What’s Worked For Us BeforeOctober 2, 2018
In the process of developing Socialism Realised, ÚSTR had the opportunity to do some piloting in the U.S., with both middle schoolers and university students. What we found from that experience is that when you’ve chosen a suitably comprehensible and flexible piece of material and put questions with it that anyone can answer, then you can use it in hugely varied circumstances. The middle schoolers, who were ages 13 or 14, were perfectly capable of watching a video and then answering basic question just about what they saw in the video: Who do you think is arriving on the plane, and who is there to greet them? What is the atmosphere of the meeting and the clip in general? We found that when we started with the constructivist approach that way, then the material went equally well with middle schoolers and university students — the conversations just went different directions.
At Sofia Platform, we most frequently we structure our methods around the concepts of place, time, object, and role. For example, activities where students have to work with objects and archives allow them to develop research skills, and they also give everyone — or every team — a chance to take an individual approach. One method we find to be very successful is taking students to places of memory, where small research and observational tasks lead them to explore and reflect on collective and social memory. Another of our favorite methods are role-play games, which have many ways of opening discussions into more complex concepts that may otherwise come across as less interesting if brought up through lecturing and facts only. We also use oral history methods, with students either interviewing with a witness to historical events or meeting them as a class. We have found this to be very moving, inspirational, and motivating for students. All of these methods invite students to find different ways of learning about history, explore its different layers in engaging ways, and become part of the process of learning.
Well, from what we at the ITG have experienced at various schools in Slovakia, no matter how good your activities are or how well you think they were prepared, at some point you’ll need to pay attention to the time. Take the time factor into careful consideration when preparing the activities, and keep them clear, simple, and understandable for your target group. Another time connected notion is relates to both stirring up and also moderating discussions at the same time; no matter how fruitful your discussions are, the time windows for teaching in Slovakia are limited.
We hope you find these suggestions helpful as you develop your own teaching material — or as you use ours.