Some of you may be surprised to find out that the answer is partially YES! In recent years, reports have been made claiming that adults exiting school and entering the work force are not meeting the demands of their employers. Employers are complaining that young workers do not have the writing capabilities and the critical thinking and analysis capabilities that are crucial to be successful in the world today. Our economy is extremely vulnerable and employers need workers who are able to adapt to constant fluctuations and still turn some type of profit. Why are people leaving school today and not being able to fill the needs of their employers? What must our educators do in order to change this trend of students leaving school who are ill equipped to be successful in today’s economy? Well, its simple…put the fun back into learning!
The International Reading Association (IRA) has proposed an alternative form of writing other than the standard book reports that all grade school students are required to write at some point. The IRA suggests teachers to have students to create their own comic strips for books instead of writing a standard book report. Asking students to create their own story line for a comic strip regarding the books they read for school will enhance their critical thinking and analysis skills far more than a book report could. Through creating their own comic strips, students will be forced to access the creative thinking parts of their mind in order to symbolically depict the characters in a way that is congruent with their portrayal in the original text.
The education system that is used in the United States and majority of the world today has been the same for centuries now; a very structured student-teacher classroom where the teacher relays information to their students that the students need to report back to the teachers verbatim in order to achieve “success.” In his book Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, Ken Robinson refers to this as the banking method of education. However, this removes any opportunity for students to develop critical thinking and analysis tools from a young age. As you grow older, these tools are harder to develop. In order to start promoting this type of creative thinking that is necessary at an early age, we must start using alternative ways of learning.
This type of “alternative book report” can be a key alternative form of learning in the coming years. It could be used successfully at any grade school level; first grade all the way through twelfth grade. The amazing thing about asking students to write a comic strip instead of a book report is that the teacher is still providing students with a structured assignment. The comic strip would have to depict the major scenes of the novel and the assignment would still have a due date such as any other traditional school assignment. The difference is you are providing the students with creative ownership over the final outcome. How they choose to depict each of the major scenes is entirely up to them. Thinking of interesting and innovative ways to portray the characters will force them to think in ways they never have thus sparking their critical thinking and analysis tools. Also, providing student with this type of alternative assignment can allow them to be excited about their work again. I know that I am more likely to put effort into an assignment that I feel passionate about and that I feel I have ownership over. This type of assignment provides exactly that for our students. Why shouldn’t we provide them with an opportunity to have fun with their homework?