26/09/2019

WORDS ... HOW TO USE THEM MOST EFFICIENTLY



Do you think that words are important? 



 
How dull would poetry be without playing with words?
What do you think makes a difference between a good and a bad book? 

To me, it's the way the words are put together and the way the message is conveyed ...

On the other hand ...

... isolated words, words on their own, without a context ... they mean (almost) nothing.


Children cannot do much with isolated words; cannot write poetry, cannot write a text, cannot make a meaningful conversation ... What they can do is memorise words by heart ... and, because they are not embedded into anything meaningful, soon forget them.

Words need to be put together in a message, to be of some use. Of course, for forming a message, some grammar knowledge is required. 


Grammar, however, is an abstract concept that children's brains, due to their developmental stage, cannot yet comprehend. That is why traditional young language teaching teaches words and hopes that later in their lives they may still remember some. 

In traditional language teaching children ...

... play games - to memorise isolated words;
... fill-in worksheets - to memorise, write, connect, circle isolated words;
... listen to their teachers - to recognise isolated words;
... write - isolated words;

... and sometimes, they play a dialogue or fill-in worksheets with some random structures, like: I've got..., My favourite ..., I like ...















In traditional teaching, we're addressing children's memorisation and repetition. 

But, that is not what language was invented for, is it?



Words can mislead if taught isolated.


Words have different meanings according to the context, teaching them isolated can lead to some confusion ...




Why are you feeling blue?
(Oh, but isn't blue the colour of my T-shirt and your car?)

  
No room for me on this bench.
(Which one, a bathroom or a kitchen?)



Context matters. Very much.

 
What if we changed the focus of our language teaching to its basic meaning ... communication. We can do this with young children, too. Even when teaching a foreign language. 

All we need to do is give a context (through a content), address children's way of understanding and apply the skills children can use and understand (and at the same time develop them even more). Thus, we build children's neurology of learning, which is the core foundations for later academic learning.


 

Actually, we don't teach the language. Do we?


Not directly.

In modern ways of teaching, like CLIL, CBI, PBA (which is CBI for young learners), language is used to explain subject matter (content). Language is not the primary subject of learning.

CLIL's subject matter is one or two school subjects (let's say math and biology). CBI uses a target language to teach the subject matter at specific studies (for example, mechanics are taught how to mend a car in English). With young learners, using the PBA, the content is a story from a picture book.

The toughest challenge in traditional YFLL concept of perception is changing the habit of thinking in topics and rather focusing on the message instead. We don't teach clothes, toys, colours, numbers ... We use varied topics to convey a message.

Like:

Mary is hiking in a red pullover because it's chilly and rainy out in the forest. (See the topics? action, colours, weather, temperature, nature ... in one single sentence.)

Different topics have to be embedded in a message and with them the words in their use. This way, the language is introduced in its function.

That's why the PBA uses picture books (a story) - to convey a message (through storytelling; and through its process develops listening strategies).

That's why the PBA  uses gap-fill oriented and gamified social activities, based on the story the children create through a process called doodling.


  Today, a bunny (or some other animal) wants to sleep.  First the bunny
chooses a yellow deckchair (a chest, a wardrobe ...) to sleep in.
But, on this windy (or sunny, or foggy) day, 
his friends (mum, dad, aunt ...) decide to surprise her/him. The bunny doesn't know 
a mouse (a dog, the mum) is hiding in a wardrobe (under the stairs ...) ...


It is the children who decide what vocabulary is relevant for their story. What the teacher does is pre-arranges an open plot in which the children can freely choose the words they fancy. 

No divided topics, see?

Of course, at one point, the children need to learn some language (words).

When their stories are created, we use the children's chosen vocabulary and tailor it into gap-fill oriented and gamified social activities. Through them, we use (and at the same time further develop) motor, sensory and social skills to teach the children how to communicate. 

