“PB… What?”

In 2016, i2 Education integrated Phenomenon Based Learning into its language curriculum. Phenomenon Based Learning is an approach that doesn’t rely on textbooks only. This teaching method takes the learners out into the real world to apply what they have learned. The learners need to use a myriad of skills to solve a problem or study a “phenomenon”. What does this mean for our English classes? Well, in contrast to the normal classes, which rely on a single topic with set words, PBL classes circle around a theme. The students need to use English while interacting in the activity. Learning by experience is something that we know from the day we are born, a skill that develops more and more while we grow up. So, applying that same concept to our teaching curriculum we use various PBL classes. This allows us to create a link between what our students learn in class and how they can apply it in the world around them.

A great example of a PBL theme is food. The students will first learn about different foods and habits around food. Then they need to use this new knowledge to buy the right food items in the grocery store or cook a meal together. One of the strongest benefits of PBL classes is that it promotes strong neural connections to the new vocabulary because the learners are interacting with the materials and use multiple senses. This method is also an amazing way to spark the love of learning and creates a bridge between the classroom and the real world. Most importantly, these classes are just incredibly fun!

PBL Classes at i2 Education

Now that you know what PBL classes are, let me share some of my favorite PBL experiences. We asked our teachers around the country and picked the top stories for you. Here’s what they had to say.

  • Ultraman PBL

One of my absolute favorite PBL classes was the Ultraman PBL. Ultraman is an extremely popular TV show in China and many of my students will fight for Ultraman stickers or bring their Ultraman cards to school. It is also no wonder that the Ultraman PBL was so popular.

All the students got an Ultraman costume to dress up in and we created a real Ultraman academy for them. We told them that they would be learning how to train like real Ultraman. The students learned how to protect things, how to fight, and how to find valuable items. We then let them try out these new skills in our games. They had to protect the treasure from real monsters by saying: “STOP MONSTER” and “GO AWAY.” It was amazing to see how excited the kids got. The PBL was so popular that we repeated it multiple weeks in a row.

  • Princess PBL

Do you remember dreaming of being a princess or a knight when you were a child? Do you remember how vivid those dreams could be? With the princess PBL, we were able to bring that dream to life during the princess PBL. The students could dress up in their favorite dresses and they all got a beautiful tiara. We then taught them how to walk, talk, and behave like a princess. When we were all ready, we had a nice tea party together. It was so sweet to see the little princesses all kindly say: “May I have some tea, please” and “thank you.”

  • History PBL

For the theme “history”, we took the students to the Natural History Museum in Kunming. On the bus to the museum, we taught the students about things we would be able to see in the museum, like dinosaurs, fossils, rocks, and different animals. When we got to the museum, all the students got a sort of bingo sheet with pictures and names of the things that we learned. They had to find these items and go to a teacher to tell him: “Teacher, I found a dinosaur!” Each item they found would be stamped off the list. The students were so engaged with all the things they found at the museum. Naming the things in English helped them strengthen the connections with the English words in their memory.

All in all, PBLs are a great way to get the students to use English out of the classroom. They are not only fun for the students, but also for the teachers. It definitely brings diversity into your job. At i2 Education both regular teachers and specific PBL-teachers can participate in PBLs. What kinds of fun themes could you come up with? Want to know more about teaching at i2 Education? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!


By Eline Schaap