Teaching the millennials

Ajitha Paladugu

The millennials are a privileged lot. Many of them were born with advantages that the previous generation had only experienced in limited quantities. So one would expect this set of learners to be an easy lot to handle. But the reality is contrary to this assumption. Teaching the millennials is a challenging task! What is touted as an advantage rather works to the detriment of these learners. The saturation of educational technology in the educational space and third party educational service providers vying to entice the millennial learners and lure them into their fold with tall claims, has only made the problem worse. With shorter attention spans and unwillingness to engage in learning with conventional pedagogical styles, it has become imperative that the teaching-learning process is planned with the following in mind:

Bracing multidisciplinary approach: Knowledge can no longer be compartmentalized. The watertight compartments in the name of subject domains created for the ease of transacting a field of knowledge are in total contradiction to how we should train our students as future workforce. Our present times are characterized by uncertainty. Going by the radical changes brought in by technological revolution to our way of living and working, it is very difficult to predict the nature of jobs that will be created in the future. In such a scenario, the practice of teaching various subject domains as separate entities, to be dealt with in isolation, divorced from even the allied fields of knowledge hardly helps.

Such practices, instead of helping our students use a multidisciplinary approach (which is what is valued by potential recruiters) will alienate them further from the futuristic workplaces where a single specialization will not help to integrate into the complex and overlapping multidisciplinary job profiles. Seen from a progressive perspective, the situation offers an exciting opportunity to make the teaching-learning process a meaningful activity in furthering the educational goals for the millennium.

Activities to explore cross-curricular links need to be considered to foster a multidisciplinary approach in teaching-learning. Students bring in a vast array of skills and expertise into such activities, making the learning experience enriching and wholesome and truly meaningful.

Catering to multiple intelligences: The 21st century classroom is a dynamic space, democratic in spirit and interactive. The traditional roles of the teacher and the taught have undergone considerable change over the years. The student doesn’t fit into the mould of a passive, inert and docile learner, who would take everything from ‘the sage on the stage’ unquestioningly. He is more empowered and well-informed. In order to cater to this new breed of evolved learners, the teacher needs to engage them productively by factoring in different learning styles that they prefer and the concept of multiple intelligences for personalized learning experiences.

Engaging the learners: Today students are more articulate and the urge to express themselves is universally growing. One of the tenets of good pedagogical practices is to create such opportunities in the teaching plan where the response and interaction that follows an introduction of a topic can be used to further the involvement of students in internalizing the insights garnered in the process of engaging with a knowledge domain. After whetting the students’ appetite by arousing their curiosity and drawing from their personal experience, an attempt to meaningfully engage with the text/body of knowledge must be made (transaction of the lesson).

Assessment for learning: The teaching-learning phase is usually deemed complete at this stage and the next topic/area of knowledge is taken up for study. But not attempting to gauge the learning outcome within the stipulated time of a teaching period is a wrong pedagogical practice. Formative assessment, i.e., assessment during the teaching-learning phase is imperative to maximize the learning outcome and give the ideal closure to the curricular transaction done for the individual teaching period. Here comes the concept of ongoing assessment. A five-minute exercise, conducted orally or in written form around the core objective of the day’s session would give the teacher a fair idea of the students’ learning and enable her to take remedial measures to plug the learning gap at the very next session. This practice will ensure that effective learning happens.

Integrating life skills: Life skills need to be integrated into the teaching process to seamlessly blend theory with practice. This will do the students a load of good, prepping them up for the real world experiences and equipping them with the requisite skills to navigate the complexities and challenges of their future workplaces.

Real life application of knowledge/skills is what all the teaching-learning processes should aim at. The activities must be so designed that the classroom experience provides real-life simulation.

To give some concrete examples, consider these lesson plans which have the features elaborated above. The plans are based on the CBSE English curriculum for class IX (Language & Literature course).

