Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Please follow this link to download the PDF handouts from my workshops in Belgrade last week - hope you will find them useful.
Hope I will see you again some time soon!
By the way the page appears in Hungarian, click on 'Letöltés' and your browser should ask you if you want to download or open the documents.
Monday, January 16, 2012
Saturday, January 14, 2012
I don't think I have ever worked with such a motivated and enthusiastic group of teachers in my life. So thank you.
I would like also to thank Vera Scekic the Oxford University Press Area Manager for Serbia and everyone at the English Book.
Thanks and enjoy the blog.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
I mentioned to one group about a safe facebook type site you can set up and use in class.
here is the link.
Don't forget all the resources you can find on the OUP website
Also you can find lots of information about OUP activities on the OUP facebook page
and on the OUP global blog
I mentioned my own handout on Technology without Technology here is the link
To encourage students to cast a critical eye over the text and not just accept it as fact we could do a skim reading using some / one of the following questions.
Who is the author?
What was their motivation to write this?
Do you feel the facts are accurate? Why or why not?
Is the author or reporter giving equal attention to all sides of the issue?
How does this piece make you feel personally?
Do you agree or disagree with the author?
Do you believe the ‘facts’ in this article?
How would others (from other countries, cultures, political groups, etc.) feel about it?
Use mind maps to brainstorm information before the reading activity or to help introduce cultural information. Then when students read ask them to complete the mind maps. It shows greater understanding of the text than comprehension question questions alone so moving from simple comprehension to gaining knowledge.
Who’s the author?
Put the some pictures of people on the whiteboard, ask the students to read the text and decide who wrote it . Get them to give reasons and discuss their answers. This is getting them to start to negotiate meaning in a text, to think of the author and their reasons for writing.
Isolate some key facts from the text. Get students to find the facts in the text and be able to talk about why they are important, in their own words. You can do this as a race to help motivate the students.
Understanding gapped text.
Give the students a text with gaps in it. Set a gist task, tell them to ignore the gaps. Students read and find the answer to the gist question. This shows them that they can cope with a text even if they do not understand every word. Explain that words they don't know are just like gaps.
Working out meaning from context
Ask students to work out what should go in the gaps. As I did reward points for closeness and good guesses. Remember that this is all about developing learning strategies and is not a test so keep it fun and take the pressure off.
Completing the sentences
Put 5 the same sentence on the board 5 times but at the end of the clause put a different conjunction. Ask the students to complete the sentences using information from the text but respecting the meaning of the conjunction.
- ask question s about the text before and after the reading.
- use pre-reading to turn students’ attention to cultural spots.
- don’t be afraid to give students hints, it is not a test.
- activities to compare customs and cultures, find pictures about cultures.
- ask them to research the cultural info themselves.
- present fun or amusing cultural facts
It’s so difficult to pay attention to a voice coming out of a box in the corner of the room, you can see them looking out of the window.
- pause the listening regularly and ask questions
- use pair or group work to have them discuss what they heard.
- if students are not motivated they won’t listen. find more captivating texts.
- put a poster on the window with the word listen
Students fail to register discourse markers. so rely on keywords which can skew meaning
- introduce the discourse markers, ask them to give examples and come to conclusions themselves.
- point out the discourse markers in the texts.
- take the Discourse markers out, do a gist read and then put the discourse markers back in and do it again, does it make a difference in understanding.
- or get students to guess what the discourse markers are.
- get them to put the text in the correct order.
- tell them not to be sad, there is more to life than getting the answers right.
- train your students how to deal with different reading or listening tasks, I strongly advise a lot of exam practice before the exam.
- encourage them to read more in order to expand their understanding abilities and self- confidence.
- the teacher should help them to feel clever by sometimes setting slightly easier tasks.
This sound bite generation… anything longer than a couple of paragraphs and they lose interest
- avoid using long and boring texts, adjust topics to students age and interests.
- divide texts into smaller parts
- give them a choice of what they read listen to in class.
- divide class time into small bits / chunks that are easier to digest.
- motivate them to make some predictions about the end of the stories.
- engage or involve the students in the learning process.
I don’t have a lot of time in class, so I skip the listening or find it easier to read the text to the students
- give the students texts to read on their own.
- exchange their opinions on the text
- remember listening and reading can give students a wealth of expose to
Students often try to understand every single word, or try to translate the text into their own language
- the teacher should give more reading exercises on scanning and skimming.
- try to deal with unknown vocabulary before the reading or listening.
- work on their self-confidence.
- advise them to understand the text in general. Advise them not to get stuck on the first word they don’t know.
- ask them to write headlines for each paragraph.
- play a listening twice. Tell the students not to worry if they don’t understand every word of it.
- have a poster or picture which represents the situation that the text speaks of.
- ask the students to underline the keywords in the text. Then ask them to retell the text using the keywords.
- remind the students to focus on the general meaning not on the meaning of specific words.
-encourage students to guess meaning from the context.
Student don't always read the instructions carefully and so don't understand what they are listening for
- check the instructions by asking questions.
- get them to check with a partner what they have to do.
- give an example of what you want the students to do.
- give all the necessary background information and pre-teach key words if necessary.
- clarify and check instructions repeat if necessary.
- do an example the help of a volunteer.
They get lost so easily, try to understand every word or complain the speakers are going too quickly.
- give them some keywords or something to prepare them. Play it more than once if necessary.
- play the text part by part, remind them that they might not need to understand every word.
