Sunday, July 29, 2012

881. Keeping on improving

One day teacher of English B said to teacher of English A, “You can sometimes praise or recognize such or such student’s success in getting a good grade, but also tell that other student that he or she is striving to do things well, for example, that student is dedicating more time to their homework.

So praise not only success but effort. And do it better privately.

Another point, but has to do with the former: correct that student’s bad behavior with fortitude: don’t keep quiet. On other posts we have talked about helping a student correct some behavior point, by speaking one-to-one, privately, not at his classmates’ presence. And let him recognize he did wrong – it’s not only you that has to say everything; let him realize he did wrong.” / Photo from: irishcentral com

Friday, July 27, 2012

880. It's a long way for the teacher still

Exams and tests can give us, teachers, feedback – interesting one. The teachers on post # 879 carried on talking about this, and I could hear them.

When reading and grading our students’ exam papers we can see many possible things: this point over here that I supposed it was clear it isn’t at all, and needs extra work; as well we can gain a vision of how well our students lately are, for example concerning writing stories - I used to include one question in written tests that was to write a short story: I enjoyed some of the stories: very imaginative.

Summing up: by reading and grading our students’ tests we teachers can improve our way of teaching, or telling stories, or presenting a grammar pattern, or implementing listening activities, or keeping doing that thing that way, which lately is turning out ok.

At this moment of grading and at other times we can catch ourselves learning from our students... / Photo from: wired com. ford fiesta world tour 2003. driving around the world  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

879. Evaluating everyday work

One day teacher of English A said to teacher of English B, “I could tell you quite many things about assessment of my students’ learning English, but here I’ll try to tell you few things.

A first premise is that I assess my students’ daily work. Still also I set a written test after a period, usually when we finish a unit of the course book.

I have a list of my students in class and I give them a grade or an acronym from time to time: contributions to a discussion, homework, behavior problems, effort, fluency at speaking...

Here on this list is the day-to-day conducting of the classes. For me, as well, it’s also important to consider the idea I am keeping about every student’s working; it’s nothing written anywhere, and has to do with the knowledge I’m making about each student’s daily work.

On the other hand periodical written tests tentatively would register the knowledge and performance the students have acquired and reached after a unit for example.

After a period of two or three months I give a grade to each student – in a single academic year there are four or five assessment or ‘evaluation’ periods, plus the final grade. The grades of the written tests can mean about 60 % of the ‘evaluation’ period, while the class grades another 40 % approximately.

In practice it isn’t difficult to ascertain whether a student has: fail, pass, good, very good, or excellent (I mean the equivalents in the Spanish grading system). Even the very students I think could assign similar grades to themselves after one of these periods. It’s simple in practice. They usually have no surprise after having given them the grade report.” / Photo from: ahfd ap nic in. facilities laboratory. indira gandhi centre for advanced research on livestock

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

878. Summarizing stories

One day teacher of English B said to teacher of English A, “Last year, one day I set as a class test, with my adult students, to make a summary of a story I had composed.

The result was interesting: a remarkable number of students wrote the story again, with other or the same words, and with a lot of information that was not part of the core of the story. After grading the tests one student confessed to me she just didn’t know how to write a summary. She had written all the information she could remember after having read the text I had given to them.

A summary is a short abstract or composition from a text that includes the main message, the main information with a sufficient number of words, by presenting the most remarkable information with not many (secondary) details. All of this in a few lines.

Making a summary is an interesting language activity, plus a help for their minds, for their ways of thinking: a help for these growns, so as for them to keep a clarivident mind, and even more in this case, where the students are retired people: they’re becoming rather old.

As I can say right now, I’d tell you the steps to write a summary could be: Read and understand the text. Read the text several times, until I can see and distinguish the most important information. Then I write those main ideas, with not many details.

Of course, all of this taking into account that each student may have his or her own way of thinking and processing ideas.” / Photo from: marlborolocalhistory wordpress com. gomez mill-house    

Monday, July 23, 2012

877. It was like discovering a new landscape

One day teacher of English A said to teacher of English B, “I know a young man with a bit interesting story about learning English.

He had been learning English since he was around 11 years. When he passed to the secondary education, 14 years old, he pretty soon noticed that the subject of English now was harder. In fact, he wasn’t able to get higher grades than mere pass. He didn’t know what to do to get higher grades and gain some capability to understand and speak in English in class.