And, as far as I have managed to see how the majority of the games are used in the classroom, social games are apparently quite a challenge for the teachers when they want to address the communication. Too often, the games end up repeating and memorising isolated words. 

It's rather challenging to tailor a gap-fill activity, where communication takes place if a teacher's objective is the words and not the message. (How to approach communication through games is practised at the workshop Social Games (SLO)  (GB))

The communication is created when the narrator of the game is the teacher, whereas the child fills-in only the missing word(s). 

Children may not know 15 animals and 20 items of clothing, because we gave them the story with only relevant details according to the relevant situation. This way children know which words need to be used and how. (But through the process learn how and where to find some other words.)

Teaching the use of the language.


To wrap the use of the language, the children present the story with the help of some pictures. They 'poster read' the story ...




This is a story about a hedgehog and his house.

On a windy day, the wind whooshes the hedgehog's house away. Poor hedgehog is
sad and cold.
Luckily, he has some clothes. He puts on a cap ...



Teaching through content avoids situations where children say;  'Oh, do I still need to know toys? I've already been graded for that ...' (It's what topic-divided approach with its focus on isolated words does.) 

Teaching through content does not focus on isolated words but on the message. So the children remember the message which sticks in their brains ... they don't even consider the PBA as learning.

It's better to know a few words from a mixed-topic theme (story-like) and do something with them then to know 100 words and have them locked somewhere, waiting to be forgotten.

And one other thing is also very important; we cannot expect from children to put words together and compose a text if they have never been introduced to one first.
 

But, I've always been doing it traditionally. It's the only way I know ...

 

I feel you. I have been there. It's not easy to change our habits and beliefs. Tradition has its impact. To break it, we need to plug up the courage and become independent learners ourselves first. 

Then, everything gets easier.

Want to share your thoughts? 

You're welcome to comment below.


25/08/2019

ARE YOU A MODERN LEARNER/TEACHER?

You can influence others with the way how you live your life. If you are a teacher (or a parent), your job gives you perfect ground for your belief/knowledge/skills (and whatnot) to be passed on.

So, being a teacher (and a parent!) is a very responsible job; it can be a blessing or ... a devil in disguise (You know. The saying. 'A road to hell is paved with good deeds.')

  But firstly, how was your education?


Think back. How did you learn in primary school, college, university? Did the teacher supply you with all the (already tested) information and you simply learnt and remembered it? Or, did they give you options to choose from and you tried them and saw what happened? A little bit of both, maybe?




I can say that all the way up to getting my BA, I was told what to learn and what was important. I got books (or listened to lectures), learnt what they said and produced the learnt knowledge back.

There were some professors who demanded 'the right' answers (which they advocated) and not the 'wrong ones' (which another professor advocated). 

(They were at loggerheads with each other, I learnt 😕.)

What I had established was that it was the authority who decided whether I knew something or not and it was the authority who let me pass the exams. My own thoughts/experiences were not of much importance to getting a degree.

I was taught traditionally.

TRADITIONAL TEACHING


The 'traditional concept' of teaching is when teachers direct students to learn through memorisation and recitation techniques, thereby not developing their critical thinking, problem solving and decision-making skills. 

Traditional teaching is often accompanied by books and exercise books where the subject matter and the answers are pre-arranged, fixed and final.




Traditional teaching teaches obedience, honouring the authority, following instructions and consequently, there is no need for the learner to accept any responsibility since nothing is the learner's choice. 

MODERN TEACHING/ EDUCATION



Modern ways of bringing knowledge to students seek to develop innate capacities of man by giving students some desirable knowledge, teaching them strategies, skills, attitudes and critical thinking so that they can educate themselves

Modern teaching develops autonomous learners with the ability to think for themselves and taking responsibility for their actions.  

The thin line of responsibility, defined by Jani Prgić 
(actions of a responsible and irresponsible individual, divided by the red line):


responsibility
psychological freedom
choices 
the red line
shifting responsibility - searching for a scapegoat
obligation - 'Because I must ...'
excuses
self-blame
denial
surrender 


 

I TEACH WHAT I LIVE


Most of us were brought up by traditional teaching, therefore, we teach the way we've learnt. It's the 'curse' of tradition.

