Thursday, March 25, 2010


Dear Students,

Today I am thinking about learning words. I hate learning long lists of words, and I definitely can't stand studying for hours. So I learn things for short periods, often. Vocabulary words, I think, have to be learned in small doses. A dose is really an amount of medicine--so I guess new words in a foreign language are like small doses of medicine! Well, take some "medicine" every day and you will feel results quite soon.

It also helps to have a good-looking notebook that you enjoy using. Pick out a special one at the paper shop--not wildly expensive, but spend enough for a pretty one. Write in the words in any order you like. I sometimes organize by writing sayings and expressions together on one or two pages.

Later, if you have a spare 15 minutes, take out your notebook and a piece of paper. Write example sentences with your words from the word notebook, one word per sentence. Give them to your teacher--he or she will be quite impressed!

 V O C A B U L A R Y

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ideas about cohesive teaching

Dear Students,

I am thinking about how to make learning more cohesive. How can I balance old and new in one 90 minute lesson? How can I juxtapose many roles? A teacher must explain, monitor, organize, correct, revise, reteach, react, and so on. This is a "meditation" about combining learning and teaching.

One cohesion point is TTT: test-teach-test. First test and find out what people know or don't know, then teach something new, then test again to find out their progress. The cycle can, of course, be repeated. I like this way, because when we do the first test step and correct the test together, it is motivating for the students to talk about errors and what they believe they need to learn more about. These discussions are student-centered. The teacher receives valuable details--if he or she is listening well.

Today I watched an MS PowerPoint slideshow which showed effective teaching with PowerPoint. First, it showed students what they would reach by watching. Second, the slideshow had numerous dramatic examples showing content in surprising ways. Finally, the ideas presented were based on trusted theories of learning. After watching, I thought: yes, I can apply this to help my own students.

Over to you--what should a teacher do to create cohesion in 90 minutes?