- advise the students to try to get a general idea of the text.
- split the text up and do some comprehension activity in between them.
- do some pre-listening and keywords activities before hand – repetition could give a good result too.
Students equate reading with misery, school and tests, they don’t even read in their own language.
- arouse students attention by finding texts with catchy titles or shorter texts
- choose topics they are interested in.
- allow students to choose the texts.
- direct students to the internet or books to find more information about the reading.
- Students often try to understand every single word, or try to translate the text into their own language
- Students don't always read the instructions carefully and so don't understand what they are listening for
- They get lost so easily, try to understand every word or complain the speakers are going to quickly.
- Students equate reading with misery, school and tests, they don’t even read in their own language
- In tests the wording of each item can cause problems: weaker students tend to focus on the exact words they see in the question, and are confused when they don't find them.
- This sound bite generation… anything longer than a couple of paragraphs and they lose interest
- I don’t have a lot of time in class, so I skip the listening or find it easier to read the text to the students
- They don't get it when there is cultural info in the text...because they generally focus on form and literal meaning.
- It’s so difficult to pay attention to a voice coming out of a box in the corner of the room, you can see them looking out of the window.
- Students fail to register discourse markers. so rely on keywords which can skew meaning
Top down processing – bringing your own knowledge and expectations to a text to help get meaning.
Bottom up processing – using the words and structure to decipher meaning.
Editing – reading and analysis what you have written or spoken in order to improve the message.
Circumlocution – the ability to talk around the subject if you don’t have the ability to say exactly what you mean.
Skimming – reading a text without understanding every word to try to get the general meaning or gist.
Scanning – looking at text for key information, the way one might read a pizza menu.
Summarising – reporting what you have read or heard to others in either written form on spoken form.
Negotiating meaning – being able to ask questions to find out what the speaker or writer means, and being able to ask questions to ensure the listener, reader has understood.
Structuring – knowing about the structure of different genres of writing or spoken text.
Stress and rhythm – a listening and speaking skills, hearing, understanding and producing the punctuation of spoken text.
Critical thinking is the ability to critically analyse information rather than accept information unconditionally. That is, not to accept information we receive as fact but to question what we hear, to evaluate against what we know and then to use that information to draw our own conclusions.
Let’s think about the way we think, look at these true or false questions.
Cows are grass eating animals
Jagodina is the capital of Serbia
Vocabulary is more important than grammar when teaching English
Shows like X-factor are good for society
My grandfather married my mother
The first two sentences we can answer easily and quickly, why? It is because they are universally accepted facts and if we were to question them, then we could find evidence from credible sources that would back up the facts. Those sources might be our own eyes or a biology text book etc.
It is worth remembering that credible sources can sometimes let us down. Anyone who has seen the BBC TV show QI will testify that a whole range of widely held truths have been proved to be untrue or only partially true.
Extreme critical thinkers (often known as conspiracy theorists) will not believe anything until they have seen concrete evidence but most of us accept these universal truths without needing to see proof.
Sentences three and four are beliefs. There is no right or wrong true or false answer for these. Scientists, grammarians, pedagogues or psychologist can put forward arguments and counter-arguments, can produce evidence that ‘proves’ their assertions but others might find evidence to refute their claims.
This for me is where we need to apply critical thought. When we read articles in newspapers, see documentaries on television or read books we often think that what we are reading is fact. After all they appear to be credible sources.(It must be true it was on the BBC.) But we should recognise that the creator has an agenda, and that they are using their facts to create an argument that fits their agenda.
The final sentence shows how sometimes we need to think differently. For all intents and purposes the answer should be false. But it is in fact true. The reason being is that my grandfather married hundreds of women in his role as a vicar and my mother was just one of them. So it also follows that my grandfather married my father too!
Thus sometimes we need to look at things and then look at them differently to find the answer.
Why do we need to encourage Critical Thinking in our lessons?
Students are exposed to so much information these days that they need to be trained to move beyond the first two levels of blooms taxonomy, remembering and understanding, to the other levels like analysing and evaluating. Asking themselves questions and negotiating meaning with the author / speaker. So we want them to form their own opinion and express themselves effectively and also to develop skills that will enable students to evaluate information against what they know and then to use that information to draw their own conclusions.
Two questions that arise from this; why do students need to be trained to think critically and why is it our job to do it?
Educational approaches in many countries require students to memorise and then regurgitate facts, there is very little evaluation or interpretation of what they have learnt. This means that student are ill-prepared for the challenges of further education .
It could be argued that this is not our jobs, we are English teachers and not teaching further education study skills, but I would argue that by encouraging more analysis, more questioning, more evaluation, we are improving their English language skills.
Of course students might have barriers to this approach. The most common barriers are:
• Cultural or personal barriers. – a common example of this is that the student believe something because their teacher told them. In some cultures it may seem rude or impertinent to question a figure of authority.
• Mistaking information for understanding – students might think they understand because they have been taught the facts but might fall down on questions like why or how?
• Lack of methods, strategies, practice or encouragement – students may never have been asked to read between the lines, to look for flaws in an argument etc. so might not know how to do it or might be reluctant to do it.
This means that when you ask students for opinions or to speculate they might say things like:
• My teacher said it, so it must be true.
• I know it is but I don’t know why
• But what’s the right answer?
• What do you think teacher?
• I don’t know! (meaning - I can’t be bothered to think about it so I will say I don’t know, or I am worried my view will be controversial so will not say anything.)
• Is this going to be on the test?