For this school year I had planned two projects:
With my 14-15 year-old groups: World Refugees: #YouMatter and "Be the Change You Want To See In The World"/ My Name is Malala: with my 12-13 year-old ones. My following post will be about the Malala project.
The first project** was inspired by Rusul Alrubail who wrote a heart-felt article on her experience of being a "refugee" herself. Rusul is a teacher-colleague from Irak now living in Canada, whom I "met" during her keynote for Shelly Terrell´s 30 Goals Web Conference, whom I follow on Twitter and thanks to Vicki Loras´ tweet, this idea came to my mind: I asked Rusul if she would read the article she wrote for PBS for my students to listen to her while they read: my goal was to double the impact: to read and to listen to real testimony. So, as soon as Rusul sent me the audio, I had my classes listened to her and write down questions she would kindly answer in the near future.
My students´ reacted quite positively and maturely to the idea of listening to a "real person telling her story" for further analysis and discussion. Honestly, what we always practice is Listening Comprehension with the coursebooks´ cds. After listening and reading the article, they were a bit shocked by the reality: first, it was hard for them to understand how I knew Rusul and second, the fact that I could direct message her to ask for that favor: all was a bit confusing for them: they would not believe me that she had sent me the audio on Facebook Messenger. Right now, we are in the process of sending her some questions: Do you miss Baghdad?, Did you ever go back there? Did you understand what the word war was?
This project is in collaboration with three more teachers at school: I shared my idea the History teacher who immediately jumped in, together with the Civics and the Geography teacher: they were fascinated!. The Social Studies teachers are in charge of introducing what ISIS is, terrorism in Europe, Syrians fleeing their country: routes in Asia and Europe. Although all the content is in Spanish, I make my students comment, read and listen about these topics in English, which can be considered a full CLIL class. Up to now, I have done this with one of my Intermediate classes. I will have my other class do the same activity the first weeks in April.
This activity is definitely challenging (as an educator you never know how your students will take this kind of piece of news), inspirational, thought-provoking but most of all, it gives teenagers the chance to reflect, think beyond borders, develop their sense of empathy and awareness: it opens their minds and eyes to the living world, it shows them that the purpose of schooling is not only for them to be taught, it is a place where they can show their feelings and emotions, express their opinions: summing up in one word: it helps them to have a VOICE to comment, to express themselves, to develop their critical thinking, to say something, or add any type of previous knowledge they had about it and at the same time to become aware of what is going on in the world they live in.
**It is relevant for the reader to know that I teach English as a Foreign Language in a private school in Buenos Aires, Argentina where the official language is Spanish, my students are practicing the foreign language with authentic material which gives them a better training and connection to the real English-speaking world.
Another idea I implemented in class with one of my senior groups back in 2012, was to first. ask the them if they had a Twitter account, reliable Internet connection in the cell phones and those who did, "tweeted" their PEACE wish to Imagine Peace Tower on October 9 the day of John Lennon´s birthday (ex-Beatle, singer, song-writer, peace activist) and also on September 21, which is United Nations International Day of Peace. We also listened to Peace songs like "Give Peace A Chance" and "Imagine" by John Lennon, "Awaiting On You All" by George Harrison, "Pipes Of Peace" by Paul McCartney, "Ebony and Ivory" by McCartney/Stevie Wonder, and relate the lyrics to the below featured Global Goals: