Saturday, September 17, 2005

The power of biography!

All about my life. Posted by Picasa

The voices that are not as often heard in our classrooms as we would imagine are the voices of our students. Yet, if we want to 'engage' students (as is the present concern), we need to appreciate that the 'stuff' of their lives is what makes them learn.

Often we know too little about their lives.

When I walk around classrooms I look for 'evidence' (another current ‘buzz word’) of studies based on their questions followed by answers they have researched about such issues. And I also look to see a range of creative media used to express the concerns of their own lives and not just class themes.

Too often such personalized learning is missing; lost in all the teacher imposed curriculum and assessment requirents; too much teacher 'delivery' of curriculums and not enough 'designing' personalised studies.

One idea to remedy this situation is to study the significant and personal greatness of our student’s lives through biography. This could lead into , or emerge out of, a study of the biography of famous people, or the recording of the oral history of their parents, or of local people of interest.

If we want students to know it is important to have some sense of their own future it might be a good idea to focus, through biography, how various people have achieved their goals.

Students could begin by discussing, or brainstorming, elements to include in their biographies ( to be written by a partner) , including what they might want to achieve when they ‘grow up’. This could include: birth , early life, holidays ,family events, pets, favourite uncles and aunties, favourite music, sports and hobbies etc. The teacher could model the process using her own biography, or by reading extracts of biographies? Perhaps some form of criteria could be drawn up as a guideline?

It would be useful for each student, after a brainstorming session, to list all the important events in their lives as a basis for sharing with a partner who is to write the biography. Get them to select the things that they feel have been important events. Students could share their ideas orally, using their notes, with a partner. Similarities and differences will begin to be noticed (by the teacher?) and ideas discussed will 'spark' lost memories.

After a day or two to reflect partners could start interviewing and writing out the biographies, continually checking with the person concerned for details. It will be important for writers to appreciate that anecdotes/ stories are more impressive than just lists of facts and events. Interviewing subject’s parents might be a useful idea, or they might be asked to supply written comments for the authors to include.

The students could bring images, brought from home, for the writer to include using digital cameras.

Each person could then share the completed biography with class members and questions could be answered either by the author or the subject. Parents could also be invited to this celebration? Finished biographies could be displayed on the wall,the school website, or written up as a class book to be sent home for comment.

The next step is to design curriculums around students: environment, interests, talents, passions and concerns.

With such ideas in place 'engaging' students will no longer be an issue and ‘personalized’ learning will become a reality.


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Anonymous said...

Student ''voices' have been ignored since our government fell under the spell of the standardized 'one size fits all' curiculums in the 90s. We now need teachers to 'design' curriculums to suit their students and not just to be 'delivered'.

The future lies in developing a mass personalised education system.

Anonymous said...

Teacher's 'voices' as well! Let's hope the government has learnt it's lesson.

richnz said...

Sounds like a great idea to me Bruce.. We are looking at 'podcasting' as a means of continuing our focus on children's oral langauge competency.. I can see oral histories or at least boigraphies being developed and presented in the form of a podcast. Cool.
PS How do you stop these spamming entries?

Bruce Hammonds said...

Greetings Rich

This biography activity would be a great end of year task for students to take on to their next level of education along with the usual stuff you send?