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

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


Last year I wrote a post based on my belief in UbD, the curriculum model, created by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe :

Now two years after using the template, I can firmly state that it works, and works very well.  It takes time to convince colleagues, but once they are in, they are well and truly locked in.  One of the many benefits the model suggests is the use of EQs (Essential Questions).  These questions are the springboards to better understanding for the subject matter your students are investigating, knowing and hopefully buying into as information they can take with them through their lives.  Since my colleague and believe in ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS as the primary intitative & starting point, for both teachers and students to make the lessons more engaging, interesting and effective, I thought it would be nice to share with you how we, in fact, use and implement them into our weekly programs.

We have 23 periods of English a week with our teenage students, aged 13-15.  The program we have written includes language-in-use, literature (readers and novels), ICT, Writing-for-Academic-Purposes, literary analysis and Life-Skills (although not necessarily in that order).  Because we have so many contact hours the program needs to be comprehensive and full on.  That is why we emerge with 8 EQs, each week, that are shared with the students every Monday.  Although you can find much more extensive information from Wiggins & McTighe's own literature, basically an EQ is a question that goes beyond the surface of the topic being studied, learned etc.  

For example, when discussing events in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, instead of asking students, 

"What does Bruno see when he looks out of his bedroom window?" 

(a typical surface comprehension question)

You could/should ask an EQ like: 

"Why is Bruno so shocked when he looks out his bedroom window?"

(a typical enduring understanding for students to question the reasons behind people's shock and abhorrence at the sighting of incarcerated prisoners at Auschwitz).

So, I am highlighting these examples to let you know how we approach our lessons. Therefore, the EQS that we ask of our students, for better understanding of last week's learning, can be shown like this:

1.What are the obstacles and hurdles students with little self-confidence have to face every day?
(part of life skills)

2.How much has my writing improved after two months?
(reflection on Academic Writing development)

3. What do I think is the main idea of the Time Capsule? Why?
(students' opinion of the current reader's theme) 

4. What are the benefits of making an IMovie trailer for a reader?
(ICT- a new skill shown & taught this week)

Why should I transfer the academic skills I learn in English to the other subjects in HH?  Why am I not doing it?
(cross-curricular project work is suffering as a result of this issue)

Which of the readers in HH has been my favourite thus far? Why?
(asking students to choose favorite readers to remind them reading can be fun)

Why am I not taking more advantage of 24/7 learning?
(ICT and how even with 24/7 support, many students simply baulk at the idea)

Which of the five stages have I experienced so far, and which of them am I in now? 
(This relates to my own theory of the FIVE STAGES of LEARNING

Now, I want to explain how these are used with the students.  The students choose at random, on Friday, by using TRIPTICO for student order. They then get EQ that corresponds to the random number and they write about on PENZUCLASSROOM at the weekend.

They are expected to submit the EQ response by 6pm on Sunday to the digital classroom. Once submitted, I read them over and give back colour-coded feedback.  I also take a snippet of the feedback and writing and print it off at school.  The students are then given time on Monday, in class, to read, edit and amend their original responses through the Writing Process.

FINALLY!!!  I have got to the point of today's post (thanks for hanging in here :-)).

Brentson, my colleague, called me and asked if we could do something more with the EQs. We brainstormed and came up with this new extension activity. It worked a treat.

Students get into pairs with the corresponding student with the same EQ from the weekend (although the same EQ is done, they are totally independent responses).

The pairs discuss their answers that they wrote on penzuclassroom for only TWO minutes.

After the 2 mins. is up they find new a new pair and discuss different EQs for a further two minutes.

Once each pair has discussed with all the pairs, you now hopefully have a class of students who have extended their understanding of each EQ and formulated even more ideas, opinions and knowledge.  Now a class discussion is entered into and each pair displays their understanding of a host of things taught & learned the previous week.

The students go onto EDMODO and write a response to the "SPEED EQ" activity they have just been doing as a whole class. Here is a snip of the posted thread this am:

This activity is awesome! It was great to watch the students walking around in pairs speaking English about what they had understood from last week.  We made it a no-Turkish activity, so that we could see them express their own understanding of the weeks learning experience from week 10 using L2.  

Areas of practice were:

1. EQ Understandings
2. Listening
3. Speaking
4. Pair & group work
5. Reflection
6. Self-confidence

Here are a few student responses to the activity:

"We both think that this is a brilliant idea. It helps us to improve our speaking. Also the ones whose don't speak or shy to speak in class has a chance to build up some self confidence to themselves. It was enjoyable, we learned our classmates ideas too. Brilliant activity." (Kaan & Sinan)

"In my opinion it was really intresting and funny activity. In this activity we can share our ideas with our friends. Also we can take our friends opinions and make our writing more strong and meaningful. Another positive way of this activity is it improves our speaking skills and builds up our self confidance." Oğüzhan & Niyazi

"I think the activity is very good for me because I can talk my friends and I explain my stress problem. We talk each other and we listen to other people. This activity is very good for us." Selin & Sima

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