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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Food around the World Introduction

I  have a new project for young learners that I hope will take off and continue throughout the year.
At the moment with my two classes of 6 to 7 year olds, we are looking at the topic Healthy Eating and we are learning lots of new vocabulary for food and drink, as well as learning about food groups and health.

Food around the World is an international project I have set up on a wiki, to share information with children in other parts of  the world. The idea is for teachers who are covering a similar topic with their class to add information to the wiki, so we can find out about different cultures and what they eat.

There are many ways in which this could be done, but those I suggest are:

a) Record a video of the children talking about food
b) Take photos of the children's drawings of food and add comments to the wiki

Other alternatives are to use digital storytelling tools to present the information.
I have split the wiki into different sections to incorporate different mini-themes. These are:

1) Breakfast around the world
2) Lunch around the world
3) Dinner around the world
4) My favourite food
5) Food I like/don't like
6) Food in my country
7) Food in my region
8) Healthy Eating

I plan to add photos of drawings my learners have made about what they eat and videos of them talking about it. For example, in the first theme I am going to ask them to draw a picture of their breakfast (or they could take a photo at home and send it by email) and to tell me what they have for breakfast. I will upload the resulting videos to the wiki.

There may be too many different tasks but the idea is that everyone can find something they can add to.

The project is aimed at primary learners, but some of the topics may be suitable for older students too.

The project appears on Skype in the Classroom and the link to the wiki is here.
The wiki is private and so anybody who would like to join in will have to ask for approval. This is for safety reasons.

If it time restrictions allow us to have a live Skype chat between classes, that is also a possibility.

If you are interested in taking part in this long-term project with your young learners, add a comment here, ask to join the wiki or add your name to the Skype project page.

Monday, January 14, 2013

5 Goals for 2013

Reading iTDi's post by Barb Sakamoto on Facebook this morning has encouraged me to come up with a set of my own professional goals for 2013. Last week I wrote about getting students to make their own list of learning goals for the term along with how they planned to achieve them. Now it's my turn...

1) Blog more - I think 2010 was my most prolific blogging year and I have certainly let myself down by barely blogging in 2012. Despite promises to keep up this blog, I have not done so, and what is the point of having a blog if you don't write? I would like to write a post every week, although I will only write if I have something to say. After all, no-one really wants to read my ramblings!

2) Write a couple of articles - Again 2010 was my article year. I wrote two fairly major articles, one for HLT online magazine and the other for MET. Blogging is one thing, but I think sitting down and planning an article, and then writing helps develop useful skills that otherwise are lost. I have not written an academic essay for several years and articles, like essays, require a good deal of planning and organization of ideas. It is also a great way of practising written English - I may be a native speaker, but having fluency in writing is something that I think most of us need to work on!

3) Improve my public speaking skills - I will be giving a workshop at TESOL Spain in March and hope to improve on previous workshops I have given. I gave a workshop on the same topic towards the end of last year, but I would like to greatly improve the presentation of my ideas and the flow of the talk. In previous workshops I have either a) used index cards with the main points and key words that I wanted to use, almost memorising the words from a written text I had prepared or b) got a bit lost with my index cards and done the rest of the talk ad lib. I would like to create a kind of mixture of the two - sounding natural and as if I know what I'm talking about, without having to refer so much to written cues. I am not sure I am going to be able to achieve this objective, as I get very nervous before a workshop, and lack confidence in my subject matter.

4) Complete all modules that are published on ELT Teacher 2 Writer.  I am very interested in materials writing, especially for Young Learners. I have already written and self-published a book for teachers of young learners, however, I would like to receive some training as I feel I need some guidance in this area.

5) Send in proposals for online workshops/webinars. This is something new for me, and quite nerve-racking for someone who gets nervous at face-to-face sessions. A webinar is generally attended by many more people than a conference workshop. It is also a very different experience as there are lots of other factors involved. I had a taste of webinars in last year's EVO Digital Storytelling course, but I tried to avoid speaking where possible! This year hopefully, I will be able to lead the webinar more comfortably, along with Juan Uribe, who I am sure has more experience in this! I am often sent links to online mini-conferences and calls for participation for things like VRT. This year I plan to send in a proposal and overcome my fear of speaking in webinars.

These are my five main objectives for the year 2013. Some of them I feel comfortable about (writing), others not so (public speaking) but I think it is important to challenge oneself and leave the comfort zone now and again.

What are your goals for 2013?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I promise that I will do my best...

Like most people, I like to start in New Year in a positive way, by making one or two lifestyle changes or at least trying to approach things with more enthusiasm and a more positive attitude. After the Christmas break, I need my students to throw themselves back into language learning with all the energy they can muster, especially if they are going to be sitting an external exam in the next few months. So I decided to encourage my adult learners to make New Year's English Resolutions.

These resolutions consist of a set of objectives that they will aim to reach over the following term, and how they plan to achieve these objectives.

We started the lesson talking about New Year's Resolutions generally - have they made any? What are they? Have they made a resolution before? Did they stick to it? Why(not)?

I shared my own ideas about why people often fail to maintain their resolutions, which are
1) lack of planning (I think you need to say what you are going to do and when)
2) lack of intrinsic motivation (people make resolutions in January because it is traditional, and often don't even expect to keep their promises)

and advice on how to keep your resolutions:
1) Make a plan or timetable to keep a record of what you want to do and keep it somewhere visible.
2) Tell as many people as possible, share it on all your social networks (peer pressure can work!)

I then told the students that we were going to come up with English Resolutions. They had to come up with a list of objectives, both general and specific, about what they expected to achieve over the next two months. As an example of the difference between general and specific objectives, I gave the following example:

I want to improve my vocabulary  - general
I want to learn at least 5 new words every day - specific
They also had to suggest how they could achieve those objectives - what would they do in order to learn 5 new words every day?

The students then shared their objectives with the rest of the class and we drew up a list of common goals, on which we would spend valuable class time. The more individual objectives would remain the responsibility of each student to work on in their free time.

At the end of the lesson, we had a list of areas on which most of the class wanted to work on, which I will integrate into our syllabus for the term, and each student had a list of things they plan to do each week at home. Some of them seem slightly over-ambitious ("I am going to watch at least one film in English a week, read a book in English, make my own vocabulary lists, do at least one writing task and study my grammar book") but I plan to regularly ask students how they are getting on and allow them to modify their objectives if they are not realistically possible.

Finally, I pledged to mark written work within a week, correct all homework exercises in class when they are due, and to add new vocabulary to our Memrise list every week.
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