Learner-centeredness: Negotiating with Teens

learnercenteredMarc asked the following question in the G+ community where we are contemplating the notion of learner-centeredness. Contemplating because it seems to mean different things to different people.

I shared the following problem and my view of learner-centeredness. One that I feel can work very well for my context of teaching if we have the time to negotiate with learners.

I actually have a problem today +Marc Jones and +Joanna Malefaki . I have a class with 3 teens today. They are 14. I understand Learner-centeredness as learners taking an active role in the process where choice, understanding where they are in their learning process and setting goals for themselves are key to implemente such an approach. +Glenys Hanson mentioned in another post that she focus on learning. Focusing on learning should be the main aim of any pedagogical decision whether teachers  make decisions alone, or it’s shared with learners. Problem seems to be content, materials and objectives imho. In this article which I managed to read about 4 pages so far (http://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:8562/K_B_MThaiTESOL06.pdf ), the authors state that implementing such an approach faces some issues which with this particular group of students I don’t have. But my problem is that my decision to use a certain material was not approved by all three students.
1) they are not total beginners. It’s possible to negotiate in English with them. I used a form to collect their opinion on what to do next. 1 said yes to the material chosen by me, 1 said no and 1 didn’t vote at all (later she told me she just forgot to press submit, but she would love to continue working with EZA). I’m about to have class with them. So, in order to make it learner-centered I’ll negotiate with them the material we are going to use, discuss why we should be using it and set our learning objectives. I’ll report back later with a class transcript.

I haven’t had the time to transcribe the recording yet. Bu here is what it was decided and why.

  • As the boy didn’t like working with the EZA as he found the content too easy for him (not really, but that is how he perceived it), the girls decided to suggest a movie then. As we have been working with narratives, one of the girls proposed for everyone to watch the movie at home and then retell the story of the movie through writing.
  • The boy doesn’t like writing, so he asked if he could record his speaking (he didn’t, but he sent me the writing). Then, the girl who suggested the movie decided to record a video. The other learner said she prefered to write.
  • I asked them what date would be good for them to send me the material, so I could correct and then prepare activities to work on the language in the following class. (They all agreed that was my part of the job)

After negotiating with them, and as the girls really liked working with EZA and knowing that the boy likes to act out, I suggested the following:

  • Change the setting, charaters but keep the plot of EZA. They all liked the idea. Once they agreed, they started reviewing the episodes we had already listened to last bimester and started working on their script. The plot is a zombie apocalypse in our school.

The great thing is that they all send me the material. The learner who created the video gave me permission to play it in class. Here is the activities I created for them to review their texts while engaging with the text.

Text 1: The objective is to listen and spot the differences between the improved version and the spoken text. First they will read the improved version with a focus on understanding the text. Then, they will listen and circle the places they spot that are different from the audio. End the activity by discussing the differences. As she is the highest level learner in the group, the text has very few mistakes we need to address.

Text 2: We are working with narratives in the past and the boy wrote his text using most of the verbs in the present. On the board, we’ll quickly review the use of the verbs (comparing present and past simple forms quickly for the verbs I selected from the text), then they will read and complete it with the verbs from the board.

Text 3: I have never tried a bingo with a text, but it sounds like it can be a good way for learners to read the text more than once without finding it boring. I selected chunks from the text and created a gap-fill to hand out. I’ll write the chunks on the board at random order. They will read and complete the gap-fill. After that we will play bingo two times. Each time with a passage. Her text has two short paragraphs. In each paragraph I cleared about 4/5 chunks.

It’s worth mentioning that they are all very active users of Youtube. They love videoclips, music and watching tv series in English. They are still getting the hang of  speaking and writing and they found working with comic books through rewriting/retelling the stories and receiving correction really useful. But I wanted to break the routine by providing a corrected version of their text through a different set of activities.


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3 thoughts on “Learner-centeredness: Negotiating with Teens

    • Thanks Marc. I think letting them in charge also gives them an opportunity to evaluate their own choices and the outcomes. That way, they can they become more critical about the whole process. It’s not just about what they have to do but how they did it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Forgot to mention that with 90 minutes we worked with Text 2 and 3 only. They were really interested in focus on vocabulary and tried to remember/review somethings they wrote at home with help. Tomorrow we are working with text 1 (listen and find the differences), and have a conversation about the movie which will be recorded. After that, they will continue working on their EZA script.

      We have only two more weeks until the winter break starts. I’ll create a bank of activities to publish in the class wiki. It won’t be mandatory, so I’m curious to see if any student will do the activities. I’ve been playing with google forms. I did try Hot Potato too. I might use it as well. If they don’t use during the break, no worries. During the breat the idea is to create the bank and let them choose what to do instead of me assigning something every week. Unless of course there will be a need to assign as in the case of this negotiation. They decided what to do themselves at home and had to send me their texts in a certain date. Everything was negotiated mostly among themselves. They did as they said they would. For me this was awesomest part!

      Liked by 1 person

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