikubwimana from Rwanda, Social Worker.

  2. Cynthia Henry says:

    I like vision boards because they allow you to see yourself where you set your goals, I did like the one who drew the vision board it was creative in its own way.

    • Charles McKinney Charles McKinney says:

      You originally inspired this teaching idea when you first told me about your vision board. Thanks for the inspiration.

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