Monday, December 12, 2011

How to assess writing? With rubrics, duh! (Sara Weigle)

So as discussed in the prior post the LARC has had webinars about assessment in the past. There was also a TOEFL Spain presentation on the different ways to assess homework.

Well this time I had the change to listen to Susan Weigle discuss assessing writing. You can read more about her and the webinar here: She is a published and respected teacher, but this was her first webinar, and it showed. I am not honestly sure I would recommend watching the recording to anyone, but you can find it linked above. AGAIN Sara is very qualified, but the webinar appeared to be a bit too much. She was often overwhelmed and honestly I struggled to get through the presentation. Participants as well seemed to be clueing out and asking questions that she had already answered. No worries, everyone struggles their first time and I am sure she will improve with each webinar.

So, she started by going into the basics of writing, authentic writing tasks versus the tasks where we use writing to check grammar or vocab comprehension. For me this was a reminder that whenever possible we should try to keep our assignments as authentic as possible (kinda hard given I am currently teaching academic writing, but still).

Then she discussed Hamp-Lyons definition of a writing test:
  1. Test takers must write one piece of continuous text
  2. Test takers are given a prompt or instructions on what to write
  3. Writing is evaluated by at least one trained grader
  4. Graders judge using a rubric or set scale
  5. Judgments are given as numbers or grades
How can writing be assessed without being tested?
Webinar participants suggested logs, journals, timed writings, chat forums, portfolios, essays, fb group discussions, etc I would actually argue that many of these fall in the definition of the writing test per above, but I suppose it depends on if a rubric is used or not (I use them with every assignment I give for consistency). Sara goes to specifically define a test as an in class timed writing, compared to take home essays.

Then she discusses the components of a test, the task (what they should write) and the scale (how we grade it).

She gave us the topics ( that University students have to write on to prove they are university level writers. Most of the webinar agreed that for high school or EFL learners the topics were fine but they were a bit too broad for an academic timed writing.

To avoid having a task that doesn’t meet up with the students’ (or teacher’s) needs it is important to remember the principles for task design.
  1. Clarity Students need to understand what they are doing (a colleague of mine discussed an exam the other day where she asked students to write on one of the topics in the box below. She also reminded them to use good grammar and watch their spelling. Several students wrote on why using spelling and grammar is appropriate. This is the result of unclear topics(or students who don’t pay attention) )
  2. Validity It should be a writing that is relevant.
  3. Reliable the task should elicit writing samples that can be scored consistently
  4. Interest the task should be interesting to writers and readers (not another opinion paper on abortion PLEASE)
OK, so now we have our pretty task, but how do we grade it? Well, RUBRICS!
I liked one ”pro” about Rubrics that she mentioned: It is important to, “make implicit assumptions and goals explicit” this lets students better prepare since they know exactly what the teacher wants. As a teacher we may think it is OBVIOUS we want out students to use cause and effect linkers as we have studied them for the past 3 months, but if you don’t specifically say it (and let the students know) I promise you most students will not assume this.

Why else are rubrics amazing? You can share them with your department for some consistency amoung all the classes, and when the students see them they cannot claim favoritism or “the teacher doesn’t like me” they are specifically given their grades with what they didn’t or did do.
Now the type of rubric that I do is analytic which means I score on several dimensions. This is normally easier for new teachers (I guess I fit that stereotype) and in gives students a clearer idea of where they need to focus more energy next time.
  • For example a paragraph could be graded on mechanics, transition words, organization and format. All of these are totaled for a final grade.
This is compared to holistic where the paragraph is grades on one “standard”:
  • Example: The paragraph is grammatically correct, with good transition words and is organized. 90pts
  • The paragraph is grammatically OK, with some transition words and is organized. 75pts
  • Etc.
  1. Define according to the topic, process and the product
  2. Determine the components that you are interested in
  3. Decide on what TYPE of rubric you want
  4. Define components
  5. Decide on number of score levels (generaly 4.5)
  6. Write descriptions for each score level. Look at existing rubrics for ideas!
I am always up for a good online tool and this time she have us: I tend to do my rubrics by “hand” but I do think that some assignments could be OK with an automatically generated

Brief sidenote: she did throw in her two cents on peer grading (that the grader usually benefits more than the gradee). Which I have always felt so it was nice to hear :)

Head, Shoulders Knees and Toes...with Clothes!

