2014年8月25日 星期一

Global English_Discussion Board

Please View All the Files Here!
Week 1

Introduce yourself!

Dear all,

This is Richard Guozhen Li from Taiwan, or you can just call me Richard. Why I’m called Richard? Well, that’s because I want to make more money to buy a bigger house and a bigger car. In order to do that, I need to be richer(Richard)!

I’ve helped you remember my name better, haven’t I? Well, I’ve been teaching in a junior high school here in Taichung City, the third largest city in Taiwan, for ten years already. My students are around thirteen to fifteen years old, starting learning English from Grade 2 in their elementary schools. They have to work very hard to test into a better senior high school, so the purpose of learning English is mainly about how to get better grades on written and standardized tests, which is a common phenomenon shared by most young learners in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.


Also, I’ve been with the English Advisory Group of Taichung City (eng-j.guidance.tc.edu.tw) for four years. We organize workshops, help the Education Bureau with English competitions for students, develop innovative teaching strategies, to name just a few. On a regular basis, I have to do presentations with regard to English teaching for teachers here. Since I’m a crazy English learner who loves speaking English so much, I’d just enjoy every opportunity to showcase this passion of my life.

I’m really looking forward to not only gaining some new perspectives and techniques along the way but meeting you guys in Seoul. And, I would really love to have study buddies from Japan and Korea so that we can get to know each other better and exchange some teaching practices.

Best regards,

Richard

Project Based Learning

Traditional teaching methods, like the Grammar-Translation Method, are still dominant in English classrooms here in Taiwan. Teachers are busy trying to help students get everything right on tests. Rote memorization of vocabulary and grammar is considered by many the best way to get good grades, which leads to boring and unexciting learning experiences. PBL, on the contrary, focuses on real application of knowledge. Students team up to solve problems in an authentic context and then do a presentation about it

I have included PBL in the extracurricular activity because I can totally decide what to teach and how to teach it. The idea is to divide the students into groups and get them introduce their favorite English-speaking video on Youtube. They have to fully understand the rubrics before their actual performances. Now, with this great opportunity to meet so many wonderful teachers form Japan and Korea, I would like to give it another try. Through Skype, I hope we can conduct a class together and get our students to do some presentations that share something really interesting, like what students in my country usually do after school, or how we celebrate Valentines Day in Taiwan. The whole idea is setting an environment for the students to really apply what theyve learned and express themselves in English.   

As far as current teaching setting is concerned, PBL is not an easy task at all. Why? Well, students are constantly overwhelmed by loads of tests and homework, and most of them are purely mechanical drills created only to train them to do well on tests. As for the teachers, we have to make sure weve covered everything on textbooks before midterm. For the parents, it is totally unacceptable if a teacher fail to do that. As a result, many teachers here are not very willing to try new things because that would be just too time-consuming to fulfill their most important duty.

Dear Toru,

After reading your posts, I just think that we will have so much to talk about in Seoul and for the following weeks because we do share so much in common. I can totally relate to this twisted and test-oriented education that you mentioned. Can we blame our students for being so indifferent to the real application of English learning? Why should they bother working on their English speaking or any other practical language skills when they are not included in the entrance exam? Why should our students be motivated to learn a language that they can’t use outside of the classroom?

I also like to get my students to do oral presentations though it is very difficult for them, including those who always get good grades on tests. Their pronunciation and intonation still have a lot of room for improvement. The content is not very organized, not to mention some other very basic communicative skills. However, I also think this would be a great opportunity for them to get to feel what it’s like to be able to speak some English.

Well, I’m afraid I have to stop right here because I seem to complain too much. But, this question just has bothered me for a long time. We are all part of the system. There is not much we can do about it. The more I learn, the more troubled I would become.

