Thursday, 15 March 2012

La compassion dans la salle de classe

A few weeks ago I attended a conference for junior teachers (teachers who teach grades 4-6), and the theme was creating a caring, compassionate classroom. The ideas I got from the conference can certainly be applied to any FSL classroom. It is so important to create a caring, compassionate classroom atmosphere in a second language classroom because students need to feel comfortable enough to take risks and try to pronounce new vocabulary words. At the start of the year, it is a good idea to have the students share some of their own personal stories in the target language to help create a classroom community and to get to know each student. An activity that was introduced at the conference was to have students work in pairs and each pair is given a circle, a triangle and a square. The pair is then to arrange the three shapes in a particular design. After giving the students a couple of minutes to decide on the position of their shapes, the students are then told that each shape represents a person in a bullying scenario. One shape is the bully, another shape is the victim and the third shape is the bystander. The students would then discuss in their pairs which shape represents which person in that scenario and why. Addressing the bullying issue upfront and discussing it is a good way to set expectations for student behaviour in the classroom and set the stage for a compassionate second language classroom. Dr. Larry Swartz, a professor for the teacher education program at the University of Toronto, has focused a lot of his research on creating caring classrooms and addressing the bullying issue in schools.  Here is a link to a video of Larry Swartz talking about the importance of creating caring classroom environments. Two books that I recommend that promote a caring attitude are Le Vol du colibri by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas and L'homme qui plantait des arbres by Jean Giono. In the words of Dr. Seuss "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing's going to get better. It's not." (From the movie The Lorax).

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