ELT Ideas for Primary Teachers

ideas for Primary TeachersWhat a month! We’ve been travelling all over the country sharing ELT ideas for Primary teachers. Madrid, Zaragoza, Valencia, Sevilla, Málaga…and we’ve met amazing teachers everywhere. Teachers that never lose their passion, their commitment, teachers that after working hard the whole day decided to spend some time with us to share their experiences and expertise.

As promised, we are sharing  our presentations with all of you. We really hope that you find them useful! Continue reading

To la Rioja with love. Part II :)

Last week I had the privilege of collaborating with La Rioja region again.
The Department of Educational Innovation has included a blended course of CLIL methodology addressed to all the teachers interested in implementing bilingualism in their classes (or already implementing it!).

The session objective was to complement the on-line content with down-to-earth experiences from bilingual schools in order to reflect on how Digital Competence can help us improve our pupils’ Communicative Competence. Continue reading

To La Rioja with love :)

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of collaborating with La Rioja region.

The Department of Educational Innovation has included a blended course of CLIL methodology addressed to all the teachers interested in implementing bilingualism in their classes (or already implementing it!). Continue reading

The new “Poptropica english word games” app is here!

“To learn, our brain needs an interesting initial stimulus that sparks our curiosity and excitement and opens up the windows of attention, which is necessary to build knowledge.” This is a statement by doctor Francisco Mora in his interesting book called Neuroeducation.
There’s no learning without emotion. This is not a new idea, all teachers know that, but now it’s scientifically proven by neuroscientists, so there is clear proof that we can include it in our lesson plans with the confidence that it really works.
Along with other teaching techniques and resources, technology comes embedded with this initial stimulus.  Because, by its very nature, it is interactive and provides the learner with immediate feedack which gives her increased autonomy.
Once, I asked one of my students how interactive games would help him to learn and he told me, “You know, they usually ask you to do something, and sometimes I don’t understand the message at the beginning, but when I do it, then I understand what they where telling me.”  This is a great way to explain the idea of “learning by doing.”
While they are trying, failing and achieving they are building their own knowledge.  So what could be a better analogy for this kind of learning than construction? In the game, the protagonist constructs his own building…as he constructs his own knowledge through fun and adaptive games and by using appropriate topics for our younger learners.
Through the game they will learn about food, animals, clothes, free time, houses or people as you can see in the picture below.

 

screen shots big

Try it! You can download it to your IOS or Android device from here:

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Google Play

Halloween masks!

This year, before planning or creating anything for Halloween we decided to ask our teachers: What do you need for Halloween?
Jose Alberto, a great teacher from a school in Galicia, gave us an idea. He said: “I’d like to organize a party with my students, and have masks for them to wear” and we loved it.
But we didn’t want to come up with a one size fits all approach.  We wanted a lesson that offers you and your students lots of different possibilities. So here you have our proposal:  Combine different faces, eyes, hair, and hats and create a unique mask for each of your students!  And if you do…please send us pictures or tell us your story!
In these pictures you can see how Alba, Ruth, Jorge, Silvia, Raquel and their grandma spending a great time together. They told us that they loved it! Thanks for sharing!

 

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Now it’s your turn!

Happy Halloween!

Don’t forget to sign up to our ELT blog. You’ll find lots of great stuff to read here!

More info at Pearson ELT Spain & Portugal

Phonics, Reading & Technology

A month ago I had the chance to attend to a great training session delivered by Jude Edwards at Alloha College, in Marbella. Everything she explained was so interesting that I really wanted her to share it with as many teachers as possible. So, it’s a pleasure for me to introduce Jude and all her experience to you. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

About her:

My name is Jude Edwards. I teach children and teachers. I’ve spent a lot of years in the primary classroom teaching all ages from 4 to 12. I’ve also had a number of years in school management and leadership.

More recently I’ve been providing continual professional development to primary teachers in Maths, Literacy and Special Needs.

Learning Journeys: Why did you start to use phonics in your class?

Jude Edwards: British teachers were advised by the government to use a programme called ‘Letters and Sounds’. The government listed all the phonemes (sounds) that children should start to learn when they come into reception class at the age of four or five. Some teachers teach directly from this list and improvise ways to help make it interesting and relevant for children. Other teachers use phonics teaching schemes such as Phonics Bug – so that the hard work is done for them!

LJ: When do you think it’s the best age to start with phonics and why? (in Spain people start very early, since they use phonics more for pronunciation than for reading)

JE: I think it makes sense for children to learn phonics from their first days in school. Letter sounds are going to be more useful for them in the beginning than letter names.

 LJ: Have you got non-native speakers in your classes? and if so, how can phonics help them?

JE: Phonics is an enormous help to those with English as a second language. What teachers are really doing in phonics sessions is teaching pupils how to turn symbols into sounds and sounds into symbols (i.e. graphemes to phonemes and phonemes to graphemes). In a recent lesson with seven year olds, I had pupils explore how the sound /ai/ can be spelt; they came up with ‘ai’ ‘a’ ‘ay’ ‘a-e’ ‘eigh’  ‘aigh’ ‘ey’ and ‘ei’ …. And of course they were correct!

