Monday, 25 February 2013

Task-based reading: Child Labour

Child Labour project 
The inspiration for this project came from a music video featuring the band Radiohead. The song is called 'All I need' and it was adapted for a campaign by MTV. Also, from the childlaborphotoproject.

I wanted to create a reading task which was not limited to the page, so I incorporated video, group work, online reading and a group presentation. 

- Skimming & Scanning
- Matching text to images
- Online reading
- Research
- Group presentation

Step 1 - Image
Show the students the image below. Ask them what ideas, words or thoughts come to mind.

Step 2 - The Video
Play the video for the class, without introducing the topic.

Step 3 - Discussion
Ask the students some questions about the video, such as:
- How do you feel about it?
- What words come to mind?
- What are the main differences between the two boys?
- What do you think the theme of the video is?

Step 4 - Reading
Hand out the document below to your students. Then ask them to look at the first page which has 3 stories.

Step 5 - Matching
The students will have to match the stories above to the picture below. Each story has 2 pictures. There are two pictures which are not needed. 

I usually put the students in groups for this as the reading section can be a little tricky. Just tell your students to look for key words, as that will help them, for example: Rubbish, bricks war etc.

Step 6 - Missing words
On page two of the PDF is a list of sentences. The students have to read the stories again and put the missing sentences in the right places. Again, key words will help them.

Step 7 - Online Research
On the second page of the PDF are a series of questions. guide the students to this website By reading this website they will be able to find the answers to the questions. 
Images of child labor

Step 8 - Presentation
Put the students into groups and ask them to compare and check their answers. Then, tell the students that they will make a group presentation where EVERY member must speak. They will have to 
- Choose 4 questions to answer;
- Explain why they chose those particular questions;
- Explain what they learned from this activity, individually;
- Give a group opinion on how we can prevent child labour.

Expansion activity
Further activities could include:
- Further research into other child labour projects;
- Write a report on how we can stop child labour;
- Group project to create awareness of child labour;
- Using the video, write a day in the life of each boy.

I really like doing this as a group activity. It allows the students to talk about reading, instead of just answering questions about it. The presentation at the end is just to make sure that they have understood what they have read and not just copied and pasted the answers.

Sometimes my students will read the answer as it is, so I always make sure they have written or speak the answer in their own words. It helps with their summarizing and paraphrasing skills. 

If you have created any other task-based reading skills, please share them.

What reading activities have worked well in your classroom?

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Post test XP bonus points!!!!

I think that some my students expect and to some extent enjoy taking quizzes and tests. However, some of them, no matter how much they study find tests and quizzes intimidating. 

I realised this and thought, after the test I'll give my students a few more days to study, then I'll give them another chance with a similar quiz. I thought this was fair and a great way to keep students involved and thinking about the topic which needed to be learned. As I should of expected, few of them actually studied, and ended up with the same grade, something slightly lower or some marginally higher. A failed idea I thought.

Anyway, a few days later I asked my friend what XP was, as he was always talking about it when playing computer games. He said it meant "experience", and went on to say, "When I play, I obtain experience points which I can then use  to buy weapons, spells and stuff."

I had read about using game theory in education and thought it was a great opportunity to apply it. Here's how I did it.

Step 1 - There is still hope!
When I give back the grammar, reading, writing, speaking, or writing test, there are often some students who look disappointed. I tell them not to worry, as they can earn more points on their test.

Step 2 - Here's how you do it.
If student a gets 8/20 on a test, they can gain XP points. If it is a grammar test, they do this by completing more grammar work on that theme. At first you may need to give them some extra work. However, after the first time, tell them they have to find their own XP points by finding extra work online or in books.

For example: Sarah gets 9/20 on her test, so she wants more points.

1 - She can do some online practice, take a screen shot and send it to me. 
Screen shot taken fromPerfect English grammar

2 - She can complete a worksheet/PDF, take a pic of it and send it to me.
Taken fromClassWiki
Step 3 - Awarding points.
This is completely up to you. But when I did it, I awarded half to 1 point depending on how many pieces of work the student did.

In Sarah's case, if she sent me a screen shot of 10 questions answered, I may give her an extra point. Her score has gone from 9/20 to 10/20. Now, if she does more work she can get even more XP points!

Step 4 - Too much!
There is a chance you will get lots of students sending you work to get extra XP points. In this case, I create a page on my class Wiki for the students to upload their work to. It helps me to keep everything organised. 

I like giving my students extra chances to earn points for their tests, as well as helping them to become more autonomous in their learning. It means they keep learning about the topic, which in the end I hope helps them to understand it more. 

I have used this with my writing, grammar and reading classes, and there is no reason why you couldn't use it for speaking and listening. They can record their voice on vocaroo and email it to you, or listen to some tracks and answer questions about it. All you need is that evidence of learning. 