One day at home he opened up his course book, at some dialogs they had studied that day, and began to read those texts again, carefully, attentively, slowly. He then realized he was able to understand more than in the morning classes that day.

Those texts had some message, some meaningful messages from one character to another. He could understand pretty well then.

Once he told me that those moments were very important to change and face the texts, either by listening or by reading, more intelligently. Today he’s a teacher of English too. He told me that since then the course book of English turned into something interesting, with nice stories about the characters and simple funny situations.” / Photo from: friendlyplanet com. norway fjords  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

876. Helping to learn to learn

One day teacher of English B said to teacher of English A, “One privileged moment for assisting your students to learn English is tutoring sessions or tutorials. In my school a tutor of a boy can talk with him individually.

At this time the teacher could ask the student how this latter one can learn English: what he can do in classes, what he can do at home, how he can use the course book and the workbook. The teacher may think the student gives childish answers like, ‘What to do you say? To study harder.’ Don’t blow the answer! Then the teacher can ask him to show his course book, and try to fix more specific responses.

Also the teacher can ask him: ‘What have your class-group done in the class of English lately’, or whether he understands the book, or how the student can use the pictures of the book as an aid to understand the exercises, and the kind.

I'm commenting on all of this because of a twofold reason: the course book of English can prove to be a big help to learn that language, and second because a lot of students do not know how they can utilize the course books of English.

In time the teacher will be more comfortable because he will be able to figure out more possible problems the students may have with this type of books, which usually prove to be a great help for the teachers of English, French, German...” / Photo from: e3kids com. african students in class

Saturday, July 21, 2012

875. Solving problems as a class activity



One day teacher of English A said to teacher of English B, “Solving problems can be an activity that helps practice and play with the English language as a vehicle to do something else.


For example, some weeks ago both my students and I had got to decide what date we should finish the classes of a course. I’m referring to a course I’ve taught this year to adult learners whose end date could be discussed and fixed among all of us: between the end of May and the end of June.


To be honest we fixed the date partially in Spanish, our mother tongue. Still, I think this activity could be a good example of problem-solving activities. In our case: I let them know I was available until the end of June, and they could say their preferences, desires, doubts, problems to keep on attending the classes, another learner could say she might attend the course until the last Wednesday of June, and so on.


This activity is ideal for training learners for real situations they could encounter in their ordinary lives. By carrying out this activity repeatedly students become more and more autonomous and ready when they want to participate in further speaking activities.” / Photo from: horsebreedsinfo com. horseback riding  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

874. Learning since they're babies

If you’re bilingual, or you know some English plus obviously your mother language, say for example, Spanish, and wish your children would learn English since they’re babies or very young, I recommend you to read the inspiring article by Shelley Vernon, of which I give you the link:

/ Photo from: moonfrye ning com. SarahBioPicture. mom and baby

873. Their way to success

H. D. Brown, who I’ve quoted from in this blog, states that success in learning a foreign language depends on the learner’s discovery of the learning style that suits him or her best.

As a foreign language learner, you can help find your pathway to success by recognizing your generally preferred way of learning [auditory or visual for instance] and then by treating yourself to as much input as possible in your preferred style. (p. 33) / Photo from: south-africa-tours-and-travel com. graduating students education in south africa  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

872. Starting the motor

One day teacher of English B said to teacher of English A, “In your private classes to a student, remember that this one must progress: if at the beginning of the classes you helped him set one hour of personal study at home, now, two months later, he should have gotten to study that set time, not less.

Recognize his progress, though this progress may consist of small things. The point is to pull him upward and make him the protagonist of his own advancing. He didn’t want to study, but now, two months later, he ought to wish to study.

Be patient and stand by him, making him become aware of the small steps of progress he’s walking upward. You, his teacher, combine encouraging him with demanding him, for example when making him try to understand the instructions of the activities of the text book, or to revise at home some grammar chart you’ve set him to do. If he hasn’t studied it, ask him why.

Last thing today: when you’re presenting him some grammar point, give him written sentences with contents that are part of his ordinary life.” / Photo from: stumbleinn net. 1938 Phantom Corsair, one of the first futuristic concept cars

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

871. Bring all you have

One day teacher of English B said to teacher of English A, “You don’t just teach English and that’s all. Let me tell you. You act as a human person in classes, right? Your acts and actions are human, are the ones that only a human person can do.

