Welcome to my humble site. I hope once I get out of the exam season to get back to regular updates of materials. In the mean time I am hoping to put up some of my personal musings on teaching and some photos of my other hobbies.
How do seating arrangements affect learning/what is the best seating arrangement?
The seating arrangements of a classroom have an effect on where students focus their attention. To use a non-teaching example imagine you are out on a date the traditional dinner and a movie. Which part of the date do you expect to interact with your date more? Well hopefully over the dinner where you can look directly at your partner and read their body language. In the movie theater the majority of our focus will be on the big screen.
To take our metaphor back to the classroom the movie theater is a standard classroom with the traditional seating arrangement i.e. nice straight rows. Instead of the focus being on a movie however the focus is on the teacher. This environment encourages a teacher centered style of teaching. The teacher delivers the material occasionally throwing out comprehension questions to the class by either calling on a random student or by throwing out a question to the class like a beach ball. In my experience this method has a couple of drawbacks. First Korean students are nervous and do not enjoy responding in this manner as they are afraid that they will make a mistake and look stupid in front of the entire class. Second in a class of 20 students only 2 voices active at one time (and often one of those voices is the teacher) leaving the other students unengaged.
This standard classroom is not the best environment for teaching students a language for a variety of reasons. The most important has to be that language is by its nature communicative it requires interaction with another individual to exist. The traditional classroom environment also has a tendency to change students into “listening objects” engagement levels are very low and the students (especially at the back of the classroom) can tune out.
If as a teacher we are trying to encourage active participation and use of the language we need to change the classroom environment so that it encourages this. The easiest way to do this is to go back to our date model. During the dinner section (where most conversation occurs) the students are facing each other and focused inward on the task at hand. We don’t always have to work in pairs in fact groups of four students working together on the task is the optimum size with a small space between them and the next group. The teacher then floats between the groups giving support where it is needed.
In this seating arrangement the students are more engaged because they are interacting directly with their peers in a small group setting. If students do make a mistake the embarrassment is limited to a small group of friends who have also been making mistakes. This group model also effectively increases the number of students who can speak at any one time.
The group of four also allows the teacher to make use of jigsaw activities. These are where the students leave their home groups and join a new team to discuss or share what their team created.
One of the best ways to change student behavior is to change the environment to support the behavior you are looking for. If you are looking for a more interactive classroom with a higher proportion of student engagement the small group classroom model can provide a great deal of support.
Some teachers do not have the luxury of movable desks or seats and so have settled for the traditional layout. There are ways to get your students into groups even in these circumstances you must shape the classroom to how you want to teach please don’t allow it to shape you.
I was reading the book predictably irrational the other day and I noticed a little idea. It goes something like this imagine you had to put a deposit down for everything you didn’t want to do. Things like go to the dentist or exercise or even the stuff like scan those files that you have been putting off for months. You put the money in a jar and if you complete the activity by a specific date you get your money back. If you don’t your failure to act has just cost you in the short-term but aided in the long term the money you lose goes into long term untouchable savings. Will the short term desire not to lose out on money help me to do things I have been lax with? Well its time to put my money where my mouth is.
When I decide to do something I will set a completion date and a cost penalty on a card and will also post it here or at least that I have an outstanding challenge. The less I want to do the activity the more money the activity will be worth.
1. I will not remove money from the jar unless I have completed a challenge.
2. All challenges must have an expiration date on that date if i do not complete the challenge the money moves to the savings account.
3. I will not cheat if I do not meet the criteria as set down in the challenge I do not get the money.
4. I am allowed to use any reminders helpful hints and to do lists as I wish but I must get the thing done by the date specified. I am also allowed to attempt the challenge multiple times.
5. Rollovers For daily/ weekly challenges will be calculated every sunday night before 9pm (local time) I pull out any money I have earned back and then add to the amount to activate the challenge again.
6. Any challenge that requires an adjudication shall be referred to an impartial individual
7. I will award myself merit badges for successfully completing challenges.
1. On or before December 18th 2011 I will do 100 pushups within 5 minutes. penalty 50
2. On or before September 25th I will bring my mini computer in to be serviced. Penalty 10
3. On or before September 30th I will go and have my six month medical checkup. Penalty 50
4. On or before September 25th I will have finished writing 2 prek and one long NM. Penalty 20
5. On or before September 25th I will scan no less then four Jeremy cartoons. Penalty 10
1. I will update this website at least once a week (see rules for rollovers and weekly deadlines) Penalty 10
2. I will do my chinup and pull up exercise regime no fewer then 5 times a week Penalty 10
Ok so I am currently wagering 160 that I am not a lazy individual and that I can get these things done. The cost of failing with these tasks is staring at me from a desk right now suddenly it seems a little more real that I do these things.
Wish me luck I will keep you posted (or lose 10)
At the moment I am getting ready for the start of a new course. One of the things I always tell my students on the first day of any course are my three golden rules.
1. Don’t panic.
2. Don’t die.
3. Don’t kill the teacher.
While these three rules seem simple they cover a lot of ground. I rank them in order of importance. lets look at them a little closer.
1. Don’t panic. When a student panics or gets flustered they stop enjoying their class and instead focus on their mistakes. Panic is the first step in a negative cycle which reduces the chance of learning. Panic reduces the students willingness to take risks and make mistakes both of which are essential in language learning.
