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Thursday, December 16, 2010

From Summerhill to ELT: Promoting Democracy in the Classroom


Autonomy, democracy, happy children and play are some of the themes of an article I wrote last year, now published in the latest version of HLT Magazine.

The article is titled From Summerhill to ELT: Promoting Democracy in the Classroom and can be found in the Short Articles section.  It outlines some of the principles of "free" schools such as Summerhill and how we can implement them into our language classrooms.

If you are interested, take a look and comment here on my blog if you have anything to say.

Thanks :)


  1. Oh dear!
    Michelle! I've been looking for someone to talk about Summerhill-esque education for awhile and I didn't know you had already actually written about it!
    I will read your article right away and then, well, we have to talk!

  2. Hi Willy,

    I don't really know that much about it as I haven't done much in the way of reading, but it is certainly very interesting and I think some of the principles can be transferred to other types of education such as ELT. My Spanish friend did his doctoral thesis on this kind of education - he would be great for you to contact but I don't think he speaks English (he's not an English teacher). Why don't you write a post about it? I'm sure we could provoke a spark of interest around the blogosphere!

  3. Michelle, I'm more interested in what you think, how you can visualize it happening in your own classes and the thoughts we can provoke than in what you read on the subject. When it comes to talking to people I've been more concerned about finding real interest than factual knowledge. If you know what I mean. If you think this is something that can make a difference in the development of your learners, that's already very good.

    I have already written a couple of drafts on the subject, but am still unsure if a blog post is the best way to put the message across. I've been seeking for more thoughtful dialogues/conversations when it comes to breaking traditions and unfortunately haven't found much of that in blogging these days. It seems everyone is either too busy or too reticent to engage in this sort of conversation.

    I would indeed like to know more about your friend's thesis, and I think I can understand written Spanish well enough to exchange a couple of messages with him.

  4. Hi Michelle,

    I've just read your article. A very interesting read. I'm really quite interested in the Summerhill thing.

    My partners' sister works in a summerhill type school (primary) in Germany and she really likes it. I agree that we have to stop spoon-feeding our students.

    I like teaching a bit of autonomy even to VYLs. I would always let them have five or ten minutes free play with books or puppets in the class after they had finished their tasks.

    I'd love to see more of it in Spanish schools where they are testing continuously like you say. Teach a month and test. Teach and test. I mean test meaning exam. Not ssomething that really tests what students have learnt or understood.

    I can imagine students shcok and joy in my secondary school if you told them they could study what they want. Ha.... there would be very few in the English class. It would be a nightmare to organise and would give a fair few traditional style teachers a heart attack I dare say. Imagine education being democratic.




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