Regards,

Richard (Taiwan)

Content Based Instruction

Dear all,

 From the assigned article by Grabe and Stoller, I learned something new and interesting about CBI. For example, I believe people can learn a second language better and more effectively when they can be immersed by lots of real and meaningful input. When you listen to and read loads of English, your brain will store a huge amount of correct sentences that native speakers would use in their everyday communication. Then, when the context is right, your brain will automatically retrieve and produce those sentences. Krashen's input hypothesis, based on this article, indicated that L2 CBI programs yielded positive results.

 Another interesting fact is, also according to this article, that Cooperative learning usually goes hand in hand with CBI. However, the authors only mentioned the definition and some characteristics of Cooperative learning. They didn't exactly explain why it is readily incorporated into CBI. As a result, I really don't how they can jump to this conclusion so fast.

 I have never used CBI before and probably would consider using it in the future. Most teachers in Taiwan, including myself, have a very busy and strict schedule to follow, which means we have to cover everything on it before the midterm. The content of the textbooks is carefully organized mainly to introduce vocabulary and grammatical structures step by step so that they can be better prepared for the entrance exam. Students are not very motivated because the content is neither intriguing nor related to their real life. The only purpose is to master what it takes to get good grades on pencil-and-paper tests.

 Instead, with CBI, students are encouraged to use English as a medium to learn whatever interests them. They would be learning the language for a real purpose, such as have a better understanding of their favorite dinosaurs or learning how to make fortunate cookies. When English learning can be authentic, fun and really useful, I think I can definitely engage a lot more students in my class and really help them develop more practical skills other than just keeping up their grades.

 Regards,

 Richard(Taiwan)

Dear Teresa,

I like your practical experience in CBI and how your students actually practiced their speaking and writing skills for a real purpose. Unlike those boring and mechanical drills in textbooks, students will be much more motivated to learn when you assign them those authentic and hands-on tasks. As for teachers, we dont have to do all the talking, telling students to underline this and memorize that. Instead, we create an opportunity for students to showcase what theyre capable of with the language.

Best,

Richard (Taiwan)

 

Goals and Objectives

For my regular English classes, I don’t really have to worry about setting course goals and objectives because they are already specifically stipulated by the Ministry of Education. In other words, we don’t really have much freedom to decide on anything other than following the schedule and making sure our students have learned one thousand and two hundred words and all the grammatical structures before the entrance exam. However, for the extra curriculum activity, I’m totally free to decide what I want to teach and how to teach it, so setting proper and feasible goals is rather important.

My goals for this class can be divided into three categories. First, I want to create an all English environment where students are exposed to a lot of language input.. Second, I want the students to pick up useful and interesting expressions that they’ll never learn from textbooks. Third, after several classes, I will ask simple yes/no questions to create a need to speak English after watching a video. Then, they can talk more by participate in group discussions. Finally, at the end of the semester, they are going to introduce one video in English at a minimum of one minute.

Only after two or three weeks of teaching in this class, I immediately realized that there were two major difficulties. First of all, the lack of motivation for discussion. Though they seemed to quite enjoy watching the videos I presented, they just didn’t want to answer questions or have any forms of interaction. It seems that they’re so used to sitting quietly in class, and I had to wait a long time for a response. Gradually I found myself answering the questions for them, and sometimes I even just didn’t want to ask any questions.

Second, teaching a large class with mixed abilities is really not easy. Some of them are quite confident in their English listening comprehension because they’ll look forward to my introduction to the video and they’ll be glad when they can understand the videos totally depending on their own listening skills. But, there are also quite a few whose English level is too low to engage themselves in this class. This class is conducted totally in English, and I guess students will get bored if they can’t comprehend anything at all.

Please note that English is mostly studied in the classroom, not used in real life situations. The rote memorization of vocabulary and grammar rules are common practice here in Taiwan. Students are usually overwhelmed by loads of tests and homework prescribed by their teachers to ensure that don’t do too poorly on pencil-paper tests. So, after many years of learning, students only acquire a huge amount of language knowledge, not real application of it. On top of that, they don’t really think it’s necessary to work on anything besides getting good grades on tests.

