** Not your ordinary, endless list – just what’s number 1.
What Do You See?
Let’s face it, many times as a teacher, we are faced with having to pull a lesson “out of our hat”. Last minute, we have to teach a new class or left our lesson materials at home. Or perhaps, we are just sick and tired, hung over, run down …… What to do?
Well, I’ve had a go to lesson that works wonders and is prep free. I call it, “What Do You See?” Find my description in brief, here on Teaching Recipes (a site I created to help teachers with quick ideas). Basically, you just give students a blank A4 and together draw and label a picture on the board. Keep asking “What do you see?” and adding vocabulary/drawings. Afterward, students flip it over and draw their own, using their own title. (At the Beach, At the Mall, At a Concert , At a etc…..)
Here is a basic A4 that you can use with students. I can see
This lesson works wonders and in my next #1 posts, I’ll be describing the #1 Quick lessons for Intermediate and Advanced level learners. Stay tuned!
Here is my list of top 10 songs for Young Learners and suggested teaching points. Please comment and add any other suggestions.
Most are found on our Kid’s Karaoke page or by searching in our videos…. ) Not surprising that many of these songs are also chants! This one, is my personal fav. but it didn’t make my Top 10.
1. Head, Shoulder, Knees and Toes – body parts
2. If you’re happy and you know it – possibility, commands
3. Old MacDonald Had a Farm – animals / animal sounds
4. He’s got the whole world in his hands. ‘s got / to have
5. 5 in the bed / 10 little Monkeys – counting and numbers
6. The Wheels on the Bus – actions
7. B-I-N-G-O – spelling, pronunciation and rhythm
8. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom – alphabet / letters
9. Do The Hokey Pokey – directions / prep of movement
10. There was an old lady who swallowed a fly – animals
[special mentions to One of these things is not like the other / There’s a hole in the bucket / Skinnermarink / Rubber Ducky and Barney’s – I Love You songs….
This tottler, just 2 years old at the time, belts out “Hey Jude” with the best of them! Really inspiring and after watching, your students will be a little more apt to “take a swing” and just try to speak some English. He really helps lower the affective filter!
The video above is simple and powerful. It speaks to us educators in a number of ways. The number of ways we should allow for more creativity in our classrooms – not just in language but in those most basic things we teach in the hidden curriculum – being human.
I will list my own practical ways teachers can be a lot more “creative” in their classrooms (and not just the usual stuff about throwing in more art or creative writing….), but first, let me sound off a bit (after all, it is my blog!)
I’ve been teaching a long time and I’ve been observing a lot of classes – the one thing I note, deeply note, is our profound dysynch between what we preach and what we practice. And I believe that is the case in almost any school in the world.
We say we want to create and develop loving, caring, critical thinking, sensitive citizens who are “comfortable in their skin”. That is, happy with who they are and full of boundless energy about the person they might be. HOWEVER, we engineer these souls. Yes, we do. Our skills stamp and cut to cookie size. We impart messages that aren’t human but culled of all blood and marrow. They are souless and stereotypes of the human imagination.
We tell stories about good and bad. Good wins and bad doesn’t. Not true. We ask students to study hard and achieve. Then we compare them and put many into the dustbin of our histories. We tell students to love and be kind. Then, we show how we control them in the front of our classrooms and how we ask them to “do” this way – no other option. Standards, have tos, marks, routines – these are the mark of educational systems run to the end of bitterness and inhumanity.
Others have said and written much better than I about the “factory” system which is modern schooling. Check out Ivan Illych or John Taylor Gatto. Or even reach up in your library to Rousseau. I’ll leave it at this – we have to do more. Ken Robinson said as much in his outstanding talk, “Schools kill creativity”.
So that’s where we stand.
I remember when I was a grade 8 student. I loved public speaking, loved sharing knowledge. Around our house were lots of books on communism and insurrection (it was the early 70s, a hippie commune of draft dodgers). I chose as my topic, “Guerrilla Warfare”. I’ll never forget being laughed at and from the front of the classroom. By my teacher also. They all thought I was speaking on “Gorilla Warfare”. This is not just a story, this happens every day in our schools and classrooms. We must do more, from where we stand.
