Sunday, 30 November 2014

Blogging platforms

If you happen to pass by, I'd be extremely grateful if you could vote for a blogging platform which in your opinion is the best for using with students.
My main concern is the comment feature, how easy and convenient it is.
If you choose Other, please write in comments what it is and why you like it.

Thank you!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Learning by reading

It was by lucky chance that I got hold of the book See Me After Class by Roxanna Elden.

The book may be described as a teacher's manual or a guide to beginners and it is focused on American schools, yet the tips and tricks given in the book easily apply to most teaching problems in the world.

What I liked about the book is that Roxanna Elden looks at everyday troubles in class with humour and confidence, making it possible to believe that every difficult situation can be resolved positively and there is no need to despair and despond.

Though many situations and rules differ from those in my country, and most situational examples are given for primary level (which is not relevant to me), there are lots and lots of  ideas and tips that are universal and can be applicable to any school, any class.

Here are a few ideas that I liked and will try (seriously!) to use in my work.

1. Files! Filing every paper or document that enters your classroom is not only an ancient idea but also a very productive and hard-to-manage idea. Roxanna Elden suggests to keep a number of files, all labelled, for any paper that "touches your desk", for example, Blank forms, Department information, Emergency, Lesson plans, Extra copies, Sample student work, Leftover copies etc. I have been doing something like this for some years but I have never reached perfection (which would be the ultimate goal of this system).

2. There are loads of tips regarding student management and discipline, e.g. Establish clear rules and consequences. This is my weak point as I often tend to forget the rule I invented and it is the worst thing that can happen to any rule. If its implementation is not ensured, the rule stops to exist, doesn't it?

3. I liked a few ideas about how to start a class, e.g. meeting students at the door and either distributing handouts to them or collecting homework. That may be a great time-saver!

4. "Shaving grading time off each assignment". Who wouldn't want it? Some ideas: grade only part of the assignment (but tell this to your students), focus only on one problem, pick only a few assignments to grade, give two grades for a longer assignment, e.g. an essay, do "holistic grading", i.e. skim the assignment for effort, understanding, completeness, then give a quick grade and move on.

5. Roxanna Elden pays special attention to relations with difficult parents and co-workers, advising to avoid negative teachers (I second that!) who constantly complain about their job. She says, "Complaining about your job is a lot like drinking.... If you do it too much, you'll be sorry."

The book consists of 200 pages and each one is packed with true-to-life teaching moments, teacher stories, problem situations, tried-and-tested tips and solutions. And, yes, you should read it if you find it.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Kahoot - amazing game-based learning

While visiting in Norway, I attended a lesson where the teacher used Kahoot for testing students' knowledge in a fun way. The questions were displayed on the screen and the students answered them using their laptops, tablets and smart phones. Each question had a time limit, so not only knowledge was important but also the speed of thinking. In the end students could see how they were ranked depending on the correctness of their answers and the speed of their response. It was learning in the best way a student can wish for - by playing a game!

I decided to give Kahoot a try, and it turned out to be an easy and attractive way to involve students in learning and testing by having fun and a good time.

The steps for starting with Kahoot are as follows:
  1. Create a teacher's account on Kahoot website. It is free and it works on all browsers.
  2. Create your first quiz. Add as many questions as you wish. Add images or even a video. Set the time limit for each question. 
  3. When you have finished the quiz, you can preview it in action, playing 2 roles at once. A fantastic feature!
  4. The left area, the teacher's view, will be displayed on the central screen. IMPORTANT! Students have a different "entrance" than teachers, they join the quiz through  which is given on the screen when you start the quiz. On the right you can see what the students will see on their devices. They need to copy and enter the game pin and then sign in with their name.

Below is a screenshot of what the question and answers look like on both screens. Students have to read the question on the big screen and give the answer on their devices.

What is one of the best features Kahoot offers? The final results can be downloaded as an Excel file which shows all the answers the students have given, both the right and wrong ones. They can be analyzed and discussed later leading to the improvement of student knowledge.

Kahoot is one of the best student response systems I have ever seen.

The only shortcoming I can mention is the small size of the text font. The students who are sitting farther away from the screen may have difficulties to read the answers. This should be particularly taken into account if a teacher intends to give grades based on the test results. So it may be easier to use Kahoot with smaller classes in a smaller room.
But this does not diminish my joy of having a great new tool for involving my students in the pleasure of learning.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Till we meet again

Image by jarmoluk

Dear reader,

You may have noticed that my previous post was written last year in December and you may be wondering when I am going to post something new. Well, not very soon, as I have realized that my willingness to share with you what I do and what I think has diminished with time and there are many reasons for that which I am not going to discuss here.
Suffice it to say that my blog will be dormant from now on and I am not sure when it may come to life again. I will not close it as I use it myself to remember useful things and tools I have mentioned here.
My apologies to all my subscribers!

The image above accurately describes me at my present disposition  - I read and eat apples, interchangeably.