Tag Archives: education

Teaching from Afar: an Online Project Using Technology

"I am not telling you it's going to be easy. I am telling you it's going to be worth it" Art Williams

I’m going to scream this from the rooftops. Social media is more than meets the eye.

I love the possibilities social media offers for both students and teachers alike. Today, I want to share with you a project I did with my B2 students using technology and my professional social media network. But, before we dive in, let me ramble for a little bit here.

Social media is more than meets the eye. True that most people use it just for fun, to catch up with friends old and new and read the occasional news, hardly ever bothering to check the source of the news, but there are also lots of people who are using social media for other purposes.

Right now, social media provides teachers with lots of opportunities to learn and see what other teachers are doing all around the world. Instantly. For free.  You do not have to wait to read in a journal about the latest methodologies, about what teachers are doing on the other side of the world. You just follow people or communities, open your Facebook or your Twitter and there it is, opening doors and pulling down borders.

I grew up watching the news in black and white and using a landline phone to ask the operator to dial a number for me to be able to make a phone call so when in my 30’s there was talk of the possibility of making videoconferences, I thought it was science fiction. I couldn’t be more mistaken as we all know nowadays.

Today I would like to share with you a successful project I recently carried out with my B2 students using my professional social media and a free video/audio conference platform.

You are not one of my followers yet? Don’t worry! It is never too late!

Topic: education

Motivation:

  • to offer my students the opportunity to interact with native speakers from different countries ( something that is not easy in the north of Spain)
  • To ask them questions about their education system
  • To offer my students the opportunity to do a meaningful activity using the vocabulary learned during the lesson.
  • To make them realize they can understand and be understood by native speakers.

Tools:

  • Twitter/Facebook
  • Zoom
  • Slips of paper

Project: to interact with British/American native speakers and ask them questions about their education system using Zoom, a reliable  free video platform

Thanks to

My most heartfelt thanks to Tamara Parson, who is an English teacher living on the south coast of England; Trudi Rogers, also an English teacher living in France, and Hollin Wakefield,  a French teacher form Berkeley (California) and creator of the awesome app Fluentkey. Thank you very much for your generosity and patience. I couldn’t have done it without you.

One week  before the activity
  1. We worked with the topic of education and learned and practised vocabulary related to it.
  2. It was my first time using Zoom. I had to make sure I knew how to use it so I needed to persuade someone with enough computing skills to help me set a fake conference. (Thanks MªJosé)
  3. Using my professional social network Facebook and Twitter (bait, click to follow) I asked for collaboration of teachers from the UK and the USA.
The day before the activity
  1. I explained the activity and told my students we were going to have a video conference with experts on education from the UK and the USA. The conference was going to last about 30 minutes
  2. I asked my students to write interesting questions about things they wanted to know about the education system in the Uk and the USA. I instructed them to ask open questions.

This way we practised writing questions, which is something students always struggle with.

  1. Once they had their questions, I gave them a slip of paper and asked them to write their question there and at the back of it, their name.
  2. Using blue-tack, I displayed their questions on the walls of the class.
  3. I asked students to stand up and read all of them and then do a second reading choosing the ten questions they liked best. To indicate they liked a particular question, they just had to put a tick.

  1. I also read the questions, correcting grammar and spelling mistakes.
  2. The 10 questions which got more ticks were the ones students had to ask. However, if we had any spare time, any student could volunteer to ask any of their questions. In fact, in one of the groups, two or three extra questions were asked.
  3. I gave back each and every question to their owners and we worked on pronunciation.
  4. I told all my students to practise their questions at home as homework.
  5. I went home, set up the meeting on Zoom and emailed the collaborating teachers the invitation to the Zoom conference.
The day of the activity.
  1. We practised asking the questions again so that students felt more confident about their pronunciation.
  2. We moved chairs in front of the screen and at the appointed time, the videoconference began.
My personal experience

It is with immense satisfaction that I can say that it was a tremendous success.  Trudi, Tamara and Hollin were just awesome and even though I had never seen them before and could have easily pulled back, they didn’t and they were really generous with their time.

From an academic point of view, my students were really motivated and it was really a boost to their confidence as not even once did they have to repeat their questions and they could easily follow the answers and sometimes lengthy explanations.

What is more, in the answers given by the native teachers, they could recognize most of the vocabulary they have worked with in class and this made studying this vocabulary more meaningful to them.

As for me, I was delighted. I am not going to say, it did not take time to set it up because I would be lying but it was really worthwhile.

Besides, the press caught wind of the activity and we made it to the local news as you can see in the photo below.

Thanks to Illán García from La Nueva España and to José Alesson for the photographs.

"I am not telling you it's going to be easy. I am telling you it's going to be worth it" Art Williams

Lesson Plan: Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world

Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world- Nelson Mandela

I’m so excited. Truly. I am. It’s been months since the last time I taught a class full of students. I know it’s going to be hard but I’m really willing to get back in the swing of things. I’m also preparing material for my workshops, and I have a bunch of work to catch up on, but I’m anyway feeling really motivated. So, it seems I am off to a good start.

This is a lesson for upper- intermediate students (B2) about education. In this post, you will find

  • Some vocabulary you might need to revise/learn when discussing this subject.
  • A small challenge with some confusing terms related to education
  • A video about  6 problems of our education system
  • Speaking practice: questions to discuss
  • A written assignment

The warm-up. Setting the context

I don’t think there is a better way to introduce a topic than by showing students a picture that will probably spark interest and hook students into the lesson. That’s the aim of the picture below.

Show the picture and listen to student’ reactions. Probably, the first one would be “Me, neither”, but let’s dig in for more profound reactions.

