Number one for English language teachers

IATEFL scholarship 2016: Shortlisted entries

Read these extracts from our shortlisted entries from Daiana Martinez, Theodora Gkeniou, Pei-Ling Yang, Anna Zernova, Lucia Bombieri, Bhuwan Kumar Wagle and Alexandra Butnaru.

Daiana Martinez (Argentina)

Daiana wrote about promoting collaboration with schools around the globe along with collaborative projects.

I strongly believe that our students need new skills for the XXIst century: skills for collaboration, for teamwork, to share knowledge, for interaction. That’s the reason why I design school projects which cater for those needs since they are multi faceted: they integrate the teaching of content with language learning, focusing on the communication of ideas through technology. Taking risks and being innovative as well as becoming global citizens capable of engaging in collaborative and cooperative projects with people from the rest of the world are other key skills our students need for the future.

For these reasons, I have been promoting collaboration among schools from all around the globe. The interaction between schools has been carried out by means of synchronous and asynchronous meetings that Newlands students hold with students from other parts of the world via Google Hangout. During the meetings students play games, tell stories, engage in research tasks, solve problems among many other highly motivating tasks with the purpose of achieving a certain goal decided beforehand by the teachers involved.

Theodora Gkeniou (Greece)

Theodora talked about establishing rapport and ways of incentivising students.

Being a state school teacher for more than 10 years, I have been teaching general English to adolescents. To establish rapport with them and keep them motivated I use a mixture of traditional ‘unplugged’ methods to encourage curiosity and taking initiatives and tech-savvy solutions such as implementing European collaborative projects (etwinning) to create a cooperative learning community. Authentic interaction with peers from abroad, meaningful use of technology, project/inquiry based methodology, development of 21st century skills (problem solving, critical thinking etc) and recognition (quality labels and prizes) offer incentives to teenage students.

This year’s project was entitled “Learnenglish+”, a title chosen to reflect the rationale and the innovative pedagogy put in action to address a number of challenges often encountered in the EFL classroom, such as fatigue and lack of motivation.

Pei-Ling Yang (Taiwan)

Pei-Ling engaged his students in a study of Facebook and how it could be used to improve writing skills.

This study, based on bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory (1986), was to reveal whether writing activities on Facebook would enhance EFL college learners’ levels of English self-efficacy. This study was guided by the following two questions:

1. What are the EFL learners’ attitudes towards Facebook as a virtual writing classroom?

2. Are there any significant differences of the EFL learners’ English self-efficacy after the Facebook writing activity?

First, four classes of the college learners took a standardized English examination. Based on the English proficiency results, two classes were selected for their English proficiency was insignificantly different from each other. Two classes of the learners attended the same instructor’s class and used the same course materials (articles form Voice of America). The control group only discussed their ideas in a small group and sometimes they were asked to speak out in front of the whole class while the experimental one, had chances to express their individual comments by posting on Facebook. The participants in the study were second year college students in a technological college in northern Taiwan. They were 20.32 years old and on average, they had 11.77 years of English learning. For the purpose of examining the learners’ English learning self-efficacy, Huang and Chang’s ESL General Self-Efficacy Questionnaire (1996) was adapted and administered in the study.

Anna Zernova (Russian Federation)

Anna looked into metacognitive activities and ways to incoorporate it into the classroom.

One of the most thought-provoking and stimulating things I’ve tried so far (which can be considered as innovative approach to teaching) is metacognitive feedback activities. It is well-known that sometimes teacher’s perception of what is happening in the classroom differs from that of the students’ and yet teachers don’t ask – for fear to be criticized or lose their authority. I have tried out and reflected on a wide range of end-of-class activities. They help in many ways. First of all, students get insight into their learning process and factors that influence it. Secondly, the teacher herself gains better understanding of her own strengths and weaknesses. Thirdly, the students better appreciate their role and the role of their teacher in the learning process.

The process of incorporating metacognitive activities into the classroom is simple. At a final lesson stage the teacher asks the students a range of questions to help them with reflecting. I’ll give some practical examples:

1. The teacher asks students to write down 5-10 new words and combinations they learnt at the lesson.

2. The teacher asks students to classify different types of exercises they did at the lesson and say which of them they found interesting / boring / favourite / difficult / thought-provoking.

3. The teacher asks students to analyze their further English practice. They can answer the question: what sort of things are you going to use for better learning?

4. In modern coursebooks there are a great amount of really informative texts. The teacher asks her students about the text: what interesting information have you found out? What surprised you most? Which facts do you find the most interesting?

Lucia Bombieri (Italy)

Lucia worked with primary level students and talked about the advantages of using a graded reading book.

This year I had a full academic year to work with primary school students, 4th-5th grade, on regular basis. Within the Italian curriculum there is still enough room to carry out some extra projects and, consequently, I introduced a unit on English literature and culture involving Stonehenge as a fascinating background.

We used a graded reading book, level A1.

The main advantages in using this material is the attention on the pronunciation, the vocabulary and grammar in context, the high motivation, the extensive reading approach which involves reading as much as possible for the pleasure of the story.

Bhuwan Kumar Wagle (Nepal)

Bhuwan experienced difficulties with his class and found a novel solution.

The next day I contacted and met a senior teacher who was teaching there from a long time and he had a great reputation in the field, who was also my classmate in my master’s degree. I shared the tragic story to him, He gave a light laugh at first and told me a sentence: Try to understand their mind my friend, teaching them would not be big deal after that.” I tried my best to understand what he actually meant and came up with the idea for my next day’s class.

The next day I went to my class with a light smile and a music player and announced that we were going to listen to a song “Imagine” by John Lenon and pick up the lyrics in groups. They simply cheered up. I played the song just for two times but almost all the lyrics were picked up. I distributed them the real lyrics I had printed and asked them to compare with their group draft. No one showed disruptive behavior, demonstrated squeezed nod to me, but involved in the activity fully. I didn’t shout at them, gave a pleasant home assignment to write up a page about their favorite singer with a cute photo. They were overjoyed.

Alexandra Butnaru (Romania)

Alexandra looked at different ways to use technology in her classroom.

I believe technology should be seen as a great tool for the language classroom, not only as a distractor or ‘real’ communication inhibitor. I always recommend useful apps or websites to my students, or I try to experiment with them at school. A few months ago, I suggested to a group of elementary students to try Duolingo, a mobile app. I told them I was using it to learn Portuguese, but that they could choose English. It was interesting to notice that each week, when they met, they kept comparing levels and experience points – received after completing different tasks.

With another group of students with a B1 level of English I often use websites to make animated films. They work in groups while choosing a topic and writing the script. Eager to participate, they learn a lot from each other. They also know they can use their mobile phones when they need supplementary clarification on vocabulary items or pieces of information found in texts. This way, they learn to rely less on the teacher’s knowledge and they discover tools that increase their autonomy.

I also use a video projector to move exercises from the course book onto the board. This way, I transform a regular exercise into a collaborative experience, and a simple white board into an interactive one.

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