Tuesday, 13 December 2016

My 2016 in 5th Blue

It's the end of the year, and it's time for reflection...

1. What were your favourite activities/ projects this year, and why?
2. What is the most important thing you learnt this year? Why?
3. What were your favourite books/stories/novels/films? 
4. What suggestions can you make for next year? 
5. What can YOU improve next year, in 6th form?

Source: TeachingMonster.com

Friday, 18 December 2015

December & Balancing

Well, the end of the year has arrived: December, Christmas, spreading good wishes... and time to stop and make a balance.

Precisely to start with the balance, I profited from the last class with my lovely 5th form... and I offered the students the chance to make a written reflection, either in English or Spanish, without writing down their names so as to make it absolutely honest. I asked them two questions:

1. What is the most important thing you have learnt in 5th form?

2. What suggestions can you make for next year?

I explained that the suggestions could be in relation to anything: the course, the projects, materials,  class dynamics, teacher's behaviour or explanations... anything and everything. And well... my students spoke.

They had tons of warm wishes, love and tiny hugs to my heart. But they also had suggestions, GREAT suggestions indeed. They made me realise some of my hunches were right: indeed, some projects had been too long. Yes, they had in fact loved some other projects, and wanted to keep them. And yes, definitely, they all wanted to participate in the Not Perfect Hat Club project -which, amazingly, we might be able to do next year!

And then... Oh, yes. They had QUESTIONS! They are critical thinkers. And they wanted to know, among other things: 

- Why can't we have chewing gum in class?
- Can we have shorter Cards?
- Can we have more jokes?
- Why is our school uniform so hot? (I'm not kidding!!)

I've rounded off this year with a big SMILE on my face. I feel we've all grown a lot... 

I truly believe I am now a better version of myself. And I owe this to a wonderful group of 5th formers, who taught me every day and in every little gesture that it IS possible to make a difference.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

21st Century Skills - Final Reflection

5th forms project have been designed and developed to enhance some of the skills necessary for a 21st century learner.

- Summarizing skills: when dealing with summarizing skills, students worked really hard reading webpages, books and cards which had information about the different projects. They read paragraphs and they had to obtain the main ideas, summarizing them in one or two sentences. Then, they created collaborative presentations with the information they gathered. They also designed mind maps which helped them study.

- Logical & Creative thinking: in our first project Helping Hands students analysed the situation of children in different parts of the world, they connected the place where they lived with their needs. They also read about children's rights and the extent to which they are respected or not around the world. They created a comparative chart collaboratively and they drew conclusions regarding this issue. During Green Helping Hands project students analysed the impact our actions have had on the environment. They investigated about energy & environmental issues. For this they had to find reliable sources, select relevant information, summarize the ideas and show them in a creative way.

- Communicative skills: during assemblies students trained their skills for communication. They were asked to share their ideas and thoughts about the topics both fluently and accurately. They were given different functions which helped them develop their ideas further as well as specific vocabulary to be more precise when they expressed their beliefs. Besides students had various situations in which they made informal presentations during the projects.
They also developed their communicative skills in writing when they created different pieces of work such as comics, stories, descriptions, presentations, reports.
During the videocalls, students faced the challenge of communicating with both native and non-native speakers from different parts of the world, sometimes with unknown accent or with technological difficulties, but always achieving a successful exchange of messages.

- Reflective thinking (reflective moments): All of our projects contributed to the development of reflective skills as students used their knowledge of the world, their feelings and their perceptions to consider the different themes we worked with. Not only did they reflect upon their social commitment to people in need or the environment, but also about the role of ancient civilizations in shaping our culture and heritage. Furthermore, during the project The Time Machine they also implemented a journal in which they reflected upon their learning and the process carried out in the lesson. 

- Bringing the world into the classroom: 5th form students have connected with different classes from around the world, both synchronically and asynchronously. They have enjoyed learning about other cultures, sharing their interests and guessing the locations while developing geographic skills. They also used social media to report what was going on in real time, they used online browsers and maps to locate geographical features and monuments, as well as books, encyclopaedias and atlas.

- Collaborating with other teachers (bilingual projects / cross cultural content / global themes)
Even though it has not been agreed on during the teacher’s meeting, we worked on a bilingual content when we studied Ancient Greeks. We profited from the fact that students studied Greek myths and legends in Spanish at the beginning of the year, in order to build in knowledge regarding this ancient civilization.
As far as cross cultural content is concerned, we have already mentioned that each of our projects dealt with topics that bridged gaps and expanded students’ view of the world.