My students always LOVED head, shoulders, knees and toes, and I always loved it since it was really heavy in the TPR area. Sadly, there are only so many times a student can learn the parts of the body. So, I changed the song a little for studying clothes. They still got a kick out of it and it is a great wintery activity (that doesn't touch on the religous aspects of winter) that keeps them moving (and is still a great Total Physcial Response. song)

I prefer teaching trousers since pants has a different meaning in England, but to each their own. Feel free to teach pants, jeans, or whatever else. If you choose a one syllable word I reccommend adding an "and" to keep the beat.

This could also be adapting to Summer (Cap, sunscreen, shorts, sandals... glasses, hair tie, chapstick, ... ideas for nose?)

Happy Holidays! You can download the directions for class and a quick worksheet for your students for free just check my store on 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, Higher Education, Babies/Toddlers - ESL / ELL / EFL, English -

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Focus on the good :)

So, I am done with my first semester here at Tec de Monterey. Overall I think I picked up some bad habits from Spain (yelling at students), but I do feel like some of the Masters classes paid off (my worksheets are much prettier now).

I also got frusterated A LOT with the fact my college students behave worse than my pre-schoolers last year...but I guess that just calls for an adjustment of standards.

As far as evaluations my college classes tended to be pretty tight lipped, one student complained of too many essay, but that really isn't anything I can control. Otherwise mainly smiley faces and such. The two "best" I think were:

"Tiene un carácter fuerte pero se llevo bien el curso" - Lengua Extranjera
Muy exigente en cuanto a calificaciones pero muy buena maestra." - Lengua Extranjera
The next class was my hardest class to teach, I got a few flat out rude comments from them, but in the end I am tuning those out and focusing on the good:


Esta profesora marco un punto en mi aprendizaje de la lengua Ingles porque esta maestra nos pedia el maximo y gracias a ella aprendi lo que es ser un buen alumno" - English VI

Muy buena maestra, atiende muy bien a sus alumnos si le piden ayuda fuera de clases" - English VI

Muy buena maestra, estuvo padre la experiencia al tener una maestra extranjera, diferente al metodo de los maestros en mexico, encantado llevo otra clase con ella." English VI
From my other high school class:

Very nice teacher, always trying for her students to learn and improve their skills and abilities during the course. Congratulations, i wish you great success during your life. Was great having classes with you, i would like to be in your class again."

AND probably the most well written constructive comment (that pretty much sums up my own personal self reflection (from the same class as above):

"Es una persona con un sistema de enseñanza distinto, me agrada su clase y aprendo mucho, pero le hace falta un poco de tacto, aveces suele ser sarcastica."

So, that's where I am now. Looking forward to next semester where I will try to tone down the saracasm and yelling at my students.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Opinion Paragraph with Lyrics

I am starting to plan for next semester and am kinda excited about the first assignment. The students will be writing a paragraph to support an alternative interpretation of a song.

I was partially inspired by this interpretation of Rebecca Black's song Friday

So I wrote up a quick paragraph (which will be edited thoroughly and used as the sample paragraph for the students)

“Friday” has important historical references
Rebecca Black’s song Friday is about the tensions in The United States of America in the 1950 and the 1960s. The 1950s and 1960s in the United States were a tense time of the Cold War, presidential assassinations, and racial segregation. First, Rebecca Black focusses a great deal of her song to discussing which seat she should take, indicative of racial segregation. In the 1950s and 1960s The United States employed racial segregation in many parts of life, but this was seen especially in public transportation; people were told where to sit based on their race. Most memorably Rosa Parks, the mother of the freedom movement, refused to give up her seat to a white woman in 1955. She made a stand on which seat she took, and Rebecca obviously alludes to this here. Another point is Rebecca says that everyone needs to “Get down on Friday,” referencing the assassination of John Kennedy on Friday, November 22, 1963. When there is a shooting the first thing people will scream, to decrease unnecessary casualties, is “get down.” The assassination was a tense moment in American life making people feel depressed, or “down,” just as the song suggests everyone felt that Friday. Finally, Rebecca has a line in which many feel she says, “Everybody is rushing,” this however is actually her hinting at “Everybody is Russian.” The cold war with Russia was a big deal in America and many Americans were falsely accused of being Russian. In the 1950s McCarthyism swept through the country and simply by being Russian, or labeled as a communist, many people were blacklisted from their jobs. Thus Rebecca Black’s Friday is a song that does more than just invite people to enjoy the weekend, it also speaks to the tumultuous times of the United States in the 1950s and 1960s.

