Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How To Get On Board With Historical Fiction in Your Classroom?

Hissing steam pours over a train car as a war-weary soldier in a faded Union blue uniform bids his girl a tearful goodbye; the train slowly pulls away taking the young man to the coming massacre at Antietam. At the Versailles palace, jewels from a nervous young queen's elaborate gown scatter light around a room full of onlookers. Horse-drawn carriages clomp over cobblestone streets of 18th century London as icy sheets of rain crash around young children shivering outside a factory.

The American Civil War lasted from 1861-1865 and resulted in 620,000 deaths. Marie Antoinette was married on May 16, 1770 at Versailles. Child labor flourished in the United Kingdom during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Which of these sentences captured your attention? Which provides an image that will interest students? The first paragraph contains sentences from historical fiction. The second shows the types of sentences in a historical text.

Historical fiction is an entertaining and, more importantly, effective educational genre that can be used to great effect in social studies classrooms. When most students become adults, they'll glean their knowledge about history from historical fiction in both books and film. Social studies teachers who take advantage of this fact and teach students how to evaluate historical fiction will be helping students attain skills to use for a lifetime.

Incorporating historical fiction into the social studies classroom is easy. Books and films exist for nearly every historical topic imaginable. Whether the class is studying the Suffragists, World War II, or the Dalai Lama, teachers can captivate students with historical fiction. Use novels to bring specific events to life, or finish a unit with a historical fiction film. Worksheets for historical fiction leads students to analyze the work from the perspectives of both history and fiction. The can show how the genre uses the elements and devices of fiction, drama, and cinema.

Have students compare the realities of the era or the event being studied with the fictionalized version. What was accurate? What wasn't? This can be done by students working alone or in groups, in-class or as homework, as a writing or as a creative project culminating in a class presentation.

By teaching students that books and films are never the final word on any situation, teachers will be giving students one of the most important life skills around: a critical eye. By requiring students in middle school or high school to use a scholarly approach for analyzing historical fiction, teachers will give their students the skills needed to become an engaged and interested learner.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Planning an Effective Lesson

As an ORDIT registered driving instructor trainer for one of the driving schools in Nottingham I regularly teach prospective driving instructors how best to teach learner drivers. This series of articles is written for driving instructors who wish to improve their teaching performance and also for trainee instructors who are preparing for the part 3 examination of instructional ability. In this article we will look at planning an effective lesson.

As a driving instructor it is essential that lessons are properly planned in order to make the best use of available time and ensure that the pupil is making their way through the syllabus thoroughly. It is helpful for trainee instructors to write out a lesson plan using bullet points to make sure all main elements of the subject are covered. This can be secured to the dashboard for easy reference.

If this is your first lesson with a pupil make sure you greet them and check their provisional driving licence. If they don't have one then you are not insured so don't forget to check. Ask if they are nervous and try to put them at ease by discussing any issues they may have, make eye contact with the pupil and be upbeat. Let them know that it isn't unusual to be nervous on a first driving lesson.

It is important to state the aims and objectives for the lesson. Make sure they are realistic and within the pupil's ability. A more experienced pupil will require greater challenge so make sure there is a thorough recap of the last lesson to set the benchmark for the current lesson. If no aims and objectives are stated then the pupil may regard the lesson as just driving about and wasting time. Make sure the pupil is focused on something specific.

If the lesson is about a new topic then a briefing will be required. Make sure the brief is reasonably short as pupils are usually keen to get on the move. All important elements of the topic should be covered with a few questions thrown in to make sure the pupil is involved and that the information you give is understood. Visual aids and diagrams are particularly helpful during briefings.

Once on the move it is important to select a route which matches the abilities of the pupil and gives opportunities to cover the topic discussed in the brief. If you are teaching roundabouts then head for where the roundabouts are. Avoid routes that are too busy or complex but also avoid ones that are too simple for experienced pupils. This requires a good amount of forward thinking by the instructor. On route make sure the main topic is covered as much as possible but be flexible enough to change the focus of the lesson if the pupil is having difficulties in areas previously covered.

At the end of the lesson give a thorough debrief with plenty of pupil involvement. The debrief is the part that the pupil takes away with them and judges the success of the lesson by. If they have done well give plenty of positive feedback, If they have difficulties then make sure these are discussed in a positive light. Nobody wants to leave a driving lesson feeling down about it.

Friday, February 10, 2012

How Educating Young Minds?

Some people enter college knowing exactly what they want to study, while others are at a loss. If you fit into the second category, the best way to decide is to look at what you love the most. Perhaps you adore kids and your favorite job in high school was babysitting, but you want to go on a different, more involved path. In that case, you should look into an early education degree.

The subjects themselves in early education are not particularly difficult. There may need to be some revisiting to exactly what went on in the second grade, but learning style is very important too. How will you react to students? How will you relate the things you teach them so that they better understand? This is the first time children venture to create things such as sentences and stories, so they will need the most guidance here.

The first few years of school are a wave of new material and practices. Not only do children have subjects to learn, but they also need to learn how to learn. Developmental strategies are covered in courses for the early education degree. You will end up taking one class for each subject you would teach, such as "Teaching Mathematics."

