Monday, February 23, 2015

Tips for a Successful Semester Part 2

One of the best things about teaching is that we get to have a fresh start every semester with new groups of students. We can learn from mistakes made in the past with other groups and correct them, and we can incorporate advice from colleagues into our teaching. We have the chance to adapt new trends and ideas to our context and we have novel learning opportunities with the new people we meet in our classrooms.

Isabela Villas Boas

In order to guarantee a happy, peaceful, and fulfilling semester, some simple tips and rules can come in handy. In this sense, we asked CTJ teachers to write short tips for a successful semester. We hope you find them useful and that you have a wonderful experience with your new groups!

Haline Neiva

Let's try to say positive things to our students; give positive feedback; share positive ideas; create a positive environment; be polite to students, parents, and colleagues. This atitude will surely make the semester lighter and easier.

Daniela Lyra

An inspiring post by Katy Cox - and her checklist to 'read' our learners reminded me of a document a dear colleague gave me many, many years ago. The document consists of a listo f pbservable aspects, and it could be a gret tool for teachers willing to concentrate on the learners and how they respond and behave in class. I will have it printed out and use it as a starting point for my reflecting back on my classes. 

Carolina Godoy

Be yourself - students are not looking for a carbon copy of other teachers, regardless of how much these teachers are appreciated. Network and collaborate. Try to exchange ideas with other teachers and look for solutions to the problems that may arise duting the semester together. As the saying goes, "two heads are better than one". And last but not least, have fun and learn to laugh at yourself. Being optimistic is a choice we can all make. 

Juliana Ulharuzo

Here are a few tips that have worked for me, personally. I don't bake for a reason. Still, maybe some of you will benefit from them.

- Being friendly and firm are not mutually exclusive events. 
- When planning a class remember to cater for your students. Cater for what they like, but prioritize what they need.
- We usually have a lot of exercises to correct (graded exercises, compositions, etc). Try to correct them as soon as students hand them in whenever possible. If you manage do this during your 'breaks' you will end up having more time for yourself on the weekend. 
- Depending on your group profile, sending one or more graded exercises to be finished home may cause you a lot of stress. You know that class when nobody is absent, you have managed to cover the topics being assessed and your graded exercise is already printed out? It does not happen by accident. Plan it, and when the time is right give them time to do the graded exercise in class. 
- Maybe you are an experienced teacher (or not). Regardless, if it is your first semester at the Casa or your first semester teaching a certain level/book, do not hesitate to find out who else in your branch or outpost is teaching the same level. Rely on this person to ask questions and share ideas, materials with. You both will benefit from it.

Patrícia Villa

Remember: connection is the key to a good class atmosphere and, as a result, a nice and smooth semester. Look your students in the eyes and establish genuine relationship.

Wellington Duarte

Make sure you establish very good rapport with your students. Have in mind that theyare the ones you are going to be with once or twice a week for the next 5 months!

Marcos Augusto

Make sure you don't overwhelm your students with dates and procedures right on the first day. Assess your group's profile first, so that you can choose the best course of action.
Juliana Benedetti

Foster students' autonomy. There are many ways to enhance learners' self-determination, and you can use 5 minutes of your class to teach them simple techniques. Ask simple questions and set them as goals.
- How can you improve your language learning?
- How do you manage your time?
- Do you know how to upgrade your memory?

Cláudia Farias

Two basic and yet very important words: motivation and respect. If you are at ease and cheerful at what you´re doing, students will notice that and respond back positively. Respect has to do with being attentive and really interested in what your students are saying, thus making a connection with them. Who doesn´t want to be in a light, exciting and safe environment?

Victor Hugo Alves

My tip is that whatever happens, do not give up on your Sts. We inspire, we represent strengh and we make a difference in their lives. Let's do out best and I wish you all an amazing semester!

