Why Choose Progressive Schools?

As mentioned in the previous post I have been back from traveling – and I know it’s not supposed to be an excuse, but I have to admit I neglected this blog for a week! Eeps! Exactly a week  ago I was eating brownies at the airport!

Anyway, the recent Philippine trip was short. Too short that I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do, like hangout with family, do some volunteer work in Raya (previous school I worked at which is just a happy place, full stop), chill at hot springs and do some wakeboarding. Everything was rush rush. Lesson now is, book a longer trip, so that I can do everything!

I mentioned Raya School and it being a happy place. It is.  It is a remarkable school in Naga City, offering a very modern take on educating children. It is a progressive school and as a fan of all things innovative and helpful – I really like it.

Now what is a progressive school? Buzzfeed helps us understand it in a hilarious way, but it’s true. The article implies that progressive education is a movement made by hippie parents teaching their children to rebel and love nature and be weird but it’s not entirely true. It’s a reaction towards the standard, mainstream, traditional education where the teacher is the authority and exams are the end all and be all of the child’s ability.

I love that idea where education is practical and not tests-based. Don’t get me wrong, as a kid I aced exams easily but I knew I wasn’t good enough, that my perfect scores don’t mean I’m perfect (I didn’t have any friends so maybe that’s why I thought I was far from perfect lol). One of the key moments in my early childhood education was when I got a perfect score in my science finals test in grade five (taxonomic classification – ha!) but I knew my teacher didn’t know what a blue green algae is. That’s the time when I started distrusting teachers, and school for that matter. Is it really worth it? What’s the point? I mean, my parents aren’t telling me that corals are animals and they belong in phylum coelenterata, you know?

Add to the fact that I was really poor in rote learning. I was one of those rare children who’d rather have essay tests because I can fully express my thoughts given a free rein of thinking. I was a confident speaker and one of my teachers said I didn’t give a fuck in my essays – and I think that gave me the confidence to speak my thoughts and my ideas as a person. I knew I passed scholarships because I can communicate well, like in instances when I’m a mayor of a city and the problem was overpopulation – this was my make or break question at the entrance interview for the Science High School – I answered arcologies because I played with Sim City 2000 then. Gaming helps, I tell you that. I owe Sim City my life, come to think of it.

Progressive schools are student-centered, creative and open. They teach children critical thinking skills, emphasize self-direction and teamwork but also collaboration and communication – not to mention using digital technology. As a teacher, I consider myself not an authority but a guide. I mean, I know I don’t know everything but I also know I know more than them because I have life experiences. My point is, I want to equip my children with life skills and the love for life-long learning. I know I sound like a brochure for your school but tell you what, if I have a child of my own, I can’t care less if she knows about Schrodinger’s cat at age 11 if all she wants is to make a perfect apple pie!

I can go on and on about how making a perfect apple pie is more advantageous in life skills and is cross-curricular across the board compared to learning about Schrodinger’s cat but I will spare you the torture. In order for you to understand it more, here is a table (Source: Robert G. Peters, with thanks to the books Schools of Quality, by John Jay Bonstigl, and In Search of Understanding, by Martin C. Brooks and Jaqueline Grennon, Independent Schools.)

Traditional Progressive
School is a preparation for life. School is a part of life.
Learners are passive absorbers of information and authority. Learners are active participants, problem solvers, and planners.
Teachers are sources of information and authority. Teachers are facilitators, guides who foster thinking.
Parents are outsiders and uninvolved. Parents are the primary teachers, goal setters, and planners, and serve as resources.
Community is separate from school, except for funding. Community is an extension of the classroom.
Decision-making is centrally based and administratively delivered. Decision-making is shared by all constituent groups.
Program is determined by external criteria, particularly test results. Program is determined by mission, philosophy, and goals for graduates.
Learning is linear, with factual accumulation and skill mastery. Learning is spiral, with depth and breadth as goals.
Knowledge is absorbed through lectures, worksheets, and texts. Knowledge is constructed through play, direct experience, and social interaction.
Instruction is linear and largely based on correct answers. Instruction is related to central questions and inquiry, often generated by the children.
Disciplines, particularly language and math, are separated. Disciplines are integrated as children make connections.
Skills are taught discretely and are viewed as goals. Skills are related to content and are viewed as tools.
Assessment is norm-referenced, external, and graded. Assessment is benchmarked, has many forms, and is progress-oriented.
Success is competitively based, derived from recall and memory, and specific to a time/place. Success is determined through application over time, through collaboration.
Products are the end point. Products are subsumed by process considerations.
Intelligence is a measure of linguistic and logical/mathematical abilities. Intelligence is recognized as varied, includes the arts, and is measured in real-life problem-solving.
School is a task to be endured. School is a challenging and fun part of life.

