Friday, August 24, 2012

Interaction in Group Work

“Interaction is the collaborative exchange of thoughts, feelings, or ideas between two or more people, resulting in a reciprocal effect on each other.” That is the definition of interaction according to Professor Douglas Brown in one of his more remarkable books “Teaching by Principles.” In other words, professor Brown is defining his concept with the next formula “Interaction = Speaker-Listener__(CONVERSATION)__Listener-Speaker”,and I totally agree with him since for a conversation, the mean in which interaction occurs, to take place it is necessary the presence of two or more people who are going to be the thought-and-feeling-traders in such a context. Without such elements, interaction simply cannot occur. Nevertheless, if we refer to interaction in the language teaching, there is something that needs to be added to the previews formula, and that is MOTIVATION. As everybody knows, a conversation needs a main topic to be developed or discussed while interacting, and there is where teachers have to motivate their students in order for them to generate conversations related to the topics they are being taught in class so that they can learn while interacting with each other.

Interaction may create a great impact in students, especially to those who are learning a new language. How? Well, through interaction teachers can accomplish the principle of the TTT and STT (that stands for Teacher Talking Time and Students Talking Time). Teachers are recommended to talk the less they can since their role nowadays is not to be dictators in their classes but facilitators instead. Teachers just have to intervene when necessary; that is why, it is claimed that TTT should take place just in a 20% of the class, and the other 80% percent should be given to students in order for them to express their feelings, thoughts, doubts, and everything they want once it be related to learning purposes. Nonetheless, there is a fact of vital importance that teachers must take into consideration at the moment of making their students to interact with each other. Students are not going to say any word if teachers do not enhance them to do it; therefore, teachers must be very careful at the moment of carrying out activities that include students interaction. If teachers do not know how to control such activities or do not encourage their students to perform them, it is recommended that teachers abort such activities since interaction is something more delicate that require a lot of attention from both teachers and students, and if one of those is not totally aiming to the real and concrete purpose of the activities, they are just not to work.

There are several techniques for implementing interaction in the classroom, but probably the most common and thus the most used is Group Formation. But even though group formation brings students the opportunity to develop their metacognition (thinking about thinking) or their critical thinking through activities such as problem-solving, real situation discussions, role plays, simulations and so forth, teachers consider that all those have also their own disadvantage each. For instance, some teachers who have applied those techniques while group formation is taking place, have expressed that they have had bad experiences while performing such activities because a diversity of pitfalls. For example, some teachers say that they prefer not using group formation because the majority of times students take advantage of the situation to speak in their native language, except when they have to use English as their lingua franca. Others are afraid of using that technique because when they are performing such activities, the students also take advantage to talk about other things that are not related at all to the topics they are being taught. And in that way, the list goes on.

In my own case, I consider that forming groups is one of the best techniques a teacher can apply while teaching a topic — obviously not all the topics are suitable to be developed in this way-- because imagine if there is a big quantity of students in a class room, let´s say 60 students, how are all of them to be able to participate in the class and say what they opine in regards to a topic or discussion. It is impossible! I know that the disadvantages stated before can occur in any classroom, but for that reason teachers have to be more aware and conscious about what they are going to do and try to carry out the activities in the best way. How to achieve that? The answer is PLANNING CAREFULLY. There exist a million of pitfalls that can ruin a class or destroy the momentum of an activity, but there also exist a million of solutions for all those pitfalls. If a teacher plans carefully, taking into account every single detail, foreseeing even the most crazy things that could happen while performing activities such group working, everything will go in the right track.

As a conclusion, I totally agree with the use of group work in the classroom since that allows students to interact with each other and in that way learn from each other, too. It, as stated before, is one of the keys to permit students to develop their metacognition and critical thinking, something that maybe they are not going to do in any other place but there, in the classroom.




Sunday, May 27, 2012

How do management parameters help make lessons more effective?

Throughout history there have been very good teachers, and there have also been some bad ones. Nevertheless, neither do the best teachers have accomplished the difficult task of having a perfect classroom with the perfect students. There have always existed some troubles or incidents that make teachers get out of their way, and it will continue like that for ever since it doesn’t exist any perfect class. It is not a secret that teaching is a so very difficult task, but if applied some classroom management parameters, it becomes less difficult, not easy, for anyone who teaches.

