Education in two languages: bilingualism and CLIL

Education in two languages: bilingualism and CLILIf 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?

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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

Big trends in ELT by Mario Herrera

Mario Herrera is the author and co-author of many acclaimed ESL/EFL series that are used in levels ranging from pre-primary to junior high schools. As an international consultant and teacher trainer, Mr. Herrera travels the globe, directing seminars and delivering professional development workshops throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia…and we have had the enomous privilege to talk with him after his BIG conference in Madrid.

Thank you Mario, it was a pleasure to learn from such an experienced traveller, you gave us one of the biggest learning journeys!

We hope that you like it as much as we did!

Augmented English language in the classroom

During the last seven years , I have trained English teachers in ICT in the public, semi-private and private schools from different regions.

Almost always I start the session by asking: ” In the classroom, your pupils use ICT primarily to develop which of the following skills … writing ? Reading?  Speaking? Listening? The answer is almost always the same: ICT is mainly used to develop receiving skills, (reading and listening), then writing, and… least of all, speaking.

This is not to say that reading and listening are not important skills , but there should be a better balance between receptive (more passive) and productive skills (more active) Productive skills should be at the end of any task where the student expresses through written, oral or multimedia forms their outcome learning to their peers and the world.

In addition, all the international reports show that our students can read or understand much better than speak, a result that is not surprising , since the foreign language classes are still more focused on a grammatical model than on a communicative model .

We learn to talk by talking, and we can’t expect that  the student suddenly is able to communicate verbally only after a few  intensive sessions of comprehension and written exercises,  unless we give them the opportunity to use and practice the language.

Therefore in the classroom we have to think … what reasons will I give my students so they feel the need to communicate in English? What and who should they communicate it to ?

My students have been using microphones , blogs , videos , talking cards , avatars, audio books , animation , … all the tools that can facilitate production at the end of any learning story .

And augmented reality is the perfect tool to increase language in the classroom because it can combine all of the tools mentioned above .

We all know that students learn a lot from the materials posted on the walls … but these materials are silent , they let you read, but not hear , unless we increase your content with audiovisual materials created by themselves, would create an  augmented class.

Imagine a school where flashcards, displays, drawings or research offer augmented audiovisual information created by the students themselves, in which everyday objects such as tables, chairs or blackboards are brought to life explaining who they are or present hidden secret oral messages with challenges that arouse the curiosity of the students.

Learning corners can be explained by an audio or a video tutorial QR facilitating independent work of students who do not yet possess sufficient reading skills and might need oral and visual aids to understand the task presented in each corner .

On the other hand the increasing number of bilingual schools presents new challenges when teaching science, physical education or Arts and crafts in a foreign language . Hence it is also in these areas that AR can make a significant difference.

All this opens up a world of possibilities in which the student has a real and significant reason to communicate in a foreign language with the addition of that touch of magic.

But to put this into practice here you can find some resources and ideas that can help to increase the use of language in the classroom.

Each presentation is a different and “augmented” learning story. Hope you like it!

CLIL & ICT, a perfect marriage

Bilingualism and multilingualism in schools are hot topics in different regions of Spain that are and have been implementing different plans in order to improve students skills, and all of them have chosen CLIL as the most appropiate approach.

CLIL is a challenging and exciting approach developed by David Marsh and his team studies. It aims at a broader objective than just learning a language. It shows us how to use the language to learn and learn to use languages.

I have had the chance to work for several years in a bilingual school that, thanks to its principal and faculty, has achieved great success in implementing this approach and demonstrating how reflection, planning, commitment, passion and profesionalism can make a difference.

During my stay as a teacher there, I actively collaborated introducing ICT in the project and after all these years and experiences I can really confirm that the symbiosis between CLIL and ICT works beautifully! Communicative Competence and Digital Competence is a perfect marriage.

Now, I’m collaborating with the “Marc per al Plurilingüisme a Catalunya”, a very ambitious plan that aims to use the communicative competence of their students as leverage. I have attended some meetings with the people in charge of the plan to set a common framework and It was very interesting to observe that they are not only focused on external exams but on a more profound methodological change.

I delivered this session in Tarragona and in CPR Navalmoral, and It was great to meet and share some of my experiences with such passionate teachers.

As promised to all the teachers attending the sessions, here you have my presentations. Hope you enjoy it, and if you do…don’t hesitate to comment and share it!

To all the Rudolphs around…

I love Christmas. I love the lights. I love the idea behind the commercials.

Christmas is the festival of light, the winter solstice announcing the end of  darkness and the beginning of  sunnier days. So whether we are religious or not, Christmas brings some light to all our lives.

And of all the Christmas stories, my favourite is “Rudolph, the red nosed reindeer”. Rudolph, reminds us that everyone has something special that makes us necessary. And this is a timeless concept.

I have always loved using this story in class.   It allows you to talk about bullying, about helping, about behaving with your peers, about reaching your true potential …Rudolph has no age barriers.

