Session 3 was not an active lecture but it was really interesting as the teacher made a presentation to reinforce the ideas she developed in the first session about active learning and she also provided us with some useful tips we can use in the classroom. As I’m doing my final project of the master’s on active techniques, I found this class very interesting and useful.
She explained us the difference between approach, method and technique because those are three related aspects that sometimes cause misunderstanding.
I find active learning very useful as you give your students the opportunity of doing something and it takes some effort from them. We also prepare them for life and provide them with “lifelong learning” which is the ultimate goal of education. Memorising contents no longer work as in the end those items are erased from our memory in order to remember new ones. We learn by doing and by practising so we need to adapt our methodology to the needs of our students. Through active methodologies we are preparing our students for life as we are developing their language skills and at the same time they teach them how to confront aspects they can find on real life. They enjoy a lot more than just following the book and doing the same boring exercises.
The teacher told us some tips on how to engage students. For example, if we take a literary passage or a short story we can read it with suspense and then ask them some questions to thrill them. Some of our classmates tried to read the beginning of a short story with a “suspense” tone of voice and we could observe how can things change in the classroom just by doing so.
We can give our students the chance to choose the short stories and we can communicate with them through Edmodo. The teacher insisted that we need to set the objectives from the beginning and telling them is an obligatory reading otherwise they won’t do it.
We can tell them to represent a scene from the short story and they can record it with their mobile and upload it on Edmodo so we can teach them that mobile phones can have educational purposes as well.
An interesting activity could also ask them to write a list of people reading (what they where reading, where they were reading) or ask their friends and family and then report via blog. I think this activity could work very good as teenagers are interested in what happens around them and they can make interesting findings they can report back to the classroom.
Through wordclouds (http://www.wordle.net/) we can ask them to pick out elements from the story and write their own and then arrange pre/actual and post/ teaching activities around it. There are infinite activities they can come up with.
We can also communicate with them through Fakebook (http://classtools.net/fb/home/page) which is very similar to the well-known Facebook but for educational purposes. Using these type of tools we can catch our students attention easily.
They’ll also enjoy recording a part of the story through Soundcloud or vocaroo or acting out a scene and they making a video/film version they can then upload to Edmodo and share with their classmates. Receiving positive feedback from either the teacher or classmates can be very rewarding for students who take into account very much what it is said about them.
Some other useful tools which the teacher recommended us are:
– Voki: a page where you can create an Avatar which can talk if you type word or you record your own voice. (http://www.voki.com/pickup.php?scid=7570587&height=267&width=200)
– Go animate: to create animated videos
– Bitstrips: a good tool for creating comics
– Glogster: you can create digital and dynamic posters
In the last part of the session the teacher told us that getting feedback from students is very important in order to get better session by session. Our role as teachers is to change students’ perceptions about the value of literature. They don’t like much reading and if its compulsory it’s even worse! Through short stories, as I have already pointed out you can teach lots of aspects to your students and maybe you discover them a world they didn’t know and their interests change! We can use one minute papers in which at the end of the lesson students have to write their impressions (What new ideas or questions you have? What was good about the thinking you did? You pick up two and read them in a loud voice. This is another way of getting feedback from the students.
We can also use films or series in order to teach English as they all like watching them. However, showing them the full film is not useful as in the end they get lost. We can select some parts of the film and tell them to comment on them, or show several versions of the same scene in order to activate their knowledge.
Debates, role plays, simulation, case studies, songs… there are lots of resources we can use in order to make teaching significant. We just need to try and experiment.
I think there are lots of ways in which we can change the learning experience into a thrilling one and change the way our students see English and maybe change their negative attitute and awaken a positive one in them.
I can’t use any electronic tool in my lessons as I teach kids in extracurricular lessons and I can’t use projectors or white boards but if I ever have the chance of teaching students of ESO in a high school I’ll try to innovate and use these tools as I strongly believe that there’s a need in changing how education works in Spain. Teaching English is still done in a traditional way and for some students, learning it is a torture. Using active techinques can help us to catch their attention and provide them with useful learning they won’t ever forget.