Besides, all your person is implied, involved in your work, in your labor: your body, your voice, your biography, your face, your experience, your family relationships, your soul, your weaknesses and your fortitude, your opinion about work, your expectations, your worries, your love to the students and their families, your weariness, your sport, your mastering or your lack of it concerning teaching English, the clothes you wear, the stuff you bring to the classroom, plus a neverending list of other things.

Your work, as you strive to do things well, cannot be paid with money solely - obviously you expect this latter thing.

Something else: if the being that does that labor is a human person, which evidently is the case, the consequence is also that ethics is involved here: you either do good actions or you do bad actions.” / Photo from: gazellessystems com. meeting

Monday, July 16, 2012

870. You understand the message?

One day teacher of English A said to teacher of English B, “I would advise you that if you’ve got to explain to the whole class something they’re lately doing bad regarding behavior, do it in English, not in Spanish, their mother language. Also when you’ve got to bring out their effort and striving to do things well. You may think they won’t understand you.

They’ll understand the core message, and some students will understand more information.

The point is that, for example, when you’ve got to scold them they can observe in your face that you’re mad [angry, cross] and you’re explaining something important. Don’t reprimand them at the moment you got burned out. Wait for the next day or even more.

They see you’re upset, and alike they understand more language signs in your speech: it’s kind of intuition. At that moment I think they’re acquiring the target language, not just learning it. It’s good they listen to English, though they may not understand something, or even much. At that moment, tentatively, they’re acquiring English, because they’re listening in English massively.” / Photo from: addins kitv com

Saturday, July 14, 2012

869. Sorting out goals

One day teacher of English A said to teacher of English B, “As it comes to my mind, the most important thing for a curriculum (or syllabus) of a course, both in summer and in winter, is to sort out what students should learn and practice along the time allotted to that course.

In other words, the goals, mainly concerning communication, I prudently think students should reach at the end of the course. I could tell you many more things about the curriculum of the school subject of English, but anyhow, I’m stopping here today.” / Photo from: kimleatechnical org. Kimlea Technical Training Centre, in Tigoni, Kenya

Thursday, July 12, 2012

868. Rules are necessary

One day teacher of English B said to teacher of English A, “If you want to scold or explain to all the class about recient misbehaving, you can do it in English, and not in their mother language, albeit you think they’ll understand not much. It’s sound they listen in English massively. They may understand some things, and they see you’re serious too – but never cry out; don’t lose your temper!

Tentatively they will improve: the following days you can carry on calmly saying something of what is wrong and by saying the actions that are ok: they need to gain the good habit of respecting you and their classmates, and this takes some time.

Like I said, it’s sensible they listen in English massively: it may be part of their process of acquiring the target language.

One more thing: the next day after a ‘disaster class’ you will find out that it was not that horrible, that it was this and that students who really did wrong in the class, and in no way ‘all’ the class-group. Disruptive students, moreover, will accept your correction if you can talk with each one of them. Their response will be more positive if you correct each kid speaking to him separatedly.” / Photo from: geograph org uk. cricket at Colney Lane Fields UEA

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

867. Helping kids make image/word links in English

One day teacher of English A said to teacher of English B, “Within a couple weeks I’ll be teaching classes to kids of 9 to 11. Once again I’d like they would utter words, then sentences, then hold a short conversation. I mean, I don’t want to confine their contributions to the class to single words as the only response they can give me.

One activity I’ll implement is to elicit verbs they’ve learned this academic year. And I’ll try to hold some conversation by means of using those verbs. For example we could say simple things about ‘walk’. I could ask one of them, ‘So, how long does it take you to come, to walk, from your house to this center?’, etc., etc.

With the youngest students, who need to move around often, I could give one student the instruction to walk from here to there: the point is for them to gain a visual image of what ‘walking’ is; in other words, help them make up a visual-mental link between the word and the action.

