Playing with Google Forms

The Brazilian Community of English Teachers promoted a webinar with Giselle Santos last November. In that webinar, I learned about the potential of using Google Forms to create Quizzes online and using an Add-on called Flubaroo to grade it. You can learn about both and other tools in this video.

Here is another great tutorial on how to use Google Forms and Flubaroo.

If you want to get a feel of the activities and how you could be using it, go ahead! Take it, and at the end of the form there is a space for you to add your feedback. Criticism is welcome.

Learner-centeredness: Negotiating with Teens

learnercenteredMarc asked the following question in the G+ community where we are contemplating the notion of learner-centeredness. Contemplating because it seems to mean different things to different people.

I shared the following problem and my view of learner-centeredness. One that I feel can work very well for my context of teaching if we have the time to negotiate with learners.

I actually have a problem today +Marc Jones and +Joanna Malefaki . I have a class with 3 teens today. They are 14. I understand Learner-centeredness as learners taking an active role in the process where choice, understanding where they are in their learning process and setting goals for themselves are key to implemente such an approach. +Glenys Hanson mentioned in another post that she focus on learning. Focusing on learning should be the main aim of any pedagogical decision whether teachers  make decisions alone, or it’s shared with learners. Problem seems to be content, materials and objectives imho. In this article which I managed to read about 4 pages so far (http://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:8562/K_B_MThaiTESOL06.pdf ), the authors state that implementing such an approach faces some issues which with this particular group of students I don’t have. But my problem is that my decision to use a certain material was not approved by all three students.
1) they are not total beginners. It’s possible to negotiate in English with them. I used a form to collect their opinion on what to do next. 1 said yes to the material chosen by me, 1 said no and 1 didn’t vote at all (later she told me she just forgot to press submit, but she would love to continue working with EZA). I’m about to have class with them. So, in order to make it learner-centered I’ll negotiate with them the material we are going to use, discuss why we should be using it and set our learning objectives. I’ll report back later with a class transcript.

I haven’t had the time to transcribe the recording yet. Bu here is what it was decided and why.

  • As the boy didn’t like working with the EZA as he found the content too easy for him (not really, but that is how he perceived it), the girls decided to suggest a movie then. As we have been working with narratives, one of the girls proposed for everyone to watch the movie at home and then retell the story of the movie through writing.
  • The boy doesn’t like writing, so he asked if he could record his speaking (he didn’t, but he sent me the writing). Then, the girl who suggested the movie decided to record a video. The other learner said she prefered to write.
  • I asked them what date would be good for them to send me the material, so I could correct and then prepare activities to work on the language in the following class. (They all agreed that was my part of the job)

After negotiating with them, and as the girls really liked working with EZA and knowing that the boy likes to act out, I suggested the following:

  • Change the setting, charaters but keep the plot of EZA. They all liked the idea. Once they agreed, they started reviewing the episodes we had already listened to last bimester and started working on their script. The plot is a zombie apocalypse in our school.

The great thing is that they all send me the material. The learner who created the video gave me permission to play it in class. Here is the activities I created for them to review their texts while engaging with the text.

Text 1: The objective is to listen and spot the differences between the improved version and the spoken text. First they will read the improved version with a focus on understanding the text. Then, they will listen and circle the places they spot that are different from the audio. End the activity by discussing the differences. As she is the highest level learner in the group, the text has very few mistakes we need to address.

Text 2: We are working with narratives in the past and the boy wrote his text using most of the verbs in the present. On the board, we’ll quickly review the use of the verbs (comparing present and past simple forms quickly for the verbs I selected from the text), then they will read and complete it with the verbs from the board.

Text 3: I have never tried a bingo with a text, but it sounds like it can be a good way for learners to read the text more than once without finding it boring. I selected chunks from the text and created a gap-fill to hand out. I’ll write the chunks on the board at random order. They will read and complete the gap-fill. After that we will play bingo two times. Each time with a passage. Her text has two short paragraphs. In each paragraph I cleared about 4/5 chunks.

It’s worth mentioning that they are all very active users of Youtube. They love videoclips, music and watching tv series in English. They are still getting the hang of  speaking and writing and they found working with comic books through rewriting/retelling the stories and receiving correction really useful. But I wanted to break the routine by providing a corrected version of their text through a different set of activities.


