Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Prevention is better than cure

The end of the year is near, and no more time for classes. But for some reason, just when it is the end of all, is when the concern about the final marks starts.
I feel a bit worry about this situation because, it is not new for me to face this.
Of course, this is something I already know from the beginning of the year, and I am very clear to say that they have a whole year to work hard and improve their performance. But even though, it is just at the end of the year when everyone is worry about their results.

I feel that this blog has giving me the chance to give my opinion but also, to analyse my own performance. Because I consider all the reasons why things are happening the way they happen. I think it has been my fault not to be more concerned or worried about the situation that happens to my students. And if it is just at the end of the year that they are worried, in the same, I must be worried too. Not now, but during the whole year. But then I think, I have done that job too, of telling and advicing them to work hard, but they must give their part too.
But what do you think? I would like to receive comments and ideas, because I can know some ideas, but I would like to have more.
But as "Good chileans, we always leave all for the last minute".

Saturday, 26 November 2011

What are you evaluating?

I have had the chance to see different kinds of tests from other teachers. I always get ideas from them, because I know I am not perfect, and I must improve my own work. So, the best way is by learning from other teachers.
But sometimes I am worried, because I don't know if I am so different or what, but some of the tests I have seen are weird for me.
I really don't get what they are trying to do, and what they are trying to evaluate.
Maybe you can criticize my way of evaluating, because I put emphasis in listening and reading comprehension. I wish my students can get the main information, they can get the main ideas, keywords, guessing ideas. But other teachers put emphasis in grammar, that students must write perfectly.
For instance. If the activity is like this: Change the following senteces into present continuous.
Then you have this sentence:  I write a book.
And the student writes: I am writeing a book.
Some teachers can give one point to this item, and maybe, they will say it is wrong, because the student wrote "writeing", instead of "writing",
Well, what I do is this: I give two points for this exercise. Because I want to check if my students can get the two most important aspects: the use of the verb To Be, and the ending ING. The student could remember both aspects. But the fact of leaving the letter "e" in the word "writeing", is just a minor detail. If it is me, as a teacher, I will give the two points. For me it is perfect.
Teachers tend to confuse some aspects. Are you evaluating grammar or spelling? Are you evaluating vocabulary or length? Are you evaluating pronunciation, entonation or fluency? Are you evaluating the skill of getting main ideas, or the idea that "just you" consider the main idea?
English as a second language can be like a song. Everyone gets a different feeling from it.
So, as teachers, we have to be precise in what we want to evaluate, and let's not be so hard. If there is just one spelling mistake, we can't consider the whole answer wrong  (unless, the mistake changes the meaning of the word).
English can be similar to mathematic, but let's not be so exact as maths. That is the beauty of the language, every word can have a different meaning to the hearer.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Such a student, such a teacher

I won't say I am an "otaku", but I like japanese animation, and among my favourite ones, is Naruto.
One of the images I like from that "manga", is that one in which you can see Naruto and his two classmates (Sakura and Sasuke), and their teacher Kakashi. And then you can see another picture, of Kakashi (when he was young) with his two classmates, and his teacher, and then another picture of that teacher, and so on.
For those who knows about Naruto, must know the kind of student who is Naruto. He was a very lazy, and hyper student. He was not loved by the rest of the students, actually, the classmates had fears of him.
But when Naruto has Kakashi as his teacher, then in someway, Naruto changed for good, and he had the goal of being the leader of the Village.
Naruto is descended from a line of leaders (Hokages) of that village.

Everytime I remember that picture, I wish to have that kind of teachers, who can inspire me to be the best. Actually, everyone had those kind of teachers. But the real question is ... am I that teacher for my students?  Am I inspiring my students to give their best?

And just now, I have come to the conclusion that my students are the reflection of what I am showing. (I am not lazy, but if I let them be lazy, then I am lazy).

I think I have failed to the goal of forming leaders. For that reason I really must change the way I am working, (Kakashi is not the perfect person, but as a teacher, is one of the best).

It can sound childish, but even this cartoon gives a really deep meaning about teaching.
A new goal for next year will be forming leaders. And I hope someday, I can be a really good leader. If Naruto has that great goal of being Hokage, why not me?

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Evaluation, just to get a mark?

Well, I must say sorry, I know it will sound repetitive, but yes... I have been very busy these days. The end of the year is near, and at least, in Chile, the year school is ending too. Fourth level went home already, and it was sad to say "ok, after four years working with you, today it is the last day I can teach something new to you". But that is life, and it is really so fast. So we must enjoy every day as it is the last day, because, some day, for sure, it will be the last day.
But I don't want to sound emotional. it is just... when the end of the year is near, it means that we have to evaluate our work.
There is a misconception about evaluation. We think that it is just a way to get a mark. But it is really wrong.
It is true we need a way to test the knowledge of the students and get a mark from that. But we don't have to forget that evaluation must be part of the whole process. So at least, we must evaluate three times a year to know the progress of the students' work. But it is not just them, we must evaluate our work too. So let's consider this:
Do you have a diagnosis test for your students?
Do you plan to have a diagnosis test, at least, two or three times a year?
Do you evaluate values, process, actions, interests... not just knowledge?
Do you use your diagnosis tests to improve the work?
Do your students know their improvement?
Do your have your own diagnosis test to know your own improvement as a teacher?
Did you plan your own evaluation at the beginning of the year?
Does any other teacher evaluate your work?
Is it really important to evaluate your performance? or is it just a mere obligation?