Rudolph was a misfit and someone believed in him and gave him an opportunity.  We all are, or have been, Rudolphs…the question is, can we act like Santa?  Are we able to see beyond our prejudices? Do we give opportunities to all our pupils so they can shine?

So, this is our Christmas present for you. Here you have several resources that you can use if you decide to work with the story of Rudolf in your class. We have prepared several scripts and activities adapted to different stages, from pre-primary to 6th grade. We have also prepared the characters of the story so you can use them as puppets to practice the story

Characters

Script Pre-Primary

Script First Cycle

Script Second Cycle

Script Third Cycle

Colour and describe

TIPS AND TRICKS

  • Remember that “We learn while we use and we use while we learn”.
  • Give them a lot of practice, include the story in your daily routine, explain it “with them”, not “to them”.
  • Practice the story first with your fingers with the whole class, each finger is a character.
  • Practice the story first with flashcards.
  • The class delegate can choose who he wants to be and can choose the rest of the characters.
  • Then, when they have learnt it, let them act it out. Act it out just once a day, if not they can get bored.
  • Let them switch roles, so they will learn the the whole play.
  • After all this practice, they are ready to tell the story. Create the puppets (with the pictures and the ice-cream sticks) or…they can dress-up as reindeer to do it.
  • Let them explain the story to their younger peers, go to other classes.
  • They can create a comic with the story, they can draw the background and place the reindeer pictures in front.

What are you thankful for?

Last week I travelled to Malaga to deliver a training session, and I had the chance to visit a great school called CEIP Valdelecrín, an elementary school in beautiful Fuengirola.

They have been running a bilingual program for 6 years and they have achieved great success implementing CLIL methodology…but…this is only the formal part…while I was there I met two of the teachers, and they were the kind of teachers that are driven by passion. Like most other teachers, their interest goes beyond simple things such as money or social status, they are driven by something higher, they are driven by values, by knowing that their work makes a difference.

The economic crisis is hitting education budgets hard and teachers find themselves tied by a lack of resources, but they manage to keep smiling and find creative and great ways to keep moving “onwards and upwards”. Ken Robinson says that there´s no better school than its teachers and It´s so true.

While I was there, Alicia showed me the blog that she uses to engage the students (we have added it to our blogroll here) and she explained to me how parents are thrilled with her work, and how families collaborate by taking part in the video tasks she proposes.

She also showed me some projects that they have done, and one of them was about Thanksgiving, so I thought it was a great opportunity to share their ideas with you.

Children are going through hard times, indirectly they are on the receiving end of the consequences of the crisis that many of their parents face, and they sometimes perceive anxiety, sadness and anger. This makes them feel unsure, and children need security.

Making them reflect on what they can be thankful for can help to reinforce their self-confidence and happiness. It also teaches them an attitude to life,  the same that I have seen in their teachers. It´s not just about Thanksgiving holiday…it´s about being thankful.

I would like to express what I am thankful for. I´m thankful for enjoying the little details in life. I´m grateful for my profession, for having the privilege to learn from all the amazing teachers I meet.

I´m thankful for enjoying teaching so much. I´m thankful for this learning journey. Thank you Málaga.

What about you? When was the last time you thought about what you were thankful for?

What is the relation between being grateful and hapiness? don´t miss this TED video

Learning boxes

This first term of the school year I have been presenting a workshop called Learning Boxes.

The “Learning Boxes” idea comes from a conversation with a friend of mine called María Gonzalez, a great teacher now finishing her PhD. She has participated in a Comenius project with a Scandinavian school. They used boxes with learning stories inside where they could manipulate objects and discover facts. In the project, students would create and exchange boxes.

Soon after this conversation, in a TV3 program about teachers, I saw a great educational experience from a school called “El roure gros” located near Barcelona. They use the scientific approach based on questions, predictions, experiments, investigation, conclusions… and they also use boxes – in each box there is all the material needed to discover a scientific fact, and pupils explain their discoveries on a personal scientific portfolio.

That reminded how ten years ago we used to include learning corners in our classes presenting little boxes with materials such as word games, memory games, etc. and how this learning corneridea had evolved over the last few years.

Not long ago I also learned about the Learning Stories idea being developed in the iTEC project coordinated by the European Schoolnet which is framing and designing the future classroom.

So… I tried to  join up the dots…what if we include learning stories in these learning boxes to train teachers in the use of the tools themselves and activities that can be done with them?

What if teachers could use those learning boxes to introduce PBL and IPBL in our daily sessions?

What if we include competence-based learning in each box?

And that´s how this workshop was born.

But then…I thought that since learning is so modular, I should publish it in separate boxes so that you can choose the learning story that best fits your needs and so we have created a section where we will put them all together, our own little Task-Based Learning space.

I was concerned about how to evaluate it, but my colleague Estrella López  taught me how rubrics can help when assessing tasks and projects, so my next move is to include a Rubric in each box so as to help evaluate all this. I´ve been trying iRubric and I really like it since it offers embeding options.

The next move is now to create the rubrics first and then the box…but I’m going to wait until the new educational reform is published for that one  😉

All this  has been a great learning journey! I hope you enjoy the results.