Thursday, 15 March 2012

Week 10 : Not an end, a restart !

And  we  reached  the  end  of  our course.  During  ten  weeks,    we have  been  focused  on  a   great adventure :   " The Adventure of  becoming learners once more " And quite an adventure !  I would like to reflect , from the bottom  of  my  heart ,on  what  this experience has been to me.

" Building Teaching Skills Through the Interactive Web "   Wow !  I   started reading the first mail that  our  core instructor  sent  us  and I  realized  I was going to be involved  in a real adventure. Where should I begin? The blog! Oh yes! I had heard about blogs.  I  had  seen  many  of  them  posted  and  I  had even read some of them.  But  having my own one... ?  This  certainly  was  a challenge.I had a helpful handout in my hands but I still was not sure. What if I made a mistake ?   Or  if I  spent so much time on  this  leaving  even  more  interesting matters aside ?  

I asked for help to my colleagues at school , the week before my summer holidays started, and it was good !   They  were really helpful. I asked for help to our instructor,    I tried on my own again and  it was great! I ended  up by having " two "  at  the  end  and a  draft ( I guess the last one cannot be counted here )  I  have  one   where  I only  posted   about  the first  week  and this final blog. That  was  the  first  lesson  that  I  learned : To diminish  the  level of anxiety. To  teach  myself   the  same  things  we  always  teach  to  our students : To  trust  oneself  and  the  people around  you,  to have the conviction  that, if you are really into something,  you can  accomplish  your goal,  even  if  it looks hard at the beginning. And I did ...

My second task was to learn to organize myself,  to  try a routine for a couple of days and see if it worked well. If not, I would  try another one. To organize one ' s work was useful for me. I  gave all   readings  and  assignments the same degree of importance, so I needed  to make the best use  of  my  time to fullfil  the requirements of the course. At  the  end, I can only say that  I do not know  if  I  did  everything  right, I  just  know  that  I  was  there.

Deciding  on  the level,   was another issue,  too   and  I must  confess  that I kept  changing  my   decision quite often. Older or younger students ?  Finally,  I   made up my mind and chose my younger students at school  (  I  dedicated  a  task  to  the  university  students, too though )  When I narrowed my search, I started searching information and focusing my readings on " elementary students "  but  I  did  not  leave aside  a lot of interesting  data I found for older learners, too. Our biggest goal ? The final project. As I was working on it, I was trying to  imagine my students in the different situations I added : The pronunciation tool, the online games and a final small blog based mainly on pictures, that I planned for them. This  course  based on technological tools has motivated me quite a lot.  You end up with a feeling of keeping on searching and finding things out. I know  I will probably  not  have much available time ahead now that I am back to work, after the holidays, but I will certainly try to find the time to continue this wonderful search.

A  big  thanks  to  the  American  Embassy  and to the University of Oregon for giving educators around  the  world  this  great  opportunity  of  keeping on learning and improving their language skills. A big and special thanks to our instructor Janine for her support and quick response to our needs,  for  her positive  and constructive  feedback  and  for  providing  an effective and friendly learning atmosphere.  All  of  this increased our desire of not being " absent "  from  her class. A big thanks to the guest moderators in the course, who provided more insights into our learning ,and  a big  thanks  to my partners for giving me the opportunity of learning a little bit more about  people  from different  parts of the world. I probably did not "meet them all " but I read posts  quite  often  and  that  gave me some insights into their culture. Thanks for allowing me in and comment on their blogs and for the nice comments I received on mine.

In Week 9 , I wrote " A Teacher 's Thanks " from my pocket book " Hugs for teachers " Before I finish, I would like to share something else from this book :

From the section  "  A Teacher is " 

                                " ...  You are a diplomat
                                   and an acrobat.
                                   You are a farmer.
                                   You are a friend.
                                   You tell stories.
                                   You mend fences.
                                   You build dreams.

                                   You ' re an instructor
                                   and a trainer,
                                   a communicator
                                   and demonstrator.
                                   You ' re a Teacher !
                                   You 're Incredible !
                                   You 're Supreme !

I still cannot believe that this is my last task in the course; but this is not the end anyway, but a
As always " see you online " I know we will see each other  somewhere
                                                                                                                 sometime ...
A big hug.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Week 9 . Insights into multiple intelligences.

