28 August, 2015

I have a dream .. Flipped at last !

"Flip it to win it" Is that true ? Can you gain more if you flip your classroom ?
What can happen if the students do some work at home (read, listen, research a topic, learn some vocabulary or find answers to some questions) and then engage in more practice activities in class?! I believe that would be great for both the teacher and the student !

That's how a flipped classroom works. It's more student centered and more productive in terms of using the language. And that's why I had a dream to try a flipped classroom with my students one day and here comes the day !!

As the 28th of August is the anniversary of Martin Luther King's I have a dream speech, we were encouraged as teachers to try to raise the topic of equality and diversity in class with our students using this speech which was an important moment in the American Civil Rights movement and history. Another thing that made me see it can work is the events and changes Egypt has been through in the last few years. We are still hoping and working for a change in many fields and all Egyptians have lots of dreams for their future and the country's as well.

After listening to King's speech, I thought it would be difficult to play it in class as it is a bit long (almost 16 mins) and not so easy - in terms of language - for students to work on for the first time in class. So, I thought that's the moment I should try a Flipped Classroom .


So, the questions I had to answer while planning for this lesson were;

1. How will I introduce the topic in class?
2. What are the tasks students have to do at home?
3. What kind of activities I can use later in class based on this lesson?

The answers to these questions are in the following stages of my lesson :

The first stage:

- I introduced the topic asking students about important dates in their lives and in our country's old and modern history. They shared personal dates and dates of important events in Egypt such as; The Egyptian Revolution and The New Suez Canal - which was inaugurated the beginning of this month - among some others.
- Showing students a photo of Martin Luther king , I could elicit who he is. Some of them know him well and one could even remember his famous sentence "I have a dream".
- I showed students a short video that tells interesting facts about Martin Luther king's speech.
- Commenting on the video, students started to get more interested in the topic and thus I was ready to set the main task they should do at home.

The second stage : Task at home:

1. Watch the video of the speech, read the script or listen and read, then answer the following question:
What did Martin Luther King dream about for the future of the black and white communities?
2. Find the meaning of difficult or new key words in the speech.

The last stage : Next class:

- The next class, students came with lots of good notes from the speech. They started sharing it with each other in pairs, then with the whole class.
- After that, they chose a representative from each small group (3/4 students) to write the new key words they learnt from the speech on the board. Some words were repeated, so we eliminated them to give an opportunity to share more words. When the board was full of key words , students started explaining the meaning of these words and how some of them had a different meaning conveying King's message and the suffering of the black people at that time.

It was really enriching for everyone and raised good points for discussion.

The next part of the class was asking students to think and write short notes of their own dreams for their future, the future of their country, local community or human race.

The final stage was giving each student an A3 white paper and some crayons, colour pens and pencils and asking them to put these dreams on paper as a drawing, list or any other kind of product they want.

The students enjoyed that part of the lesson so much and the products were really amazing . They were relaxed; thinking, drawing, coloring, and reflecting on each other's products wondering what they might mean. Every student expressed his/her dreams on their own special way and presented them to the class in 1 minute. I gathered all the products on a padlet wall and invited students to comment on the lesson there as well. You can see samples of their work there.

Variations :

The final products students work on can be an interview (audio or video), writing a blog post about the speech, conducting a survey, ..etc.

You can choose a simpler reading text about the speech or part of the speech, if you're teaching lower level students. There are lots of good lesson plans and free resources online that you can use or adapt according to your students' level and age.

Limitations / problems:

Some students might not do the task at home, so you have to ensure beforehand they know that the next lesson will be based on that task. Another thing you can do is to ask the students who did the task to summarize the speech or they can share the main points in pairs.

I am really happy with the experience and proud of my students. In this lesson, I aimed at and managed to achieve two of the #30goalsedu; goal #5 Integrate tech effectively and goal #23 Plant a seed of belief. Trying something new in class as well as inspiring students to keep dreaming of many good things to happen in their future and the future of their country are always good and rewarding aims.

Keep dreaming and let your dreams be seeds of belief that they will come true :)

11 April, 2015

Iatefl online ... live the conference (1)

Though it's not easy to have all your dreams come true whenever you want, it's still possible to come closer to them. Attending iatefl conference is one of my dreams that I will looking forward to. However, it's not impossible to attend some of the sessions now online through the live webcast offered by the conference website . This year, I intend to attend the 49th annual convention online and watch as many sessions as possible then report about them here in my blog. Today, I watched Donald Freeman's plenary session, which was really thought provoking and that's why I decided to write this blog post once the session ended.

Frozen in thought?
How we think and what we do in ELT
Donald Freeman

Donald started his session by presenting a classroom situation where a teacher plays "Bingo" with her students as she believes "Bingo is the only thing that works with kids". From this quotation, he commented that we as teachers always find reasoning or justification for what we do in class whether internally; to justify what we do for ourselves or externally; to justify it to others. "That reason we give depends on three myths," Freeman says. These myths can be right or wrong and each of them might have useful or misleading aspects. However, clarifying that distinction "helps to 'thaw' our thinking".

Myth 1 :  'Direct' causality
It's the myth that teaching causes learning. Donald explains what happens in the classroom as a Billiard game. The teacher hits a ball, which is like revealing a secret (one language point), then the students hit the next, depending on the teacher's first shot. It keeps going on until learning happens. However, we can't say that "teaching has nothing to do with learning" as it facilitates learning and is an integral part of the learning process. Donald finalized this part showing a picture that represents the relationship between teaching and learning as a spiral movement; one move from the teacher, followed by another from the learner and so on.

Myth 2 : 'Sole' responsibility
It's the belief that the teacher is the only source of learning and thus responsible for everything that happens in the classroom. In a way, we have responsibility as we act as decision makers; preparing the materials, taking decisions in the classroom, reacting to students' needs, ...etc.
However, Donald sees it as much more like a chess table. The move a teacher makes affects the students' decisions on what to do next, and their moves affects the teacher's choices of what decisions to take based on those moves , and so on. Thus, it's all about decision making; one move shapes the possibility of what comes next. It provides the teacher with opportunities to teach and offers more learning opportunities for the learner. "When you teach , you have to manage what you can't control, " was the final quote Donald ended his second myth with.

Myth 3 : 'proficiency' as the goal
It's the myth that the goal of teaching is 'proficiency', which is grounded on an idea of 'nativeness' which 'is not a linguistic idea, but rather a geopolitical one.' Donald also argued that though it's important to describe how good people can be at a language, it's also problematic to describe it as the language itself is flexible. Moreover, defining what's 'good' is not that possible as it's not a universal concept.

Donald explained how the classroom bounds the language by showing a picture called 'the suitcase for travel', in which the suitcase represents the outline of the classroom, and the background is the outside world. So, what we see through the suitcase doesn't represent the larger whole outside it. So, we do teach part of what students need to be 'proficient' but not all. At this point, Donald proposed the concept of "Horizontal knowledge" which is what's in and outside the case, suggesting that we should think of 'proficiencies' as plural rather than 'proficiency' as it happens in different contexts and should only be bounded by these situations. Donald summed up this argument with a satisfying conclusion that  as teaching is central in the learning process which should be driven by the learner, we - as teachers - should organize learning in a way that helps the learners decide what they need to learn.

It was such an eye-opening session that can change the way we teach in a positive way and thus affect our learners' concept of learning ........ and proficiency.
Donald Freeman ended his session with some inspiring quotes. However, the following one as a key that opens doors to the unknown !!

Hope I could bring some of the key ideas of the first plenary to those who weren't able to attend it. However, it's still possible to attend more plenary sessions live online and watch recordings of many more !!