Now that my sons are teenagers, it’s been a while since I’ve heard requests like that. But when they were young, even the most mundane events and tasks seemed to appeal to them as exciting experiences and learning opportunities.
All children learn, but some learn better, faster, and more easily than others. Certainly some learners are more able or less able, but a key difference in any learner’s acquisition of knowledge is motivation.
Motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation, or internalized motivation, is one in which learners find their own personal reasons for learning. Extrinsic, or externalized, motivation is when learners are driven by others’ ideas of what to learn, how to learn it, and how success in learning might be measured. A challenge for teachers is how to move extrinsically motivated learners to become intrinsically motivated ones. Achieving this shift fosters better attitudes toward learning and develops a culture of lifelong learning. Continue reading →
This is the last article in a four-part series on activities that foster physical activity in the classroom. I titled the series “Back to the Future” because my search for activities led me back to time-tested ones I began using years, even decades ago. At first I balked at reviving them; I confess that the razzle-dazzle of the new technology had a stronger pull on me. But when I saw how enthusiastically my class responded, I had to remind myself that although the interactive activities were old hat to me, they were novel to my students, who were accustomed to a teacher-centered learning environment, one in which they rarely, if ever, got out of their seats.
I chose the activities because they might benefit our physical health, but they may have improved our psychological health as well. I think we all enjoyed periodically taking our attention off the big screen at the front of the room and instead focusing on one another. After all, that people-to-people connection, not gliding desks or a high-tech console, is what makes a class great. It’s what has always mattered—and always will.
In previous newsletters, we took a look at six activities:
The Moving Line
Find Your Match
Line Up According To
Below are the final two activities, Find Someone Who and The One-Question Survey. Continue reading →
ESL instructor at SUNY Westchester Community College
The following blog post was written by Alexandra Lowe and originally published by TESOL International Association on June 3, 2015. It can also be accessed through the TESOL website.
At the recent TESOL International convention in Toronto, I was privileged to attend an outstanding workshop entitled “10 Tips for Teaching Short Stories” by Sybil Marcus, an inspiring teacher from the University of California, Berkeley. Presenting excerpts from two short stories, she showed us how she uses stories to teach critical thinking skills, style, grammar, and vocabulary, and to lay the groundwork for classroom debates and writing assignments. Sybil’s approach to teaching ESL skills through short stories sounded so compelling to me that I dashed back to my own classroom as soon as the conference was over to try it out.
One of the short stories she showcased in her workshop was Daniel Lyons’ “The Birthday Cake” (.doc). The story features two immigrants—an old, embittered woman from Italy and a young single mother from the Caribbean—who find themselves locked in an unexpected conflict. The story subtly raises challenging issues of attitudes toward immigrants, single parenthood, aging, isolation, and death.
The story was an immediate hit with my high-intermediate, low-advanced students. When we discussed an issue central to the story—whether the old woman was justified in her contemptuous response to the young woman’s plea for a special favor—my students were as bitterly divided as the two protagonists themselves. Even students who were normally shy and reluctant to speak in front of the whole class launched into a passionate debate over the merits of the old woman’s behavior. And what was particularly fascinating was the discovery that the battle lines among my students were drawn in unpredictable ways—students whom I would have expected to sympathize with the plight of the young mother were surprisingly hostile to her.
One bonus of this particular short story is that it is written almost entirely in dialogue, as if it were the script for a short play for three characters (the two women, and a man who finds himself entangled in their conflict). So, naturally, I put my students into small groups of three and asked them to practice acting out the dialogue. After giving them the opportunity to practice their lines with three different sets of partners, I asked for volunteers to act out the story in front of the whole class. It was one of the highlights of the semester, as some of my shyest students threw themselves into their roles, displaying acting skills and abilities no one would have suspected, while some of the more outspoken students were able to “ad lib” additional theatrical lines for their character. Continue reading →