Learner-Centered Individualized Curriculum

It's more often called "Student-Centered Individualized Curriculum" or SCIC, but I resist that word "student" whenever I can. We're in the business of nurturing life-long learners, not life-long students.

This learner had done poorly on a GED-level literature test. Specifically, she stumbled over reading poetry and plays. "Do you know anything about poetry?" I asked. "Not really" was the downcast reply.

My first - silly - idea was to point her to the poetry section in a GED workbook. Of course, that was just another "test", and she ended up feeling worse.

So, I said, "You've got a kid, right?"

"Yes... A daughter..."

"Do you like her?"


"Do you like your daughter?"

"Yes! Of course!" (Well, I needed to be sure before we went on.)

"If you daughter was an animal, what kind would she be?"

She thought. "A cat."

"Write that down."

She did, and I asked more questions: "what kind of musical instrument?" "sky, land or water?" "what colour?" "what kind of flower?" ... and then, when we had enough metaphors piled up, I circled back.

"What does a cat do?" "What colour is your daughter the cat?" "What does a rose do... not 'what is it like' but what does it do?" And so on.

Then I got her to compose sentences around each metaphor. When she had several written out, I quickly typed them into notepad and printed them out in 16 font for easy handling. I cut the printed page into strips, and she re-arranged the stanzas to suit herself.

Then she typed the poem out - for a poem was what it had become - and I read it aloud so she could hear it. There was some more editing, and she was down.

Well, that was okay. But here's why I went bragging to my friends that night.

While she typed the poem proudly into her blog, I typed out three GED-style questions based on her poem. One asked about metaphors. One asked about how the author created a pattern in the poem. One asked about the main idea.

She was cautious with these questions. Yes, it was her poem, but she'd failed two tests that day and wasn't in a hurry to fail another.

But she did well. More important, she felt like she did well. She gained some vocabulary about poetry ("stanza", "metaphor"), wrote a poem she liked, and could now say that, yes, actually, she did know something about poetry.

My Daughter

She is a pink rose that
cheers me up.

She is the yellow sun that
brightens my day.

She is the loving affectionate cat who
is there when I'm down.

She is the beat of the drum that
sets the rhythm to my life.

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