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.
The WHY is always worth revisiting -- so I asked people to brainstorm on index cards their objectives (prompting with several objectives of my own).
The HOW is the main question -- I asked people to brainstorm these too, but I wrote several of my own (as teacher it is my responsibility as craft person to be thinking about techniques all the time).
The WHO is interesting because it includes the roles people should play. We will fill this in as we get specific about HOW. I hope this will be less tedious than the old "okay, who wants to volunteer to give a presentation?" This is also a big question as it relates to basic ideas about the roles of teachers and students.
The WITH WHAT also flows from the HOW and stays open because it involves creativity (the Alforja activity Cambio de Lenguaje may be useful at some point).
The WHERE will probably be our grubby classroom (but people have suggested a big field trip to Sado to visit a former student...)
The WHEN will probably be our regular two hours on Tuesday evenings. Of course the when also relates to the timing of different activities and responsibilities of participants.
In the first class I introduced the format and we brainstormed and sorted the WHY and HOW cards. The next step, after reviewing and adding, is to merge similar items and then prioritize our objectives and see which techniques best serve them. Then, I think I will ask them to plan the schedule and assign responsibilities (mixing who and when).
I always like the beginning of courses, but this seems like a nice way to make the course planning participatory. One problem -- what is my role in the planning? Am I just facilitating, or am I also a participant? Should I also have a hand in prioritizing? I created many of the items -- more than any one else -- so my influence is strong, but when and how do I bargain over my role/responsibilities?