Generating a learning climate where students’ cravings and curiosities serve as the engine that stimulates inquiry and encourages us to study a certain theme/concept in class is something we, teachers, need to keep our senses ready for- so that we can act upon the need and the thirst at the right time.
Class enjoyment and meaningfulness is the result of collective interest, engagement and reflection; the effectiveness of methods, resources, and approaches to teaching rests in the extent to which the class or community feel that their efforts and views are part of the realm of thought around which the learning experience is orbiting. Students (and teachers!) always have something to say, we only need to ask questions, and also encourage them to voice the questions whose response will contribute to enhancing our understandings.
We constantly need to survey what the class/community feels about all the happenstance in the world, for only like this will we add relevance and a sense of instant usability to the thoughts that will be generated. Ideas that remain on a worksheet, on a soon-to-be-forgotten workbook are examples of efforts that explain the degree of disrespect for our planning and work. However, ideas that stimulate new thoughts, that give way to new forms of work (or approaching work), and that enable us to address the construction of new knowledge in a different way is what truly helps us to capitalize on our approaches to teaching and learning.
For the last two weeks, my students, colleagues and I have been experimenting with ‘flying posters’. With the aid of my students, posters on a couple of concepts were created and placed in the halls around the school. A simple instruction was placed by the poster: ‘write a comment in French, Hindi, English or Spanish’, and then we only waited for the community to react to the poster.
While only 3 responses were produced in the first few days, it only took a couple of teachers’ good intentions and, all of a sudden, the poster was inundated with comments. Voilà, that is what the community thinks about the topic! Sensibly, the follow up to this is analyze their opinions and conceive a new set of tasks that should encourage us to further the views expressed, to develop new understandings, to enrich our convictions, to compare our own beliefs to someone else’s, to see to what extent there is commonality and harmony in people’s ideas, and to visualize what opportunities we have to construct new learning scenarios.
The poster, along with the comments that are now an integral part of it, will be traveling to another section in the school now; let’s see how many more different opinions we can get. In any case, my grade 9 students, who are currently studying a unit based on the content of the poster, have a lot of authentic ideas to work with.
Conclusion: Effective activities need to be developed to challenge students on a personal level, to deepen understanding, to stimulate inquiry, and to encourage more creativity.