I suppose you can say it is the Montessori-style but geared for older children. Some people call it Holistic Learning. It is curiosity-driven, but I love to think that this will be the future of education. It does not stop at elementary, nor high school. When you instill the love for learning (or reading) in a person, you improve a society. They will be better, responsible and kind adults that will improve and enhance our world as we know it.

PGCE Do’s and Don’ts

This article originally appeared on Cassidy Education Blog

Hey guys, I am back. Sorry I missed out on you, but I have gone to the Philippines to fix some banking papers I need for summer as I cannot open a bank account here. It was a strange sensation going back home but I’ll explain it in another post. It got too busy and my mother got attacked by a dog :-/

As i am back and it’s school day tomorrow, let’s go back to the academe. Cassidy Education did another fantastic post and I bookmarked it for future speeches and as a daily pick-me-up when work gets too boring or difficult. PGCE is your ticket to becoming a teacher under UK law. It’s not easy but many people do it! Here are some pointers for you to consider when undertaking such a role.

PGCE: Cassidy Education Do’s and Don’ts!

So, you have decided to complete your PGCE, first thing you need to consider – it won’t be easy.  In fact it is a hard and intensive course, especially when you consider the academic requirements alongside working on the job, it can be quite a daunting prospect. Of course, it is likely to be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. You will experience newfound skills firsthand, whilst making life-long friends as well as finding out your new passion for work – in a job you actually love doing.

How you tackle the PGCE year is ultimately your choice but we’ve laid down some of our recommendations – here are our do’s and don’ts:

Teaching Practice:

As the heading suggests, the PGCE placement is for you to ‘practice’ your ability as a teacher.  You are not expected to be the ‘finished article’ and perfect at everything, no one expects that. What they will expect is for you to be:

  • responsive to constructive criticism
  • well prepared
  • a hard worker
  • improving
  • a team member
  • able to learn from mistakes

Understand that you will improve and gain confidence quickly, make sure you give yourself the time you need to learn and practice your craft. Remember, this is your chance to guage yourself as a teacher and how you want to progress.

Top tips: Observe your peers, inside and beyond your subject. Get involved in the after school activities, leave your comfort zone from time to time – you’ll be surprised what you may learn.

Academics:

Even if you found your university degree a breeze, be assured you will find your PGCE assignments demanding. This will be more so for graduates from an engineering / technical background, as they may be less used to writing reports or long, drawn-out essays.  If this is you do not worry, help is at hand!  Universities usually have great support for helping with reading and writing skills – make sure you use it!

The Standards:

These are the Teachers’ Standards for use in schools in England since September 2012. The standards define the minimum level of practice expected of trainees and teachers from the point of being awarded qualified teacher status (QTS).

The Teachers’ Standards are used to assess all trainees working towards QTS, and all those completing their statutory induction period.

We are confident the last thing you want to do is spend your weekends digging through your work trying to catalogue everything for a check on Monday morning. You will be well advised to collate your work for each of the sections as you progress through the year. Your mentor will check on your work from time to time, and you will want to demonstrate a well-organised and presentable system. We recommend that you file your work weekly; this will surely save you many lost weekends.

Professionalism:

It can take time to adjust to an expectation of ‘professionalism’ especially if you are fresh out of university. You will have to quickly become accustomed to it however, as students, teachers and parents will all expect you to be professional in everything you do, and it’s essential for a successful and rewarding PGCE year.

You will demonstrate your professionalism through your knowledge and understanding of your subject(s), the learning process, your values and the development of you and your students.

Top tip: If in doubt, ask your peers, tutors and mentors for guidance, they will only be too happy to help.

Life Study Balance:

Make sure you find a balance between your PGCE and other things you enjoy doing, don’t give up your life; you’ll gain a lot more from the course that way!

Remember to:

  • find time for family and friends.
  • invest in lots of stationery (especially lever-arch files)
  • manage your time and stay organised
  • be creative, patient and flexible

YouTube Kids App

I use technology in the classroom a lot. It makes my work easier and makes my class engaging, especially to little children who are generally visual in nature. May it be a projector or whiteboard, I need a screen and internet to make sure I deliver my learning objectives well. Also, it’s fun.

