Tesol Convention in Peru

Tesol Convention in Peru

The TESOL Convention was held two weeks ago in Chiclayo, Peru. It owed its success to the organizers and speakers that came from all over the world, but also to its 400 participants that made their ways from different Peruvian regions. (Apurimac, Tacna, Amazonas, Lambayeque, Lima and many others!)

The topic this year was English: Paths to success and I think no other topic could have been more suitable. It makes no doubt that English is the way to go in our globalized world. English as a key to unlock doors to knowledge and opportunities. We were invited to deliver speeches and give demonstrations about how English can be best used and developed in ELT classes and to tell you the truth 3 days were not enough to explore all the different strategies we talked about!

Not only does the TESOL give the opportunity to develop skills and learn new tricks to make English lessons better in terms of content and progression, but it is also an invaluable tool to meet people from different teaching contexts and to make links to further our knowledge in teaching. I have always found that meeting other teacher trainers with varied perspectives about education and teaching can broaden your mind and it is a critical asset that allows to rethink your work under a different angle.

Events like this are keys to ensure the professional development of teachers and in the unity of teachers.  Last year, Dr. Yilin Sun, the President of TESOL International explained that “ (teachers) should take every opportunity to improve on (their) practice, that’s what will lead to the path of teacher leadership”.

This year, in an inspirational opening plenary Laura G. Holland, from the University of Oregon opened up the audience’s mind on the importance of collegiality. Building our knowledge as teachers, as leaders but also as colleagues because the improvement in education will come through our ability to consider ourselves as an integrant part of a teaching community.
This year, participants and speakers went one step closer to leadership by putting the efforts into working together. Through the wide variety of workshops and proposed activities, there was room of each and everyone.

The Peru TESOL convention 2017 has one more time proven that it could gather teachers and speakers around a global theme. Teachers should now try to see themselves as leaders, and they should also see themselves as members of a large family willing to endlessly improve for the good of their students, their own good and the good of the whole society.

Check some of the workshops and talks that were delivered during the TESOL:

  1. Peer observation
  2. Speak up! Strategies to promote communication in class
  3. Grammar: Innovative strategies to motivate, Engage and Challenge everyone
  4. Teaching mixed-ability classes
  5. Teaching and Learning with the 21st century technology

1. Peer observation

Getting formally observed is usually an activity teachers are a bit reluctant to go through. Observations usually mean that a manager is going to observe your class and give you a grade at the end of it. The point of formal observations is to assess the skills and techniques of teachers. No doubt it can be scary! However, peer observation is very different in the sense that there is no grade or pressure as the idea is to help you improve on your skills and strengthen your existing abilities as a teacher.

In her workshop Peer observation made easy: Tips, Strategies and Leadership, Laura G. Holland shared ideas and peer observation models to make peer observations valuable tools for every teacher. So, are you ready to taste a recipe for successful peer observations?

Define the benefits of peer observation

Peer observations should happen in a non-threatening environment. An environment of trust, mutual respect and willingness to learn from one another. Because what is peer observation if not learning? You gain knowledge by being observed and by observing your peers. What are the implications of peer observations? What do you expect to earn from the process?

The challenges

The main challenge is Time. Finding time to set up such a process can be difficult if it is not already part of your school culture. The lack of administrative support can also be considered as an obstacle. Some teachers might not be willing to play the game. Some might consider themselves too experienced, while others might lack confidence to engage in the process.

Step-by-step

  • Find a colleague you trust and you know will be non-judgmental.
  • Set common rules. What do you want to observe and why? What do you want to be observed on? How long will the observation process take place? When will you meet for a feedback?
  • Explain to your students beforehand the purpose of your colleague’s presence. You want a class that sounds as normal as it typically is.
  • Deliver your class as you would normally do. If you are the one observing the class, take as many notes as possible. Make sure they are clear and organized to read through them after the lesson.
  • Try to meet as soon as the class is done to keep all your ideas fresh.
  • Engage in a sensitive discussion where you will discuss all the positive elements of the observation.
  • Feedback on only 3 main points that you consider essential for further development.
  • Be sensitive to each other and super positive. In some peer observation models, there is no negative feedback of any kind. That type of model can be worth using for low self-esteem teachers.

