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about teaching English to young learners, web tools and iPad teaching


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Learning Styles and Young Learners

I’ve finally discovered my own learning styles.

multipleintelligences.001

It seems like I’m a linguistic-interpersonal learner. I knew that, no surprise! I’ve always been one of those learners interested and focused on speaking and writing. I love reading aloud activities, love communicating through language. I’m sure I would have loved having role-plays in my English classes, but unfortunately I’ve never done one in my high-school. Now I feel I can understand what and why was happening in my classes. We mainly worked alone, no group works, always focused on self-study and individual tasks. My teacher was probably a solitary (interpersonal) learner. That is good, but is it correct to plan and teach according to our learning styles?

The 7Styles of Learning Source: Edudemic

Over the last few years the terms learning styles have been used many times in any classroom management course. The message should be: the more you know your students’ learning styles the better your activity planning will be. Not as simple as it looks, but crucial. Knowing the learning styles we like and which we tend to avoid can increase the effectiveness of our learning, and if we want our students to learn more effectively we should look for different activities which might suit different learning styles.

Let’s find out how they learn

I teach teens and pre-teens, here are a few steps I would follow with any new class:

  • Step 1: ask your students to complete a learning styles questionnaire. Here is a link from the Birmingham Grid for Learning.
  • Step 2 : check with students by proposing a series of activities good for each different learning style. Observe your students, take notes of how they react to each activity and see if they match with your questionnaire.

For a list of sample activities for the most common learning styles look at this infographic:

Source: studentaffairsenews.com

ACTIVITIES

I’ve also found these Five Multiple Intelligences Activities by Puchta and Rinvolucri very useful.

  • Step 3: the school year is quite long, so try to remember the most successful activities for each class and get them to know they all have similar and different learning styles. You can group students according to them, or better let them work with classmates with different learning styles.

Use your results as a precious resource, but do not over trust them, in my experience, teenagers easily change their mood. Always consider that they can still act as different learners.


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Reflections on classroom management

If you teach young learners and teenagers, you’ve probably considered to attend a classroom management workshop at least once in you career. So, a few weeks ago I had mine :-).  I think many practical aspects of this workshop will be very useful.

I really appreciated the overview on the wide range of meanings of “Classroom management” and I loved the “deal with people” approach, being a teacher means manage things and manage people at the same time.

But overall there are two main topics that particularly captured my attention and that I will always bring with me in the future.

One is the focus on the different learning styles. I like the idea that we deal with them in our everyday classes and we should be able to give our students proper activities. Creating the conditions to make pupils able to express themselves is interesting and motivating.

The second topic is the idea that there will always be good and bad moments and that we should always continue to learn from each situation. The balance of uptime and downtime and the learning-to-learn message helps me to do this job with the right approach. I am now looking at it with both enthusiasm and criticism, fully aware I am a long-life learner.

I have also made myself a summary of the six key points I should consider in managing a class:

  1. My role: knowing myself and my students; always be ready and aware of my abilities; do not stop self-development.
  2. My class: remember the main rules on grouping and seating; create a positive and purposeful atmosphere.
  3. My activities: setting up, giving instructions, managing time and space, how to end an activity.
  4. My authority: gathering and holding attention, decide who does what, getting someone to do something.
  5. Deal with critical moments: starting and finishing the lesson, dealing with unexpected problems, deal with difficult students, managing difficult behaviour in the classroom.
  6. Tools and techniques: using the board and  classroom equipment.

…and why do I teach?

Today I have many reasons that commit me to this job. Teaching is facing a new challenge everyday; it means being part of students’ development, acting as crucial and significant support.

When I think about me in a classroom, I have clear ideas about the climate I am seeking to set up. I always try to work hard to have a purposeful, positive and cooperative atmosphere in class. I think it is crucial for a teacher to be able to create a positive relationship and a positive learning atmosphere. After all, the way I will relate to my learners will have a significant impact in the lesson. At any classroom moment, I know there will be a range of possible situations to handle.

Respect – In any kind of environment showing respect to people is a building block for a cooperative and purposeful relationship. Especially in a teaching environment I find respect is a positive and non-judgmental regard for the student. My personal way to show students that I really trust them goes through responsibilities. At first, I focus on the more difficult pupils in the class and I give them small responsibilities to work on (i.e. small organizational work for the following lesson). The idea is to make them aware of their own possibilities; I would like them to develop self-confidence. I believe that a class where students feel that the teacher trust them is a more collaborative class.

Students’ opinions should be always taken into consideration; they should be an active part of the class. A teacher should never forget that her/his role is to make pupils able to work in a cooperative environment; to think that their personal contributions will help to reach the entire class goal. This is why I love role plays and group works: students have the chance to develop both personal and teamwork skills.

At the end of the day, I like being authentic and finding my personal approach to create empathy with the students. Probably having a good ability in setting a purposeful and happy climate is not everything, but it is a positive start.


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The first 5 minutes of a lesson

The first five minutes of my lessons are always a big question mark. I have always thought that the success of the lesson depends on those five minutes, from when I enter the classroom to when i say …”let’s start!…”

Even if I come to the lesson with a perfect, complete and rich plan there are many variables I should focus on in the first five minutes, here are two of the most important “nightmares” for me:
– the atmosphere: I can feel it from the way learners greet in return or simply look at each other. If it’s too nervous or confusing, I will definitely need to rearrange timing and activities.
– the attendance: the numbers of students in the class affects the way i will manage the plan. If many students are missing, then the next lesson will be a review lesson.
I usually have one to two minutes to take an on spot decision and no time to think about that, I developed the ability to focus on issues while calling the register. If the atmosphere is quite collaborative and relaxed, only a few students are missing and the rest of the class got the correct material, the lesson could start smoothly and i can stick to my plan. But, what are the options if this doesn’t happen?
There is an interesting chapter about this in Planning lessons and courses (Woodward, 2001). On one hand, I realized I am one of those teachers who needs to set clear boundaries, following the same procedure at the beginning of each lesson and keen to “create a time-efficient working atmosphere”. On the other hand, as I said before, I believe the atmosphere plays a key role in starting the lesson. I think a working habit could create a collaborative atmosphere itself, but it doesn’t always work. There are a couple of “atmospherics” in the book I would  like to try sometime. But the question is always the same: can it work with 30 young teenagers?
Woodward also talks about students starts and topic discussion, basically the learners have the responsibility to start the lesson with various activities e.g. discussing the topic of the previous lesson or they can discuss and decide together with the teacher the focus of the lesson. I honestly found it unreal, obviously they need clear guidance, but still, thinking about the Italian education system, it’s really difficult to do. I imagine there are many steps behind this procedure, about the way students perceive the relationship with teachers and educators in general. We should first help learners to slightly move from an idea of respecting the teacher’s role to respecting the role of learning.