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.


Saturday, 4 February 2012

Our four great friends !

We all know about the four necessary skills  for learning a language : listening, speaking, reading and writing.  To be aware of  them and to  use  them,  lead us  to an effective communication with people. Last week, our main concerns were " listening " and " speaking , the first skills we always begin with when we start our teaching-learning process.We usually hear that a good way to learn a language is to  do it as children learn their L1 They acquire the language by listening to their parents and,then ,by imitating what they say.That means, as part of  a natural process.   In that  moment, they are not aware of  speech formation or grammar yet. That comes next, as a relevant learning process in their lives.

When children acquire the sounds of the target language and are able to  reproduce them,they are ready to start  reading : isolated words , then phrases and simple sentences until  they get to more challenging structures. They get a sense of "satisfaction " when they can read something.  Next,  they start  writing  what they began to read. Writing is not something they enjoy doing so much, but   they understand that it is part of their learning process and, I am sure that when they see technology being applied in writing  they will  really enjoy it .I found some good sites during our search where children can practice all language skills. Some of them are :  . Here, they play online  games to practice vocabulary and compound words, among other contents.  I  like  a  dictionary  that  I found for kids at : and a site that I really enjoyed was:  is a selection of stories read online by well-known actors.  And there is still much more.

I am also interested in young / adults and I found interesting sites for them too.  One  of  them is about images. that  you can use for free. It is found at : To end up, try to take a look at : It will surely help adults to improve their language skills.

Have  a nice weekend you all !

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Week 4 : The always expected storytime !

Have you heard kids say  I do! I do!  when you finish reading a story and you ask  " Is there anybody who wants to read  ?  Yes, children enjoy reading  and acting stories out. They are all " little readers" and " little artists" who enjoy " reading time " and  " acting time " .They have a great advantage, I think. They like doing things, to be considered, to have a sense of belonging,  and  they want to participate, even though they  may not be the best readers or the best actors or actresses, they just want to participate... They have an inner motivation that we, teachers , feed with the activities we propose in class, our attitude towards teaching and our sense of caring. They are in the right moment, the right age and the right place to acquire the language in the best possible way, to identify the sounds of the foreign language and differentiate them from the sounds in their own language , to utter words with a good and understandable accent, to start recognizing words, reading them silently and aloud and to start writing the words they have already learned.  As time passes, they are not going to be only isolated words, but phrases, sentences and paragraphs As children,"  they play, learn and grow together." After all, they are the center of the class and we are the effective guides who help them attain their learning goals.