28 August, 2015

I have a dream .. Flipped at last !

"Flip it to win it" Is that true ? Can you gain more if you flip your classroom ?
What can happen if the students do some work at home (read, listen, research a topic, learn some vocabulary or find answers to some questions) and then engage in more practice activities in class?! I believe that would be great for both the teacher and the student !

That's how a flipped classroom works. It's more student centered and more productive in terms of using the language. And that's why I had a dream to try a flipped classroom with my students one day and here comes the day !!

As the 28th of August is the anniversary of Martin Luther King's I have a dream speech, we were encouraged as teachers to try to raise the topic of equality and diversity in class with our students using this speech which was an important moment in the American Civil Rights movement and history. Another thing that made me see it can work is the events and changes Egypt has been through in the last few years. We are still hoping and working for a change in many fields and all Egyptians have lots of dreams for their future and the country's as well.

After listening to King's speech, I thought it would be difficult to play it in class as it is a bit long (almost 16 mins) and not so easy - in terms of language - for students to work on for the first time in class. So, I thought that's the moment I should try a Flipped Classroom .


So, the questions I had to answer while planning for this lesson were;

1. How will I introduce the topic in class?
2. What are the tasks students have to do at home?
3. What kind of activities I can use later in class based on this lesson?

The answers to these questions are in the following stages of my lesson :

The first stage:

- I introduced the topic asking students about important dates in their lives and in our country's old and modern history. They shared personal dates and dates of important events in Egypt such as; The Egyptian Revolution and The New Suez Canal - which was inaugurated the beginning of this month - among some others.
- Showing students a photo of Martin Luther king , I could elicit who he is. Some of them know him well and one could even remember his famous sentence "I have a dream".
- I showed students a short video that tells interesting facts about Martin Luther king's speech.
- Commenting on the video, students started to get more interested in the topic and thus I was ready to set the main task they should do at home.

The second stage : Task at home:

1. Watch the video of the speech, read the script or listen and read, then answer the following question:
What did Martin Luther King dream about for the future of the black and white communities?
2. Find the meaning of difficult or new key words in the speech.

The last stage : Next class:

- The next class, students came with lots of good notes from the speech. They started sharing it with each other in pairs, then with the whole class.
- After that, they chose a representative from each small group (3/4 students) to write the new key words they learnt from the speech on the board. Some words were repeated, so we eliminated them to give an opportunity to share more words. When the board was full of key words , students started explaining the meaning of these words and how some of them had a different meaning conveying King's message and the suffering of the black people at that time.

It was really enriching for everyone and raised good points for discussion.

The next part of the class was asking students to think and write short notes of their own dreams for their future, the future of their country, local community or human race.

The final stage was giving each student an A3 white paper and some crayons, colour pens and pencils and asking them to put these dreams on paper as a drawing, list or any other kind of product they want.

The students enjoyed that part of the lesson so much and the products were really amazing . They were relaxed; thinking, drawing, coloring, and reflecting on each other's products wondering what they might mean. Every student expressed his/her dreams on their own special way and presented them to the class in 1 minute. I gathered all the products on a padlet wall and invited students to comment on the lesson there as well. You can see samples of their work there.

Variations :

The final products students work on can be an interview (audio or video), writing a blog post about the speech, conducting a survey, ..etc.

You can choose a simpler reading text about the speech or part of the speech, if you're teaching lower level students. There are lots of good lesson plans and free resources online that you can use or adapt according to your students' level and age.

Limitations / problems:

Some students might not do the task at home, so you have to ensure beforehand they know that the next lesson will be based on that task. Another thing you can do is to ask the students who did the task to summarize the speech or they can share the main points in pairs.

I am really happy with the experience and proud of my students. In this lesson, I aimed at and managed to achieve two of the #30goalsedu; goal #5 Integrate tech effectively and goal #23 Plant a seed of belief. Trying something new in class as well as inspiring students to keep dreaming of many good things to happen in their future and the future of their country are always good and rewarding aims.

Keep dreaming and let your dreams be seeds of belief that they will come true :)

11 April, 2015

Iatefl online ... live the conference (1)

Though it's not easy to have all your dreams come true whenever you want, it's still possible to come closer to them. Attending iatefl conference is one of my dreams that I will looking forward to. However, it's not impossible to attend some of the sessions now online through the live webcast offered by the conference website . This year, I intend to attend the 49th annual convention online and watch as many sessions as possible then report about them here in my blog. Today, I watched Donald Freeman's plenary session, which was really thought provoking and that's why I decided to write this blog post once the session ended.