Assignment. Write a paragraph in which you express and support a unique interpretation of a song.
_____ is about an alien abduction _____ is a song written about a pet not a boyfriend.
_____ is about open heart surgery. _____ is about Mexico earning its independence.
o ANY interpretation on ANY English song it is OK as long as it is unique:
GOOD:) Christina Aguilera’s “Reflection” is about a transsexual who is not accepted by his family.
BAD:( Christina Aguilera’s “Reflection” is about a girl who doesn’t fit in.
GOOD:) Aladdin’s, “A whole new world,” is about someone who has been diagnosed with cancer.
BAD :( Aladdin’s, “A whole new world,”is about a couple exploring a new place.

Hopefully I get some decent reads, I think most English teachers will vouch that someitmes the hardest part of grading is reading the same boring papers over and over again.

EDIT Oct-18: I've done this three times now and it has worked really well! Some fun examples from students:
"The Lion sleeps tonight" is about a woman in an abusive relationship.
"The Lazy song" is about a man sufferring from depression due to the eocnomy.
"Never gonna give you up" is about the the United States Cold War with Russia.
"Call me Maybe" is about a lady with crush on a married man.

You can purchase the whole kit and caboodle on Teachers Pay Teachers for the bargain price of $1  (if you don't have an account yet you can sign up here)

Have you had a chance to use songs in any way like this? How have your students found it?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Kiss for Peace

Most people have heard about Free Hugs, but not many people have tried kisses for peace.

When most people hear of Culiacan they immediately think of the drugs and violence associated with the city's cartel. Despite the fact that Culiacan is trying to build up a thriving art culture that gets roughly no focus. SUMA helps! SUMA is a private institution established in 2007, that promotes citizens to get involved in a legal and healthy relationship with the city.

In this case they promoted a Kiss a Day for Peace

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Participial Phrases

I was reviewing the wonderful world of participial phrases for class on Friday and I came across this gem: Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals

I took the lesson and changed it to be able to use a music video (we all know how I love music videos in class). I recently used "Earl had to die" in class to review Cause and Effect. A fellow teacher friends of mine who teaches the same level took the idea but used Lily Allen's smile. A video that I LOVE and am glad she reminded me of. So, this activity uses that:

First, students watch the video and we talk about getting revenge and such (which they like, as we seem to end up on this topic quite a lot).

First, underline all of the participle phrases; then circle the noun they modify. Half of the sentences are grammatically inaccurate. Re-write them correctly below (include the number).
1. While remembering her ex-boyfriend, Lily gets depressed.
2. Leaning against a wall waiting for a man, the man approaches Lily and she gives him money.
3. The gang, having nodded in agreement, takes money from the man.
4. He was hit by them laying on the floor.
5. After telling her he was just jumped, Lily invites him to coffee.
6. As they are finishing their coffee men are destroying his apartment.
7. When going to the bathroom, laxatives were put in his coffee.
8. Needing to use the bathroom he ran to the toilet only to find it filled with his clothes.
9. DJing he discovered his discs were all ruined.
10. Lily smiles feeling very happy with her successful day.
# __ _____________________________________________________
# __ _____________________________________________________
# __ _____________________________________________________
# __ _____________________________________________________
# __ _____________________________________________________

Later students watched Daniel Poweter's Bad Day video and had to describe it using their own sentences. Some of them:

Closing his eyes he playes[sic] the piano.
Smiling she draws on the wall
Having a bad day he rolls out of bed.

Some of them used the lyrics and got pretty creative.

(Copy of the Lily Allen worksheet can be found here: )

Friday, July 29, 2011

The job

Check me out! I am all official with a door nameplate-y thing
So I am here now in Culiacan.

I am currently going through the books and materials that I have and making the syllabusses for my classes.

The boring details I teach 4 classes a week:

2 at the high school (one at 8:30-10:00 MWF, the other at 10:30-12:00 MWF)

The view from my office...the fountains look better in person

2 at the college (one at 7:00-8:30 MWF, the other 3:00-4:30 MWF)

There’s a small grace period, where I take roll 5 minutes AFTER class starts and I let students out 5 minute earlier.

I need to be on campus from 8-1, and 4-6. However, I get 3 hours to play with so later I can decide to show up later Tuesdays and Thursdays, and maybe get off early on Fridays. I still need to play with the schedule, but it seems OK.

