Sunday, September 17, 2017

Games in ESL classrooms

Hugo Mendonça Lima (Final project for the course Writing for Teachers)

          Having been a P.E teacher for almost five years, I have come to realize something. If you want to make people practice physical activities, without suffering, make it interesting. And what better way to do that than by playing games? Is the attention span of the children in your kids’ swimming class short? Turn the pool into the sea and the kids into mermaids and play make believe. Are your teenagers getting bored too fast in their volleyball practice? Tell them the faster they finish it the more time they will have to play the actual game. Are some of the adults in the gym starting to miss classes? Tell them they will have a bench press competition at the end of the month and the winner gets a month free of tuition.

          For this reason, when I started teaching English as a Second Language, it was no surprise to see that the students from these classes also responded well to games. However, what I was surprised with were the reasons why teachers would use games in an ESL classroom. Most of my peers used this tool as a way to kill time or break the ice. They would hardly ever use it as a means to learn new content. So I challenged them. I proposed we increase the number of times we use games in our classes, but only if we had a specific learning purpose in mind. That way, not only would we have to think outside the box, but also the students would be more engaged during the lessons. The teachers accepted the challenge, and we agreed to bring to class at least one new game every week. Needless to say, we had remarkable results. The students loved the change, and were learning much more every week. And because of that, the teachers started feeling compelled to bring more and more interesting things for classes.

          Thus, I now challenge you, reader. How about changing things up in your classroom? Instead of a PPT explaining how to say sentences in the future, why not play a game with that goal in mind? Maybe have your students work in pairs and play a game of predicting each other’s future (bring a deck of cards or snow globes for fun). One student will be the clairvoyant and will “read” the cards or globes for their classmate, using sentences in the future. It might seem silly, but they will be engaged and will use their creativity trying to impress their peers. Or you can come up with a new game for this topic yourself.

          For that, you will have to understand the definition of game, and its purpose in an ESL classroom. Talak-Kiryk (2010) says that games are fun activities which promote interaction, thinking, learning and problem solving, whereas Deesri (2002) says they are also activities that must have rules, goals, and an element of fun. And according to Chen (2005) and Talak-Kirkyk (2010), games in an ESL classroom provide students with the opportunity for real communication and give them purpose to use the target language.

          If this reason is not enough for you, Chen (2005) mentions in her article that games allow students to explore the language without the fear of failure. She also says that learning should be interesting, fun, and even challenging. After all, we are used to having any kind of information at hand, at any time we want. All we have to do is pick up our phones and look it up. So, having students work hard for something and engage in an activity might be difficult. And games will be helpful when facing this resistance.

          Now, if I was able to convince you to increase the number of games you use in your classes, when planning your lessons remember this: your game should always have a clear learning objective and purpose (Deesri. 2002). A game of Charades might be fun, but it is also pointless if it does not add to the learning process. Furthermore, you should always keep in mind your students’ language level, their age, and personality traits.

          It might seem difficult, at first, to make games a fixed part of your syllabus. However, once your students start participating more and learning more, you will see you are doing something right. The most challenging part will be having to create games for each situation. That is why I will put some links bellow with some websites that might help you. After a while, you will have a database of games you can use, and your classes will be easier to plan, but still effective.

Links for games:


References:

CHEN, I. Using Games to Promote Communicative Skills in Language Learning. 2005. Accessed in: http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Chen-Games.html
TALAK-KIRYK, A. Using Games In A Foreign Language Classroom. 2010. Accessed in: http://digitalcollections.sit.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1488&context=ipp_collection

DEESRI, A. Games in the ESL and EFL Class. 2002. Accessed in: http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Deesri-Games.html

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Teaching one-to-one classes

Benjamin Correa  (Final project for the course Writing for Teachers)


