Endings and beginnings, beginnings and endings

Every ending is a new beginning and every beginning hides or entails an ending.
I feel enriched and full of new impressions; in my mind everything is flowing around and I feel empowered to start a new semester with many different inspirations. The TKT-course has ended and the new semester will begin. During the last two weeks I had the opportunity to take part in a course for French teachers that was quite inspiring, too. But above all I could apply the themes learnt in our TKT course, I was able to connect and review our contents.
Having assisted to the TKT-course has answered to many questions I had before, and has made other questions come up. We have learnt so a lot about methodology, terminology, approaches, classroom management, the different protagonists in school, background to language learning and teaching, learning techniques and learning styles, back talking and other situations we as teachers and learners are confronted with in class. All the different blogs and homepages we visited and worked with, the new use of technology and its importance in our classrooms; new perspectives of Bloom’s Taxonomy… I could probably fill all these lines with the fascinating contents of our TKT classes here, but that is not the goal of my writing.
My own goals for the future are to never give up learning and always make myself get inspired by all the other people around, in this academic context mostly students and teachers.
I would like to find out more about how to “live” – that is to say: how to make real – a student-centred classroom and as Kathy Fagan says “I’d like to see the line between student, teacher, and the others at a learning institution eliminated completely and replaced with equal respect for our experience, skills, responsibilities, needs and aims.” (see: http://freerangekef.blogspot.mx/2012/12/should-we-be-student-centered.html#comment-form)
And I definitely want to become more transparent in my corrections and evaluations of students works; I want to be a guidance for the students in their self-learning process and want to work out together with them concepts of autonomy and a classroom that is full of motivation. Besides I also want to concentrate more on the elaboration of lesson-plans and the modality of different kinds of evaluations and note taking for me as a teacher.
There are many many goals for the future and one of them is to go on assisting to formations, workshops, preparation classes and to search the continuous exchange of ideas with other teachers, in real life face to face or via Internet, to keep on learning all together.


Kathy Fagan

I would like to share with you some quotations from Kathy Fagan’s blog post that Ellen recommended us on her blog. It is so worthwhile entering Kathy’s blog. Below I will just quote her and then comment to it. This is about mutual respect in a classroom that is managed by students and teacher together, in a space of mutual learning from each other.

“I see many lesson plans (online and my own) that include “student-centered” activities such as having them work in small groups or pairs, surveying them to find out their needs, asking them to personalize their answers, etc. To my mind, those are still largely teacher-centered. Sure, I’m paying attention to the learners and collecting information about their needs … but I made the plan, I decide when they move into groups, I decide what information to collect, I take the survey home and decide how to use the information in a future lesson plan. Don’t I still hold most of the real power?” (see: http://freerangekef.blogspot.mx/2012/12/should-we-be-student-centered.html#comment-form)

“He (now Kathy refers to Parker J. Palmer) also shares this quote from Robert Frost:

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

The paradigm-shift that gave birth to the phrase “student-centered learning” is revolutionary. But I wonder if it isn’t time to step even further along that path. I’d like to see the line between student, teacher, and the others at a learning institution eliminated completely and replaced with equal respect for our experience, skills, responsibilities, needs and aims. We are all there to support the same thing: learning. Who is the learner? Who is the teacher? ”

I really appreciate Kathy sharing her ideas and her reference authors. It’s impressingly beautiful and convincing the way they talk about the paradigm-shift and sounds nearly poetic when Robert Frost refers to us, students and teachers as people dancing round in a ring and supposing but the secret sitting in the middle knowing. In recent classes I have been reflecting about what we are looking at in our tkt preparation course with Ellen and there has always been this question in my mind about what exactly student-centered meant and about the way teachers are still designing, organizing, guiding the class. Now that I read about Kathy and her inspirations I think it is indeed a meaningful question to ask for: WHAT DOES STUDENT-CENTRED MEAN? And quoting Parker J. Palmer and his understanding of equal respect for our experience, skills, responsibilities, needs (students’ and teachers’ ones!!) and aims really enchants me. That is just so right and I can just nod hoping to be able to realize some of these ideas in the next semester. I deeply recommend you to read Kathy Fagans post and the posts below (so far I have just read some of them, that were very reflective and inspiring).


