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Sunday, July 3, 2011

All's About Sharing

One of the benefits of having a PLN (Personal Learning Network) via Twitter is the great opportunity of "sharing" it offers. I am extremely grateful to the members of my PLN for all
they have been sharing: My Timeline.

A short time ago, I came across Nadia Bentoua, who has shared her English language e-book. Nadia has travelled widely and she based her book on her travels. Her book is a resource for teachers and a self-study book for students.

In her Website Dynamic English Lessons, Nadia has included sample pages, which I have browsed and have found resourceful to introduce new vocabulary to students.

Is there anything you've created or a fellow educator has issued and you'd like to share? Please accept the challenge and write a post in your blog, making reference to this post.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Cambridge Exam Updates

Last Saturday morning I attended a seminar on Cambridge exams and this is a report on the most significant points covered:

* Cambridge offers “standard version” and “for school version” exams. The speaker made it clear that the introduction of “for school version” exams is the result of an informed decision and is not justified by the test-takers’ age.

* The decision as to which exam best suits a test-taker’s profile should be taken after engaging in a critical analysis of Cambridge handbooks, which contain precise information.

* The format, content and assessment criteria for both versions are identical.

* The level has been preserved. What counts is the level accredited by the exam. The school version is not easier.

* There’s a quality assurance system that is in charge of Cambridge exam validity.

* KET exam deals with everyday English at a basic level.

* Pet exam (preliminary): deals with everyday English at a pre-intermediate level.

* Reliability is a key factor. A reliable test can be depended on to produce very similar results in repeated uses.

* Reliability is guaranteed by a comprehensive description of the levels.

* The exam validity can be classified into:

A. Construct validity: resides in the interaction of the underlying cognitive ability and the context of use. In the past it was based on the CLA model: communicative language ability, designed by Backman in the 90´s. It has been replaced by the socio-cognitive framework, designed by Professor Cyril Weir in 2005. The latter offers the distinction between an internal mental process (cognitive) of the test-takers and the external contextual factors (social). The standard and the school versions have the same level (cognitive) but the context is different.

B. Content validity: is connected to which extent the content of the test represents the target language domain; the area of interest. It is based on the schema theory: the mental structure that represents some aspects of the world. It depends on a collection of organized, interrelated ideas or concepts: the knowledge of the world. It's connected to the reference store from which a person can retrieve relevant existing knowledge (experiential background). One retrieves/remembers information that is relevant to one's own schema. One will try to resist information that is not relevant to one’s own schema. When automatic thought is triggered, one acts effectively without effort. Accessibility is defined as a cognitive shortcut. There is a direct impact on the way the individual processes the task set up in the context.

C. Scoring validity: implies what has to be measured. In the case of writing there is a General Mark Scheme:

Band 5: All content elements covered appropriately. Message clearly communicated to reader. (Excellent)

Band 4: All content elements adequately dealt with. Message communicated successfully, on the whole. (Very good)

Band 3: All content elements attempted. Message requires some effort by the reader. Or, one content element omitted but others clearly communicated. (Good)

Band 2: Two content elements omitted, or unsuccessfully dealt with. Message only partly communicated to reader. Or, script may be slightly short (20-25 words). (Fair)

Band 1: Little relevant content and/or message requires excessive effort by the reader, or short. (10/19 words). (Poor)

Band 0: Totally irrelevant or totally incomprehensible or too short (under 10 words). (Below standard)

In the case of speaking, it implies the interplay between the underlying cognitive ability and the context of use. Now they’ve introduced the terms “speaking examiners” as they assess a spoken test.

In the case of listening, there is overlapping between context and cognitive validity. It’s ephemeral and it’s marked by the absence of paralinguistic information in a testing context.

I think it is necessary for ESL teachers to be well-informed so as to be able to help those students interested in having international certifications.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

FlexiMoti in Action

In a post I wrote last year called My Teaching Approach: FlexiMoti I reflected on my teaching practice in response to one of Jason Renshaw´s posts. It was Jason himself who generously coined the name of my approach and I've adopted it.

My attempts to be flexible are designed to meet my students' needs with the aim to motivate them to learn the English language in a way that suits their likes and dislikes. Having those principles in mind, I've also introduced technology in the classroom and we use wikis and blogs so my students can develop long-life skills that would help them become independent learners.

When classes started last March, I felt absolutely satisfied when one of my students from a group I had taught the previous year asked me if we would use blogs and wikis this year. I had already created a wiki for this class and was about to introduce it to them. So I thought the motivation level was ideal. I was too hopeful to consider that my students are teenagers and so their motivation fluctuates. Nothing new so far.

After considering ways to encourage my students to visit the wiki, I decided to start a competition and to offer a reward to the winner. I created a Lino Canvas in which I include a riddle a week and the first one to provide the correct answer as a comment in the wiki receives a prize. The first one I've granted was a chocolate.

