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My "HOTS" Journey
by Aviva Shapiro


I was one of the teachers who took part in the Literature - Module F pilot program which began last year and is now close to completion. When I began the journey I had no idea where it would take me or how I would feel at the end. Now as we near the end, I feel very strongly that it has helped me grow and develop as a teacher, but more importantly it has helped my pupils grow and develop. The feedback from many (but not all) of the pupils is positive and one student, who was in another class which didn't take part because of the lack of time, came up to me and expressed her regret that she hadn't been a part of this experience.

There were many, many difficulties during the "year" (it was actually 7 months) because any new program has "birthing pains" and especially because of lack of time. . However, in spite of this struggle, we have reached our destination. What is this destination? Well, I suppose you could say it's 48 pupils (2 classes) handing in Literature Logs that they worked on extremely hard. It is 48 pupils and two teachers who journeyed through a jungle of jargon, climbed mountains of knowledge and survived.

Embarking on this journey has made me realize even more than before that we must continue to challenge ourselves as teachers and our pupils even more, if we hope to make them the leaders of tomorrow and thinking adults of today.

Yes, it took a while for my students to begin to grasp the concept of thinking skills and to understand that learning literature in this way was still learning English! They still haven't totally achieved what they could have as time was short and thinking and learning is a process. Most, but not all, of those who completed the program feel that they have learned much more than if they had simply studied for the regular module F. A few pupils told me that last year they were not happy with my choice to take part and that they didn't understand why we were doing this. However, this year several told me they really felt they had learned more and even more importantly that they had enjoyed learning.

What I saw in class was a much higher attendance rate and much more active participation of the students. For the most part my classes were not always quiet which is good as they were asking questions, arguing with me and each other, and thinking. The pupils were not always sure what to do which meant they had to question me and children should always be able to ask questions for this is how they develop their critical thinking skills.

And to sum up, I am pleased that I agreed to be one of the voyagers on this expedition. It was at times a genuine struggle. Nevertheless it has empowered me and strengthened my beliefs that active learning, creativity and thinking are skills which can be taught and should absolutely be encouraged.

I am aware that there are a myriad of questions being asked by almost all the English teachers in our country right now. Questions like: What are the Ministry's motives? Why must I see things in a different perspective after so many years of seeing them one way? Is this program better or worse than the previous one? What is similar and what is different? How can I solve the problem of LD pupils? How will I integrate this new module into my previous knowledge? What part does it play in the whole picture? And so forth... These questions are valid and reasonable to ask. Is the program perfect? Most assuredly not, but we need to look at this program and see what opportunities it offers us. As teachers we never stand still for if we do, for if we stop learning, it is time for us to stop teaching.

Are there any clear cut answers to these many questions? In all probability no, but I think differently today and so do some of my pupils. I believe that many of the students are much more aware of their capabilities. I hope that I have helped them know that learning, real learning starts with the question: Why?

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