This is the first in a series of articles to take you through some multi-media tools and ideas that can help your students to become confident learners by becoming confident thinkers.
So many things can happen in a classroom in any one minute – have you ever thought of freeze-framing one instant in a classroom and going back to reflect upon how many teachable moments are present within this moment?
How can we allow students to create their own moments in the classroom?
Perhaps by encouraging our students to be responsible for their own choices, and by believing in them, we can create the impetus for growth, challenge and change.
We can encourage students to take the initiative by ”allowing” them to be themselves.
To quote Jeffrey Doonan from my teacher-sourced inquiries on facebook:
Just let the moments happen, why count or even begin to think about them. Too much aforethought may stifle ‘at the moment’ reactions. Lennon and McCartney had it right: ‘whisper words of wisdom, let it be, let it be…
I believe that our students are also undergoing changes and be-coming themselves.
We can facilitate this change and let them choose what kinds of butterflies they want to become.
As my colleagues agree and have so eloquently expressed ( see FB thread above), the moments inside anyone teaching moment are infinite ( parallel universes).
The Butterfly Effect:
Just as the beating of a butterfly’s wings in one moment can create a typhoon across the other side of the world, a thought or feeling from one student can inspire avalanches of creativity across time and space in a school.
Let’s discover a new way of seeing progress. Let’s find meaningful patterns in the random moments of chaotic communication that ultimately inspire dramatic change.
These lesson ideas are really about building character through language development.
Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones.
For this series of lesson ideas I’m focusing on teenagers, and the principles are taken from a book called ” The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective Teenagers” by Sean Covey.
Today’s topic takes us through some lesson ideas for helping our students to think pro-actively through the creative use of multi-media.
It’s based on principle one of my all-encompassing TESOL Greece presentation, which you can find here, if you haven’t seen it already.
For an overview of the bigger picture, you can read my previous article here called Seven Principles for Lessons, Life and learning.
Who are you really teaching?
We know that teenagers come into our classrooms full of cares and questions about their personal lives. Rather than be distracted from learning by their everyday realities, they should be encouraged to use their personal experiences to fuel language development through authentic self-expression.
One major problem is that teenagers (like the rest of us) can be unbalanced in their interests and be obsessed with certain aspects of their “life centers”.
These obsessions can distract them from their work, but they need not. The best poets of our times were obsessed by love and nature. Their obsessions were channeled into self-expression and self-realization.
When we teach our students how to be pro-active through creativity, life will become more meaningful for them.
What is pro-activity and why should teenagers care?
Pro-activity is all about taking the initiative. It’s about taking responsibility, looking into the future and making informed decisions.
This has sweeping implications for the nature of education as we know it. Much of teacher-led learning is over-controlled and students are prevented from reaching the kinds of academic and personal self-actualization that they aspire to.
Teenagers care about doing things for themselves, they care about intrinsic respect and they care about finding their places in this world.
We need to stop thinking of multi-media technology in terms of fancy bells and whistles. The only bells and whistles should be in the minds of your students. The right kind of technology provides a blank canvas for self-fulfilling creativity.
1) Students mindmap pro-active associations.
When learners have understood the concept of taking the initiative, ask them for examples of when they have taken the initiative in their own lives, and then have them post their examples on a collaborative online sticky board such as Linoit.
These examples should be color-coded, as the next step is for teenagers to imagine areas of their lives in which they’d like to take the initiative, but are afraid to. The two different colors on the sticky board represent at a glance what they’ve done and what they want to do
With these colour-coded thoughts from teenagers, we begin an exciting journey into risk, responsibility and learning.
In this life, we are all challenged by things we can’t control. Yet, no one tells us to stop trying to control them.
If, as adults, we get lost from our moorings, how can we expect teenagers to be brave and resilient?
The last thing we should do is teach them how to live and the best thing we can do is inspire them to really live. We can provide them with principles that help them to recognize how small actions inside their own circles of influence can have an impact on the bigger issues in their lives – the things outside their control.