It’s very important the students should speak, and not just listen to me and respond with single words. Ah, and I could have one of the kids write the verbs I’m eliciting from them on the whiteboard: if they’re more ‘protagonists’, the management of the class I hope it’ll be more simple.” / Photo from: stumbleinn net. 1954 Ford Atmos

Saturday, July 7, 2012

866. They're learning

A learner of English or of any other modern language uses and applies learning strategies of his or her own: translation, trying to understand the core when listening to a text or to a conversation, intuition, gestures, explaining the meaning of a word when he or she doesn’t know that exact word, etc.

I have devoted many posts to learning strategies. They are  key in learning a language. Maybe you can find something interesting if you click on the ‘learning strategies’ label or on ‘autonomous learners’.

If you’re a teacher of any modern language (or a learner), I would say you could read and think of the contents of the quotation. This latter one was copied by me (May 28, 2004) when reading OXFORD, Rebecca (1990) Language Learning Strategies. What Every Teacher Should Know. Boston: Heinle & Heinle Publishers (She’s just brilliant).

In this blog I have written more about this book. You can copy and paste part of the title in the search box, or her full name. The quotation refers to the characteristics of those strategies: “Planning, competition, conscious manipulation, and movement toward a goal.” (Page 7) / Photo from: chupetesybiberones es. foto niños leyendo  

Friday, July 6, 2012

865. Building the edifice of vocabulary

One day teacher of English A said to teacher of English B, “Being able to retrieve a word in English when you just need that word is easier when you have a lot of practice learning words.

You told me you learn one new word every day: this exercise is making up a tank of words to you. This habit may consists of kind of taking a mental picture of a new word. Some words are simple to learn because they have a cognate word in Spanish, your mother language, like for instance ‘intervene’, which is similar in form and meaning to ‘intervenir’.

As well it can be sound: you spell new words several times or you write it,
you teach that word to your students,
you play with the word and write an original sentence with it, you use it in your personal notes and organizer,
you focus on the context where that new word appears.

The more you read texts in English, you, a non-native teacher, the more you will be acquiring the sense of the language – the ways native people speak and write that language. Every word you learn is one more brick in the learning (and acquisition) of the language: you’re building an edifice on the foundation of your previous knowledge, of which you may not be conscious and aware.” / Photo from: farmcollector com. milkman     

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

864. Nice summer classes

One day teacher of English B said to teacher of English A, “Today I’ve started a short course of English that is part of a summer program of the center where I teach. The students are five boys so far, of 9 to 11 years.
They’ve been frisky and jumpy, but OK to teach. I’ve tried to rope the students in games. During the class – everybody wanted to participate – I decided they could implement the games themselves. So one by one they directed the games, while their classmates were saying the responses; they’re were eager to intervene.
One kid is 9 and he naturally needs to stand up and move. So we also played Simon says: they love this simple game. You can see some simple games on post # 259; type the number on the 'search' box. With practice you all in class can have fun.

Before the class I had thought of being more demanding with discipline, but they’re having a vacation course, and, like I said, I had no big problems to conduct in the class. Other games were competitions, short gap fills on the whiteboard.

They’re eager to play vocabulary competitions between them; sometimes all the class as a whole makes a team, which fights versus me as the other player: they would relish to win in a vocabulary competition versus me. The lexis can be ‘foods and drinks’. These are simple games that serve as revision of the stuff they learned in their school this academic year. They screw their brains so as to say more words than me. I can assure you sometimes it isn’t that simple for me to win.

This summer my goal with kids is for them to make longer contributions than single words: phrases, sentences, conversations, small presentations. For this latter activity they can describe a picture from a magazine after I’ve done it several times.” / Photo from: travellerpoint com. Alhambra palace gardens, in Granada, where I live.

Monday, July 2, 2012

863. Teaching as a creative job

One day teacher of English A said to teacher of English B, “Have you ever thought of our job as being something very creative, very original?

The teacher is the main source of activities for the classes, isn't he? And think not only of the source of activities but also of knowledge (usually), ideas, the mood of the class, the actual conducting of the class, communication, tasks, order, setting good examples, the concept or idea of what work is - as a human activity -, joy, rigor in the work.

He or she creates the class, each class. Together with his or her students, but in some way that teacher can achieve to get the students’ creativity from deep there inside them: the teacher is also the source of hints and prompts that shed light to the students to be creative, and to be autonomous learners.

His or her work ought not to be only bureaucratic, just technical, just monotonous, unadventurous.” / Photo from: jlpbootcamp com. female teacher teaching in class