Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Think bigger picture....

Well, at the risk of boring you, though lovely Nomad maintains that I cannot....(am I the only one who's readership varies between 150 to 20 from one day to the next? Maybe I am boring, or bi-polar or, or, or...)

*ahem*

Getting back to the topic, I will continue on yesterday's theme, even if I do bore you.

First of all, elPadawan mentioned the problem of ensuring that you make it through the curriculum over the course of the year, and in fact in his question lies the answer, and it is this...you need to look at larger chunks of time, for instance in some of the classes I teach I have, say twelve units I have to cover over the year, and three terms in which to do it...that breaks down to an average of four units a term, which averages ABOUT three weeks each, this is quite approximate as the terms vary considerably in length....

So, you then go and look at the material that you want to cover over that unit...it is often surprisingly short. A typical unit for an English class, may cover: past simple, as in, 'I walked. Did I walk? I did not walk', also countable and uncountable nouns for example, rice is uncountable, you cannot say, "Hand me a rice". You must use 'some', or a quantified, such 'as a cup of' finally there will be some vocabulary.

That is all the grammatical and lexical list for an individual unit...they need to do some reading and you need to ensure that they understood it, so some comprehension work of some form. They need to do some writing work (see writing work is uncountable so I used some!) and some practice listening to the language and speaking it. If you are not tied and bound to the exercise book it can provide good feedback and opportunities for practice and winnowing out the problem, but beyond that, you are pretty much free to do whatever dance around those subjects you think will engage the kids. I currently feel overly bound to the exercises in the book

I prefer to have a single well done piece of work to show at the end of it, for instance a letter, or a journal entry, or an advertising or a song that the students have written and which encompasses all of these grammatical and lexical items in some way. This would be in lieu of a test, which simply rams factoids into short term memory, where they are shortly forgotten. The test also serves to cover the teacher's butt should there be a dispute with the parents about the child's education or abilities. The larger work gives them the review factor in an organic way if it is worked with meaningfully. At the two week mark, you had better be finishing up this work, and the final week is polishing up whatever they want to make, whether it is boring or simple or fascinating and complex like a group music video...

Then you have to only keep track of the weeks, and you are freed up to follow the children's lead from day to day...though sometimes you need to fire them up so that they will take the lead...there in is the rub and the work of a good teacher.

OK...that said, we went into BCN today and visited a working monastery, though in fact it is for nuns, not monks, so I am not sure that monastery is the correct name. I am going to have to go back again, I failed to bring my camera, as it looked so very rainy out and I didn't want to damage it...pics to come. It is a lovely spot...I may even pull off a feminist rant before I am done with that topic.

One last thing, is it just me, or is this shaping up to being the single most interesting Presidential races you've ever seen?

8 comments:

elPadawan said...

so... the key lies in having a "light" curriculum to cover. Considering the timespan you have for each unit, I totally agree with your methods (sometimes, it was like that when I was in school... good times ;)). But I remember as well, especially in High School, curriculi so packed that the teachers never had enough time to cover everything, it was pretty much a race against time in order to put as much knowledge (uncount :p) as possible in those little heads of ours. (History being the worse. That thing keeps on expanding over the years. Who forgot to stop time? ;p)

Anonymous said...

Its called a convent and it is populated by what you called "nothings" at a young age, English being a confusing language, but when did you invent the word "advetising" as a noun?

Seriously, I showed yesterday's blog to Csilla who is having some difficulties with becoming a teacher and she found it very inspiring. So you got two readers not one on that hit.
Sea Dog

Helen said...

Teaching methods in different countries are hugely different. Brian teaches kids from all over the world and has to integrate them into one class and his biggest challenge is always to get them to think. Most African systems and Asian systems teach regurgitation of facts, not thinking - actually most systems do that. My favourite bit of his early teaching method with a new class is to give each one 3 different biscuits (cookies) and make them describe them, so they have to find words for taste and texture and relative descriptions of the biscuits, which will give them an inkling of the words and thoughts they will need to write and think about music. Some of them get very distressed when the facts they give are not what their teacher is looking for because it goes against the way they have been taught up to that point and it is a very hard adjustment for many of them. It is difficult to take the very student centred methods you learnt and use and to make them fit to a very different system. Good luck!!

Dorky Dad said...

I don't think I can comment about the teaching methods, but I can comment about the presidential race: I think it's interesting, but it'll have to go a ways before it beats 2000. That race was nuts.

Theresa said...

Am I glad I don't teach any more. I used to teach to adults and most were always highly annoyed to have to learn English. Usually, they were obliged to learn by the companies they worked for. They expected to learn just by coming to class and were always much too busy to do any homework. Teaching kids must be more interesting, but tiring too. :)

As for the Presidential race, it seems the whole world is expectantly waiting to see if the U.S. finally goes for a change, rather than sticking with the middle-aged white guy thing. We'll see...

oreneta said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
oreneta said...

elPadawan, I wouldn´t aim for ´light´ but an overful curriculum is death..or one hat is too old for the class...

Sea dog...convent...of course!!! filled with nothings! I have a long hisrory of creative noun use, give me a break, OK?

Helen, I like that idea, and it is tough to get any studnet to teach anywhere, even my adults..they just want to regurgitate, it is in some ways easier...

DD, yeah..I wasn´t that interested in 2000...but it was certainly NUTS

Lynda, apparently middle aged white guy had an affair!!! on the news today...what can you expect.

dawn said...

I said my rant about testing in the last comment. We have a monastery in a sub division near us. Someone had mentioned it a few times, and finally a couple weeks ago, I came across it in my travels. Didn't go down the road, but I can now tell people it is in a different sub division. I am not paying much attention to the presidential election.