5th form Projects took into account global themes such as children's rights, the environment, pollution, poverty etc; which aimed at raising social awareness and building global citizenship. 

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Reflecting on Mystery Hangouts

Mystery Hangouts: A Learning Experience

Hangouts (or Videocalls) in general, and Mystery Location Calls in particular, foster different types of learning for our students. To begin with, students acquire knowledge of the world by engaging in conversation with citizens of distant countries -that is to say, they access this information directly from the source, not by, say, reading a text produced by third parties.

Also, they learn by investigating about a topic/place, using all the resources available: consulting maps, Atlas, books, the Internet, as well as their teachers and their classmates. Furthermore, they get to practise the target language while learning the content, which in the context of EFL is of paramount importance.

Finally, students are able to come up with a specific product as a result of all the work carried out in the process: they guess the specific location of the other group, they are able to find out more details about the place, the school, etc, and then they publish their results and discoveries in different formats: writing a report, creating a poster (or Glogster online, which allows them to include videos and photos as well as text), etc. More importantly, they arrive at this product by working collaboratively during the whole process, which is a key strategy in 21st Century Learning Skills.

If all of this is not enough... students -and teachers, of course! - have FUN through the whole process, while exploiting all the skills and layers of learning mentioned above. All in all, this is a wonderful learning experience, not to be missed!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

21st Century Learning Part 3 - Tools

"Standing still is not an option". We agree with this statement, and because of this we try to implement digital tools either for reflection, for example this blog, for training, for instance in online courses or seminars, and for fun, such as the use of social networks.
It doesn't matter if teachers or students feel more at ease with technology, as learning is a two way street, and technology should be a means to an end, not and end in itself. Both teachers and students can teach and learn at any moment using the technology available, and profiting from eacher other's expertise.

21st Century Skills Part 2: Content

We agree that language itself is not enough for our 21st century students. In fact the three main areas of content covered in the video are considered within 5th form projects: cross curricular, cross cultural content and global themes. There are some instances that still need to be polished such as bilingual Project, but we still work across the curriculum collaborating with teachers from other groups in primary and secondary.
What we consider to be unacceptable is to expect everybody to be the same as we are, not to acknowledge diversity. We would like to include cross cultural activities this year, communicating with schools from other countries within the connecting classroom framework. It would be interesting to share different points of view regarding the same topic globally, in order to reflect on our own culture and to discover how it differs from others.
5th form Projects take into account global themes sucha as children's righs, the environment, pollution, poverty etc; which aim at raising social awareness and building global citizenship. In this way we pretend to expand their view of the world.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Initial reflection: 21st Century skills

After having watched the video from Pearson ELT on the importance of developing 21st Century skills, here are our reflections.

Even though we do not belong to the same generation as our students, we do not consider ourselves digital immigrants, we are not outsiders. We feel comfortable with using technology in the classroom and we consider ourselves flexible enough to adapt to what the situation requires. We accept the challenge to help our students develop the digital skills they need to process the huge amount of information available to them. We are conscious that there is a need to add into our plans instances in which they filter and summarise the data the Internet has to offer.

Summarising skills can be implemented from the very beginning. We can train our students to summarise key points from texts read, songs, any given topic, and we can even have a "Summary of the lesson" activity at the end of the day.

In relation to our first project, Helping Hands, we could include logical thinking strategies when gathering data about the situation of children in Argentina, and about the process of collecting items for donation. This is an aspect we need to go on exploring. Also, regarding creative thinking, students could be asked to present results using different tools and media.

Even though fifth form projects deal with working with teams to try to promote social change, it may be necessary to go more deeply into what it means to work as a team, the roles involved, the expected attitude and behaviour, learning to act both as a good leader and as a good follower.

Developing communicative skills is a central issue. In fifth form students have several opportunities to exercise these skills throughout the year, however they mainly give informal talks or presentations. We could try to implement the teaching of formal presentation skills so that students gain more confidence and develop accuracy in a formal register.

We consider we should include reflecting moments within our plans, making them explicit and providing them with a specific timing in the assembly. This year we aim to raise students' awareness in relation to their learning styles and provide them with tools to enhance their strong points while at the same time improving their weaknesses.