Why Manchester Students Wrote a Book for the Mayor

Nov 26, 2018

ESL teacher Elizabeth Leone and her students wrote and designed a book on Manchester's "community assets."
Credit Sarah Gibson for NHPR

Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig got an early holiday present on Monday from a group of Webster Elementary School English language learners.

The students presented a book they've been preparing for the last few months in their immersive all-day ESL class.

The book opens with the words "We are Manchester Proud" and a photo of the students, who moved here within the last year from countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.

After that, there are pages of photos of their new city, Manchester, that the students took themselves on walking tours.

Pointing out pictures of the fire station and the supermarket, English teacher Elizabeth Leone, explains this hands-on learning process, called "project-based learning" or "PBL."

Webster Elementary School Students try out the alderman's chairs in Manchester's City Hall.
Credit Sarah Gibson for NHPR

"Their learning happens by exploring ," she says. "And that's where their language learning happens too."

The method is growing in Manchester, thanks to a grant from the Buck Institute For Education, which awarded nearly $2 million to the Manchester School District and a school district in Hawaii for training and research into the method.

 The Buck Institute has trained 245 teachers in  Manchester since the three-year grant began in early 2018.

Leone says she's one of the first ESL teachers in Manchester to incorporate PBL into her classroom. She says it works for her students.

"They're engaged, and they're loving it, and they almost don't even know they're learning," she says, "But they're taking risks, taking chances, and getting involved."

Click here for Leone's presentation on PBL for English language learners.