How and Who to organize classroom management – Backtalking and discipline

As we began talking about classroom management we first have to consider the word classroom and its components, as there is the room itself, its decoration, its outer conditions and the protagonists inside it: the learners and the teacher. Where do they sit, stand, write, talk, listen, interact, sing etc. and where does the teacher stand, sit, talk, listen, interact write etc.? Do they have any preferences? Do they perhaps like to change the classroom design before beginning to work?
When I think about the word discipline many ideas come to my head and I like a lot what Fred Jones said about being a disciplinated teacher, the one that knows how to deal with his students’ behaviour as well as how to deal with himself. To teach discipline in classes we need to know us as well what our concept of it is like. I have had the possibility so far to get to know many different teachers, differencies depending on their subjects but first of all and mainly on their own individual characters.
Being calm (and serene) is having strength; that is what Dr. Fred Jones tells us; and I totally agree on his point. And in contrast to this becoming upset is a synonym for weakness. What do we want to be like then being teachers – for sure we (should) want to be calm and strong. Because being calm and demonstrating strength is a characteristics that gives students security.
Being a student I have lived some situations in which students created a melodrama for the teacher by inviting him/her to his backtalking. It has been really annoying and disturbing for the rest of the class. But being the center of the backtalk, the one pupil who is organizing the comedy, that was quite a funny experience I have to admit. Other teachers would never have entered this game and let the fire burn down – as Jones said and as I will mention later on.

My latest experience and perhaps one of the most vivids was during my teaching at a private university where many many classmates would not want to listen, to interact, to write or do anything concerning classes – not even play games; they would be backtalking all the time. And I think I just gave up hope and interest and go on giving the lessons with just the few pupils interested sitting in the first row – I just did not know how to react to all those “mocosos”. And besides, I was not even interested in them; I just wanted to get out of that classroom and go far away. Discipline was very far away in these moments. It was probably me throwing gasoline on a fire – as Jones states – as I opened my mouth and yes, backtalk then just blowed up in my face. That was one of the worst but as well one of the best experiences in my teaching experience so far because I learned to get to know my limits. It would definitely have been better to have them run out of material so that embarrassement would have set in; as: “When students begin to feel foolish, they fold.”(http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/columnists/jones/jones012.shtml#sthash.ZpTeEJql.dpuf)

Discipline is a behaviour and attitude we want the learners to learn or that we could suppose they have already learnt at home – but many many times discipline is taught in school and any (private) class we give. Being a teacher is a lifelong learning process and together with the students we are getting more and more mature; we are all (as human beings) on our way to find out about wisdom. Before we have been talking about teachers in their role as facilitators, moderators, asesors – supporting students in their learning process; and now with Fred Jones we are concentrating on another aspect of being a teacher. What we are saying and showing to the class might not be interesting for everybody; that could be one reason for backtalking.
The so called “Cardinal Error” a teacher could commit is backtalkig to students for they have backtalked before. In this moment the teacher gives up any discipline himself, as he/she is doing exactly the same he/she doesn’t want the student to do – so he/she is contradicting his own principles and the classroom is to become a backtalk room.
Here is what Fred Jones says concerning the backtalk dialogue created by a student and the teacher: “It is not uncommon to witness two children arguing. But witnessing a child and a teacher arguing is most disconcerting — which brings us to our first rule of backtalk:
It takes one fool to backtalk.
It takes two fools to make a conversation out of it.”

Discipline has to do with respect, mutual respect and it only works in a space of respect. So this is a principal component of classroom management and a great basic tool for formulating rules and any recommendation (as seen on Aloha’s blog: http://alohazavala.edublogs.org/). And Ed states something very similar on her blog, where she mentions:
“Discipline is created by giving behaviour rules to students.” (http://whatedsaid.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/10-questions-to-ask-yourself/)
“Effective classroom management, i.e. organising the classroom and the learners, is dependent on the teacher adopting appropriate roles. For example, when learners arrive late in class or misbehave, the teacher needs to deal with the situation appropriately to ensure that the learners understand that this is not acceptable behaviour. In this situation, the teacher’s role is primarily to maintain discipline. If, on the other hand, the teacher adopts inappropriate roles, this can have a negative effect on classroom management.” (TKT book page 200)

So last but not least I would like to end up my commentary with some questions that I have been reflecting about during reading and writing:
What do we need discipline for?
How important is it though in a classroom/in class?
Without discipline is there any good working class possible?


backtalk and classroom management

As we’ve begun to enter 3d module and will be dealing with classroom management and more precisely with discipline, I was now just starting to read Dr.Fred Jones’ article on “Meaning business part 4: Dealing with backtalk” and I just wanted to share with you the following quote:
It takes one fool to backtalk.
It takes two fools to make a conversation out of it.
that seems so funny and right and critical and ironic to me. I can definitely just agree with him and can’t wait to go on reading his words.

He is without fail recomendable this Dr. Fred Jones.


Thinking skills: An activity relying on the six levels of the cognitive taxonomy

As we have been talking about Bloom’s taxonomy and how to apply it in class – I would like to invite you to have a look at the following PPT-presentation where you will find activities relying on Ray Bradbury’s novel “Fahrenheit 451” based on Bloom’s taxonomy as a tool of the six levels of cognitive complexity.


Here is my class draft on applying Bloom in a pre-reading activity on Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” :



FAhrenheit 451 – the end of reading (skills)?


this has nothing to do with what we have been talking about in TkT classes – but, inspired by an article from a german magazine warning us about the decline of reading and lectures worldwide and the increasing influence of just audiovisual media – I came to read a summary of Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” and deeply wanted to recommend this book to you.

