Friday, 30 October 2015

Behind every good lesson... part 2 - HOTS

As this post explains, when I am preparing lessons the first and most important factor that guides my planning is pedagogy. This is true even though I am a true fan of embedding technology into my practice.  Technology is never the driver or the star, it is a vehicle. 
In this post you can see how I have sown the foundations to a new topic and my students have a solid vocabulary base on which to build.  I may have used active learning strategies or pair work activities, listening exercises and reading comprehensions - to name but a few.  At some point in the process I will have embraced a technological tool because when MOTS activities are necessary, technology can meet this need perfectly.

I am now at the point in my planning when I want my students to use this new language and also combine it with previous knowledge to create new work that demonstrates their progress.  I am looking for some knowledge construction.  There are many ways to go about this and I still may not feel the need to turn to technology. On the other hand technology can provide me with many opportunities that enhance the process and bring language learning alive.  
In the first instance I may still turn to taskmagic so students can complete some gap-fill exercises that provide  them with model answers (or I may do this with my trusty interactive whiteboard where there are opportunities to be a little more creative). I may create a video using explain everything and embed into educanon so that students can watch and listen to a sample created product whilst responding to some questions.  These sample models are there to guide and scaffold the learning.  Here's one I made earlier on the perfect tense for year 8. 
As students prepare their written work or presentations the chance to collaborate with each other via Google Classroom should not be ignored.  The feedback process is vastly improved as students collaborate with each other, peer assess, make suggestions and improve their work.  All this can, of course, be achieved in class, on paper, but the speed and immediacy provided for through Google Classroom is  a wonderful advantage, in my opinion.
This stage of the process can also be achieved through a tool such as Edmodo where language learning can gain even greater purpose as students interact with language 'experts' from other countries.  I have spoken here of the efficacy and usefulness of Edmodo, first in terms of collaboration and secondly as a medium to complete telecollaborative projects.  The idea that students can communicate and use their new-found language and skills with foreign language students from France or Spain is a powerful one and should be explored if the opportunity arises.
A final 'product' can be written, recorded or filmed using any number of apps.  For written work, consider a poster making app such as canva, grafio, word swag or phoster to name but a few.    Grafio will allow your students to embed some sound too so they can verbally annotate their written with work or some images that they might use.    Here is a very simple example of what some work might look like using Grafio. 

It is possible to see the potential for creativity with such a tool.
A presentation might fit the bill too - use Prezi, Emaze, or perhaps Google Slides which can be used within Google Classroom and can thus be used collaboratively.  These presentation and poster making tools mean that previous written tasks can be redefined and students can be challenged to create something that allows them to use a number of skills, for example, both speaking and writing within the same product.  
There are many options that I did not consider here.  I know, for example, that I have not mentioned Aurasma and I can see how a news report could allow students to demonstrate more than their writing skills if they also embed a spoken element via Aurasma.
Technology can bring a task alive for students and allows them to push themselves to achieve more - which, after all, is our aim.  The important point to remember however is that the technology is not the driver in lesson planning.  Pedagogy is - technology is just a tool - but what a great one!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Behind every good lesson....part 1 - MOTS

Behind every good lesson there's a great plan.  Even if the lesson does not come off well the chances are there were good intentions laid out in the plan.  Of course nowadays with so many technological tools at our disposal lesson plans have changed.  Right?  Wrong!  Technology may play a key part in lessons but does this mean that our focus is on the technology when we come to plan lessons.  Do we start with the tool?  Definitely not.

Think Pedagogy First!
At the forefront of my mind when I plan is my goal for the lesson and what I want the students to achieve.  Of course there is also the bigger picture and the long term goal to consider. How I get my students to think and to engage with the lesson content is really important to me.  How can I stretch and challenge them, how can I ensure that I am meeting all their needs?  How can I ensure that my students make progress - after all, that is the whole point of the lesson.  These are the questions that drive my planning.  It's all about pedagogy.  What tool to use does not even come to mind. 

If, for example, the goal is to learn a new topic area requiring new vocabulary I would start by focusing on these new words.  For this I might use my interactive whiteboard (read more here about my thoughts on this tool).  I know that this would be an engaging way to introduce new vocabulary and I could create whiteboard activities that would ensure that students talk and use this new language.  At the end of the lesson I might decide to test my students new-found knowledge.  Now at this point I would definitely consider a technological tool to help me.  Something like Kahoot! would fit the bill perfectly.  Engaging and set up so that you can design your test just as you want it, this tool allows you to test your students knowledge with a variety of quizzes.  The real benefit is being able to get feedback on their progress.  In a lesson where I am revisiting content I might use a Kahoot quiz at the start of the lesson, work on the content during the lesson itself and then replay the Kahoot at the end using the excellent new 'ghost' feature where  students play against each other and their own previous score.  This allows students to understand their own progress and allows me to plan my next steps with the students exact needs in mind. 

To ensure that my students have built a solid vocabulary base on which to build, my planning would clearly provide for drill and skill exercises (MOTS - More of The Same).  I am not adverse to setting lots of these types of activities.  In my mind it is not possible to proceed to HOTs (Higher Order Thinking Skills) until the foundation is there.  As well as traditional matching exercises and active learning activities I would also consider a number of technological tools.

Quizlet is a tool that comes to mind, with exercises such as these which provide students with the opportunity to learn vocabulary or key content whilst playing a variety of games and furnishing students with key information about their progress.  Taskmagic also fits the bill very well.   For the first fourteen years of my teaching career somehow I managed without this tool.  Practice exercises have become much more engaging with the introduction to my lessons of this excellent web-based tool.  How did I manage before?  The beauty of both these tools is that I can set the content and make it totally pertinent to my students' needs.
And so, finally,  on to HOTs.  Putting new found knowledge into practice.  Creating something different with this new content.  There are many tools to consider at this stage of learning and I look forward to sharing my ideas on this in my next post.
In the meantime let me know your thoughts in the comments box below.