Today I tried a new thing with my students. I told them they could work on whatever they wanted, as long as it had something to do with English. Of course we brainstormed at the start of class so they could get some ideas and they had to show me what they had been working on at the end of class, but the rest was up to them.
The idea came from a video we watched in training by the writer of a book called “Drive”. He was talking about software companies that allotted a certain amount time for employees to work on their own projects. Something that was taken up famously for Google – It seemed worth a shot.
Well, I wish I could say it was a total success, but that would be a lie. Bearing it mind that it was a first time for students, I'd say that about 40% really went at it, another 40% did work but didn't really challenge another 20% did “something” but nothing that was really worth the time.
It's a problem that I've found with a number of “free range” activities in the past: The top students get the most from it, students in the middle do fine as well, but the students and the bottom seem to do a lot less than when we do more traditional teaching activities - those with the the teacher standing over them and guiding them through each step.
Now I'm a long way from turning my back on a student led approach – I still think it's the best way for the majority of students and I don't believe in holding back the middle and the top at the expense of the bottom. But I would like to find out some tips and tricks for brining the others into the fold, but how do you “teach” people to learn for themselves?