Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Learning through doing

I thought I'd share this with you as I'm deeply impressed by the effort my student put into creating this poster and by the quality of the final result. In a way it represents everything we do in our lessons as I have come to the realisation that for many language learners the years following the intermediate stage are spent treading water, endlessly repeating lessons already learnt with less and less effect.

Instead of employing what their students already know teachers insist on treating them like automatons who must be spoon feed yet more grammar, vocabulary etc. The result is dissatisfaction, active rebellion and an enormous waste of creative energy which could be used more productively.

I have been moving away from this failed model to something which combines learning in its widest sense and the realisation that languages are such complex systems that simply using a rule based method of teaching is a recipe for disaster. If languages were just about learning a list of rules and words we'd have dumped our keyboards and have been chatting away to our PC years ago.

The poster you see is the latest in a series of projects I have set my student and have involved photography, videography, design and advanced writing skills. No mean feat for anyone, least of all a bright but easily distracted 14 year old. Instead of teaching English as English we have been using the language simply as a means of communicating in order to achieve other goals. The results have been fabulous as we have had the chance to engage our interests, passions and intellects so as to produce something special.

One of the reasons I decided to give up teaching in language schools was the absolute lack of faith in creativity, the assumption that that utilising anything other than our analytical skills was an utter waste of time. I watched class after class of students struggle with material which was insipid, narrow and ultimately ineffective before I finally realised that the whole thing didn't work for many, if not most of those I was teaching.

The poster was made using GIMP an open source version of Photoshop which can be downloaded from here. It can used on Windows, Mac and Linux.

For more ideas and practical suggestions check out my Wikispace - EFL/ESL and web 2.0.


David Keuter said...

I teach 3rd grade in a primarily Hispanic school. A portion of our day is set aside for ELD (English language development). This portion of the day is a total waste of time in most classrooms because they teach a program that bores even the most willing students. I abandoned the program and teach science or art. Really I just try to think of a project that we can all do together and then try to stretch it out through writing, reading, and group discussions. I suppose my philosophy around language acquisition is that you will learn it if you use it-and in my classroom if the lessons is about some element of language (grammar, parts of speech) the eyes glaze over. If the lesson is about building a bridge or doing a collage the eyes light up.

Jude said...

Yes,my experience of learning Greek in school was awful. After the initial couple of months of getting to grips with the basics, we went down into the doldrums...no creativity whatsoever.

dorapap said...

Great Job!

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