Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Importance of Effective Classroom Management

Classroom management has the largest effect on student achievement: students cannot learn in a chaotic, poorly managed classroom. For this reason, one of the classroom teacher's most important jobs is managing the classroom effectively. Teachers' actions in their classrooms have twice the impact on student achievement as do school policies regarding curriculum, assessment, staff, and community involvement.

It is really important of being a balance between teacher actions that provide clear consequences for unacceptable behaviour and teacher actions that recognize and reward acceptable behaviour.

Developing good dynamics of classroom management means, among other important aspects, beginning the school year with a positive emphasis on management; arranging the room in a way conducive to effective management; and identifying and implementing rules and operating procedures.

 But above all, the quality of teacher-student relationships is the keystone for all other aspects of classroom management. Teachers who have high-quality relationships with their students have fewer discipline problems, rule violations, and related problems over a year's time than teachers who do not have high-quality relationships with their students.

From one of my in Service training sessions this school year this are the mind maps teachers did around this topic and the issues they are more concerned about.

 Source: Robert J. Marzano and Jana S. Marzano

I have been using for a while the following links to find good and ready to use resources to cope with classroom management issues:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Role Play in the ESL class? ... It's a must!

Let's pretend to be ...

Incorporating role-play into the classroom adds variety, a change of pace and opportunities for a lot of language production and also a lot of fun! 

At a restaurant role play
Role-play is any speaking activity when you either put yourself into somebody else's shoes, or when you stay in your own shoes but put yourself into an imaginary situation!

Imaginary people - The joy of role-play is that students can 'become' anyone they like for a short time! A pop star, a customer in a restaurant, a shop assistant …….. the choice is endless! Students can also take on the opinions of someone else. 'For and Against' debates can be used and the class can be split into those who are expressing views in favour and those who are against the theme.

Imaginary situations - Functional language for a multitude of scenarios can be activated and practised through role-play. 'At the restaurant', 'Checking in at the airport', 'Looking for lost property' are all possible role-plays.

Why use role-play? 

It is widely agreed that learning takes place when activities are engaging and memorable. Jeremy Harmer advocates the use of role-play for the following reasons:
Let's pretend to be doctors!
  • It's fun and motivating
  • Quieter students get the chance to express themselves in a more forthright way
  • The world of the classroom is broadened to include the outside world - thus offering a much wider range of language opportunities
Role-play is possible at elementary levels providing the students have been thoroughly prepared. Try to think through the language the students will need and make sure this language has been presented. Students may need the extra support of having the language on the board. I recently did a 'back yard sale' role-play with primary learners and we spent time beforehand drilling the structures the students would need to use. When the role-play began the students felt 'armed' with the appropriate language. At higher levels the students will not need so much support with the language but they will need time to 'get into' the role.

The role of the teacher

Some of the possible teacher roles are:
  • Facilitator - students may need new language to be 'fed' in by the teacher. If rehearsal time is appropriate the feeding in of new language should take place at this stage.
  • Spectator - The teacher watches the role-play and offers comments and advice at the end.
  • Participant - It is sometimes appropriate to get involved and take part in the role-play yourself.
Bring situations to life

A simple prop may help a lot!
Realia and props can really bring a role-play to life. A group of my young learners recently played the roles of customers and the waiter in a restaurant. A simple menu made with photos, a notebook and a cloth on the left arm made the whole process more fun and memorable for the class. As soon as it was placed on their heads they 'became' customers and waiters and acted accordingly.

Rearranging the furniture can also help. If you are imagining you are at the hairdresser or at the doctor's try to make it as real as you can. Students can even leave the room and make an entrance by knocking on the door.
Try to keep the roles you ask students to play as real to life as possible. This may involve using some L1 to explain about the local culture or to translate local menus into English for the guest to their country. 
Some scaffolding is always welcomed!

Feed-in language

As mentioned in the role of the teacher section, feeding-in the language students need is fundamental. By doing so, they will learn new vocabulary and structure in a natural and memorable environment. It is a chance to use real and natural language.

Error Correction

There are many ways to correct mistakes when using role-play. It is rarely appropriate for the teacher to jump in and correct every mistake. This could be incredibly demotivating! Some students do like to be corrected straight after a role-play activity, while the language is still fresh in their minds. Sentences with errors can be written on the board for the group to correct together.
  • Self-correction - If you have the equipment to record the role-plays on video, students can be given the opportunity to listen to the dialogue again and reflect on the language used. They may find it easy to spot their own mistakes.
  • Peer-correction - Fellow students may be able to correct some mistakes made by their peers. Students could be asked to listen out for both great bits of language they'd like to use themselves, and some mistakes they hear. Be careful to keep peer-correction a positive and profitable experience for all involved.
  • Making a note of common mistakes yourself and dealing with them in future classes ensures that the students don't lose motivation by being corrected on the spot or straight after the role-play. Negotiate with students and ask them how they would like to be corrected.

Use your imagination and have fun

Role-play can be a lot of fun. If you still feel reluctant to use it in the class I suggest you begin to integrate it slowly. Why not extend an appropriate reading or a listening from a course book and turn it into a role-play? You may be pleasantly surprised by the results! 

Role Play - Gillian Porte Ladousse (Oxford 1987)
The Practice of English Language Teaching - Jeremy Harmer (Longman 1989)

Monday, June 09, 2014

The Importance of the Linguistic Landscape on Language Learners

"Plurilingualism" is a common phenomenon in our cities and big towns. It can be studied from different perspectives including the use of languages in the sociolinguistic context.

One of the possibilities is to analyse languages in context by focusing on the written information that is available on language signs in a specific area. This perspective is known as the study of the linguistic landscape, which has been defined as follows:

The language of public road signs, advertising billboards, street names, place names, commercial shop signs, and public signs on government buildings combines to form the linguistic landscape of a given territory, region, or urban agglomeration. The linguistic landscape of a territory can serve two basic functions: an informational function and a symbolic function. (Landry & Bourhis, 1997: 25)

But, how might language learners benefit from studying (in) the linguistic landscape?

The use of the linguistic landscape as a pedagogical resource within multilingual educational contexts is an area of increasing interest in sociolinguistic research. The study of publicly displayed texts, such as advertisements and road signs, is now beginning to find favour in L2 classrooms, particularly in English as Second Language (ESL) contexts.

As an example of EFL classroom project related to the Linguistic Landscape I would like to mention the “English Literacy Walk”.

This is an excursion taken for the express purpose of teaching and learning about written English: The students are required to collect and analyse photographs of English used on signs in our streets.

It has roots in activities developed for emergent readers and English language learners in English dominant societies: ‘walking field trips’ and ‘environmental print walks’. These activities were created to encourage the emergent literacy of children, speci´Čücally the capacity to recognize environmental print long before entry into school and formal literacy instruction.

The activities typically required students to read signs, billboards, and so forth while teachers took photographs for follow-up work in the classroom. Pedagogical linguistic landscape projects can be valuable to EFL students in a variety of ways, particularly in the development of students’ symbolic competence and literacy skills in a multiliteracies sense.

To learn more about the Linguistic Landscape and how does it affect to minority Languages, I suggest you to read this paper / research done by Jasone Cenoz, University of the Basque Country, Donostia_San Sebastian, Spain and Durk Gorter, Fryske Akademy/Universiteit van Amsterdam, Amsterdam,The Netherlands.

Linguistic landscapes and minority languages from Enric Calvet

You can also have a look to this my old post: Barcelona Linguistic Landscape