Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I teach MY students

I teach my students, not other teachers’ students.

What do I mean by that?
I have been extensively reading about teenagers and what/ how they are learning. I have been reading how they text, how they speak, what they like doing. I have been reading all that from teachers or from people in the learning business. As I was reading I have never taken the time to actually stop and look at MY students. I assumed that teachers around the world had the same students. So I thought that teenagers from Scotland were like teenagers in South Africa, who were the same as teenagers in the US or Australia.

How wrong was I.
(source http://bit.ly/QR3no3)

One typical example is that I have asked my students how they text. They told me that they text like they write in English (proper !!!), they do not use text language and cannot stand kids who do.
As you know, I teach French in a rural high school in NZ. My experience, my students might be different from yours even if you teach in a rural high school in NZ. My experience might also be different from another teacher in the same school as me.
I made the mistake to assume how my students were. This year, I have been observing them (I should have done that years ago of course, but I cannot change that). By observing and asking them what they actually like, I have realised that they like touching stuff I have laminated, they like doing grammar drills, they like playing gameboards, they like conjugating verbs on individual whiteboards (the old way) and they like learning their vocabulary using Language Perfect online.

So now, when I plan my lessons, I do not plan them if I were teaching students in Australia or in Huntly, I plan my lessons if I were teaching my students, the ones who decide to take French in high school, the ones who like conjugating verbs and playing gameboards

Monday, May 21, 2012

MIE in Year 10 French class

A few weeks ago, I have asked my Year 10 French who wanted to be extended. (read this post if you are interested).

So a group of around 10 girls have been working on different projects ranging from clothes designers to French actress.

The only two directions they had was to study a topic they were interested in and use their brain. I have asked a fellow teacher to (re)introduce the SOLO Taxonomy to this group in order for them to ask good questions.

Last week, was their final week and they presented to the rest of the class their work. MAMMA MIA !!! I was very impressed by the quality of their work. Their presentation skills were remarkable. A student spoke about pétanque. Her presentation was out of this world. She had great research, asked herself superbe questions and at the end of her presentation asked her peers a quiz. She wanted to be sure that her friends listened to her. I was very impressed by her deep understanding of the topic. She was actually capable of answering questions the other kids asked. I can say that we have now in our class an expert about pétanque in our class.

Not only this little experiment worked well but the kids cannot wait to carry on. Some are already thinking about what they are going to do next. 

Speaking about engagement ??!!! Good way of measuring engagement in our classes =)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Extending my Year 10 French

I teach a wonderful Year 10 French, with lots of different abilities within the class. Some kids are flying when some need a lot of repetition. I actually love teaching mixed ability class but I thought we could/ should extend some students.

Last week, I asked the whole class who wanted to be extended in French. About 10 girls (interesting hey??!!) stayed behind and we discussed together how we could extend our French. I told them that I didn't want them to work extra. Who would like to do more of the same boring stuff ?? High abilities students are not stupid, why would you want to work more? Instead I offered the opportunity to work on things they are interested in.

Indeed they can study what ever they want e.g. poems, French history, special theme etc... They would study while the rest of the class is learning in "the normal way". They will also get the vocabulary they are missing. As it is very low level of thinking I thought they would cope with just learning lists.

I had planned to start next week but the kids were eager to start straight away. So yesterday while the rest of the class was learning about shops in France, "the extended band" went into my grotty office next door and started to think about they would like to study.

During that hour they came up with great ideas like studying the life of Louis XIV, Versailles, French designers, French bread and Paris to name a few.

What was surprising was when I was teaching the rest of the class (the kids who did not want to be extended), the dynamic had changed. Kids who usually do not participate much were very engaged and put their hands up heaps. When I discussed this situation with the DP, we thought that :
-a gap and an expectation had been made which needed to be filled and the kids were quite happy to fill in that gap. So they behaved in the way that usually the most able girls behave.
- they felt less embarrassed that more repetition was needed, so they were more comfortable answering questions
- they had more more time and felt less threatened

For whatever the reasons, both sides of the class worked very hard.

What next?

The girls and I will be discussing next lesson what topics they are going to study. It is also very important that they keep a log and write down how they are going to spend their time. They will write down what they expect to do each hour, and at the end of each lesson, they should reflect and see what has been achieved or not.
I have also asked the lady who looks after the Gifted and Talented students to come to see those girls and remind them about SOLO Taxonomy. Indeed, it is primordial that the girls get a good understanding of deep level thinking. I do not want to see them learning lists of vocabulary or ask how many steps on the Eiffel Tower.

At the end of their topic (which should last 2/3 weeks) they will present their findings to the rest of the class.

I hope that this is going to work well as I want to see if Minimally Invasive Education can be done in a French class

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Look at my new black pen

" I usually write on the whiteboard using a blue pen, but now I use a black pen. I have not changed anything at all about my teaching but the colour of the ink I use. My students learn in the same way except that now they see my black writing on the board"

This is what I hear when I listen people speaking about their use of technology. It is not about the teaching, it is not about the learning it is just about the technology. As if by just using a computer the learning/the teaching would become better by magie. Like if changing the colour pen could hide the fact that my teaching is mediocre.

I have nothing against (quite opposite actually) the use of technology if only you can back up why you do what you do and/or why your students do what they do. As long as a teacher has a vision and the way to get there is to use an Ipad then go for it. If you ask your students to write on NOTE on an Ipad, why not using a piece of paper. If your teaching/ learning can be done on the piece then do it on paper and don't spend $1000

What do you try your students to achieve when you ask them to use technology or when you use technology in your class?

Monday, February 13, 2012

I (re)discovered Facebook

Like a billion (or so) people I am a member of Facebook. It started as a fun thing to do. One day, my mum who lives in France and only uses the Internet has a encyclopedia joined Facebook. On that day,I found I could not delete my profile. Then a few other members of my family joined and now it is too late. As they are all hooked up on Facebook I am unable to leave "the community".

So until December, I used Facebook as a mean of seeing my cousin's wedding pictures (she got married in August and France is unfortunately very far away!!!) and/or telling people about my daughter's milestones (very interesting, NOT !!).

I know that Joel Dodd uses Facebook with his classes, but the school where I work is definitely not open about it =(

Anyhow !!!

When I was lying on my couch during the summer, I realised that Facebook was a lot more than my cousin's pictures (although she looked gorgeous). During my readings I have found "pages". I had already "liked" pages before but I had not realised the power behind those micro-communities.

As new hobbies came to my life (e.g. sewing), new pages were added to my wall. Facebook is actually a RSS feed and I also can put all those liked pages into groups. So when sitting on the sofa in front of a good old American sitcom, I can read about some new sewing projects that different women (sorry to be sexist here) are tackling; I can read how I could live one year rubbish free like a couple who is trying in the South Island.

I know I was the only one not knowing about the power of Facebook and I should be ashamed...but as they say it is better late than ever.

Instead of looking at Facebook like an evil creature (did you know that before Facebook bullying did not exist ??) we should use it in our advantage. Connecting with our students is one thing we could do, but actually there is SO much more