Inez Woortmann

What else can I add? Guess all the tips above have to do with 3 really important teacher characteristics that we strive to develop (in our own individual and very personal ways), and which contribute to a much more positive and effective teaching and learning environment: RESPECT - a non-judgmental regard for others; EMPATHY- being able to see things from the other's perspective, and AUTHENTICITY- being ourselves, without hiding behind masks, roles or job titles.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tips for a Successful Semester Part 1

One of the best things about teaching is that we get to have a fresh start every semester with new groups of students. We can learn from mistakes made in the past with other groups and correct them, and we can incorporate advice from colleagues into our teaching. We have the chance to adapt new trends and ideas to our context and we have novel learning opportunities with the new people we meet in our classrooms.

Isabela Villas Boas

In order to guarantee a happy, peaceful, and fulfilling semester, some simple tips and rules can come in handy. In this sense, we asked CTJ teachers to write short tips for a successful semester. We hope you find them useful and that you have a wonderful experience with your new groups!

José Antônio

If you happen to have a large group of teens, create a seating chart. Always write names of students on the board before the class begins, varying the chart arrangement to build a learning community. Inform them you will change the chart every two weeks. This helps you memorize students' names and see what combinations are problematic or productive. Have a wonderful semester.

Fransérgio Macedo

It's really worth taking a look at the students' progress in the previous books. This will make it possible for you to identify students that are likely to need your help more than the others in the group. You will also be able to assess in which areas he/she could improve more. This will work for all ages.

Derrick Mulder

Don't head straight for the teacher's room every break. Occasionally take the time to show interest in your students outside class time. Use what you learn about them in subsequent classes to grab their attention. Really pay attention to what they're saying and respond with thoughtfulness. Have fun with your students no matter what.

Eneida Coaracy

Try to ask negative questions more often! For example, after giving directions, ask “Is there anyone who doesn’t understand?” instead of asking “Are there any questions?” Why? Because the second type of question unintentionally targets more responsible students, who are more motivated and more likely to speak. Asking if anyone doesn’t know what to do, you are asking every student to consider your question. It’s a self-checking device that makes students productively uncomfortable.

Rita Avila

Take the first day to develop expectations. Students need to know what is expected of them. Although we don't want to set unrealistic goals that will belittle and frustrate students, we do want a cooperative and functional group, one that strives to do their best. I like to let them outline expectations and rules in small groups first. Then in plenary we put all our contributions together for a poster.

Carla Arena

Making a first great impression is the first step for a glorious semester. Icebreakers that surprise and engage can be an effective starting point for that matter. Check our post at Take time to learn more about your students, to know their preferences and interests. By doing that, they will feel you really care and you can use what your learn from them during the semester when you give examples, for example.

Magda Mendes
Try to bring nice, beautiful material into class whenever possible. This material can be a video clip, a song, a picture or anything else, but it has to be something beautiful. For example, once I showed my Teens 4 group a video clip with a very talented and "different" violin player, Lindsey Sterling (link: Two classes later, one of my students came to me and said he liked the video a lot and that he decided to resume playing the violin, as he had stopped playing it some time before. So, I guess we really never realize how a small thing can touch our students, but I think everyone is touched by beauty. Needless to say that something like this builds a connection between you and your students.

Pedro Tapajós

Don't fall behind with your bureaucracy. At the Casa, the rhythm is intense and non-stop. If you leave that memo or signing up for later, you'll inevitably forget it (or you'll get swamped in activities). Be diligent and get those papers in.

Evania Netto

If you are a new teacher at the Casa, you will probably have questions about how things work. Don´t be afraid of asking questions. People here are really helpful and are always willing to explain how something works. Also, it can be an opportunity to make new friends. :) 

Ana Carenina

Every now and then, try and bring a song to work with your groups. Remember to choose a song with the target vocab / grammar / topic that you've been working with in class. It ends up pleasing all ages! Simple and nice.

