With the shift to 1 to 1 student laptops in 2011, I got the green light from the administration to start an experiment with special courses for students with advanced skills in English. It is a fact in Finnish senior high schools these days that about 10 % of the 1st-grade (freshman) population is so much ahead of their peers in English that they tend not to find enough challenge in ordinary English groups, where the gap between student abilites seems to be getting wider and wider. This is especially true if the groups are very big (over 30), as is often the case. There has already been some speculation nationally about the need for a separate ESL curriculum for these students, together with those who have lived some time in an English-speaking environment.
In 2011-2012 I started with a group of 13 students. We loosely followed the ordinary English curriculum but the classes were strictly conducted in English, there was no textbook, but online and other “real world” material instead, and each student started their own personal blog. Individual choice, self-directedness, real communication, experimenting with learning styles, collaboration, project-based learning, group work and peer assesment are some of the underlying big ideas.
The links to each course page can be found in the sidebar. The 2011-12 class blog can be found here. A second group of 13 Finnish students, and 4 foreign exchange students started for 2012-2013. As the first year’s format worked very well, a similar class blog was started for this group. The third edition of this course can be found here for school year 2013-2014, and the fourth group is just about to start for 2014-2015.
I will be doing an ongoing case study of these special courses, by reflecting in my own teacher blog ‘lost in translation’.
WISH US LUCK!