From reading their paragraphs, I saw students struggling with finding who they are, but making the effort to be themselves no matter their particular challenges. I saw students learning to embrace the new stage of their life (being college students). I saw students loving boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, siblings, and even strangers. But most signficiantly, I saw students sharing the wisdom and experiences they’ve already accumulated over the course of two decades.
With my students utterly exhausted with boring, common writing topics, I began thinking of new ways to help them finish the semester strong. I was reminded of a lesson given by a fellow volunteer here; however, her lesson was for spoken English and it’s focus was for lower-level students. I needed to figure out a writing question and a way to incorporate it into paragraph writing. Well, here is the topic students were given:
“Describe your selfie and what it tells others about yourself.”
I was tempted to make the topic a little more complex. I wanted to encourage my students to think more critically about what a “selfie” portrays and why people take them, but I knew better! Instead, I simply asked students to answer some critical thinking questions after taking their selfies, which proved to be the best timing. The students were so energized and excited after being able to get up and use their cellphones in class that they didn’t mind taking 15 minutes to answer the questions. In fact, they found some of the questions to be funny, such as “Did you use a filter (滤色镜)? Why?”
After answering the five questions I gave them, I reminded the students of the paragraph structure we’d been discussing all semester and gave them 30 minutes to write. The students worked hard to accurately capture their image and to find the words to express their meaning. During the break, students came up to me and asked me to take a selfie with them after class because they found the class very interesting! What a treat for a teacher!
After spending some time reflecting on my lesson and reading through all of their paragraphs, I was realized teachers are encouragers, especially in language learning. Added to the frustrations of trying to become more fluent, or at least understandable, are the pressures of young adulthood and the need to feel known in the age of information overload. While the pressures to meet standard beauty requirements vary from region to region and country to country, everyone, especially young adults, grapple with finding their true selves. I enjoyed giving this lesson because I was able to affirm my students and tell them how beautiful or handsome they really are with proof via their selfies. I also took the opportunity to question the image they are displaying on their various social media accounts.
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