Thursday, 12 July 2018

Working on grammar through extensive reading


Our students are often asked to read for understanding and for pleasure. We encourage them to read in order to enrich their vocabulary but we can also ask them to read a text not only  for the   reasons mentioned above  but also to improve their grammar. 


I would like to share an example based on a Science text. My classroom proposal  is aimed at B1-B2 students depending on your teaching context. You can put  it into practice if you are teaching English or if you are an English teacher  working in coordination with a Science teacher who is developing the CLIL approach. In this case, the activity that focuses on language  would be carried out by the language teacher and the Science teacher would focus on Science concepts. 

The main purpose of this type of activity is to foster students' reflection on the features of Science texts so as to foster understanding. 

You can click here to download the text and you can find the classroom activity below the following  image: 



 A heatwave can fry the brain. Photograph: aryos/Getty Images




Classroom activity:

Today we are going to read a text to learn about a new research carried out by scientists but we are also going to read the same text to discover the grammar of it. Therefore, the first time you read the text, check that you understand the ideas in it by looking up the new words. The second time you read the text, work with your partner and pay attention to language use by answering the questions below:

1)  Find at least two comparative sentences.   Would you say their use is important for the type of text? Why?

2)   The text is written in the present tense and in the past tense but you can find at least   an example of the present perfect tense. Can you underline it and say why the writer uses it?

3)   Can you find any words or phrases that express probability?   Underline them and pay attention to the way they are used in this text. Do you think they are common in scientific texts?

4)  Lines 13-14: what do you notice about the use of the words “increase” and “decrease”? Have you learnt anything about the way they can be used?

5)   Lines 10-12: “not only … accurate”.  Do you understand this sentence? Is it the first time you see a sentence starting with “not only”? How could you paraphrase it and make it more simple for a friend of yours who does not understand it?

6)   A feature of scientific texts is the use of long sentences. Can you find one and divide it into two sentences to increase  understanding ?  

7)   The use of the passive voice is very common in scientific texts. Can you find at least three examples? Why do you think the passive voice is so common in Science?

8) Lines 24-33: look at the way “while” and “meanwhile” are used. Is it a different use from the one you knew?  Do you understand  their meaning in this context?  

 9) Lines 31-33: notice the use of "face" in "buyers are faced with far fewer decisions". Can you make a sentence of your own using "be faced with"?

10) The text says that "women are sick of AC standards being tailored around men". What are you sick of? 






I hope this proposal is useful to make your students improve their grammar and better understand Science texts by reflecting on language features of this type of text. Please, let me know what you think about it. 



Science text taken from : 

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/jul/11/heatwave-bad-decision-making-harvard-study


Thursday, 28 June 2018

Literature circles to foster reading for understanding and enjoyment




We know that making students read and talk about what they read is not easy. However, it is not impossible. Have you ever tried Literature circles? 


What are literature circles? 

    Literature Circles are small, temporary discussion groups of students who are reading the same piece  of literature.


Would you like to try? I should start by describing the  main features: 

  
  Students prepare the reading assignment independently before joining their group.  Then, they will  participate in group discussions when they join their classmates. 

  Each group member will have a specific responsibility (role) during discussion sessions

   The circles will meet on a regular basis to discuss their reading

   The teacher is a facilitator, not a group member or instructor

    Each student reads the story from a given perspective so each member is responsible for one aspect of what a mature reader does naturally

    A spirit of playfulness, sharing and collaboration pervades the classroom

  It reaches the broad spectrum of students in a natural way (multiple intelligences and diverse learning styles)

  Assessment includes teacher’s observation and students' self-assessment

  When books/stories are finished, groups may prepare a final project / booktrailer/digital poster, etc.  (Depending on the amount of time you have, this final product is not a must since students have already been working on the reading assignment and assessment has taken place too). 



How do you organize students into groups? (Ideally, 5 students in each group)


    There  are different roles that you can choose  for each of the  students in the same  group but I would suggest, at least,  the following: 

      Group discussion leader
      Passage performer
      Connector
      Vocabulary builder
      Illustrator


I will try to lay out each of the roles briefly:


Group discussion leader:

    This student must have a solid grasp of the posible themes and the basic plot of the story
   He /she opens the discussion with a few open-ended questions concerning the story
  He/she keeps the conversation moving but is not “the boss”. All students are responsible to speak and to ask follow-up questions

Passage performer:

   This student is asked to make a very close reading of the text and to look for well-written or key passages in the story
   He/she will read the passages he /she has chosen to the group members

The connector:

•       He/she tries to find connections between the text and the real world in which he/she lives. For example, the Connector may make connections between the thoughts, feelings or actions of the characters and his/her family, friends or  classmates.

