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Professional Development

An “old dog” and “special tricks” (by David Deubelbeiss)


hands Over the length of my teaching career, I’ve changed in many ways. I think my journey mimics that of a lot of other ELT teachers.

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!

References:

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.

What You Can Learn from my PLN Quiz #5 (July 9th)

Part of the series: My Personal Learning Network

Congratulations!

Anne Hodgson

Janet Bianchini

Sue Lyon-Jones

Michelle Worgan

Catherine Dorgan

Sabrina (more…)

What You Can Learn from My PLN Quiz #4 (July 4th)

Part of the series: My Personal Learning Network

This past week, some readers let know know that one of the links was broken in my post for PLN Quiz #4, and others let me know that they couldn’t access the quiz website. I appreciated the time they took to 1) try and take the quiz, and 2) tell me that there was a problem. (more…)

What You Can Learn From My PLN Quiz #4 (June 28)

Part of the series: My Personal Learning Network

Congratulations!

Colin Graham

Catherine Dorgan

Harini Dwi

Janet Bianchini (more…)

What You Can Learn from My PLN Quiz #3 (June 23)

Part of the series: My Personal Learning Network

Congratulations!

Arjana Blazic

Catherine Dorgan

Jane Barden

Katerina Zempeki-Stamelou

Leahn Stanhope

Marisa Parvan (more…)

What you can learn from my PLN Quiz #2 (June 18)

Part of the series: My Personal Learning Network

Congratulations!

Anne Hodgson

Arjana Blazic

Janet Bianchini

Leahn Stanhope (more…)

What you can learn from my PLN (June 13)

Part of the series: My Personal Learning Network

This post is inspired by several things: The “It’s worth taking a look at this blog” initiative that had folks recommending blogs they liked, Darren Elliot’s call for us to find and recommend hidden gems from blog archives, and my own (long neglected) posts about “What I’ve learned from my PLN.” (PLN stands for Personal Learning Network. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, read “What is a PLN, anyway?”) (more…)

Love and Respect (by Melania Paduraru)

A few days ago, a much younger colleague of mine in her first teaching year was complaining about how difficult it is to be a teacher and how stressed she feels when entering a classroom full of 14 year-olds who sometimes give her a really hard time. Too absorbed by my own problems, I left the teachers’ room without a word.

I went through “the business of the day”, got home, cooked something, had lunch and took a nap in the afternoon. When I woke up, my first thought was: “I’ve been teaching English for as long as she’s been in this world, she’s half my age and she’s got no experience, of course the 8th graders are a handful!(more…)

Children are Always Cute (by Esra Girgin Akiskali)

A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.”  Forest E. Witcraft

Children are always cute and eager to learn but unfortunately they have very short attention spans and affect each other very quickly. Sometimes you may lose their attention (even if you are playing a game) which means also losing the control of the class. And once you lose their attention, it is really hard to get them to concentrate back on what you were doing. To prevent this, I have ten tips to share with you!

1- Whenever I change activities or the students need to change place (from the table to the cushions for instance) I count slowly up to ten and everybody gets ready. In addition to counting up to ten, you can also rhyme or use a musical instrument (mine is maracas) to make sure they are all ready to start the next activity.

2- When a student wants to go to the toilet, some others also want to go to the toilet not they need to but because it looks fun to go all together. This is also the same for drinking water. When one wants, some others want, too.  So before each class, make sure you have “toilet and water” time.

3-Small children have conflicts, disagree and argue a lot and make complaints about each other. After listening to the problem, make sure they apologize to each other. A simple “I’m sorry!” may be the solution most of the time.

4- Be sure your kids are not hungry, sleepy or thirsty during the class hour. Any of these will detract attention and may spread to all students.

5- Keeping the kids in a row is sometimes really hard. In my class, I take my imaginary magic wand and make a spell that keeps all the kids in a line with imaginary magical glue and it really works!

6- Most of the kids like group work but some may like to work alone. It’s better to let them work on their own for they can disturb others if you force them to do group work. And also, when grouping the kids, take into consideration that kids have different ability levels.  Try to group them as equally as you can.

“My childhood may be over, but that doesn’t mean playtime is.”    Ron Olson

7- As a teacher, you should choose the activities you enjoy as well. If you like what you do in the classroom, your kids will, too. Also be enthusiastic when you are doing your activities. Always keep in mind that a teacher is like a mirror to her/his kids.

8-Immediate feedback will increase the motivation for your lessons. Don’t hesitate to praise your kids with bravos, well-dones, good jobs and fantastics!

9-Balance the energy level in your class by playing both settling and stirring activities during the same class hour. For example after a very exciting  activity ,  I  rhyme “Two hands clap, two hands lap, right click, left click, concentration (eyes closed, take the lotus position), concentration,  concentration… Wake up!” And suddenly, they are quiet and ready to listen to me.

10-Be sure you raise the curiosity especially when you start a new unit.  When children are curious, they explore the language and come up with new ideas.

Above all I mentioned here, the most important thing is to LOVE and RESPECT your kids. Don’t forget that even though they are small kids; they have their own thoughts, personalities and feelings. Let them feel your love and you will see it will return back to you like a boomerang!

As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.” Dr. Haim Ginott

I have been teaching English to “Very Young Learners” for 7 years. I love teaching children as they are always enthusiastic and fun to teach!

Visit me: http://www.esraakiskali.com/

Read me: http://esraakiskali.edublogs.org/

Follow me: @ekamin

Teaching Young Learners with Songs (by Matt Richelson)

Barbara was so kind to ask me to write about how to use songs with young learners.  I have learned a lot from teaching English using songs, and I am happy to share what I know.

I have a background in music, and bringing music into the classroom has been very natural for me.  What if you don’t have a musical background? Don’t worry!  You do not have to be a great singer, or musician to use songs with kids. Just be enthusiastic!

If you are new to using songs you may think, why songs? Songs are great for many reasons. The melodies help the words stick into children’s heads. Have you ever had a song stuck in your head you couldn’t get out? The rhythm of the songs helps the children speak in a natural flow.  Simply put, they are great practice! Also, many ESL and EFL songs nowadays have built in actions and activities.  So when we sing “I brush my teeth”, then we can do the action while we sing. This combination of singing, and doing actions really helps stimulate the memory of the child. Oh, and it is fun! (more…)

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