Sunday, 23 September 2012

Take five

It's been too long since I've written a thing, so here I am. There's an activity I really like and would like to share - I used it to discuss learning styles with my students and they gave it a thumbs up which means it's GOOD. It's called a "sensory dictation" - I've heard about it from Marie in class this summer, but it can be found in Unlocking self-expression though NLP by Judith Baker and Mario Rinvolucri (Delta Publishing, 2008), as well as Dictation by Paul Davis and Mario Rinvolucri (CUP, 2002).

It goes like this:

  • Write on board and draw a symbol for each of the senses like on the picture. I won't be drawing here, seeing my squiggles is a privilege that belongs to my students, but if I were drawing here I'd draw and eye, an ear, a nose, a hand and a smiley sticking it's tongue out - one of my students thought of it and it took on...
  • Next, the teacher should dictate a list of 20-30 words. It can be anything really - I used just random everyday words I knew they were familiar with, because the point wasn't to revise, but to speak about learning styles. Next time, it might be words from a text or a unit. 
  • As the teacher dictates, students write the words in columns according to what comes to them first when they hear the words. Let's say the word is ice cream: Do they see an ice cream? Do they hear that annoying ice cream truck or someone talking about an ice cream? Do they taste ice cream? The first ones will write the word in the first column, the second ones in the second and the third ones in the fifth I taste column. 
  • After the dictation is done they discussed the following three questions in groups of three or four: In which column have you written the most words? Are there any empty columns? Why did you put a word in a column - is there anything interesting you noticed about yourself? 
  • In the end I talked to them about learning styles and about how they scored in the dictation and what might that mean for them as learners. I felt listened to, because they asked questions, gave examples - some light bulbs were definitely lit.
So try it out. ;)

And another thing. Some exams like IELTS, TOEFL and CPE contain something called a long turn task. The candidate receives a question or a topic and needs to speak about it for a minute or two or 45 seconds, which is a long time. Some people simply shut down in the face of it repeating "What do I say? I have nothing to say." Pointing them towards thinking in terms of the five senses helps. If the task is to describe an experience, a person or a place, chunking the task down to the senses: What do I remember seeing/hearing/smelling/touching/tasting there? helps. Simple, but it was a revelation to me. 

Have a nice week.
All my love,


Friday, 14 September 2012

How do you feel about learning today?

Hello everyone,

As I've learnt a lot this summer I've decided to introduce some changes to my lessons and I did it from day one of this school year. I've actually decided to try out everything I feel might be useful, so this is actually my first step of putting theory into practice.

The change my students have grown very fond of is asking them "How do you feel about learning today?". They don't even wait for me to ask anymore, they just show me with their thumbs or tell me. It really is a great way to start a lesson, because they get the chance to let all of the distractions go and warn me if there's something I can help with or need to take into consideration. As there is only 45 minutes to a lesson, the best way to approach this is by a quick survey. And here are some ways of how you can approach it:

  • A SHOW OF THUMBS: thumbs up for great, in the middle for so-so, thumbs down for not well.
  • A SHOW OF FINGERS: give yourself a grade from 1 to 10. 
  • DOODLES: draw something that represents how you feel - you can limit this to an animal, a plant, a film character, a cartoon character, a monster,  or a household object, 
  • MELODIES: Pick a song or a tune which represents how you feel and sing it or whistle it (noise risk factor to be taken into consideration!!)
  • CALLING OUT EMOTIONS: This is great if you've just done adjectives about feelings, you or a student might call out words for emotions and people sit down when their emotional state is named. This is good for developing empathy as the one calling out words needs to think about others. 
  • STRIKE A POSE: This one's primarily for young learners and only, and just maybe, for very open teenagers. Show how you feel by miming it or striking a pose. 
  • JUST ASK THEM: It's pretty obvious. But don't insist on everyone sharing, some things are private. 

Finally, it's a good idea to ask yourself the same question about teaching - just so you know where you stand  and if there's something you could do for yourself to feel better. 

Maybe this was more of a Monday post, but I wanted to finish the week on a positive note. 

Now I'll go home and rest. Monday's a very BIG day.

