Monday, November 28, 2011

Categorizing and classifying bugs

"Classifying Bugs" is a short project made by the children from grade 2 (7 year olds) in the School Els Convents in the ESL class. 

At the beginning of the school year some children brought to the class some bugs. They didn't know the difference from insects to arachnids, molluscs or worms. So we decided to work the animal kingdom classification in the English class, not only as a way to integrate content and language, but also as a motivation to use the language for communicating real facts. 

First we observe and analize real bugs and toy bugs: we discover some characteristics and discuss a model to classify the bugs according to the number of legs, wings or not wings, shell, body parts (head, thorax, abdomen) ... 

Then we classify them into insects, arachinds and molluscs in a very visual way. You can see the outcomes of this part of the project in this Power Point.
Finally, after oral practise using the main vocabulary and basically two grammar structures ("has got" and "it is"), the children made a description of their favourite bugs. In this Power Point you can see some of the descriptions they made.
You can have a look to this reference: "Categorizing and classifying animals", an article by Judy Haynes in for further support in planning a project like this.

In this project we are moving from level 1 to level 4 in the Bloom's Taxonomy adapted for English Language Teaching in Primary Education: identifying, categorizing and classifying, making models, describing... are some of the cognitive activities involved.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Reflective Practice in Primary education

© Enric Calvet

It is the language of reflection that deepens our knowledge of who we are in relation to others in a community of learners.
Carole Miller and Juliana Saxton, University of Victoria

Teaching is often a dynamic, sometimes chaotic, and complex practice. We as teachers must constantly make judgments about planned goals, teaching methods and students' ways of learning. Teachers also have to evaluate their beliefs about teaching and learning, how do they influence classroom practice and how their teaching philosophy will affects future actions.

No teacher education program can prepare teachers for all the situations they will encounter.

Teachers will have to make, by ourselves, lots of decisions from among many alternatives. Such judgments may be good or poor, and it is important for us to constantly reevaluate our decisions.

Reflection on one's own work is a key component of being a teacher professional (Schön, 1983) and is essential to teacher education. Reflection improves teachers' ability to make appropriate judgments and allows us to become great decision-makers.

The process of teaching reflection (ARC cycle)
But how to do that?

Reflective Practice can be a solution 

First of all let’s consider three main ideas to take into account when we are starting a process of reflection on our teaching practice for any kind of purpose (changes, improvement, new knowledge, new hypothesis and new tries of activities…)

  1. Nobody improves in an area if is not aware on his/her own strengths: What am I good at? This is the key question. This is a question you must answer in silence if you don’t want to seem a little pretentious.
  2. Once we have identified our strong teaching points, we must identify the areas we have to improve by ourselves (another intrapersonal question that should be answered in silence)
  3. We have to make explicit our theory of best teaching (our beliefs and convictions on teaching ESL).
Key questions

When we think in our performance as teachers or just when we finish an activity or session we can use some strategies to be more conscious; probably one of the most important one is taking distance, being as much objective as you can, looking back and answering the question why did I do what I did?

If you consider there is something that doesn’t work in your activity, session or performance you can ask yourself, what can I do?

But maybe you are completely satisfied of this, and you feel happy; then ask you the question what am I proud of? What am I good at?
It is important at this point to share reflections with others: with colleagues, with people who feel similar with empathy; and if you’re lucky enough with an expert (but not any expert can work with symmetry with you!).

It is also very important to remark that we must focus on one topic to reflect and to think about it.

With all of these considerations there is a final question we have to deal with: What kind of reflection?

The reflection we’re talking about goes from the GENERAL to the FOCUS, like a magnifier glass (Gestalt).

The main objective or goal of the reflective process is to flow ourselves into the autonomy of our own learning. It is important a “face to face” with our own performances, realities, problems and circumstances, and doing a continuous reflection of our everyday practice. And, of course, it is important to do it in an autonomous way; what it’s called an “auto-regulative dimension”.

It is in this moment, when we observe our reality and our performance that we get our “research question”. –That is the focus or the question “what do I want to improve?” (E.g. “Is it my vocabulary, my “face”, my miming... rewarding enough? Should I help children to correct their grammar on their own or should I correct them for myself?)

The ALACT model (Korthagen, 2001)
All of these questions must lead us to plan an action for answering our research question, to act consistently, to observe ourselves in action and to reflect again for evaluation and /or to start the reflective cycle again.

"Mask Dance". An activity of evaluation after a Reflective Practice process. Activity suggested and directed by Zinka Carandell in Departament d'Educació, Generalitat de Catalunya.