So this is University/High School teaching in Mexico...for now

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sara Davila's Site (Materials/Teacher Tools/Teacher Tips)

The giver of a great site!
I was recently introduced to this great site by Sara Davila who is a Cirriculum builder (and has been for the past ten years!) she also does teacher training. She lived in Korea from 2002- 2010 as well as having worked in America which means she is familiar with plans that can be adapted to many cultures (key for me!).
The main area where her materials are posted is here:
They are also clearly labeled based on level, type of activity etc.

For example, we all know I am a big fan of TBL, well she has quite a few options that have been tagged as TBL

Since I am heading to teaching college and high school I figured I'd look at some of her advanced activities.

Other examples: Board Games, The Four Skills, or Young Learners (but trust me that's not it)!

If you need a lesson or just feel like you need some inspiration I'd recommend you check it out!

Her website also has some Teaching Tools, and some Teaching Tips it is treasure trove of assistance.

Last Day

This is the last day I will type from my school´s computers.

This year has been a whirlwind. I have learned so many things, improved my Spanish and made great friends.

I am looking forward to teaching at International House San Diego again this Summer, though I hope I can be a more successful teacher than last year.

I will miss...
  • The blank stares of stduents followed by , "Profe, que quapa hoy" (Teacher how beautiful you are today)

  • The random little one who runs up to me in the hall to tell me, "Profe, te quiero" (Teacher I love you)

  • Having them mix English in the most adorable way "I am my name is Marina" (Yes my college students may do this, but let´s face it it is cuter at 4)

  • Their excitement, "Profe, ayer you store cheese!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" (Roughly Teacher, yesterday I saw you at the store buying cheese)

  • Towering above my stduents

  • The hugs

  • Singing and coloring about 80% of my class

  • "Baby Beluuuuuuuuuuuuuuga" (Really they are just adorable)

I will not miss...

  • "Profe Me hago piss" (Teacher I need to pee)

  • Little Ivan (3 years old) taking his penis out in the middle of class (though I will miss his honest to goodness face of, "what???")

  • Them complaining they are tired and can´t color (really, the hardest part of your day is staying within the lines...stop whining!)

  • That high pitched noise that comes from their mouth when they whine

  • Telling everyone to stop kissing each other during class

  • Never doing anything more complex than The Little Red Hen

  • The commute

I am very glad that this year gave me more patience, the ability to break things down, to really really learn my students level before giving an assignment, and some practical differentiation.

I know that because of this Masters and my year at the Colegio I should be a better teacher, now let´s see if I am.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Fixed Laptop/Jo Millar

Jo Millar was interesting since she has some experience teaching in Asia. I believe that teachers who have taught Europe as well as Asia always manage to have a slightly different methodology. This could be me making things up, but thus far it has been proven true.

So, she had taught in Vietnam for two years (and France) but now Spain is lucky enough to have her. She works in Alcobendas (all I actually know about that city is their handball and volleyball teams). According to the biodata she "completed the Delta and is particularly interested in collocation, learner autonomy and classroom management with young learners."

This is the powerpoint she used during her presentation.

Her chat basically talked about how ESL learners tend to say things that are grammatically correct but would never be said since they are the wrong collocation. Some examples:

We don't say: hard meat We say: tough meat
We don't say: quick food We say: fast food
We don't say: a fast meal We say: a quick meal

They come in many different forms:

Adjective+Noun like above
Adverb + Adjective richly decorated (not richly painted)
Noun + Noun loaf of break (not bar of bread)
Noun + Verb builds a nest (not assembles a nest)
Verb + Noun Make progress (not do progress)
Verb + Expression With Preposition burst into tears (not appear into tears)
Verb + Adverb
Whispered softly (not whispered quietly)

There are two things to look at with collocations (Strength and Frequency). Collocations are important because they help student make predictions based on text (without having fully read it).
Example: It's the opportunity of a ...

Most people will guess lifetime, that's because this is a strong frequent collocation.

Collocations are useful because: predictions are useful and a real life activity (we don't actually listen to every word people day we fill in the gaps, chunks of language are more memorable than individual words, students fluency is increased as the language tends to sound more natural, and it can reduce the amount of direct translation a student uses.

She went on to give some practical ideas for using collocations in class:

Having a chart where students check off collocations that make sense (a super small example):

Food Shower Meal

Do a prediction with a text and then listen to it (focus on collocations)

The PowerPoint lists a few others as well.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Paul Braddock - Barefoot Teaching

So I snagged Paul's presentation from his blog, (which also states) that he is has, "recently become interested in using digital technologies with young learners with as a way to enhance motivation"

So basically his presentation talked about how to keep students motivated by using technology. He mentioned using things like twitter and making sure that students are a bit more in chagre or their class. So they can choose from a selection of pre-approved topics and the teacher can change the activities based on the student's needs.


