In the teaching of novel among my form 5 students, I have employed several teaching strategies which nurture the 4Cs (communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity) as well as other skills such as decision making, negotiating, complex problem solving, reasoning and making predictions. In this write-up, I will base my teaching and learning activities on the novel Dear Mr Kilmer.
For example, in one of my previous lessons, students were given this question – “Describe a character who shows bravery. Discuss the effects of his bravery towards other people”. For this kind of question, the following activities that promote the 21st century skills can be carried out:
Activity 1: TEAM WORD-WEB
Groups are formed. Perhaps, there should only be about 4 members per group.
Each group is given a piece of poster (mah-jong) paper. Task 1 is given to all the groups that is “Evidence of Richard’s Bravery”
“Evidence of Richard’s Bravery” is written in the centre of the poster paper and circled.
Each member, using a different colour, writes a piece of evidence on the poster paper. They may add 2 more evidences if there are spaces or time permits. They are encouraged to use keywords.
Discussion is allowed, if necessary. Group members may discuss especially when they are weaker members in the group.
Obviously, collaboration and communication take place in this activity. Most importantly, this activity also helps students to know the keywords in giving descriptions as the space in the poster paper is quite limited. These keywords are very helpful for them especially in writing their responses in a test or an examination.
Activity 2: ROTATING REVIEW
Task 2 is given to all groups that is “In your opinion, who (the people around him) could be affected when Richard was brave? What could be the effect?”
All group members discuss their responses based on the incident written on the poster paper, one by one. For example: Incident: Richard was brave to sign the card / The person affected: Hannah / How the person was affected: Hannah realised Richard was a true friend
When all the group members have finished their discussion and completed Task 2, they move to other groups, one by one.
They are required to read the responses written by other groups and evaluate them. They may agree, partially agree or disagree. They may also offer a different idea or perspective. Their comments or ideas should be written on the poster paper. They are encouraged to use a pen / marker of different colour.
Obviously, the 4Cs and many other significant 21st century skills are nurtured through these two activities. The lesson can be ended with Task 3 that is writing a personal response based on the same question. Students have to apply their understanding of the previous activities. At this stage, they also have to be selective and exercise their decision making and critical thinking skills as they cannot include everything that they have gained earlier.
In another lesson on the novel, my students were given this question – “Describe the challenges faced by one of the characters in the story. Discuss how the character faced the challenges”.
Activity 1: THREE-STEP INTERVIEW
Groups are formed – 4 members in a group.
STEP 1: In pair, a student plays the role of an interviewer and another one is the interviewee. In this case, the interviewee has to describe a challenge faced by a character and how the person faced it.
STEP 2: They change their role. The interviewer has to answer the question this time; describe a challenge faced by a character and how the person faced it.
STEP 3: Both the interviewer and interviewee must get a new partner. With the new partner, they take turn to assume similar roles and complete the tasks like in Steps 1 and 2.
This activity allows average students to develop their confidence in giving responses. We can clearly see repetitions of questioning and answering which may be helpful for weaker students. They tend to get better and be more confident by repeating the tasks. Indirectly, drilling also takes place and this also improves their memorisation of significant details of the novel.
Activity 2: HOT SEAT
This activity can only be carried out after Activity 1. It is a good activity to gauge students’ understanding of what was discussed earlier.
A chair – ‘Hot Seat’ is prepared in front of the class for “an expert” to sit on it.
“The Expert” is chosen, one at a time, to answer questions asked by the other students or teacher. The questions should focus on the task given earlier that is “Describe the challenges faced by one of the characters in the story. Discuss how the character faced the challenges”.
Teachers cannot always assume that Activity 1 above; Three-Step Interview alone, will ensure all students can talk or write about the challenges faced by Richard and how he faced them. Trust me, there are always some who may have problems retelling what they have just learnt through the first activity. Therefore, it is good to reinforce their understanding and memorisation by carrying another relevant and practical activity such as Hot Seat.
The 21st century activities shared above do promote ACTIVE LEARNING among students. The students are put in charge of their own learning because the teacher only acts as a facilitator who obviously facilitates learning most of the time. Perhaps, the teacher needs to facilitate more if there are many weaker students but it does not mean 21st century learning strategies cannot be implemented at all for them. Even though their English may not be proficient, the weaker ones still deserve to be exposed to 21st century learning strategies.