Classroom management is very important since if a teacher wants his or her students to learn, he or she has to have enough character as to assume that it is his or her responsibility to maintain the class in a way that the students can learn according to their needs and also to their goals. But how can that be achieved? The most highlight parameters to maintain the students actively participating and consciously paying attention in a class are Attention, Momentum, Space, Time, Routine, and Discipline. Below, it is a short but sufficient description of each of those parameters.
Attention is the fact that both the students and the teacher have to be focused on what is being developed in the class. It means that the teacher is going to focus on the students, and the students have to be focused on what the teacher is saying or doing. Nevertheless to catch the students´ attention is not easy, and thus, the other parameters have to be applied to reach the objective, to have a good class.
To catch or to maintain the students´ attention, it will be necessary that the teacher know how to manage well his or her time in the activities he or she is going to develop. If an easy explanation that was supposed to finish in five minutes is extended to 10 or 15 minutes, it means that the teacher is not playing well with the time and the students will get bored easily. For avoiding that, the teacher should anticipate those little pitfalls that the class could present and have a plan B – It is called anticipation, one of class momentum´s branches.

In the momentum in which attention is lost, the teacher has to react quickly to have his or her students on the right track again; that´s why the teacher has to be ready for any intrusion. Moreover, if the teacher didn’t administrated well the class time and some time is missing at the end, a filler would the best option to hide that left time. Furthermore, the teacher has to make sure that he or she is making good transitions throughout the class since that will help him or her to maintain the students in the right way, and not lost if the transitions hadn’t been well applied.

In addition, the teacher has to seriously consider the space he or she has to develop in a good way the activities he or she has prepared. There are certain ways in which the seats can be arranged to perform different activities, but it will depends on the purpose of each. If a test is going to be held, the perfect way will be to place the desks in straight lines, and if a discussion or debate is going to take place, the ideal position will be the auditory position, in which the students form a semi circle.
 Another important fact to take into account is that students hate routines; therefore the teacher has to be very careful not to fall into that. The teacher has to try different ways to teach his or her classes; for example, one day he or she can start with a discussion, and the other day he or she can start with the solving of a homework assignment – the purpose is not to become monotonous.

And finally, the teacher has to know how and when to apply discipline because if not, the students will think that they are the ones who rule in the classroom and will do whatever they want. The teacher is not the boss but the leader of the class, and as a leader, he or she has to make his or her students respect his or her statements in order not to be like an army but like a pacific alliance.

Undoubtedly, it doesn’t work well at the first time, but the teacher has to insist because some day his or her students will understand and will stop doing the bad things they used to do. Teaching is like that, and it won´t change; nonetheless, that is the reason why teachers exist, to do what other people don’t like to do, lead other people´s lives to the right track.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

How Smart Am I?

How smart am I? That is a good question I had never asked myself before. It was in one of our Didactics classes that the teacher asked us: “How intelligent are you?” At the beginning, one of my classmates said: “I am as intelligent as everybody of us.” At that moment, I agree with him, but then the teacher said to my classmate that he was wrong since nobody is as intelligent as other person but capable. That’s why, the teacher had us take a multiple intelligences test to measure how intelligent we are. The results? Continue reading.

What the test basically measures are the eight intelligences that Professor Howard Gardner, together with his team of professionals in various areas at Harvard University, has discovered up to now (musical, linguistic, naturalistic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, logical/mathematical, visual/spatial, and bodily/kinesthetic). Even though Professor Howard wants to include the moral and the spiritual intelligences to the list of multiple intelligences, they haven’t been approved by scientists who are experts on the matter. When I took the test, I was almost sure about which the results would be. But, to my surprise, the results weren’t the ones I have thought.

According to the results, my dominant intelligences are the musical, the one I was more than sure that would be there, and the intrapersonal, which surprise me a lot because I didn’t consider myself as a person who prefers to learn alone. But the fact that intrapersonal was one of the dominant intelligences didn’t surprise me a lot; what surprise me a lot is that the interpersonal intelligence was one of the lowest intelligences I possess -- It was the second one, together with the naturalistic intelligence, with less percentage. It surprise me because I consider myself a sociable person, but maybe the test goes beyond that just measure if one is friendly with all the people, and that’s why, I got a lower percentage in that intelligence.

Finally, the other intelligences were in a intermediate level. In the linguistic, logical/mathematical, and bodily/kinesthetic intelligences, for example, I got the same percentage, and in the last intelligence on this list, visual/spatial, I got just some few point less than in the other three above mentioned. Now that I know all those statistics about me, I can say that I am intelligent enough as to reach all the goals, objectives, desires, or dreams that I could propose in my life since I am capable to achieve them, and the most important, I have the correct and suitable attitude to do it.