There is nothing worse than using YouTube in class only to be cut by an advert from L’Oreal or Krung Sri Bank. Like most teachers, I use YouTube a lot to teach, especially with my 2-3 year olds before when we used to sing a lot! Having adverts, trolls (on the comments – but I’m lucky my kids can’t read yet) and suggestions are some pitfalls that you can have as a teacher when using YouTube.

There’s great news though! YouTube has a new app called YouTubeKids. This is useful for parents and teachers alike as it will sift through inappropriate comments, and will only show posts that are child-friendly. This is a big step for YouTube, and I hope Google will develop a YouTube app that is geared toward teaching. The app with its kid-friendly design will work on tablets and smartphones and it’s free. It also has a built-in parent timer so that you can control how much your child gets to watch online.

Job Hunting: How To Make Your CV Stand Out

Job hunting is a tedious task, especially if you are tailoring each application for very specific positions. Whilst you have to present your best in a matter of a single (or two) pieces of paper, there are some things that you have to remember when you submit your CV.

They say it only takes 20 seconds for an employer to decide whether your CV is for the bin or not. Unfortunately, that is true. My mother has been an HR Department Head for an international organization for long time in her career, and she confirmed this.

Lucky for me, I got her to teach me how to stand out from the pile of applicants. Here are some things that mama knows, and trust me, even if some of these points seem to be common sense, you will be surprised on the quality of CVs she received.

Use a single, standard photo

Choose a photo that would be your default one, no matter how you’re tailoring your job hunt is. You don’t need to stand in front of a black board if you’re applying for a teacher, or behind a shop counter if you wanted to participate in sales. Choose an ID picture quality photograph because that’s what it is – identification. Boring white background for the picture? You bet. It’s the first thing that the employer sees so you better make the right impression.

Use a professional-sounding email

If your email is cottontail55@yahoo.com, well, employers will think that you don’t make an effort to be professional, or at least, change from personal to work email, which is worse. You’re definitely not making a good impression here.

Research on the company you’re working for

At this point, you’ll show dedication and resourcefulness to your future employer then. Tailoring your cover letter is a serious task so do some research on the company, on your head of office. Figure out how you can link your skills and experiences so that you know you’re a perfect fit. Be personal and use the name of the person you’re addressing to rather than stick to the usual “Dear Sir/Madam”. It all helps.

Practice brevity

Keep it short and sweet, as employers don’t have time for bullshit – they don’t need to know you’ve won Spelling Bee 2003 in Barangay Santa Cruz. Make sure the information you put in is relevant and job-related. Make it easier for the employer to have a one page CV and letter. My mom says CV is like a trailer of the movie – the interview is the more important part to decide if you’re a perfect fit.

Attach files

And also, name it correctly. I am guilty of this. After spending A LOT OF TIME tailoring my cover letters, I sometimes forget to attach my CV. I am so lucky that gmail has that command to remind you if you forgot to attach something. Helps a lot!

That’s it. Short and sweet so as not to take your time if you’re looking for a job. Good luck!

Why Teach Abroad?

Teaching, they say, is a noble profession.

I say teaching is like any other profession: it requires focus, professionalism, sacrifice and sense of humor. Where the noble part came from, I don’t know but for me that’s making the teaching profession look better than it should.

But I know I can say this of teaching though, that it’s not stagnant. Every day is a different day, it’s very social as you get to talk to people (little people), it’s creative because you can twist a lesson to suit your teaching style (not fully creative though as you have parameters to work on, thanks to the curriculum), and you get to be loved by children – priceless! Then of course, travel.

Before I started teaching, I thought the biggest perk was the holidays. I was wrong. Teaching proved to be quite stressful that you actually need to have holidays – like the children need holidays. It’s not a perk – it’s a must. But the other reasons are totally valid, it feels like you’re in the service sector but it’s more personal as you get to develop minds and people.

I grew up in an international setting and I knew I wanted to travel the world. I just didn’t know how. I tried to be a doctor because my psychiatrist-uncle travels around the world working for the United Nations, and it’s always an all expenses paid trip. I loved looking at this display cupboard full of turtle sculptures from Indonesia, glasses from Czech Republic, paintings from Japan – I want that.

So I went to medical school armed with a very different motivation compared to my classmates’ and of course, I flunked. Then I tried teaching in an international school. From medical school and the government office full of locals and the usual Filipino bureacracy, international school teaching for me was back to feeling at home. I can be weird and not judged because, hey, it’s cultural (I’m such a prick). I met various people there that honed my worldliness (hahaha). I get to learn about their culture and learned to be open and tolerant, and not to mention admire the diversity of it all!