I've found out that some of my students seldom visit their e-mail accounts and so when I update the wiki, they don´t realise about it. I hope this competition will be helpful.

I've been reluctant to appear in Facebook as I consider it's a social tool rather than a professional one but I've had to give in. As a Twitterholic myself I haven't found the sense of being on Facebook. Anyway, my students spend most of their cyber time on Facebook and so I've finally opened an account, which I'll try to keep only as a way of updating my students as to the class wiki new material. I'll do my best to keep my Facebook account as a learning/teaching tool.

What are the changes you've been forced to introduce in your teaching practice? I'd like to hear...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Babylon's Initiative in Support of Bloggers

I've been invited to join this initiative and decided to accept not only because of the valuable opportunity of being awarded a free one-year licence of the translation software but also because of the consideration of bloggers as "the true voice of the Internet". As a teacher of English, I've experienced the benefits of writing posts and of reading my colleagues' articles. The former has given me the chance of reflecting on my teaching practice whereas the latter has contributed a lot to my professional development and to the improvement of my classes.

Babylon points out the relevance of bloggers to foster freedom of speech and I'd like to add that blogging is a great way of communicating one's views to a wide number of readers all around the world.

I'd like to share the link to this initiative for other bloggers to join and enjoy the benefit of trying this helpful tool: Babylon's Initiative.

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Blog As A Word Cloud

I wasn´t able to attend Dave Dodgson´s (@davedogson) presentation at the VRT11 conference but thanks to Cecilia Lemos (@ceciELT), I've been able to learn about it. Cecilia wrote an insightful post in her blog, Box of Chocolates, about Dave's presentation on the use of word clouds in the classroom and accepted Dave's challenge, which she shared in her post. Well, I've accepted joining it and this is the result:

 Wordle: My blog
It's been funny to see the result, which is mainly based on the song I shared "Hey, Soul Sister".
I guess, in a way my messages are directed to my soul sisters (or brothers) among my readers.
"Cecilia" and "Vicky" also appear, my Twitter soul sisters. The word "students" is also highlighted, 
which is suitable as I often have my students in mind and I do my best to motivate them to learn.  
"Learning" stands out and it shows my attitude in life as a life-long learner. "Teacher" is seen several
times and it reflects my inborn vocation. "Languages" and "Challenge" have similar importance in the cloud.
I love languages and learning languages is a challenge.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Are Educators Life-Long Learners?

If we, educators, love teaching then, we love learning as the former
implies the latter. As Vicky Loras (@vickyloras) expressed in one of her latest posts "Number three-What do you believe about
learning?- The 30 Goals Challenge", A good teacher is also a good
learner. Vicky has been writing insightful reflections on The 30 Goals Challenge created by Shelly Terrell (@ShellTerrell), both of whom are colleagues and mentors of mine and I feel thankful to them for being so supportive, personally and professionally.

Many times we forget how a student feels when they start learning a new language and it's difficult to gain insight into the language learning process from scratch. Imagine I started learning English when I was 6 years old and even if I can remember my classes, my memory is not so weak, I don't have any idea as to the way I felt in those times. So as to be able to be in my students' shoes, I've decided to start studying French. When I told my students about it, they looked at me in surprise but I guess it's a good way of showing students that it's never too late to learn a language and that teachers can also be learners. The line between teaching and learning is fragile and movable.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hey, Soul Sister by Train

This is the link to the tasks described in my previous post:

I hope your students enjoy the song.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Song To Welcome My Students

My group classes are about to start and I've prepared a song to
welcome them and to motivate them.

I've chosen: Hey, Soul Sister by the band Train as it offers lots
of possibilities to prepare tasks to develop listening, writing, reading
and speaking skills.

My plan to deal with the song is the following:

1) Introduction of what we're going to do: Name of the song and band.

2) Questions to motivate my students:
Have you heard this song?
If so, do you like it?
If you haven´t, What do you imagine the song is about?

3) I've devised a Glog with information about the band "Train": The Band Train

4) Brainstorming of ideas connected to the phrase "soul sister". There's a link where
the students can read about it: Soul Sister

5) The students watch the video in silence and write ideas that describe what the song is about. After that, they share those ideas in pairs and write a summary of the story.

6) The students watch the video while listening and write words and phrases from the lyrics.