Learner-centeredness: treating adults as adults.

How we view learning will dictate how we practice teaching.

learning theoriesYou can’t expect a group of young adults to just do as they are told without questioning it. The proposition which states that teachers view of learning dictates how they will teach, or how they were taught will contribute to this view is true for learners as well. They have their own way of viewing how learning a language happens if they have given some thought to it. Even the most passive learner is passive because they believe that is the way to be taught. So they embrace this role and do not dare to question the teacher as he/she is the expert and the authority.

I support the notion that a classroom should be a community of learners who get together to support and help each other understand and use language more effectively. The teacher is part of this community and act as a more competent user of the language who monitors, guide and offer feedback and corrections, but who is not the only one able to help learners achieve their goals.  As a language learner myself who learned to speak two languages without the help of experts but the community around me, I find that creating this kind of environment for adults important to develop confidence, foster autonomy and promote awareness about their own learning journey. Hence helping them become longlife learners too.

Not formally, but informally these three stages are present in what happens in my classroom. I’m quite aware though that by the end of a semester or year, not all learners will have achieved this level of understanding of a community of learning as it depends of how education had tamed them and we can all agree that changing habits is really hard. But at least they have a chance to contribute with their own experiences and ideas,  experiment with new ones and think about them.

Diagnostic stage: What do I know?

Where they have time to assess themselves through practical activities.

Thinking ahead: What do I need to know/do/learn/? and How?

Where they can set goals and are not just told what to do to achieve someone’s else goals and objectives so motivation is intrisically, not external to them.

Assessing goals and objectives: What am I able to do now?

Where they have the time to reassess and establish new goals for themselves. None of these are done formally and learners are not asked to share those. Each person knows what they want and what I want to promote is the mindset of a lifelong learner who constantly think and reinvent oneself. The process is ongoing and personal.

In our current system where a syllabus is imposed on English learners, shifting paradigms is not easy. I’ve thought long and hard by comparing what I was trained to do and what happens in the classroom to the experiences I’ve had in life as a language learner. Did I ever use grammar books and dictionaries, sure thing! Not saying that understanding the language doesn’t have a place, but presenting it in a super controlled way kills natural communication and students desire to communicate and take risks.

What they think counts, and a lot!

If a learner thinks he only becomes fluent by speaking with a Native Speaker or if he/she takes an exchange program, this will affect his view of classroom interaction and preferences. Because of that, a way I found useful to overcome this is to create a community of sharing and learning where expectations are put on the table, data collected through speaking and writing, and feedback/correction based on samples of what learners do. After all they are adults or adults to be and they deserve this much.

Learners Beliefs & Attitudes #1

Learners Beliefs & Attitudes #2

Although I don’t follow andragogy principles as pointed out by Knowles, it is easy to spot similar lines of thought in my own practice as my studies in University cover literacy and adult education which Paulo Freire’s work was all about- adult literacy education. I thought of searching the term and see if anyone in ELT actually had written about it in the ELT context and I was disappointed with my search.

I did find however a mentions in this post by Rachel Roberts where she discusses Oral Correction Insensitive or Vital?. And I totally agree that correction is an essential part of our job and we should not rob our students the opportunity to know where they are in their learning journey. By correcting and giving feedback on their performance, they can assess themselves according to real expectations and goals.

I haven’t read all posts by Rachel but I highly recommend her blog. Here is a list of posts related to correction.

In this post Learning Adults Tony Gurr questions if children and adults are really different or just should be managed differently when comes to learning.

In this post Motivating Adult Learners I found useful thoughts, but it’s a very short post.

The term andragogy doesn’t seem to be a welcoming one in ELT, so I tried adding autonomy to the search and found interesting readings but still not mainstream in ELT I reckon and wonder why.

First, What is learner autonomy and how can it be fostered lies some ground for understanding learner-centeredness and the different ways the term autonomy is being used.

Curtis Kelly explains andragogy with practical examples in this article. He also answers “To what extent should learners be given choices when they engage in classroom activities?” A must read interview piece.

I found this article thought-provoking but couldn’t read it yet. The author discusses the teacher as both authority and facilitator of learning.