I have been exploring the web universe this week and have found some wonderful resources for teachers. Here are a few of my favorites.
Edutopia is a site produced by the George Lucas Educational Foundation. It features a plethora of articles and videos related to current topics in education. This wealth of information is presented in an attractive, user-friendly format with topics presented with a short summary and an accompanying video. At this site I read about a model school in London that has achieved remarkable success by focusing on “Oracy” or oral language skills, the arts, and “well-being”. The article included several videos demonstrating School 21’s programs, along with a number of lesson ideas, and an outline of the school’s philosophical framework.
The videos of this innovative school showcased impressive eloquence in a very diverse student body. As well, students showed great confidence and enthusiasm for learning. I especially liked the fact that final projects were all geared as performance pieces for the community. The program showed a unique integration of the arts with other content, and laudable creativity.
Most impressive was the mature manner in which students were able to articulate their mastery of the learning process. Vygotsky (1978) states that “language is not only a means of communication, but also — and more importantly — it is a medium for intellectual development that helps learners broaden and deepen their understanding of significant ideas.” In this school, from a very age, students utilize high-quality, constructive academic language, and that use has fostered tremendous critical thinking and literacy skills. In the U.S., Common Core has recently elevated the importance of this use of academic language in the curriculum. Is it possible that American schools can reverse downward academic trends and, perhaps, restore some civility in public discourse through this change in the way students interact in the classroom? School 21 offers us hope.
Public Speaking: Oracy Skills for the Real World. (2016, Sept. 15). Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/practice/public-speaking-oracy-skills-real-world
Dziombak, C. (2017, Oct.) Cutting to the Common Core: Constructive
Conversations. Language Magazine: Improving Literacy & Communication. Retrieved from https://www.languagemagazine.com/cutting-to-the-common-core-constructive-conversations/
Hakuta, K., Zwiers, J., & Rutherford-Quach, S. (2013). Constructive Classroom
Conversations: Mastering language for the Common Core State Standards.
Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University/Understanding Language online course.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Zwiers, J., O’Hara, S., & Pritchard, R. (2014). Common Core Standards in Diverse
Classrooms: Essential practices for developing academic language and
disciplinary literacy. Stenhouse Publishers/aldnetwork.org.
Brandl, K, Communicative Language Teaching in Action, Developing Oral Communication
Skills: Speaking Involves the Oral Expression of Thought and Mind, 277-300.
FilmEnglish, by Kieran Donaghy, presents several model ELT lesson plans building on very short films and photos. Donaghy uses exemplary CLT lessons with very engaging film fragments and photography. These take-away lessons can easily be utilized by teachers. In addition to offering training in his methodology, Donaghy promotes his book and solicits donations for the website. This website is a rich resource for EFL teachers. Donaghy has painstakingly detailed each lesson, and provided an index of themes. The films are varied — some comical, others heartbreaking. The lessons can be adapted to a variety of ESL levels.
I particularly enjoyed the “Differences” lesson that features a BBC short film of children with their best friends, discussing their differences. The children fumble to even think of differences, and then mention things like “I have bigger toes.” Adult viewers will notice differences in skin color or disabilities — not the kids. This lesson is an excellent conversation starter for an EFL class, and utilizes exemplary practices in using film to teach language.
Donaghy is a thoughtful, sensitive, imaginative teacher who generously offers a panoply of fabulous lessons free to all. What a wonderful model to other teachers! Why are we all reinventing the wheel day after day? How do we create more lesson sharing sites so we can build on each other’s strengths?
Donaghy, Kieran. (2017, July 17). Difference. FilmEnglish
Retrieved from http://film-english.com/2017/07/17/difference/
Herron, C., Dubreil, S., Corrie, C., & Cole, S. (2002) A Classroom Investigation: Can Video
Improve Intermediate-level French Language Students’ Ability to Learn about a
Foreign Culture? The Modern Language Journal, 86( i), 36-53.
