Students are accustomed to studying their courses in units. There are quizzes, homework assignments, projects and usually a big test at the end of each unit. Often, after all the material has been covered and completed, they will view it with an “all’s well that ends well” attitude, filing all the weeks of knowledge into a forgettable recess of the brain. This is perhaps not the best approach to learning. How is learning being seen as valuable if it’s only function is to pass the final unit test?
This is where metacognition–thinking about your own thinking–plays such a crucial role in my course. Even though I don’t insist that my students take a particular liking to the texts we study in class, I do require that they spend a couple days reflecting on what they have learned and why they think the way they do. This helps them to identify their thought patterns, analytical strengths and weaknesses, and specific feelings about the text and its related assignments. Take a look at the what our grade 10 Mini students had to say about our Romeo and Juliet unit!
“My thoughts on Romeo and Juliet and Shakespeare have changed a lot throughout this unit. I do not understand why this is such an iconic love story when both of the main characters die. This is called a tragedy and I can see why. The play is just problem after problem! I don’t see why it is considered the greatest love story of all time. First of all, take away all that early modern English, and the play is about a three-day relationship between a 13-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy–that causes six deaths, including their own!” – Chandler Bradley
“The three activities that helped me understand the text were: acting out the scenes, the class mock Capulet Ball, and writing analytical paragraphs. When acting, you have to find out your character’s objective, which helped me understand the different characters in the play and their actions. The Capulet Ball helped me picture and understand the setting of that scene. Finally, the analytical writing helped me dissect different characters and learn about their personalities…which in turn helped me answer questions about the whole play!” – Andrea Lynn
“The funny thing about performing skits in Mini School classes is that I get really excited for them. Unlike some of the other classes I’m in, I feel a lot more confident and I get so much energy from everyone else who is just as eager as me. I think it’s because it’s such a safe place and no matter how stupid you look on the stage, the people in this class won’t change their opinion of you, so that really helps. Knowing that the people in the class feel the same way makes it more engaging to watch. So in a nutshell, I felt really good about performance day and I’m sure everyone else did too!” – Kiren Aujla