Further suggestions. Extra tips

When observing a lesson, you may want to focus only on positive, successful or new strategies that you want to implement in your class. The use of videos can also be of great help to help teachers get involved into the process. Watching videos about teacher training with a fellow teacher can relief the pressure of being observed for the first time. You evaluate the positive aspects of the lesson and may discuss what could be improved in a non-judgmental way.

2. Speak up! Strategies to promote communication in class

During the TESOL convention I had the opportunity to deliver a workshop about Communicative strategies and tips in class. This was a nice way to reinforce the basics with teachers while offering them some food for thoughts with activities and games they may not had tried or heard about before.
We all know that implementing speaking skills can be a little bit tricky as our students may be reluctant to speak up. They might lack self-esteem and confidence, they might be shy or they believe that they don’t have the “right” pronunciation. So, it is our job to help them develop these skills. For that purpose, we need to find topics that interest them, we need to provide the tools, the vocabulary, the grammar they need to progress and we need to think about creative ways to engage and motivate them.
The best way to engage them is to follow a clear progression in our teaching first. A progression that has to be logical for them to acquire the skills they need to use both vocabulary and grammar efficiently.
There are 5 main steps to consider when teaching speaking skills.

1. Base: Grammar and Vocabulary:

The first step, the base is when we teach grammar and vocabulary. This step is essential as it will determine the rest of our teaching so it has to be planned carefully from A to Z. For the first step, what matters is to implement simple, clear language in chunks. We will focus on pictures-words matching up for beginners and definitions or questions/answers for most advanced students.

2.The short model

The second step is the short model when we provide students with listening activities so that they can get used to the vocabulary and grammar in context along with the pronunciation. The second can be an audio or a video. It has to be short, to build on their previous learning and we need to check their understanding.

3. The short practice

This step is more student-centered. Our students will progressively learn to reuse the language they have acquired in more autonomous ways until they reach the final step, the production step. Until now the steps were rather teacher centered. Now, students should be able to immerse themselves a bit more. For that stage, they will repeat the situation but they will change a couple of details. You will monitor their work and provide short feedback. You may also ask your students to perform in front of their classmates.

4. The longer practice

Here the context will vary a little and the structures can be a little more complex. You may want to insist a bit more on gestures here to make the use of language more natural and authentic. Do not hesitate to involve your students in acting as well.

5. The production

The final stage is the production stage. Sadly, this a step that is skipped a lot in class because of time constraint. We don’t always have time to get our students to use the language independently. We tend to use the longer practice as the final step but it shouldn’t. The production stage is really the stage when you can assess your students’ skills and that is the occasion for them to be fully creative when implementing the grammar and vocabulary they have learnt. Something that can be done if you are really limited in terms of time is to give them this activity as homework. You can even convert it into a PBL activity.

6. Extra tip

Last but not least: Pronunciation. Pronunciation is important, it is true but we need to bear in mind that it shouldn’t be an obstacle to learning. I mean by that that many students are reluctant to speak because they believe they don’t have the right pronunciation. Well, what is the right pronunciation? We all have different accents, this does not mean we can’t understand eachother, does it? So just my two cents here, but I think pronunciation should be taught as part of speaking skills ability and reinforced slightly at every stage but it shouldn’t be taught as a skill in itself.

3. Grammar: Innovative strategies to motivate, Engage and Challenge everyone

Another workshop I was really glad to present was the one about Grammar. Delivering a 90-minute workshop on grammar is never enough to explore everything with 35 eager-to-learn teachers, but that is always a good way to share ideas and promote communication between teachers, especially for those who may not be confident enough with their English proficiency level.

Teaching grammar can be daunting not only for newbies but also for seasoned teachers. Students may not be particularly keen on grammar either, so teaching it can be difficult. What if we tried to implement strategies where students were actually learning grammar with fun and interactive strategies? What if students could be challenged through active and collaborative activities? That was the whole point of my workshop. Finding ways and strategies to engage students and teachers in the teaching-learning process of grammar.