TEFL Matters: Teaching, Teacher Education, New Technologies
This site, created by the well-known EFL educator, Marisa Constantinides, is a forum for English as a Foreign Language Teachers. It provides information about conferences, research, training opportunities, classroom management, technological resources, and various other issues related to EFL. Within this site, I read “Seven Questions for Alan Maley”. He discussed the main points of his new book, Creativity in the English Language Classroom, which urges teachers to utilize principles from creativity research in the classroom, “Do the opposite’, using the random principle, using the withholding of information principle, using the constraints principle, etc.” In addition, Maley discusses at length the value of utilizing literature to teach language. “Literature offers rich linguistic input (the richest there is) and many possible and creative ways of utilizing that input (Duff & Maley 2007) Maley also expresses his distress over current practices in education that stifle creativity and inquiry. He is cynical about the future of education.
Interestingly, Maley voices condemnation for social media, “I am wary of the triviality which characterizes so many blogs and tweets,” and says that he is “sceptical of the ultimate usefulness of much of this cyber-communication…Simply exchanging information (even when it is relevant information) is not much use unless we do something with it. The speed and volume of information exchange is now so great that it has become quite difficult to absorb it, reflect on it, discriminate between what is and is not useful, join up the dots, and do something with it.” Creativity demands time for reflection. Is it possible less is more effective? The vetting process of publishers and movie studios is sometimes restrictive, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Our most limited resource is time to think. Are we wasting it surfing the web for trivialities?
Note the nice little bonus: there is a free download of Maley’s new book at the end of the article.
Constantinides, M. (2015, Dec. 30) Seven Questions for Alan Maley. TEFL Matters: Teaching,
Arnold, J. 1999. Affect in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press..
Duff, A. & A. Maley. 2007. Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Greenfield, S. 2014. Mind Change London: Rider/Ebury.
Maley, A. 2005. A modest proposal: From research to inquiry. HLT Mag.com Year 5, Issue
- Nov. 05
Pugliese, C. 2010. Being Creative. London: Delta.
Underhill, A & A. Maley 2012. Expect the unexpected. English Teaching Professional. Issue
82, Sept. 2012: 4-7.
Wright, A. 2014. Creativity in the Classroom. Godollo: International Languages Institute.
MindShift: How We Will Learn is an educational issues resource site created by KQED television. It offers a variety of articles exploring problems facing educators, new innovations, and teaching strategies. It also includes a podcast on educational issues. The site is easy to navigate and rich with cutting edge ideas.
I read an article entitled, “Science of Learning: Marijuana, Achievement, and the Teen Brain.” It detailed the change in grades of college students in the Dutch city of Maastricht when marijuana was banned. The Review of Economic Studies published an analysis showing that 73.9% of students were passing classes before the ban. After the ban, 77.9% of students passed classes, a considerable increase. Previous studies have been unable to untangle marijuana use from other factors like alcohol use. A new American study by The National Institutes of Health, the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study (ABCD), will track more than 10,000 nine- and ten-year-olds for 10 years. It is predicted that this study will be able to clearly document the effects of marijuana on the teenage brain, and detail its effect on academic success. As more and more American communities legalize marijuana, this Dutch study is particularly troubling. In addition, the psychiatric community is warning that marijuana changes brain development in teenagers and contributes to depression and, even, the incidence of schizophrenia.
Educators will bear the brunt of the effects of marijuana legalization. Teachers are continually blamed for low achievement in students, but, obviously societal factors can play a major role in student performance. What can teachers do to educate the public as to the hazards of marijuana legalization? How do we prepare for the problems that marijuana legalization will bring to our profession?
Wallis, C. (2017, Sept. 27) Science of Learning: Marijuana, Achievement, and the Teen Brain.
The Hechinger Report. Retrieved from
Weir, K. (2015, Nov.) Marijuana and the Developing Brain. American Psychological
Association. Vol 46, No. 10. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2015/11/marijuana-brain.aspx