Learning to lead…first steps

What does it mean “to lead”? Or to be “a leader”? Or to show “leadership”? These are words and phrases that we  use often in students’ reports and that we include in CVs and cover letters. But what do they actually mean? To me, leadership has always been about initiative, collaboration, communication and action. But others may see things differently. Perhaps we think about people who have been famous leaders and use them as a symbol of our definition of leadership. But what makes them leaders? Is it who they are, what they do, how they go about it or why they do it (or a combination of all of these)?

Throughout the past four weeks, I have engaged with an online course titled ‘Leadership: Identity, Influence and Power.’ Presented by Randal Tame from the Macquarie Graduate School of Management, this is an introduction to leadership skills and strategies available free of cost through Open 2 Study (an initiative of Open Universities Australia).

There are four modules to the course, with a week allocated to the completion of each module and its assessment.

1. The Romance of Leadership

2. Leadership Theories

3. Leaders and Followers

4. The Practice of Leadership

For me there have been two main take-aways for this particular Professional Development which have helped start to refine my definition of leadership. Firstly, the four rules of leadership and secondly, the three skills of leadership.

The Four Rules of Leadership:

1. Be one of us – someone who is seen as an effective leader is seen to be “like” the group they are leading. Leadership theory states that the most influential person is an in-group prototype who is adaptable to changes in the group identity.

2. Do it for us - a leader must be the champion of the group’s interests. They do not treat themselves differently from any other member of the group and are perceived to be fair, respectful and creating a vision with the group

3. Craft a sense of us - a leader helps to form a sense of the group’s identity and to help members understand who “us” is. They are representative of the group. There are three aspects to this – the leader’s use of language, how they structure activities and actions, and how they harness the energies of the group.

4. Make us matter - a leader builds credibility within the group by making the group identity important and acting in a way that benefits the group.

The Three Skills of Leadership:

1. Reflecting - discovering what really matters to the diverse sub-groups within the group

2. Representing - Communication, collaborating and motivating. Working with each sub-group to attend to their visions and values and bring them together in a cohesive approach.

3. Realising - helping the groups to accumulate things that are of value to them, and working with them to create a social world within the organisation in which they want to live according to the collective values. This involves goal-setting and using relevant policies and practices to achieve the defined goals. It is important that these goals are S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Bound) and that the strategies are R.I.T.E (Relevant, Implementable, Timely, Engaging).

As a young teacher who has had some leadership opportunities and whose role increasingly requires working with and leading staff in EAL strategies, I am interested in further developing my skills and practice and this course has provided a great theoretical starting point. At the beginning of the first module, Tame recognises that the course can only scratch the surface of leadership theories and practice, but it is certainly a useful foundation for further study.

 

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Dale Carnegie has a bit to say that is relevant to our schools!

These holidays I have set my self the goal of blogging at least weekly about some wider learning and reading that I have finally got the time to do!

Last week, as I traipsed through my digital newsletter and magazine subscriptions, I came across this Life Hack article titled 15 Best Leadership Books Every Young Leader Needs to Read.

Now, whether a teacher is looking at a career pathway that moves towards leadership or not, I strongly believe that as teachers we have the inherent responsibility to be leaders in our school and wider communities. So, this list grabbed my attention and I started going through the list deciding which titles seemed most relevant to my context, and then seeking them out on iBooks.

The first two books I decided to take a look at were Dale Carnegie’s ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ and Stephen R. Covey’s ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.’ More on the latter another time…this week I began with Carnegie’s book.

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Originally published in 1936, the title of the American author and lecturer’s book makes me cringe a little. But once I got myself beyond that stigma, the majority of the book was fairly sound. There are a number of editions, but the one going for $0.99 on iBooks consists of six parts:

1. Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

2. Ways to Make People Like You

3. How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

4. Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

5. Letters that Produced Miraculous Results

6. Seven Rules for Making Your Home Life Happier.

Whilst appreciating the generosity with which Carnegie gives out advice, the book did become quite repetitive. Each section is split into chapters that explain a main principle of working with and leading people. Many of these are highly applicable in the classroom and when working with colleagues in education. They are, essentially, about building effective relationships and could act as a handbook for new and continuing teachers alike.

