Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Lotus Blossom Technique applied to the ESL class

In my school the Language Assistants (within the Project “Sharing to Learn”) and I have used a technique called “Lotus Blossom” with our students of grade 4 and grade 6.

The purpose of Lotus Blossom is to generate ideas that are connected to other ideas to stir speaking up. I use it in my classes as a way to present specific structures of language, practice fluency and for students to generate content to fit into a structured conversation.

This is a basic step by step for using Lotus Blossom:

1. Draw a circle on a cardboard. Write the context, idea or question that will generate conversation for the lotus blossom. For example: Where do you want to go in summer?

2. Elicit one or two answers for the first stage of the idea generation on the board. For example: Explain that students can think of many different places to go.  Pass out post it notes and have Ss use post it notes to put the words around the circle (as they continue to be added will give this the look of a real flower).

3. Circulate as Ss write information to the first idea. When finished draw Ss attention to the cardboard. Review previously elicited ideas. Now ask the second question. For example: Who do you want to go with?

4. Allow time for the Ss to write the second tier.

6. When finished draw Ss attention to the cardboard. Elicit the third tier. For example: What are you going to do there? Model with three additional answers. Have Ss write on a post it and complete the third tier.

7. Once finished introduce the structure using presentation techniques. Then have Ss use the language generated to have a conversation. It is also a good technique for assessing speaking.

Point to one of the places on the cardboard. Write the question on the board. “Where do you want to go in summer?” Say the question. Point to a place. Have Ss answer with the place you point to. Write the question. “Who do you want to go with?” Point to the post it. Have Ss answer. Write the final question “What do you want to do there?”

A: Where do you want to go in summer? (Where are you going...?)
B: I want to go to ______________. (I’m going to...)
A: Who do you want to go with? (Who are you going with?)
B: I want __________ with _________. (I’m going with ______)
A: What do you want to do there? (What are you going to do there?)
B: I want to ______________. (I’m going to _____________)

The Language Assistants model this conversation with the students. They take the role of A and the student the role of B. Point to the answer on the cardboard for student to use. Exchange roles and have students take the role of A, while Language Assistants take the role of B.

I have found this Prezi called "Let's your ideas flower like a lotus blossom" that clearly explains how it works. 

Thanks a lot to Sara Davila for her examples and models of how to apply this technique to the ESL to improve communication while developing creative thinking.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Good Language Learning must be Competent

"Sometimes we forget the real basis of a Competent Learning".

The four components that make up a Competent Learner are:
  • Making Connections, 
  • Being Imaginative, 
  • Being Creative and 
  • Representation 
These components are all interconnected. They all involve children in exploring, experimenting, looking for similarities and differences, interacting, imagining, creating and representing as they seek to learn about the world around them.

These components also begin to mean that children can share their understanding of patterns and relationships, their thoughts, feelings, understandings and identities with others using drawings, words, movement, music, dance and imaginative play.

But what about the Competent Teaching? And what about the Competent Teaching of Language?

“Ahora ya no sólo es suficiente adquirir unos conocimientos o dominar unas técnicas, sino que es necesario que el alumno sea “capaz” cognitivamente y, sobre todo, en las otras capacidades: motrices, de equilibrio, de autonomía personal y de inserción social. Propuesta curricular por capacidades como antesala premonitoria de las competencias. No es suficiente saber o dominar una técnica, ni es suficiente su comprensión o funcionalidad, es necesario que aquello que se aprende sirva para poder actuar de forma eficiente ante una situación concreta y determinada. Y en eso estamos”.

Antoni Zabala y Laia Arnau “Como aprender y enseñar competencias”

"L'éducateur a la responsabilité de susciter le désir d'apprendre. Tout enfant a spontanément le désir de savoir. Il cherche à percer le mystère de ses origines, il veut savoir qui sont ses parents et pourquoi ils le grondent… Il veut savoir comment être aimé, comment obtenir satisfaction… Il veut savoir «comment ça marche», comment fonctionnent les objets qu’il a sous la main et le monde qui l’entoure… Mais vouloir savoir ne signifie pas vouloir apprendre. D’ailleurs, quand on observe un enfant qui veut faire marcher un appareil et qu’on lui demande d’interrompre son tâtonnement fébrile pour écouter une explication précise, il manifeste de l’agacement, reprend l’objet et nous signifie qu’on lui fait perdre du temps. Apprendre, c’est accepter de perdre de vue, au moins un moment, la satisfaction immédiate. Apprendre, c’est, souvent, gâcher du matériel ; c’est, toujours, surseoir à la volonté de réussir dans l’instant… Et cette rupture entre savoir et apprendre est exacerbée par les progrès techniques : ces derniers, en effet, permettent, de plus en plus et systématiquement, de savoir sans apprendre". 

Philippe Merieu

"El mes important és el procés que segueixen els nens i nenes per resoldre una situació: construir un pensament que pensi". 

Juli Palou, 2009

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Project about Castles

As a teacher of young learners of English you know (of course!) the value of using stories in the classroom. They are a powerful tool not only for enjoyment and motivation, but also for learning British culture, traditions and festivities, and so on.

In Catalonia we have the tradition of telling the Legend of St George (our saint patron) to children the 23rd of April.

Children are usually interested in finding out the differences between their own culture and the culture of children in the UK. The legend of St. George and the Dragon has a strong connection between the British and the Catalan culture, as it is a story with deep roots in both cultures.

Related to this legend we read about the legend of King Arthur, his treasure and the knights of the round table.

The starting point was was a MacMillan book for grade 5. But the surprise was that children were more interested on castles than on the legend itself! Reading about ghosts, buildings, inhabitants and black stories was a great prompt to start a project: My castle.

In the following Power Point you can have a look to the process and the possibilities this project offers to young learners of ESL.

An imaginary version of a legend can help a lot when deciding what and how to do our castle!

Click on the image!

Monday, May 05, 2014

A New Architecture of Project Based Learning?

During this school year I have been developing a new architecture roadmap to implement project working in my esl classes.

Some things I have considered:
  1. “Project-based learning requires much preparation and planning as we don’t use any text book or activity book”. 
  2. "Project work begins with an idea and an essential question” 
  3. "The learning process is very student centred" 
  4. “It is important to remember that many content standards will be addressed”
  5. “With these standards in mind, design a plan that will integrate as many subjects and/or knowledge as possible into the project”
  6. “I must have in mind what materials and resources will be accessible to the students”
  7. “It is also very important consider the students need of assistance in managing their time **a definite life skill!” 
  8. The role of the teacher/lecturer is to facilitate rather than teach
  9. “Finally, I must strongly think about multiple tools for assessing my students' completion of the project: 
    • Did the students master the content? 
    • Were they able to apply their new knowledge and skills? 
    • Did they work in a collaborative or cooperative way? 
    • Where they able to apply IT skills?” 

All these reflections drove me to prepare the following Power Point addressed to an “in service teacher training”.

Assessment doesn't just happen at the end of a project, of course! Here you are some tips, tools and strategies to help with formative assessment.

And, just a final paper to shed some more light on PBL strengths...