Achieving universal primary education

IMG_3822 (1)In the year 2000, the United Nations Millennium Summit established eight goals for improving the lives of the millions around the world suffering poverty, hunger, disease and the effects of environmental degradation. Thousands of NGOs and civil society organisations took part in the process that drew up these Millennium Development Goals, and every single UN member nation (189 at the time) committed to achieving them by 2015.

Goal 2 was to ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.

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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

Tweeting, yapping, frothing… and teaching (English onomatopoeia)

kapowFor the last ten years or so, delicate birds in English-speaking countries the world over have been complaining about social networking – or to be more precise, about one site in particular. It’s not Facebook that has upset them, or LinkedIn, nor is it Instagram or Tumblr. It’s Twitter that has ruffled their feathers. The reason is simple; they can no longer do one of the things that delicate birds in English-speaking countries most like to do, at least not without everyone expecting them to keep it short and simple and add a couple of hashtags to the message. They can no longer twitter or tweet.

‘Why they had to go with our particular sound is beyond me,’ tweeted Warner Bros. veteran Tweety Bird, in an exclusive interview for Pearson ELT Learning Journeys. ‘Why couldn’t they have called it Oinker or Mooster? The pigs and the cows wouldn’t have minded. They could’ve done with the publicity.’ Meanwhile, groups of birds from other countries have expressed their relief that the site chose to go with English onomatopoeia rather than sound-words from their own languages. ‘Chu-u chu-u!’ chirped a Japanese spokes-bird, visibly relieved, while a Spanish owl in Madrid hooted in to say, ‘It’s bad enough that the pedestrian lights here go pío pío. Frankly, I’m relieved you’re not all pío-ing.’ 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:

appstoreajustada

Google Play

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

Gamification and stickers

Have you heard about badges and gamification? You like the idea but you are not sure how to implement it with your younger learners?

We have a freebie for you!

Here is our proposal. It uses the familiar idea of stickers as badges to complete a collection of skills.

We hope you enjoy it and if you do…share it!

And here are some more stickers for day-to-day use.

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!

A class with your class

Workshops with children are great. I love them.

I have realised that  after being away from the class for quite a long time, you start to talk and think too theoretically and idealistically.

Children bring us back down to earth, back to class, a place where you need to find the perfect balance between theory, trends and reality, where emotions and relationships are as important as the latest trends in education.

Why am I saying this? Because we have created what we call “A class with your class”. The principal aim of this activity is to offer teachers a “live teacher training” . We conduct a class for the students, (we request the presence of the English teacher) and a meeting with the teachers afterwards to talk and reflect about what we have done as well as to complement the session with resources and more ideas.

Let’s have an example. We did this in A Coruña, in the International School Eiris, a great school that is now facing the challenge of implementing the use of tablets in their classes, so, we decided to deliver a QR code workshop for students and a training session to the teachers focused on  digital competence in the English class.

Why QR codes? When we talk about literacy,  we have to be aware that in a technological society, this concept is expanding to include the media and electronic text, in addition to the alphabet and number systems. Our students need to learn how to read images, how to read multimedia, how to read the web, and how to read anything that can give them information. QR codes are just another way to get or to offer information.

In this session we explained to the children the QR code concept, we practiced with QR codes, we created QR codes and we reflected afterwards about how we can apply it to our daily activities.

Here you have the presentation.

Another session is called 20-2-GO.

20-2-GO,  is a collaborative contest that measures children’s reading comprehension in a fun way. Here you have the presentation where the rules are explained. You can use it for so many different purposes in your daily routines just by changing the questions.  The counter works only in presentation mode and its duration can be adjusted to your necessities.

Here you can read a review of the activity written by a teacher after one of the workshops, thank you Salva!

It’s Carnival!!

Carnival is here and  we have a present for you and your students.

Your students can dress up their favourite characters (we published them here),  and play with them.

Here you have the cut-outs for the costumes.

Carnival gives us the perfect context to discover new vocabulary about clothing. Here you have some resources.

Are you still looking for the perfect costume? What about dressing-up as a tablet or as your favourite artist self-portrait?