 LJ: Why synthetic phonics?

JE: The word synthetic comes from the word to ‘synthesize’ – meaning to blend different parts together. That’s exactly what we want children to be able to do; to blend phonemes together when reading and to separate or segment them to spell.

 LJ: What other methods do you use in class to complement the reading and literacy skills?

JE: The obvious strategies, such as contextual and syntactical, plus of course reading for meaning and enjoyment. When teaching early readers I also anticipate which ‘tricky words’ they are going to come across before they start reading the pages. We do a little bit of work on these words first so that it doesn’t put them off when they’re in the flow of the text or story.

 LJ: How do you work on phonics awareness in your classes?

JE: Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. Before children learn to read print, they need to become more aware of how the sounds in words work. Therefore it’s important to spend time segmenting words  – taking a word apart by listening to the individual phonemes that it’s made up of. And then it’s important to do the opposite, to spend time blending – hearing different phonemes and combining them into a word. In the early weeks of school this involves lots of aural and oral work, tapping and clapping sounds and using memory aids such as those found in Jolly Phonics and the more modern video clips found in Phonics Bug.

Later on in their phonemic development, children are introduced to graphemes, which is just a way of writing sounds down. I like to let my pupils experiment with graphemes, perhaps using magnetic letters or on an IWB so that they are ‘spelling sounds’. Sometimes those graphemes are one letter, and sometimes they are digraphs, tri-graphs or even quad-graphs!  I like children to be as confident turning sounds into symbols (phonemes into graphemes) as they are turning symbols into sounds (graphemes to phonemes). This is what we call letter sound correspondence.

LJ: Do you think technology helps when learning phonics?

JE: Yes definitely. Even children as young as four can appreciate quality visuals and sound clips. Technology really helps to embed learning and to ensure that what is taught stays taught!

LJ: Tell us about the results that you have noticed in your class.

JE: When phonics is taught well and pupils are engaged with the learning, their new knowledge becomes an extremely effective springboard for future literacy tasks. We must remember that good phonetic knowledge equips us to spell as well as to read. Children who miss out on quality phonics teaching will not achieve to the same extent in literacy as children who do receive it.

LJ: How do you guide families on how they can support their children if they are not aware of phonics

JE: I would suggest they talk to their children about sounds and have some fun ‘spelling sounds’. For example, the phoneme /ur/ can be found in ‘church’ ‘bird’ ‘work’ and ‘sister’ but in all of these words the /ur/ sound is spelt differently! They could then extend older or more able children with the /ur/sound found in ‘learn’ ‘journey’ and ‘were’!  Families could even have little charts up on their walls showing ways to spell different phonemes. Of course, parents can also invest in educational materials but the most important thing is to talk about letter sound correspondences and have fun exploring them.

 LJ: I loved the beans and sausages idea, could you explain it a bit?

JE: First of all you have to open a tin of Heinz Beans & Sausages if this is going to make any sense!

When phonemes are written down as graphemes and combined into a word, it is sometimes helpful to identify the sounds within that spelling. For example; ‘brown’ is made up of b + r + ow + n. That’s 4 phonemes and 4 graphemes. If I were to draw marks under the letters to identify the phonemes, I would have a bean (or dot) for b, a bean for r, a sausage (or dash) for ow, because it’s a digraph, and a bean for n!

Get it?!

Therefore:   ‘ mat ’ would be bean, bean, bean for (m+a+t)

‘stick’ would be bean, bean, bean, sausage for (s+t+i+ck)

‘chip’ would be sausage, bean, bean for (ch+i+p)

LJ: Thanks a lot Jude!

         ŸŸ

 

 

Show and tell

A while ago I visited a school in the community of Madrid, a public bilingual school called CEIP Cantosaltos, and while I was there talking with Maria, a wonderful and professional teacher, a girl approached us and said so excitedly: “Teacher Maria!!  Tomorrow It’s my turn to show and tell!”

I asked Maria, what that was about and she told me that since she wanted to improve her students oral skills she had implemented this simple but powerful activity at the beginning of every Monday session. Show and tell is a very typical American game. And it goes like this:

A student brings a secret possession to school and they keep it covered up inside of a bag or inside of a box so the other students can’t see. The other students have to guess what’s inside the bag. The student who has the secret possession stands in front of the class and give clues about their hidden object, so they can say “it’s very big” or “it’s small” or they can describe what colour it is, or they can talk about why it is special for them, and then the students in the classroom get to ask that boy or girl questions like: “Is it round? Is it square? Is it blue?” The game ends when they figure out what it is.

It’s great for the children because it gives them the opportunity to practice questions and answers and to play with the language as well as share with their friends what is important for them turning this into a really meaningful learning experience.

Maria’s language assistant explains it in this video.

We hope you find it useful!!!

11 ideas about the teacher profile

Sometimes I feel like a treasure hunter when I travel. There are amazing educational jewels hidden in schools, and I love to find them.

