Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I’ve often taken Elizabeth Bennett shopping

This is a quote from an English meeting we had at school tonight, admittedly late in the afternoon, the second after-school meeting for the day. But strangely this was a meeting that nobody was in a hurry to leave. After a quick run through of basic administrative and organizational things we started the best part of the meeting, the sharing of what had gone well in the two days of classes we had had since we came back to school. Peter started us off with his take on an idea originated by another colleague. He wanted to start with new working groups for second term with his Year 7s. Students were randomly assigned to groups of four by being given a number as they came into class. Some weren’t happy at the change and there were some mutterings. But no matter, the best was still to come. Peter had organised seven stations around the classroom, each with a different Area of Interaction (using concepts of the Middle Years Program of the International Baccalaureate Organisation). These are Approaches to Learning, Homo Faber (or what we create as a society, both negative and positive), Community and Service, the Environment, and Health and Social Education. He added two principles: Intercultural Awareness and Communication and had his five stations. He had information about what all these terms meant at the stations and a blank sheet of paper at each spot. In their new groups students then spent 2 to 3 minutes at each station and discussed what they had done on their holidays and how it related to the theme of the station they were at. One person in each group was designated scribe but after they got going, most of the students wrote things on the sheets. As they went round from spot to spot, they could see the paper filling up with the previous students’ ideas. At the last station the students looked at all the ideas on their page and decided which two best fitted the theme of their station before a plenary discussion. Some of the things the students talked about included learning another language, making a letter box, surfing the internet, and hanging with friends. But the delight was in discussing the activity within a framework of learning and creating. Peter wanted an activity that was collaborative, involved movement and cooperation and he was very pleased with the results. The new groups got to know each a bit better, and the ice was broken with some great discussion following.
After Peter recounted his experience we discussed how it could be adapted to any subject, topic and age group. It was simply necessary to have seven (or the number of groups in the class) ideas to discuss, seven characters in a play, seven issues, seven language or grammar concepts were some of the ideas we came up with. Really a great idea, I thought and one I want to try. The meeting continued with plenty of other great ideas that will no doubt be the subject of another post. But I wanted to write this to help me remember, as well as to share.
And the quote I started with? That came about from a discussion of the use of character profiles to inspire some creative writing. It starts with the idea of “what if?” What if Elizabeth Bennett lived in our time? What would she like to wear, buy, eat, have? What kind of car would Mr. Collins drive? And so on. I’m sure you get the idea. Next time I will write about the other ideas which involve introducing students to Shakespeare, as well other ideas for creative writing, managing whole class discussion, and writing about texts.


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  2. What great ideas! Thanks, Jo!

  3. I can see adults seeing more value in this than the typical ice-breakers when I am teaching adult courses. Thanks for explaining it so clearly.

  4. Hi, I've been reading your blog for sometime and your reflection always inspire me a lot! Thanks for the sharing and hey, you have a frequent reader from Taiwan!:-)