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.