Frozen in thought?
How we think and what we do in ELT
Donald Freeman

Donald started his session by presenting a classroom situation where a teacher plays "Bingo" with her students as she believes "Bingo is the only thing that works with kids". From this quotation, he commented that we as teachers always find reasoning or justification for what we do in class whether internally; to justify what we do for ourselves or externally; to justify it to others. "That reason we give depends on three myths," Freeman says. These myths can be right or wrong and each of them might have useful or misleading aspects. However, clarifying that distinction "helps to 'thaw' our thinking".

Myth 1 :  'Direct' causality
It's the myth that teaching causes learning. Donald explains what happens in the classroom as a Billiard game. The teacher hits a ball, which is like revealing a secret (one language point), then the students hit the next, depending on the teacher's first shot. It keeps going on until learning happens. However, we can't say that "teaching has nothing to do with learning" as it facilitates learning and is an integral part of the learning process. Donald finalized this part showing a picture that represents the relationship between teaching and learning as a spiral movement; one move from the teacher, followed by another from the learner and so on.

Myth 2 : 'Sole' responsibility
It's the belief that the teacher is the only source of learning and thus responsible for everything that happens in the classroom. In a way, we have responsibility as we act as decision makers; preparing the materials, taking decisions in the classroom, reacting to students' needs, ...etc.
However, Donald sees it as much more like a chess table. The move a teacher makes affects the students' decisions on what to do next, and their moves affects the teacher's choices of what decisions to take based on those moves , and so on. Thus, it's all about decision making; one move shapes the possibility of what comes next. It provides the teacher with opportunities to teach and offers more learning opportunities for the learner. "When you teach , you have to manage what you can't control, " was the final quote Donald ended his second myth with.

Myth 3 : 'proficiency' as the goal
It's the myth that the goal of teaching is 'proficiency', which is grounded on an idea of 'nativeness' which 'is not a linguistic idea, but rather a geopolitical one.' Donald also argued that though it's important to describe how good people can be at a language, it's also problematic to describe it as the language itself is flexible. Moreover, defining what's 'good' is not that possible as it's not a universal concept.

Donald explained how the classroom bounds the language by showing a picture called 'the suitcase for travel', in which the suitcase represents the outline of the classroom, and the background is the outside world. So, what we see through the suitcase doesn't represent the larger whole outside it. So, we do teach part of what students need to be 'proficient' but not all. At this point, Donald proposed the concept of "Horizontal knowledge" which is what's in and outside the case, suggesting that we should think of 'proficiencies' as plural rather than 'proficiency' as it happens in different contexts and should only be bounded by these situations. Donald summed up this argument with a satisfying conclusion that  as teaching is central in the learning process which should be driven by the learner, we - as teachers - should organize learning in a way that helps the learners decide what they need to learn.

It was such an eye-opening session that can change the way we teach in a positive way and thus affect our learners' concept of learning ........ and proficiency.
Donald Freeman ended his session with some inspiring quotes. However, the following one as a key that opens doors to the unknown !!

Hope I could bring some of the key ideas of the first plenary to those who weren't able to attend it. However, it's still possible to attend more plenary sessions live online and watch recordings of many more !!

30 November, 2014

The Silent Way

It is very important to get out of your comfort zone whenever possible to fly high, enjoy the freedom of getting rid of limits and feel the excitement of innovation.
Choosing a new teaching method that you have never used in class to try out as an experimental practice is a real challenge, but an exciting opportunity to get out of your comfort zone. That's why I decided to choose the silent way.
The three basic concepts of the silent way are interdependence, autonomy and responsibility. It enhances learners' autonomy and responsibility as they independently rely on what they know to learn what they do not know and thus they are responsible for their own learning. As the teacher doesn't interfere in the students' learning process, they are encouraged to listen to and correct each other which 'fosters interdependence and cooperation among students' (Yuksel & Caner, 2014, p.42).

