Last Wednesday I taught my first two high school classes of the year: two groups of 14-year-old post-elementary level students. I always start my first lessons with an introductory getting-to-know-you type of activity and a survey to let them know that their ideas matter and that I’ll do my best to meet their specific needs and interests. Last year, for example, I asked one of my classes (pre-intermediate level) to answer their surveys individually and then I collected them and created a Wordle with the results and brought a printout to the classroom for them to discuss and analyze.
This year – probably inspired by the PD 2.0 experience – I wanted them to work on the surveys in groups and on paper. Each group prepared a poster to tell the class what they liked and didn’t like about learning English, what they’d like to do this year and how they think they learn best. With both groups I noticed that they were somehow taken aback by the proposal and in some cases it was very difficult for them to think of ideas for each category during the previous brainstorming. In other cases, they produced what they regarded as teacher-expected answers and only after I asked them to take risks and imagine more, were they able to contribute some original ideas.
It strikes me that they are not used to being asked for their opinions about their own learning so often and that they are used to “playing school” and complaining about it. 😉 Of course, it was only our first class, but it is clear right from the start that we’ll have to work on building a different learning culture in class based on active participation, collaboration and creativity.