Below are the principles from the first four parts of Carnegie’s book, with a brief comment on how the first two sections might relate to the classroom or teachers’ office. This will be followed by a summary of Parts Three and Four.

PART ONE: FUNDAMENTAL TECHNIQUES IN HANDLING PEOPLE

“Principle One – Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.” We need to consider how we communicate to our students, parents and colleagues when we believe a situation is less than satisfactory.

“Principle Two – Give honest and sincere appreciation.” I see this in the sense of the way we give feedback on work, but also the way that we acknowledge positive behaviour and choices rather than focusing on the negative.

“Principle Three – Arouse in the other person an eager want.” How do we engage students so that they want to learn and participate in the classroom?

PART TWO: WAYS TO MAKE PEOPLE LIKE YOU

(N.B. In the educational sense, I see this more as ‘Ways to Engage Positively With Others’ rather than making them like me)

“Principle One – Become genuinely interested in other people.” Listen to students and colleagues. Get to know their interests and talents.

“Principle Two – Smile.” The old “don’t smile before Easter” just doesn’t make sense. Be firm, of course, but students are allowed to see that we are human and we need to make them feel welcome!

“Principle Three – Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” In other words, learn your students’ names. ASAP. This acts as a behaviour management technique on top of being just a common courtesy.

“Principle Four – Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.” (See Principle One.)

“Principle Five – Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.” How does what you would like to see happen fit with what the other person is interested in? They are more likely to do it if it addresses their interests!

“Principle 6 – Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.” Make sure students and colleagues know they matter, absolutely. To be honest, without them you probably wouldn’t be there either!

PART THREE: HOW TO WIN PEOPLE TO YOUR WAY OF THINKING

“Principle One – The only way to get the best out of an argument is to avoid it.”

“Principle Two – Show Respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.””

“Principle Three – If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.”

“Principle Four – Begin in a friendly way.”

“Principle Five – Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.”

“Principle Six – Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.”

“Principle Seven – Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.”

“Principle Eight – Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.”

“Principle Nine – Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.”

“Principle Ten – Appeal to the nobler motives.”

“Principle Eleven – Dramatise your ideas.”

“Principle Twelve – Throw down a challenge.”

PART FOUR: HOW TO CHANGE PEOPLE WITHOUT GIVING OFFENSE OR AROUSING RESENTMENT

“Principle One – Begin with praise and honest appreciation.”

“Principle Two – Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.”

“Principle Three – Talk about your own mistakes before criticising the other person.”

“Principle Four – Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.”

“Principle Five – Let the other person save face.”

“Principle Six – Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be heart in you appreciation and lavish in your praise.”

“Principle Seven – Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.”

“Principle Eight – Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.”

“Principle Nine – Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.”

Carnegie Quote

Learning to read: print or digital devices?

These holidays I am have set myself the challenge of blogging weekly about an element of my professional reading/learning/formation that I have focused on during that week.

Earlier this week I received an email from a colleague containing a link to an interview with Maryanne Wolf, a professor at the Centre for Reading and Language Research at Tuft University.

The full article can be found here: http://pdk.sagepub.com/content/96/3/14.full

Wolf begins by differentiating the language and cognitive demands of learning to speak versus learning to read. The acquisition of oral language is, by and large, a natural process occurring through immersion. “You can put a child anywhere in the world in a speaking environment, and it will naturally trigger their language. It will happen. “

This is not the case with reading. Reading requires being able to a decode symbolic code that is “both visual and verbal”:

“Reading is both a symbolic act, but it’s also an extraordinary act in terms of cerebral complexity and plasticity. Though it begins by connecting vision and language processes, it goes on to connect concepts, background knowledge, all the aspects of language like syntax, semantics, and morphology. Over time, it adds inference, analogy, perspective taking. It adds so many cognitive skills that, by the end, the reading circuit involves a panoply of some of the most basic processes connected to some of the most sophisticated cognitive and linguistic processes that human beings have ever achieved. The outcome is an extraordinary range of processes that all come together to propel thought. “- Maryanne Wolf, November 2014

So reading is already a far more complex act than speaking, but it is further complicated in an age where we talk about multiple literacies. Wolf refers to teaching children to be “biliterate” – people who are able to recognise different kinds of reading (in this case print versus screen) and apply different reading strategies appropriate to the context.

