Monthly Archives: December 2010

Out of the office…in PARADISE

My dear readers and friends:

I won’t be around much this month since I’ll be away in PARADISE  for one month. Don’t miss me, I’ll be back soon. Have a wonderful new year, enjoy and we’ll see each other again by the end of January. Thanks for having shared this wonderful year with me…

 

Advertisements

My New Year Resolution: More Quality Comments

Reading @harrisonmike’s blog has made me realise that the end of the year is just around the corner. It is at this time, that we start reflecting on what happened this year and preparing our new year resolutions. (By the way, Mike has got a wonderful lesson plan on this topic here .) I believe that this was a wonderful year: I met many new people that became an important part of my PLN, I blogged more often and that helped me to improve the quality of my blog, I had wonderful students and made lots of projects and activities with them, I experimented a lot in my classes and reflected about it, and the most important of all, I had a lot of fun. I really enjoyed this year, but I want the next one to be even more productive. For that reason, my new year resolution is:

I will make it a habit to write lots of quality comments.

You may be wondering why I am giving it so much importance. Well,  being part of the commenting crew in  blog4edu has made me realise the importance of a good comment. We all know that:

A blog is fed by your comments

But, I have never reflected about that.  Comments are what separates a blog from a static website. As we write quality comments the conversation builds, and so does our relationship with the writer and the other people commenting. As a result, our PLN gets bigger and with stronger links. Apart from that, as links to other blogs and websites can be left in the comment section, we can also encounter new blogs to read, like-minded bloggers, and new post ideas.

This is the key issue to me. In the last period of time, I have started commenting more, and this has provided me with lots of ideas to develop further in my own blog. It has also happened to me, that when I sat down to write a post, I remembered that I had already left a comment about the topic in another blog. This has eased the writing as I had already written something about that, which could be adapted to be included in my new blog post. Apart from that, writing comments forces us to pay more attention to what we are reading and develop our own ideas further. Sometimes when  I decide to write a short  comment, I end up writing long and complex comments dealing with lots of issues, and I just don’t know how I got there. If I hadn’t decided to leave a comment in the first place, I wouldn’t have got to those conclusions.  To sum up, quality comments help us to become better bloggers and strengthen community links. As @datruss said on Twitter today:

  1. David Truss
    datruss My comment here: http://bit.ly/fNEJka “I just love it when the comments enrich and even outshine the value of the original post!” #cpchat

this quote was brought to you by quoteurl

So in order to build a better sense of community and to continue learning together, I challenge you all to add this new year resolution to your own list. I can assure you that we will all benefit from that decision. But, if you still have doubts about what the characteristics of a quality comment are, I won’t leave you alone. Mrs Yollis’ classroom has some tips to get you started with it:

More collaborative drawing in the classroom.

There ‘s been a lot of talking about drawing in the classroom lately. @kalinagoenglish and @eherrod have both provided us with ideas on how to remember vocabulary by drawing here and here.  Apart from that, @harrisonmike has shared in his blog a fun activity in which students end up drawing collaborative monsters. Finally, @ddeubel gives us plenty of tips on the topic in his blog.

The activity I want to share with you today is another collaborative drawing. With my 5th grade students we read the adapted version of  The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. In fact, my students didn’t read the story, I read it to them, one chapter per class. I soon realised that some of them were not engaged in the activities we did about the novel, since they found it very difficult to understand, or they had some problems expressing their ideas.

In order to try to reverse this situation, I came up with this activity. Pretty simple, but my students loved it.  I read the chapter assigned to that class in small chunks. When I stopped reading, my students had to draw what they had heard (i.e the part of the story I had read). Once they finished, they had to pass the paper to the person sitting on their right. This was repeated many times till the chapter finished. In the end, we had lots of collective comics drawn by my students. I decided to make them pass the papers round, so that those students who weren’t good at drawing wouldn’t feel embarrased, since different parts of all the  final products had been drawn by different students. Here you can see some of the comics :

I have to admit that I was not a great fan of using drawing and art in the English classroom. However, since I started using it, I have realised that it has a magical effect. Not every student is good at English, not all students are motivated and interested in our classes, and it is generally the case that precisely those students are the ones that get involved the most in drawing activities.

When I did the activity I presented here with my class, my students didn’t want to go to the break as they wanted to continue drawing. One of the girls who finds it really hard to understand the English language, came to me and asked me if we were going to do this activity again, as it was “re divertida”. That really made my day, and determined me to let art occupy a big space in my classroom.