More about reflective practice

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Miss Andrea's blog

This is a blog that I especially like: Miss Andrea's blog

It is full of resources for the teaching of English as a second language to very young learners (kindergarten - "infantil"). Andrea has made a deep research on the net finding materials, worksheets, videos... and stuff for IWB, too!

One of her last posts is all about working Autumn in the ESL class. A PowerPoint made by her is the starting point to develop this memorable season.

It is worth to have a look!

And do not miss the page about Halloween with lots of resources to be used in our classes.

Thanks a lot Andrea!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

14 Places To Make Comic Books And Strips Online

Making comics, strips, animated movies, stories or designing super heroes is always fun.

Made with
And not only fun. In Primary we can take benefit of the enormous possibilities that making comics can offer to ESLT. You can use them as prompts for writing. Its is a great way to motivate students to tell stories, personal feelings, anecdotes or facts, and as improvement on grammar, vocabulary or tenses.

Today I bring you 14 online places to invite children to make their own comics. Some of these places are so easy to use with very youngs: they will create comic books and strips in minutes. Some other, more challanging, will inspire upper primary students to make complete stories in English.

Notice that the sites are classified into easy - medium - difficult, according to elementary and primary uses.

This is a basic Comic Creator with predefined templates. Once you finish the comic book you can print it, or start the new one (easy)

Make Comic Books And Strips Online - My Story Maker

Your students will make a story through few easy steps. Once you get in, you’ll choose a character, add items, scenery objects, and adjust scene settings (easy)

Just select a scene, a hero and add a dialogue. You can easily give predefined
actions to your hero: jump, kick, twist... (easy)

Students can make their comics with the help of the Easy Builder or with the help of the Super Builder. The Easy Builder is faster, simplier and ideal for writing a quick stripe or joke. The Super Builder is advanced and students may use it if they want maximum control over their strips: custom layouts, character poses, detailed scenes, and more. (easy - medium)

Toondoo combines several tools: ToonDoo Maker, Book Maker, ImagineR,
TraitR, DoodleR. Hundreds of possibilities. Just learn by yourself! (easy - medium)

First, students make the character, then they make the strip. By combining the two, students can create really funny comic strips.(medium - difficult)

Make Comic Books And Strips Online - Write Comics
They can use predefined characters, props, aliens, and animals, as well as predefined backgrounds to create their own comic books. Moreover, they can add dialogs and put words into their character mouths (easy).

This is a site to design an illustrated book. Students can choose among different backgrounds, backdrops, characters in different poses, props, and of course text (easy)

A very unic place to make comics with black and white characters, objects, shapes, and bubbles. It looks very professional (difficult)

This is a site for your students to have fun by creating their own comic strips. They can choose their actors from predefined characters, they write words or thoughts, and that's all! They only need little creativity and start exploring new possibilities (easy).

You can do comics in many different languages. Pixton is completely customizable. You can move characters into any pose, bring avatars to life with animation or set key frames. The final outcome can be send by email, embed in blogs, and print it (medium - difficult)

KerPoof is owned and operated by Walt Disney company. Children can make artwork, animated movies, printed cards and stories (easy)

The hero factory allow your students to make a hero. They can choose hero gender, upper body, lower body, add props, etc. It is not exactly a comic maker but a hero character maker to be included in their comic books (easy)

Hero Machine is similar to The Hero Factory where you can choose male or female hero and build them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Content and Language Integrated Learning Resources (CLIL)

I like to share with you some interesting links for those teachers who are doing CLIL in their schools. And very especially for those who do science in English.

First I would like to highlight the blog "Free Technology for Teachers" written by Richard Byrne (a blog that I strongly recommend!). It made me discover Simple Science Videos on Vimeo: 91 videos you can use to help explaining science facts.

A video about what do plants need in order to grow well is embedded below.

The aim of each video is to give a clear explanation of science topics that elementary and middle school students can understand. Free Technology for Teachers blog comment: “Designed primarily for elementary and middle school students, Simple Science's videos are entertaining and informative videos for introducing a new topic to your students. The collection of videos is also good for independent learning by students. These videos could be included in slide presentation that students may give as part of research assignment”.

Another interesting site for CLIL Science teachers is Kids Health in the Classroom. It is a site to find lesson plans, videos, and games for teaching health topics to students of all ages.

You can find a large set of teacher's guides containing lesson plans, activities, and worksheets to download from pre-K to high school about human body, health problems, and personal health.

In Kids Health in the Classroom you can find The Game Closet containing games, movies, quizzes, and activities for learning about topics in health.

The Game Closet could provide some individual activities that your students can do to reinforce the ideas that you teach in your classroom.

This is just an idea:
Mission Nutrition game