Parents have probably started this process already with their children using instructional toys and practice. However, these children must also get used to learning in a shared environment, and teachers must understand how to help the transition. For a child, even something as basic as raising his or her hand could be difficult to comprehend and do on a regular basis. Children must also learn what it means to have structured days in the classroom and be exposed to a lot of material in one day.

Development is most important at this stage of a child's life. If children do not get comfortable with a certain learning style that works for them they could get left behind. If they are unable to work in a classroom with other kids, they could need individual help. This is why it is incredibly important to ensure the growth of every child.

The classroom is such a strange introduction for children because of the educational as well as the social aspects. Suddenly children are able to see their friends every day, all day, and must listen to the instructions of teacher instead of their parents. This could lead to more distractions that would hinder their development.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Teaching English in India

India is a country of many religions and beliefs. It is one of the most majestic countries of this world. There are many languages that are spoken in this part of the world like Hindi, English, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu and Marathi etc. People who have a good knowledge of English are treated with utmost respect in India. The demand for English speaking persons is increasing day by day. The demand is due to the mushroom growth of many multinational companies.

If you have a passion for teaching abroad then India is the place where you should explore the teaching opportunities. There are plenty of teaching opportunities available in India and for most of these; a TEFL certificate is a must. TESOL or TEFL Certification Course is a Three week intensive onsite initial Teacher training course. This is a widely popular course which would equip you with all the necessary education to handle the responsibilities of a teaching job abroad. If you love teaching, love to mix with people of different religions then India is the place for you.

English teachers are in great demand in India and people treat the teachers with a lot of respect. Besides getting a job in the government sector, qualified EFL teachers can get a job with the help of various voluntary placement agencies. To get a good job, one must have a degree in the field of education or a good deal of teaching experience, as well as a TEFL or similar certificate is usually necessary.

TEFL certificate holders can get a good salary depending on the kind of experience he/she possesses. Several schools offer furnished accommodation to the qualified persons. There are usually 6 working days in a week so if you planning to come to India then be prepared to teach for six days a week.

If you are not in a mood to get a permanent job then there are several contractual job opportunities which you can find with the help of the placement agencies in India. Time period of the contract can extend up to 1 year or more. A minimum experience of two years or more is required in most of the cases.

The working conditions in India are good and you can be placed mostly in the rural areas or villages. The wonderful scenery of Indian villages, its mesmerizing culture and friendly people will make your stay here some thing to remember all your life. The best thing you will find in India is the Indian food. India is famous for its spices and as a result Indian food is prepared with lots of spices and tasted spicy and delicious. Besides you can enjoy a wide variety of foods. Indians have a great culture and while living in India, you can be a part of the important Indian festivals like Holi, Diwali, Id, Dusshera, Christmas etc.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Teaching English As a Second Language to Adults

If you will be working with adult learners of English, start by assessing their needs. Many English as a Second Language students know what they want to learn. At the beginning their needs will most likely be "survival" phrases (i.e. Where is the bathroom? How much does it cost? Traffic sign reading.). Then they will need basic functional English for filling out job applications, getting medical care, and signing their child up for school.

Ask your students to identify what they want to learn by using any of the following methods or a combination of them.

1. Have the students look through their textbook or picture dictionary and place Post It Notes on five pages with the information they think is most important. 
2. Have students check off things they want to learn on a pictorial list depicting different activities (grocery shopping, reading a note from school, filling out a driver's license application, job applications, etc). 
3. Show students a pictorial strip illustrating three reasons why Antonio wants to learn English; then brainstorm with the class and substitute their reasons for learning English.

This gives the students a voice in their instruction and makes the content relevant to their lives. It also gives you a chance to evaluate what skills your students have already and what they need to strengthen.

Once you know what your students hope to achieve, use the principles of adult learning. Adults are problem solvers, self-directed, and disciplined. They already know how to think and they know how to learn new things. They will want to know why something needs to be learned and that it is applicable to their life.

Language tasks involve integrating the four language skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening. Plan your classroom time such that all four skills are used in every class session. Learners find this engaging approach reinforces each skill. Include field trips to give your students a chance to practice with you close at hand for assistance. Visit a museum, grocery store, post office, restaurant, or library.

There are a number of classroom activities which provide useful practice prior to class outings. Try an assortment of these activities to stimulate interest and discussions.

Dialogues associated with key activities. Start with simple scripted three-line dialogues.


I would like a hamburger, please. 
With pickles? 
Yes, thank you.

Next, have students substitute vocabulary in the dialogue, on cloze worksheets, during role play, or dictations. For more information on cloze worksheets and how to use them, see my article titled "Cloze Worksheets - What They Are and How to Make Them".

Build Vocabulary. Practice vocabulary with flash cards, concentration games, labeling, vocabulary journals, picture dictionaries, and bingo activities. Homework exercises can include other word games. Word searches build word recognition and standard letter pattern recognition. Crossword puzzles match definitions to words.