Before the lesson I printed out the bunny outlines: and dressed the bunnies in different occupations this worked well.

The Doctor outfit from
To start the lesson We started with the normal hello song and reviewed the emotions, days etc. Then I showed them a picture of my friend Larry who is a leprechaun. We describe Larry and guess his favorite color and job (many students guessed things like miner or show maker). I explain Larry´s job is to protect the gold, so if you find it he will give you a wish to get it back. Then I show a picture of a rabbit who found the gold.  

The story Once a rabbit found the Leprechauns gold. The leprechaun offered him anything he wanted. The rabbit said "I want a job" The Leprechaun said "1. 2 3 abracadabra and the rabbit turned into a _________" (the students guess the occupation based on the clothing, we then review the clothing). But the rabbit didn't´t want to be a _____, so the Leprechaun said "1, 2, 3 abracadabra" (repeat until all occupations are covered) Activity When the students are seated we look at the clothes for different occupations. Then we practice saying "I want to be a ______" and "I don´t want to be a _______" After the students, who were well behaved, can pick which coloring doll they want (but they have to ask in English). They ask lots of questions about which shorts to color etc so they also practice vocabulary. Not very complex, but good fun! For fast finishers they had to also color a leprechaun and paste the rabbit on the leprechaun page (make sure they draw a rainbow!) Clearly I meshed this with St. Patricks day but you could easily mesh it with an easter bunny who wants a new job or Cupid who lost his bow etc.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Elspeth Pollock

Elspeth Pollock noticed that having students take out their homework to correct as a class wasn´t actually getting her any results. So, she tries to make checking homework a bit more exciting with, "Correction Techniques: Keep your students awake."

In her own words (per the abstract) "In this workshop I’d like to show a variety of techniques for written and oral correction, using tools at our disposal from mini-whiteboards to technology (video, podcasts and IWB) to make correction both motivating and memorable."

Does she know what she´s talking about? Well, she, "has been teaching and training for 20 years and is Director of Studies at ELI, Seville. She has an MA in Linguistics (TESOL), the Cambridge DELTA and, most recently, the new ICT Trinity Certificate. She is currently interested in the integration of technology and teaching for all ages and levels of student."

Her main goal was to make the act of students giving answers more than just wondering around the class having students take turns. Some suggestions were:
  • Use a mini white board (laminate a green piece of paper)
  • Use little pieces of paper
  • Use Cuisinaire Rods (if its A hold up green, if B yellow if C orange etc)
  • Hide the answers under a chair and have students find it
  • Split up an answer sheet and give half to the first two students finished they can check the rest of the students (after they communicate with one another to figure out the complete answer set)
  • Make a wordle with all the correct answers and see if students can figure it out.
  • etc. etc.

Call me old fashioned but I always liked having students correct one another and then write their answers on the board, but it is always nice to have new experiences.

On the other hand if your classroom allows you to I don´t see why you couldn't just use something like surveymonkey and have students see the answers they all submitted anonymously of course, perhaps use it like a lifeline?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Nelson Arditto

Nelson Arditto made a presentation about helping students memorize English words.

A bit more about Nelson, he "has been working in EFL for over 10 years and has taught in the UK, Syria, the UAE, the Ukraine, Jordan, Hong Kong and Spain. He has run a number of INSETT sessions for EFL and mainstream school teachers and participated in conferences nationwide."

His sessions (per the abstract, "This session highlights the importance of learner training in the successful learning of vocabulary. By the end of the session, teachers will be familiar with the concept of elaboration as a unique memory tool, and the ways in which teachers can introduce learning strategies to their students to make them more autonomous learners"

Since the English language has more words than any other language students need help when it comes to learning words. Since "lexical chunks" are easier to remember than individual words (which is why I have so many phrases in Dutch but slow on words)

He makes an argument for recording strategies in a notebook:
For example when writing down words you always write down words with a context.

Even more so in a notebook instead of just writing down the word with a translation you could do a lot more! Let´s look at the word strong:

  • Write down the synonyms and antonyms (powerful, weak)
  • Write the words connotation (positive)
  • The part of speech (adjective)
  • Collocations (strong flavor, strong drinks, strong swimmer, strong language etc)
  • Use it in a sentence (The strong man lifts weights every day)
  • Draw a picture
  • etc.
By doing this students will be more likely to remember the individual word since they have made so many different paths to it.

