Monthly Archives: February 2011

Who Is Going To Be The ISTEK ELT 2011 Roving Reporter? You Decide!

I’m trully honoured to have been selected as one of the top three roving reporter candidates in such great company. Anna Varna and  Mark Andrews are the other candidates.

The ISTEK ELT 2011 Roving Reporter will be chosen by your votes so please watch the videos and vote for your favorite roving reporter candidate. The poll will be closed on 6, March 2011 at 23:59 pm and the result will be announced the next day.

Here is the video I presented to the competition and I would be more than glad if you help me get there with your vote:

Re-Evaluate Value… by Using Rubrics? Part 2

In this post, I have expressed my desire of changing the way in which I was going to evaluate my students this year;  especially the mark I have to give them regarding the attitudinal aspect (nota de concepto). I believe that most of the time, this mark becomes quite subjective, as we don’t have clear evidence of why we are giving the students that mark. Apart from that, students don’t know exactly what is comprised in that mark, and therefore, they don’t know exactly what is expected from them or what they can do to improve this mark the following term. For that reason, this mark is a bit unfair sometimes, or at least, they may feel it to be so if the teacher doesn’t take the trouble of telling them why they got that mark. Trying to overcome this issue, I’m planning to give rubrics a try this year ( you may get more information about them here )

I’ve made a draft of a rubric to assess attitude in class here. I would love to know your opinions about it and ways in which I can improve it or ideas to tackle this problem in another way. Looking forward to your comments. Thanks in advance.

Welcome in! Wikis vs. blogs

This post is in answer to the 30 goals challenge for educators. You can  see my answer to the previous goal here.

“There is no persuasiveness more effectual than the transparency of a single heart, of a sincere life.”

by Joseph Barber Lightfoot

I love opening my classroom doors virtually, as I believe it makes parents realise the great amount of things that are taking place in the classroom. It encourages them to spend more time with their kids, and talk about what’s going on at school. Apart from that, it makes them feel more respectful and take my work more seriously. In addition to that (yeah, there’s more to add =)), it provides me with lots of new ideas and motivation from the members of my PLN. They always give me  good feedback and push me and motivate me to continue working hard (that’s why I love learning collaboratively, remember?).

Up to not so long ago, I have always used class blogs to share my students’ work. First, two years ago, I started a class blog in response to my 6th grade students’ need to improve their writing. Last year, with my 5th grade students’ blog, the aim was different. The blog was created to post their productions related to our project about animals.

By the end of the year, after attending one of @shellterrell’s workshop about wikis, I started to see the benefits of using them. I have never paid much attention to wikis before and was not really interested in the topic. However, Shelly made us realise that wikis are more collaborative in nature than blogs are, and as it is a hyperlinked collection of individual pages you can decide the order in which you present the information. It is not presented, by default, in reverse chronological order as blogs do. This made me become aware that my class blog: Into the Wild would have been better presented in a wiki. It would have been more visual and easier to navigate. (Here you can find more information about the differences between blogs and wikis)

Wikis are very easy to create. If you can word process, you can use a wiki. This, plus, Shelly sharing her own wikis, really motivated me to create my own. I gave wikis a very little try with my second grade students, and I just loved the experience. So, I’m planning to use them more this year. My colleagues have also become interested in them, and have asked me to teach them how to create their own. It is the first time that some of them have shown an interest in teaching with technology.  For that reason, this has been a trully inspirational workshop not only for me, but also indirectly for my colleagues. It has had a true ripple effect.

I ♥ Collaborative Learning

This post is in answer to the 30 goals challenge for educators. You can see my answer to the previous goal here.

“The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as that every child should be given the wish to learn. ”

by John Lubbock

A lot can be said, and has been said in answer to this goal, about learning. However, I’m going to focus on my favourite way of learning: COLLABORATIVE LEARNING. I love learning WITH and FROM others. If alone we can get to do a simple and easy project, by being with others, we can always go a step further. I have learnt a lot by sharing ideas with others, face to face and online. I have always perfected my own creations by exchanging ideas with colleagues. I’m always refreshed and full of new ideas after a short trip over the blogsphere and twitter.

Being part of this online community of educators has made me realise how important it is the presence of others, who are undergoing the same learning journey, in order to motivate us and push us forward. Of course, we can learn on our own. However, by interacting and exchanging information with others, we can achieve a lot more and the trip becomes more fun.  @saandreoli shows us in this diagram in her blog how our learning experience is enriched by the interaction with others:

by @saandreoli

In what ways can this be reflected in our classrooms? I believe that by making students aware of the convenience of collaborating and sharing with each other. Some of them, do that naturally. Some others, need a gentle push. That’s where teachers come into scene.

What do you think? What are your believes about learning? How can we encourage it in our classrooms?


Re-Evaluate Value… by Using Rubrics? Part 1

This post is in answer to the 30 goals challenge for educators. You can see my answer to the previous goal here.

“Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”

by Albert Einstein

I’ve been trying to change the way in which I assess my students for a long time, and I’ve never got down to it seriously. I’m afraid today you have forced me to put hands at work. I would love to do away with numbers and letters, and focus completely on progress and achievements. However, I know it requires a lot of thinking and hard work.

