Zhonghe English Creative Workshop
The English Creative Workshop in Zhonghe Senior High School (CHSHS) evolves from a study group with only three members into a workshop dedicated to creative teaching. In 2010, our team intended to participate in the contest for Excellent Teaching Awards. We registered for the contest in February, went through a series of fierce competitions for half a year, and finally entered the national contest as the regional representative team. On September 8th, our team ultimately received the silver medal and earned itself a nationwide recognition. This arduous but rewarding experience is hailed as “A Happy Voyage.” After this event, we build enough confidence and determine to expand the community by involving all the other fellow English teachers, hoping it will engage every English teacher in committing themselves to the development of the whole community and thus help them grow in the process. The origin of the workshop, its development and growth, organization and operation, as well as some creative teaching activities will be introduced. Above all, the formation of the community and its status quo will also be elaborated at length.
Growth and Development
“英魁工作坊 (the English Creative Workshop)” is the title for the team which participated in the contest for Excellent Teaching Awards in 2010. The team is comprised of teachers devoted to English teaching, who aspire to be creative innovators in this field. As the name suggests, “Yin” represents the title of the subject English, and “Kwei” carries two meanings, one referring to the first syllable of “creative”, and the other denoting “winning the championship.” The establishment and development of the community can roughly be divided into five stages as follows:
- Initial Stage
In the first semester in 2007, three English teachers with less than five years of teaching experience voluntarily formed a small-scale English teaching study group, aiming to discuss problems they encountered in class, share innovative teaching ideas, and present topics of their own interest. In this semester and the next, they had around eighteen gatherings, each lasting for about one class period. In each meeting, they took turns being the discussion leader, read assigned English teaching materials, and exchanged ideas. This not-so-formal study group was the forerunner of the English Creative Workshop.
- Exploratory Stage
In 2008, there were five teachers in total joining this study group; therefore, a need for a more organized way of gathering arose. Through opinion sharing, the organization of each discussion session was established: (1) fixed meeting time, (2) a fixed meeting place, (3) flexible discussion topics, (4) a rotating chairperson, and (5) simple minutes. After discussions as well as brainstorming in numerous sessions, a cannot-discuss-topics-without-you atmosphere was created. Thus, we gradually realized the direction we were heading for and decided to found the English Creative Workshop in the hope of bettering both our students and ourselves. This period is called the exploratory stage, in which we mostly focused on discussion of English teaching theories and methodologies related to the cultivation of four important language learning skills – listening, speaking, reading and writing. We began to put our teaching ideas into practice in class after knowing what we wanted to achieve. In the first semester, we discussed teaching ideas and meanwhile experimented with them, whereas in the second semester we discussed thoughts on teaching first and then carried out experiments in class, which made our teaching go more smoothly.
- Action Research Stage
In 2009, it was our experimental action year, in which members of our workshop attempted to pursue some changes in our thoughts and innovative ways of teaching. Accepting the suggestion of our former principal, Gao Bo-ling, we changed our title to “Creative Teaching Workshop.” Our goal was to bring teaching problems into our workshop discussions, and transformed them into creative teaching plans, which would be carried into our classroom teachings later. We call this period “the action research period.” We had increased our members to eleven people, and all the members would practice what we had discussed in our real classroom teaching. In the first half of the year, we mainly had reading and writing activities. Every member made their own activity plans, including “Reading Corner,” “Reading Castle,” “Reading Thermometer,” “Internet Reading Class,” “Cooperative Reading Class,” “Basic Writing for Tenth Graders,” “Advanced Writing for Twelfth Graders,” and so on. In these teaching plans, we invited experienced teachers to the class and requested them to observe the activities. Then these activities were recorded in written documents. We also tracked the progress of respective activity and shared what we had done and our records in the final presentation. Members of our workshop were all very contented with our results, so we decided to incorporate the results into comprehensive activities, including “Writing Class for Tenth and Eleventh Graders,” “Teaching English Composition through the Good Samples in the Simulation Exams,” “English Novel Reading Class,” “Spelling Bee for Tenth and Eleventh Graders,” “Halloween Jack-O’-Lantern Contest,” and so on.
In this period, members of our workshop started to integrate multimedia into our teaching plans. Our plans included (1) the design of PowerPoint, (2) information sharing through Internet platforms, (3) DV operation, (4) film making and editing programs: Power Director, (5) YouTube video sharing and decoding, (6) Moodle teaching platform, (7) the establishment of Blogs, and so on. Every member of our workshop spared no efforts to share what we could give with each other, asking computer expert teachers to aid us if needed. The computer teachers in our school also provided us with handouts to learn the related knowledge by ourselves, and they even offered lectures about relevant information for us. In this way, we can constantly build up our ability to apply multimedia and computer techniques to our teaching. What’s better, members of the workshop have had more frequent interaction and we have learned from each other all these days.