It goes something like this:  You visit a school and start to talk to a teacher or a headteacher.  Nothing out of the ordinary so far.  A normal school in a normal town.  But suddenly you hear them say something that catches your attention, like the glimmer of a shiny jewel.  Just follow it, ask the appropiate questions and…there it is!

A while ago I found one of these gems in a school called Betania-Patmos located in Barcelona. They had been asked by the regional governtment what kind of profile a teacher needs in this global era, but they didn’t rush to write down hasty conclusions as teachers.  They did something smarter.  They turned this into a task for their last year high school pupils.  This is what they told them:

 

“Imagine you work in human resources and you have to hire a teacher.  What profile would you be looking for?”

 

And those teenagers (you know, the ones everyone describes as being “lost”) worked in teams for a week, and then presented 11 ideas that demonstrate they might not be the ones who are lost after all, but the ones looking for someone who isn’t.

 

11 ideas about the Teacher profile required  for a global era.

Recruiters: Last year High school students.

 

This first set of requirements had complete consensus amongst the group.

 

1.-   Teachers commited to helping their pupils, who care for them, are close to them, and instill confidence through  respect and generosity.

2.-  Teachers with a deep, broad and up-to-date knowledge of their subject area.

3.-  Teachers that can express themselves clearly and make themselves understood using structured methods.. Good communicators balanced and mentally organized

4.-  Teachers that exude emotion about what they are explaining, and are enthusiastic and passionate about their subject and respectful of other disciplines.

 

Requirements with a very high level of consensus

 

5.-  Teachers who have mastered different types of learning – from paper to the latest generation of technologies (drawing, writing, sound, image, and mixed media), following the idea of introduction not substitution.

6.-  Teachers  who have mastered different languages, with English being considered absolutely necessary.

7.-  Teachers that teach critical thinking and promote alternative ways of doing things.

8.-  Teachers with patience, modesty, energy and coherence.

9.-  Teachers that promote participation, interactivity and practice.

10-   Fun teachers, with a sense of humour that can make teaching and learning a pleasure.

 

Requirements sine qua non:

 

11.- Teachers that are punctual and don’t miss classes.

 

The first time that I read this I was struck by two things:

–   When a teenager says that he is looking for someone stable and mentally organized…it makes you think about what he has seen

–   Technology appears in a discreet second place. First people, then gadgets.

 

So, as you can see here, our youth are just looking for a stable reference in a confusing world.  They are looking for educators that can teach their mind and their soul, someone who can maintain the essence of the educational experience even when all the elements keep changing.  Because essencially our young generation is alone and we are letting them grow up alone with no tribe to guide them.

As usual Mafalda said it first and better: “Educating is harder than teaching. To teach you need to know, to educate you need to be” .

 

 

Please listen to them

The Myth…

I have to admit that I spend a huge amount of time browsing the web searching for resources and trying to be as up-to-date as possible.  And while diving into educational sites, you can read a lot of grandiose statements about children – about what they like and how they learn, sometimes  written by non-teachers far away from the reality of the classroom, or, as the Pope says ” Lots of shepherds not living with the smell of sheep”

And…you know what? I feel a kind of sadness when I read statements such as:

“All children are bored in schools”.

“Children don’t like books anymore”.  

“Poor children! They have to listen to their teachers”.

“Children learn like this, children like that….”

Most of the time, those statements are not based on serious research or real experiences but on general prejudices, not respecting the wide range of children’s personalities and interests.

 

The Reflection…

 

The fact is that after more than 15 years of teaching I have to say that:

 

–   Children usually love going to school since it’s their universe.

–   They like to have books because they love to have something of their own and books can also facilitate those intrapersonal moments that every human being needs. I believe in complementation not in substitution. Books and technology can live together.

–   They also love to listen and talk to people who care and who listen to them. As Rita Pierson makes clear in her passionate TED Talk: “Children don’t learn from people they don’t like” since learning flourishes from interactions and relationships. Innovation should always start from there.

We talk a lot about innovation and about thinking outside the box,  but sometimes innovation could be easily found by looking carefully inside the box and listening more to our children.  Once, a great principal from a great school told me: Nowadays, great teachers speak a little, listen a lot and reflect on that all the time.

I’ve also learned that encouraging students to reflect on their own behaviour, feelings or knowledge, and making these thoughts visible by expressing them in a logical and coherent way helps to structure their minds and to interiorise their own learning.

 

The Task…

 

So, that’s the reason why a while ago, we decided to interview young students asking things such as: How do you learn English? What do you think about the material you use in class? How do technology and videogames  help you?  How do you solve problems?

I asked Pedro Fernandez (colleague and friend) for some help, and he presented his 5th grade pupils the following task:

He told them that we needed their help so as to improve our materials. We wanted them to think and reflect on their own learning and explain it in their own words. We made clear that there wasn’t a right or a wrong answer, we just wanted to know their point of view. They had 2 days to reflect on it before the day of the recording.

The day of the recording we just made sure that they felt comfortable enough so they could speak freely and then we pushed the record button and just listened to them.

Children have a lot to say. They should be listened to more often