Saturday, 9 November 2019

Visual input - creative output

When Merrill Swain formulated her Output Hypothesis, she stated that while input is necessary for language acquisition, it is not enough. Swain asserts that “the act of producing language (speaking or writing) constitutes under certain circumstances, part of the process of second language learning” and that the learner needs to produce language, and not only produce,  but be “pushed towards the delivery of a message that is not only conveyed, but that is conveyed precisely, coherently and appropriately”.  She adds that “being ‘pushed’ in output … is a concept that is parallel to that of the i + 1 of comprehensible input”.

In a brilliant blogpost on the topic of pushed output (P is for Push), Scott Thornbury states the importance of pushed output, noting that “being pushed to produce language puts learners in a better position to notice the ‘gaps’ in their language knowledge”, encouraging them to ‘upgrade’ their existing interlanguage system. And, as they are pushed to produce language in real time and thereby forced to automate low-level operations by incorporating them into higher-level routines, it may also contribute to the development of fluency.

The benefits of a focus on output
Output and the way we use it in the classroom has an important effect on what learners are able to do and how they experience the learning process. 

Students may develop greater self-confidence as a result of spending more time using a second language to communicate and seeing improvement in their communication skills. 

Students have a chance to use words and expressions in ways that stretch and improve their language level. Classroom activities allow learners to do what they may not be able to do outside the classroom.

Fun is a simple way of referring to the enjoyment of students using a second language to tell a story, play a game or participate in role play.

Autonomous learning
By practising writing and speaking in a second language, students become accustomed to practising a language through producing stretches of texts, written or oral, and it may result in increased learner independence.

Students can learn to put their thoughts and feelings into words through output work, helping them to articulate themselves more clearly and precisely. 

Let’s pick now on the other key word in CREATIVE OUTPUT - CREATIVE

‘CREATIVITY’ is not a talent like running fast. Creativity is what makes us human, it’s something you can nurture, expand, grow and learn. Many people feel they aren’t creative when perhaps they really mean they don’t believe they’re ‘artistically’ talented

Creativity is a birthright. We are all born with creative impulses. We all vary in talent but we can train ourselves to be more creative by understanding how creativity works.

Creativity is a tao. Creativity is a way of thinking, being and doing. It’s a lens through which we experience the world.  

As Steve Jobs once said: Creativity is connecting the dots. It’s about seeing relationships which others fail to see.  

Creativity thrives on context. It is essential to provide an environment fosters creative and playful thinking. The environment is both physical and psychological and trust and respect are a must.

Creativity craves constraints. Creativity works best with limitations. Too much freedom can bes daunting and inhibiting.  

Creative thinking and being are the skills of the century. The need for cognitive ability and flexibility is ever increasing in the real world. We need to learn, unlearn and learn again. When we are able to remix a concept, we have truly learned it. 

Let’s examine now the other key words Visual Input

The vast majority of language teachers use images in their classroom. In today’s increasingly visual world, it is difficult to imagine the language classroom without images, photographs, paintings, cartoons, picture books, etc. However, we need to ask whether we are using images merely as an aid or support, or as a significant component of communicating in a foreign language, and as a means of fostering students’ communicative competence and creativity.

In his 1966 seminal study The Visual Element in Language Teaching, Pit Corder made the distinction between “talking about images” (merely describing images) and “talking with images” (responding personally to images). 

It is generally agreed that education needs to develop learners’ skills and ability to interpret images and to communicate visually. In order to achieve this, we need to help them develop their visual thinking strategies. 

Visual thinking strategies

“Visual Thinking Strategies" is an inquiry-based teaching method created by cognitive psychologist Abigail House and museum educator Philip Yenawine. Yenawine defines VTS as the use of art to teach "visual literacy, thinking, and communication skills – listening and expressing oneself."

The main elements of VTS teaching practice include ART, but I’d change it to Visual input, and three key inquiries:

1. What's going on in this picture?
2. What do you see what makes you say that?
3. What more can we find?

Individual students notice different things, contributing diverse observations, opinions and information. No attempt is made at forming a consensus regarding any of the interpretations entered in the discussion. 

Learners discuss this in groups and then they share their ideas with the rest of the class.
What happened a few minutes before this scene?
What happened after this scene?
Can they imagine the conversation? 

Photo Story

This is an idea you can implement in your class by giving your students a set of photos, e.g. five or six. Give them viewing time and then ask them the three questions. Allow them to discuss different perceptions and points of view.

Learners work in pairs or groups and come up with a story and a title for it. The story can be just a few lines long or a more elaborate one. They can even video record it and add a soundtrack.

In addition to using random photos to stir one's imagination for story writing, the exercise initiates the idea of matching photos to storytelling, serving as an introduction to digital storytelling. 