If I want to teach using modern ways, I first have to become an autonomous learner. 

I first got the idea what the autonomous learning is when I entered my post graduation studies. I was left to my own resources to find answers to various questions and then defending them.

It was a hell of a challenge for me; being used to learn what I was told and having all the answers already gathered for me (in a script or through lectures), I was put out of my comfort zone when being asked 'awkward' questions demanding my clarification or explanation of the answers I have come up with.

And even though some didn't agree with my view, it was fine. We agreed to disagree, and we moved on.

Wow. That was an enlightenment for me.

But, not until later, when I had already been teaching for sometime, did I become an autonomous learner.

For quite some time, when I enrolled for a workshop or seminar, I went there with an intention to 'collect' material with instructions which I would then use in my lessons accordingly. I rarely changed what I've been instructed; if I did, the change was not significant. I used to accept what the authority said and never doubted their decision. (I was a 'good' student.) 

Then, after a couple of years teaching children English, diligently following coursebooks and following every instruction told by the 'experts', my pupils, after four years of learning English (aged 9), still couldn't speak. They produced lots of vocabulary, but they couldn't communicate ...

I could have easily said, "Not my responsibility. It's the books." 

But I chose not to. My mindset suddenly switched and I decided to find a different way.



 

I became a modern learner. And, consequently, the PBA was born.

 

MODERN APPROACHES


In language education, let just mention some: CLIL, language immersion programmes, CBI and its PBA version (for young learners) and  sheltered learning.

If the definition of modern learning states that it is child-centred and educating students for autonomous learning, then I would say CBA and PBA are definitely among them. With immersion, sheltered learning and CLIL one may argue that they are teacher-driven approaches and, therefore, if the teacher is not used to modern learning, can be quickly turned into traditional teaching. 

CBA and PBA are more learning-to-learn oriented and promote learning knowledge, skills, strategies. They are both student-centered (the teacher is somewhere hidden, observing and mentoring) while the students do the job cooperatively, discussing the problem.

The workshop: Playing Games Is a Serious Business (PBA)

Many schools try to introduce modern methodology into their traditional teaching practice. Some successfully, others struggle. Judging by the general complaints about state education, be that from parents or teachers, the majority of schools are not very successful. 

Where is the catch?


THE WAY I LEARN IS THE WAY I TEACH

 

I believe that, no matter what your teaching aids are, no matter which methodology you use ... down the line it all comes to your mindset and your choices.

If you are a traditional learner, you may try any modern methodology but you will end up teaching traditionally.

On the other hand, if you are an autonomous learner, you may as well use a coursebook, but will soon tailor it (or discard it)  and find a way to bring subject matter closer to your students. 

And, of course, there is another think one should bear in mind; not everything in traditional teaching is bad and not everything in modern ways is gold. It all depends what you want to achieve with your students.

What do you think?

Best,

Mija

P.S.
If you're interested for the PBA workshops, read all about them on C00lSch00l website in English and Slovene.

P.P.S.
You can enrol  HERE.

 

20/05/2019

EMOTIONS, THE CAUSE OF ...

Emotions are part of us whether we like it or not.

We can try to suppress them but in the long run, it causes depression, anxiety and whatnot.

Taking them too seriously, on the other hand, may cause some severe distortion of reality. (In worst case scenarios, heated emotions lead to wars ...) 

We are, therefore, encouraged to acknowledge emotions, whatever they may be, accepting them, but advised against being drawn into their whirlwind of misinterpretation. 

Easier said than done; I'm sure we all agree. We've all been there, and it's a challenge. (But every time we survive, we become eeny weeny wiser).

Like with my recent experience, when one of my relationships ended due to distorted emotions. 



