Preparing for a lifetime of learning
In a classroom in Yemen, Maria is working with a group of her
student. The rest of the class is busily engaged with individual workcards that
Maria has made by cutting pictures from magazines and sticking them on
construction paper with True/False questions on the back.. As each student
finishes, she or he checks the back of the card for the correct answers. The
student then makes a note of the card number, returns the card to a box at the
front of the class, and takes another.
In a classroom in Tonga, David's class is busy working on a
writing exercise. Two students finish early, but instead of distracting the
other students, they walk to the front of the class and select activities from a
box kept there. One begins to reconstruct a cut-up reading passage while the
other writes a dialogue for speech balloons in a cartoon story. All the
activities in the box are color coded so that the students are able to select an
activity at their own level. Student record cards and answer keys are enclosed
in the box.
In her classroom in Thailand, Amy sets up activity centers every
Wednesday. She does this by placing a box of reading activities one desk, a
writing activities box on another, a grammar activities box on a third, and a
listening/pronunciation activities box on a fourth. In each box the activities
are arranged by level. As each student completes an exercise from one of the
activity centers, he or she checks the answers using the answer key in the box,
puts an entry on his student record sheet, and then selects another activity.
Amy circulates, helping students with individual difficulties.
In all three classrooms students are engaged in independent
tasks of their own choosing and are taking some measure of responsibility for
their own learning. This is what independent study is all about.
IN THIS CHAPTER
In this chapter, we suggest some ways in which you could use
independent study in your classroom. The first half of the chapter deals with
background information, such as the rationale for using independent study and
issues of classroom management and materials production. The second half of the
chapter provides a bank of materials and activity types that you can choose from
to suit your particular group of learners.
REASONS FOR USING INDEPENDENT STUDY
If we were to ask Maria, David, and Amy why they use independent
study, they might give a number of different answers. Maria might say that it's
a way to usefully occupy most of the students while she has a chance to give
some extra help to a small group . David might say that he started independent
study as a way of dealing with the interruptions produced by early finishers,
while Amy might say that her learners are all at different levels and in need of
different skills and that independent study seems to be the only way to address
their individual needs.
In fact, independent study can do all these things and more. It
can also help to solve the problem of a limited number of textbooks. And it
provides students with the study skills necessary to continue learning beyond
the classroom. This last point is very important if the students are receiving
only minimal English instruction in