Design Thinking and EAL (English as an Additional Language)

Throughout my teaching experiences over the course of my career, I have frequently seen that EAL, Student Support or students taking multiple languages (all for good reason), often miss out on hands-on personalized learning experiences.  These types of hands-on electives courses are exactly what these students need.  They need authentic language experiences and safe but dynamic environments to flourish and develop both language and technical skills.

Sparked from a conversation between our HS EAL teacher and our Educational Technology Coordinator, Clint, a new project was born to fill this need.

Students were to find a client (another one of their teachers) and using the design process, they would creatively solve a problem of their client.

Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 1.21.06 PM

Students first had to approach a client, and record their interactions as a language assessment to find out the problems or needs of their teachers.  This is an important part of the design process as a designer needs to empathize with their client.  For the students, this was definitely out of their comfort zone and they had to understand the requests and respond on the spot in a natural way.

Here’s a sample clip of a language task:


The students worked through the design process to create their final products.  We offered sewing and vector drawing (to ultimately laser cut) workshops for small groups depending on the needs of their projects.

Students were very engaged in this project and it has been a great way for students to extend their oral communication as well as problem solve and develop more technical skills.

The variety of student projects range from:


Design Process Journal Entry – A daily written task sharing progress

a compass used for a white board Math classroomIMG_6783

a step stool for a teacher’s classroom

IMG_6743a leather bag designed for a teacher who moves around a lot throughout the day

two different school supplies’ holders for different uses in the classroom

a system to help foster more classroom participation (for a teacher who’s a Patriot’s fan)


It has been great to get into more high school courses this semester. After my first year of working almost primarily in the middle school, I’ve been wanting to branch out more in the high school.

As a long term goal, I would like to work more with the EAL and Student Support teachers, along with my EdTech Facilitator colleague to help develop authentic design projects to use as a frame work for language instruction, practice and learning.

This is connected to one of my professional goals this year: 

2. I will model and support a culture of openness and sharing through collaborative practices, public reflection and celebration.

c. I will facilitate personalised learning.


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