The word wizard:

    This student chooses some words that he/she believes are very important in the story.
  The Word Master is not confined to defining new words, but should be encouraged to look for special uses of common words or analyze why the writer repeats some words.

The illustrator:

       This student  responds to the events and themes in the story in a creative way by drawing a picture (diagram, sketch, cartoon…) about it.  He/she will have to ask others what they think it means and after hearing them he  will tell them what it represents to him/her.

If you wish, you can use the templates I have prepared for each of these roles above by clicking here.
(I have added a template for another role: the summarizer. You can find it useful if stories/books  are long and students need to meet on different dates to discuss the whole reading assignment.)


Have you ever used Literature Circles to foster reading?  I would love to know your opinion. 


Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Lesson plans for Innovative Maths teaching



Teachers face an increasing number of challenges in their daily work in the classroom and they often struggle to receive the training or support to address these. The Teacher Academy by the School Education Gateway supports educators to access relevant training opportunities by providing teachers (from Pre-Primary to Upper Secondary) with a platform to search for, participate and evaluate training courses available onsite and online across Europe. 

In 2016 and 2017  Moving to Maths 2.0 course was organized to help   Maths teachers to  foster a sense of curiosity and confidence and also to help students understand the relevance of this competence outside the Maths classroom.  

As part of the course, participants produced lesson plans (also known as learning designs) incorporating many of the ideas, tools, and activities covered on the course. These lesson plans have been curated by a participant editorial board, which has reviewed and selected the lesson plans for publication here in the Teaching Materials section. The members of the participant editorial board were appointed to the board due to their exemplary work and commitment as part of the course and include:
·         Adriana Colda
·         Adriana Laze
·         Anita Šimac
·         Ariana-Stanca Vacaretu
·         Diego Tich
·         Igor Bogdanoski
·         Lorenzo Castilla Mora
·         Mariapia Borghesan
·         Michailidou Christina
·         Virginia Alberti

The lesson plans can be accessed here and are available exclusively in English.
From this virtual space, my heartfelt thanks  to the authors of these lesson plans:
·         Mariapaola Biondi
·         Michela Beoletto
·         Chiara Invernizzi
·         Igor Bogdanoski
·         Ariana-Stanca Vacaretu
·         Virginia Alberti
·         Christina Michailidou
·         Anita Simac
·         Snezana Tosovic
·         Kerli Viidebaum
·         Anastasios Xanthopoulos
·         Lena Kristin Eckhardt
·         Chiara Ghilardi.
·         Giuseppe Vullo
·         Zulmira Magalhaes
·         Alessandra Cadamuro
·         Xenia Xistouri
·         Maria Petrescu
·         Arminda Pereira
·         Lorenzo Castilla Mora
·         Kolipetri Zoi
·         Francesca Romana Beneo
·         Enrica Maragliano


Some lesson plans are aimed at Primary level but most of them are for 12-18-year-old students. Review comments by Maths teachers are also provided. 


The course has concluded but you can still access the modules by registering here.  You will not have the support of the instructors but you will be able to enroll the course and get all contents by clicking on the modules tab above. 

Monday, 11 June 2018

Preparing the path for students' active engagement in Global learning




The EAThink Kit, included in the European project eathink 2015,  is a working tool including the best Global Learning Units for Primary and Secondary school teachers, global education trainers and volunteers engaged in educational activities on global learning and sustainable agriculture. You can download the different Kits developed by the EAThink partners in several languages, Basque included. 

Below the language section, you will find a series of very useful tags that you can use to search for the units that you may prefer depending on the subject you teach (Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Ethics, etc.)

In 2015,  “Eat local, think global” was the motto this three-year EU funded project chose to prepare students for facing their responsibilities as active global citizens, starting from the choice of what they eat.

Far from bidding farewell to this powerful project in 2018, you can start welcoming it into your schools if you have not known about it till now because it is being constantly updated. In fact, just some days ago I knew about a new series of activities that will be launched in 2018-2019 at Primary and Secondary schools in the Basque Country. You can find everything about the workshops and activities Euskalfondoa has organized here.

If you wish to use the classroom units in Basque, just click here. Classroom resources in Spanish can be downloaded here. Regarding the units in English, this is the link to download them.