Hi Youn Juh,

I appreciate the way you confessed!

Well, in principle, we're supposed to have a lesson plan and some specific goals or objectives for every class. But in practice, I really doubt how many in-service teachers would have that much time to do all of these. So, just like you, I know what I have to do in mind, which most of the time means making sure all the important content, like grammatical structures, has been covered before the midterm.

I'm not saying that setting goals and objectives is not important. Instead, here in Taiwan, it's rather important when you have to do a formal teaching demonstration because other teachers will come to watch you teach. Without those things, people might think you're not very well-prepared.

And, I also adore your being sarcastic. I hope I can stop complaining as well. The question is there's not much you can do about the system. For this course, I really am looking forward to meeting some teachers outside of Taiwan and learning from each other. Also, I'm pretty interested in conducting a class together, getting our students to speak some English with their counterparts in Korea and Japan.

Best,

Richard (Taiwan)

 

Week 2

Example Projects

After reading some successful stories in the journal, suddenly I’m wondering whether I should quit my job right away and start a business of my own. Then, I can finally live up to my name, Richard(richer).

The project I chose is “My Business Idea” (http://questgarden.com/131/76/2/111029115742/index.htm). You have interests, talents, and skills that someone will pay money to use.  What business would it be?” First of all, to start a business, you have to fully understand yourself, including strengths, weaknesses, values and interests, by completing the Career Interest Assessment online. Following that, you have to generate some business ideas by exploring the website, ExploreStartupshttp://explorestartups.com/. Finally, you have to create a website and brochure to promote your business ideas. Rubrics are also included at http://questgarden.com/131/76/2/111029115742/evaluation.htm.

I like the project is because it focuses on understanding yourself before starting a business. If you do your job only for the money, you won’t be happy. I love my job because I’m interested in learning English. On top of that, I believe being a good teacher can make a positive impact on students as well. Also, by creating the website and brochure, students will learn to organize their thoughts and all the information they’ve collected and present them online.

According to the article “Young entrepreneur Remake the World” in the journal, you will think of many obstacles, like the lack of capital, partners, resources and connections, when it comes to starting a business. But, the biggest advantage we have is the Internet, which already broke time and distance barriers. Everybody have their own shots. With the project mentioned above, I think students’ interest of learning will be aroused when they are engaged in those hands-on assignments.

Dear all,

Several years ago, one of my students were selling jeans and headsets in the campus. He not only had the concept of investment return but put it into practice and did make some money. Unfortunately, this was considered totally unacceptable by many, including his homeroom teacher, me.

Traditionally, we all think students have only one obligation, which is to study hard and get good grades. Also, transaction among students is still strongly discouraged because this might get them into trouble.

Now, I'm racking my brains to come up with a lesson plan for entrepreneurship. I couldn't help thinking of this particular student of mine and wondering what you would do if this happens in your country? I mean, on the one hand we encourage our students to be entrepreneurial, but on the other hand, we don't want them to be so money-minded.

Best,

Richard (Taiwan)

Dear Toshi,

I really appreciate your insights into entrepreneurship. As you have mentioned, problem-solving is one of the key elements that makes up the idea. Also, I especially like the "understanding your strengths" part of entrepreneurship because students here in Taiwan are just too busy studying for loads of tests, which leaves them little time to really think about what they want to be in the future.

Hopefully, with the help of this assignment, I can think of something useful to help my students understand and make good use of their strengths better so that they can also figure out some potential businesses of their own.

Best,

Richard (Taiwan)

 

Project Idea 1

Dear all,

Attached is my draft for entrepreneurship-related project. The idea is to help my students understand themselves and come up with a business accordingly. Following that, by involving them with some interesting tasks, like creating an ad for their business or playing Monopoly, I'd also like to help them gain some insights into what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. Without a doubt, this assignment is quite challenging for me because I myself don't have any experience in entrepreneurship, so I would also learn a lot along the way.