Undoubtedly, it was nice to know how intelligent I am. Even though the results were slightly different to what I thought, I know that I can improve each of those intelligences and some day to have an equal percentage in all of them. Meanwhile, I will work hard to achieve that as one of my first objectives in life.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Motivations to learn English and strategies to achieve it

All the people in this world has something that motivates them to do something else since all of them needs something that encourages them to achieve what they want. If nothing motivates them, how are they going to achieve their goals, objectives, or dreams; in fact, without motivation nothing could be achieved. As all the people, I also have some things that motivate me to do other things, in this case learning English. There are three major reasons that encourage me to learn English.

First of all, I am very motivated to learn English very well because it will bring me several job opportunities in the future. Nowadays, to know English is one of the main prerequisites to get a job in almost all the workplaces in El Salvador and in the entire world since it is the lingua franca. To know English assures one that one will at least get one job if one have the desire to work, something that is not an option in our country. The possible jobs one can get are translator, interpreter, embassy or airport executive, call center assistant, and, for sure,  teacher. Undoubtedly, English is the opportunity not to be a loser in this life, and that motivates me to continue learning it every day.

Next, I am pretty motivated to learn English because I promised my father I would become a professional in the area of languages. My father was the first person who spoke to me in English when I was just a little boy, and he told me just some days before his death that his only desire was seeing me being a professional, obviously in the languages area. That really touched my heart because the things in English I knew at that time, I had learned them from him; therefore, I made a promise to him that he would see me as a professional in that area just in five years. Unfortunately, the promise couldn´t be accomplished because he died, but anyway, I know despite he is not anymore with me, he is still taking care of me from heaven; thus, I have to do my best. Undoubtedly, it has been difficult, but it is a promise and I have to accomplish it because in that way my father will be proud of me.

And finally, I want learn more about English because I have always liked it, and I find interesting and nice to know more than one language. I remember that at the age of six I already knew the numbers from zero to one hundred, and I achieved that just with my father´s help; that´s why, while I was growing up, my desire to overcome what I learned about English also was growing up with each passing day. But I also knew that if I wanted to improve my English I had to put into practice some strategies in order to learn the language in a less difficult way. I started by learning some words from the dictionary; that helped me, but it was not enough to fulfill my desire of knowing English. So I decided to study English as a major at the university, what I still currently do. Through that experience, I have learned a lot, but it is still not enough; that´s why, I decided to learn more vocabulary and expressions to speak as a native-like through reading novels, something I really like -- in English for sure—writing poems, since I like poetry, listening to just music in English, Christian music especially, and watching videos and movies in English without subtitles or with subtitles but in English. Even though, I am not an expert, I know that I have improoved my English, but I also know that learning English is a process that never finishes since we are life-long learners.

All the people have their own desires, goals, dreams, and objectives, as I wrote at the very beginning. And undoubtedly, to learn as much as I can about English is my goal now, and I will do everything that  I have to do and that helps me to reach that goal.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

DIGPA from a segment of one of my classes from my teaching practice

D- It was at around 3:30 pm on the last tuesday afternoon. I was explaining the rules of the genitive or possessive case to my students from seventh grade. At the very beginning it seemed that all of them had understood the rules, but then when I was CCQing to see if they had understood, nobody answered me until all of a sudden a girl raised her hand to ask me to explain agin one of the rules. After I explained that rule to her, other two boys asked me to explain again another rule. At last, evry time I had finished to explain a rule again to someone, there was another hand raised in signal that someone wanted me to explain again another rule. It was so disappointing for me because at first I thought that everyone had understood until the ice was broken and I realized that I was deadly wrong since nobody had understood anything at all.

I- One reason why the rules were not clearly understood might have been that when I was explaining them to the students, they were not paying attention to me and instead they were cross-talking about the test they were having after my class. Another reason why the explanation might have not been comprehended is that I was explaining the rules in a rush since I had to do other activities after that one. Or maybe the students didn´t understand the rules because I didn´t write them in a chart, and it made the students get confused while I was explaining.

G- I consider that explaining clearly the rules or usages is relevant for students to note the importance of a topic. For example, when the students don´t know the rules and/or usages of a specific topic, they get confused and sometimes frustrated and ask their classmates for help, and in that way momentum and class management, two things which are difficult to bring back, break. I do believe that through good explanations of the rules and/or usages of topics, the students learn and motivate to continue studying the topic; that’s why, the teacher has to focus enough  in that part, since from it depends if the students will learn or not.