1. Main approaches to present grammar

For the presentation stage, there are two main ones: The deductive and the inductive approach.
The deductive approach is a bottom-up technique. We start with the base, the rules. Students get the rules and deduce when to use the rules. They are provided with a battery of examples. The rules are immediately followed by a practice.
For the inductive grammar, the technique is reversed. Students work out the use and formation of the structure. This technique can involve students a bit more in their learning and it has as the advantage of developing their critical thinking skills. When using this technique, the teacher is a facilitator rather than the one providing students with all the answers. Here’s how we can proceed with this method. You can provide students with a text and ask them a couple of questions that will trigger their critical thinking skills. What is it about? How/Why do you think we use this structure?

2. Approaches to practise grammar

For the practice, we may consider three to four approaches: The communicative approach, collaborative learning, task-based learning or Project based learning.
A. The communicative approach will encourage students to use grammar in true, authentic contexts with a real communicational-functional purpose. Grammar is a tool for communication and as such it will be embedded in speaking activities. The focus is on the communicative task rather than the language structure.
B. The collaborative approach towards grammar learning has to do with a team-building effort. Grammar is seen as a mental (and possibly kinaesthetic) construction that can be built within a group. It is not an isolated activity. We build knowledge and understanding together.
C. Task-based learning is part of the communicative approach in the sense that learners will start with a communicative task without any guidance on the form of language. After the task, there is a general feedback where everyone gets the opportunity to discuss how they achieved the task. One of the advantages of this technique is the freedom learners have in expressing themselves, the focus being not so much on accuracy than on free expression.
D. Project-based learning shares many aspects with TBL, but it is even more ambitious. Whereas TBL makes a task the central focus of a lesson, PBL often makes a task the focus of a whole month, term or year.
There are generally considered to be four elements which are common to all project-based activities/classes/courses:

1. A central topic from which all the activities derive and which drives the project towards a final objective.
2. Access to tools of investigation design, collect, analyse and use information.
3. Opportunities for sharing ideas, collaborating and communicating.
4. A final product (often produced using new technologies available to us) whose final form is chosen by students. It can be in the form of posters, use of technology, survey, articles, presentations among others.

To conclude, I would say that teaching grammar shouldn’t be feared. We need to use the tools we have at our disposal, including technology to offer our students a greater opportunity to develop their grammatical skills. Technology has also an important part to play to make grammar more fun, interactive and more effective for our students.

4. Teaching mixed-ability classes

What? You have missed my workshop about teaching mixed-ability classes? Here’s a catch up article that will sum up the main points I discussed for the TESOL.

To teach is to engage students in learning; thus teaching consists of getting students involved in the active construction of knowledge. . .The aim of teaching is not only to transmit information, but also to transform students from passive recipients of other people’s knowledge into active constructors of their own and others’ knowledge. . .Teaching is fundamentally about creating the pedagogical, social, and ethical conditions under which students agree to take charge of their own learning, individually and collectively
Education for judgment: The artistry of discussion leadership. Edited by C. Roland Christensen, David A. Garvin, and Ann Sweet. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School, 1991.

With inclusion, we have now a greater mix of students in our classes. Our students are different in terms of ability, needs, learning styles and learning backgrounds. The question is How do we make sure that we give our students the tools they need to develop their skills? How do we know that our planning provides each and every one of them the right opportunities to learn and grow? Differentiate instruction is one possibility to allow more learning opportunities for our students.

Differentiation or differentiated instruction is a method that allows greater possibilities for our students. There are three main ways to differentiate in our classes:

1. Differentiated content

The idea behind differentiating content is linked to the idea of providing a different learning experience to the whole group according to individual interests and needs. It has to do with the resources the teacher brings to class. The resources have to reflect the needs and abilities of the students. In other words, the material brought to class has to be flexible and adapted.

2. Differentiated process

Process has to do with the way you deliver the course and the way students integrate the content. Students need time to understand concept, they need time to make sense of what they learn. When we teach we need to know our students well to make sure that the process is adapted. You may need to consider different objectives depending on the level and ability of your students. Bloom’s taxonomy is quite useful here. You need to think as well about the way you deliver the courses. How much Teacher-Talking-Time do you use? Are your lessons Teacher-centered? How could you focus more on your students? Have you thought about having Carousel activities in your class?

