Can online cohort based learning sessions help make a more impactful difference in enabling children to speak with confidence?
There is much skepticism about the efficacy of online classes in general. Children are more prone to distractions as entertainment sources are easily accessible. The necessity to turn off videos makes it all the more convenient to stay logged in to classes and watch something or even play something far more interesting. Add headphones to the mix and no one around knows what is going on, especially if one is seated in a convenient place away from the inquisitive glare of passing adults. If this is the case, wouldn't it be easier to simply evade answering questions posed by the teacher or simply refrain from contributing in group discussions stating connectivity issues? On the other hand, in an offline classroom situation the teacher has an eye on every student. Learning perhaps is driven out of fear of getting caught by the teacher.
How about reversing this and allowing the student to become owner of their own learning processes? In other words giving them an important role to play in the classroom discussions? This role could be that of scribe or a facilitator or a character even in a narrative spun around the subject in question. They far more likely to feel the need to learn and contribute. Ultimately, what gets reenforced in the process is the desire to be heard.
How can online cohort based learning sessions help in developing speaking skills?
Cohort based learning sessions rely on the concept of peer learning and support. The numbers are generally small and hence there is a lot of scope for interaction between peers during the sessions. The key is to make the sessions highly interactive. The teacher needs to speak as little as possible, only providing the trigger to lead discussions forward and encourage free inquiry.
Apps such as Zoom provide features that make this kind of interaction far easier.
Once the ice is broken and the children get familiar with one another a special camaraderie tends to grow. When a peer stumbles, another steps in to help even before teacher speaks. This adds a level of safety and helps relax timid children as they now have the support of a peer in the group. This support is a lot more valuable than the teacher's support even. This is further aided by reaction features in apps such as Zoom that enable children to emote and encourage their peers without even interrupting.
Additional features such as breakout rooms enables the teacher to classify the class into small groups effortlessly without the hassle of friction between the groups on account of overhearing voices from the other group or wanting to keep the team's efforts a secret until it is time to present. Breakout rooms also give the groups some independence to work on the task without having the teacher around all the time. If help is required the help button is easily accessible and the teacher becomes readily accessible as and when required. In such situations children learn to resolve differences on their own. True there are times when they are at loss but given a chance children above the age of 8 or 9 learn to figure out solutions that is acceptable to most if not all.
Allowing the children to own their learning
Online sessions can get tiring very soon and it's important to add some fun element from time to time. What's a better place to look for fun ideas than from the children's themselves? For instance at the Young Readers Club, the children came up with the idea of having a "Riddles Party" once every month. Each reader takes the initiative to come up with riddles to ask the group. There is a lot of cheer and laughter as we try guessing the right answer each time. In the process of having fun, children learn to take initiative, to think, contribute and work together. The soft spoken children begin to lose their inhibition when given a chance to ask a riddle. They have the power since they are mostly the only one who knows the right answer. Repeat, and the process makes them realise that they can boldly talk and make others think! Inspired by the response we came up with an idea for our routine "Activity of the Month". Activity of the month at the Young Readers Club typically involves every reader sharing information about their chosen book and recommending the same to their peers. To add a dose of fun we have generic themes such as "The Favourite Character Hunt" or "Book Ads". Coming back to the idea that emerged from the "Riddles Party" concept, a brand new idea came into existence, "Guess the Story based on The Cover". This activity always sees more than one book recommendation from the young readers. It probably gives them a sense of power knowing that they are the only ones who know the book and can help others by giving clues to guess. What's more sharing book covers for the book recommendation presentations or even reading a book together online is far simpler. The share screen mode helps anyone share screens with ease thus removing the hassle of acquiring required material for everyone to gain equal access.
It probably gives them a sense of power knowing that they are the only ones who know the book and can help others by giving clues to guess.
Similarly, the older group comprising of tweens and teens in the Young Executives Club chose to have competitive elections in an activity designed around a fictitious town. As per the narrative, the town had a bad case of rodent infestation leading to the mayor stepping down for mismanagement. The group decided to pave the way for imaginary elections with a few of them opting to contest too. This led to writing and rehearsing speeches. The candidates worked on election campaign speeches, some chose to play the role of journalists reporting and the others who did not find election related speeches interesting chose to write and speak about people who inspired them. Noteworthy amongst those speeches was the one written based on the fictitious character Ironman from the Avengers. The teen expressed so beautifully why although this character is fictional, it inspires him to build innovative solutions that could make a big difference to humankind. Another teen delivered a heartfelt speech about how her mother inspires her every day. The activity was purposely made flexible enough to accommodate ideas shared by the group thus enabling them to have ownership with what they wanted to derive from the experience. At the end of the day the purpose was to give each one of them a sense of purpose and hence the need to be heard. They learnt that when they strive to be heard, their thoughts are heard and valued. All their ideas may not be implemented but it makes a huge difference to self confidence when a child knows that their thoughts have been heard and that they matter.
They learnt that when they strive to be heard, their thoughts are heard and valued. All their ideas may not be implemented but it makes a huge difference to self confidence when a child knows that their thoughts have been heard and that they matter.