There were some different ideas of how to arrange this (alphabetically or by topic) and that probably depends based on your class.

What else would you have your students add to their word journal?

Borja Uruñuela

"Borja Uruñuela is Head of Education at St. James in Seville, where he has developed a language and content programme. He is also the President and head of training for ACEIA, and has written CLIL and social awareness material for Kid’s Box levels 1 - 4 (Cambridge University Press). He is also an oral examiner for the YLs Cambridge exams."

He talked about, "Motivation Theories in Practice" which was described in the abstract as, "When I think of motivation I think of Marslow, Herzberg, Alderfer but… what can we actually do to motivate our students? How can we motivate other teachers? How can we motivate ourselves when we feel demotivated? We will not focus on the theories but on practical activities we can do in the classroom and in the teachers’ room to increase people’s motivation."

He started by reminding us that Performance = Ability x Motivation

Goal setting is VERY important to a student's motivation. If they know where they are going then we can help them get there but, "I want to speak English better" is not a tangible goal! "I want to master the past tense in time for the exam" is specific and thus tangible and a good point to lead motivation!

The best goals are: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time based.

Goals have to be discussed, public, and desired!

As a teacher we have to do more than teach, we also have to supervise:

Help set goals
Help create models
Give praise
Give rewards
Help evaluate (self, peer and formal)
Practice (give feedback and practice)

*Students do a test
*Teacher marks the tests
*Teacher goes through answers
*Students give themselves a mark
*Teacher gives out the tests
*How can I improve? Where did I go right? Where did you go wrong?

Classes make rubrics

KWL are super important
Know/Want to know/Learned

Monday, March 14, 2011

Helpful Links from Nicky

During Nicky's presentation she linked us to a handout:

TESOL Spain ELT Convention

11 March 2011 - Plenary by Nicky Hockly

Teaching the Mobile Generation

Videos & interviews

Class of 8-year olds with iPods

Project Knect

Texts & Tweets: myths & reality (Interview with David Crystal)

Mobile learning with kids (Interview with Scott Newcomb)

Mobile learning in a US high school (Interview with Edward Spurke)

Apps for learning English

Graham Stanley on apps

Neil Ballantyne on apps

Top 50 iPhone apps for educators

British Council free apps


David Read on using mLearning in UK

Mobile learning blog

Nicky Hockly mLearning series 1-10

Tony Vincent´s blog Learning in Hand

Louise Duncan´s blog

Liz Kolb´s blog

mLearning is good

Lesson plans

Planet of the Apps (iT´s Magazine - A2)

Reading on mobile phones

Mobile phones: discussion of issues

mLearning Lesson Plans Repository

Penny Ur

English as an international language: What difference does it make?

This presentation is from Penny Ur. She is a pretty big name in the TEFL word, here's a pretty succint summary (again copied from the biodata): "Penny Ur has thirty years’ experience as an English teacher in primary and secondary schools in Israel. She teaches courses on aspects of foreign-language teaching methodology at Oranim Academic College of Education. She has published a number of articles on the subject of foreign-language teaching, and several books with Cambridge University Press, including A Course in Language Teaching (1996) and Grammar Practice Activities (2nd ed.)(2009)."

Per the abstract it was about: "English is today used predominantly as a tool of international communication between people who speak another language as their mother tongue, as distinct from its use as a mother tongue in the English-speaking countries. I will suggest in this talk that this development makes substantial differences to both principles and practice of our teaching."

Penny starts by discussing the prominence of English today (about 1/3 of people on earth speak English at a level where communication is possible). She mentioned kachru's three inner circles

English has such a large scope (academic, entertainment, political, tourism, etc.)

Competent speakers are no longer just "native" language speakers. Penny therefore posits that the circle be redefined: with the inner circle being named full competent, the next circle be named competent and the final circle being named limited competence

She talks about three different types of English we could teach. We talked about this a lot in my most recent Spanish course. What type of Spanish should be taught? There are so many lexical differences and even some verbs changes.

