In May I started a draft post after watching Sir Ken Robinson‘s Changing education paradigms TED talk (or watch all 55 minutes). The entire talk (along with his other material) is gold but there was about a minute of it that really got me thinking and brainstorming.
Although I’m not currently in the classroom, my brainstorms usually go to language teaching (specifically French). Inherently, languages are fluid and social. No wonder students learning a second language get so frustrated – the answer isn’t always at the back of the book! But we spend a lot of time teaching languages like they are black and white. Why do we spend so little time allowing our students to actually be social and experiment with the language? [I say ‘we’ because I have absolutely been guilty of this in the past.] World language classrooms are the perfect settings to open up to the actual world that students are learning about. It can be incredibly time consuming and challenging to make it a reality…but aren’t the rewards worth it? Won’t students who understand why they’re learning about culture and language and are able to see the immediate benefits be more likely to be engaged and ‘buy-in’?
“Collaboration is the stuff of growth.”
Robinson focused on collaboration and group work. Although these could (and should) happen outside the classroom, the most logical place to start is within its walls. How could my classroom have looked different if I had done a better job at embracing collaboration and group work?
Skits – We did a fair amount of scripted skits. Although students learning a language need to actually learn and practice, when was the last time you went to another country and acted out a memorized conversation? As students progress throughout the year (and years), I could have transitioned to more realistic skits. The end goal would be to give students a scenario and let them go…more like improv than acting. Students would be allowed to help each other if needed, but only in the target language. Language is a constant improvisation, so I why did I do so much acting in my classes?
Exams – I never did partner or group tests or exams. What if I had given students the choice? Option 1: take the exam individually, as normal. Option 2: take the exam with a partner, however you are only allowed to speak & discuss the test in French. I wonder what students would have chosen and what learning opportunities it would have opened up for them.
Maybe someday I’ll go back to the classroom and be able to experiment. 🙂
p.s. Sir Ken Robinson recently sat down with Thierry Foulkes. He has a couple videos up with French subtitles!