A particularly interesting discussion between the interviewer and Wolf is in regards to the development of children who learn to read from a screen. Wolf’s research currently involves looking at the physiological differences in reading strategies. She is interested in the difference in development between children who only learn to read via technology, children with a print/technology hybrid, and children with no technology.

So far her research shows minimal concern for children who learn to read with a device such as a Kindle, but a deficit for those who primarily learn to read on devices with more obvious distractions – web pages, advertisements, multimedia, etc. Although, this does not mean those reading from Kindle-like devices are safe from developing ‘lazy’ reading habits – if they are exposed to other screen media with distractions that cause them to read for “speed and immediacy” rather than deep understanding, then they are like to apply these same strategies to others forms of reading. “So the question becomes whether the mindset formed in a digital cultural milieu is really programming children always to be expecting the next attractive stimulus, rather than focusing their attention and concentration.” (Wolf, November 2014)

For the purpose of this discussion, there is print-based reading and digital reading – both reading in their own right. But the key issue is this: do we adequately help children to develop the skills sets required to differentiate between the two? I recognise in myself that I read a website differently from how I read a book. Online, my attention is divided between words, images, audio and audiovisual. When I read a print book, I am able to focus in on precisely what is being said and decode at a much deeper level. I even find it physically easier to focus for longer periods of time on a book that is printed compared to an e-book. I am a highly-literate and technologically savvy young adult and this print/screen dichotomy challenges me at times. So if adults find it difficult, how can we help young children to develop this “biliteracy” as Wolf calls it?

In order to be fully literate a person needs to be able to infer meaning from text at a deeper level. There is evidence to suggest that these skills are best acquired through print-based reading to begin with. Wolf suggests a kind of mentoring system where primary school children’s deeper inferential skills are charted in order to determine at which point to introduce digital reading and the associated skills. I must say at this point, I do not intend to say that digital literacy is less complex – in fact, it probably requires greater critical thinking and discernment as to what is regarded as fact or quality. But the deeper inferential skills need to be developed first in order to achieve these ones. Insomuch, Wolf does not negate the importance of technology; rather, she sees it as a complement to the teaching and learning of reading, but certainly not as a replacement.

And as a classroom teacher who sees many teenagers distracted by their flashy computer screens all day, mindlessly consuming what Google spits back at them, and struggling to read a printed text for five minutes, I can’t help but agree. My challenge is how to address it so that they develop the literacy skills sets required for the digital age that they are native to but not necessarily cognisant of.

Why Term 4 Is Crazy, Yet Deserves Gratitude – And Not Just For Holidays

Anyone who says the last couple of weeks of Term 4 are relaxing are kidding themselves. I find that a certain delirium sets in, usually from about the middle of Week 6. At our school, Week 6 signals a flurry of activity that lasts until the very. last. day. Year 12 exams, Year 8 camp, Year 12 Graduation,Year 10 and 11 exams, Year 10 Australian Business Week, final assessments for Year 8s and 9s, reports, Spring Fling and Swimming Carnival…and then, breathe? This is all only by the end of Week 7, so not just yet. There’s still a week to go…

At my current school, only the Year 8s and 9s remain in the final week of the term. Teaching programs are over, reports are finalised, but there is a recognition that students need to remain engaged in relevant learning. An “Alternative Week” program is devised for the first three days of the week, kicking off with the Year 9 Graduation into the Senior School and followed by a day and a half of non-graded life-skill based lessons and a Project Day. Once again, the dedicated staff who have just wrapped up their teaching programs plan, run and supervise mini programs. This year I have been involved in the Project Day with the Year 8s and 9s from our House. We took a focus on Centacare, our chosen Catholic charity, and created soft toy bilbies for children accessing their wonderful playgroup service, ‘The Bilby Bus.” All well and good, except that sewing is not my forte…so I got to develop my own life-skills as well!

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This is my somewhat cross-eyed and slightly amateur-looking attempt.

Thursday of Week 8 is House Day (excursions in House groups) followed by the final day (tomorrow – hooray!) tidying up odds and ends and concluding with a Christmas liturgy.

Add into this mix any final meetings and the End of Year Mass and Awards Ceremony, and you have an insane two and a half weeks.

