Cooperative learning is one of those buzz words we teachers should be familiar with nowadays. We might have already received some training on it in our school, read something about it or even put it into practice. There is no doubt cooperative learning is a successful teaching approach that helps our students improve their understanding of a subject as well as their interpersonal skills within the group and the class.
So in this article I’d like to contribute to the ongoing discussion around this cooperative learning. I’d also like to share a few teaching ideas into the bargain that I think your primary students should like!
Welcome to the third and final installment in our series on classroom management for teachers of teens. In previous posts, we established that a teacher should be the boss, while at the same time showing ahuman side. Ladies and gentlemen, the final ingredient in the recipe to effective classroom management is (drum roll…): be fun! But what do we mean by ‘be fun’? A clown? A performing monkey?
Let’s start with a common gripe from students: “Lessons are boring.” What they usually mean by this is that they are tired of doing the same things over and over again. Variety is the spice of life as the saying goes, and it applies to our lessons too.
Like most of you teachers, ELT Learning Journeys will be taking a much deserved break for the holiday season. We hope that your time will be filled with family, friends, plenty of good cheer and a healthy dose of rest as well. And my the New Year find you refreshed and recharged. We will be back with a fresh post on the 10th of January. All the best…
Welcome to the second installment of our three-part series on effective classroom management for teachers of teens. In part one I argued that the teacher needs to be the boss, but that on its own isn’t enough of course. In this post let’s look at our second ingredient in the recipe for classroom management success: being human. Being the boss and being human are by no means mutually exclusive, I’ve seen countless teachers who’ve been able to combine these two traits very effectively. Get the balance right and we’ll get our students on board.
So, what do we mean by ‘be human?’
Back in the day, teachers were encouraged to keep maximum distance between themselves and their ‘charges.’ The teacher was a lofty, far-removed figure who existed in the classroom, but anything outside of this was none of the students’ business. But showing your students that you are in fact a real person just like them is a step on the way to forging a relationship. We are not aiming to become their best friend, but revealing something of ourselves to them is not going to do any harm.
So, you’ve got a stack of writing assignments on your desk. You have a quick glance at the correction code you use with your students. “Gr” for grammar errors, “P” for punctuation, “V” for vocabulary, “R” for register, etc. The pressure’s on now. The sooner you get these back to your students the better. They’re anxious to see their grade and you want them to make corrections based on the code and notes you make as soon as possible. You have a quick glance at the clock and estimate that if you spend X number of minutes per assignment you might even be able to get in some lunch before your next class. So with a steaming cup of coffee at your side, and red pen in hand you dive in. You’re in full-on correction mode.
A familiar scene. We’ve all been there. And when we finish up and hand them back to our students we’re likely to feel some real professional pride at our ability to be so efficient at our job (I got them all corrected in how long?). Oftentimes though, for me at least, this is coupled by a nagging doubt that maybe I could have done just a little a bit better.
Cop or Coach?
Did my intentions to give meaningful, personal feedback take a back seat to my robo-corrector mentality as I plowed through assignment after assignment? After all, the power of the red pen does tend to bring out the authoritarian in us, transforming us from the friendly coach we like to think of ourselves as into the grammar cop pulling over our students at the slightest infraction: “Were you aware that you are using a register unacceptable for this genre? May I see your certification to operate at this level please? Put your pencil down and back away from the desk slowly.”
“In this part of the test, I am going to show you two photographs. I would like you to talk about them for about a minute and also answer a question about your partner’s photographs”. No matter which official B2 exam your students are taking, they are likely going to come across a task like this.
If we refer to the GSE, students at this stage “can describe objects, possessions and products in detail, including their characteristics and special features” (59) and “justify and sustain views clearly by providing relevant explanations and arguments” (60). So if they are at the right level there is no need to press the panic button: your students are ready to do this. Continue reading →
If you’re a teacher of English, a parent of a child at a bilingual school, or even a teacher called upon to teach your subject specialism in a second language, then you’ve more than likely heard of CLIL.
But what is it? And what makes it different from traditional language teaching?
Using videos in lessons is nothing new for most teachers, but what if there were an easy-to-use tool which insured active listening over passive and were able to provide assessment for learning, gauging understanding and informing future lessons? Enter EDpuzzle.
EDpuzzle is a free online video editing site, allowing users to manipulate content available on the web or indeed upload personal videos for editing. Its first key feature is the ability to crop videos: no more waiting around for your internet to load 11:44 or telling your pupils to “Listen, there’s an important part coming up!” So far, so simple.
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” .
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 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.
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