What about reading? 

When I was at primary school, I didn’t like reading a lot, so I only read the books my teachers asked me to read, with no motivation or predisposition at all. In secondary school I started to like reading a bit more (maybe because of my passion for cinema) so I enjoyed reading for pleasure, and the compulsory readings in class too. In my opinion, English compulsory books where short and quite easy to understand, as they had activities and picture dictionary or key vocabulary to check. I find them useful (even though they only were adapted books for language learners) because I wasn’t used to read whole stories in English with a complex plot, just some short stories, comics or articles from the English class book. At university I started to read novels in English. That was more challenging due to the language used and the length too.

Nowadays, being an English teacher with a some little experience, I can understand how archaic was the literature approach I received when I was young. This encourages me to keep learning literature and storytelling strategies so as to improve children’s motivation and culture in the future.

In my English classes I try to incorporate storytelling for several purposes; as an introduction of a topic/project (motivation), as a consolidation of learned unit (to check students knowledge, make language connections and even add some more language), just for pleasure…  I think through reading students can discover that language can be fun! Storytelling may open a window for learning in class (and at home). I believe storytelling is not an innovative strategy as it has been a tool for education since many years ago, but the way a book is introduced or the way to work through it could be innovative. I would like to use them more, so I hope this module we are starting now, I would be able to take more benefit from books.

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Teaching language as culture

What is culture?

During the last Postgraduate module we were exposed to a basic, but not easy, question: what’s culture? There are many concepts involved in culture, this is why I’ve created a mind map to summarize what is and what involves culture, with the main ideas learned in class.

CULTURE_SaraFarran.jpg

Why is culture important in a language class?

While learning and discovering about culture we stopped our journey to think and reflect about the importance of culture in class. Teaching language as culture will get our students to understand other worldviews, because not only language is part of a culture, it involves beliefs, values, customs and traditions.

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The power of storytelling

The next stop on my Culture adventure was learning about storytelling power. It is a pedagogical resource to integrate culture in the EFL classroom and promote intercultural awareness.  According to Malo and Bullard (2000), the benefits of storytelling are:   storytelling-1.jpg

– To develop literary competencies

– To develop a love of reading

– To promote creativity and imagination

– To develop language awareness and language skills

Storytelling can be the basis of our didactic unit or project. As I’ve experienced during this Postgraduate degree, the Calm Down, Boris! story by Sam Lloyd was very useful for teaching daily routines to younger students. I had the chance to try it with my 5 year-old students, by reading it a several times andreproducing some of the pre/while/after-reading activities and games we suggested in our Didactic Unit. Some of them were as basic as chants to review the learned vocabulary; some others were more complex as role-playing, to promote students use the new language and apply it in a real context; or a quite simple one that was ordering some pictures according to what Boris does in the book, as a review of the daily routines. That was, with no doubt, a great experience. I really recommend you to use this type of books in class, there are endless possibilities, read and play with the puppet, students love it, or even invent your own story using the puppet as main character. Here you have a tutorial video on How to explain Calm down, Boris! 

calm down

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Translanguaging 2: How can we apply it to the English class?

As I’ve learned in the multilingualism previous subject, and reinforced in this culture module, we can foster respect to other cultures and languages, as well as provide a chance to all our students to be and feel part of the class-group, by creating a multilingual environment. How can we do so? I’ve found some interesting ways and strategies, super simple and easy to implement in class, that will make the education a bit more multicultural.

General basic things to do in class:

  • Have bilingual students teach their classmates a greeting in their home language, practicing over several days until the class is able to use these multilingual greetings when entering the classroom.

Resultado de imagen de translanguaging

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Translanguaging 1: Let’s get started!

Have you ever notticed that sometimes children in class use resources from different languages together, with very little regard for what languages (Spanish, Catalan or English) they are using? What they are using are, in fact, elements of each language together to communicate more effectively. It is about using all your language resources to communicate, it is translanguagingImagen relacionada

Translanguaging is the act performed by bilinguals of accessing different linguistic featuresorvarious modes of what are described as autonomous languages, in order to maximize communicative potential.Ofelia García (2009: 140)

It is believed it emerged in the 1980s in Bangor, north of Wales, when Cen Williams and his colleagues were investigating strategies for learners to use two languages (Welsh and English) in a single lesson. They came up with the term ‘trawsieithu’ to describe reading or hearing input in one language and writing or speaking about it in another.

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What is Flipped Learning?

The Flipped Classroom is becoming a widespread concept among educators and society but…what is flipped learning? It is a pedagogical approach in which direct instruction moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space, and the resulting is transformed into dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students. They apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter. Maths, science, history.. are subjects that allow teachers to easily flip the class, by setting up videos and interactive tasks as homework. Here I enclose a Mindmap about the 4 pillars of FLIP.

SaraFarran_mindmap_FLIPPED LEARNING

Have a look at the Flipped Classroom website to discover more about it. I am also investigating how could I adapt it to my classes.. I’ll be sharing and posting my ideas and projects in the blog. Are you ready to try an innovate through flipping your classroom?

What is CLIL?

