Saturday, March 29, 2014

"My School Windows"

Once more, as every year, we are ready to celebrate our School Spring Festival. 

This year we want to show to parents our teaching philosophy, how children learn in the school, how we cope with diversity and how we take care of different learning styles and different intelligences. So, we called the festival “Les finestres del Pau Vila” (The windows of the school Pau Vila), as we are constantly open windows to the world, looking the world through them and letting the whole world to come into the school.

To me and to all the school children are protagonists of their learning, not the teacher. This means giving the child the main role, enhancing their autonomy in taking decisions and actions in all frames of their learning. 

We teach in a holistic way, because we learn in a holistic way.

And this means learning from experiences: Experiences help us develop the human qualities of happiness, pleasure, joy, attention, concentration, awareness, expression, creativity, respect, outside and inside silence ... They also provide security and help us to affirm the inner self-esteem that we all need.

How we do that?

  •       By making learning visible.
  •       By engaging in meaningful activities, such as problem solving, discussions, or narratives, the learner’s interlanguage system is stretched and encouraged to develop.
  •       By giving learners tasks to transact. They provide an environment which best promotes the natural language learning process.
  •      By doing Project Based Learning because

a)      It is student-centred and there is constant checking, revising, feedback, and reflection.
b)      PBL has a recursive nature: It starts at some point, and then at another point later the class moves on.
c)      PBL is cross curricular and integrates content, knowledge and skills from different subjects.
d)      This is the authentic–and messy–competence-based learning.
  •     By using metacognitive strategies

You can hardly imagine how the school looks like during the festival! Showing all the productions, projects, outcomes and thoughts from all the school would be a hard work and sure I would miss some very important issues (if someone record a video, soon I will post it in here!)

But I wanted to show in this blog what children said and did about our English classes.

After Christmas we started the project to show “How do we learn English in the school?

First of all we collected some information among all the English students in the school, from grade 1 to grade 6, this means... 325 children! Then, three questions arose:

  1. How can we show to parents the way we work in the English class?
  2. What project or projects have you enjoyed the most this school year?
  3. Think in one sentence that defines the way we work English in our school.

With the information we got from this little questionnaire we started to think in our particular display. First we transformed some shoe boxes into windows. Inside the windows we placed our favourite projects or tasks. Then we decorated the box, added some curtains or blinds, and that’s it! 
The result was a big display in the school corridor.

I think the photos in the following PowerPoint will give you an idea about our “Display of Projects”.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Blended Learning

“We’re currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist... using technologies that have not been invented... in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet”.

Is our education system prepared for this “difficult task”? What are the main problems we must face?

This “old” video (2008!) makes us reflect about the following facts:

  • An updated and relevant education is not necessarily the one that only is based on the use of technology, even being this essential! 
  • An important step to give in education systems depends on better integration of the two types of learning that every child experiences: the formal and informal.
  • "Learning can happen anywhere." 
  • We need to change the focus from education to learning. 
  • We must start to see the information as a production and participation incentive and not as an object of mere consumption. 
  • Institutions must be changed by networks. 
  • We should recognize the skills that enable young people to participate in a democratic society, to join the labour market and extend their learning throughout life. 

Is “Blended Learning” the future of learning?

According to Clayton Christensen Institute: “Blended learning involves leveraging the Internet to afford each student a more personalized learning experience, meaning increased student control over the time, place, path, and/or pace of his or her learning”.

Blended learning is not the same as technology-rich instruction. It goes beyond one-to-one computers and high-tech gadgets.

The definition of blended learning is a formal education program in which a student learns:

  1. at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace; 
  2. in part in a supervised "brick-and-mortar" school structure away from home; 
  3. and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.

Have a taste on Blended Learning with this short video (there is an extended version in Vimeo). What do you think about? What will be the future of teaching and learning second languages in the school? Are we all well prepared for the very next future?

What is Blended Learning? (short) from The Learning Accelerator on Vimeo.

Friday, March 21, 2014

An Example of CLIL Module: Making Grape Juice in the class

This is an update of a previous post.
In one of my previous posts A Science Workshop in English I suggested the idea to offer “CLIL modules” on language and content, one or two hours per week.

The aim of these modules is to offer a "language shower" and to cover some basic aspects or sub-competences both in English and the chosen subject: it is to say a “short-term high-intensity exposure"!

The following Power Point, made in one of my science module class, was done taking benefit of the research project done in L1 and L2*.

We used the English language as a reinforcement of the content, transferring cognitive processes between languages and as a communicative gateway to explain other students and parents the work done in the school.

And here you are a snippet of the presentation in front of the class:

*L1: Catalan
*L2: Spanish

In addition to language, you can do many things in English, even scientific, natural or social content.

Classroom life is an important source for topics in any area: children find animals (insects or arachnids) in the playground or bring a drawing of an old Egyptian cryptogram or a photo of a castle… Every single thing can be the flash point for a new project or research.

This is a multidisciplinary challenge!

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Teaching Maths Through English or English Through Maths: A CLIL approach

Are you thinking in doing some CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) next year? Is Maths your favourite subject to do it but the staff of your school thinks that this is a too tough for to be taught in English? Need some good reasons to convince parents and teachers? Or, are you not sure about some "language" issues when teaching maths...?

Here you are some good "references" may help you!

1.  Teaching Maths Through English. A CLIL approach. This is a book is designed to help CLIL  Teachers practically and effectivelly teach maths through the medium of English. Written by experienced CLIL teachers, it provides useful tips and guidelines on how to plan lessons and develop activities and resources in support of a CLIL approach.

Teaching Maths Through English. A CLIL Approach University of Cambridge. ESOL examinations. From Enric Calvet

2. Another suggestion is to read the following article written by Tracie Heskett "How to teach Math to English Language Learners" in
"Students who are still learning English need instruction in vocabulary to help them understand new math concepts. Exposure to the language of mathematics will help them learn to talk about and write about what they are learning in math"

3. Practice makes perfect, and IXL makes maths practice fun! IXL motivates students through interactive games and exercises while keeping teachers and parents informed and involved. With more than 2,500 skills spanning preschool and grade 11, IXL offers a dynamic and enjoyable environment suitable for any learning style. Students who use IXL are succeeding like never before.

4. Primary CPD in Pinterest 
Hundreds of resources curated by Claire Corroon. She's providing in her web page Math strands and strand units for Infants to Sixth Class, and Teaching Methodologies and Approaches. Really helpful!

I know there are lots and lots of web pages in the net about Maths and Language Teaching (CLIL). With some calm you can find your way through this mess of information. I suggest starting with: 

CLIL: Teaching Math to Language Learners from Shelly Terrell