Teaching English in a one-to-one situation differs significantly from the traditional classroom modus operandi. There is only one student with the teacher’s undivided attention and no opportunities to have students experiment with peers with a similar English knowledge level. Therefore, a different approach must be sought to better mould the class to this kind of situation. In fact, this is a particularly challenging teaching practice that frequently gets overlooked in TEFL courses (WILBERG, 2014, I).
          Commonly, the one-to one arrangements deal with a student’s needs instead of a pre-arranged, set-hours course. The need for individualization and to meet the students’ needs is important when teaching groups, but when teaching one to one, it becomes more evident. With these parameters in mind, it is important to adapt the class structure so to both favour the end user’s purposes and offer a good foundation to use the language in any given situation. However, to mould the class to these situations, some aspects must be taken into consideration.
          First, the student-teacher dynamic is changed in a way that, although it is not shaped as a peer-to-peer relationship, there is more of a partnership between them than would be felt in a group class. Also, the decision-making process regarding the class is shared differently from a standard class. In a multiple-student situation, the relationship among the students is that of camaraderie that, necessarily, shifts the class from a teacher to a student-centred dynamic. In a one to one class, this is shifted toward a sort of equilibrium between the teacher and the student.
          Moving along the lines of the teacher-student relationship is the classroom management dynamics, or rather, the pressure both teacher and student have upon themselves (British Council). The student might feel pressured, since there are no peers to share the teacher’s attention, nor is there a time for the “spotlight to be off him”. The teacher, on the other hand, might feel pressured to keep the class interesting and realistic regarding the student’s expectations (WILBERG, 2014, p. 7).
          However, those aspects are not necessarily bad. If the teacher can manage to deal with them, they can be turned in their favour. If the student has the teacher’s undivided attention, that also means he or she has larger opportunities for practice and receive feedback. And if there is a development in the relationship into trustworthiness and lightness, the student might be compelled to engage more using the language he or she’s learning. This means more real-life situations and flourishing development.
          Jeremy Harmer (2014, p. 123) states that confidence building is one of the key aspects of language learning. Therefore, one could assume that without the pressure from peers and with the easiness of an acquainted teacher, the student benefits from this kind of class. Developing at the student’s pace and pushing faster or slower is something that helps confidence building and the language-learning process.
          All things considered, a one to one class brings different challenges and distinct rewards for those involved. The teacher being able to manage the pace and the demands of the student helps him or her to develop confidence and fulfill expectations and personal objectives with the new language. Therefore, the one to one class might be a unique opportunity for personal growth for both teacher and student.

References:

British Council Teaching One to One. Available in: https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/teaching-one-one

Harmer, Jeremy (2014) How to Teach English. Essex: Pearson.


Wilberg, Peter (1994) One to One: A Teacher’s Handbook. London: Language Teaching Publications

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Kids and Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom


Anna Flávia Pessoa

(Final project for the course Writing for Teachers)

Introduction

Teachers face many challenges in the classroom. Educators are always working on new ways to keep students engaged and motivated. Creativity, playful learning, and kinesthetic activities are constantly on their minds. Alongside that, it is well-known that people learn in different ways. Many teachers also try to incorporate these concepts in their planning. As a consequence, a lot of theories about multiple intelligences and the acquisition of a second language are surfacing. Having that in mind, let's first understand what the multiple intelligences are. Gardner (2010) has identified seven distinct intelligences:

Visual-Spatial - think in terms of physical space, as do architects and sailors. Very aware of their environments. They like to draw, do jigsaw puzzles, read maps, daydream. They can be taught through drawings, verbal and physical imagery. Tools include models, graphics, charts, photographs, drawings, 3-D modeling, video, videoconferencing, television, multimedia, and texts with pictures/charts/graphs.

Bodily-kinesthetic - use the body effectively, like a dancer or a surgeon. Keen sense of body awareness. They like movement, making things, touching. They communicate well through body language and they should be taught through physical activity, hands-on learning, acting out, role playing. Tools include equipment and real objects.