I’m not a radical – but how within the present system can we help a boy like that in the video. Suffering Asperger’s, probably labeled and clinicalized (my word – means made untouchable, white, clean, inhuman). How can we do more? Here are a few of my suggestions.
1. Create community. Classrooms don’t allow freedom of expression and to be, for the most part because they aren’t a group. A unit that has each others back. That supports and nurtures whatever differences are found. Create community in your classroom by sharing your own teacher travails. By letting students recount their own stories and struggles. By spending a lot of time, the initial weeks, getting the students to know each other. Try these trust building exercises – they REALLY work.
2. Make language learning about expression. Not memorization nor accuracy. Never devoid language of its anchor, the self. Personalize. Always relate and center your class around self expression. Students will get to intimately know each other, be with and share each others “being”. Try some grammar poems to do this!
3. Do something BIG together. Ever see the movie “Pay it Forward”? I’ve put a clip below. Get your class together to do something GRAND and seemingly impossible. Plant a garden and take care of it. Raise money. Take a photo of your class a day and then at the end of the year, make a film. Maybe even make a Project Peace video! Change the world - yes, that’s what I said, Change the world.
4. Reward the needy, reward them lots! Today in my last class of micro teaching – there was a tie. So no team could get her one prize (a book). What did she do? She did something magical. She chose one struggling student and gave the student the book mentioning, “Cindy is trying so hard and can really can use this book – she needs help in her studies. Big round of applause for her in support!”
5. Plan your curriculum around questions. Question based curriculum if your school will let you do it, is the way to go. Here’s a presentation I made of questions I collected from students of a friend’s class (thanks Connie!) who responded online about the questions they wanted answered. Questions are the fertilizer of the mind – they lead us to be thinkers and individuals. The greatest individual is not like Socrates surmised, ” the one who knows he doesn’t know.” – the greatest individual is “the one who wants to find out.”.
6. Mix it up. I use Kagan’s wonderful, inside – outside (modify and do with a line if your class isn’t big enough). Let all students spend time learning and sharing with the rest of the class. You will be surprised how big a difference this will make. Our classes are all to a tee, segregated. Don’t let yours be, make the class a free place to roam. That goes too for bringing students to the board or using it anytime. That goes too with letting them use the computer when they want. That goes too with letting them go to the washroom when they want. That goes too with letting them “pass” when they want. Give them freedom and they WILL respond with Tillich’s profound “courage to be”.
I could go on but will stop here.
Just think of the gazillion more ways you can foster creativity, talent and individuality. Please, Make a Difference!
There are so many great websites for teaching young learners. See a list of my own below (culled from my big list, also attached). However, after our own resources here (always got to toot our own horn!). KinderSay is next in line.
It has wonderfully colorful images and rich, clear audio. It works fluidly and you can easily click “slideshow” and get a presentation for whichever content you want to display. What’s even better – students can visit it outside of class without registration and practice safe and soundly. A great site and big help to teachers!
Her site is a wealth of “how to” resources for teachers teaching young learners. Lots of free stuff on how to teach songs to young children. Please take a look, a remarkable example of a teacher “paying back” and doing a great job to spread learning and happiness! I really like her use of puppets to do the “5 Little Monkeys” song. She sometimes goes on about “christian” themes but I take that along with all else…..
** Not your ordinary, endless list – just what’s number 1.
Show ‘N Tell
Yes, this is not just a stand by but a great activity for bringing the REAL and real communication into the classroom. It works in an L1 classroom and even works better in an L2 classroom!
The simple version is to have the children bring in a personal item that they want to share with the class. Make a whole lesson of it or schedule it (I prefer the whole lesson).
Make sure to do the following:
1. Model Show ‘N Tell by bringing in your own item! Get the children to ask you about it and give your own presentation and “show”.
2. Make sure to pass the items around. Don’t worry, even if fragile, kids will be careful (usually more so than adults). Children learn language by touching – believe it or not!
3. If you want to make a language lesson of it – write down some key questions / question words, so students can be prompted. Or the day before, brainstorm questions to ask! Write them on chart paper for reference during show and tell.
4. If you can, get them out of their desks and to another area. Sitting on the floor is best. Make it special!
5. Even try filming it! Parents will love this but make sure you run this by administration….
And do you know the bonus, for you the teacher? — Well, besides having a fairly easy lesson, you will get to know your students so much better! And there ain’t no better way to teach them better than to know them better!
