Showing posts with label reflectiveteaching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reflectiveteaching. Show all posts

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

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Self-Reflective Piece on One of my EFL Classes with iPads

For the first time ever, I decided to try the book projects with iPads. Until that moment, doing book projects (Teens 6) always involved cardboard paper, colored pens and pencils, glue, ruler, magazines and all the other classroom material available for such a task. But what about classroom management? Would I be able to control my big group of restless teens? Could I trust them to handle the tablets for a specific purpose? Would they know how to get around the device and utilize the specific app proposed? In sum, there were many  questions and few answers.

Therefore, I had to get ready, and my first step was to undergo the iPad Training Session at Asa Norte. In our daily busy routine, it is hard to find the time to go through all the apps available for educational purposes, but I expected to have a better idea of the most used ones in the classroom. Of course, I am still far from mastering every single one of them, but I had the chance of browsing through and by the end of the section, select the most adequate app to offer students for the activity I had in mind. Since I wanted students to prepare posters, I asked them to use
Viz, but they had a second option which was Picollage.
 Students had been told of the date they were supposed to do the book report long in advance, so they had time to read their books and decide if they wanted to do the book project individually or in pairs. On the scheduled day, they were only supposed to bring the books they had read and nothing else.

With iPads in hand, I began the class by showing them the basic devices and the app that I wanted them to use. That was part of my organizational scheme. Students were warned of basic care needed and time available for the project, which was 50 minutes. Also, I wrote the questions I wanted them to answer in the project, which were:
1-What ´s the story about?
2-Who or what are the main characters?
3-How does the story end?
4-Would you recommend it to friends? Why? Why not?
Pictures and organization was up to them and they were free to use their creativity the way they wished. For my surprise and relief, they were acquainted with the app and did not have many doubts. And the ones who were not, had the help of more experienced peers. The student´s sense of collaboration and engagement was overwhelming. Then I was free to help with the English.

The result was superb, and I couldn’t have been happier. The following class, I projected their work in the classroom, and friends had the chance of judging and making comments on each other´s project. Finally, I could feel students were proud of the outcome, and I had the chance of proving iPads relevance for education.

Monday, September 09, 2013

Teacher Talking Quality

Robert O’Neill has questioned a basic idea of EFL teaching that too much teacher talk is bad and therefore more 'student talk' can be achieved by reducing teacher talking time. In contrast, he introduces the idea of teacher talking quality; it’s not the time the teacher spends talking, but the quality of the teacher’s talk*. O’Neill certainly makes a valid point, yet it requires further elaboration.
First, the idea that decreasing teacher talking time (TTT) will increase student talking time (STT) needs to be addressed. One can imagine a teacher doing various things, e.g., telling stories, partaking in speaking activities, and giving instructions. Should a teacher avoid talking when it comes to piquing students’ interest; relaying some culturally relevant anecdotes; explaining how an activity is going to work?  I don’t see how a seasoned teacher could argue that TTT should be avoided when it comes to these situations.  TTT versus STT becomes important when considering speech which does not result in student learning. Such speech from teachers would therefore be lacking in quality and efficiency, but what does that look like?
STT and TTT have to do with time, which is easily measured. O’Neill has proposed the acronym TTQ (teacher talking quality). Quality in comparison to time is not quite as objective, which is why I believe the discussion of TTT x STT seems to be a recurrent theme in TEFL.  That’s not to say that quality can’t be measured. One could design a rubric for scoring the quality of teacher talk just as we’ve developed a scoring rubric for the writing assignments we give to our students. This TTT rubric should give points to a teacher who uses elicitation, gives practical and clear explanations, checks for understanding by asking concept questions, allows students to be responsible for their self-directing their speech, organizes students into speaking pairs or groups, and tolerates silence long enough to give students time to formulate a response. Likewise, this TTT rubric should take points away for a teacher who speaks for many minutes without elicitation, gives explanations full of terminology, transitions to an activity without first asking questions that check student comprehension, controls or dominates discussion to the point where students have limited involvement in the learning process, or impatiently reinitiates talk without giving students time to process so as to formulate a proper response.
Above all, teachers need to be humanistic and understand that although silence can be used as a technique in specific instances (allowing the student time to find their words), being silent all the time is not natural and doesn’t cater to everyone’s learning needs. Students who seek clarification or wish to share their experiences with the class should be welcomed with a warm response from the teacher. In fact, teacher talk can include current issues in comparison to dated textbooks or audio, disseminate relevant content, and fine-tune language to a level that is readily comprehensible based on that student’s level of language development. We also can’t forget that the teacher’s English is a source of input for our students to process both consciously and unconsciously.
 To summarize, it’s safe to say that there are some strong points to O’Neill’s argument for TTQ. When TTT is dry and monotonous, void of elicitation, or needlessly complicated, it becomes obvious why TTQ is so crucial.  That is not to say that TTT shouldn’t be limited at times when students are capable of some learner autonomy; they can guide their own discussions, which both further involves students in the learning process and develops their speaking skills when it comes to turn-taking or discovering the meaning of vocabulary or grammar rules for themselves. English classes can’t be all about the vocabulary and grammar, however.  Teacher talk is needed to build rapport with our students so that they not only learn the language but are given opportunities to use the language in ways that are meaningful and humanistic. In the end, it bodes well for the teacher who recognizes when it is necessary and not necessary to talk during class, duly combined with the idea that when TTT is warranted, it is done with our students’ learning needs in mind.

*Robert O'Neill – IATEFL, April 2004

Monday, May 31, 2010

5 Questions for Planning Successful Web-Based Activities


This interesting post about Tech Integration raises important pedagogical issues when we are considering integrating web-based activities into our lesson. One important feature of this tech integration is exactly our reflection upon the kind of pedagogical approach we are taking. It´s not technology for the sake of technology, but it is technology with pedagogically-sound, meaningful contexts.

Would you add other questions to the list?