jueves, 20 de febrero de 2014

21st Century Learning - Video 4: Context

As soon as the idea of a student-friendly context was mentioned, I related it to a previous entry I published:  http://monieberle.blogspot.com.ar/2013/08/if-i-were-1st-form-teacher-again.html
I think that if we provide students an enviromet in which we give them the possibility of choosing what to do, it will be easier to engage them in learning. I will refer to 1st form not only because I have more experience but because I saw that in the higher forms students are more independent and it is easier to have them working on different things at the same time. In 1st and 2nd this is very difficult, but it is even more difficult to make them work at the same rhythm! It would be ideal if teachers could plan some independent work in which language and thinking skills are put into practice. Here is an idea:

Let's imagine that you are launching the project "My pet". What if instead of using a story as a starting point we prepare a friendly enviroment for children to explore. You could set up different learning centres such as:
Word Centre with magnetic letters
or laminated cards to write and erase.
Picture Dictionaries to look for words
and copy the words in other centres.

Art Centre with animal pets to colour (that later you can use as flashcards)
Drama Centre: with animal ears or puppets to act out the situation.
Later you could add speech bubbles to make characters talk.

You could put up a Pet shop or a Vet's office

Before entering the classroom, or the previous day, the teacher could introduce the project, tell students what it is going to be about (Pets in this case) and that later she will ask them what they would like to know about them. Then teacher says that before that there is a surprise... and she shows a banner that says "Petland". Following day she displays the banner at the classroom door and invites children to play and learn in Petland.

Little by little you could train children to work independently in those centres while you sit down to work with small groups or individual students. Many things can be left around every week for children to discover: a picture of the teacher with her pet, pictures of street dogs, famous pets on TV or cinema, a memory game (memotest) with a card missing, a real pet (a fish or bird)  etc. Children will come with questions for sure.
During circle time (whole group) children share experiences and you focus on the specific skills to be developed.

An idea to praise good behaviour: a secret box with a secret item inside (a puppet parrot for example). Children that behave well or work hard can get a ticket to peep in the secret box. But they cannot say what's inside...it's a secret!... unless... they whisper it in English in somebody's ear!

I hope these ideas help you keep students in the engagement zone!
Good luck with your first project! : -)

miércoles, 19 de febrero de 2014

21st Century Learning

Video 1: Skills

It is true that we were not born in a digital world, like inmigrants we entered a new world. The change was quite abrupt. Suddenly, we are bombarded with information and we are offered innumerous tools. We cannot denny that what digital natives do intuitevely, it demands from us at least some effort. I think all the teachers at school are flexible enough to learn to handle the new digital tools and use them in their lessons. That's why I consider that none of us should feel uncomfortable because of falling into the category of digital inmigrants.
It is very clear how important the skill of summarizing is in this new world. I think we can work on this skill since the very beginning. When a techer in kindergarten or first form asks her students to retell a story or to tell her what the story was about, they are summarizing. Choosing relevant items from a collection, such as writing a shopping list or selecting the most appropriate blocks to build a big castle, or identifying key words in a story, or thinking about a title for a poem, pave the way to develop summarizing skills. It is about finding what is relevant or useful to solve a particular task.
Whenever you visit a classroom at school you can see lots of interaction. There's communication, reflection, association, creativty, ect. There is a lot of logical thinking. What I wonder is up to what extent what you can see in the classrooms was explicitly included in the lesson plan, came up incidentally, or it is something that the teacher does uncounciously or intuitively.
From my experience as a teacher I can say that planning ahead really makes a difference. The planning stage is crucial. Selecting what we are going to include, in what order, and how is a very hard work. A long time ago, when I entered school we used to include in our plannings a flowchart like the one Vivi suggested in one of her entries and for me it was very useful. It helped me to see the whole picture and not to leave anything aside. Having a chart like this on line where two teacher can work collaborative could be very useful. So, knowing my objectives for the project, I would start by writing a list of all the skills students should develop and a list of possible activities to include in the flowchart. For me it was a great tool for generating ideas. Planning in pairs is not always easy but it has great advantages. I hope you all find the way of planning that suits you and that you manage to include 21st century skills in your projects.

jueves, 22 de agosto de 2013

If I were a 1st form teacher again...

If I were a 1st form teacher again...

