“Not all who wander are lost”. J R R Tolkien
I was late for class, didn’t have the correct security card to pass through the door and arrived sweating and out of breath. There were 5 learners waiting for in the class, some new and looking sheepish, though probably not as nervous as me!
I brought some large yellow index cards and markers to make the syllabus. First I explained that we were not going to use a textbook in the next course and that as an experiment I would like them to come up with ideas for what to do in class. Then I asked everyone to brainstorm what they would like to have in the next course – which would last 12 weeks. Why did I choose 12 weeks? Well, for the learners this is long enough to look back and evaluate progress and from my point of view, it helps me to plan ahead and think about the broader aims of the course.
After the brainstorm session, the learners then wrote down their preferences on cards. We then placed all these cards on the table and I asked them to organised the cards into weeks, from Week 1 to Week 12. To start with, the first few weeks were overloaded e.g. 2 or 3 separate grammar points and a reading with discussion. I told the learners that we’d only probably get through two separate activities in a lesson, as well as revising material from the last lesson.
You’ll notice that there’s a lot of grammar here! There was a new learner in the group that night who requested a lot of grammar items. We actually spoke after and she said that this class was a very different way of teaching from what she had experienced before, which was based on a lot of grammar instruction and rote memorisation. So that is one reason why grammar is well-represented (though other learners chose grammar items also). But no problem – you can’t have a democracy and then complain about the result!
Grammar items were not the only topic requested by the learners and there was also a good mix of other activities, like ‘Invent a Product’ and ‘Discussions on Movies, Essays, Articles’. The learners also chose some activities that they wanted repeated in every lesson, which included Games (for revising language), Useful Phrases and Small Talk. One thing which I wanted to include were my suggestions for the next 12 weeks, but this completely slipped my mind because I was late and rushing to class!
For those who are reading this blog for the first time, I’m going to post brief reflections of the class that I’m attempting to ‘Decentralise’, above being the first. During my ‘exploration’, I want to strike a balance between centralisation (using a coursebook, teacher-as-authority, imposed curriculum) with decentralisation (no coursebook, co-responsibility and negotiated curriculum/ syllabus) and I aim to:
Please write if you have any comments, and also share with any interested parties!