I hope as teachers we consider the previous points. Because it is not just an ending part. Evaluation must be an essential part of our work as a feedback to improve our work

Friday, 11 November 2011

Why learning English?

Instead of saying: "why learning English?", I would better say: "why learning a second language? or other languages?
We all know that learning another language, specially known for almost every one in this planet, is the best option we can take the moment we really want to go out from our little personal world. We all know already the importance for business, connectivity, social networks, information, etc. But some students still replay "so what". And here it is true, for a student who has his/her own problems, difficulties at home, living a hard life, having to be a teenager. Do you think they care if they can get information in English, if they can have the same in Spanish? Do you think they care to know people from other countries, when they all have already close friends? Do you think they mind about business if they don't have enough to eat at home?
What is the real purpose of teaching English to them, if they don't see any important reason to learn it?
And the truth is that they are right. And the problem is that we have taught them that English is for business, for communication, for getting information. When we have to teach them than learning a second language is a weird tool, that doesn't have an exact form. Do you remember the bad girl in the movie "Terminator 3"?, when she was creating a new weapon with her hand, depending the situation. Well, English (Second language) is like that too. It is up to the students to know how they will use English. They want it to know a lyrics of a song, ok. They want it to write romantic letters, ok. It is up to them what they want to do with the English language.

I can say that personally, thanks to know English,  I have known many people in my country and around the world. I have travelled to many cities, even going to the Philippines, which was the first and the most amazing experience I have ever lived. And I hope to go back to that nice country. (I send a greeting to the Filipinos for being so kind). No wonder why I have a girlfriend from Philippines.
But that is my experience, my students must find their own experiences in relation with learning a second language.
Just let's not push our students to learn English because we want them to find information, or friends, or business. Just let them know what to do with this amazing tool called "Second language", by their own.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

How to get motivation?

It is so hard trying to find the exact moment, the exact word, the exact image, the exact video, the exact point in time, that would make a change in the way my students see life. Just let's try to see back in our past, and we will find a moment, just something that changed our lives forever. That exact moment that all our nature as human beings took form, and we discovered what we wanted to do in this life. And from then on, everything was so easy for us, because we knew exactly what we were supposed to do to be happy.
As teachers, this is really so hard, because every student is a different world, almost an entire different universe. So, trying to find the exact "key" to inspire every one of them to find their right path in life, is really so hard.
Sometimes I feel powerless to feel that I can't find that exact "key" to everyone of my students. And sometimes I really don't know if what I am doing is really inspiring. All I can do, or at least, try, is to give as much as experiences I can give to them, so If I am lucky, one of them, will really be meaningful to them.
But this life is so amazing, that we don't need to receive an amazing experience to find the right path. Sometimes, just simple things can inspire us.
Long ago, a good coworker of mine showed me this video. At first, it was like... "what is this?, so silly". But then after finishing the whole video, I got a strange feeling. Like ... wow.
Anyway, this video inspired to travel far away of my home, into another country. Maybe, most of you have traveled so much, not big deal. But for me, I have never travelled to a foreign country (in asia), alone, and of course, feeling scared. But I thought, if Matt could do it, why not me?
A simple video can change a life.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Problems with the verb to Be

My experience as a teacher is not that big, but during these years I have noticed many aspects about the English language. One of the things that calls my attention is how much difficult is to learn the verb to be for my students. I have already said that it is really an important and basic verb, but for some reasons, after many years of trying to learn this verb, it seems that even at the end, students still can't memorize this verb.
Let's see some important facts.
For a spanish speaker (I dare to say), English is really easy to learn, considering that Spanish is richer in vocabulary. But it seems, that when you already know something so difficult, then it is so hard to learn something so easy.
There must be an explanation for this: after many years or teaching and teaching, and learning and learning the verb to be. students don't learn it. The problem is that after many years of trying to learn it, they assimilating the pronoun and the verb as one. So, if you ask them to create a sentence like "Yo juego" (I play), they will end writing "I am play".
Other problem is that, we mention the word "to be" so much, and really so much, that they will end writing "I be", instead of "I am".
Students can get the idea of "He is" or "She is", but it is still hard to get the idea of "It is". When I was a students, my teacher always taught me that I must use "It" when I want to talk about "animal or things". But it is more than that, for instance, when you want to say "IT is cold". What is it cold? The weather. Is the weather an animal or a thing? none of them. That is a problem.
Most of the verbs need an auxiliar, but the verb to be doesn't need it.
Probably a poster would help the students to learn the verb to be, so in such a way, they can see it everyday.

But do you know any other, more effective and creative to teach this important verb???
If you know any other interesting  way to learn this verb, you can share it. It would be nice to know it.
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