PA- Next time that I do this activity or a similar one, I will write the rules or usages in a chart for my students to copy them and not to get confused while I am explaining them. I also will organize better my time not to explain the things in such a rush that my students don’t understand anything. And last but not least, I will ask my students if they have a test after my class. If they answer affirmatively, I will make a treat with them. It will consist on that if they pay attention to my whole class, I will give them some minutes at the end in order they study a bit more for the test. In that way we all will be winners.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Inspire Your Students

"Why do we teach?" It was the first sentence I read from the first chapter: "Inspire Your Students" of the book: "Transformational Teaching." The first thing I did inmediately after reading that question was asking myself the reason for which I would like to teach, and my answer was that I want to help others to find their own way in this life, a way that guide them for the right track. I want to help students to believe that they are somene in this life and that they will become someone even more important some day if they go on the correct way. But I haven´t taken into account some important things that the chapter mentions about how to achieve what I want to reach together with my future students. 
The chapter focuses on three important aspects in any student in this life, which are social, academic, and also religious aspects. It is interesting to read about the experiences of some teachers who are citated in the chapter, all of whom lived a different experience trying to enlighten their students to the right way through those aspects or areas.When I read the complete chapter I was so excited that I read it again, and I discovered some other things I haven´t discovered the first time I read it. For example, I discovered that teachers have to be as a candle that consumes himself or herself to illuminate the way of his or her students, and I also discovered tha teachers are the responsibles of the reputation of a school, not the students because they do what the teachers teach to them. When I read the part that was referred to that I said "that´s  not true because students also have the influence of their parents," but then when I read about how some teachers had changed the mind of some of their students who had familiar problems in the capter, I realized that the teacher can be as influent as the parents of his or her students. Teachers not only have to be facilitators or helpers to their students, but also they have to be inspirers an illuminators as the book presents. One of the parts that really caught my attention was the part in which it mentioned that emotions affect our learning; that´s why, we all remember the things we feel, and it citates some examples as the 9/11 (September 11, 2001), or the election of Obama, and some other feelings we have that we can remember as if it would have happened yesterday.

Finally there was another term that caught my attention, it was the term SYNERGY, what we could call the effect that create the community between to people or more. The chapter gave crucial importance to the three aspects I mentioned before (social, academic, and religious), but it also focuses a lot in the synergy because it mentions that the dynamic student-teacher has to be very closer and special since that is the only form in which the student will feel that the teacher cares about him or her. To tell the truth, it was nice to have read that interesting chapter, so I feel privileged of having read it and of having learned from it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


        Well, first of all, I want to highlight some things about the movie. I really enjoyed the movie; it was a fantastic story! I liked it so much! I am really surprised because of Mr. Cohen´s personality and character because despite his sickness, which was a very difficult one, he wasn’t a pessimistic person, but the opposite. He is a nice example of how teachers (and also many people) should be. I am so impressed about Mr. Cohen that I even created a list about all his virtues; in such a list, I placed the following values and characteristics he possesses: self confidence (not only at the moment of teaching, but in his whole life), positivism, courage, creativity, enthusiasm, patience, tolerance, comprehension, and some others.

         Another aspect that called my attention was the way Mr. Cohen taught to his students, for I noticed that he does loved what he did; he was passionate about his job, and I discovered it because he lived and enjoyed what he taught, what makes his teaching great. He believed that is ok to be oneself and that it is not bad to be different; that’s why, he taught to his students another very important value, respect, for everybody has to respect each other because all of us are special in this life. He showed his students that bullying and teasing others were bad things that people sometimes do but they shouldn’t do because nobody is perfect and also because anybody deserve to be treated in such a way, as he was treated in his childhood. We have to treat people as we want that they treat us.

          Now talking about my aspirations, at first I didn’t know what I wanted to become in my life, but now I´m more than sure about it, and one of the things that helped me to understand it was the fabulous story of Mr. Cohen, to whom most of the people considered a silly person without the capacity of succeeding in life, but he demonstrated that he was not and that he could achieve everything he would like as all the people do. This case inspired me to continue fighting in order to accomplish my goals and dreams; that ´s why, now I can say that what I want the most in this life is to become an excellent teacher who can help his students with his needs. I also want to add my two cents to create a better world by teaching my students about all the values that human beings should practice in order to live a better life, and finally I want to make history and that my students always remember me as one of the persons who contributed to do of their lives a good one.

        To finish I think that Mr. Cohen´s disease was not a handicap for him, but the key to make him believe in himself to achieve what he liked the most, to teach.  And that is for me the most valuable thing about the movie that we don’t have to let our handicaps or problems destroy our goals or dreams; we have to continue and if things aren’t as we wanted, we have to continue trying until we achieve them. We are not alone, for God is with us, and his Holy Word says that if we trust in Him, we can achieve every single thing we want.