Lesson Plan
Class: IX

Topic Wind by Subramania Bharati
Learning Outcome • Attempting a meaningful interpretation of the poem.
• Critical Appreciation of the poem.
• Arriving at the central idea of the poem.
Lesson Overview • The wind, though it causes large scale destruction, resulting in loss of life and property gives a valuable lesson to humanity -to become hardened by adversities in life and emerge stronger. Though the wind appears destructive by nature (which is the case most of the times), it can also be harnessed for constructive purposes.
• Courage begets strength, fear begets weakness.
• Nature in its fury can wreak massive havoc.
• A state of preparedness minimizes damage.
Introduction/Testing Previous Knowledge • Association with the wind – pleasant as well as unpleasant experiences.
• Wind as a destructive as well as constructive force.
• Enlisting destructive activities of the wind as mentioned in the poem.
Teaching notes(main points) • The poem is an encomium to the wind.
• The destructive nature of wind is highlighted.
• The troubles caused by a sudden burst of wind narrated in an accusatory tone.
• A sobered down tone while relating the ways and means of standing up to its might and strength and making peace with it.
• Wind as a metaphor for human adversities and means to tackle it.
• Identification of poetic devices:
a. Anaphor – repeating of certain words.
b. Metaphor – wind as a metaphor for human adversities.
c. Personification – wind being personified as indication by the use of “he” to describe the wind.
• Reading the original Tamil version of the poem for internalization of central theme and better appreciation of the poem.
Activity Group Work:
(Students are given the choice of selecting their preferred mode of presentation)
In groups, students do the following:
a) Present their interpretation of the poem.
b) Draw illustrations to depict the effects of wind.
c) Establish a cause and effect relationship (role of wind in causing rainfall).
d) Give a presentation capturing the various moods of the wind-depicting the emotions through classical dance gestures and facial expression
e) Sing the poem to a tune.
f) Make a poster/slogan on need to protect our environment.
Students present/share their work with the class.
Assessment • Based on the output of the group activity.
• Textual questions to test comprehension and strengthen understanding.
Summarizing/Closure • The wind inspires us to face the challenges thrown at us with grit and determination. We should be strong enough to face all the hardships of life with courage.
• Wind symbolizes problems and obstacles that we all face and go through at some point in our lives.
• Nature is a great teacher.
• Man is powerless against the might of nature.
• Adversity and experience make a person stronger and wiser (Only the test of fire makes fine steel).
Life Skills/Real Life Application/Values/Cross curricular links Concept of MI:
Verbal – linguistic (interpretation)
Visual – Spatial (illustration)
Logical – mathematical (cause – effect)
Bodily – kinesthetic (dance mudras)
Musical – rhythmic (musical rendition)
Naturalistic (importance of preserving nature)
Cross curricular links:
• Geography – formation of high pressure/low pressure, water cycle.
• Science – harnessing wind energy-alternative clean energy source, cause and effect relationship, preservation and conservation of nature, winnowing.
Assignment/Home task • What challenges are posed by the wind in the life of the poet and the common man?
• How can we make the wind our ally?

Lesson Plan
Class IX

Topic The Little Girl by Katherine Mansfield
Learning Outcome 1. Factual Comprehension.
2. Identification of central theme in the story – Exercising parental authority makes parents appear dictatorial and tyrannical, is actually a façade which masks a tender heart concealed by the tough exterior.
Introduction/Previous Knowledge • Culling personal experiences from the students about their perception of their parents.
• How would they classify their parents in terms of their parenting style?
• Do they consider their parents to be strict, friendly, tyrannical, authoritative, approachable, firm but loving, etc?
Play the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Td0fNrP1pbo
Lesson Overview • Kezia is “The Little Girl” – the titular character who is the pivot around whom the story revolves.
• The relationship between father and daughter is the connecting thread throughout the narrative.
• The timid girl is intimidated by the very presence of her father – his loud voice and gigantic built petrifies the girl causing her to be jittery around her father.
• The episode wherein the father physically abuses his daughter for having used his speech paper for his birthday present instills even greater fear in the mind of the girl.
• Before she could generalize that probably all fathers are like that – dictatorial and intimidating, the scene where her neighbour, Mr. Macdonald plays with his children made her conclude that not all fathers have to be necessarily strict and intimidating.
• The girl has an epiphany of sorts- that her father actually has ‘a big heart’ during her mother’s illness with no one in the house except the father and her.
Teaching notes (main points) • A paradigm shift in the girl’s perception of her father occurs when left alone in his company.
• A rare glimpse of the tender-hearted man which her father is essentially is revealed to Kezia when her father takes her in his arms and comforts her in her frightened state.
• The tender side of her father’s personality at last helps the girl make peace with her father and more importantly with herself.
Activity Students in groups work on character analysis of:
a) Kezia
b) Father
c) Mother
d) Grandmother
The graphic organizer acts as an excellent tool to accomplish the task.
Assessment The quality of inputs provided to make an accurate character analysis.
Summarizing/Closure The consolidation of main points through depiction on the charts would summarize the characteristic traits of all the characters in the story.
Life Skills/Values/Cross Curricular Links/Real Life Application Life Skills –
Critical thinking: Students use analytical skills to sum up character traits.
Effective Communication: During discussion in groups to arrive at accurate analysis.
Interpersonal Relationship Skills: Exercised while brainstorming.
Time management: Completing the assigned task within stipulated time.
Assignment/Home task Giving final touches to the character analysis chart work.

The millennial is easily distracted and grows restless if the teaching pedagogy is not engaging and is hijacked by the monotonous delivery of lesson by the teacher. Learners today are intelligent, opinionated, better informed and well exposed due to instant connectivity and accessibility to a wealth of knowledge available at the touch of a finger tip. So the 21st century class room must be engaging, challenging, democratic and most importantly, provide a creatively stimulating environment for the students to explore and learn. The teacher, who is essentially a facilitator, sets the right tone for discussion and deliberation following introduction of the lesson through interesting and meaningful activities. The teacher can thus fulfil the learning objectives and realize the learning outcome to cater to the specialized needs of the millennials by going beyond the basic minimum of lesson transaction.

The author is a teaching practitioner, a votary for ‘liberating’ the education process to empower the teacher and give her real freedom to create, innovate and experiment. The author teaches at Delhi Public School, Coimbatore and can be reached at ajithapaladugu@gmail.com.

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