I think it so important now that teachers have access to streamed video – so important for teachers to watch other teachers. Here’s a player I’ve made as a start. These videos are revealing and helpful for teachers, watching, we absorb and see the little things. It really is in the little things that a good teacher becomes GREAT.
This teacher (in the above video), I’d hire in a heart beat. He’s a genius. Really and truly. Even though he is teaching French, you can see so many small things that he does so well — so many things to inform your own teaching. Two I”ll highlight.
1) he lets the students speak and respond in their L1
– I find this so refreshing and it should be the norm. Students should respond to communicate, not to a set format (L2). When they are ready, the target language will come. He is wonderful in getting the students to focus on this so important aspect – meaning.
2) Contextualization. See how expressive he is. See how he makes eye contact and uses his voice. See how he asks questions in a closed way – so students can respond. See how creative he is and how he bridges and helps students deal with the ambiguity of a second language. Pure genius!!!!
Medal of honor. This is part of a series on Annenberg for MFL (Modern foreign languages) “Teaching Foreign Languages” – but also wonderful for EFL teachers. Language is language, a rose is a rose.
Eric Herman does a great job with his son. It is so engaging, even for adults. A song but with dialogue – it has it all.
Use in millions of ways:
1. Pause ask what is the right animal. 2. Watch, students write down the names of all the animals. Then organize or write sentences using “can” A monkey can…. etc… 3. Sing the song/rewrite the song using different animals. 4. Make/draw Wingdingdongdilly’s (animals with different body parts). Discuss as a group to review body part vocab. 5. Just enjoy!
One thing I’ve become convinced of as a teacher, is the fact that WE can be our own worst enemy. Meaning, somehow our own experiences, our 1,000s of hours in the classroom observing teachers, have conditioned us to “be teachers” and that this gets in the way of the success of our language classrooms. We believe we are already experts and we then, self – perpetuate old attitudes/styles/paradigms. We play the role without thought to the outcome!
In my own career as a teacher, I’ve slowly had to ween myself from my own biases. Those biases coming from my conditioning through all that time spent watching and coming to know what a “teacher” means. Our own experiences are the greatest barrier to our success as a teacher – I believe. It is so hard to really let learning be “alive” in the classroom and to step back as a teacher and let the students take control. It is SO hard to shut up and to just let the drama unfold. We as teachers are too fond of our director’s chair and its perks! We also don’t trust our students. We also don’t believe that “play” = “learn”.
What I’m getting at is, seeing we are dealing with “language”, we should agree that it is an organic conditioning. It should be “learned” with as little evasiveness as possible. Further, we should realize that learning is primary to the human condition. Students WANT to learn, they really do. Each and every one. The problem is US and we teachers need to step aside more and realize that if we trust, if we have set down the right soil, learning will organize itself! Yes, it will.
I firmly believe that more teachers need to look at their lessons and turn them upside down! Too often, we play the role of the teacher, controlling and commanding to death. Then, when it is time to let the students free to practice and produce language – the bell rings! It is as if we went to a movie and the first hour was a never ending trailer!
I’ll even go further. We need to let our students organize the learning. Let our students share and teach. Let our students decide more of what happens. Let our students muck about and risk/try. Let our students have some fresh air and hopefully their lungs will fill up with possibility and they’ll be energized. Every student WANTS to learn, it is the conditions which stully and offer up so much oxygen empty air.
Sugata Mitra, an Indian MIT professor undertook an experiment that really highlights the issues I’ve discussed. He put a computer into a wall of a slum in Delhi and watched to see if the children could learn/teach themselves. How they did! He replicated the experiment throughout India and came to some startling conclusions. Watch his TED talk and his 4 main conclusions. You’ll really think about how just maybe we the teacher are the problem, not the students!
See it Here!
I’ll be speaking at a conference shortly about this Push / Pull dynamic in education. Asking teachers to be more inductive in approach. I’ll put up some of the material and ppts here. For now, if you have a moment, please read Andrew Finch’s great and thought provoking essay – Teachers? Who needs them? And think more about what Sugata Mitra says about teaching and learning (and also the role of technology and where we should invest dollars in educational technology!)