Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Teaching in the 21st Century English Classroom

"Inquiry" and "Project-Based Learning" are some of the catch phrases being thrown around to describe the shift that is happening in some classrooms around the nation. The goal is to deliver more effective learning experiences for our students. For me those terms can be boiled down to one thing, choice- giving students the opportunity to learn what they want, and how they want to learn it. Essentially, these changes will create inquiry and Project-Based learning. Which is something that I wish had occurred to me to do years ago, but I'm dealing with it!

One of the people who really influenced my thinking was a professor at grad school who introduced me to Sir Ken Robinson's "Changing Education Paradigms". The wheels had been turning up to that point, and then the rubber hit the road. I was reacquainted with the fact that not everyone learns at the same rate, and they shouldn't be punished for it. The idea that all students graduate at a certain age is no longer an effective way for students to get the most out of their education. Students don't all learn the same things, the same w`ys, or at the same time.

Not exactly rocket science, but for an average teacher like me, it's a new way of thinking. An effective English classroom in the 21st century should be taking the emphasis off of using content to teach skills and turning the focus towards student interests and passions to learn those same skills. This type of learning is easier, more effective, and enjoyable. However, this is not just a little work for a teacher; it's a lot of work.

My English classroom is in the midst of a major overhaul. Mostly it's happening in my brain, but it's spilling over into every aspect of my classroom. Instead of focusing so much on classic literature or grammar, I'm getting to know my students better and asking for their input into assignments. Questions like, "we need to study this, how would you like to learn about it?" or "What do you think would be a fun topic to look at next?" My old units are sometimes useless with this new way of thinking, and I need to create whole new units. Slowly, things are changing -one unit at a time, trial and error, success and failure. Together my students and I are learning what makes a successful English classroom in a new century.

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