Reach to teach, yearn to learn
Posted November 2, 2014on:
I had a conversation with an English teacher recently. When I asked her to describe her students (all boys in a local Primary school), she mentioned something I hear all the time: They will not sit and listen; they would rather be learning actively.
She also mentioned two more things. The boys loved playing Minecraft (hence the embedded video above) and the older ones (11 to 12 year-olds) liked creating YouTube videos.
The teacher also described her students as being able to speak English well, but not write it well. Given how most schools require students to write, I am not surprised.
For example, my son is still given dead tree instructions to write an essay about an incident among kids playing hopscotch. How many kids actually play hopscotch? What could be more relevant to learners?
If teachers are to answer these questions and change the way they teach, they must reach out to kids and start from where the kids are.
How might teachers be more relevant while meeting curricular and assessment targets?
They could leverage on what the kids are interested in or passionate about. The teacher I spoke to could ask her students to write about Minecraft or to draft scripts for a video.
Such writing is not designed for a bubble like the classroom. The write up could be a walkthrough to be shared in a blog or a gaming forum. The script could be for a YouTube video to be put online.
These are examples of authentic learning. The task is real in the world of the learner and the learners have real audiences who will invariably give them really honest feedback.
This approach creates the need to learn. An audience of many (video game players and video watchers) instead of just one (the teacher) creates the need to learn how to write clearly and concisely. Novice writers will want to learn how to structure their sentences properly and to use appropriate vocabulary.
For teaching to be relevant and learning to be meaningful, teachers must first reach out and understand their learners. Then only can they create that yearning for learning.