3. Differentiated product

When we say differentiating product we mean that we give students different options of format for them to give evidence of what they have learned. The way they will present evidence if their learning has to be individualized and personalized. It has to show their knowledge in a personal way because we all learn in different ways and the way we integrate knowledge an understanding is very personal.

4. More food for thought

Carol Ann Tomlinson is an American educator whose focus has been instruction for struggling and advanced learners, effective instruction in heterogeneous settings, and encouraging creative and critical thinking in the classroom. I would suggest you read some of her works available here:
1. The Differentiated Classroom: Responding to the Needs of All Learners, 2nd Edition, Tomlinson, C.A (2014)
2. Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom
Tomlinson, C. A. & Moon, T. R. (2014)

5. Teaching and Learning with the 21st century technology

Faster, more diverse, more complex, more competitive, more technological: the world has changed and so has the teaching-learning process. The ESL world has also been affected by the changes brought by a globalized and digitized world. How can English language educators offer the tools their modern learners crave?
It makes no doubt that traditional forms of teaching such as lecturing or other teacher-centered methods are no longer adapted to the new generation of learners. But who are these learners? What are the conceptions and misconceptions about them? What are the needs of these learners?
In a motivational plenary, Doctor Karen Jogan, from Albright College in Reading PA, offered some technological tools to be used in class and outside the classroom to bridge the gap between teachers and their digital native learners. Here’s an overview of the great ideas and tools that can be used inside the classroom and outside the classroom.

1. Digital material: Pros and cons

The wide variety of technological tools we have at our disposal should be seen as a plus but in no way as a replacement to planning and teaching. Maria Brown, whose work at the Education Department, at Dubai Women’s College and her great contribution to the ELT world through TESOL Arabia, also highlighted this important feature. Technology is a tool to improve learning and to make our students grow. As a result, those tools have to be carefully chosen and they have to be embedded in the teaching-learning process in a sensitive way. The use of technology should be synonymous with personal and intellectual growth rather than waste of precious teaching-learning time. So, once we are clear about our teaching-learning objectives, then we are ready to implement digital tools in class. Not before and not the other way round. You will find a non-exhaustive lists of material I use and other teacher-trainers use in class and outside the class to create more engaging interactions and to facilitate learning.

2. Digital teaching tools in class for students

Kahoot a free game-based learning platform that makes it fun to learn – any subject, in any language, on any device. You just need to create an account, browse quizzes or even better create your own!

Popplet. In the classroom, students can use Popplet as a mind-map. Popplet helps students think and learn visually. Students can capture facts, thoughts, and images and create links between the different ideas.

Socrative. Another way to create quizzes with multiple choices, true-false or short answers activities.

Textivate. An interesting tool to work on text. If you create an account you can simply copy and paste a text you want your students to understand and/or memorize and the platform automatically creates activities based on your text (matching up, filling gaps, punctuation, games…) Good tool for literacy. The interesting version is not free though, but it is worth the try.

3. Digital teaching-training tools for presentations and webinar

Cue Prompter. If you want your students to deliver a presentation but they lack confidence in doing so, this tool can help them gain confidence. If is also a good way to avoid that they read their papers while delivering a speech.

Zoom. Probably one of the best tools for meetings, webinars and training online. The basic free version allows you to actually do quite a lot.

Swivl. If you are working as part of team, this is a great tool to buy to monitor students’ work, listen to their dialogues in class and prepare filmed presentations.

Office Mix. A good way to make your powerpoints more interactive.

4. Learning Management Systems and Open Educational Resources

In our digital world, more and more students start learning online with their laptops, tablets and/or cell phones. LMS have facilitated learning in such a way that learning material is available everywhere at anytime.

Learning has been made easier with an access to material, videos, blogs, assignments, feedback available to facilitate the life of students and teachers. Here you will find three interesting platforms:

1. Blackboard
2. Canvas
3. Moodle
With the access to Internet we can now have a greater access to learning. OER can be used for learning at a lower cost. Check these ones:

Openstax. A good way to cut down/off the price of textbooks
Coursera. Online courses from top universities like Yale and Stanford
Udemy. Online courses with a wide variety of subjects
OER commons. A digital library where you can explore publications, textbooks and resources for free while joining a network of educators

As a conclusion I would simply say that 21st century technology has brought to us learners and teachers an incredibly unlimited possibility to continue learning and keep on teaching. It is now up to us to embrace the change and implement those tools in our classes.