How challenging it is to have a class based on zero teacher talking time and 100% student talking time! I had lots of questions that motivated me to further explore this method:
1. How can a teacher introduce new language without saying a word?
2. Can it work with low-level students when we usually have more TTT than STT?
3. What other tools can replace talking?
4. If it's used to present new language, will it help students in other stages such as controlled or freer practice? To what extent?
5. If it is mainly talking the language, so how far will students manage writing it?
6. To what extent will it appeal to students with different learning styles ?

........... and lots of other questions !

Having all the previous questions in mind,
I started reading a lot about how the silent way started and its techniques and principles. It was also very useful to watch some online videos of lessons using the silent way.

I chose my elementary class for this EP as I was interested in testing how it can work with low-level classes in which the teacher is the main target of the language and thus TTT is more than STT.

Having a mixed class of different age groups, sexes and nationalities was another challenge that made the experience enriching.
I spent days playing with the cuisenaire rods which are the main tools in the silent way lessons. They will be my tongue, voice and mind. They will say all I want to say !!
I chose the target language, practiced how to introduce it with gestures, word charts, pictures and the cuisenaire rods, and wrote a detailed lesson plan with opportunities for controlled and freer practice as well as a writing stage where I will be able to test how students will be able to manage writing after a whole lesson of using the language orally.

Though the silent way is mostly used with pronunciation, I decided to use it to introduce a grammar structure; "have got/ has got" positive, negative and short forms. This was due to the fact that my students give much attention to the grammatical rules rather than how to use them to communicate, and they always try to understand what every and each single word in a structure mean rather than how or why to use the whole structure.

During the lesson: 
A key feature of the silent way is to start from the known to the unknown. That's why I started by introducing the rods to practice the singular and plural forms of some vocabulary that students are familiar with. Students were shown a picture of an item and they have to say its name using 'a/an' for singular or '-s/es' ending for plural. This gave student confidence to practice something they are familiar with and get used to the rods.
Using the word charts and gestures, I introduced each part of the target structure using rods and eliciting it from the students. Generating different sentences using different pictures of the singular and plural items, students were getting familiar with the new structure and producing it more confidently.
Sticking two rods together helped students figure out the difference between the short form in a positive sentence; "I've & She's" and in a negative sentence; "I haven't got & She hasn't got"
Controlled Practice: 
In pairs, students were given a set of rods and picture to form sentences for their peers to say. They were very confident doing it on their own , without any interference from me, and they did it accurately.
Freer communicative practice:
After modelling the activity silently and eliciting the structure, students used the target language to talk about what they have got in their bags. They could easily convert from first person to third person reporting about what other students have got.

Interesting Findings:
1. Students were able to transform their oral production of the target language to the written form accurately without any prior exposure to it or interference from the teacher.
2. This new visual teaching method appealed to almost all the students as mentioned in their post-lesson feedback, and they wanted to apply it more often in other lessons. This shows that students liked this inductive way of teaching grammar though they have always expressed their need for the grammatical rules. Still, some of them elicited the rules themselves which gave them a sense of achievement and security.
3. Some of the students were writing the sentences produced in class, though the main goal was only producing the language orally, which interestingly shows that those students can process the language better if it is in the written form.
4.Weak students were actively engaged, without any sense of discouragement or lack of confidence. I think this is due to the fact that all students are equally trying to figure out the new structure and they are all unfamiliar with this new teaching method. Also, correcting and being corrected by peers without any interference from the teacher promoted self confidence and created a more relaxing learning environment.

Thanks to all my mentors who encouraged me to go for this challenge, promising it will be a learning curve in my professional development. Yes, I believe it will definitely affect my teaching practice and professional development a lot and I hope it was a special learning experience for my students as well.
So, get out of your comfort zone and fly high .... enjoy teaching and your students will definitely enjoy learning with you :)

If you are interested, share your ideas, experiences and comments below !

11 October, 2013

Get inspired at RSCON 4 !

It was a very exciting moment when Maria Bossa and I were invited by RSCON conference organizers to present about our online collaboration project which we conducted with our students from Argentina and Egypt. In this project we used more than one web 2.0 tool to get our students inspired to collaborate together and communicate practising English.

This project was also a turning point for Maria and I. It was a starting point of a wonderful journey of professional development. It had not only affected our professional life, but also our social and personal life as well.