Love to all,

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Lost Art

A couple of people lately came to me saying they've been typing so much spelling has become an issue for them. I'm illiterate in two languages now!! one of them wrote in honest distress and I understand the unease in realizing you've forgotten 5th grade lessons... Once we were annoyed because teachers were constantly correcting us. It stopped, for a while we were relieved and now we miss being corrected....

It also reminded me of a discussion I took part in a couple of months ago. It was something about digital textbooks and two comments were made which really got me thinking.

I don't really care what happens to "handwriting skills" as I am sure that will be a forgotten art in a generation or two anyway.

About handwriting, maybe there would be some special courses for those students who might be interested in learning it.

The comments also inspired me to do some research and write a post which I'm going to re-post here. This is for the kinaesthetic learners out there who need to know why handwriting is important for learning and maintaining the skills of reading and writing.

Hope you enjoy it,
All my love,

The Forgotten Letter - Q as in: Quills or why teach handwriting at all? 

 Submitted by dxplorer on 10 February, 2012 - 19:35 

The revered Steve Jobs in his 2005 Stanford commencement address mentioned the impact enrolling in a calligraphy class had on his life, Apple and ultimately the world. It’s interesting how comments to my post about something Apple introduced into this world made me wonder: with all the swiping, typing, texting and tapping, why teach handwriting at all?

My little Google research lead me to this describing the work of Karin Harman James from Indiana University which showed the following interesting points:

  • The brains of children who learnt letters by writing them down reacted more intensely when they were shown a letter, than the brains of those children learnt about the letters otherwise.
  • Adults who were taught a set of new characters by writing them down more easily distinguished those characters from their mirror images.

These two findings point that by writing we take in the characters more deeply – not only visually, but also kinaesthetically. By writing the parts of our brain in charge of motor skills and sensory memory is activated too. And that leads not only to better writing, but also better reading, because if perception of a character activates more parts of our brain, we recognize it more easily.

To conclude: As obsolete as it may seem to be becoming – writing by hand is a skill not to be underestimated.

So stay hungry, stay foolish – and make your students’ hands write… at least the important things. ;)

Love to all,


Further reading available at the Science of Learning Blog and Science Daily.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Before I start posting about theoretical stuff again...

...I want to share an idea that found its way to my Google Reader this morning. Some people think that an idea is the most dangerous parasite in the world ;) - this one surely is contagious and may bring change and open dialogue, so it might be risky if you don't know how to deal with those things. BUT!! It may help you with tapping into what your students want/need/care about in a safe way - they may be seen writing it, but once the message is written it stands alone. I'm going on about something and you don't even know what it is, so without further ado:

You can change a classroom, seating order, the content of a lesson, the colour of a corridor or door, make plans of virtually any kind, ask and share whatever comes to your mind. "When I'm trying to learn a subject that's difficult..." may lead to a discussion about how they learn, how they feel about learning and tips on how to learn better. They can learn from each other.

I'm going to make a class of mine occupy a wall like this because I want to help them own their classroom - there are blank walls, old posters and so much wasted space which could be taken over by their own imagination.

So, after I'm done with this post, I'm going to spread the idea and hopefully it'll catch on. What about you? ;)


Sunday, 2 September 2012

Wield your words wisely

I'm very happy to report another anti-cyberbullying campaign has begun in Croatia. There has been some word about cyberbullying here with the UNICEF's Prekini lanac campaign, but for some unfortunate reason is down. I believe cyberbullying is one of those never ending issues with the increasing importance the world wide web has in everyday lives and education.

So, dear ex-Yu-languages speaking colleagues you can read all about the new campaign started by and association of young people called Medijska Tvornica here and here. And there are also two videos available, one of which will start if you click play in one, two, three...

Speak about it, spread the word and raise awareness. It's important kids learn that posting/revealing something online is no less real than a slap in the face.

Shine everyone!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

On Prezi

You might have noticed I use a presentation tool which somewhat differs from the usual Power Point. It's called Prezi and I love it very much. I've blogged about it before and you can find the post if you click here, but what made me blog about it again is a Prezi about Prezi made by Prezi team.

I think I liked it so much because in the first three slides they appeal to the kinaesthetic learners. It might be that they did so unwittingly or not, nonetheless - Prezis are a way to appeal to your students better. So here it is - What makes a Prezi beautiful? in the words of its upkeepers:

Hopefully you're having a great weekend before school starts.
All my love,