Going over the related links Shelly presented in her blog, I got to read about the use of rubrics for giving students constructive feedback. You may have a look at the info here.  This reminded me, that last year, I attended a workshop at school about the topic too.

At that moment, I realised that this was what I was looking for. So my short term goal is to prepare good rubrics for the assessment of my students’ speaking, writing and receptive skills, and also for the attitudinal part. At my school we have to mark students on this aspect too. We call it “nota de concepto”. (I’m planning to share them here when I’m done with them.) And of course, my long term goal is to use them to assess my students this year, and focus on progress and achievements, rather than on grades.

If  you have never seen an assessment rubric before, here you can see some examples. A rubric is a document that describes the criteria and different levels of achievement to evaluate a specific task. I believe that they are very good for assessing students’ progress, since they:

  • provide the students with the information about what they are supposed to achieve in a clear and simple language
  • are visually organized
  • promote a learner’s autonomous role
  • indicate what’s right and what’s wrong
  • are easy to use and explain to the students
  • help teachers to make rational judgements about students’ work based on the quality of the job done
  • reduce arbitrariness and teacher’s time spent grading
  • give information about students’ strenghths and weaknesses

What do you think? Have you ever used rubrics? How did it go? Have you got any other ways in which we can assess students’ progress and achievements without focusing on grades as we always do?

Further Reading:

If you are interested on the topic @datadiva has created a wonderful wiki on the subject.

Virtual Beams

This post is in answer to the 30 goals challenge for educators. I’ll try to participate as much as I can.

The first goal presented by @shellterrell in the following video is: BE A BEAM.

The academic year has not started here in Argentina yet. For that reason, it is a bit difficult for me to achieve this goal. However, I’ve managed to do so, as I have a very close friend who is a teacher too. She has been through a kind of crisis with her career as a teacher. Fortunately, today I was able to listen to her and to make her look at the situation on the bright side. We always talk about our profession and support each other during the hard times. We’ve been friends since we were 6 years old, so she is very special to me.

This has made me reflect about the importance of having peers, who are going through the same situations and difficulties, to suppport and encourage each other. That is to say, that become beams to each other.

I have been very lucky to have found a lot of support, help and inspiration from my PLN. For that reason, I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all, for having always been there.  As Julie Cunningham wrote in her own post for the challenge:

I feel like everytime I dive into the world of Twitter or my Google Reader feed that I’ve been ‘beamed up’.  Educators around the world show a wealth of exciting things happening.  And just like returning from a  trip to the Bahamas or even just a “Calgon-take-me-away” bubble bath, I return to my daily life refreshed and renewed.

My PLN and my virtual teacher friends have become so valuable in my professional life, that I believe, it is extremely important to transmit this experience to other educators who are not here yet. I would make this my long term goal, and I would like to invite you all to follow my example. I’m sure: THE MORE; THE MERRIER.

My Attempt at Drama in the Classroom.

Back in Buenos Aires, after a relaxing and exciting month in Bella Colombia. Have just arrived and realised that the blogosphere has been all the rage about using drama in the classroom. I have to admit that I was a bit reluctant and afraid of using it in my own classes. However, after attending @shellterrell’s workshop on the topic, I decided to give it a try.Here then, is my humble contribution to the debate. My first attempt at it.

Drama masks

Last year, with my 5th grade students, we read The Adventures of  Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. We read one chapter per class, and every day we did different activities. You can see one of them related to collaborative drawing in the classroom here.

Another day I decided to give drama a try. The original activity I had planned was a bit dull and simple. Students were supposed to listen to the corresponding book chapter, and after that, create a dialogue about that part of the story and come to the front to perform it. However, the day before, I had attended Shelly’s workshop on drama, and while I was driving to school ( I have to admit that this is the time when I come up with the most brilliant ideas!) I had one of those wonderful light bulb moments… (I know I haven’t invented the wheel, but I managed to make my activity better and much more fun)

A light bulb moment

I’m sure you are all waiting for my revolutionary idea. Pretty simple to tell you the truth. First, I asked my students to brainstorm feelings and moods. I wrote them on the blackboard. They came up with things such as happy, sad, excited, nervous, afraid, and so on and so forth. After that, I read the chapter to them and they had to write a dialogue based on it to perform in front of the class. The difference from the original activity being that they had to choose a feeling and perform it showing that feeling. The other groups had to guess what the feeling was. It was great fun and it brought tons of laughter to the classroom. It was great, because it provided the students who were acting as the audience, with a real purpose for listening to their peers. Not just listening for the sake of listening.

If you are interested in the use of drama in the classroom, Shelly has made a thorough post with lots of resources and ideas here , and @davedodgson has written an inspirational post with plenty of activities to use with YLs here. Thanks to both of them for having motivated me to incorporate drama in my own lessons and for having taught me so many things!

I would love to learn other ways of using drama, so I would appreciate you sharing your own techniques, activities or resources about the topic. Let’s keep on learning collaborately.