To know more about this project and our exciting journey since then, join our session @RSCON4  http://www.futureofeducation.com/forum/topics/argentegypt-an-online-collaboration-project 

There are also 10 international keynotes, 4 panel discussions featuring distinguished experts and over 100 presentations by eductors around the world ..... So get inspired and attend some of these wonderful sessions .... You can check the whole schedule and other details here http://www.futureofeducation.com/page/2013-reform-symposium

Enjoy an inspiring weekend !!

See you around :)

13 April, 2013

The Alphabet photographing game !

The idea of this project was  shared by Carla Arena in her LT SIG webinar "Rethinking the language classroom - from mobile to learning". In that webinar she shared lots of ideas about the use of mobile devices in classroom activities and projects.
Since it's not allowed to use some mobile devices in our school, I liked the idea of the Alphabet Game project as it depends on the use of cameras which I could easily get permission to use with my students.
The idea of the project is that students are divided into groups. The Alphabet letters are divided among the groups. Each group is asked to go around the school taking photos of items that start with the letters they are assigned. An extension of this activity is that after they finish taking photos of items of all alphabet letters, they go back to class and each group writes a story containing all the words of the items they photographed.

My students were very excited to know they are going to bring their cameras to use at school. On the day assigned for this activity, I explained to them the activity. They got very happy and much more excited when they knew they are going to leave the classroom and move around the school taking photos !! The alphabet letters were divided among four groups of students. They ran down the stairs, full of a high spirit of challenge ! They moved from one place in the school to another taking photos. They started with the playground, then moved to the library, computer lab, bathrooms, corridors, kitchen, and every corner of the school !! They even acted some words like "Queue" as they queued up and asked one of them to take a photo of their queue !! Another challenge was the letter "X" as they couldn't find an item starting with "X" in our school !! Four of the team lied on the floor in the same shape of an X and the photo was taken !!
After that, they all went back to class and sat in groups checking their photos and thinking up a story that contains all the words of the items they have photographed. By the end, they put up the photos and the story together and made up a wonderful product !!

Here is a photopeach where you can see my students in all steps of that exciting project. You can add your comments at the end !!
Enjoy it !!

ABC photographing class on PhotoPeach

07 July, 2012

Diigo for professional development

        I remember when I first started getting into the web world, I used to write down the addresses of the best sites I visited and a short note on each. Soon afterwards, I started using the bookmarking feature of my internet browser. Till very recently, it was the best way to keep all my favorite resources inspite of still having the risk of losing them if I had to re-install my windows system due to a problem in my computer, or even not being able to access them on any other computer !!
       After joining the Baw 11 online EVO course, I got to know about some online bookmarking tools, through which I can access my favourite or bookmarked resources anywhere and using any computer. Delicious and Diigo are two popular bookmarking tools, though many others come out everyday ! I started using Delicious and Diigo as bookmarking tools to get to know the differences between them. However, I couldn't find the real potenial of them among many others until I read Nik Peachey's latest post on using social media for professional development .

Today, I'll start with Diigo:
        After you sign up for free in Diigo, you install its browser bookmarklet (Diigolet) through which you can easily bookmark any resources, just like your browser's bookmarking feature. Diigo's main basic features, which you have seen in their Demo video above, are:
- Bookmarking any articles, websites, resources.
- Adding sticky notes which you can check, edit, ... whenever and wherever you access you Diigo account.
- Selecting any text to highlight using different colours.
- Sharing your resources to Twitter, Facebook, or by e-mail.
- Sharing an annotated link, which allows you to share any webpage with sticky notes or highlights with anyone !!

Diigo groups:
      These are groups of Diigo users who share a common interest and inside this group, they share their bookmarks, sticky notes, ...etc. After you join Diigo, you browse groups, choose a group(s) to join, according to your interests. You can share any resource you bookmark with this group. This way, it's saved in your library and shared with this group.
      The best about this feature of groups is that you receive updates of bookmarks shared in the group by other members!! Since I discovered this feature, I have joined some groups such as Educators, Literacy with ICT, ...and others. Then I started getting updates of resources and articles shared in these groups. You can't imagine how this can be such a very "rich source of professional development" as Nik mentioned in his article !! You go through the titles of bookmarks, pick what interests you, read, bookmark and share with others !!
      Now, I can see great webheads and professionals, from whom I used to share resources, sharing my bookmarks or shares now !! Wow, Isn't this great !? It's changing me into an active member in my PLNs !! 
      If you have been wondering how will you spend your summer vacation fruitfully developing as a teacher, then join Diigo and its group if you still haven't !!
      Waiting for your comments which are always appreciated !! :)

