Our Educational Message

Hi, and welcome to our blog. This space is designed to share ideas and methodologies that we use to teach Turkish teenagers. In particular, there is a strong focus on ICT-ELT, which means if you like visual and technological support for your style of teaching, this blog is for you. My colleague, Brentson Ramsey, has been working alongside me for three years. He is also a big proponent of the ICT-ELT Paradigm, which means he will also be posting from his own teaching perspective on the blog.

2010 was the beginning of this new journey, and although there is no definitive ICT-ELT road map available for everyone to follow, it is exciting to explore the technological means to make teaching more fun and affective for students. Our main message is for teachers to ADOPT & ADAPT the paradigm shift for their own needs, and remember that
ICT-ELT is a TOOL, NOT a SOLUTION.

Friday, 10 August 2012

BUILDING the CLASS ENVIRONMENT: Teacher Companion part I

This post is a continuation of the series started on the 9th, September. The reason for sharing the ideas and observations, theories and practices on this blog is in response to writing a teacher-companion that I started in 2011 with the collaboration of my colleague, Brentson. We both feel that putting our chapters up as blog posts can be a better way to reach a teaching audience quickly. The original form of the chapters has been changed to suit the formatting associated with blogs. We hope you enjoy them. Student-Teacher Relationships
When you look at this image do you get that sinking feeling of a memory of your time back at school? I know that I do. I grew in the north east of Scotland during the seventies. It was rough back then and I cannot remember any day where at least one teacher adopted this type of communication with my class of very terrified peers. Therefore, its ironic inclusion here is simply a freminder of what we don't want as a model for our classroom environments. In my prep. class (Turkish word: Hazirlik) students are a different breed of teenage-learner. These students, for the most part, come to the preparation year with a lot of baggage that has accumulated throughout their middle school years. Although much of what they bring to the student-table might be construed as negative, we believe this is merely a wrongly focused perception by teachers, administrators and parental stakeholders.
These students, once they are shown what they have to do in order to succeed, transform into well- rounded and very successful students. This grade level, between 8 and 9, proves that no student need ever be left behind, if the correct, proper and formulated framework for success is in place. It is necessary, however, that dynamic teachers promote a positive mind-set and work within the boundaries of a well-organized and engaging syllabus, if it is to be successful. The first steps required before any syllabus expectations can be shared with the new intake of students is to introduce boundaries; in other words, a working framework where students and teachers can keep focused from lesson-to-lesson, week-to-week and semester-to-semester. This initial move by the teachers will go a long way to making the students settle down into the syllabus responsibilities quickly, relaxed and feeling comfortable enough to put trust in their teachers; thus forging positive relationships. What should this framework look like?
Class Rules where the teacher lays out the basic principles of: No shouting; No answering of questions without waiting to be asked; No excessive movement in and out of chairs; No throwing of any projectiles; No hot or greasy food to be eaten in class, even at break; These FIVE primary principles make the environment one for learning. It builds respect for the space of others, and clarifies the boundaries of right and wrong. Punctuality is to be adhered to at all times without exception.
It is very important that late students get recorded, no matter how late, in a class 'punctuality' notebook kept close by the door. If and when students arrive late they are not allowed to disrupt the class; instead, they write down their name, the reason for lateness and sign their name. While the infraction is being recorded by the student, the teacher carries on with the lesson. Since everyone is told about this from day one, students do ignore any latecomers and their attempts to disrupt their learning. In fact you soon understand that the others begin to resent such occurrences if you make it clear that you understand why any student is late. After class, the guilty students are spoken to by the teacher, in order to find the causes for the late arrival.
The book totally works at changing students attitude to time management. It takes a month of possible opposition and possible confrontation, but once they get used to it, and they see you are serious, the students soon stop coming late to class.Infraction Notices are to be administered throughout the first two months with a strong sense of discipline and purpose.
The notices are made from white, yellow and red. Thus, the way for infraction control is based on a tiered system, similar to a football game and the power that the referee has. A white card would be like a verbal warning to a player. It is important that verbal confrontation is not entered into, so as to keep the flow of the lesson and positive atmosphere in the classroom. The student is presented with the card and asked to write it up. As the student mulls over the infraction committed, s/he knows that a discussion about 'why' it happened will take place post lesson.
If the white 'warning' infraction card fails to pacify the student, a yellow is presented, and then a red. A yellow or a red card can be given immediately should the infraction be serious enough to do so. Infractions such as cursing, dissent or fighting with peers would be examples of such misdemeanors. At the showing of a red card, whether it be immediately, or as part of a chain, the student is then sent directly to the coordinator to explain the reasons, and then put on report for ten days. The student is monitored closely by both the teacher and the coordinator, which hopefully will put an end to the bad behavior. Laminated Pictures of quirky phrases and expected class rules should be on display in the class. By having the expectations, for instance: "No Whining", constantly on display the teacher can simply point to the wall without uttering a word or command, and the students have it always in their sights when their eyes drift from the board. It becomes part of the " getting used to the
system" that young teens need most of all. Anything that goes against their normal day to day expectations will always have immediate negative and contrary reactions. It's in their nature to show off, and make their point. So, by understanding and respecting what they need, will do a great deal to build bridges and garner respect.24/7
Available Contact via sms, bbm, email, PLN, LMS is made between the teacher and the students. This is something that many teachers would never consider, but it must be made clear that this very simple communicative tool can build the most trust for those students who find it difficult to make face-to-face contact with peers and/or teachers. However, a note of strong caution. It is vital that guidelines are set down from day one outlining the service, and how great it, but that it will not be operative if a violation of the guidelines happens. Students must know very clearly that any messages to teachers can only be about class work and assignments. That messages should be in language appropriate to the classroom atmosphere. Reasonable consideration for responses and feedback via this service must be taken into account when communicating with teachers. Teachers will check their messages and those on the class LMS daily, so a message will be forthcoming in a short period of time, if not, immediately. A Sense of Humor is essential in the classroom. Teachers need to be able to laugh at themselves. To give and take, and not do everything too seriously; otherwise students switch off, and engagement of the whole class is nigh on impossible.
It is also totally valid to consider light sarcasm, irony and leg-pulling as part of the dynamic. If you can build a to and fro jokey atmosphere with no malicious aforethought, then this approach to communication is valid. For many years teachers have written and claimed it has negative outcomes. This is tarring all situations with the same brush. There is a place for it provided teacher-control is adhered to. Any infringements need to be dealt with quickly and assertively. If this is done, then you will find great rapport with your students.

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