Same stuff, different day?

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Written by Gillian Campbell Thow:  Recently I have been taking a closer look at curriculum planning and I always come back to the same question of ” what is it I want the weans to know?”

I was working with the post graduate students today on looking at planning a unit of work at Higher level and it was a really enjoyable and challenging experience.

My usual way of planning for any kind of INSET is to sit back and enjoy a wee bit of blue sky thinking time( usually aided by chocolate) and let the thoughts swim about until it starts to become a wee bit clearer.

Sitting on my bed with the flip chart paper and four colours of pen, the first plan of attack came together.  A cup of tea later and other colours and I went back and did the corrections.  A rewrite, and then on the laptop to get the death by slide ( only 8 for 2 hours) in order and I was cooking on gas.

I wanted to get the students really thinking about inter cultural understanding and the big notion of not sacrificing cultural content to batter through a word list.  When presenting this you would have perhaps thought I had asked the students to shave their hair off.

So we looked at planning in general and the essential elements: yes, how many buzz words and jargon can you throw at that? ( That would be a lot), how many of the students secretly wanted a teachers book? And how many just were not brave enough to step outside the prescribed box?

I took them through my planning and how I factored things in and why it was important to me.
Contextualisation – keeping it real,and having a purpose.
Input and output
Assessment

And at the heart, weans.

We started off with a health and wellbeing topic and they had to identify strands such as grammar, structures,skills, capacities, intercultural knowledge all for “WASHING YOUR HAIR”
Yes, indeed. What an absolute hoot when they fed back. They had really challenged themselves and it got fairly deep with some wonderful ideas and perceptions on what could be done on that topic.

That was enough of a springboard to get the creativity flowing and the challenge of then taking a context from the Higher syllabus and delivering through intercultural experience was simply wonderful.

Real language learning, skills development and transfer, enhancement of literacy, challenge and of course enjoyment.
One of the students was getting frustrated as he felt the timescales were not realistic and how the topic matter was too big to work with. He was gently reminded that he could break it down, learning was messy and that is ok.
Looking at different contexts for learning can be really hard. A lot of the students were discussing how they couldn’t see how something would work in departments they had been in but they wanted to try.
I asked them what was stopping them……

Nothing.

We began to dig a bit more deeply into how we could create stimulating challenge and meaningful experiences for learners that would excite them to learn as much as it would excite us to teach.
I asked them to make me a promise that they would try to be brave and be bold in their contextualisation and planning. They have not suffered from the admin fatigue of exam change and assessment overload. Even then, we still need to remember to be excited about what we do.

We spoke of how we needed to have the passion, to be committed to our teaching and how bringing it done to brass tacks: our beloved language has not changed, the way we assess it has and our pedagogy has evolved to be something potentially wonderful.

So why would we still use sterile, outdated and quite frankly mind numbing contexts?

Same stuff different day?
Computer says no.


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