CC Photography and Video


A colleague came to me, she wanted to work at my school. I taught her about the PBA, and she took over kindergarten classes.  Gradually, she got the hang of the PBA and became brilliant with kids. 

Everything went well until she stumbled onto some personal trouble; not a pleasant one, I admit. She completely fell into a state of emotional distress, looking at her misfortune in all the worst-case scenarios she could imagine. 

There are, however, solutions to problems. (Providing you want to find them). And I presented some to her.

She was not willing to hear the solutions but explored her misfortune to manipulate her status. Since we were in business together, her actions affected the income.

She refused to accept her responsibilities (the agreement we had) to finish her school year and instead played the cards of her entitlement; she was suffering soul with severe problems, so she should be taken off all her responsibilities and being taken care of ... She didn't finish the school year, but she did continue working elsewhere (for it was better one-year-financial projection there and, as she defended, that job didn't affect her suffering soul).

That, however, seemed unfair and insulting to me.

It had stirred up my emotions, and my pride/ego was hurt. I used a pinch of too heated emotions when explaining to her about everything I did for her and the way she turned back on me ... (it's how I saw the situation, that is).

Again, using her entitlement, she accused me of being responsible for her misfortune; she accused me of making her do things that had lead her to her state of suffering.

Since I didn't want to take her responsibility on my shoulders (for she came to me and asked me for the job), we parted on not-so-good terms.


Autor: Information Parlour

We both succumbed to our entitlements:

I believed that after everything I did for her, she should have behaved differently, showed me some respect.

She believed that her suffering should be my sole focus and that I should cater her, ignoring my business.

Entitlements among the adults usually end up in arguments. But we are adults and can survive on our own; we part ways and life goes on. If we have learnt something from our arguments, we may handle other encounters differently. If not ... our history repeats itself.

We only damage ourselves.



How about the entitlements in relation to children?



Children cannot (yet) control their emotions (not that all adults can, as we've already established).

Children are experiencing emotions but do not know what to do with them. They quickly succumb to anger, extreme joy, frustration ...


Getty Images


Being brought up by an entitled adult can end up badly for a child. Children cannot survive on their own. They are dependant on adults' acceptance and change their behaviour according to the adults' demands.

That, however, the adults use for manipulation. In itself, manipulation is not necessarily the wrong approach. When we reward children for good behaviour and express disappointments for their wrong actions ... it is an example of manipulation that can lead to understanding the concept between right and wrong. 


Sometimes, there is a thin line between right and wrong. That, however, may cause some problems. 

The way I would put it is this:

Using manipulation to bring out the behaviour that doesn't harm others, is welcome: 

"You're not going out until you've cleaned up the toys you've played with." (It's your responsibility to tidy after yourself, not mine. I'll clean up my own mess.)

Using it for soothing your own sorrow feelings is, therefore, is not okay:

"I will take you out to play when you show me you appreciate my work by being quiet during the lessons." (Maybe the schoolmate did something amusing, and that's why they laugh? Maybe he was hit, and that had provoked the emotional outburst? Or, perhaps my lesson is boring, no matter how long into the night I have been preparing for it ...)

If adults cannot evaluate their emotions from a distance, they tend to react from a hurt (entitled) point of view. They teach that manipulation for serving your own needs is acceptable.

If you often address children from the entitled POV, you shouldn't be surprised if, one day, you're served with, "If I clean the board (do you a favour), will you let me play with my mobile (please my desire)?"


One way to go about it


It is no my intention to show you the way how to get a hold of your own emotionsMark Manson, in my opinion, did it with excellence. 

When I see my children in my classroom get emotional, restless, not being able to focus ... We sit down and breath. We focus on our shoulders rising up and down, our ribs expanding and shrinking, our belly going out and in ...

When they cool down, we then talk about what was happening to them. Not a three-hour discussion, mind you, just a brief acknowledgement of their restlessness, their feelings.

The breathing instruction is in English (because I teach English) but the talk, well, it depends on the children's age.