Musical - show sensitivity to rhythm and sound. They love music, but they are also sensitive to sounds in their environments. They may study better with music in the background. They can be taught by turning lessons into lyrics, speaking rhythmically, tapping out time. Tools include musical instruments, music, radio, stereo, CD-ROM, and multimedia.

Interpersonal - understanding, interacting with others. These students learn through interaction. They have many friends, empathy for others, street smarts. They can be taught through group activities, seminars, dialogues. Tools include the telephone, audio conferencing, time and attention from the instructor, video conferencing, writing, computer conferencing, and e-mail.

Intrapersonal - understanding one's own interests, goals. These learners tend to shy away from others. They're in tune with their inner feelings; they have wisdom, intuition and motivation, as well as a strong will, confidence and opinions. They can be taught through independent study and introspection. Tools include books, creative materials, diaries, privacy and time. They are the most independent of the learners.

Linguistic - using words effectively. These learners have highly developed auditory skills and often think in words. They like reading, playing word games, and making up poetry or stories. They can be taught by encouraging them to say and see words, read books together. Tools include computers, games, multimedia, books, tape recorders, and lecture.

Logical -Mathematical - reasoning, calculating. They think conceptually, abstractly and are able to see and explore patterns and relationships. They like to experiment, solve puzzles, and ask cosmic questions. They can be taught through logic games, investigations, and mysteries. They need to learn and form concepts before they can deal with details.

The importance of Multiple Intelligences for the acquisition of a second language

Teachers are generally concerned about their teaching styles. In a classroom filled with young learners, there´s a great deal of things to take into consideration, especially the motivation and engagement of the students.

According to Budden (2005), we can´t please all the students all the time, and it's just good to bear in mind that there are many different ways of learning. She also asks some pertinent questions. Why do some students really enjoy working in groups whilst others are much more productive working alone? Why do some learners draw pictures in their vocabulary books while others seem to need to just hear a word to be able to use it themselves? People are different and they learn differently.

Beare (2017), in his blog thoughtCo, explains that the most important aspect of using multiple intelligence activities in class is that you will be giving support to learners who may find more traditional activities difficult. The basic idea behind multiple intelligence activities is that people learn using different types of intelligences.

The use of multiple intelligences is extremely influential for beginner levels, considering that motivation is key. When we cater for the specific learning needs of a child, we establish better rapport with him/her and, as a consequence, learning becomes enjoyable from the beginning.

How to incorporate multiple intelligences in the classroom. Practical ideas for teaching kids

First, keep in mind that the teacher will probably not be able to incorporate all intelligences in every class. Having said that, the best way to start is by setting the goal for the lesson. Having done that, the teacher is capable of planning and identifying the types of activities to be used in that setting.

To illustrate this scenario, think of a classroom with kids, mainly 6 and 7 years old, and a lesson about clothes. The goal of this lesson is to introduce clothes vocabulary (t-shirt, pants, dress, shoes, socks). By learning about multiple intelligences, the teacher will provide various activities and provide meaningful learning for the students. Activities with flashcards, colors and images are beneficial for visual learners. Using the same material to create games in which kids move around can help students with interpersonal and bodily-kinesthetic intelligences. Creating songs and asking the students to follow/repeat can help musical, linguistic and intrapersonal learners. Using the games and songs to count the material or revise the vocabulary is helpful for logical learners.

These were some very simple ideas on how to engage the different intelligences. Pesce(2017) provides a lot of ideas in her blog BusyTeacher,  and she  uses the multiple intelligences theory as one way to motivate her students.

Conclusion

Working with multiple Intelligences can help students become more engaged and stay motivated. There are a lot of resources about it available for teachers. It is obvious that working with all intelligences all the time is hard. However, if there´s a plan, it is possible to work with some of them at the same time and, with that, build good rapport with the students.

References


Arnold, J & Fonseca, MC (2004). Multiple Intelligence Theory and Foreign Language Learning: A Brain-based Perspective. Servicio de Publicaciones. Universidad de Murcia. IJES, vol.4(1), 2004, pp. 119-136.


