Onions and Learning Situations

In the past I have made the analogy between onions and learning situations. Not just any onions: the big, round sweet Spanish onions that saute up so sweet. When you eat them before they are ripe, they are strong and have a sharp, unpleasant taste, but left to grow layer upon layer of sweet goodness, they grow into a delicious taste treat.

After having class on the Moodle platform, I wanted to share the onion analogy with you. Having the opportunity to work in a variety of contexts provides different levels of engagement with students just like the layers in an onion.
- Those that run away from technology have the opportunity of working with the pages in the Anthology dedicated to the Learning Theorists.
- Those that missed class could use the Moodle platform to access the class and not miss important information, although they missed important face to face discussion. Discussion could be facilitated through other contexts, such as through the blogs, and discussion forums in a classroom that are set up for a mufti-layered delivery.
- Those that like to work online worked at their own pace.
- Those that like to work in groups and do not like technology are able to work supported in small groups to access the information and draw conclusions by filling in their matrix.
- Those that want to look at the information again can do so anytime, as long as they are enrolled in the Moodle course online.

This experience provided a differentiation that is seldom available in our regular four walled classrooms. The contexts in which we worked during our online and blended session were multiple and provided a variety of opportunities for all types of learners. We figuratively knocked down the classroom walls and opened up the classroom to expand our possibilities of learning.

I’d like to share this article from an online e-zine in which educators share their views on flattening the classroom walls, or as they say in this article, flipping the classroom:
Favorite Strategies for engaging students in class discussions

Then to wrap up the topic of motivation, I’d like to share a post from one of the teachers on my international PLN (personal and professional learning network) who posted a reflective entry after her visit to IATEFL last year.
Please check out Eva’s blog..
Eva, thank you. I couldn’t have summed it up better.

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Working with the teenage brain

If we remember Maslow’s Theory of the Hierarchy of Needs, we recall that the need to belong, the third level of the hierarchy, might help explain teenagers’ love of socializing. When teens confront English in school, they are often introduced to mere grammatical phrases that have nothing to do with their ‘real’ life.

In the context of teaching language, whether it be EFL or ESL, by providing students with a social context in which they can practice their new language skills, teachers can help students engage in their studies by working in social groups to determine grammar rules and practice the four language skills in collaborate groups while they are learning.

Larry Ferlazzo, who runs a blog in which he compiles great sites for EFL and ESL teachers, has compiled a great list and an article which I consider to be mandatory reading for  any teacher who deals with adolescents. You can find it here.


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January Test Scores are IN!!!!!!!

For all the TKT candidates who took the exam last January, 2014, your scores and certificates are in the office at CU.

Please come and sign up for them between 8:30-2:30, or from 8:30-12:30 on Saturday with Cuiteli in the office.

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Don’t Motivate your Students

You are probably wondering what I am saying…and I mean it, don’t motivate your students. If you motivate your students, you are still doing the work for them of getting them interested. Instead, engage your students. Involve your students. Let them have control of their learning. How?

Let them make decisions about their knowledge. Let them set their own goals. Stop trying to control them, let them control their learning processes.

I recently took a good hard look at the typical school classroom in most schools in the town where  I live. In every classroom, the seats are lined up to face the front facing the teacher, the center of attention.

Students sit and listen while professors drone on, and once in a while students get to speak during pair work. Students in Mexican universities are required to study English in order to graduate, so they come in thousands (five thousand students registered this past semester in our Language Department and at times, hundreds are turned away!). There are no discipline problems, this is university level studies and they take it seriously.

So, what does engaging your students mean? This is what I think:

  • Asking them to reflect,
  • to evaluate,
  • to stand back and observe what they are doing,
  • to learn not only from their product but also from their process. If we say that life is the journey you travel to get to your destination, and the fun is in how you get there, then why do we place so much emphasis on the product?

ASCD author and Annual Conference presenter Bob Sullo says that educators could be more successful with their teaching if they invited their students to be collaborators in their own learning in this video.

Point in case: I asked my advanced level students to bring in their portfolio of written work they had done in the past year after doing an analysis of sentence structure (complex, compound and simple sentences). They were able to observe their progress and note where they needed to make improvements. Most of them had never had the opportunity to sit and reflect where they have been to see where they could go. The AHA moment was tangible as everyone learned and set new personal goals for their writing during the semester. Now that was engagement.

  • How would you place more emphasis on the process of learning?
  • Would you let your students design their own rubrics? Share expectations?
  • Give them a choice and so create ownership?
  • Go beyond the classroom walls?

What ideas do you have?

Original Toondo cartoon by author.

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10 Podcasting Projects Every Teacher Should Try

See on Scoop.itI can do this, even with technology.

Now that teachers have easy access to tools like Garage Band and iPods that make recording a breeze, podcasting is quickly becoming the latest creative mode of learning and presenting in schools.  Here are ten ideas to try in your classroom today.

Ellen Graber‘s insight:

Students have many opportunities to speak in their target language. We need to know about those opportunities to get them speaking!

