Wednesday, July 27, 2011

EXTENDING LEARNING BEYOND THE CLASSROOM

Another interesting challenge posed by Barbara Sakamoto and Chuck Sandy during the process of developing material for the International Teacher Development Institute (iTDi): How do we, as teachers, create suitable conditions for learning without being limited by the classroom walls?

My participation in the project involves a lot of thinking, which is always encouraged by the two organizers I mentioned before. Since these two exceptional educators have managed to arouse the interest of the teachers participating in the EFT authors' team, they are bound to work miracles for the teachers who will register for this online teacher-training course!

Here is a piece of the thoughts stemming from discussions with other teacher-bloggers in the group. More texts about learning and teaching fall into the categories entitled 'Posts for teachers' and the 'iTDi Project'.

1) Exchange of blog comments with the advanced students of iTDi's very own Henrick Oprea. This is a piece of my thoughts back when the 'blogging challenge' concept made its appearance:

'The whole concept is, in fact, very intriguing, not simply because students' increased blog traffic will be the perfect boost to their confidence and will to blog, but also because this circulation of culturally and socially related ideas and information will enable learners in both parts of the world to familiarize themselves with difference, multiculturalism and plurality of identity in the best manner possible.'

The description of the series of steps taken so as for the blogging challenge to be completed are included in this group of posts. This is where you are also going to find links to the posts students commented on (the posts belonged to student blogs only) as well as links to previous blogging challenges my students have taken part in.

2) E-pal project: communication without frontiers! This was the title of a previous blog post, referring to the written communication along with the exchange of podcasts and photographs between our students belonging to A' Junior up to B' Class groups (8-11 years old) and their French peers taught English by Aniella Lebeau.

Our French e-pals!

Not only did the young students manage to communicate fully (and only in English!) through the simple emailing service, but also had the chance to create further online projects, resulting from this communication, like the glogs and presentations they made about their schools!

You can read all about the email exchange and the subsequent projects here.

3) Is there a simpler way to expand your students' horizons by helping them contact native or non-native speakers through Skype? Some of my intermediate students talked to my online friend, musician and EFL teacher, Patricia Johnston at the beginning of the school year and were utterly thrilled by the experience!

C' Class talking to Patricia on Skype:
excellent speaking practice by asking and answering questions. 

I am aware that all the above require an Internet connection and the existence of at least one computer in the classroom, but I think that even a low-tech school can afford to meet these two basic requirements! In the case of small groups, even the teacher's laptop could do the trick. There is also the possibility of some students working at home to send the emails or write a blog comment, providing that the two prerequisites for such an action are met in the family environment.

4) In case there is no technology available at school or at home, books are another great way to urge students to continue learning even when outside the classroom settings. The teacher can lend them a book that suits their age and level from the school library or their own personal collection and the adventure begins! The tasks that can be assigned are endless and require no classroom time, ranging from summaries on paper to blog posts and students' own comics. If there is time available in the lesson, read-aloud activities are an amazing alternative.
This is what a read-aloud activity entails in brief: In a relaxing atmosphere including unobtrusive music and a circular arrangement of desks, the teacher sits in the centre reading short passages of the book aloud, fitting the level, needs and interests of the specific class. He/she needs to pause regularly to ask comprehension questions, explain difficult vocabulary or urge the students to predict what is going to happen next. As it can easily be seen, this activity trains the students’ listening and speaking skills, familiarizing them with a variety of texts at the same time. The students have the chance to look at the pictures of the book during the short intervals, also taking a look at the text that has been read by the teacher.

(Extract from one of my guest posts for the Teaching Village)

Following this link will give you a taste of some book projects that have been produced in our classes this year. What attracted the interest of the teacher and student online community was the comic written and designed by a 11-year-old girl after she had read a story she liked.

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EFL LINKS FOR STUDENTS AND TEACHERS

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WIKI WITH READING TEXTS AND ACTIVITIES

Wikispaces