Thursday, September 27, 2012

909. Each one's uniqueness

One day teacher of English B said to teacher of English A, “I cannot learn and know a student of mine just by means of one or a few written exams. Actually I will learn a lot from him or her, but it isn’t enough. Assessment is a process which lasts all the evaluation or assessing period, say one term or one month and a half.

I have to observe my students to get to know how they are and feel in class. I need more grades from him or her to get an idea of the English they know and they can use. Assessment is an everyday thing I cannot recoil. It does matter what they say, what they do, what they don’t.

Okay, imagine I assigned them to write a composition about that point they’re interested in so much lately. Look, that girl over there is not stopping writing. That boy at the corner is just tangling with the threads of his worn out sweater. Ask yourself: what is each one doing? And observe them. This girl looks anxious, why? No clue. This boy had problems with vocab: you know, he wants to say many things but lacks the words – I’m approaching his desk to ask him if he needs any word, and I’ll suggest to use the dictionary.

At the end of the assessment period hopefully I’ll know each and every one of them, and also hopefully I’ll be able to assign them grades that fit their work and their uniqueness. / Photo from: throughmyspecs com. bus-stop     

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

908. All worthy is gotten with your effort

Learning a language depends on you yourself. H. D. Brown often repeats the expression “your own” in the book I’ve often referred to, A Practical Guide to Language Learning [...]. Success in this field depends a lot on the yourself you invest. As well that scholar in his opinion says that the key to success partially is in the fact that “developing your inner states of motivation and self-confidence, lowering anxieties, and becoming more of a risk taker are part of the plan”, you can read on page 71.

What about you?, what about your students? Think of it. / Photo from: raileurope co uk. traveling by train in Europe

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

907. United like a fist

One day teacher of English B said to teacher of English A, “One girl that’s been to Ireland for several times told me a few days ago, ‘Look, it’s always the same; you know, a group of Spanish girls go to Dublin, or Limerick, or wherever, and what? Every single evening those girls arrange an appointment to go out, to hang around, or to visit the river side, or go to a burger place, and... so what, all the time they will speak in Spanish.

They even can meet a group of boys... but from Spain.’

The last years that she’s been to Ireland she has stayed in a university residence, where all the girls were Irish or someplace else, but the common language was not any other but English.

Plus the girls of this residence introduced more Irish girls their age to them, and, she admits, had to do things she doesn’t like but the point is she made friends with native speakers. Things she does not like: canoing in the sea, for instance, or lots of sport.

At least many more times than before she speaks English. Now she loves Ireland.” / Photo from: athleticsireland ie mile challenge girls pic  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

906. Can you study and understand that map?

One day teacher of English A said to teacher of English B, “The teacher has to teach contents, like history, so as to give an example. The teacher has to present specific points to his or her students. The teacher is like a (or should be), like a source of contents – and source of activitites.

What I wanted to tell you today is that also, and this is important, the teacher has to teach their students to learn.

As a result the students have to learn to learn: the student has to be active before a biology text, for instance, and so this student has to learn how to learn from that given text. It’s him that has to learn skills and techniques to focus on that text.

But, look, this is so important as well: here the teacher has to teach how to learn, how and what learning strategies the student could apply, leaving an ample field for the student to do whatever he thinks it’s good to learn, this is, an ample area for freedom and initiative.

In the case of English: the student has to apply, for example: listen and try to infer what somebody is saying, face the course book and understand what I have to do with this section and more specifically with this exercise, learn memory strategies (think of mental images of a new word, repetition, write new words into meaningful sentences...), learn to use a paraphrasis when I don’t know exactly certain word of the target language and I have got to say something, read a conversation and understand words or phrases (or more advancedly what the relationships among those speakers are). Plus a long etcetera.

In this blog I’ve said many learning strategies suggested by great H. D. Brown and great Rebecca Oxford, and there are labels like ‘learning strategies’, ‘strategies’, and 'autonomous leaners', where you can click and have a peek.

Learn to learn: that makes the difference.” / Photo from: montessoritraining blogspot com. girl studying map

Monday, September 17, 2012

905. A way of practicing the four skills

One day teacher of English B said to teacher of English A, “When we communicate with one another we do it by using the four skills of a language: listening, speaking, reading and writing. So it is sensible you make your students practice those four skills. Your students will be gaining experience by using them. Our students don’t only read and write in English. Try to balance those four skills in your classes. Sometimes one single activity will demand using several skills along it or at the same time.

Those four skills, natural skills, should be assessed and evaluated by you and by your students.

Now I’m trying to think of an activity that should combine different skills in a naturalistic way – it isn’t complex at all to think of one. Well, you can work on an article about the formation of the mountain ridge of Sierra Nevada, near Granada, south of Spain.