Yet, despite the chaos and borderline craziness, there is something about this flurry of activity that is very rewarding. Working with students in an environment that is not dictated by subject area, staff members pitching in to help maintain one another’s sanity (one very kind colleague who CAN sew helped my class and I out all day) and seeing the pride in the faces of students, parents and teachers as kids accept awards for their hard work and amazing achievements. These moments bring together a sense of culmination and of achievement…that a year, which may well have been very challenging one, has turned out to be a successful one and one to be grateful for.

Education as a journey for all

I work in a Catholic school with a tradition of gathering every morning as a staff for prayer. This is something I probably used to take for granted, but in conversations with teachers from other schools have discovered that this is quite unique. A recurrent theme throughout our prayer life is the idea of a journey: usually the journey of our students which we have the great privilege of assisting in and witnessing.

But sometimes we are so focused on our students that we forget the importance of our own journey.There is something quite powerful about listening to someone have the courage to share a prayer or reflection in which they let their guard down and share their journey.

So I’ve been thinking about journeys this week. It started with a colleague sharing his reflections on his ten year high school reunion and his wedding, which happened to fall on the same weekend. The other triggering factor was when I was doing ESL support in a Year 8 English class. The subject teacher and her students were talking about quest stories and journeys, and one youngster recited “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.” From the mouths of babes.

Yet, as cliche as I recognise this all is, something stuck in my mind. This year has brought a few forks in the road for me. These have mainly been personal, but I’d be a fool to say they didn’t impact upon my professional life. In fact, the reason my professional journey at my current school is coming at a cross-roads is mainly due to a personal factor. I am very excited about the new adventure that is to come, but there is a distinct tinge of sadness as well. The school I am leaving behind has played a huge part in my personal journey. I spent 4 years there as a student, with many of my current colleagues walking beside me as my teachers, and by the end of this year will have passed five years there as a teacher, almost 10 years after I graduated.

 

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Other than a change in hair colour and style and lack of braces (thank goodness on both accounts!), there’s been a bit of journeying in between!

There were lots of teachers who influenced me as the student you saw on the left, and some of them still influence my journey now.

The Italian teacher who sparked my passion for language.

The English teacher who taught me that there was always better beyond what I thought was my best, and that I could achieve it (and she would accept nothing less!).

The House Leader  and the Year 12 Co-ordinator whose kind but pragmatic natures have given me a dose of reality and wisdom when things have been tough (both as a student and as a teacher).

The leadership team who have given me great advice, support, and on the odd occasion what seemed to be an endless supply of tissues and a kind ear.

For all of them, and their influence on my journey, I am very grateful. I can only hope to pay it forward in the future as I move alongside others in a new community.

Education, as I see it, is about a journey that doesn’t necessarily have a prescribed destination. If the crucial factor of education is relationships, then the important parts of the journey come when our paths intersect, diverge, change direction and develop.

Happy 2nd Anniversary!

So, I logged into WordPress this evening to discover that today is the 2nd anniversary of this blog!

 

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How far it has come since I first jumped into the blogosphere with this post about venturing into the big, wide digital world.

And how much I have learnt in two short years as well. I have been very fortunate in the first five years of my career to have had a range of colleagues, mentors and leaders who have supported me in my professional development, and challenged me to take on roles with increasing responsibility. These opportunities have helped me to find my passion in Literacy and ESL pedagogy, and to pursue that in my on-going training and practice.

But as this year begins to draw to a close – my Year 12s sit their final exam on Tuesday, Year 10s and 11s finish not long afterwards, and there are just four short weeks left with the Year 8s and 9s – it’s time to look ahead to a new adventure. I will be crossing the border and heading to Sydney at the end of 2014, so there may be a slightly different flavour to my blog as I explore the NSW system, get to know the finer details of a new curriculum, and settle into a new and exciting role.

I’m looking forward to new opportunities and challenges, and lots of learning to write about in the third year of my WordPress existence!

Language diversity is a blessing, not a curse, in our classrooms

This title may seem self-evident to many, but I feel it needs to be said.

A particularly nasty little piece of propaganda popped up on my Facebook feed tonight, liked by one of my acquaintances, and I feel compelled to respond to its ignorant hysteria. The post lamented the increase in English as a Second Language students in our schools. I am not going to republish the image here as I don’t think it deserves further distribution, but it was a class photo of a group of students who clearly hailed from a range of cultural backgrounds. The photo has been edited to label each student by his or her supposed “first language.” Every student apparently had a language background other than English, except for the little girl in the middle labelled “English/Irish.” The caption underneath read: “More and more schools now have children with English as a first language as a minority. How can we allow this to happen? Our own language a minority in our own land!”

