Is lecture a 4-letter word? Following up a year later

Today I received a comment from Miss Teacha on a post I published almost a year ago called Is ‘lecture’ a 4-letter word? She continues our love-hate relationship conversation about lecture. I started to write my reply as a comment and then decided to post it as its own post. So here it is.

Thanks for following up on this conversation, Miss Teacha! I think the mark of a successful lecture is when you need to calm the class down, when you need to redirect their energy. Lecture is not merely a content delivery system, though it can be and often has the reputation of being solely that.

I no longer teach economics. The required course for Grade 11 has been changed to Contemporary World Issues beginning this year. It’s a course based on themes rather than specific content and I am in the middle of a section on the themes of tension and conflict using information from different areas of the world – Monks protesting in Burma; Seal Hunters in Nunavut, the Maritime provinces, and Quebec; living in the Gaza strip; living in Sri Lanka… *** (see below)

There is SO much content that if I lectured it all they would never get to the juicy stuff of developing their own definitions of tension and conflict or debating different intervention strategies. So I give them articles, music, video to read, listen to, view, and talk about in small groups. They check their understanding with me during group and class discussions – sometimes I point them to the computers for background research and sometimes I give them the background (and sometimes I even let them know that I don’t know the background very well and we research it together).

When I give them the background it may be done as a whole class exercise, where I stop activity and give background to the entire class, or to individual groups, depending on the need. If only 1 group isn’t getting something, why make others who do get it stop what they are doing?

I am finding that this kind of lecture is effective because the students see the need for it. The lecture happens because they have asked for it and not because a) it’s easier for me or b) it’s what I think they should learn. They often interrupt in order to ask questions and link what I am saying to their articles or videos or songs or however it is they are gathering their information.

So, again, lecture does not have to be a 4-letter word. Thanks to Miss Teach for following up on this conversation.

***I am lucky that this unit (we call them Learning Evaluation Situations (LES) in Quebec) has been developed for the course by a Quebec English schools support centre. It is the only teaching material for this course that has been made available to us in English so far, beyond the curricular guidelines (basically the competencies (like standards) and their descriptors). Apparently there is a textbook that is being published in sections but I have yet to see it.


Sept. 28: After I wrote this post I decided to create a blog for the Contemporary World Issues class. I’ve now re-posted this and my students are commenting over there:

Our Contemporary World Issues class has been talking about the concept of interdependence for the past week or so. We’ve done some individual exploration on David Suzuki’s website, we’ve had some classroom and small group conversations on the subject as well.

I’ve taken some of our words and phrases and put them together in the presentation below. When you read them, think about them – what do they really mean?

I’ve also added someone else’s words on the topic. Do they add to your ideas? Do they make things clearer/more complicated?

Though this post is directed towards my Grade 11 Contemporary World Issues class, I hope that others will comment as well.

The Watkinson Garden

[cross-posted at 09/10~Looking Forward]

During our conversation on climate change, Marcy Webb told me about a girl named Mary, a high school student who “…has chosen to devote her summer to sustainability. She is helping to cultivate an herb and veggie garden, on the school grounds. The goal is that the bounty from the garden will be used in the preparation of lunch meals at the school. She is maintaining a blog.”

So this post is about that blog. The blog is a diary of what she is doing to take care of the garden on a daily basis, though there is no description of why she is doing it. For that, I will trust Marcy’s description above :) I’d like to find more examples of initiatives like these to share with my students, not to mention to remind me about everything that continues to inspire me as a teacher.

Do you know of any? Please share!

Here is a sample from Mary’s blog, Watkinson Garden:

Day 14!

Today I went to school and spent my time weeding along the entrance. I also deadheaded flowers around campus, once again there was no reason to water the plants because the rain we have been having.

Very simple gestures that make such an impact.