For students to fully appreciate the concept of pro-activity, we can get them to mindmap its associations using collaborative mindmapping tools.
First of all, we can show them that problems can never uproot them when they realize what’s truly important in their lives. The image of the tree above depicts the concept of grounding their values and the mind mapping procedure below shows how their understanding can be enriched through multiple perspectives.
Students build upon the branches and associations to create their own visions of what pro-activity can mean in their lives.
In the example below, we see that they must first explore their own values, then find different ways to think about a problem or potential problem, listen to the types of language they use and then go into the problem-solving mode with a clear plan of action.
Remind them that listening, thinking and acting according to their value systems will help them to prevent problems from occurring; if it’s some they can control, something within their own circle of influence.
Of course, most problems are created or exacerbated by reactivity, the opposite of pro-activity. Students should also explore what reactivity is.
Here’s an example of more brainstorming:
(1) Mindmapping tools:
2) Stories and polls
Do you remember or have you ever seen retro-style teenage magazines from the eighties and ‘Dear Auntie somebody’ advice columns?
Today we can bring advice columns to life by creating our own on social media sites. If you can’t use Facebook, Edmodo is the best option.
You can begin by presenting a story in the form of a moral dilemma. The story will be attached to a polling tool and discussion thread. Students answer the poll questions and discuss their reactions via discussion threads.
These moral dilemmas will lead students into recognising whether their own behaviour is pro-active/reactive or helpful/harmful.
3) Pro-active story telling:
4) Digital Storytelling
5) Teach students how to develop their stories
Learn more about the hero’s journey here.
6) Create friend comics
Students create inspiring friend comics to support each other, offer appreciation, and share stories about challenges. They can be fun and meaningful. They can also be shared online, which strengthens peer ties and encourages positive and pro-active communication. It’s especially effective for students who need more confidence; and don’t we all?
7) Have students discover their own values
Ruling principles sometimes come from culture, sometimes religion, sometimes stories, poetry or mythology. Nowadays, many predominant paradigms in our cultures are seen to be false by confused teenagers, and just as every generation wants to make a difference, we can encourage our students to define their own principles and world-views. Here’s an example of a poem that can be very helpful in doing this.
It would be nice to collect inspiring poem links for students onto a virtual library board/ bookmarking site such as Pearl trees, listly, or Symbaloo – (see my link examples)
Sometimes poetry can also inspire students to write out their own mission statements or create their own definitions. Why not design, create, experiment with beautiful visions, multi-media- style?
8) Power, acceptance and wisdom
Students create graphic pictures of things they can control and things they can’t control. How they represent it visually depends on the tool and their imaginations. Encouraging visual literacy deepens the experience for students as they translate semi-formed thoughts and feelings into the multi-media contexts.
To quote Nick Sousanis:
“The primacy of words over images has deep roots in Western culture. But what if the two are inextricably linked, equal partners in meaning-making?”
9) Understanding the nature of things
10) Photo collages as thinking tools
The serenity prayer is powerful in it’s poetry but need not be religious. The idea is for students to feel this power within themselves as opposed to beyond themselves. You can remove the word God or let students replace it with whatever they believe in.
11) “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
(Alice in Wonderland)
Students should never define themselves by their current circumstances or current abilities. The diagram above shows how we can build upon anything we currently have, to create who we want to be.
Students can find out where to go from where they are by knowing what they want and building upon current skills – blending the known with the unknown. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”@WizIQ” suffix=”#edchat”]Too often goals seem unachievable because learning is rarely seen as a blending of who you are now[/inlinetweet] – someone special – and who you will become – someone special who is going somewhere.
We can help students to develop can-do habits to eliminate low-self-esteem or unrealistic self-criticism.
Here’s to facilitating creative moments and positive change in our classrooms.
Part two of this series will describe how the above ideas can be applied to specific linguistic objectives for second language acquisition, and even tests and exams.