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‘Serious Fun’ in the Classroom

Child's project of a town mapTom Hutchinson, author of Project, considers how using project work in the English language classroom helps to inject some ‘Serious Fun’ into learning.

In 2010 Project celebrated its 25th anniversary. It hardly seems that long since the original Project English first appeared, but I’m certainly reminded of time passing when I visit different countries to talk to teachers. It used to be the case that many of them would tell me how fond they were of Project because they had started teaching English with it. Now they’re more likely to tell me that they started learning English with it!

I’m often asked why the course (now in its third edition) has been so popular for so many years, and the 25th anniversary has given me the opportunity to reflect on that question…

I first got involved in writing textbooks in the early 1980s. It was a time when all sorts of new ideas about language and learning were coming out of universities and other teaching institutes around the world. It was an exciting time. Every year seemed to bring some new insight into how we might make our teaching and our materials more ‘communicative’.

It seemed to me, however, that in all this flood of ideas, one crucial element was missing. That was the simple, old-fashioned concept of ‘fun’. To put it simply: You can be absolutely spot on in terms of your syllabus and your task design; you may try to incorporate all the latest ideas about functional language and classroom methodology; but if the resulting teaching materials don’t engage learners’ interests, then you’re probably wasting your time. This is true for any learners, but it’s particularly important with younger learners.

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