Enhancing collaborative work among teachers

Enhancing collaborative work among teachers

I am always shocked when I hear teachers telling me that they don’t share their work with their peers. I have been very lucky to work within departments where sharing was a habit and in these departments everything ran very smoothly but I have also worked within schools where sharing was not part of the education culture. I totally understand that some teachers consider their resources as something personal. Creating resources is time-consuming and teachers don’t often get rewarded for their creativity which makes them even more reluctant to work collaboratively with their peers. It is therefore quite natural that many of us turn to online resources sharing websites. But giving my opinion about selling or sharing resources for free is not the main point of this article. What I would like to emphasize with you is the importance of sharing within schools.

Collaborative work is not just about sharing resources with your colleagues, even if that’s already a good start. Collaborative work in schools means sharing knowledge, expertise and experience to enhance the quality of teaching. It consists of different aspects. You can work within your team and analyze performance data to develop strategies to help students further. You can also work on improving the curriculum by planning Schemes of Work or Unit plans together. Another interesting part of collaborative work within schools is the mentoring and coaching aspect. Teachers who have gained experience in building projects can be asked to deliver training sessions to their peers and that is also a great benefit of collaboration.

collaborative-work-among-teachers

The best schools I have worked with consider sharing resources as a key feature of their strategy to improve the quality of learning-teaching. Teachers who take the time to sit down and share good practice are more likely to stay in the profession than teachers who keep isolated. Schools that foster collaboration through resources fairs, department meetings, and online sharing websites are capable of improving not only the teacher retention but they are also capable of dramatically improving the provision on the long-term. If departments share resources they have at their disposal, less pressure is put on teachers to constantly create brand-new resources and consequently teachers can dedicate more time to teaching.

The collaboration between newbie teachers and experienced ones is often fruitful as the newbies will bring some fresh ideas and technological support while the most experienced will have the expertise and explain what can work and what can’t work with students. Having experienced teachers to be in charge of the induction of new teachers will be a good way to engage them both. While experienced teachers will help new teachers in terms of lesson planning, observations and mentoring, new teachers will help experienced ones with other tasks like incorporating more technology or building a new curriculum. From this collaboration should result a better teaching practice for everyone.

Not only will the teachers benefit from collaborative work but also the students. When you have some students in your class and you are not quite sure what to do to best support them, the best thing to do is to contact your peers. They will help you with the profile of the students and together you can then put some strategies in place to unlock these students’ potential.

Collaborating with one another is not always an easy task but it is really worth the try. I suggest you try different options and find the ones that best suit you. Keep in mind that the first step in collaborative work is often the most difficult one but honestly once you have overcome any doubts you may have, collaboration is one of the greatest tool there is to improve education on the long-run.

Teachers need to look after themselves

Teachers need to look after themselves

Teachers are always good at giving advice to students in terms of health and wellbeing. However how many of us do actually have healthy habits, how many of us do nurture their friendships and personal lives? If we want to perform well and bring our students what they need to learn we need to work on our energy, on our mind, diet, body and spirit.

teacher-well-being-1

First of all try to diagnose yourself. Why do you have endless headaches and migraines, stomach aches etc.?We are the type of teachers who are exhausted at the end of the school year because we have given everything we had. We tend to work a lot, sometimes too much even to the burn-out. In some countries especially in the UK, where I used to work, teaching is said to be the most stressful job!Depression, anxiety and burn-out have become the teacher’s diseases and the workload and long hours have left some with no other choice than quitting their position. Our own health and wellbeing is something we often neglect. Even though teaching is a rewarding profession on a personal level, many of us are struggling with the stress and pressure we have to face on a daily basis with new systems being put in place for instance or dreadful behavior from some students.