My headteacher was from Honduras, the deputy principal was American, the English teacher was British, my Filipino friend there was an ASEAN tae kwon do athlete, the other one was brilliant SEN teacher/cougar and my best friend there was filthy rich and teaching was her hobby! It was colorful and fun. We were housed in a middle of a jungle and all we did after school was cook, go to the beach and play Nintendo wii.

In the next international I worked in, I met Ash. I grew from hanging out with friends to hanging out with my man, who happens to be of a different nationality from me! It is all about growth, and I’m lucky that I have someone I can share intimate details with and learn a different perspective while talking about it.

International schools put a premium on the diversity of cultures that there are always festivals to make the foreigners feel at home. You have to consider that these people left their comfort zone and that is one heck of a difficult thing to do, so you give them stuff to do and things to enjoy, and of course, more money.

I learned that everything changes when your title is an “expat”.

So that’s what I did. I moved countries.

It’s not the easiest thing to do because you just left your whole world but it’s a goddamn great experience to be treated really well (read: spoiled): We are always asked what we need, the owner of the schools treated us to different places (in Hatyai), we never got no for an answer whenever we make a request, may it be school supplies or travel itineraries. It’s so easy to get what you want because the company doesn’t want you unhappy because if you are, you might go home – and they spent a fortune on you! So they have to have a return of investment from you (which means the goodness you experience is fake lol).

However, to sum it all up, teaching internationally is a dream because I can develop my profession in strange and exciting places I wouldn’t thought I’d be in. In international schools, I work with excellent resources and having highly motivated kids make it easier to work. I also work with very compentent teachers because international schools have excellent standards. My adaptation and EQ skills are constantly tested. I know I am a more patient person now. And I can save more now, plus I have enjoy a different kind of respect from the locals, so that’s good. And of course I enjoy a lifestyle that enables me to dream and travel!

At the end of the day it is still a job, and because of the perks, you have to work hard to get to that level. But if you love what you’re doing, or at least you’re doing it for a purpose, you know you will do whatever it takes to be happy, and this is what it is.

Teachers and Teaching: Common Misconceptions

Oh to be a teacher. It’s both a bane and boon. There are people who tell me that they can’t teach because they can’t bear to be with children all the time and it’s too difficult to teach, yet there are also those who say teaching is the easiest job there is and is for backpackers who just want to finance their travels.

As a teacher, I can say that both are truths about the teaching profession and for teachers. But you can also say that for any job: it’s difficult, it’s for lazy people, that they’re only doing it for money, etc. I believe that teaching has more unfair misconceptions though.

Cassidy Education (aka my new favourite education website – useful for those of you looking for teaching jobs too) has enlisted the most common misconceptions about teachers, and I’m sharing it to all of you because it’s a great read, meaning it hits the right spots! Before I became I teacher, I have to admit I judged teachers too, but now that I’m doing it, I know teachers should be respected (like any profession) and this article sums it up pretty well. I swear I muttered “YEAH!”, “so true” while reading, because personally, I hate the “Teaching is easy” misconception. Try keeping your cool while you have 30 odd children either bored or asking for your attention to listen to a grammar lesson! Anyway, you will know what I’m talking about while reading this. Enjoy!

Teachers and Teaching: Common Misconceptions

by Ashley Andrews, originally appeared in the Cassidy Education Blog

Everyone seems to have an opinion on teachers and teaching, from what makes a good/bad teacher, how to teach, what to teach, why teach – the list is endless. Below we explore some of the most common misconceptions and why we believe they’re misconceptions.

Teachers can’t do, that’s why they teach

We hear the statement, “those who can’t do, teach?” all the time. Teachers do so much that it’s hard to believe this statement ever became common place.

Teachers need an in-depth knowledge of their subject and in order to engage their students daily, need to develop many skills, such as;

• adaptive classroom management methods
• have an approach that fosters students’ growth and progress
• provide personalised learning processes

As with all careers a certain set of competencies need to be developed and implemented daily to succeed.

It’s easy being a teacher

It’s easy to see why this is a common misconception. People often think teachers turn up for class at registration, then leave at 3pm and have the summer all to themselves. This is far from the truth.

In actuality, teachers have one of the most emotionally demanding jobs available, they are involved in the lives of their students every day. Teachers care and worry about their students well-being, academic attainment, family and home life, their friends and social lives, and their self confidence.