- Steadily-growing Stage
In 2010, with the operation of the team going smoothly, we decided to join the Excellent Teaching Awards held by the Ministry of Education in the hope of achieving our goal of seeking teaching excellence. This is a period when we grew steadily. During the following six months, we organized our learning and sharing accumulated in the previous four years. Meanwhile, we never stopped devising more creative teaching plans. Finally, we had a chance to walk out of our school and to make our team known to other schools. What’s even better is that we won the silver medal in the Excellent Teaching Awards. Thus, we dubbed 2010 “a year of harvest.”
After winning the award, we didn’t cease to improve ourselves, but asked what we could do next. Then, we started to learn more about how to operate and use new multimedia tools so that we could enhance students’ motivation and involvement in class. We attended classes on how to use the electronic whiteboard, make e-books and operate the synchronized video recording. Hopefully, we could alter the traditional models of teaching and learning in the classroom and enliven our English instruction.
- Happy-sharing Stage
Our team kept developing steadily in 2011 and 2012. Thanks to the Excellent Teaching Awards, we gained more publicity and in turn the whole school was influenced in a good manner. Then increasing invitations from other high schools around the island followed.
(1) CHSHS Moving Along
First of all, the math teachers started their Professional Learning Community (PLC); then the Chinese, Social and Art teachers followed suit. Furthermore, all the English teachers got involved in the PLC. To be specific, besides English Creative Workshop, other PLC groups are formed, including the music team, the novel team and the spelling team. All the groups held regular meetings to discuss and design the teaching plans.
(2) Experience Sharing
In the past four years, English Creative Workshop has been working on numerous curriculum designs and experiments, hoping to popularize the concept “cooperation and sharing” throughout schools in Taiwan. We have been accepting warm invitations from up to fifty schools islandwide to share the real experiences in promoting PLC in our school. During face-to-face group discussions, our workshop expatiated professional learning community, creative teaching methods, self-designed curricula, and so on.
(3) Blossoms Everywhere
A succession of good news has arrived one after another in the last two years. Examples are as follows. Yanming Senior High School in Taiyuan County started their study group, Saint Ignatius High School in New Taipei City started Opera Troupe Workshop, Sanming Senior High School in New Taipei City started English Workshop, Keelung Girls’ Senior High School practiced cooperative teaching, and National Hsinchu Senior High School cooperatively developed multimedia teaching. Whenever each team encounters problems or relishes amazing breakthrough, we as a whole share joy and sorrow and encourage one another to go ahead. Much to our delight, an English teacher from National Hsin Tien Senior High School has been attending our workshop since 2012. Also, the former member Gwen (now teaching at Wanfang High School in Taipei) has been continuously participating in our discussion. More amazingly, a graduate student (Yin-zheng Yin) from National Taiwan Normal University has attended our workshop for one year, observing and recording how the workshop functions. This intermural cooperation broadens the horizons of every PLC member.
Sweet to be with you
Looking back on the past years, we find the English Creative Workshop actually an unexpected wonderful experience. Based on the very belief that “I love the team, so I devote myself to it,” members of the workshop strive to better ourselves through different stages. Every time we share experiences with other schools, some of them question the feasibility of PLC. However, after our experience sharing, they are convinced that everything can change as long as they take the initiative.
School of The Future
The teaching staff of Zhonghe Senior High School has been devoted to advance the teaching model for the past two years and successfully got the recognition from Microsoft as School of the Future on July 31, 2014. New Taipei City Government resolved to show their support by generously allocating NT$ 5,000,000 to improve classroom’s information appliance for next two years and encouraged us to head toward the paragon of information school. After receiving the subsidy from the government, Zhonghe Senior High School decide to spend all amount of it into the project, which includes improving or purchasing more information appliance, establishing teaching resources networks on the cloud, integrating equippments of ICT classroom, importing a group of professors as counsultants, upgrating teachers’ competence of utilizing information to conduct PBL model, encouraging students to alter their learning styles and thus participating in Wireless anywhere anytime learning actively. By sparing no efforts, we hope to make good use of the subsidy and turn Zhonghe Senior High into the showcase school.
Zhonghe High School is one of 2 ”School of The Future” in New Taipei City. We received a lot of visitors from all over the country: teachers, principals and also public figures, like the City Mayor, New Taipei City, the President of National Taipei University of Education. We also received a lot of interviews from the press. Those came to our school to learn about teaching in a digital environment and unique project that we run.