Category Archives: Reflections on Tefl/tesl

RSCON3: It’s all about them…

RSCON3 is over… is it really over? Of course not, there are still a lot of presentations I would like to watch. But wasn’t it on 29 / 07 you may be wondering… Yeah, but that’s the magic of an online conference. If you could not attend, don’t worry you can always watch the recordings. I strongly advice you to do so, if you haven’t yet. You can find all the recordings here.

Fortunately, this time, appart from attending this wonderful conference, I was able to give my own presentation. I really enjoyed it. Even though at the beginning I was a bit nervous ( it was my first presentation ever), I managed to relax and have fun. I would like to thank @davedodgson for having helped me by doing a wonderful job as a moderator. I love learning collaborately, so I am very thankful for having had this opportunity of giving a bit back to my PLN, after so much taking. If you haven’t attended my presentation, and you’d like to see me in action:  here you can watch the recording, and here you can find the powerpoint I’ve used during it. I would love to know your opinion about it, get some advice on how I can improve my presentation skills or whatever comment you may want to do.

But let’s stop talking about me and let’s pass on to the important thing: my reflection about the conference. I don’t have a lot of things to say, apart from the fact that it was a wonderful experience, I’ve added a lot of new memebers / friends to my PLN, and I’ve learned a lot. However, what struck me the most, was that I have attended many sessions about completely different topics, and we all ended up speaking about the same: our students. Our students were the main protagonists of the whole conference. That shows how much passion we all put into our profession. We are all trying to improve and to find the best way in which we can teach them. We may not have found the answer yet, but the fact that we are treading this path, looking for it together, is more than enough. We are already reforming education, by making little (?) changes in our classrooms. Let’s keep on walking along this path, let’s meet again in RSCON4. See you there! =)

Collaborative learning path leading to RSCON4

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.

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?