At the end of January, I wrote a post inspired by Volkswagen’s Fun Theory competition. (If you missed the original post, it’s here: The Fun Theory in Language Learning) As often happens, as soon as I had “fun” on the brain, I started seeing posts and information related to this topic all around me in cyberspace! (more…)
I said this recently during a discussion and I think it is such an important point to understand about “teaching” a language – that we have to get away from delivery systems that are teacher directed and more towards models where students are self-paced, self-motivated and learning independently. The future IS learning not teaching. (more…)
This Valentine’s Day, since all the chocolate in Japan goes to men, I’m enjoying spending some quality time with the longest (non-family) relationship in my life: teaching. (more…)
Part of the series: Stuff All EFL Teachers Should Know
Mind Mapping for Writers Article 3
We’ve come to the last of three posts about using mind mapping for writing. The first article looked at using mind maps to brainstorming, capture and organize ideas. The second talked about focusing on an idea and adding details. This final article will look at how to use what you’ve entered into the map to help you write your article, play, novel or, yes, even your school or business report. Mind maps are content- and purpose-agnostic. Use them for anything that requires thinking, planning, organizing, or writing. (more…)
Try something that makes you feel foolish.
Something that guarantees you’ll make mistakes.
Something that frustrates and overwhelms you.
In other words, do something that helps you remember what it feels like to be a beginner. (more…)
It’s the last day of 2010, and a good time to reflect on the year that’s nearly done. This is the 110th post since I began this blog in June of 2009. I know that’s not a lot compared to really prolific bloggers, but it’s enough to thrill me. I began this blog as a way to learn more about connecting with teachers online, but wasn’t really sure how well the experiment would work, or what direction it would take. I had a vague idea about creating a community where EFL teachers around the world could share stories about their unique teaching environments and share wisdom garnered from their teaching experiences. (more…)
Branko M., Assistant Professor of American Literature of the English Department (Faculty of Humanities in Serbia), has been so kind as to give me the opportunity to present in a webinar some of the challenges teachers worldwide need to face if they wish their teaching to result in efficient learning on the students’ part. Although I feel fortunate to have been trusted with students of all ages and levels, the difficulties posed on the way have been numerous, also allowing me to take delight in their resolution. (more…)
In the time I’ve been exploring online opportunities for teachers, I’ve come across a number of incredibly cool people who organize workshops and conferences, create tools, nurture groups, and try to make the world (both virtual and real) a better place for us all. Just in case you haven’t already met these people or heard about their efforts, this post begins a new series introducing them. I’m calling it ‘Very Cool’ because, well, that’s what they are and that’s how I actually talk . When I wrote the first draft of this post, I focused on the people who make everything happen. However, I realized that they usually choose to stay in the background and would much prefer to shine a spotlight on their heart-projects, and so I changed the focus. (more…)
I had planned on taking a bit of a break from creating quizzes based on blogs by members of my Personal Learning Network. Then Anne Hodgson (one of the members of said PLN) sent me a message on Twitter, telling me about an upcoming event in Germany—ELTAS Tech Tools Day.
Now, I would do just about anything for Anne, so here’s a special edition of my PLN Quizzes, especially for Tech Tools Day participants. (Of course, you can take the quiz whether or not you are at Tech Tools Day!)
The quiz has five questions, based on five blog posts. Each has something useful to teach about technology and education.
Read the posts before you take the quiz. The main point here is to direct you to some excellent reading. You’ll also do better on the quiz. If you don’t like your initial score, you can take the quiz again. Again, the main point is learning, not grading. However, you will get a lovely certificate at the end of the quiz to display proudly on your own blog or web page
This quiz is based on the following five blog posts:
The Best Kept Secrets of Highly Successful Edu-Bloggers Part 1 by Karenne Sylvester
Microblogging for EFL with Plurk by Nik Peachey
Wikis by Lucy Mellarsh
Creating your Digital Self Part 1 by Ozge Karaoglu
Commercials in the EFL Classroom by David Deubelbeiss
Click here to take the quiz –> What you can learn from my PLN quiz #6
1. I have slowed down my delivery and instruction considerably. I used to just screech and scream through content. Now, I relax and pause a lot. I take time to enjoy the spaces together. I’ve realized students need things “a lot” slower and this leads to much more effective learning in the classroom.
2. I risk more, I try different things more. Yes, that would seem against the grain of time and tradition. Aren’t old teachers supposed to be “old dogs” without “new tricks”? Not teachers that have really kept developing and learning on the job. I now understand more deeply, how each student needs to learn in their own fashion and way. That’s why I have to deliver content in different ways and modify content much more thoroughly. In my beginning years, the whole class was a “glob” and I taught that “glob” in one way – my way. Now, I use a multi-modal approach and am much more conscious of hitting all the skills and allowing students to reach the objectives in their own way.
3. I repeat content more often. Even explicitly (there is usually a groan!). I’ve realized the value of this and where I used to just assume students had mastered something, now I assess and if they haven’t “learned”, we repeat, in a different manner.
If there are any “old dogs” out there – I’d like to know if your growth curve has been a long the same lines?
But my development as a teacher isn’t the only thing I’d like to write about today. Rather, it is the shadow cast by my own realization that my development is based upon some sound principles. Throughout my years, I’ve become very interested in special needs and how special educators teach. Mostly because I truly and deeply believe that other than with very young children, we are working with “disabled” students when we teach a language. And we can learn a lot by listening to special needs teachers and the instructional techniques and approaches they use.
One of the epiphanies for me came upon reading Kenneth Dinklage, who as a counselor at Harvard, was stunned how many high performing students were atrocious at learning language. He wondered why these brillant A+ students and “brains”, just squeezed by with Ds in their compulsory foreign language courses. So he set out to get to the root of the problem. It wasn’t anxiety or lack of motivation or even study skills. It was the instruction! The students had a deficit in their L1 which caused problems learning a second language. Once Dinklage applied some of the techniques used by special educators – their language learning blossomed.
Ganschow and Sparks extended Dinklage’s research and identified the Linguistic Coding Deficit Hypothesis (LCDH) stating “that difficulties with foreign language acquisition stem from deficiencies in one or more of these linguistic codes in the student’s native language system.” Brown has since labeled it the somewhat generic, SLAAP (Second Language Acquisition Associated Phenomena). I’ve written about this in detail with some practical advice, HERE.
To me, what it all meant was that I began to see many of the difficulties my students (and I!) experienced in learning a language, as something that could be overcome if I borrowed many of the “ways” of special educators. In part II, I’ll be discussing one such technique – the use of repetition. Stay tuned!
Dinklage, Kenneth T. “The Inability to Learn a Foreign Language.” Emotional Problems of the Student . Ed. G. Blaine and C. McArthur. New York: Appleton, 1971.
Ganschow, Lenore, and Richard Sparks. “Profile of the Learning-Disabled Student Who Experiences Foreign Language Learning Difficulties: Curricular Modifications and Alternatives.” (Revised title: “Impact of the Foreign Language Dilemma on College Bound Students with Specific Learning Disabilities.”) MLA Convention. Chicago, 28 Dec. 1985.