Those who have ever attempted to create a Problem Based Learning (PBL) lesson know how difficult it is to come up with a complex, multi-staged problem that directs the students toward learning the subject matter (objective), without explicitly stating it.
Without directions, most students get lost. I remember being in university classes at the end of the term and someone would always raise their hand in class and ask “When is the exam? Where? What’s on it?” and so on. All of this information is clearly present on the course syllabus and on the exam schedule put out each term. Yet, it was just so easy to ask someone else for the information.
On the other hand, as teachers it is expected that we always have the answers. What are we learning today? – We’ve made a full lesson plan. Whats on the test? We’ve made a list. It’s almost if we are trained to do all the thinking and hard work for the students.
So teachers – Rise up! and take a lesson from PBL. Turn the question, and therefore the responsibility, back on the student. The next time a student asks you what’s on the test, ask your students to pull out their note books and tell YOU what they have learned. Write it all on the board, and Ta-Da! The students have now created their own study guide for the test. You might even want to write it down yourself and base the test on it.
I’m not saying you have to come up with complex problems that can take hours to plan and prepare. But I will say that students can do a lot more then we give them credit for. If your next lesson is on sports and sports vocabulary get the students to build a list (in English) of all of the sports they know. (Maybe you can surprise them by doing your own homework and introducing some less commonly known sports – or something like Nascar….how is that a sport? Maybe your students can tell me that!). Then maybe next class you ask them to pick a sport and do a research project on the rules. Then the next class they work in groups to teach each other the rules of each sport, or compare rules to see if they all got the same thing.
Remember – 30 Students doing 30 mins work at night is much better than you spending hours thinking about a lesson plan. It involves the students, their interests, and personalities. In the end, the students will thank you because not only will they have learned their materials for class, they will have learned some valuable life skills and had some fun doing it.
Try it out!