Now, this post came from a British political group, but I think it speaks volumes for the arguments currently coming out of some pockets of Australia, particularly in our current political climate. And as an educator and a teacher of ESL students, I am horrified.

Such statements are inflammatory, potentially dangerous, and based on ignorance. Among the problems with this post:


1. “More and more schools now have children with English as their first language as a minority.”

Where are the statistics on this? And whilst there may be some evidence of such an increase in some areas where large groups of migrants have settled within communities, what of it?? Schools often reflect the demographic of their local area. I’d assume that if the child with English as their first language is a minority in their school, English speakers are probably a minority in that community too. Don’t like it? Leave.

2. “How can we allow this to happen?”
Your country has immigration policies that allow people from all walks of life to move to its shores. Of course, in Australia refugee policies are a source of heated debate but that does not alter my point. People are ALLOWED to move here. We are, by and large, a free country with freedom of speech, religion, language, and culture. The vast majority of Australians are grateful for this, so should understand why others might want to come here! When people migrate here their children are entitled to an education. They have the same right to learn regardless of their first language. In fact, in an examination system conducted in English and with an emphasis on the written word, the native English-speaker is in a privileged position. From that perspective, the post smacks of people looking to lay blame on the vulnerable and refusing to take some responsibility for their own situation.

3. “Our own language a minority in our own land!”
I’m not even going to dignify this with an extended discussion. No, it’s not. Not even close. So stop it.

The post continues in the comments section, saying that the ability to learn of English-speaking children is being crushed by the high number of ESL students in their classes. Now, as an ESL teacher, I understand the challenges faced in classes where there are a number of students whose first language is not English. Some of these students’ difficulties are increased because they have also witnessed or been subject to horrific violence and suffered great psychological trauma. Some of these ESL students were born in Australia but are impacted on by their parents experiences. Coincidentally, some of them speak and write more effectively than their peers with English as a first language. I also know that we face very similar, if not greater, challenges when there are students (regardless of native language) with special needs, learning difficulties or behavioural issues. All of these students are entitled to a quality education and need support. Their families need support. Their teachers need support. But the only group mentioned in the vilifying post is students whose first language is not English, and they are painted in the light that they are robbing English-speaking children of the education they deserve. This is simply untrue.

Perhaps the one bit of truth in the post is that ESL numbers are rising. We can’t deny that. But maybe a more productive and inclusive discussion would involve the prevalence and development of New Arrivals Programs, greater availability of in-school support, and increased professional development to better equip mainstream classroom teachers for the changing demographic.

Ultimately, how fortunate are our children to be exposed to such a range of cultures, beliefs and languages in their own schools and communities? This is something close to my heart (perhaps I have some bias being an English and LOTE teacher) and I feel that gaining a deeper understanding through their peers can only make them less insular and better global citizens. We have the opportunity to expose our learners to rich and vibrant cultures, if only we will embrace them as a community!

Bottom line: English as a Second Language students are not stopping your child from learning, so that card is not an appropriate one to play.

A Vlog: Reading to Learn

Last week an EAL Consultant from Catholic Education SA, who I have worked closely with over the past couple of years, invited me to create a video sharing my experiences, observations, data and reflections on the use of Reading to Learn in my English and Italian classrooms. It was a fantastic opportunity to reflect on my own practice, but also to speak to a number of students and hear their reflections about how useful they find this approach to language and literacy. The kids astounded me with the depth of their insights, and I wish I was able to share their videos here (privacy policies prevent me from doing so). Fortunately, their voices will be heard at a formal presentation that the above-mentioned consultant is preventing both overseas and in South Australia. In the meantime, I can publish my own video, so I’ll let the vlog below speak for itself!

When and why do Languages lose their ‘spark’ for students?

This morning I had the pleasure of observing a Year 4/5 Italian class at a local primary school. It was fascinating to witness such a different environment from the language classrooms in a high school.

The lesson began with the students’ class teacher accompanying them to the shared Italian and Science room (perhaps a seemingly odd combination to some but what an opportunity for bilingual learning!). As the children entered the room they immediately greeted their teacher and myself in Italian, as if it were the most natural thing in the world. They also responded immediately to questions with ‘Si” or ‘No.’

The class was beginning work on an information report about Australian animals, constructing language using the functional grammar concepts of participants and processes. They are to be introduced to circumstances next week. I found it fascinating to observe the students’ knowledge of -are verbs in the present tense, and their eagerness to participate in the class discussion and respond to the teacher’s questioning. They were patient and genuinely willing to support each other. Even when they were fidgeting, they were engaged with the lesson activities and a pleasure to talk to about their language learning individually.

The students I observed today were lapping up every word they were able to write or say in Italian. They spoke with beautiful Italian accents when asked to read and were so proud of their achievements in the short lesson. Watching this class made me wonder, where do so many children lose this enthusiasm for language learning? Is it in the late primary school years, or early in high school? When do they become so hesitant to take positive risks with their learning? I know this has a lot to do with the age-group I teach, rather than simply the subject…but it is a challenge for teachers of Languages at high school. Where are the gaps, and how can we better foster this love for learning languages in more of our older students?

Rapping Italian Verbs

Sometimes the lessons students remember the most are those that end up looking very little like the original lesson plan. Sometimes the most valuable learning comes from a random idea or a split second decision made by the teacher three steps from the classroom door. This happened to me the other day, and I have to admit, I felt an odd mixture of discomfort at relinquishing control and awe at my students and their creativity. I had a meticulously planned lesson where I knew that my Year 10 students would leave knowing which Italian verbs are irregular in the imperfect tense, but something didn’t feel right as I headed towards the classroom…as well-planned as the lesson was, I wasn’t keen on it so I doubted my students would be.

So I changed my mind at the last second. The new lesson outcome would be that students would leave the 40 minute lesson knowing the most common irregular verbs, and being able to construct one of them. I decided to take a calculated risk and try something that a colleague from another Catholic school (@LaProfOz on Twitter – look her up, she’s a genius!) had presented at a recent workshop – learning Italian verbs through songs. Now this was way out of my comfort zone as I cannot sing to save my life, but I knew that I had some outgoing students who could lead it for me….so I took a deep breath and dove in! I set the students to task in small groups almost immediately, allocating them an irregular verb each. They had the lesson to create a very basic rap or song that would help other to learn their assigned verb. Emphasis on ‘help others to learn’, meaning it had to be catchy, not complex.

Thinking a lesson was plenty of time, I unleashed my genuinely excited little song-writers and wandered, listening to their conversations and trying to give suggestions despite my lack of musical prowess. That’s when I realised that maybe a lesson wouldn’t be enough…by the time groups tried to get the ball rolling between themselves, argued with other groups over who would be able to use a particular song as their background, and then tried to start writing, we got very little done. The task was almost too simple and they seemed to feel the need to complicate it!

We persisted in the following lesson and managed to get a little further. Finally, on Tuesday, some groups began to record their raps and submitted them. Listening to what are some highly creative ‘masterpieces’, I noticed that a couple of the groups had let their imagination run wild, but missed the purpose of the text they were creating….elements of their verb were scattered through the rap (cleverly dubbed over Macklemore’s ‘Thrift Shop’) but it was mostly in English and would be difficult for students to remember the Italian verbs strategically injected among lots of English. One group did get it though, and although they themselves initially had a low opinion of their product, I think it’s great! Their verb was ‘bere’ (to drink) so they made up a short rap that repeated the forms of bere, in the process recounting a tragic story of the star-crossed lovers ‘Latte’ (milk) and ‘Succo’ (juice). Funnily enough, each one of those students got ‘bere’ 100% correct in their test.

Upon reflection, the lesson task had not gone quite as I would have hoped, but there were positive signs for its success if we were to try it again. The students were engaged, even if some of them had missed the purpose of their product. They talked about the task with students from other Italian classes, and even the Year 11 and 12 students had hear about what they were doing. Next time I would do it with more specific guidelines, and perhaps give the students the opportunity to choose their groups and the goal of having to teach one of the junior classes.

And whilst I would never advocate for throwing lesson plans out the window completely, I am glad that I gave up control on this one. If I hadn’t moved outside of my own comfort zone, I never would have known!

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