Teaching emotions at school



In the big picture of life, knowing how to handle your emotions is essential; if you want to get along with other human beings, that is. 

At school, teaching children how to observe and control their feelings, you label them with their names. Practically and usefully.

No special lesson structured for learning emotions.
No coursebook needed.


Have a great May,

Mija S.

P.S. 
How do you handle your kids' or students' emotions?

P.P.S. 
If you don't want to be read publically, you can share your thoughts writing to me:

info@c00lsch00l.eu

Your comments and questions can be discussed in my next post. 

03/04/2019

... AND LEARNING BY HEART BECOMES USEFUL

I do not know about you, but I never liked learning things by heart at school. 

There was this list of new vocabulary we had to memorise and only used it for a dull and meaningless repetition to get a good grade.

There were silly texts in workbooks emphasising one grammar structure time and time again ... It was important to know that Nick's T-shirt was blue, and if we had said it was red (no matter the sentence was put together correctly), it was altogether wrong.

There were poems to be memorised for the sake of memorisation ...

There was never any sense pinned to whatever memorisation we were doing ...

I hated it. It was a waste of my time and energy and I was sure my brain was able to do more challenging things.

I was right.

And I was wrong.

Learning by heart can be useful providing we put the learnt to some use. 


PLAYING WITH SOUNDS


For a learner, whose first language has a 'simple' pronunciation (each letter produces only one sound and there are no sounds with combined letters), English spelling can be somewhat confusing. (There are, however, languages with even more confusing spelling.)

On the bright side, there are more or less fixed rules on how a specific combination of letters is pronounced. Sadly, there are always exceptions.

To learn the common connections between the sounds and the letters, the memorisation of syllable-sounds can be really useful.



'Playing Drums' with syllables. They can be
real words or a nonsense combination. 

We practice some at our workshops ...


Let's say we would like to practice the spelling of the sound /i:/

For a start, we put together some syllable rhymes:
  • with one-syllable words (like see-fee-he-bee-lee-key);
  • with syllables taken from longer words (like pree-mee-stee-cree);
  • with mixed syllables ...
    • either with the combination of single sound-letters (like he-key-lee-see-fee)
    • or with combined letters (like she-chee)

... we create a list of syllable rhymes ...

... we make a list of syllables for children to create their own combinations ... 

... and we play who can pronounce the rhymes correctly while smiling, in a deep voice, with pursed lips, or when we mix the syllables up ...

When children come across new words in songs, rhymes or texts, it makes the reading easier.

(Tounge twisters are an upgrade to this activity.)


PRESENTATION


At some point, children are asked to say something about themselves, or tell about the story they've been working on, or describe a picture they have drawn ... For that purpose, it is good that children know certain expressions by heart. 

To put those expressions to meaningful use, they can do a presentation.



Let me tell you
something about myself ...

It is not only the words they say that count. 

If children want to present the topic confidently, they need to have control over their voice (speak clearly, use pauses, stress the correct words) and they need to be in control of their bodies. 

They can only put together a structured and fluent presentation if they know the expressions by heart, have confidence in making eye-contact and feel comfortable in their exposed posture ... (in other words, they need to be in control of their body and they have memorised the language).



POETRY


Learning poems (or songs) by heart is an excellent way to combine playing with sounds and expressing their body language through a presentation. 

Some great poems for children aged 8-11 can be found in the book 'Off By Heart' by Roger Stevens.






I hope the article has given you some ideas on how to incorporate memorisation in playful, meaningful and enjoyable activities.

If not, read through my other blog posts, where I talk about creating activities ...



... or you can visit some of the C00lSch00l workshops ... (if you are not a Slovenian, you can read about the workshops here).

Subscribing to my blog or mailing list, you'll be notified about every new article and event regarding C00lSch00l's YFLL.

You can also contact me at info@c00lsch00l.eu. Looking forward to your comments.

Wish you a sunny April.

Mija