26 March, 2012

Listening Treasures

Joining Classdigitools, one of EVO 2012 sessions was very inspiring!! In week three of this 5 weeks course, we were exploring many treasures (web tools) to develop students' listening skills. Here are some of these treasures:

It's a great website as nearly all materials are read by young learners nearly the same age as my students. My students have always complained that in many listening activities, the speaker's accent is not clear or that the listening task is not interesting for young people their age! I guess it's solved now !! I'm sure this site will grab their attentiona nd they will love it !! Besides, it's very easy. Just one click on the kid's nice photo takes youto the video. It's also available as an iphone app!!

Listen and write 
It's a good site mainly for dictation. You can choose either to listen and write or watch and listen then write. their listening skills are based on news articles from different sources. you canhave dictation passages in more than ten different languages. Though you can use the site without registeration, however, by logging in using a free account, you can choose whether to be dictated by word level or sentence level, upload your own audio, save your scores and have a record of your history! You can watch Russell Stannard's tutorial of this site here


It introduces 3 audio tools:
1) Myna : The demo shows how this tool is used for editing sound tracks. It can be used to eliminate any background noise, add sound effects, or background music, or cut and paste sound tracks!! It's one of many tools offered in Aviary. You can find other tools such as music creator, image editor, screen capture, ...etc.
2) Monle: It's similar to the previous tool, but as a smart phone app.
3) Audioboo: An easy audio tool through which you can easily record your audio messages and share them online. It's also available as an iphone app !!

I agree with Nik Peachey that listening to the audio track of a film is sometimes helpful when we are focusing on the listening skill itself. I find the first website suggested http://listentoamovie.com/ very useful and easy to use.
The second one http://www.script-o-rama.com/oldindex.shtml completes a task with the first one as in this site you can get the scripts for whole films !! WOW!! that can generate lots of activities as you can even print them ! Nik's blogs have been always inspiring as he doesn't only introduces a new web tool, but also suggest a lesson plan on how to use this tool in your class !! Thanks Nik !!

It's a youtube channel which offers quite an interesting series of interviews with famous figures in all fields such as Mike Tyson as a sports figure, Sting as a singer, Robin Williams, an actor and lots more. All viewers can find one of their favorite popular figures which they would like to hear more about !! These videos can serve as very good listening activities as they are not long, just about 4 to 7 mins only.

You start by choosing the corpus you want (Let's say English corpus), then click load corpus. The first list you get is a list of interviews. You can read a short summary of each before you choose one. For each interview you have some options: play video, play audio, download audio file, show transcript, or show section overview. When you choose to show transcript, it shows you the full transcript, divided into sections according to the ideas of the interview. In the same transcript screen, you have Annotations options through which you can highlight the grammatical points, spoken language markers, topics, and other linguistic areas covered. It 's not just a webiste that gives interviews that can be used as listening activities, it's an amazing website shedding light on many aspects of a language.

It's a very attractive site as it appeals to children. You can browse the three main sections of the site: subjects, videos , and games. Once a  student types a word in the search box, s/he gets the definition , a video explaining the word and a game. If there is no video or game on the word searched, you can upload a video explaining it or create a game with a list of at least 10 words. I have tried creating a game and it's great fun. It would be nice if students uploaded their own videos explaining a word. It will be quite an exciting experience for them.

It is a website based on what is called 'echoes', which are recordings about any topic you choose. You can listen to recordings of people from all around the world. You can record your own echo or upload an MP3 file. You can embed an echo in your online space too. So, it's a tool to listen to recordings, create your own and share with others.

It's a very famous and popular website worldwide which contains a lot of  inspiring TED Talks videos. You can limit your search by field, or many other interesting categories. They can not only serve as listening activities, but they can also be pre-writing activities as they arouse a great deal of discussion, which students can write about later.

Ted Talks Wiki 

This project Wiki is mainly addressing "How can the TED talks be used as springboards for further discourse, exploration, reflection and action". It has a great collection of TED talks gathered together in one place and collected under specific headings according to their topic.