There is no doubt that these superb resources will help educators to enhance students’ critical understanding of and active engagement in global development challenges, focusing on sustainable food systems and smallholder farming.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Fostering reading habits through reading and viewing




This post is aimed at helping teachers to foster reading habits in their classrooms. Do you find it difficult to make your students read pieces of literature? I would like to share my insight into engaging students in literature through combining printed texts and video adaptations of the texts. The following powerpoint presentation includes some practical proposals for the classroom  based on two short stories and two poems. 


Friday, 18 May 2018



Today I am writing to let you know about a very powerful platform called Europeana
Europeana is Europe's digital platform for cultural heritage. It provides free, online access to over 50 million digital records coming from over 3,700 libraries, museums, archives and galleries across Europe. Europeana features art from over 3,000 institutions across Europe, from the likes of Rijksmuseum, the British Library and the Louvre, as well as local museums from every corner of the European Union. Highlights include Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, and music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Undoubtedly, a very helpful source for those teachers implementing Art both at Primary and Secondary levels. Click here to see the Art-Europeana collection.

Europeana offers a Music collection which includes recordings, pieces of sheet music and other music items from across Europe so Music teachers will benefit from this platform too.

Teachers who wish to introduce Natural History content in their Science classes 
will have the opportunity to explore the natural world in 3,415,528 drawings, specimens, images and documents in the Natural History collection.

211,249 items on the topic of migration to, from and within Europe are thoroughly depicted in the Migration Collection. 

I am sure this platform founded by the European Commisssion in 2008 and updated with new features including a translation tool into 27 languages will enable you  to enrich your classes.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Identifying the level of difficulty of texts in any content area


Today I am writing this brief post to let you know about a tool that allows users  to obtain reliable research-based information on the lexical composition and level of any text, to help them make key decisions about their text's difficulty and its overall level in relation to the CEFR. The tool is called TextInspector and it was the  winner of the 2017 ELTons award for Digital Innovation. 

You can find it here and also included on the English Profile website, which offers another   two online tools:  English Vocabulary Profile Online and English Grammar Profile Online. We have already  talked about the usefulness of these two tools in previous seminar sessions and many of you have experienced  that  they are very helpful for  both  language  and  subject classes.

Textinspector is very easy to use: simply paste any text into the box and click on "analyse". It will give you an instant score and detailed feedback. 

Texts are limited to 500 words per document. To process larger documents and to save your data, please use the advanced site at www.textinspector.com (subscription required).

To sum up, Textinspector is another powerful tool that will enable teachers  to succeed at providing their students with comprehensible input by helping them  to identify the amount of vocabulary they have to pre-teach according to the language level of our students. For CLIL teachers, the tool will allow them to have a clear perspective on the difficulty of the text on the whole although it is obvious that they will need to focus on the  subject-specific vocabulary which is essential for their CLIL units. 

Friday, 20 April 2018

SAY YES TO STEM






STEM Discovery Week 2018 is a joint international initiative that invites projectsorganisations and schools across Europe and around the world, to celebrate careers and studies in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). This year, Next-Lab participates in the STEM Discovery Week 2018 with a competition  meant to reward the best class implementation of the Go-Lab Inquiry Learning Spaces.

If you are organising a class implementation between February-April 2018, then you are eligible to participate in  the Next-Lab competition. 

The first thing you need to do is to submit your class implementation activity to the STEM Discovery Week activities map. In the form, and when asked to, please indicate clearly that you are taking part to the Next-Lab competition. Once you carry out your implementation, they will get back to you via email with some additional questions regarding the content of your activity, the resources you have used, and the impact on your students.

In order to enter the contest, your activity will need to fulfill the following criteria:

  • The submitted class implementation has to take place between March-April 2018
  • Create a new ILS ( Inquiry Learning Space) or adapt an existing one for your implementation
  • A minimum of 15 students need to take part to the class implementation
The winner will be invited to attend the Next-Lab Autumn School that will take place in Estonia in September 2018. Flight, hotel and subsidies will be covered entirely by the project.

I would like to encourage those schools which are already involved in STEM projects and invite any others who are ready to develop an activity that focuses on STEM subjects both at Primary and Secondary levels. Even though the deadline finishes at the end of April, you can still take part in it because a one-day activity is enough. 