Beare,K(2017). Multiple Intelligence Activities https://www.thoughtco.com/multiple-intelligence-activities-1211779


-Gardner,H.(2010). Multiple intelligences. http://www.howardgardner.com/MI/mi.html


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Teens 6 Magazine Project

Making writing exciting

Whenever I get to a writing lesson, I picture my students complaining and moaning about having to write anything. It’s almost as if they had a radar that indicated “boring activity ahead”. These are, thus, the lessons that intrigue me the most just for the challenge of changing that regular pattern.

DSC06109.JPGTo do so, I am always reflecting on how relevant and interesting the writing can be for my young teenage students. The formula is not so hard: just take the genre of the piece of writing into account and think about how it could be applied to their realities. That is basically what I did for my Teens 6 group. Writing news reports was the goal, so I decided to take my students from the role of students to the role of reporters.

The students were obviously excited with the idea of becoming reporters and writing a story. The idea was that they would gather in pairs or trios and would each be assigned a certain page of our class magazine. Once I had a Google slide template of the magazine prepared and ready to be accessed through a shortened link (bit.ly/teens6magazine), I instructed my students and took them to the Resource Centre to make it happen.

DSC06129.JPGI had to do it in two classes. The first attempt wasn’t so good because some of my students messed around and interfered in other students’ slides. In the following class, I told them off and told them that they would be given a last chance to finish their reports. I also said that those who didn’t finish would have their pages taken out of the magazine. That gave them some encouragement. On the second day, then, they worked a lot better and behaved as expected.

After joining forces with the Resource Centre at the Main Branch, the magazine was printed out and the students were able to have their own copies. The gleam in my students’ eyes when they saw the magazines I had brought paid off all the effort and struggle I described in the previous paragraph.

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Maybe a magazine project cannot be carried out every semester, but something we can definitely do is plan our lessons every day wondering whether they will bore our students or excite them. Bearing that in mind and having some deal of willingness, we will be able to come up with many other ideas that can surprise our students and make a difference in their lives.

Lucas G. Silva

Monday, August 07, 2017

Online English Teaching: Tips and Advice



Andréa Guterres Câmara (Final Project for the course Writing for Teachers)


When we think about English teaching in the 21st century, we can’t ignore the impact of the Internet on our practice as teachers. Students of all ages can now access information 24/7. There’s YouTube, with an impressive library of millions of videos growing steadily, with about 300 hours of new content uploaded every minute. Students can watch videos, listen to different accents, and learn authentic language anytime and as many times they want, something unimaginable and unattainable not long ago. 

As our society advanced technologically, the demand for virtual classrooms was a natural consequence. To answer that, our first MOOCs, or massive open online courses, came to be in the 2000s. Since then, more and more people across the globe have been able to learn countless subjects without the need to commute to a brick-and-mortar school. This phenomenon hasn’t been different in regard to language learning.

We live in a fast-paced world; traffic can be daunting in big cities, and in some remote locations traveling to attend face-to-face classes can be quite impossible. Commuting to class used to be a chore for many, but now with a computer and a reliable Internet connection, anyone can have access to online courses and private tutors alike. As online teachers, we have the potential to reach students practically anywhere on the planet. More and more people are discovering this learning option and embracing it. “Due to a combination of factors (for example cost, convenience, learner expectations, developments in technology, and changing paradigms within education), it is clear that online learning is here to stay” (Hockly, 2015).

The challenge we online teachers face is to offer the same quality lessons to students who are miles away, as we’ve done in traditional in-person settings. Below I’ve included a few tips to address common problems and to circumvent issues we may have with technology and distance learning. They are intended for one-to-one lessons for adults, which is my niche, and with which I’m most experienced.

Start with a needs analysis and a placement test
Like with a regular course, you must know exactly what your student needs and wants to learn. It will be a partnership between your student and you. Both need to be aware of what is necessary to achieve their goal.

