Sunday, 8 February 2009

Cooperative learning and short stories

As a teacher at Sandvika upper secondary school I have been given the opportunity to take part in a couple of very interesting (and fun!) seminars about cooperative learning. Research shows that we learn a lot more when we are active than when we are passive listeners (see the pyramid), and personally I just think teaching is more fun when I get to vary the methods as much as possible. In my English class we recently worked on the short story "Panache" by William Patrick Kinsella and my colleague Liv Kristin made an after-reading activity partly based on cooperative learning methods. In one part of the activity, students do a role play where they each are assigned the identity of one of the characters from the short story. Instead of just discussing the story the traditional way, they are to make up questions to ask the other characters/ group members. With this activity, the students were forced to reflect on the actions and choices made by the characters in the story. This activity gave really good results in my class and most of the students seemed to enjoy it. All students were active and they appeared to really reflect on the content of the story. Furthermore, everyone spoke English during this class. I still think making everyone speak English is one of the main challenges as well as one of the most important goals of an ESL lesson. I will certainly try this method again with other short stories. For a complete instruction to the activity, see here: Working on "Panache" by William Patrick Kinsella. See my colleagues blog here: The road not taken. The role play activity is of course just one of many cooperative learning activities and I promise to share more in the future. Read more about cooperative learning here: The Cooperative Learning Center at the University of Minnesota. Illustration: Learning pyramid and Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept.

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