Those mountains are ‘young’ and ‘new’: as far as I know they are growing in altitude; they aren’t mountains that are only being eroded like any other mountain in the surface of the earth.

Briefly. It's just an example. First you all can discuss about the fact that this ridge is going up, and you present an estimation of how high the peaks were millions of years ago, by means of diagrams projected by a video projector.

After that they can listen to you reading an actual article about all this.

Then you all can shortly keep on discussing about this phenomenon. Then you teacher hand out copies of the article among the students.

They’ll have to orally present a summary of the article. So they read the article, while they’re writing notes about important facts and points. Don’t do this activity very long.

At the end one student will present a summary of the article, and you could ask for further points from the other students, so as complete the information or make predictions for the future.” / Photo from: antonioboveda blogspot com. Recursos Didácticos de Ciencias Sociales. Formación geológica de la Península Ibérica. Los grandes períodos de la historia geológica de la corteza terrestre. Sierra Nevada should be in the southern side of Sistema Bético. Península Ibérica is Portugal in a rather small part of the west and Spain is the rest of the peninsula, the larger part of it. The photo right below was taken from post # 503.

Friday, September 14, 2012

904. Just watch and try to understand

One day English teacher A said to English teacher B, “Do you remember how important was to have visual aids when you were teaching at the former school? Visual aids can be very useful, yes sir. Even necessary sometimes.

The English language enters children’s minds also through images and visual stuff. Now I can remember some examples you utilized, albeit some of them were time-consuming anyway.

Think of role-plays (the restaurant thing...), think of revising past actions or last weekend things when you wanted to revise past simple as a warmer to the English class. Or when you assigned them as homework to cut off the pieces of food packages with the ingredients in different languages, or you might also think of the set of flash-cards, word-cards, or the poster of the parts of a house that colleague of yours lent you.

Well, you had just the very chalkboard, where you used to draw so many things, and they liked the puppets, etc. Or as well the description of those colorful photos from that magazine: the first turn was for you to describe pictures, whilst they were only listening, and after that you discussed upon the pics; even often it was the very students that struggled to describe the pictures themselves to their classmates. One last example could be when the kids had to make a sentence by sorting out the mixed words into the correct order.” / Photo from: cnn com. elementary student writing on chalkboard    

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

903. Do you feel like citysightseeing?

I’ve just returned home. Once again I have heard different languages along the streets. With the ‘plus’ of having been walking along the streets of so a marvelous city as Granada, south of Spain. When walking every day from one place to another I can hear different languages. All sound nice. I ain’t exaggerating, people. 

I like languages. Maybe because of that I studied the degree of Philology of the English Language. You know, I can hear English, in two varieties: mostly American, but also British. Did you know that in Granada we each year have about 2,000 American students - also in Seville for example?

These young people come from Texas, California, Illinois, Connecticut, Delaware, Alaska (!), Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Oklahoma, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland...

Also you’ll hear musical French, plus Italian, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, other Asian tonal languages I can’t recognize, also Slavic languages, African languages, varieties of Spanish: Bolivian, Argentinian, and Brasileiro Portuguese. / Photo from: wonderfulworldreview blogspot com. patio de los leones. ‘The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex of the Moorish monarchs of...’
(Today I have prayed for the 9/11)      

Monday, September 10, 2012

902. Do you remember the story of Oliver Twist?

One day teacher of English A said to teacher of English B, “A few students have a continuous feeling of failure. They never feel satisfied in spite of the good grades they get. They have a low self-esteem. You may be thinking of someone right now. They move on a field where all is black or white. They don’t like themselves. They can be perfectionists.

It’s sensible for you to notice this problem. That kid may be in need of a pediatrician or a doctor, or a talk with his parents.

From your side, tell him, at the tutoring sessions with him, the things he’s doing well and talk about his good points. Better: ask himself first. Let him say what he thinks are good points of his.

As well it’s important that boy should make friends and get concerned about his friends’ troubles and try to tell them some good advice or help them at some subject.

Treat that boy as better than he is or seems to be. I’d even tell you to presume good things he does. In all this way hopefully you might reinforce his good qualities. I'd say the same for girls and female teachers.” / Photo from: pbs org. oliver twist movie   

One more thing: try to teach your kids how to accept themseleves the way they are, this is, to accept himself as he is, however he is; and then, in a sane way, the next step is to try to better himself, by striving in small things and goals concerning his studies for example, with your help and the one of loving God and the one of his family. Work on that line. I added these lines Tuesday, September 12, 2012.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

901. Only if professional excitement

Quite many years ago, 25 exactly, so in 1987, I made some friends that in September were already reading handbooks and reference books about linguistics and philology. Then, in those years, college academic years began in October, and finished in mid-July.

