Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Designing activities in the classroom for "slow students"

During the last school year I did a quite complete unit of work about animals in grade 3 (8-9 years old).

We worked about animal kingdom classification, body characteristics, habitats, food, movements... The main objectives were to work the description, and to cover some grammar chunks like “They’ve got...” or “They haven’t got...”, They live in ...”, They can or they cannot”, “They eat...”, They are..., etc. 

Due to the diversity in the class I had to adapt lots of materials and activities, in order to cope with the different learning rhythms. While some of the children were quite confident in writing descriptions and speaking in front of the class, some other need help for completing the texts or just for understanding simple animal descriptions. 

So, I decided to work with the fast finishers (not always the best the students!), to develop two “listening activities” for their partners (slow students). 

The first activity was a matching activity, and the second one was a filling the gaps activity. Thinking about it and with two difficulty levels was a complex challenge for them!

Moreover, they had to write and design the activity with a word processor; they had to record their oral descriptions in a voice recorder; they had to look for clear images in Google, etc.

Finally, we edited the audio files with Audacity and recorded the activities in Mp3 format. 

And this was the result. I assure you, it was a complete success. We worked some key skills in a very motivating way, we "personalize and individualize" some tasks (always very interesting whe working with SEN or slow students) and we "climbed" some steps in the Bloom's taxonomy, making "things" more challenging. 

We are already thinking in how to develop new activities, not only for slower students but also for youngers in the school with our own voices, photos, videos or whatever.

Activity 1

Activity 2

Thursday, September 22, 2011

SEN Teacher

This is a very useful site not only for students with special needs and learning disabilities but also  for educators of primary and elementary students (SEN stands for Special Educational Needs)

SEN Teacher provides cost-free teaching & learning resources and, it is specially useful for ESL teachers that search for English literacy resources in primary.

In SEN TEACHER you can find flashcard templates that can be customize. Actually you can use them for any subject or area, because the web allows you to use any language. There are nice sets of photografs you can use at your own way.
I want to emphasize the list of web links  with cost-free learning resources, and the section of freeware tools download for sen and other educational software.

All the resources are free for use in schools and at home.
  • Maths Printables has a selection of free printable worksheets, cards and maths manipulatives.
  • Literacy Printables has handouts and teaching aids which suppport reading and writing.
  • Other Printables has certificates and resources for Science, PSHE and other subjects.
  • Web Links lists favoured websites with cost-free learning resources and information.
  • Downloads has freeware special needs and educational software from several sources.
  • Search Tools are custom Google search engines which index free resources and info sites.
·         http://www.senteacher.org/Home/

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

We're going to be friends


This is Jack Johnson's cover of the White Stripes' "We're Going To Be Friends", from the album "Sing-A-Longs & Lullabied For The Film Curious George"! 

It is a good song resource to start with at the begining of the new school year. Vocabulary revision, filling the gaps, British vs American English, rhyming, clapping, rythming, strapping, illustrating,... And what's more, very adaptable to any primary level!

Fall is here, hear the yell
Back to school, ring the bell
Brand new shoes, walking blues
Climb the fence, books and pens
I can tell that we are going to be friends
Yes I can tell that we are going to be friends

Walk with me Susie Lee
Through the park and by the tree
We can rest upon the ground
And look at all the bugs we've found
Safely walk to school without a sound
We safely walk to school without a sound

Well here we are no one else
We walk to school all by ourselves
There's dirt on our uniforms
From chasing all the ants and worms
We clean up and now it's time to learn
We clean up and now it's time to learn

Numbers letters learn to spell
Nouns and books and show and tell
Play time we will throw the ball
Then back to class through the hall
The teacher marks our height against the wall
The teacher marks our height against the wall

And we don't notice any time pass
Because we don't notice anything
And we sit side by side in every class
The teacher thinks that I sound funny
But she likes it when you sing

Tonight I'll dream in my bed
While silly thoughts run through my head
Of the bugs and alphabet
And when I wake tomorrow I'll bet
That you and I will walk together again
Because I can tell that we are going to be friends
I can tell that we are going to be friend.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Spanish or Catalan? A controversy that is anything but academic

Education experts fear that students will suffer as long as sterile arguments over outdated "linguistic immersion" approach rumble through the court.


Héctor García could well symbolize the success of the Catalan education model: at age 26, he is the son of parents from a small village in León, and considers himself a happy bilingual speaker. After two decades living and working in Barcelona, neither one of his parents - who moved here when Héctor was three - is able to sustain a five-minute conversation in Catalan.

Marina, on the other hand, symbolizes the other side of the coin and embodies the controversy sparked decades ago over the issue of linguistic immersion. This mother of a gradeschooler who does not wish her real name to be used to avoid being called "españolista" (pro-Spain, rather than pro-Catalonia), turned to the regional government to demand more classes in Spanish for her daughter. "I am not against Catalan; I want her to learn it and speak it correctly," she says. "But I think it is totally exaggerated to leave out Spanish."