What a topic !  Going into  learning styles and discussing about multiple intelligences is very rewarding.This week, we learned about the different learning styles students may  have to   learn a language, and how learners may apply different learning strategies to acquire better learning. Learners may have various learning styles but there is still one more predominant than the others. We ,educators, also have a big variety of methods at our disposal, but there is also one we tend to stick more to. We need to take this into   account. We should not expect our students to adap to our methodology. Conversely, we should adapt our teaching strategies to our students' needs. This means that, although there is a teaching method we like more than the others, we must apply different learning approaches so as to match the different learning necessities our students have. The online survey is a good starting point to know about our students' learning syles and our own. I , myself, enjoyed taking this survey and know a little bit more about myself. I could see that it seems that I, myself, have different styles.This is true for anybody and, it becomes even more true for our students.They may have a predominant style, but it is not , certainly, the only one.

Parents can also help their children attain their learning goals. As it is said here, and in the article " Forget what you know about good study habits " by Benedict Carey, sometimes a quiet corner of the library is not precisely the best location for acquiring better learning. The opposite , seems to be right. This leads us to think that some children, at home, will acquire better learning by being in a quiet room, but  some students will feel much at ease and will learn much better with some music around. The environment may also affect the quality of learning expected.

We, always give opportunities to our students to communicate in the target language. I learned in  " Saling the 5Cs with Learning Strategies " that, besides communication, there are four more Cs we need to concentrate on : Cultures, Connections, Comparisons and Communities. This means, students should communicate their ideas in the language, they should gain certain understanding about the target culture, they need to connect with other disciplines and acquire information, they need to compare the target culture with their own and  they should participate in multilingual communities at home and around the world. The article can be found at : http://www.nclrc-org/sailing It has good ideas on how to apply some
activities to meet the five Cs mentioned above.

In my post on Nicenet,I provided the site for a book that appeared in an artice from the New
York Times. The book is " Why don´ t students Like School " by Daniel T. Willingham.This book deals, among other things, with the importance of sincere praise.If you want to take a look at it, the site is :

Some time ago, I was given a pocket book called " Hugs for teachers " Inspiration for the heart. Andrews  Mc Meel Publishing. We are about to finish our course and I would like to share some thoughts from this book before we finish. This little book is divided into 5 chapters. I will share with you, the thoughts on chapter 5 called " A Teacher 's Thanks "
I hope you like them .

" Dear Teacher :

  Thank you for taking the time to talk to me in the hall the other day.You didn't know it, but
  what you said came up at just the right time. I ended up not doing something that   I now
  know would have been really stupid. "

"  Thanks  for  the  note  you  wrote  in the margin of my paper fifteen years ago.I doubt you
   remember  it  but  I   sure do. It  stirred something in me. It lit a fuse that hasn´ t stopped
   burning. I ´m a writer now.  I  hope  that  makes   you proud. Enclosed is  copy of my first
   book. "

" Thanks for really being interested in the point I was trying to make in class last week. I
   think it ' s the first time a teacher has ever taken me seriously. It felt good ."

" Thanks for the personal challenge. I needed it. Thanks for making school fun. The way you
   explain things. I don 't even mind taking notes. "

" Thank you for showing up every day. You ' re the only one in my life who does. "

" Thanks for knowing my name "

Thanks for believing in me even when everybody else ( including me ) predicted failure. I 
   don ' t know what you saw in me. You put up with a lot.  Thanks for not giving up.  "

" Oh, and thanks for all the homework ( just kidding !) ".
                                                                " Love,
Your students. "

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Week 8. Great learning Tools !

Education is not to reform
students or amuse them or to
make them expert technicians.
It is to unsettle their minds, widen
their horizons, inflame ther intellect,
teach them to think straight,
if possible "

 Robert M. Hutchins.

Every week  this course, has new and attractive challenges for us.This week, we had the  opportunity to see a series of different good exercises. At I found lots of activities we can prepare for our  classes. It is a good site and I will further use it. As I said in Nicenet, I decided  to use "Hot Potatoes"instead, to learn more about a program I had heard before.The exercise I prepared in jQuiz, as a diagnosis exercise, is intended for my students at the university. They usually come from different school settings and present quite different backgrounds in the language so, it is good to know them at the very beginning to plan your further work.

Most important of all, is to see the big amount of  activities that we can have for our learners of all ages. They are graded for all the main learning skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. For the younger ones, we can create flashcards, puzzles, matching exercises and similar. For the older ones, we can create traditional tasks like : scrambled sentences and gap-filling exercises that can have clues to help them find an answer.These traditional type of exercises are usually more attractive when you provide them online. Students may also create their own tasks for another student to solve. This is a step in their autonomy  as learners .All in all,  the opportunities are endless, we just need to be aware of them and learn about their educative and meaningfull advantages.