Tell students to get into pairs and think of three reasons why this boy wouldn’t want to go to school. Allow them 2 or 3 minutes and the write their suggestions on the board and discuss them.

Ask students: Can you relate to the boy in this picture? What can you remember about your kindergarten? In your opinion, what’s the ideal age to start school?

The vocabulary

Ask students to work in pairs. Write on the board the word “education” and ask students to brainstorm vocabulary related to the topic. Encourage them to mind map to help them revise vocabulary related to this thematic area. Allow them some minutes and get feedback from the whole class.  I gave handout 1   to my intermediate students last year, so this year (B2), I will probably need to revise and add the terms in handout 2 explaining difficult vocabulary.

The challenge.Did you know?

In this part of the lesson, students are presented with some confusing terms.

Ask them to work in pairs and discuss the questions posed in the flip cards. Award 1 point to the student who has guessed the right answer.
Flash Card Deck created by Cristina Cabal with GoConqr
Speaking. The questions.

Ask students, in pairs or small groups, to answer the following questions about education, where they will revise some of the vocabulary learned in the previous step. Encourage the use of new vocabulary.

You can get the PDF with the questions here, but isn’t it more appealing to use the Spark below.

Education

Listening. The video: 6 problems with our school system.

Methodology: collaborative retelling

It is a longish video. It lasts almost 6 minutes so I’d suggest breaking it up and asking students to work on different parts of the video.  In the video, 6 problems with our education system are mentioned.

This activity will be set as homework.

  1. Introduction.  In class, play the first 34 seconds of the video and tell students to give you a summary. They will probably say that the video shows how our system of education has become obsolete and is not preparing children for the real world. Ask them whether they agree with this idea.

2. Homework.

  • Explain that everybody will need to listen to the introduction again (first 34 sec) which summarizes the content of the video.
  • Tell students the video talks about 6 problems our current education system is facing nowadays.
  • Form groups of six students and tell them that, in the next lesson, they will be working in groups of six and each of them will share what they have learned about their assigned problem and their opinion on whether this is a real problem in their country providing examples, if possible.Alternatively, you can form groups of 3 students and assign each student two problems.
  • Assign tasks to the different students in the  group
  • Student 1: Industrial Age values 0:35-1:26
  • Student 2: Lack of autonomy 1:26-2:18
  • Student 3: Inauthentic learning  2:18-3:12
  • Student 4: No room for passion 3:12-4:15
  • Student 5: Differences in how we learn 4:15-4:40
  • Student 6: Lecturing 4:40-5:56

Writing. An opinion essay.

Write an opinion essay on the following:

Our current system of education is now outdated and ineffective.

Here’s a nice post I wrote last year which might help you.

Five Steps to Writing an Excellent Opinion Essay

Thanks for reading!

Word of the Day: Teacher , Professor and Lecturer

Do you know the difference between these three seemingly identical terms?

Let’s start by stating the obvious, all of them are related to “teaching”; but is there a difference between them? Indeed there is, as otherwise I wouldn’t be bothering you with this issue and well you know it!  🙂

Alright,  let’s get down to the point. I know you’re all on tenterhooks and I don’t want to see you suffer.

At school, there are teachers. At university , there are lecturers and professors.

♥A lecturer  is a university teacher who has just started teaching at college or university. Lecturers do not have tenures ( permanent position) and they are at an early stage of their careers.

Some words that collocate with lecturer are:

I was a junior  lecturer in Spanish at Oxford  University when I was in my 30s

♥A professor, on the other hand,  is the principal teacher in a department and he usually has a doctorate degree. When he   first gets his doctorate degree, he becomes an assistant professor  and teaches  for 5 or 6 years. Then, he is  given tenure and  becomes an associate professor and finally he  can promote to become a  full professor. So, professor is the highest rank an academic can get.

Some words that collocate with professor are

I spent  a year as a visiting professor at Oviedo University. He is a distinguised professor of history.

 To finish, I would remind you that teachers give  lessons and lecturers and professors  give lectures.

 

 

Word of the Day: crib notes

What’s  a “crib note” in British English or a  “cheat sheet “ in American English?

It is a small piece of paper containing the answers to an examination . The note is very small so it escapes detection and can be easily destroyed or eaten if detection is imminent.

I never thought I would write a post about crib notes, not with me teaching adults, but when you are teaching teenagers this is something you have to become an expert at .Don’t get me wrong here! I am convinced that most teenagers do not cheat  and that it was only  by sheer chance that  in these two weeks of exams I’ve  caught two students red handed .New technologies? No way! The picture accompanying this post is real ,from one of my classrooms: the students used the inside of the curtain to write his crib note. I wonder if I should send the curtain home to his mum to wash it!

I have done some research on the Internet looking for alternatives to spoiling a – if not beautiful- curtain , at least , the only one we’ve got.

I have learned that the most important thing is to be able to conceal the crib note successfully. Now, pay attention , I have become an expert!

Hide your notes under the exam . This is the traditional one but I am going to give you a very important tip. Don’t look at the teacher. This is the most common mistake because it immediately gives you away.

Use a bottle of water. Cut the outside wrapping , glue your notes and glue the wrapping back to the plastic bottle. Please, don’t stare at the bottle for too long or I might think you have gone postal.

Use a cap with the notes glued on the inside. Take off your cap and let the show begin!

Use glasses . Give yourself a rest to rub your eyes and … you know what to do!

Use your mobile phone.  Easy, no effort , but a lot more expensive than the rest!

The truth is that if you are going to write your notes by hand  ( in the computer , use Times New Roman font, size 6) you’ll find that you have  accidentally studied and you might end up never even using it.