Class Surveys. Class surveys involve students questioning their fellow students and recording the information on a form. Questions can be of this type, "What is your last name?", "Where do you live?", "What month were you born?" Or students can be directed to find someone who likes ice cream or who comes from South Korea. In this case, students must ask class members questions in the form "Do you like ice cream?" or "Do you come from South Korea?" Answers can be collected and presented on a graph or list as appropriate. Lists can be alphabetized.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Virtual Learning Environments In Primary Schools

Although the idea of having Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) has been steadily growing in popularity over the last few years, the actual use of VLEs in many educational institutions, especially primary schools, has not really taken off. Ofsted blames a black of enthusiasm and peer support from teachers and learners for the lack of development on VLE initiatives, but there may be a wider issue to contend with, especially when it comes to how few primary schools have adopted VLEs as part of their everyday management.

VLEs are designed to allow learners and staff to access a wide variety of learning materials through specially designed computer systems. Resources commonly found on VLEs, especially in university and college environments, include notes and handouts, practice tests or exams, PowerPoint presentations, video clips and links to useful websites.

Ofsted's report on VLEs found that they were still a relatively new concept which represented only a very small (and in many cases non-existent) aspect of learning. Colleges and universities were found to be making the most use of VLEs, while primary schools were lagging furthest behind.

The main problem in primary schools is the lack of a so-called "technology champion" - normally a key staff member who gets to grips with the idea, sees the benefits and works to help colleagues do the same in order to get whatever it is adopted in the school.

Most VLEs are designed for use by secondary or higher education institutes, with large amounts of storage, complex timetabling systems and a relatively streamlined appearance. This makes "off the shelf" VLE solutions eminently unsuitable for primary schools. Aside from the fact that most VLEs are priced out of the range of the average primary school due to the extensive features and storage (essential for secondary and higher education, but unwanted price padding for primary), their interfaces and functionality are fundamentally unusable by 4-11-year-olds. What use is a VLE which the pupils cannot access?

A primary school teacher does not want to add VLE updates to his or her already extensive workload. Who wants to enter a big list of marks twice? The mark of a proper primary school VLE is that it should simplify the job of the teacher while being easily accessible to pupils and parents. Big buttons, colourful graphics and easy-to-understand instructions are needed for younger students. Simple and easy administration which reduces workload rather than increasing it is needed for teachers and school admin staff.

Consider a primary school teacher, Miss Thompson, with a class of thirty pupils. Each time she wants to set homework for them, even a simple task like practicing spelling, Miss Thompson has to photocopy thirty task sheets, pin them into thirty homework books, and then later trudge through twenty-nine or twenty-eight returns books to see who has failed to return their work.

Most VLEs will then also require poor Miss Thompson to log in and do electronically the same thing she just did by hand in order to keep the admin system up to date. Her workload has been increased, if not doubled, by the new technology, so she is quite justified in not being a big fan of it! What's worse is that none of her pupils or their parents bother looking at the VLE because it is far too complicated and looks like it was designed for a university, what with all the greyed-out buttons marked "timetable" and "practice exams."

Now let's compare Miss Thompson's experience with a different VLE, which is not an adapted or trimmed down version of something originally made for secondary education or universities and colleges. This is a primary school VLE, designed and built carefully from the ground up to meet the needs of primary school pupils, teachers and parents.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Can You Teach Your Toddler to Read? Should You?

At four years old I was primed and ready for the world of academia. I loved books - an inheritance from my wonderfully bookish Mom. I knew enough of the letters to write my OWN name on the Library Card Application! And, well, I had new shoes. What more does a lil lady need? Kindergarten was going to be my oyster.

But no! Day ONE! There he was... "Kebin" could read! He was trotted up to the front of the room, every two seconds it seemed, to read the 'small print' for the class. Boy, oh BOY, that burned me up! It still does all these years later.

The fact of the matter is that old 'Kebin' had older brothers, and during the previous year, while the younger brother had been laid up for quite some weeks, parents and older brothers had read to him. Kev was a bright toddler with few distractions, so he paid attention. Once the family realized he was getting it, they worked in earnest. By the time September arrived, Kev was reading fluently at a 2nd or 3rd grade level.

Kev was never bored. It seemed to me that every day there was something he read. He 'always' got to hold the pointer as the class worked its way through Spot and Puff. We went to Catholic School, so there were prayers and stories of the saints to read, and Kev 'always' got to do it. He was the one appointed to the "Task of Honor" - opening the classroom door and politely greeting visitors. Every time he said, "Good Afternoon and Welcome," I'd cringe.

I was so jealous my fingernails must have turned green! I indignantly demanded to know why I hadn't gotten sick so they would have been forced to teach ME to read. Mom fed my angry insistence on learning right NOW. She got out the books, the pencils and the paper and set about to teach me. By Halloween I'd caught up - and could handle those letters and words as well as Kev.

To tell the truth, in the thirteen years Kevin and I went to school together I never DID get a clear lead on him academically. None of us did. Heaven KNOWS we tried! He was a good, conscientious student [who got the lead in the play EVERY year, the bum!], and now he is a busy lawyer, a good Dad and still a great friend.