Senior 1 English Language Arts: A Foundation for Implementation

Implementation Overview: Senior 1
The Senior 1 Learner and the Learning Environment - Part 1

Senior 1 students are approaching the end of the period of rapid physical, emotional, intellectual, and social change that constitutes early adolescence. As they enter the Senior Years, many students are a mixture of the child and the adult, moving between extremes of naiveté and sophistication. They are often self-absorbed, yet they have a high need for approval. They may resist responsibility, yet most thrive on a sense of independence. They expect and want consistent parameters, yet they may question authority. Due to their tendency to be outspoken, critical, and highly sensitive, coupled with their growing powers of observation and expression, many adolescents are outstanding writers and speakers. Senior 1 students are some of the most challenging students in the school system, and some of the most exciting.

Senior 1 students also are at a critical period with respect to their identity. Whether students take pleasure in reading and in using the language arts for self-expression is largely a matter of whether they see themselves as readers, writers, and producers of texts. Whether they approach learning tasks with confidence depends on whether they define themselves as capable learners. For many students, self-definition in these critical areas is established by the time they move into Senior 2, and is fundamental to the literacy habits and attitudes to learning that they will take into adult life.

Many Senior 1 students change dramatically in the course of the school year. Teachers need to be sensitive to the dynamic classroom atmosphere and recognize when shifts in interests, capabilities, and needs are occurring, so that they can adjust learning activities for their students.

Although each student is unique in personality and rate of developmental growth, adolescents also have common characteristics. The following chart identifies some common characteristics of adolescent learners and the implications of these characteristics for teachers.

Adolescent Learners: Implications for Teachers
Characteristics of Adolescent Learners Implications for Teachers
  • Adolescent learners have great curiosity and a wide range of interests. Their understanding of the world is constantly evolving. They begin to see patterns in what they once saw as isolated events.
  • Teach to the big picture. Use student curiosity to fuel classroom inquiry. Help students forge links between what they already know and what they are learning.
  • Their understanding of themselves is tentative and constantly changing. They are highly self-conscious and can be very sensitive to personal criticism.
  • Concentrate on getting to know each student early in the year. Learn to understand each student’s unique combination of abilities and learning styles. Provide students with positive information about themselves. Develop language activities that foster self-understanding and a sense of self-efficacy.
  • They have a great deal of physical energy. Some find it hard to sit still or work on one activity for long periods.
  • Instead of trying to contain this energy, put it to the service of active learning. Provide variety; change the pace frequently; use kinesthetic activities. Have systems in place to manage student movement from one activity or groupin to the next.
  • They are curious about adults and observe adult behaviour and conversations. They look for models. They have high standards for adult competence and consistency.
  • Nurture a relationship with each student. Try to find areas of common interest with each one. Respond with openness and warmth. Be consistent.
  • They need to understand the purpose of activities, policies, and processes. Their growing autonomy may express itself in questioning authority.
  • Explain the purpose of every activity. Enlist student collaboration in developing classroom policies. Use students’ tendency to question authority to help them develop critical thinking.
  • They enjoy humour.
  • Make the classroom an enjoyable place to be. Give students opportunities to study, write, and perform humour - to create satire, parody, puns, comedy sketches, and so on.
  • They want to be liked and to belong to peer groups. Peer acceptance is often more important than adult approval. Adolescents frequently express peer identification through slang, musical choices, clothing, and behaviour.
  • Foster a classroom identify and culture. Ensure that every student is included and valued. Structure learning so that students can interact with peers. Teach strategies for effective interaction.
  • They are sensitive to personal or systemic injustice. They are often idealistic and impatient with the realities that make social change slow or difficult.
  • Explore the ethical meaning of situations in life and in texts. Provide opportunities for students to make and follow through on commitments, and to learn about the means through which social change can be effected.
  • They want their autonomy and emerging independence to be respected.
  • Provide choice. Teach students to be independent learners. Gradually release responsibility to students.


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