teacher-well-being-2

Once you know that it is high time you stopped for a while, try to make a list of all the things that usually help you feel better. How about chatting with an old chap, enjoying a glass of wine with your partner or best friend, going shopping, reading a book, having a bath, and watching a feel good movie? These are little things that can make a great change in our busy life. I once needed that time off and a dear colleague of mine just brought me a basket with some cheese, wine and candles to wind down. That made a huge difference! He just spent some of his time listening to me and that helped a lot. He was such an awesome person and I am sure that there are amazing people around you. Maybe not all your colleagues will be supportive, maybe some will even enjoy some kind of competition while all you really want is to have a nice chat. Well then find some people with whom you will have some nice constructive time. They may be members of your department but they can also be members from other departments or non-teaching staff.

teacher-well-being-3

So look around you and stop isolating yourself. There are true people that care for you. We sometimes get so caught up in the work we do that we forget to care about our own relationships. Nurturing relationships is something crucial to our well-being. So, yes, maybe you don’t know what to say to your friends or maybe you are stuck while writing them an email, but at least give it a go.

Teaching values in the classroom

Teaching values in the classroom

I have been teaching languages for years and throughout my career as a teacher and teacher trainer I would say that teaching is not just about teaching your subject it is also about teaching values. It especially true when you teach languages, as you need to raise the awareness about cultural differences. However I truly believe it is our roles as teachers to convey values whatever our subjects simply because we are human beings and we work with human beings. Our classroom is a mini community and we teach students from various backgrounds; students with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, students with diverse moral and religious beliefs with different needs and aspirations. This is what makes teaching unique as a profession and we should be in charge of instilling values in this great mosaic of differences.

However that is not as easy as it seems. I used to work in some socially, culturally and economically deprived areas and teaching these values can be an everyday fight. How can you instill these values to teenagers being responsible for their disabled parents, explain to the bully the importance of respect, insist on children’s right when some children are abused? How can we teach them the values of respect, care, honesty etc. if they don’t even receive these in their own home?

teaching_values_1

How can we teach values on top of teaching our subject? The first question we need to ask ourselves is about the moral and ethical values conveyed in your subject. For example if you teach languages the questions of respect, empathy and tolerance are naturally embedded in the curriculum. Indeed at some point in your curriculum you will teach topics such as religions, multiculturalism or education and through these topics you will necessarily talk about values. But isn’t that the same in any subject? Respect, care, empathy are universal values and they have to be taught inside and outside the classroom. All our teaching should be based on these values whatever our subjects.

As teachers we tend to naturally promote these values when we encourage and promote communication in the classroom. When students are given the opportunity to express themselves and give their opinions on different topics we teach them the values of respect, as they need to listen to eachother. Communicative activities are important to build values of empathy and care. When our students listen to each other and share their feelings they learn from one another and having recurring speaking activities will build a sense of belonging to the community, to the class.

teaching_values_2

Setting common rules in the classroom is also crucial to develop values. Have you ever seen a society without rules? I doubt so. Otherwise it would be anarchy. Rules have to be accepted by all and followed by every and each one of the members of the group. These rules have to be reinforced and a sense of consistency should apply so that students know where the boundaries are. It goes without saying that the teacher should be the first to model and follow the rules.

We probably won’t change the world and we probably won’t change our students’ world and change the family they live in, or their past experience, or their beliefs, or their social, cultural and economic background but we can try to lead them. It is our duty to help them find ways to unlock their potential. Students can be taught that they are capable of achieving their dreams and they have to be taught that some values are necessary to live with one another.

How to be an outstanding teacher? (Part – 2)

How to be an outstanding teacher? (Part – 2)

In order to have this great recipe work there are some principles we always need to put into practice. Collaborative work can be enhanced through a wide variety of learning activities like puzzles, dominoes, watching short videos and predicting what comes next, storytelling, Pictionary etc. Using technology is also a great tool when it comes to engage students. Videos, music, web quest, blogs, texting, websites etc. are just some of the few resources that are at our disposal to enhance learning. However technology has to be used carefully in order not to lose the purpose of the lesson. By using a lot of technology or games we will probably have happy students but we always must keep in mind that our learners are here to learn first and at times technology can be distracting from learning.

