Photo on Flickr by Jackson Carson
We are having a very cold winter. If you have been reading this blog, you might remember that I have already complained about the weather. Sub-zero temperatures, snow and cold winds. Sometimes together, sometimes in three-day intervals (snow, then wind, then it all freezes, then snow...). People have lost lives in blizzards and avalanches. A neighbour of mine was killed by a fallen icicle. Now we are worried that, once the snow starts melting, there will be floods.
That is why my school has decided to postpone the beginning of the new term. Instead of the 20th, the term will start on the 27th. The fact that I have only four people in my online forum (and I was hoping for 12) is one consequence. Another, more serious one, is that I am practically teaching a long-distance course now. The plan was to integrate my little online forum with the face-to-face teaching. That will have to wait for the 27th. In the meantime, I have to make this new situation work for me and my students.
As teachers, we have to improvise and adapt to circumstances all the time. Writing lesson plans and course syllabi is very useful, sticking to them at all costs could be completely wrong. It is the same with my Yahoo Group project. Maybe the new circumstances have made the students more keen to post, to keep in touch with English. Taking into account that there are only four of them, I can't complain. Three different versions of the ending to The Lady, or the Tiger were posted and a student has suggested a great new topic for the forum. I know this isn't much, but it is the first step.
Photo on Flickr by Thomas Bresson
There are other changes that I need to make. When I first planned this project, my idea was to provide opportunities for the students to practice the four skills. Their speaking is quite good for the intermediate level, their reading and listening are good too. However, their writing is on a much lower level. Somehow I haven't noticed how serious the problem is until now. I think I will need to address this problem, since I have the chance to do something about it now. Therefore, I will shift the focus from the other three skills to writing. That shouldn't be too difficult to do since forums are perfect places for practicing writing. I told them I wouldn't be correcting their mistakes in the forum. I want them to write freely. I will collect their mistakes and create a pool of mistakes to work with in the next semester. That is another thing forums are very good for.
The way it works now is that I give them a writing prompt. I want them to read and listen as well as write, which is why I posted the short story. We also did Steve Jobs' famous speech at Stanford University, as it is something I had promised to do with them last term, but ran out of time.
I talk about my online project at such length here not because this was something we were told to do in our blogs this week, but because a lot of my attention has shifted from the Webskills forum to my own baby-forum. It is as it should be. We were given the tools, now we are playing with them and trying them out. This week contained an unusually high amount of readings, but I enjoyed them a lot. We learnt about large classes and PowerPoint presentations, but the real topic of the week was interactivity. Interactive classes, interactive PowerPoints. We were given some very useful teaching tools this week and I can't wait to start implementing all these tools in the classroom.
Creating an interactive PowerPoint was a new concept for me and I had to work hard to make my slides link to each other. I created a vocabulary quiz that my students can do from home. You can see it here, but to make it interactive, you have to download it and watch it in the View mode.
I also played with Prezi a little this week:
I like Prezi. Once you learn how to use it, you can do almost anything you want with it.
I will sign off here. This has been an insightful week for me. I feel that I am going through a major change as a teacher. I will not be the same when I go back into class after this learning experience.