They invest in their students, dedicating a lot of their personal time honing their skills. The 8am- 3pm workday is fiction, and teachers regularly participate in whole-school activities like curriculum development, prepping lesson plans, marking, parent-teacher consultation and interaction, and after school activities.

Great teachers get great results

Parents and carers often believe teachers to be the only ones responsible for a students’ learning. Teachers are of course an integral part of this, but are definitely not the beginning and end.

Parents play a big role in the learning process, they need to be encouraging at home and show an interest. The biggest factor are the students themselves, if they are not prepared to engage in the subject matter, even if the teacher has delivered on their promise, the student still remains out of the learning process.

Teachers usually have a trick or two they’ll use to engage a disinterested student. A good teacher will attempt to make their lesson plans reflect the students’ interests, in an effort to connect them with the subject material. To further break down any barriers and to peak interest, a teacher should listen and allow students the time to share what is important to them. This element of classroom management becomes more important as an international school teacher, your students will often have very different backgrounds, cultures and experiences and will benefit greatly from a personalised approach to their learning process.

We hope the above helps to debunk a few of the myths and misconceptions about teachers and teaching and you enjoyed reading my blog.

10 Common Questions Teachers Are Asked During The Recruitment Process

I have had 5 workplaces in 5 years, so I think that kinda makes me an experienced job interviewee. Do you know that it’s prime time to look for teaching jobs right now? I know we have had the article How To Ace Your Job Interview but just let’s have another practice before you jump into that interview.

The following article is one of the best resources I have read regarding teaching job interviews. I found it on the teacher recruitment site called Cassidy Education. That blog has some useful articles (it’s new though, so you have to wait for it) on education, especially about SEN teaching. Anyway, here goes.

10 Common Questions Teachers Are Asked During The Recruitment Process

Originally posted on Cassidy Education 

In preparation for your interview, we’ve assembled some common questions that will likely come up during the interview process. See our list of hints and tips below:

Question #1 – I walk into your classroom during one of your lessons, what can I expect to see?

Possible responses:

  • Enthusiastic discussions
  • Clear progress being made both orally and written
  • Engaged students
  • Well-behaved and respectful students

When responding, elaborate on your experiences, achievements and student results.

Question #2 – Describe an account of when you have adopted a behaviour management policy and the effect this had on your students?

When providing your example, remember to explain why the need for the policy in the first place, how you implemented it and the response of the students.  It is also good to demonstrate your own growth from this experience and discuss how you could implement/adapt/improve such a policy in the future.

Question #3 – If I spoke to one of your colleagues, what would they say about you?

The question is really trying to get you to demonstrate your own contribution to school life, not just for students but your peers also.  For extra points you can detail how you wish to be viewed by your colleagues in the future, this is especially important if you are applying for a senior position.

Question #4 – Why is (insert any subject here) taught in schools?

This question looks obvious on the surface but it can be quite a difficult question to answer.  This is more evident when the subject is Maths or English etc as the answer appears obvious initially but when trying to validate the inclusion of said subject in the curriculum it can be very difficult to quantify.

Possible responses:

  • To enhance other subjects
  • Improve a student’s career prospects
  • Encourage independent learning
  • Develop skills (Literacy, numeracy, ICT, etc)
  • Promote self-discipline
  • Improve health and fitness

Your responses will of course be dependent on the subject you teach. Be honest and think outside of the box, provide realistic reasons and support with good examples of how your subject has enriched the life of your students.

Question #5 – Why do you want to work in special education?

Be honest and explain your reasons, remember that your interviewer is looking to see that you understand a need for education over just simply caring for students with Special Educational Needs.

Question #6 – Random question based on an inclusion in your CV.

This is another reason why your CV should always be up to date and only contain genuine qualifications and experience, that way you don’t need to prepare for this too much.  Be honest and answer fully, providing details and examples wherever necessary and possible.

Question #7 – What is it about our school that makes you want to work here?

It is important that you demonstrate to the interviewer you have done some background work about the school and you have specific reasons for wishing to join the school.  Initially you will need to scour their website to familiarise yourself with the school, their policies, campus, etc.  Pick out something that genuinely appeals to you and for extra points, identify some reasons based on your visit and experiences during the interview process.

Question #8 – What do you think students look for in teachers?

To be: fair and consistent, enthusiastic, humourous, passionate about their subject with an ability to involve everyone in the lesson and encourage contributions.

Question #9 – Can you evaluate your one-off lesson?