Art and music

Choose two pictures and two very different pieces of music. Show the pictures and ask the three questions about each. Then ask learners to compare and contrast the pictures.

Play the first piece of music and ask them which picture it might be connected with and why. Then play the second and ask the same questions.

Have they changed their minds about the connections after hearing the second piece?
When several students make the same connection, do they give the same reasons for it?

Depending on the level of the class, you may ask them to write down words that both the picture and the music evoke in them. then they may write a poem or a short narrative.  

Object interview
We never ask ourselves what are all these objects surrounding us in our lives. Object Interview is about giving them a life and a voice and finding out who they are.

The healing chair 

Show the image and allow thinking time. Ask the three questions:
1. What's going on in this picture?
2. What do you see what makes you say that?
3. What more can we find?

You can then proceed to asking the class to think how the chair feels about being maimed and having had the broken leg turned into a toy.

What if a new chair arrived in the house? 
What if two chairs discussed surgery? Imagine the conversation between this chair and a modern chair in the same room.
Ask learners to work out the conversation in pairs or small groups, act it out and video record it.

Then show the video without sound and ask them the three questions again.
Show the video with sound.

How does it compare with their conversation?

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Implementing Project-Based Learning in your classroom - Part II

Common Misconceptions About Project-based Learning 

Before you head off to start preparing for an amazing project-based lesson, we should
address some misconceptions. These are some of the most common myths and misconceptions that keep teachers from successfully implementing PBL in their classrooms.

1. Having students complete an activity or “make” something qualifies as PBL.
PBL is not the same as hands-on learning or learning in cooperative groups, although these things happen in project-based lessons. What sets PBL aside from all of this is that everything is driven by the students’ quest to answer the central question. Ideally, PBL is also student-centered and driven, which is not always true for group or hands-on activities.

2. Students should only speak in English when conducting research and investigating.
During the project, you should certainly encourage use of the English language as much as possible. However, there will be times where your students need to communicate or process new information in their native language.

Remember that PBL requires a lot from the student cognitively in comparison to traditional teaching methods. They are constantly communicating, analyzing and creating, and ELLs are doing this all while navigating new material in a foreign language.

3. There is no place for explicit instruction in a project-based learning lesson.

I believe that it is perfectly fine to carve out time for explicit instruction during the duration of projects as needed.

There may be times when you see your students struggling in a given area, or you identify a particular skill that needs strengthening in order to successfully complete the project. In those cases, feel free to pull a few students aside and give them a mini-lesson that can help them along.

4. PBL is simply not an ideal teaching and learning method for English language learners.

Many teachers believe that PBL only works for “gifted” students or students who are performing at or above grade level. The research simply does not support this notion.
ELL learners, as well as young learners and learners with disabilities, can all successfully and effectively participate in PBL. There are, however, considerations, adaptations and supports that can ensure that learners of all different backgrounds learn successfully from this way of teaching and learning.

Completing a Project-based Learning Lesson

1. Expose students to an engaging topic that gets them thinking.

Project-based learning lessons are all based on solving a central question or problem. Ideally, these questions/problems are ones that are posed by the students. When students ask questions, this shows that they are actively engaged and thinking about the material. Hopefully, some of these questions can prompt further research, exploration and study. This is the beginning of PBL.

Before we can expect our students to ask questions, we have to start with exposure of some sort. This can happen organically or intentionally, and in many forms. A book, field trip (even a virtual one), or newspaper article aligned to the students’ interests are all great ways to get the students thinking and asking questions.

 2. Pose the essential question that will drive the project.
Ideally, students will make observations and inquiries that can drive research and study. In many situations, however, you may need to help your students along by posing a central question for them. This can be especially necessary for younger students and teachers who are new to PBL.

For ESL students, constructing this question can prompt an interesting lesson. Play around with alternative ways to word the question while maintaining the integrity of what is being asked. This can be the center of a lesson on sentence structure, interrogative sentences, vocabulary and more!

Skinny and fat questions:  draw a skinny question mark and ask a question that requires a short factual answer, e.g. What is the average temperature in winter in your region?
Draw a fat question mark and ask a question which requires a longer more elaborate answer, e.g. How does the average temperature in your region change during a typical year?
Encourage learners to discuss the differences between the two. Put learners into pairs. Give learners a text they need to work on with a set of skinny questions. Ask them to change the skinny questions into fat questions. They should also write model answers on a separate sheet of paper.

Even though teachers and students who are familiar with PBL may develop individual questions that drive solo projects, it may be better to start out by having all students work on the same central question. You can even assign roles throughout the projects, based on student interests and strengths. As you (and your students) become more comfortable, students will be able to handle more autonomy and could even then work on individual projects according to their own interests.

