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Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln...

I made this one up for the English for Activists class I teach. The first class of the new season came one month after the 3/11/2011 great Tohoku Earthquake and resulting nuclear disaster, on the day the disaster was rated a Level 7 -- the highest level of nuclear accident on a global scale.

I wanted a way for the group to share about this enormous disaster that we all confront and all share. Inspired by the "Head, Heart, and Hands" activity in Educating for a Change, I drew six icons on index cards: a heart, an ear, an eye, a hand, a mouth, and a question mark. (I made three sets.)

Oni ha soto! (Demons out!)

This role play activity is based on setsubun, the Japanese festival of the coming spring, held in early February. One feature of setsubun is the mamemaki, ritual bean-throwing to chase away demons. I learned from a local shinto priest that the practice is based on the peasants' struggle to survive the winter. The demons represent hunger, death, disease and the beans -- the most nutritious food available at that time of year -- represent health and potential growth, the power to survive until spring.

The flow:

Improve this box

How to make it easier for people to visualize the course content and then suggest improvements? How to stimulate thinking by making abstractions physical?

An idea:

Get a dozen cardboard boxes (or other 3-dimensional objects) of different sizes, label each so that it represents a different aspect of the course, for example one box could be tagged: "Writing journal entries on the course website" or "meeting with union activist" or "watching film Human Resources" or "student participation"...

Games and roles

What makes games useful in learning is not just that they get people participating, that they involve physical movement and responding to a changing environment, that they require creativity and quick responses, that they create a kind of mini-world in which what we say and do has immediate and obvious relevance and measurable impact, not just that they are fun...

Making a learning strategy

In my current English for Activists (EFA) course in Tokyo for Labor Now, I have started out by having participants create a learning strategy for the course. I introduced the Que, Para Que, Como, Quien/Con Quienes, Con Que, Donde, Cuando format from Alforja, Vol 1. (El Camino Logico).

The WHAT is simply our course title: English for Activists (most participants are returning, so there is a pretty good sense of what EFA has meant. In any case, defining our objectives fleshes this out.

"Still Life with Union Movement"

Learned a great opening activity in the Labor Education study group I participate in at Meiji University's Labor Media and Education Center. Needs a good title -- "Still Life with Union Movement"?

The activity is similar to Statues (where participants use other participants to create a statue representing an idea or situation).

Facilitator piles up three or four chairs in the middle of the room, some on top of others, in a jumble.

She asks participants to think of this pile of chairs as "The Union Movement."

Augusto Boal talks about solidarity, dialogue and democracy

Interview with Augusto Boal on Democracy Now from 2007. Boal died recently, at the age of 78.

The interview is great -- he describes his evolution as an educator/actor as well as the evolution of movements in Brazil, including the MST, landless workers movement. I love the way he describes the moment when he realized that he needed an alternative to using theater to tell people what to do.

Two facilitation problems

At a recent workshop on participatory techniques for worker education I had the chance to be a participant, giving me the opportunity to study facilitation from the other side of the equation. While the facilitator was quite good, she made a couple of mistakes that are worth describing so as to watch out for them. (It's so much easier to troubleshoot other's mistakes!)

At the end of the workshop, with about 20 minutes to go, the facilitator suggested the group (20 people) do a quick go around, with each person re-introducing herself and making one comment about the workshop.

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How to use me

Are you planning a workshop or other education activity and looking for advice or feedback? Want to use activities from this site, but not sure how to adapt them to fit your circumstances? Send me an email and we can set up a time to skype or conference. I'm happy to share experiences and provide feedback or a sounding board for your planning process. Of course it all depends on how busy I am at the time, but it's a good way to use me, so give it a try!

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I apologize for website glitches (like the fact that the popular education handbook is not showing up!) I recently upgraded the software and databases and have some work to do. I'll try to get it fixed asap!


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