With this project, I hope students can understand that application of the English language will be far more important than only the memorization of vocab and rules. They have to do research, organize the information they found and deliver an oral presentation. The four language skills can be integrated when fulfilling the assigned tasks in this project.

With my students' English proficiency level, of course this project will be too difficult for them, so I would give it a try with the gifted class first and see how it can benefit those students. In addition, not having enough time is always an issue here, so I'm worried about whether I just included too many activities in this project.

Looking forward to your feedback and advice.

Sincerely yours,

Richard (Taiwan)

Dear Teresa,

Thank you for your kind and positive feedback. Like you said, my project did not contain a specific "business" as other colleges did. I just put together those activities centering on understanding their strengths and helping them have a glimpse of what it takes to run a business of their own. I'm not sure whether this approach really stuits the needs of my students in terms of entreprenurship-related project though, but I'm positive that they would enjoy those interesting activities.

As for the assessment part, I plan to create rubrics like this: http://rubistar.4teachers.org/index.php?screen=ShowRubric&module=Rubistar&rubric_id=2192050. But to tell you the truth, as long as they can have fun using English, I don't really think assessment is that important.

Once again, thank you for your feedback.

Best,

Richard (Taiwan)

 

Week 3

Project Idea 2

Dear all,

I've been very, very  interested in conducting a class for my students to not only put their English to use but get to know other cultures as well. With this project,  I would like my students to do an oral presentation that can relate to their real life and understand that English is the tool for them to know this world better. After all, the world is getting smaller and smaller, and it is our job to let our students know

In order to make the objectives more "measurable", I referred to " the ABCD Method for Writing Objectives" like this one (http://ets.tlt.psu.edu/learningdesign/objectives/writingobjectives), which helps me determine my objectives in a more specific way.

For any colleges who are also interested in video conferencing through Skype, please do let me know.

Best,

Richard (Taiwan)

Dear Akiko,

Thank you for your sharing. I like your project because you do incorporate many activities to enhance students' discussion skills, such as encouraging them to use new words and creating a poster of their own. Also, you have prepared rubrics and planned to present them to the students in advance. I think this would definitely help your students understand what they have to do to achieve the goals better. On top of that, you also want your students to be able to state their opinions and convince others with the help of the "Sharing Opinions Card"

I guess you might be asked to make sure that your students can "understand" or "identify". According to Linda's e-mail on our Project Idea 1, objectives need to be "measurable". So, maybe this ABCD Method for writing objectives (http://ets.tlt.psu.edu/learningdesign/objectives/writingobjectives) would help. I'll be trying to incorporate this into my second preliminary project. Let's see if this works.

Best,

Richard (Taiwan)

 

Peer Evaluation

Dear all,

In the article, “Peer feedback”, it is interesting that peer feedback has not necessarily to be coming from your teacher. Instead, if the feedback comes from someone who you trust and like, it is more likely for you to accept his or her advice. Also, peer response in a writing course works better if students feel comfortable about sharing their work. As for the teacher, he or she should read all feedback and respond with a brief comment, which is exactly Linda is doing now.

In the video, “Alternative Assessment: Discussion Skills”, I think the teacher’s rubrics, such as to be clear, to include everyone, to help people respond to each other and to keep track of time, are quite useful because it provides an easy and clear standard to conduct a good discussion.

I experienced peer evaluation as a learner two years ago when I took the course,  “Building Teaching Skills Through Interactive Web”. We were asked to give advice to our partner’s draft of the final project. We were given the rubrics in advance so that we could give more specific and helpful feedback. I think this really helped a lot because my partner and I did provide constructive advice to each other.

As for my current teaching setting, I think I would only ask my students to vote for the best group when conducting a task-based activity. Students here are not used to this idea because traditionally either evaluation or feedback is supposed to come from teachers. Also, it’s not easy for them to give peer feedback without offending others or feeling offended by others. Therefore, I think what works for me and my partner might not work as well for my students. I just think they’re not mentally mature enough to do this yet.