As we have been talking about reference sources and have seen Ellen’s books yesterday, I got inspired once more to think about reading and what it means to me. Reading and writing  – and why I want to teach those skills to students. So now here is the link where you could find a summary concerning Ray Bradbury; that perhaps could be used in some classes. In German classes I definetely will teach about this subject.


I would like to know about your opininons concerning this book, the author’s thesis or anything. Perhaps there is space in one of the following classes to discuss it more deeply or might be that some lessonplans concentrate on reading.




Reflections on Bloom’s taxonomy and why it is essential for teaching

Bloom’s taxonomy is focussing on the cognitive thinking skills and it’s objectives putting them into a relevant order of six levels of complexity, from Lower Ordered Thinking Skills up to Higher Ordered Thinking Skills. At the bottom of the skale are thinking skills like listing, naming, repeating, recording etc. meanwhile at the top we find skills like solving, critizising, assessing etc. so that learning becomes more and more relevant and meaningful the higher we get on the skale.

                                                          'Bloom's Taxonomy as a wheel' photo (c) 2009, Doug Belshaw - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/(see: http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2009/05/25/the-best-resources-for-helping-teachers-use-blooms-taxonomy-in-the-classroom/

Becoming more and more conscious about what features, methods, strategies, plannings and activities are needed to realize active, meaningful, student-centered, autonomous, cooperative, goal-oriented and life-long learning in language classrooms – this is the process I have been going through for some months now and I feel that teaching lessons, participating in formations like TKT or congresses I visited are inspiring me mutually.

I probably have heard about Bloom before during my formal studies in Germany but have perhaps forgotten about it; now that I am at a different stage of development and that I can observe myself more clearly in classes, I understand its importance and meaningfulness for us teachers. Having worked in different places, with different students and their needs, having met several other teachers or guides or persons who want to work with students and having been able to put the puzzle together is what makes me read Bloom in a different and new way now.

The link Ellen posted on Larry Ferlazzos ideas on how to use Bloom’s Taxonomy in class seems very helpful to me and I am actually thinking about having such a big wall chart in the front of my classroom with a summary of each “Bloom level”; could also be a wheel chart or some other representation as the Blooming Orange (see: http://thinkonline.smarttutor.com/blooming-orange-blooms-taxonomy-helpful-verbs-poster/) – I would probably as well give some links to students so that they can read about the taxonomy and its various representations to later on discuss them in class and decide on one of them all together. By the way, I have known previously that talking about learning processes with students is important – but still do miss a lot practicing it. Now reading about Bloom and the use made out of his Taxonomy inspires me to just practice it in class. As I want to make learning become a process that is mutual between students and teachers and have students teach as well as teachers learn from them (see the Ted Talks video on Adora Svitak for inspiration), it is of principal importance to talk together about the different stages of learning and organizing learning.

Perhaps I have been using mostly LOTS in class and am now thinking about how to apply HOTS in my following classes; it is all about being conscious and observing ourselves while teaching and planning lessons. What is our purpose of teaching this or that way? Why and what for do we want learners to learn this or that? Have them think critically, create and evaluate. Talk about their own learning process and course books contents. Have them perhaps revise the curriculum and compile themselves exercises for future students.

In the following I will quote Ferlazzos commentary on Bloom just to highlight what I learnt from it and what I want to apply in my classes: “I personally try to use Bloom’s Taxonomy in two ways. One, I have a big wall chart in the front of my classroom with a summary of each level of the Taxonomy and “question starters” for each of them. Since I spend a lot of time helping my students practice reading strategies, and one of them is asking questions, they can take advantage of the accessibility of this poster. After reviewing what the whole thing means, we discuss how — by practicing asking themselves the higher-level questions while they read a text — they can gain a deeper understand of its meaning.“ (see http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2009/05/25/the-best-resources-for-helping-teachers-use-blooms-taxonomy-in-the-classroom/)

And besides Adam Waxler’s argument convinces me as he comments that: “When students are evaluating and judging and using the higher order thinking skills of blooms taxonomy they are more likely to retain information, perform better on standardized tests, and most importantly, achieve the ultimate goal of becoming lifelong learners.” (see: http://www.teaching-tips-machine.com/blooms_taxonomy.htm) In the following he underlines that learners “retain the information for the long-term and, more importantly, help the student learn to think for himself”

In our days that autonomy, collaborative learning, interaction patterns, learners’ needs, learning strategies and motivation – to just name some of the central items in educational discussion – it is getting more and more important to make learners chose learning contents out of a variety of learning inputs and make them be free® in their outputs; Bloom’s taxonomy and the interpretations given to us are really founded, clear supports for teachers to be guided.In ordinary life learners are always exposed to recall, understand, apply, analyze and evaluate to be able to create their own way of life, their own “product” – so this is what we are just imitating with them in class.