One of the native varieties
+Traditional and more conventional
+Has the reputation of prestigious
+Plenty of authentic material and coursebooks (which makes it easy)

-Not used by most competent speakers
-Difficulty deciding which one to teach (British/Australian/American)
-It is difficult for a non-native to reach a competence of native speakers

Diverse flexible models
+Ideologically acceptable (its very politically correct)
+Allows for local variation (since it is flexible the local model can always be included)

-No clear model
-Difficult to design syllabus and materials (and thus hard to teach and assess)

A standard variety
Derived from one of the main varieties/combination that eliminates local idioms, vocabulary, pronunciation spelling, grammar (omit fortnight, cheers: meaning thanks, etc) and adding more international words (like zee not zed)

+Range of acceptable forms
+Based on usages of fully competent speakers (which are not necessarily native!) Thus giving learners a realistic standard to reach
+Acceptable worldwide!

-Existence is questioned
-Not very P.C.

In the end Penny basically talks about how we can incorporate more of this into our classes.

My friends and I have talked about this quite a lot. Most of my collegues in Spain learned British English. I am American. I can navigate British, Australian, South African and most other Englishes without problem (although prepositions do sometimes mess me up). So what do I teach stduents? I try to teach the least offensive word. For example, I would not teach rubber for eraser since it means condom in America. I also prefer to teach trousers instead of pants since pants means underwear in British English.

An interesting reminder, though not very applicable to preschool at the moment :)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Herbet Puchta

Herbert Puchta was very entertaining. He is clearly a talented speaker and one who is used to have an entertained audience. That being said, I am under the impression that most of what he said is already known by most people who have experience with teenagers. Nonetheless, here's the gist:

His presentation was, "Ideas that work: Teaching teens to speak" This is a lot of theory with not many activities, but I do think it had things I should keep in my head as I go back to teaching teenagers.

Per the abstract it was about: "Folk wisdom has it that language learners need to 'think in English' in order to be able to express themselves fluently. In this session we will look at how the brain processes language when we speak, and concentrate on what we can do to help our students overcome some of the most frequent problems we encounter in our daily work."

About him, copied from the biodata:
Dr Herbert Puchta is a prolific EFL author and teacher trainer. He has written numerous textbooks and resource books for the teaching of English as a foreign language to young learners and teenagers. Herbert is currently President of IATEFL International. His latest coursebooks are English in Mind 2nd Edition and More!, both published by Cambridge University Press.
First let's cover the basics. Communication required more than words. I can string together a whole bunch of words in Korean, but if there is no intention (no reason to communicate) I won't be saying anything. It requires that I know what words to say, and how to say them!

To do this we (English Language Teachers) should be able to have meaningful tasks with a purpose to practice speaking. Not just dialogues, role plays and Q+A activities which focus on accuracy rather than communication skills. We want activities that force students to communicate!

As with everything in life ATTITUDE IS ESSENTIAL! Make sure to have a classroom where your students have a joy of communicating in L2, that they are willing to take risks, they can accept errors, and they have a positive image of themselves now and in the future (communicating in the L2).

Some ideas:
  • Remember Kieran Egan and his thoughts on classroom culture. Students need to feel comfortable to gossip and want to be a part of the class.
  • The use of humour in the class and the activities is priceless.
  • Use relevant content in the classroom (stories that students can connect with).
  • Prediction games (give them an unknown text with gaps and see what they can fill in)
  • Give them a line "I am sorry but can you help my cat" and have them develop a reoleplay or story.

Well., Alan Paivio has the Dual Code Theory. Part of the theory suggests that we think in words (language) and picture (images). When thinking planned out thoughts (making plans, considering words) we think in words, but for faster interaction, we tend to just think in images. This goes against the concept that you have to learn to "think in English"

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is most known for his theories on flow. Have you ever had a class where you're pulling teeth the entire time? Compare this to a class where everything just goes perfectly! That's what we want in our classes! We want flow. He gives 7 main aspects of flow:
  1. You are completely involved in the activity.
  2. You have a sense of not actually being there (you "forget" you are in class).
  3. You have an inner clarity (you know what needs to be done and how to best do it).
  4. You know the activity is doable
  5. You have a sense of serenity. There are no issues with ego or concerns about getting something perfect.
  6. You don't track the time. Students are just focused on the present and the class time flies by!
  7. You aren't doing it for a sticker. Students involved in flow aren't doing it for the good grade or the sticker. They are doing it because they are motivated by the project!
Herbert Puchtea has some more activities to implement in classes with Here's another example from him on working with teenagers when they struggle with the third person s. You can keep listening to the rest of the videos for another idea from him!