Teaching a lesson as part of the interview process is often a source of anxiety, but it shouldn’t be, it’s a great way for you to evaluate the school and for the interviewer to evaluate you.  The interviewer will want you to be honest and be self-critical when necessary but also recognises what went well.

Question #10 – What do we lose if we decide not to offer you the position?

This is the closing question often used by interviewers, they want you to sell yourself, let them know what you are about and how you can enhance their school. Remember to be confident and enthusiastic, this is your chance to close the deal.

Right! Now that you’re ready for the interview, let’s take a look at what jobs are currently available.  Click to view Live Jobs on Cassidy Education website or submit your CV so we can aid you in your search.

A Guide to Game-Based Learning

I am a fan of game-based learning. It makes the class fun not only for my kids but for me too. This makes the classroom more inviting and therefore more conducive to learning for the children.

I like games not only because it’s enjoyable in its barest sense, as play. Games in the classroom are so much more than that. They can be cues for assessment, especially in the children’s listening skills and following instructions. Games make way for cooperative learning too as they compete, create and share with other children for winning a prize – which also instills a value of goal setting, industry and teamwork.  It channels creativity because some games need to have creative strategies for teams to win! For me, gaming is the way forward, especially when you have an internet connection.

For you folks out there who share my gaming sentiments, this next article would be fantastic. As my teacher told me before, share the good things to your friends, and that’s what I’m doing now.

———————————

A Guide to Game-Based Learning

by Vicki Davis, originally published here

You want students to learn. Shall we play a game?

Absolutely!

But what is a game?

Game: a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.

Is Game-Based Learning the Same as Gamification?

Not exactly. Gamification is “applying typical elements of game playing (e.g., point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity.” Great classrooms often use both.

Every day in my classroom, I’m using the essentials: gamification elements, reward systems, and game-based learning. I’ve already covered 5 Ways to Design Effective Rewards for Game-Based Learning. Let’s learn how to pick the games.

Understanding Games

Powerful games in the classroom often include:

  • Multiple levels or challenges
  • A compelling or intriguing storyline
  • A personalized, unique experience for each learner
  • Rewards such as unlocking certain capabilities based upon achievements
  • Additional rewards and feedback from the teacher or classroom.

Tools to Analyze Game-Based Learning

As you choose games, you’ll want to mix up the games you use. These tools will help you analyze which works for you.

Computer Games vs. Simulations

Computer games are often fantasy based. Simulations are a form of computer game that simulates something happening in real life. Both are useful.

A simulation might have students dissect a body online, while a computer game that teaches the same thing would be Whack a Bone. Both can teach the bones and parts of the body. Dissection is more realistic than the game to “whack” the proper bone.

Single- vs. Multi-Player

In a single-player game, each student plays as an individual. There may be a leaderboard at the end, but they aren’t playing against or with other players inside the game.

Multi-player games include other players as either competitors or teammates.

For example, the AIC Conflict Simulation from the University of Michigan is a multi-player simulation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Students play the role of world leaders, and their mentors are grad students at the University of Michigan. Every single game is unique. The learning experience is powerful.

A single-player game, PeaceMaker, also simulates the Arab-Israeli conflict — however, it’s just the student against the computer. There are no unique elements determined by other players in the game, just the software.

Single-player games can be easier to play and coach, but I’ve gravitated toward at least one multi-player simulation per school year per course. Multi-player simulation environments require higher-order thinking. Students are analyzing, creating, and having to deeply understand their topic.

One of my favorite methods to amp up single-player games is creating teams. For example, using the typing speeds of my students, I create teams with the same average typing speed. These evenly-matched teams play their favorite typing game, Baron von Typefast. We add up all the scores, and the winning team receives a medal (as I play Olympic music). I’ve seen my eighth graders wear these all day long!

One-Time vs. Persistent Games

One-time games make fun bell ringers. Every time a student logs in, he or she starts over. A persistent game is a permanent game environment where the student achieves over multiple playing sessions.

Right now, my ninth graders are participating in the H&R Block Budget Challenge. In this persistent game, they have to create a budget, pay bills, and save money on the salary of a person who is just six months out of college. It goes along with the real calendar and will last from October through December. (Students can win real cash scholarships, which makes it even more intense.) If you coach a persistent game well, the game itself becomes the reward.

While students are playing the simulation game, I am still teaching with one-time games. This week I used a Tax Bingo game where students fill a bingo card by getting answers from their classmates. (Think of it as a massivethink-pair-share.)

