Own Your Learning - Jeremy Harmer

I recently attended a webinar hosted by Jeremy Harmer, author of several ESL books. The webinar was to promote his new series, Just Right .

I have a copy of the book, and it looks great. It is an integrated skills text, that would fit in any classroom.

However, I wanted to talk about one of Harmer's ideas that he discussed. The idea was for students to take ownership over their learning. By this, what he meant was for teachers to help students gain a better understanding of what and why they are learning. His examples were with vocabulary, which he had placed in three categories:
  • Trash Can
  • Refrigerator
  • Suitcase
After teaching new vocabulary, the teacher was supposed to ask the student which section each new word would go into. He broke it down like this: Words they think they will never use should go in the trash can; they can forget those ones. Words they might use later in life, like in university or their careers, go into the refrigerator; keep them fresh and save them for later. Finally, words the students think they will use all the time go in the suitcase; Take those words around with them wherever they go.

I loved the analogy, and I loved the idea. As he commented, many teachers are always telling students, "learn this" and "remember that". Why not get the students to show deeper interest in what they learn and why?

If you want more info on Harmer, here is his blog:

Jeremy Harmer's Blog

What do you think about this idea? Do you have any interesting ways to get students to take ownership of their learning? I would love to hear them.

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