Choose your favorite communication platform and have a backup option
You can use Skype, which is probably the most popular platform, but there is also Zoom, a favorite of many teachers: “Zoom is excellent. It offers a wide range of annotation tools, recording facilities and great audio and video quality” (Nobre, 2017).
It is a good idea to have a backup plan. If Skype is not working, use Zoom or Google Hangout. As a last resort, you may also try FaceTime for Mac/iPhone users or WhatsApp Video Calling. The important tip is to be ready in case things don’t go as expected.

Make sure your student knows the basics about technology before you start your course
It may be straightforward to you, but many people are not familiar with all the technology available out there, let alone learn a language in a new environment. You can send them tutorials, links and schedule a call if they need extra help getting set up. Remember their success and commitment depend on a good start.

Choose your materials wisely
If you decide to use a textbook, look for one with a presentation tool. Most publishing companies nowadays offer that feature. You can install a program or download it, and have access to the student’s book on your computer screen. This way you can share your screen, make annotations during the lesson, play audio files, videos, and make your class more fun and interactive.

Create your own online lessons
You can create your own lessons using articles from blogs, news websites, or stories you saw on TV; the options are countless. There are many reasons to do this. Here I list a few: you will bring more contemporaneous issues to your lessons; you’ll be using authentic materials that can help students learn collocations, pronunciation and connected speech in a natural way; they can improve their listening and writing skills with examples taken from authentic texts; and you can also stimulate their critical thinking in the process.

Use other online teachers’ free lessons
If you are pressed for time and can’t produce your own lessons, you can also download free lessons from other teachers. My favorite ones are:

Rachel Robert’s at https://elt-resourceful.com
Luiz Otavio de Barros at http://www.luizotaviobarros.com
Cristina Cabal at http://www.cristinacabal.com/

Websites like the British Council and VOA (Voice of America), for instance, offer free lessons with authentic resources to make yours interesting and up-to-date on current world issues.

Use videos for storytelling
Videos can be a great resource, but don’t just show your students a video and use it as a listening skills lesson. You can use videos to tell a story.
“The traditional way to use video in the classroom is to watch the video first and talk about it later. In a Videotelling activity, the teacher communicates a video narrative through traditional interactive storytelling. In this way, the technology takes a back seat, and human communication comes to the front of the class” (Keddie, 2017, p.15).

Have your students participate actively
A challenge to teachers and more so to online tutors is to control their TTT, or Teacher Talking Time. You must prepare your lessons to be student-centered. Use Skype’s chat boxes to have your students write. Share your screen, and show them PowerPoint presentations to scaffold vocabulary and language. Engage their attention with nice visuals and videos. Ask them to record an audio at home about a topic you’ve agreed upon, and then give them feedback. These are simple and easy to do. The important thing is to create opportunities for the students to produce and not just sit and listen to you lecture them for 1 hour.

Final Considerations
Online teaching is not for everyone. Not all students will want to study online, and not all teachers will adapt to this new environment or enjoy it. “It might sound obvious, but some people simply don’t enjoy studying online, preferring face-to-face lessons” (Nobre, 2017).
As with anything relatively new and changing fast, it’s a matter of trying for yourself and seeing if you like it or not.
If you do decide to take the plunge, I recommend you create a databank of resources. The more lessons and content you have saved, the easier it will be for you to adapt your lessons and save time in the long run.


References:

Hockly, N. (2015). Developments in online language learning. ELT Journal Advance Access. Retrieved from https://theconsultants-e.academia.edu/NickyHockly

Keddie, J. (2017). Videotelling | YouTube Stories for the Classroom. (Introduction, page 15). Retrieved from Kindle, Amazon.com

Nobre, C. (2017). Challenges in ELT: Teaching online.