7) Last exercise: listen to the song and insert the missing phrases:
the way you move who's one of my kind be myself now finally
blow your mind I don't want to miss
my heart is bound to beat a single thing you do

that Mr. Mister on the radio the only drug I need
I wouldn't forget you I'm dreaming of I'm so glad
gave my life direction smell of you in every
left side brains

Hey, hey, hey

Your lipstick stains on the front lobe of my …………………………………
I knew ………………………, and so I went and let you blow my mind
Your sweet moon beam, the ………………………single dream I dream
I knew when we collided, you're the one I have decided ……………………
Hey soul sister, ain't …………………………, stereo, the way you move ain't fair, you know!
Hey soul sister, I don't want to miss ………………………….....tonight
Hey, hey,hey
Just in time, ………………… have a one-track mind like me
You ……………………………, a game show love connection we can't deny
I'm so obsessed, ……………………………….right out my untrimmed chest
I believe in you, like a virgin, you're Madonna, and I'm always gonna wanna …………………………………

Hey soul sister, ain't that Mr. Mister on the radio, stereo, ………………….. ain't fair, you know!
Hey soul sister, ………………………….a single thing you do...tonight
The way you can cut a rug, watching you's ………………………………
You're so gangsta, I'm so thug, you're the only one ……………………..
You see, I can …………………………………, in fact there's nothing I can't be
I want the world to see you be with me

Hey soul sister, ain't that Mr. Mister on the radio, stereo, the way you move ain't fair, you know!
Hey soul sister, I don't want to miss a single thing you do tonight,
Hey soul sister, I don't want to miss a single thing you do...tonight
Hey, hey,hey


Hey, hey,hey


Students can be encouraged to prepare their own glogs connected to the song as a final step.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

My Lesson Plan History

After reading the post "What's Your Plan? My First Challenge" by Cecilia Lemos (@CeciELT), one of the members of my PLN I always enjoy sharing and chatting with, I decided to accept the challenge and describe my lesson plan history.

At Teachers' Training College, I was taught to devise plans on sheets of paper that unfolded and I included the step of the lesson, the material needed, the aims, the procedure for each task, the teachers' words, examples, time needed and so on. I remember figuring if I would ever be able to teach without having that large plan on my desk. As time went by and my teaching experience grew, I didn't need to include so much in my plans, which became a list such as:

Monday, September 14th

6th adolescents

· Oral correction of sts.´ homework. Check they've understood the grammar point.

· Introduction of the topic "Travel Broadens the Mind" (pairwork ideas/group discussion)

· Recording of new vocabulary: adventure/cultural/package/get away from it all/a minute's walk away from/stylish shops/leisure facilities/gourmet cuisine, etc.

· Sts. read the article on the book (page 45) in silence and ask questions if necessary.

· Sts. do the comprehension exercises.

· Games to practise the new vocabulary

After I started using technology in my lessons, my plans have changed and some examples are:

2) Videos:

3) Conversation:

4) Present Simple and Continuous: PresentSimpleandPresentContinuous.pdf PresentSimple2.pdfPresentContinuous2.pdf PresentContinuous1.pdf

Extra Practice: Video: Listen and repeat:

Multiple Choice:

Present Simple Negative:

Complete the sentences:

Present Continuous:

Introducing a talking point with a song: Enjoy the Silence by Depeche Mode

I can conclude that the more experience a teacher has, the more confident he/she feels and and the dependence on the lesson plans is reduced. One of the qualities a teacher should develop is adaptability so that he/she can make changes according to factors such as students' interest, their mood, queries and doubts that come about, students' suggestions, etc.

I'd like to thank Cecilia for her inspirational post and the opportunity to reflect on the changes that have been going on in my plans and in my classes.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Do We Take Our Voice For Granted?

Last Saturday morning I attended a seminar on the use of
our voice called "Performing What We Say". It was practical
as the listeners were encouraged to participate, which makes
it memorable.

These are the most relevant ideas discussed in the seminar:

  • In our communication process, 7% of our message is expressed with words, 38% with our voice and 55% with our bodies.
  • The voice is the sound factory. It's articulated air.
  • Before speaking/giving a class it's essential to be relaxed and to stand in the right way. There are many exercises to relax the neck, shoulders and the face muscles.
  • Coughing so as to clear our throat is bad for our vocal cords. The correct way of keeping our throat humid is drinking water.
  • Our vocal cords are affected by extreme coldness and by extreme heat.
  • When we speak, we should vary our tone of voice so as not to bore our audience.
  • The features of the voice are: the tone (acute or grave), the pitch, intensity, rythm, duration (length of the phonemes).
  • The personality of the voice is determined by the individual's anatomy.
  • The most common speech malfunctions are: synaloepha (linking the final vowel of a word to the initial vowel of another word), omitting the pronunciation of some letters, wrong word stress in a statement, use of a monotone, lack of air, dropping the end of statements, nasalization.
  • Our bodies confer meaning.
An interesting exercise we did during the meeting was called "the funnel". In groups of three members, we had to stand facing each other at a distance and forming an imaginary triangle. All the triangles crossed each other. We had to tell the other members of our group what we had done the previous weekend and made ourselves audible. The idea was to check the intensity of our voice.
At the end of the seminar, we were given tips on how to speak in public as to body posture, gestures and the most suitable clothes to wear. As a kind of conclusion, we watched a video and some of us made a presentation of the video and others participated in interviews connected to it. Then we commented on all the aspects we had discussed.

All in all, the seminar made me aware of the importance of taking care of my voice and of using it in the most effective way.