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

e-Twinning projects that foster CLIL



Among the e-Twinning projects that received the European Quality Label 2018 for their outstanding work I am very happy to write the name of one of our CLIL Seminar participants:

 Amaya Alonso
 IES Antonio Trueba 
 Project: Anatomic@art

Country members are Tunisia, Ukraine and Spain (Leopoldo Queipo from Melilla  and Antonio Trueba High Schools ) and students who took part in it are 14-17-year olds. 

You can access the project from  here.

The project aims to study the  specific anatomy  of the human body and its relation with works of art from different subjects  (Literature, Drawing, Sculpture, Music, ...). Students work in groups  which focus on  an  organ, explain  its structure and physiology and how they have been the object of important works of art. 

The project was awarded Four European Quality labels so I must say I feel very proud that a teacher from our CLIL seminar has taken part in  such a powerful project which shows clear evidence that through e-Twinning schools can develop foreign  languages, digital skills, specific subjects like Science and creativity.

Let me finish by encouraging all of you to take part in an e-Twinning project that wil fit perfectly into your CLIL contexts and reminding you that Amaya will show us the process they followed  in our next seminar session in May.


Tuesday, 27 March 2018

TAKING CARE OF OURSELVES





Heziberri 2020 describes "taking care of our health habits to prevent possible infection risk both individually and within society" as the first of the goals for Basic Education. It is therefore essential that our students are provided with the necessary classroom  tools  so that they are cautious about antibiotic use  and learn about the importance of food safety and food hygiene. 

This is why today I would like to share a wonderful resource with both language teachers and Science teachers: e-Bug is a free educational resource that  makes learning about micro-organisms, the spread, prevention and treatment of infection fun and accessible for all students.

 The teacher  sections include: 
  • detailed lesson plans
  • fun student worksheets
  • extension activities
  • animations
  • Activity demonstrations
  • MS PowerPoint presentations to assist with the more difficult aspects of microbiology.
The student pages complement the teacher resources by providing online games, revision pages, quizzes and  fact files.

This project has been implemented in 26 European countries both at Primary and Secondary schools  and it is available in 22 languages. Evaluation of the project concluded that e-Bug teaching packs demonstrated a significant improvement in students' knowledge in all sections. Therefore, using this resource  is a goal scoring opportunity to reinforce key messages on immunity, vaccines, prudent antibiotic use and consumer behaviour around food hygiene. 

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

A reading strategy that works in every content area

A crucial factor for the success of Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) is coordination between language teachers and content teachers. A clear point of contact is, without any doubt, the one related to reading strategies. As I have described in previous entries, there is a great variety of reading strategies but today I would like to share my reflection on a specific strategy which enables students to understand   how the information within a written text is organized and, therefore, increase their comprehension of the text. In order to make the most of this strategy, coordination between language teachers and content teachers is essential.

To develop the text structure strategy, language teachers should start by introducing the idea that texts have organizational patterns called text structures.  Then, students should know why they are going to learn about this so language teachers will proceed to explain that if students identify how the text is structured, they will be able to organize the information in the text in a graphic organizer. This will help them to make connections between the text and visual representations of the text and, therefore, to understand the ideas in the text much better.

How many text types should language teachers focus on in order to facilitate reading in the content areas? Yesterday I developed a CLIL seminar session on this and content teachers agreed that a simple classification including the most common patterns of organization would be enough. My proposal includes the following patterns:

- Cause and effect
- Chronological
- Compare and contrast
- Order of importance
- Problem and solution
- Sequence
- Spatial/descriptive

To develop the text structure strategy, language teachers should:
  • Show examples of paragraphs that correspond to each text structure.  You can use this handout I presented yesterday.
  • Make students read different texts, and ask them to determine the text structure and organize the information  by using a suitable graphic organizer. We found  this worksheet  really useful. You will find it together with a broad range of reading and writing resources  on  www.ereadingworksheets.com website. 
After the procedure above has been completed, content teachers will be able to ask their  students to read in their content areas and they will experience how this visual learning strategy will improve the reading comprehension of students. What is more, students will also remember and recall this information better because it has been learnt both visually and verbally.

If you are thinking of sharing the proposal above with the staff at your school, the following 5-minute video can be very helpful since it explains how to teach students to identify text structures in any subject:




Additional resources:

The RMC Research Corporation's Center on Instruction website offers  a collection of Informational text Structure Templates that language teachers can use to introduce this strategy. You can download these templates from here.

-  Click here for a collection of graphic organizers in Word format.