Day 19 – How Students Can Reflect on Learning

Day 19 – Name three powerful ways students can reflect on their learning, then discuss closely the one you use most often.

Empowering students to take control of their learning means giving them tools to be aware of whey they stand in their learning journey and how they can make more of it happen.  But, to be honest, I clearly provide more ways of checking goal achievement, than tools and support for reflecting.

I think there are some very effective ways for students to think about how they need to direct their learning: guided group discussion, regular checklists, surveys and formative assessment. I think the whole classroom would benefit from incorporating some edtech tools to facilitate this action to happen on a regular basis in class.

What I mostly do now is talk a lot about their own learning; I try to motivate situations in class for them to reflect.

  • At the beginning of the school year I will always spend a class talking about student’s expectations and learning bios. I will often have students sit in groups and discuss how they feel about the school year, and their goals with the help of a series of prompts. “What are your goals this year?” “Wht are your strengths/weaknesses when learning a language?” “What are your favourite games or activities related to language learning?“If there were one skill you would like to be good at, what would it be?” It is very helpful because, regardless of learning stlyes (which I don’t get into) they have all had very different experiences with language learninng. They are given the chance to share their experiences, and hopefully, leave the class with an idea or two for the upcoming year. MOTIVATION: What are your goals is an activity I always on the first of class for everyone to stop and think for a while.
  • During  the course I basically talk to them about their progess, especially after they have handed in some assignment or test, and I’ll usually ask them questions to trigger reflection on their learning.
  • At the end of the course I always propose an end-of-year survery that features questions about the classroom, materials, etc but also about their learning experience. It is just as helful for me as it is for them. Some of the questions they are asked are What have been the most useful actions for learning?” What would you have done differently?” I think it is necessary reflection for them in order to verbalise and measure how they performed and get ready to step into a new stage of their learning process.

I’m sure I’ll learn a lot these days about ways for students to reflect with all the fabulous #reflectiveteacher bloggers!

Of Classrooms and Gardens

Day 18 Create a metaphor/simile/analogy that describes your teaching philosophy.

Gardens teach you about life, while you patiently watch over it and nurture it. It teaches you about yourself and challenges your ambitions. It requires hard work, experience and trust. It is also about making decisions, respecting the wild and providing the right tools and help to make it all survive.

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Day 17 The Giant Leap

DAY 17 – One big challenge in education today.

“That’s one small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind” (Neil Armstrong’s words on first setting foot on the moon, in 1969)

I sat down to write this post and I just didn’t know where to start. We are facing many challenges ahead, and developping all the ideas in one single post is really hard for me right now.

But to me, it all boils down to start walking. And this doesn’t seem to be so easy.

I know we are talking about education, but I think the main challenge we face as educators sometimes resembles the enormous challenge we have as individuals in a world where we don’t really know where are are heading to.

We are being constantly told about global warming and deforestation, and many other pressing issues that have to do with the environment; but regardless of the insane amount of information, I am not sure there has been an active response by mankind yet.

It is true that there is money being invested and policies, and there are more and more people concerned and doing their little bit to protect our planet; but if the impact of our actions equalled what we know and the depth of our conversations about it, we problably wouldn’t need to worry that much.

In education I can see some similarities. There is much uncertainty about the future (uncertainty is a big burden), economic cuts, bigger classrooms. Fear of change, diverse points of view…. lots of talking, and splashing in the same old puddle.

But, there is some hope, indeed. There is a growing community of people who are not only aware, but also share. They are helping many other educators by giving them a hand to step out of the puddle and start walking. Somewhere.

It is just that little step at a time what we need to shape a better future.

So, come on, man has walked on the moon….shouldn’t we be able to take that giant leap here on Earth?

 

 

If I Could Have One Superpower

Day 16 Teachthought reflectiveteacher challenge
If you could have one superpower to use in the classroom, what would it be and how would it help?

So, it’s about superpowers today… I can even hear imagination clipping its wings! It is funny, but I have used ths prompt myself on several occasions in the classroom for students to answer, but it is the first time I ever think about having a superpower myself. Not in class, I mean.

My choice is clear:

It would have to be something that allowed me to walk around the class unnoticed.  Not that I am too nosy or anything, but sometimes students do perform differently when I am around. I can tell that when I am not right next to them, they are less hesitant and engage without so much control.  After all, they know they are being observed…by their teacher. It is natural, I suppose. They are probably expecting me to correct them at some point. No wonder they sound less fluent than they are.

That is why I have developed a habit of listening from a certain distance, at least for a little while, until they are comfortable with the speaking activity and are slightly carried away by the conversation.

So, my first choice was to have super hearing, just like the bionic woman. But then I suddenly imagined myself wandering about the room staring into space and looking really concentrated. It sounds a bit weird.

That ‘s why my final choice is invisibility straightaway. Just a couple of minutes now and then. Let the students take control of the class, of what they say and how.

But I’d still be there listening, and getting a better insight as to how they manage on their own.

 

 

Day 14 – Feedback for Learning

Day 14 – What is feedback for learning, and how well do you give it to students?