The acronym CLIL has got many different definitions. In his “What  is CLIL?” article, Phil Ball analyzes some approved definitions so as to establish the basic characteristics of CLIL. From the 5th definitions exposed on this reading, we can conclude the following:

  1. As the European Commission mentions, “with CLIL pupils learn a subject through the medium of a foreign language”
  2. Marsh, D. (2002) suggests that CLIL “kills two birds with one stone” as subjects, or parts of subjects, are taught through a foreign language with dual focused aims, content and learning of a foreign language at the same time.
  3. The European Commission says that CLIL has also an administrative objective, which is to increase the contact time with foreign language without having to add extra time in the curriculum.
  4. David Graddol states that the strong element of CLIL is that students are not required to have an English proficiency level to acquire the subject content, as CLIL classes are more focused on skill-based learning and adopt appropriate methodologies to teach the subject content through more contextualized, clear and useful language.
  5. Marsh, Marsland and Stenberg (2001) conclude that through CLIL we can install a “hunger to learn” in the student. David Graddol also concurs that CLIL is viewed as a vehicle, as a core skill, that provides reasons for learning and improving the foreign language level due to real motivations, as content is important in itself, therefore students will learn and use new language to apply the learned content and express their opinion about it.

I hope these definitions help you understand what CLIL is. See my PowToon vídeo too!

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SOME QUESTIONS (and answers) ON LANGUAGE LEARNING

After reading and investigating about different widespread beliefs and theories on language learning, I’ve arrived to the conclusion that society is concerned about foreign language education and is aware of the need to have good commands on those foreign languages, basically English, for good job opportunities and communicating effectively among others. During the last 10 years approximately, new educational trends have been spread all over the Country, promoting early language courses and introducing new methodologies both for adults and young children. Bilingualism in Catalonia is also in the spotlight, due to the recent Catalan-Spanish politics crisis. Therefore, some contradictory and confusing beliefs regarding foreign language and bilingual education had been widespread. I’m going to analyse some of the beliefs and contrast them to what experts in the field state, so as to arrive to a clear conclusion among the effects of bilingualism and foreign language learning.

Is it better to learn a foreign language at an early age?

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MULTILINGUALISM IN A CONTEXT (part II)

After more analysis on the data and information extracted from my research on Multilingualism in the Abrera public school Francesc Platón i Sartí, I reflected on some more questions regarding Language Education.

How are the different languages taught in this school?

Ccatalan and spanish flag.jpgatalan is the common language spoken at Francesc Platón i Sartí, therefore they foster Catalan language at all levels. This means Primary students have 122’5 hours of Catalan per year.

105 hours of Spanish lessons are taught per year in Primary Education. This means that students are bilinguals; they know and are able to speak both Catalan and Spanish.

Being taught in Catalan is very important for those immigrants who’s mother tongue is different, because it is the only moment where they would listen to and use it. Nevertheless, Spanish is the common language used within students. If you walk around the school at lunch time, for instance, you would notice Spanish is used among students and even with the monitors too. Translanguaging occurs too in those student-student conversations, changing from Spanish to Catalan in some cases, or from immigrants minority languages to common language spoken at school in other cases (see this Psychology Today interview for further information about Translanguaging).

englishEnglish is taught as a subject, starting at the age of 6. Students at Cicle Inicial attend no more than 52,5 hours a school year. English language input increases as they move forward to Cicle Mitjà, attending to 70 hours per year and Cicle Superior, having a total of 87,5 hours.

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MULTILINGUALISM IN A CONTEXT (part I)

Establishing a scenario for a multicultural context

Abrera is a small municipality in Baix Llobregat with no more than 12.000 habitants and about 6.27% are immigrants. The number of foreign people has been considerably increasing during the last years due to the lower flat rentals Abrera offers to the citizens. Living next to Llobregat is cheaper rather than living in Barcelona, this is why the majority of immigrants try to find a place to live in the suburbs. Morocco has been the most important source of migrants coming to Spain in search of work. They live together in neighbourhoods and communities, sharing flats and socio-cultural activities. Living in community also helps them to carry through their kids education, providing advice and accompany for the new arrivals.

I focus my research on the public school Francesc Platón i Sartí, which offers public education from 3 to 12 years old in Abrera. A high number of students are immigrants from Morocco, a lower number come from China and a minority come from other European countries, such as Bulgaria or Polonia. It is crystal water that the school needs to have sort of language project to deal with these different and plural languages and cultures. The school headmaster kindly explained me that this is the first year they don’t have a welcome centre or reception room due to the state cutbacks. Therefore, they have no specific plan for attending diversity; they analyze each case individually and, depending on the specific needs of the student, they organize somehow an individual plan with their limited resources. It is the case, for instance, of a Bulgarian kid who started the course last September, without knowing a word in Catalan or Spanish. A teacher would follow and walk with him during the first months, guiding and teaching him individually basic concepts about the new language, school and culture. By now, this student doesn’t need individual support any more because he is showing remarkable progress, being able to follow a conversation and produce short well structured sentences. Nevertheless, he stills have some extra Catalan and Spanish classes, separately from the rest of the class, to achieve a become independent by the end of the present course.

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