Friday, 23 October 2015

The Learning Pyramid

One of the reasons why I love my job is in people that work for Unium. And it's not only about how friendly, positive, ready to help and open they are. It's also about how eager they always are to develop. How intelligent and broad-minded, well-educated and curious they are. Coming with all different backgrounds they will never stop surprising you.
And thanks to one of the colleagues I accidentally met in a coffee room last morning, I found out about the Learning Pyramid. She gave us couple hints about what it is so that we can dig that topic dipper on our own afterwards. Thanks go to her for that as well. So today while reading articles on David Kolb's Experiential Learning Model (in later posts about that), I also conducted a small research on the Learning Pyramid.

Basically, what it shows is the percentage of knowledge acquired through different activities. Those activities can be classified as Passive and Participatory Teaching Methods, the latter being the most effective, of course.

I knew there was a saying that goes something like "If you want to learn something, start teaching it", but I never knew it was actually supported by research. To add more, lectures turn out to be the most ineffective method. You just look at the percentage difference between lectures and group discussions!

For some people, of course, lectures can be a fine way to learn information as well - if you are an audial who has mastered the skill of successful note-taking and who has an inner-motivation goal and is extremely interested in the topic, the percentage will probably go up by 10-20 points. I'm pretty sure, however, that it will never reach the 50% benchmark.

Another picture that I found in the Net and want to share with you puts the Bloom's Taxonomy next to the Learning Pyramid. My next post will be devoted to the Bloom's Taxonomy in particular, so for now I'll just leave it here for you to analyse and sort of match. They don't correlate completely of course, and are focused on quite different topics. The idea of putting them together seemed to me to be appealing nevertheless.

P.S. What would be really interesting is to combine teaching methods and the Pyramid together (maybe plus the Taxonomy as well) and see which are supposed to lead to better results. Anybody interested in doing that? :)

Monday, 19 October 2015

Broaden Your Students' Boarders

At some point (usually in the middle of semester) I start giving out tasks to prepare a presentation at home and deliver it in front of the class at the lesson. It's individual work, no teams or pairs. The speaker chooses the means himself - PowerPoint, posters, blackboard, etc. or nothing at all.
And this semester I have got a group of really great 5-6 graders - they are super capable, willing and skillful. However, obviously, not skillful enough to deliver first-class presentations in English and speak freely for more than 15-20 seconds.

Yet I gave them the first presentation assignment last Saturday. In case you are not familiar with the foreign language level of kids at this age, I'm throwing in a picture. The huge dog illustrating all the skills you've got to have to deliver a presentation and the chihua-hua illustrating the set of skills they posses. Truly.
Now add the nervousness of public speaking (that would be those ears drooping over the little cuttie on the pic) and you'll probably come to the conclusion that it's not the best idea. I wasn't all that sure about it either. The bar should be high, yes. But not too high.

I asked one hero (really, I can call him that now) - Danya - to prepare a presentation on anything he wants: his lovely cat, favourite sport, hobby, favourite food, etc., and he chose to share one of his passions. Which is... Magic Tricks!
Can you believe that?
Trust me, I believed in him and thought he would handle speaking English in front of his classmates. I didn't expect a jaw-dropping performance, however.

Not only did he make a PowerPoint presentation, but also brought some "equipment" and showed us about 10 magic tricks right on the spot.. In English!
You could see his hands shaking, him trying to formulate ideas in English correctly and one would think Gosh, that's overwhelming. Nevertheless he dealt with anxiety just fine and made a great performance. I feel so proud of him! (although there is nothing I helped him with really) And also so glad that I decided to give that task after all.

And this post, I hope, will serve as a reminder to other teachers and myself too that kids are capable of lots of things indeed. We shouldn't limit their creativity and development zone by being afraid of failure or not believing in them. Well, definitely one cannot be successful all the time, and bumps will come along the road, here and there. But you'll never learn (and what is more important - broaden) your borders till you try.
And being a teacher I feel responsible for showing a child where his current benchmarks are and how to broaden them.

So dear colleagues, here is what I want to tell you:

Broaden your students' boarders ;)

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Motivation and Reward Systems to Implement

Not only has the new school year started, but it’s already been two weeks, which means two lessons with each group for me. And I’ve been really eager to start posting at least once a week in summer, but procrastination and lack of self-pushing didn’t let me do that.

In short, I was lucky to be a part of two camps – one two-week regular camp, where my colleague-partner and I were leaders of the youngest team and where I taught English 3 hours a day. I doubt I will describe this experience in detail as it’s not concerned with teaching English that much, it concerns working with kids though and therefore I might mention that time period here and there. What I really want to say about that camp is that I was genuinely happy. Every day of it. I loved all of my kids and felt truly overjoyed about the whole process.

The second camp was only 5-day long and was completely devoted to English. 4 teams and 4 team leaders, 8 teachers, our great boss and English every second of the camp = English Incubator. I was a teacher of project-management lessons, so it was kind of CLIL even. I will definitely devote a post to the English Incubator itself some time later. No doubt I loved every moment of it as well.
But that’s enough of “How I spent my summer”. I’d love to share something more up to date with you.

This semester I have 3 groups (3-4 graders, 5-6 graders and Intermediate) on Saturdays and 2 Elementary groups on Sundays. And I decided I should test two motivation approaches and see how each of them works.

1) English Journey Passport
I’ll start out by describing the approach I have with Saturday groups. I managed to create and English Journey Passport (here is the link for you to download the whole set). And here are some pages for you to take a preview look at.
The concept itself: every lesson we travel to a new place in England, Scotland or Wales. We go from South to North, learning a bit about each city we visit. When child visits a city = attends a lesson, he/she receives a new page for his Passport.

Page #2 – Student info page + space for drawing personal coat of arms or group’s coat of arms if you decide to spend time on creating one

Page #3 – motivational quote (can be any number actually, I’m planning to give it to students right in the middle of the course)
Page #last – brick wall where I’ll post coats of arms of the cities for every lesson that student attended
City Pages:
Students fill in
·        - the date
·        - name of the city
·        - an activity he/she liked most/least at the lesson; some impression of the lesson
·        - new words
Teacher fills in
·        - homework battery bar (color the number of slots according to the completion and accuracy level of h/w done)
·        - lesson activity slot (I give stickers which say great/good/try harder/you can do much better; actually any way to note how active student was at the lesson would do. You can have just three colors - active green, so-so yellow and passive red – and fill the circle with the appropriate)
·        - special achievements (to praise any distinguishing activity, e.g. “wrote the most creative story”, “made no mistakes in listening tasks”, “won in a vocab game”)
·        - new words (so it’s either you gluing a list of words students are supposed to learn from the lesson or them writing 5-10-15 new words they learned at the lesson).

I also have my personal info (mobile phone and e-mail) at the bottom of the page, near the envelope picture so that students and parents can contact me in case of any questions. You can adjust the pages to your personal needs using any visual redactor. To create the pages I used an awesome free web-site

2) As for the Sunday groups, I’m implementing something I have already tried before, and which I learned about from a great colleague of mine – Ksenia ( Each student made/drew/printed out his/her own image on a small piece of paper. And every lesson I stick them to the board chart at level “1”. Being active and giving answers at the lesson, students gain points and move up the chart. Those who reach 10 get a small prize at the end of the lesson (stickers or sweets).
Furthermore, I keep the record of all the points gained by each student at every lesson. And I will sum up all the personal results at the lesson 16 and reward the student who earned the most points with some cool stuff (some educational and fun stuff, I haven’t decided on that yet:))