Archive for category teaching techniques

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 works with adolescents. You can find it here.

http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2011/09/15/teens-their-brain-working-in-groups/

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A great class to watch

We can determine the identifying characteristics that make each class unique. In the process, we have even found several different methodologies in classrooms and lessons that might look just like yours.

In her post comparing a TEFL class online with her own suggestions, Adriana, a past TKT candidate, has shared a GREAT class that I recommend watching because it uses many motivational techniques that work. It is a task-based class, so the learning focus is centered on the students, not on the teacher, and involves the students on many levels.

Check out Adriana’s blog at http://arh1980.wordpress.com/

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Don’t Motivate your Students

You are probably wondering what that means…and I really mean it, don’t motivate your students. If you motivate your students, you are still doing work for them that THEY should be doing. Motivating. 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: A secondary level teacher once gave the final bimester exam at the beginning of the bimester…but disguised as a diagnostic exam. The students got their exams back on the day of their bimester exam. Their task was to correct all of the mistakes they had made previously, and based on their corrections, they got their exam grade…now isn’t that extraordinary? After the first time, the students caught on that what they were viewing was their study guide, which was given to them at the beginning of the marking period. The AHA moment was tangible as everyone learned what they were going to study at the beginning, and set new personal goals for themselves during the next bimester. 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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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.

Here are the Four Skills and Subskills Cards that you played with in class.

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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 work with any language skill without integratiang it. Working with just one skill causes language to be unnatural and out of context with the other language skills. Literacy circles gives students authentic reasons to communicate, provides 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. I recommend this video about L.Circles. The class that is represented in the video is in middle school and the students were not aware that they were being filmed.
Investigate the links included in the PPT for more information or conduct your own search.

And now the big question: How would you use them in your classes?

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Great Tool: Movie Segments for Grammar Goals

Ever get caught in the “explanation” game, where the teacher-centered explanation, the worksheets you supply, and the extra practice you give on drill exercises all together don’t seem to help all your students get the grammar point?

Sometimes you just have to use material outside the coursebook.
Teachers around the world who blog share ideas about waking up your classes. Eva in Turkey’s suggests maintaining and adding information on an excel page that she started: songs to teach grammar. Check it out; it contains more than Beatles songs and you can get many ideas for using songs int he classroom.

If you like movies and would like to use those in your home collection, Claudio in Brazil has collected a mountain of information and linked movie scenes from present and past films to grammar points with great lesson ideas to help your teaching become student-centered.

Try it…it is more interesting than teacher explanations of grammar! Movie Segments to Assess Grammar.

 

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