This week we also learned about ANVILL( A National Virtual Lannguage Lab ) This speech based-tool  offers a wide range of opportunities for teachers and students. It seems that you can have everything grouped in one place. I learned about its features and possibilities at the site Its designer is Jeff Magoto, director of the Yamada Language Center in the University of Oregon. I am grateful of the big amount of infomation he provided about this course management system  that may, definitely, be a great improvement in the English class. We also had to check our partner ' s  draft report for the final project . It is interesting to see the good ideas my peers are coming up with 

       Well another  working week ended...I started classes at
       school this week and I believe I am  becoming as busy
       as my colleagues have been since the beginning of this
       course.  Although  I  have not told my second graders     
       about the blog yet,  they  liked  the  idea of having more 
       technological tools in class. I also like the idea that this
       course is not over yet. I am waiting for another good  and
       interesting week to start !

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Week 7 : The Autonomous Learner and the one computer class.

What is learner autonomy ?  When I started reading this article, I thought I was going to find a simple definition of the term,  something we all agreed on.  However, as I said in my post in nicenet,  I realized that there are different approaches to this term. In  broad words, we know that it refers to the ability that a learner has to take responsibility for his/her own learning.  It sounds easy to understand, but it is certainly not so easy to accomplish . I believe this is one of the ultimate goals we, educators have. As we  are preparing children not only to learn about different topics, but also to apply that knowledge in their lives, we need, mostly to prepare ,to guide and to help them choose the right tools to gain independance , to believe in themselves and in their learning capacities so that they become, finally, an autonomous learner. In the site provided this week :  we can see the different attributes that characterize autonomous learners.  Some of them are :

They have insights into their learning styles and strategies
They take an active approach to the learning task at hand
They are willing to communicate in the target language
They have  a tolerant and outgoing approach to the target language
Their needs and motivation are important to be considered
They have developed language awareness

By taking a look at this, we can figure out the steps we might follow to help our learners in
search of autonomy.  We must begin by knowing them as much as possible. Some simple issues, such as knowing their names, may mean a lot to them. We  should  know about the different learning styles they have  and include, in our classes, activities that address all those different styles. We must develop tasks to promote more communication in class and contextualize the language they are using. We need also to create a friendly atmosphere, as another additional factor we must always consider. Clearly, students will be more open to acquire, learn and apply a language in a friendly, relaxed and motivated atmosphere, where errors are taken as necessary conditions to improve  learning.  We can flexibilize our learning  by adding challenges and meaningful tasks, so as to  make learners realize how much learning they can get  from their own efforts, search and will. We already have something important : the desire to teach. Our task is now, to keep always alive : The desire to learn.


As  it  comes to  the one-computer classroom , I  learned that  there are different startegies we may do to foster learning. Although it must be difficult to have only one computer when you have a large class, I guess we can manage to work if we organize ourselves with our students. There are a series of  activities proseded  in  the readings that we checked this week, that might help for that purpose. We can even assign tasks to be done at home when do not have enough time
to cope with the curriculum requirements and extra activities. The main thing we should keep in mind, is to give them authentic material  that motivate our students to learn. I think the aricles we read and discussed this week are really helpful and will really benefit our learning-teaching

Friday, 17 February 2012

Week 6 : Big steps back to school

"  Essentially, learning  means  a  
                                                   change in your thinking, a change in your    
                                                  feeling, a change in your behavior. Learning      
                                                    means that change takes place in the mind,
                                                              in the emotions, and in the will "
                                                                               -  Howard G. Hendrick

Another  summer is ending and a new school year full of expectations, hopes and challenges is soon to begin. Once more, we are about to see those little faces in need of heart and mind growing ready to go on. I cannot share with you what I have done with children at school this week, but I can share what I plan to do and how I think children may react in front of that.

