mercoledì 31 agosto 2016

Learner autonomy and Language Teaching and Learning

Some weeks ago I was able to see the interesting webinar which was presented by David  Little. The webinar was online on 20th August and it  was offered  thanks to  a group of  professionals - IATEFL

This organization runs  regular CPD webinars , just check online- they are offered for free and are seen by many teachers of  English living in different countries :

Who is the Presenter

David Little has been  a Professor at Trinity College Dublin and has studied the issue of learner autonomy  and language learning- online I have found a lot of materials he has been working  on- - European Language Portfolios and Learners

The  European  Language Portfolio  ( ELP) is part of his  great  work in the European Union and teachers have been involved in  implementing it:

 ELP Material 2008 pdf document

The  Webinar : Learner autonomy and its implications for the  discourse of language teaching and learning 

The webinar described  how some learners can be successful and what teachers should do in order to help all the students master  their knowledge and their  autonomy.
He focussed on different learning environments and how students could better while they were or became more aware of their learning process. This link is important as in our learning situations, the traditional ones with students who are learning in a non-English-speaking country  we often face the issue of students who are passive learners and do not work well and they lack autonomy.
Reflecting on our  traditional way of learning and by analyzing learning  situations in which learning happened and had a lot of successful learners can help us think  about what language activities  teachers should do:

The teacher can support the learner but what is really important is the idea of creating a good learning environment which can facilitate and support students: the role of L1 is not  neglected and L1 is still important

An interesting idea presented by Professor Little was the one about optimal learning environments: intrinsic motivation is the key for promoting autonomy and the students' success

He underlined the fact that the target language is used not only for working in class but also by the students when they are thinking and  reflecting about  their own learning.

This is really important as good learners can reflect on their process of learning . In my experience as a teacher of English I have done a lot of activities and created a lot of tasks to help my learners but I have never asked my students to use the language as a reflective activity. This will be my great goal this year as I am aware that in some ways I have made some mistakes while I tried to be supportive but did not give my learners " the tools" or rather  " the  tasks"  which might help them and drive  their learning and their autonomy.  

The role of  Writing- a key idea in the presentation

I have always used writing as a controlled activity but what was suggested in the webinar  was a great way for building autonomy among learners.  We should provide opportunities for our learners who  write down about what is happening in their  learning . Working on  reflection and  narration can enhance their autonomy as learners.

The webinar  ended with a long list of activities which we can use and can provide opportunities for learners who are working on the  language and their autonomy: instruments of scaffolding

What new ideas about learning and learners  did  the Presenter introduce?

- any learner can learn well if he or she is aware of the progress  and what  has been done or achieved   when studying the foreign language
-  L1 can be used and it is also important for the learners- teachers can, therefore ,use it  if they are not   English mother-tongue speakers 
- teachers need to  provide opportunities for using the language not only in a guided  written discourse but also in the personal reflections on what has been done
- teachers need to think about writing tasks which help the learners : blogs, reflective 
  writing , portfolios are just some  good examples . I would also add  writing articles for the school magazine or online presentations or working on digital storytelling thanks to the modern web tools.

Professor Little  provided some examples of students' assessing their progress: they showed the great level of language reflection they had and they used  English in a correct way!

I wish to thank  him for the great ideas and  sources which he provided us with: food for thought and new ideas for my personal reflections on  ESL and TEFL.  I will have to check  some sources about scaffolding and how we learn.

                                                      Useful ideas and tips

Ideas for scaffolding  can be found online :

domenica 21 agosto 2016

Emma Mooc: Guerrilla Literacy Learners Summer 2016

This summer I could work online and do some Moocs which I could not do during the school year.

 In July I started this Mooc which is part of a  European Project- Erasmus+ : it was interesting as I could think about my way of working as a teacher of English and how I can " get " my students more engaged.

