The Creative Joy of Final Learning Statements

In three days, our training course will be over. In these final days, it’s time for participants to look back over their four months together and reflect on what’s been meaningful and what they’ve learned. To help them do this, I asked them to respond to a list of questions Mary Scholl (SIT teacher-trainer) created and kindly shared with me. Below are a few examples:

  • If you were to choose 10 words to describe your experience in the course, what would they be?
  • If your experience in the course were like weaving a beautiful cloth, what would be the threads that hold the cloth together?
  • How would you explain your experience in this course to a five year old?
  • What would your ideal motto be in the future?
  • If you had to sell this course, what would your slogan and ad campaign look like?
  • Go through all of your journal entries from the course. Choose the ones that are most meaningful to you. Why are they meaningful?
  • Make a metaphor for how the course has affected you. Be juicy and deep in your description.

With these questions, they created final learning statements that would then become the front cover of  their learning portfolios. They kept this portfolio throughout my writing course.  I encouraged the participants to be as creative as they wanted, and as you’ll see, they didn’t hold back. During our final learning statement gallery walk (gallery walk explanation coming soon), I was inspired at each turn. I hope you feel inspired too.

Please enjoy the artistic exhbilition of learning!

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Privacy tip: Notice the funky, random strips on some of the statements? To keep the anonymity of my participants, I used the smartphone app Labelbox to cover their names.

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Ploughing through the First Day

Why do I feel exhausted? It was my first day back, I only had three, 50 minute classes and I covered the same material in each of them! So if it was such an easy day, where does the strain behind my eyes come from?

The exhaustion comes from my snowplough imitation. With a quick and steady advance, I made my way through the participants’ attentiveness. I can just imagine how my big, round, fully animated eyes must have seemed to them: like looking into blinding blue headlights with too much self-powered energy. I speculate I have a teacher’s gaze that could cause my participants to topple over with either giggles or confusion. But with their cultural composure, they listened and held back on any social slip ups.

My eyes were saying this, “I REALLY want you to understand what I’m saying. Do you understand that this is important?”, and with the strength of a plough, I pushed through the course expectations, trying to pack all the information onto the snow banks of my participants’ minds.

“This folder is for your writing portfolio. You keep your writing tasks here, but don’t keep your classroom notes in this portfolio. Your portfolio is a learning tool, and it will help you see your writing progress. You also keep your reflective dialogue journal entries here. These entries are written at home.”

“What is an entry? An entry is a single written item. For example when you write something in your diary, this is an entry. You have to write two entries per week. If you look at the handout I gave you, I ask you to answer these questions. They are reflective questions. Reflective implies thinking about yourself, and your experiences, and then writing about it. You answer the reflective question and then give it to me. At this point I will read the entry and comment. When you write your entry you can also ask me a question. I will answer this question. This is a private written conversation between you and I.”

“You use the yellow notepad that I’ve given you for your in-class writing tasks. When you are done with the tasks, you rip the paper and put it in your portfolio.”

“…blah blah blah.”

Some instructions went over their heads like the last bits of snow trying to make it to the top of that snow bank.  I was giving them information I knew some of them weren’t understanding. I feel exhausted because I spent too much time talking. What’s embarrassing is that I always encourage participants to decrease TTT (teacher talking time), and here I was using it as my only teaching tool.

I tried to convey information I know will only be understood when it is experienced. This is the beauty. Teachers just don’t need to talk for their message to get across. Being understood is all about action. I know this is true when it comes to giving instructions for a language activity.

So my question is, do I really need to go through this again next semester? Is there a more fun and less tiring way to let them know what their responsibilities are for the semester?

I could have asked them to get in groups to discuss the syllabus and instructions on their handout. I could have given them the folder and notepad, and ask them to imagine what they might be for. Any other suggestions? How can I refrain from acting like a snowplough on the first day of class?