Anyway, these guys started to read and study stuff. They had what French people say se réjouir de, have a professional excitement for their degrees. Or what we in Spanish would say ilusión profesional.

Classes would start so late, and thus my friends had decided to start something on their own. They attended college libraries, and they were getting more and more eager to learn further.

Now concerning English: who’s the winning person? The one that really, really wishes, and puts all he can do into practice. / Photo from: guardian co uk. Holly Bleasdale. pole vault at 2012 UK Olympics   

Friday, September 7, 2012

900. Just Hi and some announcement

Just to tell the people that were in my circles on Google+ that I've deleted my account because of a small problem which popped up somewhere concerning that account. I tried but I gave up in the end. It's a pity I had to say good bye; maybe temporarily; who knows? Ah, that small problem has nothing to do with the marvelous program of Google+ / Photo from: palaces and gardens of Alhambra, in Granada, where I live. You cannot miss it!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

899. Relax and then see to it

One day teacher of English A said to teacher of English B, “Some teachers think their last class was a complete mess, a complete failure, and all the students were disruptive and all went awful. This may happen particularly the first days of the school.

I’d tell that teacher to try to think about all this mess later; now, let him do something else, like planning another class for other students – let him try and relax.

Within a couple of days or even the next day he can think about what really happened. That teacher will be more capable to specify problems, the people involved, the root of the problems. Misbehaving students’ bad stuff that awful day is usually less significant than what the teacher thought.

Now, after few days, the bad student’s response to a correction is going to be more positive, for sure. And talk to them one by one. And please listen with an honest interest.” / Photo from: drinking coffee at work. 65 percent of workers drink coffee in US

Saturday, September 1, 2012

898. New things, new words

Here you have a thread post by jcl in , which is the interesting Web site of British Council – BBC, this one now about guessing the meaning of words and phrases from the context and other must-read things. Don’t miss it; it’s useful and usual. After that you have a reply by me. / Photo from: 947fueraderutina blogspot. el animal es una ballena

Meaning from context and learning phrases

Submitted by jcl on 24 August, 2012 - 18:06

We've been looking at working out meaning from context in different forms, with different texts for about a month or so now, and this week the students really seemed to have made it their own. As a teacher, I like this because it means much less dictionary time, while providing the students with a viable alternative. And I also like to think that I'm providing them with skills that they can use outside the classroom, too, when a dictionary might not be available. 

Additionally, some of the students are really starting to engage with phrases and chunks of language that they are learning and trying to use - it's great to hear them drop them into conversation (almost) fluently. So, I feel a lot of the vocabulary learning techniques that the students have had the opportunity to try in class have been useful in ways personal to each of them - phew!

However, these techniques seem to be most effective when the students already have a good grounding in most of the individual words (i.e. they know the meaning and use of topic-specific nouns, adjectives, etc.). If the students are not so familiar with the topic, they tend to focus on individual words and their meanings, rather than the phrases. When the topic is very new to them (like sports equipment this week), there are lots of new individual words for the students to learn.

A comment from a student, that she confused new words if they were of the same group when she first learnt them, made me think of an article from Nation in TESOL Journal, where he recommends not teaching new vocabulary in lexical sets, having found that students find learning words taught in such a way more difficult.

I found this a very interesting article, and if anyone has any comments, ideas, or opinions of similar or different observations from their own teaching or comments made by students, it'd be great if you could share them. Also, what do you (and/or your students) believe is more useful to them: individual words or phrases? Thanks!

Nation, P. (2000) 'Learning Vocabulary in Lexical Sets', TESOL Journal, pp.6-10

My reply:

Hi jcl and everybody else,

An interesting article, because it's something we encounter every day, so to speak.

Honestly I don't follow a single way, you know, Here you are, and what do you think, Ana, 'ruthless' mean. I do this quite often, but other times I write a series of words on the whiteboard and we sort of do plenty of different activities before reading the text with those words: try and guess, I'll say it myself, Pedro look up this word in the dictionary, let's see who's the first in finding the word in the dictionary, or guessing from a possible cognate word in Spanish (our mother language), or who can approximate the meaning from what you see, or here you have a clue.

We have fun, more often than not, and sometimes I present the phrases with an example or whatever, and many other times, I let them look up the meaning.
The point is having fun and much better if the thing we implement could help them some way to remember the words and expressions on coming days.

I hope I've said something useful at all.

Nice regards and best wishes


Teacher of English and teacher trainer

Granada, Spain

Further just if you wish: