It has been almost a year since I added information and articles to englishteachingwith creativity.ETC as I was completing my doctoral dissertation in Education and Curriculum Studies. It has been a challenging five years, working as a full-time high school teacher and mentor for English teachers and writing a dissertation. Now that I have completed the doctorate I seem to have a little more time to return to writing on this site and hope that you will also participate in the discussions that the articles elicit. This year I want to concentrate on Tips for Teaching in the classroom, which will help us develop strategies to better enhance our skills as facilitators of knowledge acquisition and mentors, which is what good educators do on a daily basis.
An interesting article by Liat Ben-David, CEO of the Wolf Foundation, in The Jerusalem Post (Monday December 5, 2016) entitled, “Vive la revolution!” speaks about redesigning our educational systems by asking a few fundamental questions which include; what is worthy of learning, who are our students and who are the teachers we need and when and how does learning/teaching take place? She argues that all of these answers should consider the development of what she terms the four arts which include knowledge arts, the identification and utilization of multi-disciplinary knowledge, thinking arts which includes problem solving, critical thinking, flexibility, creativity, innovation and risk taking, know-how arts, which includes design, craftsmanship, technical skills and practical experience and interaction arts, which involves curiosity, imagination, motivation, teamwork, activism and sustainability.
The answers to Ben-David’s questions are not necessarily difficult for us. As teachers of the English language we know that the ability to express oneself in English is a skill worthy of learning for the future success of our students. Our students are not just the pupils we meet in the classroom but all people with whom we come in contact in our work environments as well as those we communicate with in our on-line communities.
As for who are the teachers we need, it is us! We have chosen this profession because we believe in making a difference. We are passionate about learning, thinking and having a positive impact on the future. This means that we too must continue to learn if we want to impart our enthusiasm for learning to our students.
The final question, when and how does learning/teaching take place, is not the classic answer, learning takes place in school. Of course most of us are physically in the classroom; however, more and more we find ourselves communicating out of the school building as we work with students on-line and answer many questions in our WhatsApp groups which many of us have created with our classes. In addition, we recognize that much of what our students learn comes from the adventures we take them on out of the building, the volunteer work they do and the extra-curricular programs which take place during the year, including the holidays, when they are not in a formal school setting.
The Tips for Teaching articles will center on these four “arts” that Ben-David discusses in her article. I invite your input so that our community can benefit from many ideas and experiences. I am particularly involved with the “thinking arts” as I teach in a literature program that infuses higher order thinking skills (HOTS) into the lessons.
This week’s tip is about choosing a list of HOTS to introduce to your students and how to develop lessons that enable them to practice those HOTS. The list of HOTS which we teach in our high schools includes:
- Comparing and contrasting
- Distinguishing Different Perspectives
- Explaining Cause and Effect
- Generating Possibilities
- Identifying Parts and Whole
- Making Connections
- Problem Solving
- Uncovering Motives
There are many sources for definitions for these HOTS and it is important to give students written definitions; however, they are best learned when practiced. I found that one way to practice HOTS is to give students an activity to do collaboratively. One idea is called “The Marshmallow Challenge”. Each group is given:
- 20 pieces of uncooked spaghetti
- 1 meter of string
- 1 role of scotch tape and scissors
- 1 marshmallow
They have 15 minutes to build a free-standing structure with a marshmallow on top. They should try to make it as high as possible.
After completing the task, pictures are taken and then each group is asked to explain what HOTS they had to use to build this tower and explain how they used that HOTS. This activity works well with adults too although the younger you are the more risks you are willing to take in building this structure. Failure is an important part of learning and when you are willing to take risks and fail your chances of gaining knowledge are greater. Try this creative and fun activity when introducing HOTS to your students.