I was really looking forward to today’s post, as I’m certainly going to learn a lot from the ideas that the #reflectiveteacher bloggers share about feedback. It is definitely one of my priorities as a teacher, one of the fundamental features that we have inbuilt in our nature. When we claim that we adopt the roles of monitors and guides, isn’t it because we are able to provide learners with precise and personalised information in order to facilitate their learning journey? When meaningful feedback is missing, no matter how good the materials or the resources are, a learner will be like shooting in the dark.

We seem to build our knowledge on cooperating and using the content in real life contexts, so how can a learner go about without receiving any response to these experiences? How can they develop their language skills if there is nobody around to tell them they communicated effectively or not? That said, a teacher may be considered the traditional provider of feedback, but I would not forget the powerful role of peers who react and also respond to the learner’s words.

But to be competely honest, I need to revise now and then how I am dealing with feedback in class, because I admit that I sometimes opt for the easy way out by saying things like “good job” “well done” “oopsy daisy, be careful with this or that“. But highlighting the mistakes and giving only some general praise or advice may be insufficient, and even misleading. And while it is true that giving feedback on a daily basis in large classes can be quite daunting, it is not fair to limit a learner’s feedback entirely to a grade in a mid-term test, because the information is nowhere near from being informative as to how to identify the gaps and reshape their learning strategies from then on.

It is necessary to design a regular formative assessment scheme throughout the year. The most frequent ways I usually deal with feedback are:

  • Correcting students’ oral and written productions on a regular basis. As I explained in New Year New Tech, I will introduce a couple of changes in order to do this more efficiently in class, which is where I could do with some extra ideas.
  • Relying on peer assistance (also known as “my classic fiasco”). This is a strategy that has been unsuccessful year in year out in my classes. I have tried modelling examples of feedback, showing them the invaluable help that they can give to each other, and even tried less threatening responses like signalling, o responding with body language. But I am still seeking a formula to get the students involved in giving each other feedback in a relaxed way.
  • Mid-term test.

I would also like to point out how important feedback is for me as a teacher. I learn so much from the students in class every day by keeping an eye on their reactions. I also interpret the mid-term test results for my teaching activity, and how it can be improved in order to meet their needs.

I usually carry out an end-of-year survey using google spreadsheets to determine how students felt about their leanring experience and how they rate their own work and the atmosphere in class, etc. I have always found it very useful, because I think students feel free to speak their mind and be honest.

And if there is one thing I have learnt from these surveys is that the information that sticks are the comments and the opinions. I can’t really tell what the classroom atmosphere scored on a scale from 1 to 10, but I do remember a couple of suggestions from students that I took into consideration, for example.

As a conlusion, feedback works best when it is informative and honest and when all the actors involved are perfectly aware of the task objectives, what was expected and what it turned out to be. It is a basic activity for self-reflection and growth.

 

 

 

Day 13 -Top Edtech Tools

My picks for today’s prompt “Name the top edtech tools that you use on a consistent basis in the classroom, and rank them in terms of their perceived effectiveness

TWITTER

It is an essential tool in my PD. Microblogging is an engaging way to create a sense of community. We used it for microblogging and shared ideas and documents about the topics we were dealing with in class. The students have the chance of even building their own personal learning network, which is something I am very interested in promoting in class.

WORDPRESS

Perfect for providing an authentic environment for developping writing skills and sharing ideas.

YOUTUBE/VIMEO

Essential for language learners. Millions of authentic listening opportunities available.

INTERACTIVE WHITEBOARD

Great classroom tool for proposing entertaining and challenging activities. It has the power of transforming the traditional physical characteristics of a classroom.

MOODLE

I must admit it may not by my favourite tool but I cannot deny it is the one that has problably had the greatest impact in my classroom. Learners feel comfortable accessing content on a closed institutional system where they know their data is protected. It caters for a great deal of relevant actions: from informing, creating quizzes, to assessing.

It is curious how this post summarises where I am in the edtech world right now. As I am about to change a few things, I wonder what this post will look like this time next year…

Day 12 In Five Years’ Time I Will…

I remember when I used to fantasize about the future and look into it 30 or 40 years ahead. It was like imagining a science fiction film with its futuristic setting and flying cars. Well, trying to imagine what my life in the classroom will be like in five years’ time feels a little bit like science fiction to me. Everything is changing so quickly nowadays.

A little exagerating, you might think; after all, I don’t really expect my career to change that much. I’m very likely to go on teaching English at a school of languages, probably different levels, and maybe adapting to some minor changes in assessment or in testing. Who knows?  I mean, I don’t really think my students’ profile will vary significantly in five years. Also, the general context where I teach is unlikely to suffer much transformation.

But it is still difficult for me now to figure what I will be doing then, because I’m right in the middle -or beginning- of a forever changing journey, promoted by the constant release of edtech tools, connections and experiences that are shaping which direction to take, I would say, at breakneck speed.

I feel really lucky to be developping a PD scheme that is allowing me to go through all these experiences because they are opening the doors to unexpected new opportunities. For instance, I would have never guessed only a month ago that I would be reflecting so much on my teaching experience, and every day! But I am. And it will have an effect in the short run. I know that.

However, If I were to point out a couple of tangible predictions, there are two things that I expect will happen by 2019. I think the blogging community with my students will have consolidated (most likely it will have developped) and flipping the classroom should be perceived as something more familiar by then.

More changes are to come, but I am sure it can only get better.