Great ideas here.

See on www.weareteachers.com

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Learning Theories and our classes: why and how of motivation

Our next class will be a multi-layered multi-tiered learning experience.

For those computer savvy people, the experience will be completely on line.

For those who like the blended approach, they may access the information on line and work on paper (notebooks, matrices, and graphic organizers) with people in groups or in pairs in face to face discussions.

For those people who like to read from copies, copies are available: you have it all in your anthology, from the readings to the matrix. Here is an empty theorist matrix if you want your own copy.

After this class, besides the work asked of you during the class, you will write a post on your blog commenting on how your online experience went, sharing what you learned, and stating your opinion about how you liked the online or blended experience.

To get onto the platform:

Access: http://edtech4u.com/moodle/

On the right side, find my courses and click there. Our course is

Aprendizaje Activa en La Enseñanza de Ingles Preparación para el Examen TKT (Teaching Knowledge Test)

I have already created an account for you with your name. Put your first name and your father’s name together in lower case letters without spaces, dashes or dots, just your names. That is your account name.

You will be shown the password in class.

Hopefully you will have no difficulty getting into your course.

Have fun playing…and learning!

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Preparation for TKT to meet in Cafe Lungo

This week in our session you will be experimenting with a new form  of teaching and learning: online education.

While this is not such a new modality of learning and teaching, and is practiced around the world, here in Morelia, we are lagging behind. Every teacher should know what these terms mean and should have the experience of taking an online course, even if they are not in the TKT textbook:

  • blended learning
  • flipped classrooms
  • continuous assessment
  • online courses

In order to facilitate our learning experience, we will meet at our normal time, 1:30 in Cafe Lungo, on Avenida Universidad across the street from the church. While we are there, we will have to consume something, even if it is only a bottle of water. See you there!

Oh, and please bring your lap top if you have one. If you don’t have one, you can share with others.

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Fun new Internet toys…I mean tools.

I’ve recently spent a lot of time trying to get students more engaged in what they are reading: every semester of English language teaching I ask my students to read and report on a book, perhaps a graded reader, perhaps authentic extensive reading. I make sure that students do not feel the pressure of getting a grade, but they know that completion of the task will help them.

Up to this point I had been using Toondo and Glogster to get student to synthesize what they read. I just played with some great synthesizing tools:
Magazine Cover Creator,
ReadWriteThink Printing Press, and
CD/DVD Cover Creator (DVD Cover option).
Here is what I did:

My favorite was the Magazine Cover Creator I rank it a 10+ for easy-to-use, easy to edit and fun to create toy…oops, I mean tool. Students can use this tool to summarize short readings.

When trying out the Magazine cover Creator, I read this article. The article presents an online quiz to see your level of technological savvy. Then using the Magazine Cover Creator, I synthesized what I had read into a general synthesis, using color, pictures and words.

It was easy-to-use and had very little to read in the way of instructions. I think that it is much easier than my former ways of asking students to synthesize. I plan to use these and during next semester, I’ll let you know how it went.

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Four Skills Great Ideas Post

I’d love to use this post as a forum for the great ideas you all have. From your experiences in the ESL/EFL (or French, Italian, German, or Japanese) teaching/learning world, recommend another blog, site or page where English teachers can go for extra support in the four skills. I’m sure that everyone has something to contribute.
I would like to recommend a visit to songs-to-teach-grammar this blog about songs to teach grammar where you can find lots of suggestions and other sites for finding and using songs to teach grammar.
Busy Prepositions from Schoolhouse Rock is one of my favorite videos to teach a difficult concept, prepositional phrases, from Schoolhouse Rock, 2007, found on Youtube. I find it useful to help students distinguish between phrases and clauses.

Here is a great link to a blog, all about making writing lessons meaningful for ESL/EFL students to give you some ideas to use in your classrooms.

To work on stress and intonation in speaking, here is Carolyn Graham’s Jazz Chants.<a href=”Teaching Jazz Chants“>Teaching Jazz Chants

Here are some techniques for teaching speaking in big classes BBC Teaching Speaking

Specific sites such as these provide specific aids for busy teachers who can inject fun and creativity into their classrooms while helping their students learn.


Literature Circles

literature circles

Reading is a complex activity and we know that many of our learners are not accustomed to reading in their first language, let alone reading in the target language. When we create a collaborative communicative context for students to work on subskills in the target language, we begin to promote not only reading subskills, but we also promote collaboration, speaking skills, writing skills and listening skills.

It is difficult to separately work with any language skill, out of context with the other language skills. Literacy circles provides students with authentic reasons to communicate, a supportive learning environment and breaks down the tasks that students must do in order to practice and become proficient at reading skills.

Look at the Literature_Circles written by past students of the TKT course.
What is your opinion of Literature Circles? Can they help promote reading in L1 or L2 in your learning/teaching situation? For foreign language learners are they especially helpful? Why? Think about these questions as you investigate more about Literature Circles.
How would you use them in your classes? Investigate the links included in the PPT for more information.

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