Read the complete article written by FERRAN BALSELLS 15/09/2011 in ELPAIS.com in English

Thursday, September 15, 2011

About teachers in Finland...

The last but not the final word about Finnish teachers and Finland educational system. 

How wonderful it must be to be so valued by your community as a teacher. I am a trained foreign language teacher and the comments about immigrants continuing with their own language is supported by world wide research. Well done Finland!

I love my job. I have been teaching since 1980 and I have seen a lot of changes. I have learned much from my peers and my students. My country needs clever and exciting people to teach the clever and exciting students we've got!

An interview with Henna Virkkunen, Finland’s Minister of Education By Justin Snider

(Hechinger Report, March 16, 2011) 

Monday, September 12, 2011

My Lesson Plan Grid (3)

This is just an example of a Lesson Plan grid with the required minimum information:
  • Objectives
  • Basic skills references
  • Assessment criteria
  • Content
  • Activities
  • ...  
For me it is much more clear when Objectives, Basic skills and Assessment criteria are at the same level related one to each other.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Eight tips to start the new school year

How to start a new school year and manage the stress

Tips for a new school year start

The summer holiday is over. It is time to think of the new school year. And while some are eager to kow their new teacher and meet their friends to tell them about all their summer adventures, others are more worried about the new year. Here are some tips for a smooth school year start that will help you beat the stress and organize your study environment.

Find the complete article in My English Pages. Behind this page there is an EFL teacher, currently working in a Moroccan high school. 


Thursday, September 08, 2011

Web 2.0: Cool Tools for Schools

Web 2.0: Cool Tools for Schools is a great site with hundreds of educational web 2.0 tools and "techy" resources for teachers and students.

The resources are sorted by categories 19, in total!):

  • Presentation Tools
  • Collaborative Tools
  • Research Tools
  • Video Tools
  • Slideshow Tools
  • Audio Tools
  • Image Tools
  • Drawing Tools
  • Writing Tools
  • Music Tools
  • Organising Tools
  • Converting Tools
  • Mapping Tools
  • Quiz and Poll Tools
  • Graphing Tools
  • Creativity Tools
  • Widgets
  • File Storage & Web Pages
  • Other Helpful sites

Do not miss the "Teacher's Resources" page with lesson plans, classroom management, readings, tools for different school subjects, links, and much more.

I have spent many hours surfing the site and discovering great 2.0 tools to be used with my students in the class or for myself. A site you must bookmark and share with other educators.

Winner of MERLOT Award for Exemplary Online Learning Resources – MERLOT Classics, 2011-

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

To help you in planning a lesson... (2)

“When you design a plan there are a number of questions you must think carefully about and answer (these will help you, a lot!):
  1. What are the inputs? This means you have the information (content description, student characteristics, list of materials, prerequisites, time estimates, etc.) necessary to begin the plan.
  2. What is the output? This means a description of what the students are supposed to learn.
  3. What do I do? This means a description of the instructional activities you will use.
  4. What is the contribution of the lesson plan to the basic skills? This means to think about the basic skills that will be put into play when developing the lesson.
  5. What do the students do? This means a description of what the students will do during the lesson.
  6. How will the learning be measured? This means a description of the assessment criteria and procedure at the end of the lesson”.

It is very important, as well to consider the following:

  • There is an immense difference between being able to plan and actually being able to carry out the plan. 
  • No lesson plan is able to support “life of the classroom”. There are many little things that distort the lesson plan and even make change it completely.
  • Reflection on your daily practice will carry you to the experience. This means teachers need to become “great thinkers” and experts on improvisation, in the best sense of the word.

“However, if you have thought carefully about where you are going while writing your lesson plan, the chances of your success, as well as the success of your students, are much greater”. 

Friday, September 02, 2011

Lesson Planning (1)

It's September and most teachers begin a new school year. Among hundreds of different tasks, there is an important (very important!) thing to do: Lesson Planning.

Throughout my career as an elementary teacher, I had the opportunity of supervising some future teachers in their school preservice training. One of the most important goals of this training is to design a lesson plan and bring it into practice.

Many of these students have guidelines (usually, not very explicit!), which have been provided by the University. They try to follow them literally, but when we (together) review the lesson plan (either before or after carrying out the lesson), it often reveals some mistakes that distort what are supposed to communicate.

These are the most often ones:
Teachers taking decisions with care...
  1. The objective of the lesson does not specify the achievements that can be observed.
  2. The instruction is not coherent with the level of student learning (age and cognitive levels).
  3. The activities designed in the lesson plan do not contribute in a direct and effective way to the lesson objective.
  4. Contributions of the lesson plan to the basic skills are not formally stated.
  5. The materials specified have nothing to do with the described learning activities.
  6. The assessment criteria are disconnected from the behaviour expressed in the objective.
If a lesson plan contains one or more of these mistakes needs some rethinking and revision.

Here it is a rationale and guide to help you develop effective lesson plans and avoid these common mistakes.
Apartats unitat programacio
View more presentations from Enric Calvet.
More on Lesson Planning 2