Another important feature to create an outstanding lesson is to allow students to develop their critical thinking so that they can be independent thinkers able to take responsibilities for their own learning. Developing critical thinking is probably one of the most difficult tasks of a teacher but it’s not impossible and it has to be implemented to stop the old habit of spoon-feeding. Spoon-feeding has been used for many years in schools because of the fear of bad results, which is an understandable reaction from teachers who want their students to succeed and who want as well to develop in their own careers. I have witnessed on a number of occasions teachers encouraging their students to learn transcripts by heart that they would merely recite for their exams. This is of course not acceptable but I wouldn’t blame these teachers. I would, however, certainly give them some tips. Spoon-feeding is of course useful on the short-term but on the long run this type of teaching leads to no good results at all as students won’t get any analytical skills nor will they get methodical skills. Hopefully the spoon-feeding habit has been criticized lately and schools try to put in place activities and strategies that will enforce learning on the long term.

outstanding-teacher-part2

Differentiation is also a key element to build an outstanding lesson. There are many ways to differentiate in a lesson such as using different modes of interaction, mixing groups, using different worksheets and activities etc. Students for example could all be asked to complete a task with different activities leveled by abilities. Differentiated worksheets can also be used where some students will have to complete the whole worksheet while some others will have to complete just some of these. The use of carousel activities and the use of color coding for students are also some powerful ideas to differentiate. An exemplar collaborative task was shown with the idea of there being one.

Finally, one of the last things to mention is assessment for learning. This is a very important part that makes the difference between a good and an outstanding lesson. Assessment for learning is essential to measure our learners’ progress and therefore this should appear in our lessons. Here are just a couple of ideas to turn assessment for learning into a habit: a progress wall where students place a sticky note to assess their progress, a SMART target setting, a mind map to check what they have learnt in the lesson, tracking sheets/stamps, verbal and written feedback and questioning techniques.

In conclusion, when we prepare our lessons and aim for excellence we need to consider lesson planning with clear learning objectives and outcomes, students’ engagement, differentiation, progression, use of technology and assessment for learning as the main ingredients of success. Are you ready to cook an outstanding lesson?

How to be an outstanding teacher? (Part – 1)

How to be an outstanding teacher? (Part – 1)

I attended a while ago a course entitled “How to be an Outstanding MFL teacher ”. Not only was it interesting but it was also inspiring and refreshing. I think we all know what makes an outstanding lesson. But how can we make sure that we have outstanding lessons in the classroom?

No doubt that the first step is your preparation. Coming to a lesson with no lesson plan and hoping that everything will be ok is pure non-sense. Before entering the class you should be clear about what students need to have learnt by the end of the lesson. You also need to have put in place strategies to evaluate, to measure how much they have learnt and which activity was the most useful for each of them. In other words you need to have clear learning objectives that will be broken into linguistic, cultural and grammatical objectives. Ask yourself the following questions: what am I going to teach today? How will I teach it? Which resources do I need? Which activities are best suited to me students? What are my students going to learn? How will I know and will my students know if they have completed the objectives and reached their targets?

The more you detailed your lesson plan the easier it will be for you to use it in the lesson. A good MFL lesson has to show progression from these objectives towards the end of the lesson. The four skills: Listening, Reading, Speaking and Writing have to be assessed during each lesson to ensure a fair progression. A good lesson should also be adapted to your students’ needs and abilities. This differentiation has to appear on your lesson plan.

outstanding-teacher-part1

Once your lesson is clear with all its objectives and resources, just go and teach it! Easier said than done will you say. Well, take it step by step. First display your objectives on the board and/or powerpoint and have your students to write a smart target according to these objectives. I personally prefer having some vague objectives in order not to spoil the rest of the lesson. For example instead of writing: ‘ Today, be the end of the lesson you should be able to use the rules for the past tense’ I will probably write something less specific such as:‘ Today, be the end of the lesson you should be able to tell the class about your last vacation’. Your students don’t necessarily need to know the exact details of the objectives but these objectives need to be understandable by all.

As we were reminded during the course, what makes an outstanding lesson is when students are fully engaged in their learning. In other words in an outstanding lesson we are looking for collaborative work among students, independent thinking, ability to elicit new concepts, active learning and assessment for learning. These are the key ingredients to success without mentioning of course differentiation and target language if you teach a MFL.