Real-Life vs. Electronic Gaming

You can game in the physical classroom. Some gamers call this RL (real life) or IRL (in real life). For example, I invented an accounting game to use with a physical Monopoly board. As my students entered debits and credits, they produced financial documents. While electronic games are fast and easy, the physical classroom is a powerful place to use game-based learning.

Thematic Games with a Storyline

Some teachers like Michael Matera are using game-based learning every day. Every student is in a “house” or “clan,” and these groups compete for points all year long. (See Gamification in Education for more about this model.)

Preparation vs. On-the-Fly Game Play

Some formative assessment tools or games like Kahoot! require some preparation ahead of time. Socrative, another formative assessment tool with built-in games, has some “on-the-fly” tools that let teachers ask for answers without preparation.

Feedback vs. No Feedback

Teachers need data on gaps in knowledge. Many of today’s educational “games” have no feedback for parents or teachers. Look for games with good teacher feedback systems.

Where Do I Find the Games?

If you want to find great games, I recommend the Gamifi-ed wiki that my ninth graders compiled with the Master’s program students from the University of Alaska Southeast. (As an aside, we found a major disconnect between recommendations by app stores and the games that are actually the best for learning.)

Additionally, sites like Common Sense Media and Free Technology for Teachers are always featuring new games and simulations.

Game-Based Learning

Games have always been in the classroom, but improvements in technology have launched us forward. Not all games are alike, so be smart — but GAME ON!

ESL and Kindergarten: Do’s and Don’ts

When I started helping Teacher Bel in Raya School back in the Philippines, I was thrilled because I get to be a real teacher for 2-3 year olds even if it’s not a full time job. I was excited because it was new and challenging. Plus the children were cute and they give cuddles all the time!

Little did I know that kindergarten teaching would pave the way for my international career. In Thailand, my job was to teach 2-3 year olds the usual stuff: phonics, number recognition, letter recognition, etc. They did not have English as second language, in fact, they didn’t talk! This was a good-bad thing but I choose to consider the positive. I was teaching them English with the hope that they can use it practically in their toddler years. True enough, one of my kids with zero language when we started, got around to telling me, “Can I please have food?” and “Thank you” when the school ended for the year. I was so proud of him.

This article helped me in handling that class. I am now sharing it with you.

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Do’s & Don’ts For Teaching English-Language Learners

by Larry Ferlazzo, originally published in Edutopia

The number of English-Language Learners in the United States is growing rapidly, including many states that have not previously had large immigrant populations. As teachers try to respond to the needs of these students, here are a few basic best practices that might help. We have found that consistently using these practices makes our lessons more efficient and effective. We also feel it is important to include a few “worst” practices in the hope that they will not be repeated!

Modeling

Do model for students what they are expected to do or produce, especially for new skills or activities, by explaining and demonstrating the learning actions, sharing your thinking processes aloud, and showing good teacher and student work samples. Modeling promotes learning and motivation, as well as increasing student self-confidence — they will have a stronger belief that they can accomplish the learning task if they follow steps that were demonstrated.

Don’t just tell students what to do and expect them to do it.

Rate of Speech and Wait Time

Do speak slowly and clearly, and provide students with enough time to formulate their responses, whether in speaking or in writing. Remember, they are thinking and producing in two or more languages! After asking a question, wait for a few seconds before calling on someone to respond. This “wait time” provides all students with an opportunity to think and process, and especially gives ELLs a needed period to formulate a response.

Don’t speak too fast, and if a student tells you they didn’t understand what you said, never, ever repeat the same thing in a louder voice!

Use of Non-Linguistic Cues

Do use visuals, sketches, gestures, intonation, and other non-verbal cues to make both language and content more accessible to students. Teaching with visual representations of concepts can be hugely helpful to ELLs.

Don’t stand in front of the class and lecture, or rely on a textbook as your only “visual aid.”

Giving Instructions

Do give verbal and written instructions — this practice can help all learners, especially ELLs. In addition, it is far easier for a teacher to point to the board in response to the inevitable repeated question, “What are we supposed to do?”

Don’t act surprised if students are lost when you haven’t clearly written and explained step-by-step directions.

Check for Understanding

Do regularly check that students are understanding the lesson. After an explanation or lesson, a teacher could say, “Please put thumbs up, thumbs down, or sideways to let me know if this is clear, and it’s perfectly fine if you don’t understand or are unsure — I just need to know.” This last phrase is essential if you want students to respond honestly. Teachers can also have students quickly answer on a Post-It note that they place on their desks. The teacher can then quickly circulate to check responses.