Best,

Richard (Taiwan)

Dear Jenny,

I guess I can relate to your doubts about the nonjudgmental environment part of peer feedback. We may tell our students that their feedback is mainly for increasing their motivation and participation in advance, absolutely not a formal assessment that will affect their scores on the report cards. However, most junior high school students are still not capable of giving constructive feedback in my teaching setting, and a lot of them would really be sensitive to criticism, especially from their own classmates. Thus, peer feedback still creates pressure indeed.

The main idea of that Taiwanese asking her husband for advice, in my humble opinion, is that we can benefit more from someone closer to us, so feedback doesn't necessarily have to be coming from our teachers. As for the speech contest you mentioned, students here would also seek help either from their own teachers or outside of school for the script revision. However,  I think you can't really blame him for getting help from his tutor because it is not an impromptu English speech contest after all. Besides, what about those who go to cram schools or hagwons for math or science? Do you think it's unfair for them to do so?

Best,

Richard (Taiwan)

 

Civic Engagement

Dear all,

In “Connecting Technology and Civil Society”, people used technology to communicate and organize, and Mubarak regime toppled. It brings out the idea that technology, such as smart phones and social networking sites, can support and increase civic action and social change. In “ROOMDONOR.JP”, Fukusaki created a website to help those who needed a place to stay because of the earthquake, with about 7,000 victims assisted. One man can really make a difference and help so many with the website he created. In “Beyond Profit: IBM’s Volunteers”, the company significantly contributed to communities by sending its employees to work on projects overseas and sharing their professional knowledge and skills. 

Just about three months ago, for the first time in history hundreds of students occupied legislature over the ruling party’s push of a trade pact with China and the denial of a item by item review of the details. Students mainly used Facebook to coordinate their efforts and post strong arguments and evidence to refute the government’s relatively weak claim that Taiwan must sign the agreement to ensure economic growth. The movement got over 70% of support according to many media reports, which made the government decide to counterattack on Facebook as well. Though the effort was in vain, it did show technology can play a crucial role to foster civic participation and therefore lead to social change.

To encourage civic engagement in our students, I think I can engage the students in a discussion activity and come up with a project that relates to them and arouse their interest of learning at the same time. For example, when foreign students come to Taichung for cultural exchange, it would be a great opportunity for students to volunteer as interpreters and tour guides to show the beauty of this city. Thus, they get to prepare themselves for the authentic context and use their English. Also, I’m thinking Show and Tell might a good start of this project because students, for example, get to practice introducing stinky tofu or Taipei 101 in English.

Best,

Richard (Taiwan)

Dear Akiko,

Thank you for your sharing Suzuki's speech. It is quite amazing that a twelve-year-old could have such insights for those delegates to reflect upon, even to be shamed actually. What she brought about still depicts the world well enough today. People are still greedy and keep on breaking it. For example, we don't like nuclear power plants, but everybody turns on the AC on a scorching summer day, and suddenly nuclear waste or nuclear melt down is not an issue anymore.

When you introduce the speech to your students, what other activities would you incorporate in the class? I mean, other than introducing her arguments on protecting the environment, what areas of language learning are you also going to expect your students to achieve? Would you give them the script to enhance their reading comprehension? Or would you also engage them in a similar project for them to perform some hands-on tasks? I am really willing to know about your project and probably "steal" some good ideas from you.

Best,

Richard (Taiwan)

 

Week 4

Women's Empowerment

Dear all,

Women's empowerment is important, based on all the assigned readings, because women and girls are not equally to achieve success and have educational opportunities. What's worse, they tend to fall victim to poverty, low status and illiteracy. In some countries, young women are forced into early marriage or become modern slaves, which reveals the fact that they never belong wholly to themselves. To deal with these issues, education can play a crucial role in making a difference. Through education, women can be better equipped to protect themselves and fight for their own rights.