Children learn the language as EFL students. They are exposed to it four times a week at school and a little bit more with all the internet games they play at home. My biggest challenge is to help them realize how much learning they can get out of those games and implement a technological change that keep them engaged with the language in and  outside the classroom setting. They get motivated easily in class, but get bored easily too, if the activities are not meaningful for them. So, keeping on with authentic and motivational tasks in class,  that provoke a real interest is, with no doubt, essential. I will begin with small changes that will end up with the final project I want to try .Through listening to stories, children hear the sounds of the language, start understanding about prosody and acquire new vocabulary words. This is an activity they have always enjoyed. Then,providing online tales told  by people whose native language is English, will be a greater motivational factor.
Through many  PBL activities, they can  apply  that knowledge better. Besides the listening skill, they will be applying speaking, reading and writing. Our " four great friends " will lead them to our ultimate goal as educators . " to communicate in the language "


My students conform a group of about twenty first graders. I believe a similar amount of students willl be in second grade this year. They do not have computers in the classroom, but they do have an Audio Room, where we go for power point presentations or alike. Therefore, my main goal in the course is to include a technological tool  in a non-tech classroom. The blog idea, called my attention from  the very beginning and that is what I am planning to do.
I will involve parents too,  so that they help with home tasks.  Parents' involvement in the learning process is crucial, especially  with reference to little kids. I will  start by introducing a pronunciation resource " vocaroo", to make children feel confident with new technology and I will show examples of blogs written by other children  to refine my expectations. We will use the blog  as a helpful resource, as a reminder of activities and as a fun-educational tool.  I will use emails to communicate with parents and children, when needed, and I will use rubrics to assess  students' progress in the language.

I perceive children will adapt to those changes and will react positively to them. Time will define how much of these changes will  remain and will be motivational factors for further use in their on-going learning process. 


Saturday, 11 February 2012

Rubrics and Web quests !

As it comes to rubrics, I may say that they were not new for me. Although I have not used them at school with my young students, they have been used with older students and they have proved to be effective. This type of assessment really seems to be good. As Susan Gaer says in her article rubrics "clearly show the students how their work will be evaluated "
This means that you may discuss with your students the behavior criteria expected of them, and propose the necessary changes. This seems to be fair enough and it seems to motivate students more. I will start using them in my PBL activities with my children,too

As regads to webquets, I may say that I learned about them in this course. A good starting point for me , was the site : This site gave me insights of what they were about. You provide students a task, and a set of information resources needed to complete this task. Students describe what they have to do, answer questions, organize the information and come to a final conclusion. I really like the fact that students are provided with the sites before they start working. This way students do not need to spend a long time searching information, but applying the information in their work, As it is mentioned in the same page, " they are designed to make the best use of a learner ' s time." In reference to webquests. As Iwas searching information, I came to an article about " project approach ". Here, it is clearly specified the difference between a systematic instruction, where students acquire skills, and a project work, where they apply those skills in meaningful contexts. I think, the site is worth a try. It is :


I think most of us are inserted in systematic instruction, where we use a textbook and apply traditional tets, but if we have a flexible curriculum, we can match traditional assessments and alternative assesments, as we do at school.  Children really engage in PBL activities. They seem to be enjoyable, meaningful and lead them to real communication, the main and most significant goal we , as educators have, for our students.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Week 5 . Learning through projects

And we are already in week 5 !   It  seems  that  we  have  done a lot, but it is good to realize that we still have much more to discover and learn. We began the week by reading articles about Project Based Learning ( PBL ) and alternative assessment. When I started reading the article   "LessTeaching and more Learning " by Susan Gaer I remembered why we are here, why we are taking this course. We are learning, growing, getting ready to prepare a project that we will prove with our students. We are having  an online course, focused on a project This is the way we are learning and this is the way our students should learn, too.


I  really  believe  that students have different possibilities to learn; they learn through games, music, poetry, they may reinforce difficult structures  with the use of technology, they get their knowledge in and outside the classroom; and the largely  proven and more traditional  methodologies can also  provide good results if we apply them considering the students, their needs, and making learning significant for them. However, the instance in which they really feel involed,  more motivated and willing to keep on learning is when  they work with their peers,  when the do hands-on activities,  when they are allowed to make mistakes, because they are part of their learning and when they see that all the differentl skills are needed  to support their work. Here is, then,  when PBL gains relevance and  we feel we need to include it in our classes. This leads us, then, to alternative assessment.

As children have different abilities and they learn in different ways, we need to choose the appropriate assessment for the specific task that they are doing.  As it is mentioned in the article : " Practical Ideas on Alternative Assessment for ESL students " by JO-Ellen Tannenbaum, Montgomery County Public Schools ,  " Consideration is giving to the learning styles, language proficiencies, cultural and educational backgrounds and levels of students. " through the use of alternative assessment. We just need to be aware of the different possbilities and apply them in our classes. In my next post this week, I will talk about webquests and rubrics.