I'm hoping to use the system as an alternative or instead of tests. What other methods do you use to assess your students learning? I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Kids book

For this project I wanted to give the students more freedom in which to work. Usually, I would give each group a page on my Wikispace.  I did this so I could manage and monitor them more closely. 

However, for this class I decided to give each group their own Wiki. It meant that they had to give me permission to access their Wiki.

By doing this I wanted the students to take more responsibility and take a step back from the project in order to leave it to them. I took on much more of an observing role in this project. I was there to offer support and any help, however, I wanted each group to make the project their own and work independently from me. 

- Autonomous learning;
- Team work;
- Collaborative writing;
- Design;
- Book creation;
- Group presentation. 

Step 1
Assign the students to groups, but try and vary their writing ability. 
I usually put one strong writer in each group to act as the lead and kind of teacher to the others.

Step 2 - Aims
Tell the students that they are going to make a book for kids. They have to decide:
- Theme;
- Age of children;
- Method of delivery - eBook or paper-based;
- Style;
- Content;
- Design
- Basically everything.

However, they should keep in mind that this book should encourage kids to read more so it should be interesting. Also, the book will be given to orphanages or refugee schools. Therefore, it should be cheap to reproduce. 

Step 3
Help each group to set up their own Wiki. Explain how they can possibly use one page for ideas, research, notes etc. However, leave it at that. Part of the fun is for them to figure out how to use it for themselves. They will inevitably find stuff you didn't even know about and teach you how to use it. It has happened many times, believe me!! 

Step 4 - Research
Tell the groups that the first step is research. They should go to book stores, amazon etc and find out what makes a good kids book. After a few days, with the class talk about what makes a good kids book. Then, how can they use these ideas in their project.

Step 5 - Theme
For many of my students, coming up with a theme was the hardest part. Should it be a fairy tale, informational? I talked to each group about it, but I didn't decide for them. I just asked questions and let them figure it out for themselves. 

Step 6 - Method
Each group had to decide whether to make the book online as a Wiki or paper-based. As a class we had a discussion about this. We looked at eBooks, paper-based books and made a list of the advantages and disadvantages. These could range from, price, ease of editing etc.

Step 7 - Deadlines!
With all group projects I want the students to understand the importance of deadlines. I made sure that each group showed me their task notes and asked them to explain who was doing what and when it should be done. This helps to reduce misunderstandings and to make sure each person feels responsible for their own part.

Step 8 - Group cohesion 
I had one group that seemed to take a disliking to each other. I had emails saying they wanted to change groups or go solo. In the end, I told them to deal with it. You are in a group, it is up to you to put aside your differences. Be a little more considerate and compromise. It is an important skill to learn, so do it! Eventually, the group produced an excellent piece of work - to my surprise!

The project ended up going really well. I was amazed at the amount of work the students had put into it. It was also interesting to hear that apart from the regular meetings we had in class, they held regular meetings outside of the classroom to talk about and meet their own self-made deadlines.

Giving them full control could have gone two ways - badly or great. Luckily for me it was the latter. They exceeded my expectations in all ways. They documented their work, shared ideas, held meetings outside the class and generally put in a lot of effort into it. 

I guess the proof is in the work. Check out the video below for an example of the students' work.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Classroom magazine: Part 2

For the second part of the magazine project, I wanted the students to delve a little deeper into the story. I wanted them to become investigative journalist. For this they would have to do more research and get more involved in the story. 

- Collaboration;
- Research a story;
- Learn something that you didn't know before;
- Investigate the story in more depth;
- Present your research / findings on a Wiki page;
- Write a report of at least 600 words collaboratively;
- Present your research and/or findings in the speaking class.

Classroom magazine part 1 asked the students to write an article by themselves in order to add it to a magazine. Each student contributed 3 articles to it. In part 2, students are asked to collaborate on one single article. 

Step 1
In the same groups as before, the students brainstorm possible stories of interest. As the teacher, I had to help them focus their ideas or even try and help them to go deeper into the story. 

Step 2
When they have chosen a story, the students should brain storm what they want to find out and how they are going to get that information. My students used, questionnaires, interviews, online research etc.

Step 3
One very organised group made task notes for everyone to follow in the group that week. I loved that idea, highlighted it to the other students and asked them to do the same. It really helped not only the students to keep track of their progress but myself included. 

Task notes of one group taken from the project
Step 4
Encouragement! The first week of the project I held daily meetings with each group. I told them I was the editor of the magazine and, therefore, needed to keep track of the progress. I let each group decide their own path, however, I guided them a little, or pushed them when I felt they could do more. 