 The British Council, https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/

VOA (Voice of America), https://learningenglish.voanews.com/





      
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Friday, April 07, 2017

Thomas Innovation Mentors: Aligning views and probing into our teenage students' perceptions




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In our second innovation project session today we worked on investigating and aligning our views of our students’ classroom experiences. To that effect, we created our CSD Matrix (Matriz CSD in Portuguese), in which ‘C’ stands for certainties, ‘S’ for suppositions, and ‘D’ for doubts. We probed into our views and beliefs regarding the quality of the experience our students have in our classrooms. Individually, each team member wrote down their perceptions onto post-its (one perception per post-it) within a few minutes for each of the three categories. Once everyone was finished recording their views, it was time for us to process what we came up with. Going over everyone’s contributions generated some interesting conversations on our beliefs, and we concluded that we are pretty much aligned in our views of the kind of experience we think our students have in our classroom.


Team members were now ready to process a set of students’ responses to a brief questionnaire, a google form containing the following questions: 1. Tell us about a memorable English class you had at Thomas. Why was it a memorable experience?; 2. Considering all your trajectory at Thomas, in different levels with different teachers, what is it that you like the most about our classes?; 3. What is it that you like the least about our classes?; and 4. Write a word that represents your experience in your classes at Thomas. We managed to get responses from a mix of teenage students from different levels. We worked in two trios, and each trio looked at the responses to questions 1 and 2. What we did was go over students’ responses, which had been compiled into post-its, and try to identify patterns, tendencies or even categories that would emerge from their responses. The idea was to reach a more synthetic understanding of students’ perceptions and see if any insights would spring up in the process. As we shared our findings, we were able to make connections and identify some ideas which we felt were in the core of students’ responses. We took notes of those core findings so that they can inform actions ahead.


We wrapped up the session with some analysis and discussion around how our findings regarding students’ responses aligned with or somehow validated our own perceptions in our CSD Matrix, and we concluded that perceptions were quite aligned and coherent. As a result of this session, we were able to see a teenage student persona taking shape. A persona who has very specific perceptions of the classroom experience, who has particular needs and desires. The next step is to deepen the insights and prototype solutions to be tested in the classroom. This was quite a productive and inspiring session, and it feels like each one of us is gradually gaining a new sense that we go beyond being teachers, we are learning experience designers.

Would you like to know more about this project? Check out our site: bit.ly/thomasinnovationmentors


Friday, March 17, 2017

Thomas Innovation Mentors: Project Kick-off

Last Friday, March 10th, we launched the Thomas Innovation Mentors Project. We are a team of eight highly motivated and curious teachers eager to reflect on our students’ classroom experience. The idea is to look at everything that takes place within the classroom from the student’s perspective. We want to tap into the perceptions and emotions that our students experience during their time with us in order to gain new insights into possible paths to innovation.


We are adopting a Design Thinking (DT) approach, since its very definition reflects how we want to go about the project: DT is a human-centered design process. Therefore, in our first face-to-face session we facilitated a DT crash course put together by Stanford’s d.school. Throughout the session, team members worked with a partner to redesign a gift-giving experience. In the process, they were able to go through the DT cycle and apply the ‘mindfulnesses’ necessary to successfully engage in the co-creation process.



The 5-stage DT cycle  (Image by the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford)


The DT ‘mindfulnesses’  (Image by the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford)

Team members worked together to understand their partner’s profile and needs in order to design a new and impactful gift-giving experience for their partners. Massive interaction and dynamic collaboration naturally took place, and the energy level was high up throughout the session. Each team member then prototyped their ideas in order to see how their partners interacted with it. Every stage of the DT cycle was timed, which made the creative process challenging and quite fruitful.

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It was a very successful kick-off session! We reached our goal of getting primed for applying the DT process, both in practical terms as well as in mindful terms. We are now engaging in understanding the challenge ahead of us. The next step will be to empathize with our “user” - our students - in order to more clearly define the direction we are headed. We are certain that this is going to be a very rich (and fun!) learning experience for all our project collaborators - teachers and students.


Team members proudly exhibiting their prototypes.