Heeeeeeeeeeelp!

We have finally got to Dogme Challenge Nº 10 , and Karenne has invited us to ask questions. I will grab at this opportunity, as I’ve been having this question at the back of my mind since I read about dogme for the first time. So please, my wonderful, supportive and encouraging PLN can you help me in this one?

PLEASE!!!!!

I have been thinking a lot about dogme recently, and it comes natural to me when I have to “teach” writing or speaking, but what about as regards reading and listening? I don’t have any clue as how to go about these skills doegmecly. Could you write some tips about this? What do you do in your classes?

Critical Thinking, we aim at it…

Writing in answer to Karenne’s challenge Nº 9 after having read Diarmuid Fogarty’s contribution: This is a critical update, seems to be more like an impossible mission. What else can I add? Anyway, I will give it a try… Here’s my humble attempt at it.

Let's start thinking out of the box...

 

I believe critical thinking to be one of the most important aims of education. As I have already said in this post we should not be just English teachers, we should become EDUCATORS. As @ddeubel pointed in his  post: Teachers- who needs them?: “After hearing the line the film, it dawned on me that it should be updated to, “I just thought it was a big waste of money for something I could learn online”.  The internet has allowed us, the amateur, to prosper.” I’m not saying that we should do away with schools, but a paradigm shift is peremptory.

We, teachers, cannot continue being just transmitters of knowleadge (encyclopeadic information). The internet will always defeat us, if  we choose that path. Today, information is everywhere, we can acces it quite quickly (and more complete and thorough that what we get at school). Maybe, we should start teaching/guiding our students on how to access that information, what to do with all the information we have in our hands, how to be critical with what we read, how to create their own content online, how to learn collaboratelly, and so on and so forth. To sum up, we should show them how to use internet to its full potential and not eating up everything they are told.

But what does it mean to be critical? Can we achieve it? Obviously, we cannot in every single class (we are human beings after all), but it can happen… According to @thornburyscott in Dogme: nothing if not critical a critical pedagogy:

1. is transformative, and seeks social change
2. foregrounds social inquiry and critique
3. challenges the status quo and problematizes ‘givens’
4. devolves agency to the learner
5. is participatory and collaborative
6. is dialogic
7. is locally-situated, and socially-mediated
8. is non-essentialist, i.e. it doesn’t reduce learners to stereotypes, but rather legitimizes individual identities
9. is self-reflexive

It happened to me once, that with my business students we were reading a text about the role of women in society. We end up discussing weather things are equal or not between men and women. They all had quite a traditional point of view around the issue: (should point out at this moment that they were three men and ME =) ) we are all for equality, but at the end of the day, I want to go back home and have everything spotless clean and the children ready to play with me, of course I may HELP with the dishes. Does it sound familiar?

I won’t define myself as a feminist, but I go for choice. It is ok is some women choose to be devoted housewives, but what if that is not their choice? I started posing them lots of questions, to make them realise that we are far from being equal. What happens if a couple agrees on the woman being the breadwinner and the man staying at home doing the housework and looking after the children? Their first reaction was, I would feel guilty if that was my case. They looked at me even with greater astonishment when I played the devil advocate and said: “I’d love to have that kind of agreement. I hate cleaning, cooking, etc. And I love my job” Why isn’t that possible? Who decides that? Not happy with that, I retorted: what happens when a woman says she doesn’t want to be a mother? Why is it ok when a man says that and we cannot accept it in a woman?

We concluded that there is nothing wrong with traditional families and we can take our own decisions, however, we shouldn’t criticise other people’s choices. My students left the room wondering. At least I have shown them that there is not one-fit-for-all answer for certain issues, and we should become more tolerant and respectful. Is this what you would call critical thinking? What happens in your classrooms?

Best Class Edublog 2010 Nomination

I am very happy to announce that my 5th Grade students’ class blog “Into the Wild” has been nominated as “Best Class Edublog 2010”.  This is the second time that one of my students’ class blog is nominated to the same award (last year it was Saintexupery6 ), and it makes me feel really proud of my students and very enthusiastic because I know they will be thrilled with the news. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for all their hard work and their good disposition during the class. And well, if you are reading this post, liked “Into the Wild” and would like to make my students even happier…

VOTE FOR THEM here!