Category Archives: tips

Keeping track

Olympus Digital Voice Recorder
Image via Wikipedia

All new vocab goes on the board. I don’t care if everyone in the class understands and recognizes the item except one person; for that one person, it goes on the board (and I’m sure at least one other person is grateful).

I very quickly ran out of room on the board, but I squeezed things on until the bell rang. While the students are filing out, I carefully noted down everything on the board on an index card, and used it for review, spot quizzes, etc., the next time. This also reminded me of what we had done in class.

I had been recording my classes with a lapel mic and a voice recorder, but I did not always remember to switch it on. Plus, the recordings have been piling up unedited on my hard-drive, waiting for me to get around to posting them on this blog. (I want to see if students will access the recordings and/or find them useful: it could be a way to “revise” before the final exam.)

Then there were a couple of classes when I had to leave in a hurry because the next teacher was waiting to use the room. I had no record.

Today, I spent the last 10 minutes or so of class giving a dictation of sentences that included most of the key structures and vocabulary that we had covered (I wiped the board clean before giving the dictation).

I did not do it as a “dictee” a la Ben Slavic, i.e. I just dictated the sentences and collected their papers.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Class records and filing

Over the years I’ve used several different ways of keeping track of exactly what the students and I did in class, but I have yet to be completely satisfied with any one system.

I have used hanging files to keep the loose-leaf handouts and student homework, but what about extra copies of handouts that I need to keep for the inevitable few who were absent that day and will (guaranteed) ask me for the handout the following class?

I also want a good system for keeping a record of what we did and what handouts/materials were used in each class. The best I found was a 1-page template that listed what we did, my comments and notes (on how the activities went down, high-points, low points, problems, etc), what handouts I used, what background music I used (so I don’t use the same 2 weeks running).

I think the reason I didn’t stick with it was simply that I didn’t match it with a satisfactory complementary system of keeping all the handouts and extra pieces of paper that go with each class. I usually end up throwing everything into one file for that class, but it quickly becomes unwieldy. I also keep my attendance sheets in that file.

Anyone want to share a system that works for them? I’ll post the template I mentioned above, when I can figure out where it is.

Blogging about blogging – learn from a pro

Darren Rowse is a professional blogger. Here he writes about how he various blogs grew and why. Some useful tips and info, even for me who isn’t and does not (as yet) aspire to be a professional blogger.

Darren’s entry is short but sweet. Here are some sample:

What you do the day after you get on the front page of Digg is in
my opinion just as important (if not more) than what you did to get on
the front page itself…

it’s the most basic post I’ve ever written – however sometimes basic is what people are after…

Write for real people – after all, it’s not just the web 2.0 crowd who surf the web.

Blogging tips and assessment

Some useful tips on good blogging practice, from Idratherbewriting. Nothing revolutionary or outrageous, just common sense, but it works as a useful reminder.

#10 spoke to me: “archive by topic rather than date”, unless yours is a purely personal journal. “Date archives mean little to readers.”

Following his own tip of linking abundantly (#8), idratherbewriting includes links to some interesting sites. One of the first ones I clicked on (Creating Passionate Users) included this thought-provoking tip:

Parelli Natural Horsemanship sells horse-related products including saddles, bridles, ropes, etc. But you have to pay more to learn how to use them properly. Much, much more. Users are paying anywhere from $200 to $1000 for home-study kits including booklets and DVDs. Yes, horse training is not the same as using a project management app–clearly the markets and context are different–but the main point is the same–people place an extremely high value on quality learning and support materials… FYI: Parelli has one of the largest, most loyal passionate fan bases I’ve ever seen… Characteristics of World-Class User Learning Materials

1) User-friendly
Easy to use when, where, and how you need it.
2) Based on sound learning principles
i.e. users actually learn from it, not just refer to it.
3) Motivational
Keeps users willing to push forward to higher “levels”

The following pictures are some examples of how Parelli does this. The only thing you need to know to understand the examples is that the Parelli system groups a set of skills and knowledge into “levels”. Founder/creator Pat Parelli designed levels into his program based on the success of the martial arts belt system and video game levels. In other words, he knew that the levels –key achievement milestones with clear rewards–are more motivating than just, “here you go… keep going.”

Hmm, “just ‘here you go… keep going.'” In my EFL classes, am I offering more motivation than that? I’ve bookmarked the entry because there’s more in this post that I might use to improve my teaching.

(Check out the neat, simple, graphics Parelli uses, which exemplify blogging tip #5 “present your ideas visually”. They reminded me of another “tips” post by math teacher dan meyer on how not to use Powerpoint. Be sure to click thru the links. I love the post-it-photo-presentation. And Miranda July’s presentation using her kitchen appliances is hilarious.)

I got fired up about vocab acquisition after reading Paul Nation. I think vocab acquisition could provide some clear milestones for students. I also was impressed by math teacher Dan Meyer’s ideas on assessment, and his article on the subject got me thinking. One of the problems I think my students have with learning English is the apparent slow pace of progress and the difficulty in getting clear, “milestone”-like feedback on how they are doing. With motivated students, this isn’t a major issue (tho still an issue), but with students who a) are not sure whether they are interested in English or not, and b) will likely have almost no chance to use English after they graduate (and know it), little sticks and carrots like these become more important (and I can’t make up my mind if a “milestone” is a stick or a carrot).

powered by performancing firefox