Step 5
Writing - I told the students they would have to check each other's work and offer help where needed. I also told them that I would help to edit their work. All they had to do was email me and tell me changes had been made.

Step 6
Presentation - When the project was over it was time to present their work to the rest of the class. Each group did a group presentation using their Wiki page or power point slides as visual aides.

Issues - As with any group project there were some problems with group members and 'free-loaders' who didn't pull their weight. The Wiki allowed me to keep track of the progress and then the daily meetings allowed me to note who was contributing to the project. No matter what the problem, I tried my best not to intervene unless
necessary. I wanted the students to work through the problems by themselves. 

In the end, all groups exceeded my expectations. This project became the bench mark for all other projects as the students really utalised all the creative and collaborative tools on it. Probably the best thing is, they taught themselves how to do it. 

Check out the video below for some examples of their work.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Class Magazine - Part 1

- Cooperative learning;
- Subject research;
- Create 3 magazine articles;
- Team work;
- Peer editing.

I wanted to do a project with the class that had co-operative learning (students work on individual pieces of work and add them to one project - e.g. magazine) and collaborative learning (Students working collaboratvely on one piece of work - e.g. one article).

I was reading the news online and thought... that's it. We'll make a class magazine which will be created in a Wiki. Below you'll be able to find out how I did it with my class. I hope you find it useful.

Part 1 - Co-operative learning: Magazine articles.

Step 1
Brainstorm what kind of topics are interesting to read in magazines or online. You can do this with the whole class. Make a list of all the topics, such as fashion, music, food etc. Then, write them on the board. Finally, ask the students to vote which topics they want in the magazine. For my class we chose 6 topics: Entertainment, fashion, food & drink, travel, sport and health & fitness.

Step 2
Put the students into groups of three. The aim of this is to use the group as a support network for ideas and writing tips. Each group member will contribute 3 stories to the magazine. They can't choose the same topic twice. So student A could choose to write about, sport, fashion and travel. 

Step 3
I gathered each group together for regular meetings. It gave each group member a chance to seek support from the other members and it also gave me a chance to check on their progress and offer any guidance.

The end result was better that I had expected. Each student worked hard on the magazine and I was impressed with their commitment to it. Watch the video below for examples of student work. 

Part 2 of class magazine will look at the collaborative side of the project. 

Monday, 4 February 2013

Classroom make over

I walk into my classroom and immediately feel down, because of the drab and dull colours of the walls, small windows and horrible florescent lights. That, plus the fact that the chairs and tables are all facing forward like they have always done. This seating plan doesn't work well for the group work which I like to do.

I felt it the classroom was in dire need of a make over, for my sake and even more, for my students. I had noticed that of late they seem less and less enthused about being in the class for 4 hours a day. With this in mind, I decided to create a project to tackle this. All the information can be found below with pictures from the students' work. 

Taken from students' Wiki page

The objectives for this project were:
- Research;
- Sharing ideas via a Wiki page;
- Team work & Collaboration;
- The creation of a new classroom;
- Using pictures & video to explain the design;
- A collaborative written report of more than 600 words;
- A group presentation of the final design. 

- 75% final product assessment from the teacher;
- 25% self-assessment from each student;
- Group assessment to corroborate self-assessment.

Step 1 - The project
Put the students in groups. Preferably in 3s of mixed ability to better facilitate the group process. Then, with the whole class, brain storm things which the students feel could be improved upon in the classroom. For example, seating plan, colour scheme, furniture. 

Step 2
Research time: Using the Wiki page the students will be able to upload, collect and share pictures, video and ideas. 

* I've noticed that when each group makes task notes with deadlines, it keeps the group process moving along for each member.

Step 3
Get each group to hold regular meetings to talk about progress and next steps. Also to find out if each member is sticking to the task notes and deadlines that they create. 

Step 4
About half way through the project, ask the students to do a self-assessment. I do this, because it makes each student think about if they are doing enough work in the group.

Step 5
Using the Wiki page you will be able to monitor each group's progress. I usually highlight new and interesting work to the whole class. This keeps each group aware of what the others are doing. It also gives them the little push to do more when they have seen what the others have done. 

Step 6
When the project is done, ask the students to do the self-assessment again (Step 4). You can use this score as part of the 25%. For the final 75% you could use the rubrics below.

Step 7 - Writing
When the Wiki page has been completed, the students wrote an advantage & disadvantage essay highlighting the advantages of the newly designed classroom and disadvantages of the current one. This was a course requirement and also allowed me to prevent any plagiarism as the essay content is too specific.

*The written aspect would easily work as a reflective essay also.

Step 8 - Speaking
The students also created a group presentation. They then presented their project and ideas to the other groups. 

Below you'll be able to watch a video. In it I show you some of the work that the students have done.