Speaking of education, Malala Yousafzai got shot in the head by the Taliban because she spoke up for those who cannot get an education in Pakistan. She is now a worldwide inspiration to the promotion of girls' rights for education. For my students, I think it's rather difficult for them to be able to relate to what had happened to Malala, or how she fought with her life to help raise people's awareness of girls' education. Therefore, her story would be so meaningful that I can use to teach them that gender equality is not to be taken for granted. They should cherish what they have and also try to contribute to helping other girls at the same time.

When using this topic in my class, first of all, I think it's not easy to raise their awareness that how important this issue is because we are all so used to human rights, such as democracy, freedom of speech, education and so on. Following that, I think the Gender Equality Education of the MOE (https://www.gender.edu.tw/index.asp) is a good resource I can use. Then, study groups can guide the students to understanding this topic better. Last but not least, how to incorporate this topic into English learning is of course my priority concern.

Best,

Richard (Taiwan)

Dear Nobu, 

Thank your for sharing this TOMODACHI MetLife Women's Leadership Program. Those 25 participants were lucky to have this chance to be inspired in terms of woman's economic empowerment through meetings with successful female leaders in this area and workshops dealing with woman empowerment in Japan. I like this "mentoring" idea of pairing professionals with university students, working together to develop positive changes to help encourage potential female leaders in your country. 

I especially love the concept brought about by this program, such as "find your spark", "don't let anyone hold you back", and "take a risk". It emphasizes participants learned how to recognize their own personality traits and strengths and how to make best use of their strength in becoming a better leader as well. Actually, I think those rules just apply to everyone, and they also reminded me of our first project idea, "entrepreneurship". Through discussion and mentorship building, students indeed can be better engaged in this course. 

Best, 

Richard (Taiwan)

 

Introducing Change

It's easy for Taiwanese English teachers with an open mind and lots of innovative ideas to get together and complain so much about the current teaching practices. We think English learning should not be only centering on the memorization of vocabulary and grammar, which is not very helpful in the application of the language other than preparing for the standardized tests. If I had the authority, I would like oral tests to be included in all entrance exams so that teachers and learners both can spend more time working on their communicative skills. After all, that's learning a language is all about, right?

On page 180 of the assigned reading, "Introducing Change", ways of resisting change just can explain all the challenges and obstacles lying ahead. People would agree that the real application of English is important, but they would also probably say that students are already under too much exam pressure to prepare this kind of new test. Then, some might argue that we don't have enough qualified teachers to carry out this policy. Following that, they would provide loads of previous examples that failed to justify the reason why the change is not so necessary. 

I did learn so much from "Steps in Introducing Change", especially contrasting them the current education reform we're experiencing now. People here has been quite dissatisfied with the present situation mentioned above, so the general consensus is that we need to change. The MOE decided to thoroughly reform ranging from the admission system to the ways that teachers teach without the participation of teachers, especially those who will be affected most, students. Also, many teachers believe there is no need to change their ways of teaching because lecturing is still effective in preparing students for tests. So, I just roughly finished Task 1 Change that failed on page 181 by reflecting on the reasons why I'm quite pessimistic about the reform with the help of the assigned reading.

Best,

Richard (Taiwan)

Dear Samantha, 

I really, really have to say that we do have so much in common in terms of the problems or obstacles when trying to make English learning less test-oriented. For example, we also have to teach a big class of at least thirty students with mixed abilities, leaving little room for proper individual guidance. Advanced learner are not challenged, and slow learners are not take good  care of, so the government try to introduce "remedial teaching" and "differentiated instruction" to cope with the problem and have, or force if you will, teachers attend loads of workshops regarding the two topics. 

Speaking of innovative teaching methods, we have to deal with pressure from parents and sometimes even from our own colleges, questioning whether such a change is really necessary because they don't think students' grades will be improved. This "washback effect" has been around for decades, and I don't see any hope for change unless we are able to change the entrance exams first. Unfortunately, those standardized tests may have many flaws, but they are fair and effective. So, this inevitable reality is going to remain for a long time. 