Stephanie Williams

I think most people reading this know that I am also working on my Masters right now. It just so happens that my Didáctica para Heritage Learners class is doing a webquest on Tuesday so when I asked Stephanie what exactly the Internet-based projects were and she replied webquests I sat down to listen :)

So a bit more about her (per the biodata)

Stephanie Williams graduated in Modern Languages at Portsmouth University in the United Kingdom. She has over 15 years’ experience in English teaching, both in the UK and in Spain. She is also a teacher trainer and is currently working in the languages department of Vicens Vives.
The title of her presentation is "Language Learning with Internet-based Projects"

Which per the abstract should be about, "why and how to use Internet-based Projects in the language learning class. We will see how varied Internet resources on topics of interest to students can motivate them to carry through an assigned class project, and help improve their language skills and build their confidence, self-esteem and learner autonomy in the process."

First she went over the basics, what an internet based project is (and the different types, but since this was mainly webquests I'll skip that part), how to search the internet, why to include the internet, what you need to do it, examples, how to assess a webquest, and the benefits of a webquest.

To summarize her presentation:

  • A WEBQUEST is based online (aka uses stduents enthusiasm for the internet to complete a task)
  • It is student led (students follow teacher's written directions but it is still mainly led by students). Basically: learner autonomy!
  • They need to figure out what information is missing and how to find it and make it make sense. Students use critical thinking!
  • It encouraged cooperative learning.

You need a:
  • feasible topic
  • time limit (keep in mind pug ins and what not take longer to load)
  • appropriate resources (static pages that the student will always find)
  • clear objective (students need to know EXACTLY what they are doing)
Then we all did a Webquest about Webquests! (created by an Aztec btws!) We all went through and completed our own webquest (in a group) with the objective of choosing the "best" one.

Sounds great? But you have a problem? No internet in the classroom? That DOES sound like an issue! You can try WebWhacker 5.0 it essentially downloads the sites so you can browse offline! I haven't tried it but you may want to try it out.

This is older, but if you like her style and want to know a bit more about technology I found this old slideshare that seems to be by her.

Karen Einstein

Karen was one of my FAVORITE presenters! She presented on "Collaborative Writing Activities".

According to the abstract, "Participants will have the opportunity to experiment with a variety of collaborative writing activities (non-composition based) and to discuss briefly the aspects of writing practised. The objectives of the activities include such areas as considering the target reader, building complex sentences, discourse management, focus on grammar / lexis, peer teaching, peer correction, developing classroom rapport and considering culture."

A bit about her (per her biodata):
Karen Einstein has been working in TEFL for twenty years, the last seven of which she has been with the British Council in Barcelona. She’s taught on and designed various teacher training programmes over the years and has a special interest in encouraging learners (particularly teens) to experiment with different ways of expressing themselves through writing.

With Karen we first discussed why collaborative was useful (less stress on the student, the chance to communicate with someone else takes pressure off of you, peer correcting etc.)

One example is to give the students a picture. Karen used art (which I may do to try to bring culture in, but in this case I'll stick with one of mine).

Give the students time to write the following things.

1. Who is he?
2. Where is he? / What does he see?
3. What did he do before this?
4. How does he feel?
5. What is he doing?

Make sure they talk to each other first and just jot down words (not complete sentences). Monitor the class as they do this and give the questions out one by one to track time.

Now (again in pairs) have the students write a diary entry that the man will write about his day.

The students have already brainstormed their ideas and now just have to try to make things flow.

But are you getting a lot of sentences like: I was outside. I saw a goat. I looked at the goat.

No worries!

Karen gave a game to get students to make bigger sentences. On the board we right a simple (but slightly odd) clause

"I climbed the tree"

Have the students write it in the middle of a paper. Then give them a linker like although Use easier linker for lower lever students and higher linkers for higher students. Some A1 linkers: so/then. Some B1 linkers: however/despite. C1 linkers: furthermore/nevertheless.

In groups they need to change the sentence (their addition can go before or after)

Although I am afraid of heights, I climbed the tree.

I climbed the tree although it was very tall.

If your students are at a high enough level give them one more linker, let's say, because

I climbed the tree although it was very tall because I was being chased by donkeys

Easy, simple and effective

How often do students post pictures on facebook to go with a status? Give them two photos (aain Karen used art, I am going to find random pictures in my computer)

With a partner look over the pictures and choose one. Then decide how it makes you feel.

Now make a brief explanation (140 characters or less) that you would post with the picture to tell people where you are. So perhaps for the first one, "Eeks! A little too close for comfort! I am heading away from the lions now."

She had some more but overall it was a great way to grab some ideas on incorporating more collaborative writing into my classes!
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