Check part 2 tips

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Google Classroom - The New Classroom

In the first semester of 2014, Casa Thomas Jefferson gained access to Google Apps For Education (GAFE). In August, 2014, Google released the Classroom App as part of GAFE, and so our journey began. 

In the month following this release, we started phase 1 of our New Classroom project. With the help and support of our EdTech Department Head, Carla Arena, and her team, we began using Classroom in two of our Advanced Course groups. We decided we would have our Advanced Course teenagers use it to write their compositions throughout the semester. Once the semester came to a close, we sat together and shared our experiences. We decided it was worth continuing the project the following semester, so we thought about getting more teachers involved and using Classroom. 

Phase 2 of our New Classroom project has been named 'Classroom Gurus' project. One of our goals for this next stage is to create and strengthen a core group of teachers who will become multipliers of the knowledge and skills they will acquire during their engagement with their students, using Google Classroom to optimize the writing process that Advanced students engage in throughout the semester. 
Our first Classroom Gurus meeting

A group of fourteen teachers were invited to join the project this semester, and just yesterday we had the chance of sitting together for a couple of hours to launch phase 2 and get the "Classroom Gurus" inspired and motivated with the project. Our main goal was for them to get a feel for the platform, the new possibilities, the challenges and opportunities ahead through a change to a paper-free paradigm for the compositions students write in the semester with a focus on feedback rather than on the bureaucratic aspects of the writing process, as now this is going to be taken care by Google Classroom. In the platform, much of the back and forth of papers are automatically handled by the system with the automatized creation of students´ papers in Google Docs and the creation of folders for each assignment.

Here are the teachers´ first impressions:

It is a brave new world ahead where we know adjustments, failure and new learning will take place as we move forward. We feel, though,  that it is time to experiment and move on. Another point of the project is to value the human resources we so highly consider in our Institution, Casa Thomas Jefferson. We have a very potent humanware, educators who are ready for the edgy jump into pedagogical innovations when they are recognized, treasured and supported in new edtech endeavors.

Last but not least, there´s the learner spectrum. By promoting a new type of process not only are we reaching them in different ways, but also helping them enhance their own digital literacies that will be so essentially demanded from them in their educational and professional contexts. We, as an educational institution, feel responsible for students´ success in their language learning and life in general.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Reading your Students

“Reading” is a skill you will find yourself cultivating in your students from day one in the classroom until the end of the semester. They use reading to find the right classroom, to register the date and their teacher’s name, to find the Resource Center or the Coordinator’s Office. Reading ability will determine the ease (or difficulty) with which the students interpret written instructions to an exercise or participate in a scripted dialog in a textbook.

Reading may one day lead your students into enlightening research, the expansion of comfortable dimensions of knowledge, the tingle of literary adventure or romance.

But….are you “reading” your students?

Many teachers begin a semester with intense concern for the lesson plan, the materials they will use, the technologies they will employ in the process. Have they reliably led the class from point A to point D, with demonstrably positive results (evident in the students’ overall performance)?

In following the trajectory of a prescribed teaching path, the instructors become so intent on the intermediate and end goals that they may overlook the signs that indicate how the students - on a less obvious level - are absorbing or reacting to the class in question.

Are you (the teacher) attentive to the following “reading” signals: 

  • Willing and consistent eye contact 
  •  Alert and energetic posture (vs slouching and lounging)
  •  Precision in repetition (vs relatively soundless mouthing, avoidance) 
  •  Interested, forthcoming collaboration with fellow students
  •  Alacrity in response to task initiation and follow-through (vs sluggish foot-dragging that results in frustrated task completion) 
  •  Tone of voice (confident vs timid) and nature of attitude (positive projection vs reticent or somewhat surly rejection) 
  •  Choice of seating (outside the teacher’s peripheral vision or within easy visual “reach”) 
Reading accurately and with sensitivity; it can make a difference in task success, and an even bigger difference in classroom and lesson management.

Katy Cox