When teachers regularly check for understanding in the classroom, students become increasingly aware of monitoring their own understanding, which serves as a model of good study skills. It also helps ensure that students are learning, thinking, understanding, comprehending, and processing at high levels.

Don’t simply ask, “Are there any questions?” This is not an effective way to gauge what all your students are thinking. Waiting until the end of class to see what people write in their learning log is not going to provide timely feedback. Also, don’t assume that students are understanding because they are smiling and nodding their heads — sometimes they are just being polite!

Encourage Development of Home Language

Do encourage students to continue building their literacy skills in their home language, also known as “L1.” Research has found that learning to read in the home language promotes reading achievement in the second language as “transfer” occurs. These “transfers” may include phonological awareness, comprehension skills, and background knowledge.

While the research on transfer of L1 skills to L2 cannot be denied, it doesn’t mean that we should not encourage the use of English in class and outside of the classroom.

Don’t “ban” students from using their native language in the classroom. Forbidding students from using their primary languages does not promote a positive learning environment where students feel safe to take risks and make mistakes. This practice can be harmful to the relationships between teachers and students, especially if teachers act more like language “police” than language “coaches.”

This is certainly not a complete guide — they are just a few of the most basic practices to keep in mind when teaching English-Language Learners (or, for that matter, probably any second language learner). What are more “do’s and don’ts” that you would add to the list?

Deaths in Schools: Suicides and Plagiarism

One of the saddest things in my adventures as a teacher is when a student dies. It is exceptionally so when the student committed suicide.

In my first year in teaching for a big American International School near Manila, a Korean student decided to end his young life. He was 16. He flunked his algebra exam, and he didn’t have family in the Philippines.

Last Saturday, my mother messaged me about an 18 year old student from a famed British school in Manila who ended his own life. Couldn’t care less to be honest, at the back of my head, Filipinos who go to that school are spoiled, rich, often from a political family or a showbiz family. But one of my good friends came to work there, and I even tried to work there, I can only say that that school is top tier, top notch and very respectable.

The kid allegedly jumped from a carpark building in Salcedo Village in Makati (where my boyfriend used to live, so quite familiar with the area!), and to his death. His family comes from a posh village a stone’s throw away, and when I was researching for it, learned that their family is my aunt’s neighbor in Makati (also very familiar with that area), and one article even said that the Barangay Council vouched for the student’s intelligence. My aunt is chairman of the council. How very familiar indeed.

Suicides come and go. Depression is bound to hit you at some point or another and if you can’t handle it, well, it makes to wanna jump towards your demise.That’s how I look at it. Some people, take a different spin on it, like blaming the teacher of the kid for his suicide. Like whaaaaat?

The parents say that they will acquire a hold departure order for the student’s British teacher as she reprimanded the kid for plagiarizing his writing assignment, and that was, according to them, is what made the kid’s fuse blow.

That is in no way right. First of all, plagiarism is WRONG. Full stop. It’s stealing. I understand where the kid is coming from, we were all at that one point in our lives where deadline is imminent and you can’t rephrase a damn paragraph, but is it my fault if you waited for the deadline? How come other students did it too? As a teacher, I’d  reprimand him too. I want my student’s to have integrity!

If the kid was smart as they say he is, then I’m pretty sure he’s cool about it, he knew what he was doing, as after all, he’s smart. Unless he was on drugs, which can make his behavior go bonkers. Then again, he can be just plain depressed and that made him bonkers. Why does the depression have to be blamed on the teacher though? Can he not have other problems?

I will quote the mother on this “Dapat sabihin kaagad ng school ang nangyari para masuportahan sa bahay o dapat nadoon kami sa meeting na ‘yon (We should have been told immediately what happened so we could support him at home or we should have been in the meeting [with the teacher]),”  (source) and I go, whut. He’s 18. He’s an adult. Being a Filipino though, 18 can still be pretty kiddie and the British teacher MAY have not realized that the student isn’t mature enough to take a very sensitive, intellectually-blowing reprimand (but mature enough to plagiarize – ha!), but yeah, understand it when the parents go, he’s still a kid. Maturity is relative after all.

It’s good that the school hasn’t issued a statement over this as it’s just, sorry – stupid. I am tempted to say sorry that I wasted your time on this but to tell the truth, we can all learn from this: quit plagiarizing, claim your mistakes, be kind to everyone. We all have our shit. Let’s all be giving.

Sources and Related Articles:

Family of fallen BSM student mulls charges vs teacher

British school student jumps to death in Makati

Troubled student jumps off Makati carpark building