December 15, 2011

Good use of a bad tool


As a ROLE teacher, I am not in favor of worksheets, workbooks and the like. Very few of these tools offer any freedom to the learner. However, our students are provided with a vocabulary book, which is part of student fees, so I am obligated to make use of it. 

There are many ways I could justify use of the workbook and remain true to my results-only philosophy, but I want to be sure that using the book is neither a waste of time for students nor a waste of money for parents. So, I have learned to take the best parts of the workbook and create the autonomy that my students enjoy so much. 

We simply ignore the mundane multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank items and apply the lessons to real learning. One such activity involves reviewing strategies for using context clues – a valuable skill for all readers. Instead of completing the worksheets that follow the strategies, I ask my students to return to the novels they’ve selected as part of our independent reading program and apply the strategies there. 

After 15 minutes of reading, they identified previously unknown words in small groups, sharing the strategies they used to learn them. Later, they look up the words on their Smart phones to verify their meanings. This activity provides good use of a bad tool.