Guerrilla Literacy Learners  is a course focussed on  learners and their needs and how teachers can help them become successful. It is based on the practices of teachers who have worked with students of different ages and learnes who have been struggling. We also watched videos based on the experiences of teachers working with immigrants : this is an experience which I have not done but in my  activity I have  often had  learners who had just arrived and did not speak any Italian . It was a difficult task for me to work with them as they did not even have a good English.
 The framework of the course is developed in four  modules- the  course ran for 7 weeks  and in the summer it was offered on a self-paced basis.

The main focus was on different aspects  of our teaching  practice:
-  theories and approaches as regards  teaching  foreign languages and teaching in general
-  the focus on the importance of making mistakes in learning and how to develop activities that would meet the learners' needs
-  ideas about how to create  a positive learning environment by using also new tools and social networks
-  great emphasis was given to interaction and  ways of  talking and communicating
-  using graphics and images while teaching to get the students' attention or to lead activities which might enhance language  practice
-  new learning activities where students are engaged and work while they are learning
-  working on assessment and new ways of assessment  : Peer and Self-evaluation

Here you can find my learning diary and the  links to the activities which we were suggested  doing, reading or the videos  we watched online. I have bookmarked most of them and  I will try to use some tips related to the way they suggested working with students. I feel I will have to work more on collaboration and peer and self- assessment.
The manual which was written by the teachers is a great source of information about what the project was about. The videos are online and are really interesting clips for any teachers who has worked for years and still needs to  reflect.
At the end of the course I had access to the certificate of participation: it will be part of my portfolio and CPD.

This is the  Tackk which I have created in August: I wish to thank the teachers who worked for the Mooc and provided me with useful tips.

martedì 16 agosto 2016

Learning from the others - how teachers can get their students engaged and control their learning

           Listening to the Interviews with
          some inspiring  Teachers

I have been following some good teachers online thanks to  Twitter. These teachers are sharing their best practices and have described their approaches when dealing also with difficult class situations.

I wish to thank Shelly Sanchez and Vicki Devis who provided me with these interesting interviews. After reading, teaching and working for years I still think that a good teacher can understand when to change the approach , it may be difficult but teachers are " responsible " for helping their learners who need to share ideas about the best ways to work together and support every learner.

It seems that we do need to rely more on our students  in order to cope with their difficulties and help them support their learning and also self-esteem. Talking with them and  establishing rules are the beginning of a  long time spent together  while learning  together.

 Here are some interesting interviews which can help us understand  why teachers need to inspire
their learners and help them regardless of the problems they may have . Some tips can be useful also for us who are working with older students in secondary schools.

lunedì 15 agosto 2016

MMVC16 My Reflections

              Reflecting on the webinars

The events took place from 5th to 7th August under the supervision of Dr. Nellie Deutsch.
It was an enriching experience. I could watch a lot of webinars dealing with different topics from teachers who love teaching to  self-development and free  CP online.

Here you can find the slides which I made for the final reflections, they will be updated but I wanted to share some interesting events which are worth seeing online and are worth discussing as educators are the ones who  work hard on creating the best learning environments- sometimes this can happen also in difficult situations.

I have also made a short video which I have shared with the other teachers who took part in the Virtual Conference - a lot of speakers  but  also a lot  of  teachers learning online and sharing ideas:

sabato 6 agosto 2016

Culturally Responsive Teaching - an interesting webinar by Shelly Sanchez on 5th August 2016

6th  August  2016



In one of the  posts  I wrote  about world refugee day  in  June I presented the great issue of young people and their families who were forced to leave their home country . I underlined  the importance of education  for  their children who needed more  help and support as they had to live in difficult situations and often they are considered  just refugees, people who have to wait years before they can start living a new life  -

A key issue was also teaching respect for the others and this is more and more important today  as millions of children are leaving home to search for better life in countries where there is no war.