3. Design a plan that lays out clear steps to follow.

Once you have identified the question that will guide the project, it’s imperative that you sit down with your students and create a plan.

The plan is a general guide that identifies the steps to investigating your central question or problem. Don’t worry if this needs to be adjusted as the project progresses. Having the plan in place will make things much easier This is a great opportunity to give your ESL students practice writing steps and outlines.

You will also want to design a plan separate from the students. Decide what standards you want to address in the project, figure out how you will assess the students’ understanding of those standards and outline the materials and resources you will need. This plan will serve as a guide to prepare you to assist your students throughout the learning process, and will also keep you focused on your learning objectives.

4. Create a schedule with flexible deadlines and post it in the classroom.

With your plan outlined, you can now create a schedule. Just like the plan, the schedule may change, and that is perfectly okay. You’ll want to create loose deadlines around the key steps in your plan, and post the schedule in a place where the students can see and refer to it daily. 

The students should have an age-appropriate level of responsibility over setting and keeping deadlines, as well as making adjustments as necessary.

5. Conduct research to explore the project’s essential question.

This is the part where your students will delve into the bulk of the investigation. This may include conducting interviews, internet research, reading books, watching documentaries or anything else that helps the students explore the driving question.

ESL students will inherently need additional supports for this step. You may want to do a little work for your students by doing some of the research for them and narrowing it down to a few level-appropriate articles from which they can choose.

6. Guide and monitor students during their research.

During the research and investigation phase, you will serve as the students’ guide. You will also be paying close attention to how well the students are navigating the learning objectives. You may see the need to pull some students aside and conduct mini-lessons or do some other form of more explicit instruction.

Remember, you want to make sure that the project is student led, but ESL students will most likely need some additional supports.

7. Develop the final product that exhibits students’ learning.

Once the students have conducted their research and feel comfortable and knowledgeable enough to answer their driving question, they will work on developing a product that both showcases their learning and teaches others.

For some projects, this product will be created during the research/investigation phase, and the last step may only involve a presentation of some sort. Regardless, all students should have an opportunity to present their findings to an audience. This provides students some authentic practice speaking and answering questions, and will also challenge them to think critically about the work they’ve completed.

8. Reflect on what students have learned.

This phase is commonly forgotten, but very important nonetheless. After all is said and done, you will want to give your students the opportunity to reflect on what they’ve learned. They should have the opportunity to think about and share what they would do differently, specific parts that were successful or unsuccessful, and further questions that were raised during their study.

Useful resources
Diana Fried-Booth (2002) Project Work, Resource Books for Teachers, OUP
Phillips D, S Burwood & H Dunford (1999) Projects with Young Learners Oxford: OUP
Barbara Condliffe et al. (2017) Project-Based Learning A Literature Review, Working Paper, New York: MDRC

suzie Boss & John Larmer (2018) Project Based Teaching: How to Create Rigorous and Engaging Learning Experiences,  ASCD

Implementing Project-Based Learning in your classroom - Part I

What is meant by PBL?

Project-based Learning (PBL) is a model for classroom activity that shifts away from the usual classroom practices of short, isolated, teacher-centred lessons. PBL learning activities are long-term, interdisciplinary, student-centred, and integrated with real-world issues and practices. It is a method that fosters abstract, intellectual tasks to explore complex issues. It promotes understanding, which is true knowledge. In PBL, students explore, make judgments, interpret, and synthesise information in meaningful ways. It is more representative of how adults are asked to learn and demonstrate knowledge.

Project-based Learning helps students develop skills for living in a knowledge-based and highly technological society. The old-school model of passively learning facts and reciting them out of context is no longer sufficient to prepare students to survive in today’s world. Solving highly complex problems requires students to have both fundamental skills and Digital Age skills. With this combination of skills, students become directors and managers of their learning, guided and mentored by a skilled teacher.

How is PBL used?

Some teachers use PBL extensively as their primary curriculum and instructional method. Others use PBL occasionally during a school year. Projects vary in length, from several days to several weeks or even a semester. PBL can be effective at all grade levels and subjects, as well as at after school and alternative programs.

