In with the new

Yesterday was also the second day of my new set of classes, or rather the second day of student orientation for my new classes. I am teaching a beginner class (Levels 1-2 or 3, depending on the student pool) and a mixed level class.  So far both classes are looking to be pretty small.  And that is OK — as long as they don’t cancel them on me!

For these classes I was told that I had to teach reading, writing, listening, and speaking.  There is no curriculum to follow and there are no books.  After the summer class, that level of freedom is exciting.  But it is also a little frightening.   I have pretty much decided on using ideas and materials from two main sources: the Minnesota Literacy Council and English Banana.

I was really intrigued by You Are the Course Book at English Banana.  Since I have no books, It seems like a good idea: Have students create their own texts and materials.  So I decided that would be the basis of the courses this fall.  Matt Purland, the author, outlines the program very well, and I feel pretty confident that it will work.  A lot of the success of any course is teacher buy-in with the materials.  I buy into this more than I bought into the materials I had to use over the summer.

Purland offers two approaches to the program — one where students create all the texts and one where they create one text and the next one is provided for them. This is the model I am going to use.  I think it will offer the students more variety and will give me a chance to work any kinks out of the program as I implement it.

I am going to use materials from the Minnesota Literacy Council for these other texts.  Their website offers a lot of readings and lessons tied to the kinds of topics I want to cover with my students.  I plan to use Purland’s approach for dealing with the texts rather than use them strictly according to the lesson plans that accompany the readings.  But there are elements of the lessons that will be adaptable to Purland’s approach.

I am excited to try this.  While it is very loose, it provides me with an overall structure,  After all the years I have been teaching, I feel pretty confident that that will be enough.

Purland says:

The main point is that when the teacher is engaged, the students are more likely to be engaged. Busy teacher = busy students; bored, passive teacher = bored, passive students. They take their cue from you.

How true!  Blindly following someone else’s ideas of what they think my students need isn’t engaging at all for me as the teacher.  I saw it happen time and time again over the summer.  I wanted something different for these new classes. And now I think I have it.  I’m excited!

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