I wouldn't allow schoolbags inside the classroom.
I would ask for a wooden cube for each student where they could keep: pencil box, copybook, whiteboard, pupil book, portfolio, etc. (cheap and easy to do for both school or parents)
It would look more or less like this:

Underneath the windows would be a good place. And we could have a "Science Centre" on top, with plants and magnifying glasses, tubes, droppers and that sort of staff

I would start classes with no tables nor chairs in the classroom. Kids would sit on little carpets instead. (I used them once, I'm sure Silvia remembers)
During the first week kids would just listen to stories, play outdoorgames, sing, draw, and colour. And decorate their own cube and materials.
Little by little we would build some learning centres together:  "Art centre", "Drama centre", "Word Centre" "Reading Centre", "Writing Centre", "Building Centre", etc. We would place tables and chairs where necessary.
I would start a project by telling a story and letting kids know what they are expected to learn and asking them how they would like to learn about that.
I would create a very rich enviroment making flashcards and posters with children and selecting appropriate materials for each of the centres.
I would start every lesson allowing kids to play freely in the centres for about 20 minutes, time enough to check communication copybooks quickly and walk around monitoring students' interactions while playing and joining them in the play to model language. Then we would have some circle time (oral assembly) to focus on..., another 20 minutes; ideally kids would start using language spontaneously during the free play moment. During the last 20 minutes before break, they could solve some written activity to stick in the copybook, or to display in the classroom, or why not, to take home.
I'm having an exam tomorrow and I couldn't focus... so I started dreaming about my ideal classroom...
Sometimes, I miss the classroom you know...
I must go back to my notes for the test.

jueves, 14 de marzo de 2013

It's time to do something about it...

Today I've been working in first form.
Not only I took a sore throat home but also something to reflect upon.
I gave them a colouring activity to solve.
It contained a number-colour code like this:


Surprisingly, many children could read or "guess" the words.
But for some others it was like reading this for us,

jedan = crna
dva = zelena
tri = crvena          
četiri = bijela
pet = žuta
šest = plava
(unless you know Croatian)

So, what do these children need to solve the activity?
Most of the words presented are irregular or words that they cannot decode yet.
But colours and numbers are high frequency words. They appear all the time.
Consequently, they have to learn them by heart.
What shall we do?
Send a list of vocabulary to study at home?
I'm convinced that these children need to learn by doing/playing in small groups.
What about a Learn and Play Day?
In the same way good speakers participate of a tea party and good readers of a book club, "weak students" that make an effort could have a Learn and Play Day.
In a Learn and Play Day students could put hands-on work, have fun, and learn strategies they need to solve activities in the classroom.
Some ideas:
Preparing colours and numbers flashcards with the kids
We could ask students what they think about when they see colour yellow.
Maybe the sun, a banana, or the yellow submarine in the song they learnt in kinder.

We could make a simple drawing of what they say for them to colour and use it as reference material for the classroom.
We could play memory games in the computer. I'm sure they are very good at that! And we could tell them that they can use the good memory they have to learn numbers and colours.
We could play with the shape of the words.
We could play with magnetic letters.
We could practice the copy, cover, write, and check technique.
We could prepare a vocabulary card to keep in the copybook.
Sing a song, role play, cut and paste, puzzle games, etc.

I would love to have a Learn and Play Day with students that need "extra help" or learn in a different way.
The only problen is that an intervention like this needs continuity and we know this is something very difficult to achieve at school. It should take place at least once a week.
I could have a Learn and Play Day with 1st and 2nd  and Vivi another one with 3rd and 4th.
Do you think we could give it a try?

martes, 20 de marzo de 2012

A pending issue

Once I had a meeting with the mother of a weak student and she said "You are always prizing the good students. The best speaker goes to the tea party, the good reader goes to the library, the best student goes to the flag. I know that my son is never going to be the best speaker nor the best student, so how do you motivate my child? In which kind of special activity do you include him?" I do not remember exactly my words, but I do remember my thoughts at that moment. I was thinking ...You are right...
How do we help those concerning cases in their learning process?
We give them some extra patience, 5 minutes of exclusive time in the classroom, some special activities to do at home, a "come on, you can do it!" encouraging words, and many times we suggest parents to look for extra help somewhere else. Are we only pushing foward the good-and-well-behaved students? What about the weak-and-naughty ones?
I now that we do a lot for those kids, but I wonder if we do what they need.
There are things that cannot be solved at school, but does it mean that we cannot teach those kids?
Could we create a motivating enviroment at school for those kids? A place and time to give them the strategies they need to solve their difficuties? We made some promises... I offered my help...
I would like to start working with these children and base my reflections on that experience.