I talked to a friend and colleague yesterday about what some students are doing in one of his classes. These kids, a group of them anyway, organized and are hosting a cultural fair for their school. It may not sound like much or that real "learning" is taking place, but it is . We discussed everything these kids were being exposed to and having to utilize from their English "backpack" so to speak.
The high school where he teaches is the magnet school in our district for ELL students--English Language Learners. So a cultural fair here makes all kinds of sense. Want to teach tolerance and acceptance? Educate others on the different cultures involved and around them. It's a terrific idea and one with great benefits.
So what kind of "great" benefits? Well, the students did all the organizing and relied on the teacher as a coach or mentor. They learned to approach businesses for donations (speaking and listening skills not to mention the soft skills needed for this interaction), they learned how to budget and purchase needed items for an event like this, and they learned to communicate with media outlets. The students also designed and sold t-shirts to raise money--creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving all factor into this. Aren't these the skills teachers are told by the world we need to instill in young people so they can be successful contributors to the work force?
These are just a few of the skills taught/reinforced/gained by students involved in this project. They are the initiators, they are the learners, they are directing the learning. The result? Passion in kids. My friend told me the kids were so enthused about this project they worked feverishly on it, devoting more time writing, thinking, reading, planning, speaking, and interacting on this than they ever would have in a textbook-focused class. Isn't that what we want to see as teachers? Kids engaged in active learning? Kids so passionate about school they don't want to miss a day? Exposing them to life so they can solve problems? Maybe not everyone, but it's what I hope to achieve with my students.
So props to you, my friend. The work you're doing with students is something they'll never forget. You're giving them learning opportunities and exposing them to skills they will use for a lifetime. And that can make all the difference!