A simple approach to emancipated teaching. As my friend Charley once said of a different activity, "This is a double black diamond!" To use this activity well you need to know what you are doing, and not doing, and why.
This is more the seed of activities that can be devised using a common technique, than a worked-out activity.
I learned about "writing into" from John McGough, a TDU organizer and lover of poetry. He sent me this poem by Robert Kelly in which Kelly writes his own poem into Walt Whitman's "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer." Here's the first bit of Whitman's poem followed by Kelly's version:
WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
Another game I learned at Kani Club, the improvisation group in Tokyo where I have played many great games and come to appreciate the underlying "Yes, and..." approach. In Japanese, a person who can't understand situations intuitively is said to be unable to "read the air": 空気読めない. In this game, people take turns pantomiming a series of short narratives with the goal of keeping the "reading" intact even as the details of the narrative change.
I came up with this in a Field Study course in which I took at group of students to NYC to study unions and workers centers. The students had no experience of unionism, so we needed to come up with a working definition of "union" so that we had a common basis for discussion. (As opposed to me just explaining what a union is, or given them someone else's definition. - What's wrong with explaining? Read on.) This activity gave us a great starting point for our discussion and it captured something essential about unionism and any social movement: the need to constantly reinvent and reimagine.
The task we set ourselves in an English for Activists class was to analyze an upcoming local election with major implications for parliamentary elections that would follow later in the year. The context was a recent victory by the Liberal Democratic Party in the Upper House elections and the continuing decline of the radical left/green parties which most of our participants support.
These are sorting games I made up based on Gene Sharp's list of 198 non-violent methods of struggle. I wanted to introduce the list of methods to people without overwhelming them (198!), and do it in a way that raises the underlying organizing issues they imply. The idea is to sort the methods according to whatever criteria you choose. These games should spread awareness of the variety of non-violent methods people have used in collective action and the issues they raise in a given context/group.
I learned this from Emily Schnee and rely on it, especially for academic courses I teach. The form is simple, an interview activity with a report back and a chart to collect the information. But the content is rich: how have we learned well, what does that tell us about how learning is best done, what does that say about teaching and how it is best done? Starting with a skill also helps people recognize themselves as people who have skills and know how to learn, rather than starting where most education starts, with people's ignorance and lack of skill.
This is a simple way for a group that is meeting again after not meeting for several weeks or months to catch up on each other's activities. Like the Power Line and the Learning Interview, this activity involves making a simple shared chart that "bubbles up" individual experiences and, at the same time, enables you to see collective patterns of activity.
I learned this game from a fellow teacher in the Intensive English Learning Program at LaGuardia Community College, CUNY, who played it as a child.
It's a pairs game (or chain game), where each player picks up from the previous player's contribution.
The joker starts the game, usually with the standard opening, "Unfortunately, I fell out of an airplane."
The next player continues the story, but switches the direction, "Fortunately, I had a parachute."
The joker (or a third player, if it is a chain), continues, "Unfortunately, the parachute had a hole in it."
I thought up this idea for a game to introduce OWS-type consensus decision-making signals, to practice their use, and to spark discussion about the basics of consensus and some difficulties in consensus decision-making.
Circle game, whole group.
Joker first reminds people of the game Simon Says, leading a quick refresher round of the game. In this game, though, Simon doesn't get to give commands, s/he can only make proposals.
So, for example, the joker says, "Simon proposes we touch our noses."
Then, all the players "twinkle":
a) up to show their support