Can we blame students for not working on their language skills? Well, English is treated as only a subject to study for in school, not a tool for communication in real life. How can we expect students to learn a language well whey they don't have to use it outside of the classroom?

Best, 

Richard (Taiwan)

 

Project Idea 3

Dear all,

Cher Wang, the co-founder and chairwoman of HTC, is an iconic female entrepreneur and also one of the most influential women in smartphone technology.  By studying her story, students can not only learn about woman empowerment but integrate entrepreneurship and civic engagement altogether. Reading comprehension and writing skills are emphasized because students will read a lot of English about Wang and also create a webquest about this project.

Please kindly have a look at my project, and your feedback and advice will be greatly appreciated.

Best,

Richard (Taiwan)

Dear Jason and Hyun Jeong,

Thank you for your sharing. Malala is truly a great inspiration to the world for woman empowerment. Based on her story, your project aims to increase students’ writing and speaking skills by having them create a mind map and an oral presentation.

I like mind mapping a lot. It can be used to help with students’ reading comprehension and in this case, writing and oral production as well. Text2 Mindmap seems an easy way to create a mind map online, with a toolbox to change the font, color and lines. I will definitely recommend this website to my colleagues.

The project is clear and easy to implement as a whole. It also includes multiple language skills.

Regards,

Richard (Taiwan)

 

Week 5

Dear Akiko,

Thank you for sharing your project plan, and I would like to let you know that it's been inspirational to read your posts, for I can always "steal" some good ideas from them.

First of all, I can tell you developed your plan from the previous three project ideas, with both language learning and some ideas you want to promote put together in the activities. Do you have any ideas to evaluate or make sure whether your students really acquire the concepts that you try to raise their awareness of?

Following that, I really admire that you provided many detailed steps to support your objectives. For example, your students will put on a skit to enhance vocab learning, so they have to decide on the roles, brainstorm their dialogue, practice and perform their skits. With so many things need to be done within 50 minutes, I think maybe time would be an issue here.

I have never co-taught English with a native speaker. It must be so much fun to work with one. I'm also kind of wondering how you guys coordinate your efforts with each other? One of my friends told me that her native English speaking partner thought all she had to do was translate because he thinks my friend's pronunciation and intonation are not good enough. What do you think of that?

Sincerely yours,

Richard (Taiwan)

Dear Akiko,

Thank you so much for your sharing, which gives me some new ideas to incorporate in my lesson plan. This system of yours sounds quite plausible, and I would definitely give it a try as long as my students can be more motivated and really practice speaking English.

Since you already have abudent experience in conducting classes like this, I am wondering whether my students and I would have the honor to work with you. I believe we can benefit so much from this kind of authentic environment to actually put English skills to test. 

Best,

Richard (Taiwan)

Dear Jason,

Thank you so much for sharing your project plan. I can relate so much to your context, mind mapping and travel brochure, and I gained many good ideas to improve mine as well.

Like you said, getting good grades is the main reason for most students to study English, and I've found it's getting more and more difficult to motivate the students. I think getting them to apply what've they learned in textbooks to a real context can be a good way to rekindle their interest of learning, especially the hands-on tasks like yours. Students work together to create something, and the teacher becomes a facilitator to offer help only when it is necessary. But, we have a tight schedule to follow, and covering everything before the midterm is still a must. Though those activities may appear intriguing, we just can't ignore written tests. How do you balance both?

The link, "How to Make a Travel Brochure", is quite helpful. You incorporated some good ideas into your plan. For example, your students have to discuss and decide on the target audience and place they want to introduce. They also have to "talk about" the qualities of successful travel brochures Would this be done in English or their native language?