2. Don’t Die. this one has a couple of levels to it. At the simplest level it means that a student shouldn’t do anything which is dangerous. On another level it can mean don’t spend so long studying that you don’t get a good nights sleep. It can also mean that students treat each other with a degree of respect.
3. Don’t kill the teacher. The students always get a big laugh out of this one. However it is serious. Students can kill the teacher in a variety of ways pressuring the teacher to answer too many questions in rapid fire or not waiting for the teacher to have time to go and talk to them. Anything which increases your stress as a teacher increases the chances of you losing focus and getting in the way of helping a student to learn rather then facilitate the learning.
If you think back on some of the most common discipline problems you have faced or classroom management issues you have dealt with, I am sure you could relate those to the three basic rules. for example a student who is always late. you go to talk to them and the first thing you do is remind them of rule number one don’t panic listen. Then you relate being late back to rules 2 and 3. by being late you are losing points and I am worried you will not get the grade you deserve. when you are late it makes me frustrated and more difficult for me to help you and your classs. etc.
So those are my golden rules they get spelled out with examples on the very first day.
I also have some guidelines for myself. Always try to apply the rules in a productive manner. Punishment does not achieve anything but alienating the student. Provide a way for the student to regain your trust and confidence after they have broken a rule. Apply the rules fairly and openly explain to the best of your ability why a rule has been broken and how.
the biggest guideline I have is that rules you establish for your students must equally apply to you. So if you have a rule about no cellphones in your classroom you must model that behavior and if you forget or break a rule you should be held accountable by yourself. (part of the reasons why I don’t use too many punishments personally is because I know I will forget the rules and end up having to do them) If you do break a rule make sure you point it out and that you bring in your extra work or apologise to the class. Rules that only apply to the students are unfair and create a two tiered society in the classroom that is counter productive.
I’m currently reading a very interesting book entitled
It’s full of great insights into the way we think and behave but it can also be highly disturbing from the point of view of an educator. One thing that is particularly disturbing is dubbed the chameleon effect. To summarize one of the studies it was found that when instructors were given a rating of the potential of a student before the class began even though it was a randomly generated number the students with higher scores did better in the final exams.
The teachers impression of the student translated into higher scores for students who had bee given a higher random number and lower scores for students with lower generated numbers.
the authors note that.
We’re constantly sending and receiving cues and subtle messages to and from one another — swaying and being swayed, even if our rational brain hasn’t been let in on the secret. As this study illustrates, we can’t help but take on the characteristics others ascribe to us.
So what are the implications for this in a classroom? Well first we should ask ourselves what characteristics are we ascribing to our students?
Our view of students will directly influence their behavior so are we ascribing positive markers or negative?
How many self-fulfilling classrooms have we established?
More importantly what can we do about it?
One thing we can do is stop the negativity before it starts. Comments about how bad a certain type of student is only sets up your colleagues to have the same view as you. Before you go into the classroom put yourself in a positive frame of mind remind yourself that your students are intelligent lively energetic human beings and if you view them as such they will respond to it and you can work the chameleon effect to your advantage.
I work in English language teaching and I have a little mantra “Lacking of English skill is not the same as Lacking Intelligence”. I remind myself daily that skills can be acquired and that I am constantly learning new skills myself. I will always believe my students can succeed and surprise me with the growth in their ability. I also believe that every student has a desire to communicate and use language my job is to encourage that desire.
Oddly enough these beliefs have been borne out by my students and by my classes.
I’d like to leave with a question.
The truly great teachers in the world are the ones who reach students no one else can. Are they truly great because they can reach this person or do they just believe that the person wants to be reached?
I dream of a world where we can get the technology to help a student with special needs into their hands. It’s a place where technology is developed to help everyone express themselves. Even if they don’t think in precisely the same way as the majority of people.
Thankfully this is a dream that I share with some people who can make it a reality.
a group of engineers and education specialists collaborating to create new ways of reaching the students that have traditionally been unreachable. Do what you can to support them I know I will.
I used to struggle with explaining the difference between these for a long time till I realized a very simple truth. Countable things are easy to count and clear to see Uncountable are difficult to count/separate into individual elements. Next time you have class on this try bringing a glass of water and demonstrate how difficult it is to count each drop. Then show how easy it would be to count one glass of water and you have the essence of the shift between countable and uncountable nouns.
This exercise then asks students to decide if nouns are countable uncountable or both. I recommend having them work with a partner and always give them time to come up with their own answers.
pdf here countableuncountable
This is one of my favorites. Students are put into pairs or teams in which they brainstorm vocabulary for food. Filling out the first page. Students are then told that they are going to use those ingredients to make a menu for a new restaurant. Then can use any ingredient more then once but they must create 4 starters 4 main courses and 4 desserts.
For added fun have the students make a name for their restaurant and tell other teams their menu.
Pdf here Crazy recipies
So yeah missed yesterdays update this has made me more determined to get the other ones done.
This exercise is based on minimum pairs (words which only have one sound difference). The teacher put some minimum pairs on the board. the students then can copy them into the spaces to tell them to turn left or right.
man turn left men turn right
The students listen and try to follow the path to the animal at the end.
Pdf here phonics journey
There are many ways to use this activity you can give students an email to read and then ask them to supply the replies or the conversations. You can ask the students to fold the page in half write an email inviting someone to a party. The students hand the sheet to the person on their left who writes a reply and then hands it back.
I’m sure there are hundreds of more good ideas for it have fun.