                      Yesterday  I watched the interesting  webinar by   Shelly  Terrell  Sanchez about  Culturally  Responsive  Teaching that has to do with  education and the importance of  teaching young students and children who have migrated and  live in a new  country. Every Friday  Shelly presents  her webinars and provides lots of ideas and weblinks which are worth checking. I have become  addicted to her energy and the engaging presentations she is able to prepare: a must see for any educator who cares!!

The term " Culturally Responsive  Teaching" regards the teachers, the children, and students  who are  studying and learning with the new learners.
 In some ways we can say that educators need to focus on the students and their cultural backgrounds to share their ideas and  start  working together. This implies  acceptance, inclusion and respect and  these values need to be shared  while enriching the  other  students and the community.

Key ideas about this pedagogic approach can be found online:

I particularly liked the definition provided in the article by Matthew Lynch  where he  stated that " Culturally responsive pedagogy is a student-centered approach to teaching in which the students’ unique cultural strengths are identified and nurtured to promote student achievement and a sense of well-being about the student’s cultural place in the world."

Sometimes it is difficult to cope with the needs of the new learners and we have some students who cannot cope with the new school and the tasks but   I like the idea that educators need to design tasks that are focussed on the  learners and we must promote  their achievements and a sense of  well-being. A great problem is the language they can speak and how educators work with them to start and establish  relationships and  develop activities that aim at inclusion and learning and working in the new community. I have also faced this  problem with  students who came from non-European countries and integration was a great aim, sometimes the learners  could cope with  Italian but they needed support from the teachers  as their parents did not speak good Italian.
 For sure we will all have to work on this approach in the next  decades as more and more young immigrants are reaching  Europe and the USA and it is important to provide a good learning environment for them. Educators are important in this  learning  process as they can facilitate and design tasks that help these children or  teenagers who are studying in our  schools.

I searched online as  Shelly made me realize that in some ways we are dealing with this approach also in our  schools - I teach in Italy- and could find interesting  documents shared by  teachers and researchers. I found a lot of material from the Usa as I understand that the country has welcomed a lot of immigrants.

Now I will  reflect on what  Shelly told us in her great webinar: hopefully there are a lot of  links for  educators  which can  help them develop activities that respect the  needs  of their learners and teach values like inclusion to the other students, the importance of values like  working  together, sharing and learning from the others too. The social and emotional aspects are important as students may come from countries with great differences in relationship to the topics covered at school and also in relationship to their family  backgrounds.  It is also important to underline the problem of the language as families can have a lot of difficulties when communicating with educators.  Some children have also  experienced cruelties and violence and starting to live  a new life in a new land might also be  a stressfull  situation.

Useful weblinks I have checked online:

I particularly liked , a blog to learn about issues like  equity, justice and diversity: the topics seem to be related to the USA but we might find ideas about  the best ways to care when dealing with immigrants and children in our  schools.

Edutopia has a dedicated page to the topic and it provides  links to videos and webpages :

I could find some interesting videos to teach  tolerance :      about the history of a girl who survived the Holocaust

                                                                   For  ELT teachers 

We were suggested this  website :

This  is  the  slide which was  commented by  Shelly in her webinar: I cannot but say thanks for providing so many  interesting  ideas!!

Shelly Terrell presented a webpage about the topic of  her  webinar and suggested some  tasks or activities to get learners and families of immigrants more engaged:

First tip : all families should be  reached  and teachers should connect with the children's parents so that they will learn and benefit from the new environment

Second tip: learning about  other  countries is  important  and  educators should work on  international or  global projects

Third tip: start a project where learners share their experience  and work with videos, webtools for presenting their  stories

Link to the  webpage:

This is an interesting collection she has been working on:

Refugees Immigrants, by shellterrell

For European  teachers- CPD online In September there will be a new MOOC course about " Cultural diversity" . It starts on 12 September  2016  and it finishes on 9 October.

More resources online
Videos on Vimeo

I will try to learn more and maybe  start a project with classes next year and  teach about cultural differences and respect.