There is forty years of accumulated evidence that the instructional strategies and procedures that make up Project Based Learning are effective in building deep content understanding. Research also shows that PBL raises academic achievement and encourages student motivation to learn. Research studies have demonstrated that PBL can:

·        Be more effective than traditional instruction in increasing academic achievement on annual state-administered assessment tests
·        Be more practical than traditional instruction for long-term retention, skill development and satisfaction of students and teachers
·        Be more serviceable than traditional instruction for preparing students to integrate and explain concepts
·        Be especially effective with lower-achieving students
·        Improve students’ mastery of 21st-century skills, such as critical thinking,  communication, collaboration, creativity and innovation
·        Provide a fruitful model for whole school reform

What are the characteristics of PBL

1. Students are at the center of the learning process.
·        There is balance between student control and teacher-planned structure.
·        Students apply their interests and passions to culminating products and performances.
·        Students learn through inquiry.
·        Students often work collaboratively and develop life and communication skills. PBL provides meaningful interaction about both the content (meaning) needed for language acquisition and the language needed for subject development.
·        Students make new meanings in another language
·        Students develop intercultural awareness as they learn about ideas and communicate with people from other cultures and they develop and explore different on the projects they are learning.
·        Students learn in different ways as they have the opportunity to process and produce information and language in a variety of ways.

2. Projects focus on important learning objectives that are aligned with standards.
·        Developed around core curricular concepts that address national or local standards.
·        Clear objectives that focus on what students should know as a result of their learning.
·        Project work culminates in student products and performance tasks that demonstrate understanding of content standards and learning objectives.

3. Projects involve on-going and multiple types of assessment.
·        Multiple checks for understanding use varied assessment methods.
·        Students have models and guidelines for high quality work and know what is expected of them.
·        Opportunities for reflection, feedback, and adjustment are embedded in the project.
It allows a child to demonstrate his/her capabilities while working independently. Project based Learning also develops the child’s ability to work with his/her peers as well as building teamwork and group skills. A teacher learns more about the child as a person. It helps the teacher communicate in progressive and meaningful ways with the child or a group of children on a range of issues.

4. The project has real-world applications.
·        Projects are relevant to students’ lives.
·        Students may present their learning to an authentic audience, connect with community resources, tap into experts in the field of study, or communicate through technology.

To motivate students and show them the relevance of what they are learning in school, projects should be experienced as “real.” A high quality project reflects what happens in the world outside of school. It uses the tools, techniques, and technology found there. It can make an impact on other people and communities, and it can connect to the interests and concerns of young people. Students’ voices should be heard in a project, and they should be able to make choices about their work.
5. Students demonstrate knowledge through a product or performance.
·        Students may demonstrate learning through presentations, written documents constructed displays, proposals, or even simulated events such as a mock trial.
·        These final products allow for student expression and ownership.

In traditional schooling, most learning occurs in a private relationship between a teacher and learner; students complete work individually and show it only to the teacher.
In a high quality project, students make their work public by sharing it not only with the teacher but also with each other, experts, and other people beyond the classroom. This occurs both during a project, as part of the product development and formative assessment process and at its conclusion, when the product is shared and discussed with an audience. This public process and final presentation encourages students to improve the quality of their work and demonstrates what students know and can do.

6. Technology supports and enhances student learning.
·        Technology tools are used to support the development of thinking skills, content expertise, and creation of final products.
·        With technology, students have more control over final results and an opportunity to personalize products.
·        Students may be collaborating through email and self-made Web sites, or presenting their learning through multimedia.

7. Thinking skills are integral to project work.
Project work supports the development of both metacognitive and cognitive thinking skills  such as collaboration, self-monitoring, analysis of data, and evaluation of information. 

8. An essential question drives learning 
When developing your question, be sure to keep in mind that it should not be Google-able!

If Google can instantly provide an answer to the driving question, then it is certainly not sufficient enough to propel meaningful research and study. The essential question should be one that can only be answered through the process of investigating and gathering information. 
Higher-order questions require answers that go beyond simple information and as such both the language and thinking behind them is more complex. They take learners into more abstract language functions, such as giving and justifying opinions, speculation, and hypothesising.

Amongst their many functions, higher order questions can be used to get learners to interpret things, suggest solutions to problems, explain why something is important, give opinions, and make comparisons. Learners need the opportunity to practise using language for these functions.

Closing my plenary: Lifting poetry off the page - FAAPI, 2019

We refugees by Benjamin Zephaniah  

Sometimes it only takes a day,
Sometimes it only takes a handshake
Or a paper that is signed.
We all came from refugees
Nobody simply just appeared,
Nobody's here without a struggle,
And why should we live in fear
Of the weather or the troubles?
We all came here from somewhere.

My plenary session: Lifting poetry off the page - FAAPI 2019

 Students can learn how to use grammar in their own writing by studying how poets do—and do not—abide by traditional writing rules in their work. Poetry enables teachers to teach their students how to write, read, and understand any text but it can also be used as a means to build empathy and understanding. In this way it can be a vehicle for messages of social justice, bringing our attention towards and better conceptualizing injustices, and helping us cope with such injustices.

Through a practical classroom-based approach and using three poems: originally by Carol Ann Duffy, Neighbours by Benjamin Zephaniah and The Day War Came by Nicola Davies, I showed how to enable students to engage confidently with poetry while becoming aware of social issues.