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 by Jani Prgić

responsibility
psychological freedom
choices
the red line 
shifting responsibility - searching for a scape goat
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

24/02/2019

GAP-FILL ACTIVITIES WITH YOUNG FOREIGN LANGUAGE LEARNERS. (IS IT EVEN POSSIBLE?)

It is possible. 
Very possible. 

If you ask me, gap-fill activities are essential. 




Like this one? 


This is a good gap-fill activity because it is presented as a story (has a context). But, no, this one won't work with young children. They cannot read yet.




How about if we add some pictures?


Those sentences ... they don't create a story. Besides, there are still some words included ... No, I don't think this could work with young children.


What gap-fill activity could possibly work with young children?


The key element in the gap-fill activity is finding the missing pieces of information (words). Good context enables finding the missing piece easier. 

Since we know that youngsters cannot read yet, we can do it orally.

I know what you probably think; how, for the love of dingo's kidneys, will a child be able to listen to such a text and be able to focus on the missing piece of information? 

You're right, they won't. The above-shown activities are not for young children. We have already established that.

We have also established that the way we speak to children is through games. So, let us combine the two. Children will be actively involved in the game where some dialogue takes place. Children will speak just the words they know while the rest of the dialogue will be spoken by the teacher.


How about we play the game 'the hoops'?


Yes, this is the game.

The context: Taken from the story The Sly Fox and the Little Red Hen (an old folk tale).

The participants: In order to have all the children involved, you divide roles: one child is a fox, the rest are the hens. Each character is represented by the sound (for example the fox's sound is scratching on the drum and the hens' is light hitting on the drum with a finger).

The win: The fox catches a hen. 

The rules: The hens and the fox are moving around while the sounds are performed: the fox is sneaking around and the hens diligently collect wood. The hoops (henhouses) lie scattered on the floor and the hens are not allowed to step into them. Hens have scarves around their necks in different colours that match with their hoops (henhouses). When the sounds stop, the fox starts catching the hens and the hens hide in their houses. When the fox catches one hen, it is 'bagged'. The catching time is over, the dialogue starts.

The dialogue:

T(eacher): Where are the hens?
H(ens): I'm here.
T: Where are you (to H1)?
H1: I'm in the (my) blue henhouse.
T: How do you know it's your henhouse?
H1: Look, my scarf is blue and my house is blue. It's a match.

(The teacher picks several hens for the dialogue, then the roles change and the game starts again. The caught hen becomes the fox ...)

The gap fill dialogue:

teacher's speech
child's speech

T(eacher): Where are the hens?
H(ens): I'm here.
T: Where are you H1?
H1: I'm in the (my) blue henhouse.
T: How do you know it's your henhouse?

H1: Look, my scarf is blue and my house is blue. It's a match.


Why is a gap-fill activity important?


Because children use the language and do not (consciously) learn about the language. The teacher is there to provide examples of how to communicate and children contribute to their best abilities and meaningfully. 

That's what makes learning a language interesting, engaging and motivating.

Have a go and tell me how it went ...

If you want, you can read more about how to use the language in reading and writing and in listening and speaking, following the links to my other posts.

If you have a question or would like to add something, just drop a line below.

Wish you a good day,

Mija






27/01/2019

DO WE (REALLY) NEED TO LEARN HOW TO LISTEN?

Listening is the first skill children practice, no matter what language it is. Every parent starts speaking with their newborn the moment they see him/her.

We could, therefore, expect it is well-practised skill needing no special attention.

Contemplating about it ...

Have you ever been in a situation, when all (or a lot of) separate words were familiar to you, but you couldn't understand the meaning? 

Well, I have. Specially, when I was learning a foreign language. So maybe, understanding what someone says is not so self-understood after all? It's not only words that count ...

Understanding spoken language is the first skill children practice in foreign language learning. Let us try to recall how we go about our teaching when listening skills are involved:

How do we address children when giving instructions to execute an activity? In what language? Do we translate instructions? Is there a step-by-step demonstration involved?

How do we speak during the lesson? Is it English all the time or do we use separate English words, the ones we think children would understand and the rest is spoken in our mother tongue?

How do we evaluate children's listening skills? Do we check how they understand a complex text (a story, for example)? Do we simply enumerate fixed and well-practised non-related sentences and expect children to only detect and understand the change of an object in it (It is a blue truck. It is a red kite etc.)? 

There are different listening skills we need in our everyday life.


Global listening ...

... addresses the ability to understand the general idea of the spoken text.


Specific listening ...

...addresses the ability to discern information from the context.


Focused listening ...

...addresses the ability to focus on all the relevant information in order to be able to execute the instructions. 



Being able to do all the above means a person knows how to listen to UNDERSTAND THE MESSAGE.



Teaching listening in a very young classroom



How does one teach listening in a very young classroom (since children don't know any words in a foreign language)?

I am sure you have heard of silent films or pantomime. No words are spoken there, it is purely visual art, but it conveys the message nevertheless. 





Can you get the gist of it?


In its essence that is the way how to go about introducing a new language - through visual art. With one IMPORTANT difference, you speak what you act.


How to do it in a classroom?


When I introduce the language to the children for the first time, I forget about other steps of the PBA for the first few months and devote my entire lessons to the activities in the introductory routine

This way I prepare children to learn:

  • how to control their body in relation to other schoolmates and space (socialising);
  • how to control their brains (focus on concentration through rhythmic games and brain gym activities);
  • how to retain their focus when giving instructions.
All of that is, naturally, learned through playing games while using the target language.


Three months later ...


By December, the children are ready for their first project. Of course, I cover all the steps but let's focus only on listening today.

In Storytelling, we address different aims but listening prevails. 

  • The pre-reading activity 'activates' the sensors through listening discrimination.



  • The reading activity is performed in such a way to address multisensory learning and global listening.

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
  • The post-reading activity addresses focused listening ...

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson - playing a game



... and selective listening

Which picture was described?


The step do it yourself extracts the language through focused listening.





Doodling - In the Wilderness at the workshop  (GB


The step Listen, Execute and Present introduces new songs and texts to children, teaching them how to focus on global and selective listening through a given context.

(Sorry, I have no pictures of the activities. But you can try it out at the Summer Saturday Meeting).



So, is teaching listening important?



I believe that a lot of problems regarding discipline can derive from the simple fact that children do not know how to listen. 

Children's concentration span is short. They simply cannot be focused for 45 minutes in one go; they need regular switch-offs. We should, therefore, not expect to have complete silence in the young children's classroom. 

By teaching them how and when to listen, on the other hand, we can gradually prepare children to be able to efficiently comprehend the instructions and consequently execute the activities successfully


Want to learn more?


Follow us on our C00lSch00l FB pageWe post activities we do in our classrooms.

Also, we have a FB group called Igra je resna stvar! (Playing games is a serious business!) where we discuss our classroom practices on the PBA approach (in English). You are welcome to join us if you feel it is your cup of tea.

Moreover, there are regular workshops performed in Slovenia throughout the school year. For other countries, do drop me a line and I'm sure we can arrange something.

Wish you all a successful continuance of 2019!

Mija