Mind mapping is my favorite activity to get my students brainstorm, organize and present their ideas. Your students have to use the online tool to help create their brochures. In the timeline, you mentioned that students will give a presentation about their brochures, but I can't see this included in your lesson plan. Also in the timeline, the online tool, "Printing Press", to help create brochures is not included in your lesson plan, either. Can you elaborate more on that?

Finally, in your lesson plan, students talk about successful brochures and make cluster maps on what makes a successful travel brochure. Cluster map is not in your timeline, and seems to me that your students will be able to make their own brochures with these two steps. Can you elaborate more on that?

Sincerely yours,

Richard (Taiwan)

Dear Jason,

Glad you like the idea of putting the students in a environment where they have to use English for a real purpose. Well, for most Taiwanese, English is mainly studied for written tests, not a tool for communication. After so many years of learning, most people still have difficulty expressing themselves in the language.

Therefore, the idea of my lesson plan is to create an opportunity for my students to use English. They will work in cooperative groups to decide on their topics. On top of that, they will also have to rehearse for their presentations in advance and get feedback from the teacher and their peers. Each group will have five minutes to present, so I think giving a one-minute or so presentation should not be too difficult for my students.

Best,

Richard (Taiwan)

By the way, the idea of "English Village" is quite popular here in Taiwan as well. I'm planning to visit one in Seoul during my stay in Korea. Any advice?

Individual Project Plan

 

Week 6

Portfolios

Dear all,

In the assigned article, Portfolio Assessment by Bailey, Portfolio Assessment focuses on creating an opportunity for students to showcase their strengths and progress in learning the language. Compared with regular standardized tests, students have much more freedom to decide what he or she is good at by organizing and presenting the best works, such as learning journals, worksheets and so on. On top of that, a portfolio won’t be complete without students’ reflection on their learning progress, which provides valuable information for learners themselves, their parents and the teacher as well.

I especially agree with the idea that students have to participate in the decision of what to include in their portfolios. For Portfolio Assessment to work, students must have a clear understanding of the purpose of collecting all the information about how they are learning the language. And, just like any other forms of alternative assessment, providing and explaining rubrics will definitely help a lot with the implement of PA. If I want to adopt this approach in my current teaching context, it would be very challenging because of the class size.

 When I was a student teacher, I systematically collected all the good things about me, including my education background, lesson plans, worksheets, reflective journals and so on, to learn better about my preparation to become a better teacher. But, I have never formally adopted PA in my teaching. As usual, a very tight schedule and big classes keep a lot of teachers here from trying new things, and that’s also why the E-Portfolios come in handy. According to Barrett, “an e-portfolio is a combination of process and product”. With the help of cloud computing and social networking, not only students’ motivation would be significantly increased but the teacher can handle students’ portfolios more efficiently.

I have been in Seoul for three days already and already visited some of the most recommended tourist spots like the Seoul Tower, Myeong-dong, Ewha Womans Univ. and so on. Looking forward to seeing you guys in person.

Best,

Richard (Taiwan)

Dear Mavis,

You sound pretty excited after reading the required materials about portfolio, and you already developed some specific ideas in mind to put into practice in you class. Indeed, it is a brand new idea for a test-driven context like ours in Taiwan because students have to showcase what they’re good at by collecting and organizing what they will put in the folders. When our students are so used to taking exams after exams to “prove” that they are learning, of course they will question the purpose of this kind of relatively much more time-consuming test.

Like you said, this new form of assessment requires much more than merely putting together students’ work. Instead, their participation and reflection are what really matter. So, your idea of starting small may be a good start of implementing portfolio assessment, and on top of that, I’m also thinking about raising students’ awareness that their learning process can provide much more than scores in terms of learning the language. Maybe we can give them a more clear picture through demonstration and modeling.

Since you mentioned you kept tracking your two daughters’ learning progress for a long time, I’m wondering how would you display their progress through portfolios. If you pull this off, you will have so much to share with your students about how students can benefit from portfolios as well.

Best,

Richard (Taiwan)

 

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