quarta-feira, 29 de fevereiro de 2012
terça-feira, 28 de fevereiro de 2012
segunda-feira, 27 de fevereiro de 2012
Se vc quiser saber a força do aprendizado real, tente "desaprender" um mal hábito. Você já fez isso? Ou pelo menos, tentou? Se você já tentou fazer isso, já deve ter percebido o espaço que esse aprendizado tomou no seu cérebro...e se você pudesse substituir esse mal hábito e colocar em seu espaço, um bom hábito que te ajude a melhorar o seu segundo idioma?
Eu sei que você quer aprender tudo que puder no menor espaço de tempo possível. Eu sei que você acredita que "mais é melhor" e que um oceano de palavras novas vão ajudá-lo a falar mais e rápido. Porém, quero propor que nademos contra a corrente e só por hoje, tente aprender uma única palavra, nada mais que uma.
Sim! Eu sei que é difícil, a gente quer sempre mais, porém, acredite em mim e me deixe ajudá-lo a aprender apenas uma palavra.
Essa palavra é:
Observe essa palavra, pense no que ela poderia dizer. Há algum cognato em português? Ela se parece com algo que você aprendeu ou viu antes? E se eu te falasse que ela será muito útil em seu inglês, você iria tentar aprendê-la? Memorizá-la?
Há várias técnicas de memorização, mas posso garantir que se você não souber o sentido dessa palavra, todo o seu esforço para memorizá-la será inútil, pois sem um significado importante que a ligue à alguma coisa que valha a pena guardá-la, o seu cérebro apagará essa nova palavra daqui a trinta minutos ou no final do dia. So, como levar essa palavra para a sua memória de longo prazo?
O que posso lhe dizer é que essa palavra vai te ajudar a superar o medo de falar inglês, acabará com o seu receio de cometer erros e te ajudará a atingir uma fluência que curso nem professor nenhum conseguirão.
Porém, eu quero que você a lembre, por isso, vou te ajudar, o único problema é que eu não posso te dar a resposta assim tão fácil, afinal, se você continuar a depender do professor toda vez que quiser falar algo novo, eu terei te ajudado a fortalecer um mal hábito. Não se esqueça que a missão de um professor é te ajudar a aprender a aprender.
Por isso, quero que você aprenda a palavra RECAST para sempre e sabe qual a melhor forma para fazer isso e garantir o lugar dela no seu cérebro com a mesma força de um mal hábito que não sai fácil? Pedindo que você procure a resposta, ao invés de dar o significado para você.
Agora, quero ver se você tem mesmo vontade de aprender inglês de verdade... Aguardo o seu e-mail com a resposta.
sexta-feira, 24 de fevereiro de 2012
The Advantage of Higher Education
quinta-feira, 23 de fevereiro de 2012
The Iron Lady
A portrait of Margaret Thatcher from colossus to
distinguished by Meryl Streep's superb central performance
By Philip France
In his mid-19th-century poem "A Psalm of
Life", Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote: "Lives of great men all
remind us/ We can make our lives sublime/ And departing leave behind us/
Footprints on the sands of time." This was the kind of thinking that
underlay the inspirational movies produced by Warner Brothers in the 1930s for
which Variety coined the term
"biopic" – films about medical pioneers, democratic revolutionaries
and other movers and shakers who changed the world, invariably men (MGM's Madame Curie was a rare exception).
But suddenly, in 1941, Orson Welles entered the
scene with Citizen Kane, a picture that
fractured chronological narrative and constantly changed points of view while
presenting a lightly fictionalised, highly critical life of the press tycoon
William Randolph Hearst. The biopic was never the same again, and even in
commonplace films about pop stars it became necessary to expose flaws and
epiphanic Rosebud moments. In The Iron Lady, the director Phyllida Lloyd and the
screenwriter Abi Morgan submit Margaret Thatcher to theCitizen Kane treatment, though the approach now seems as conventional as the Warner
Citizen Kane purported to be about the recently deceased Charles Foster Kane, though
this did not prevent the very-much-alive Hearst and his powerful friends from
taking against the film and seeking, with a certain temporary success, to
suppress it. Welles included scenes of a demented, senile Kane, alone and
lamenting his lost power in his remote castle of Xanadu, but he also showed his
hero through the eyes of a variety of people, some hostile, some openly
In The Iron
Lady the central figure is no fiction. She's the most famous, most
controversial living Englishwoman, a reclusive widow now known to be in poor
health and not entirely in command of her mental faculties, but who still
hovers over all our lives. Virtually everything and everybody in the movie is
shown through her distorted vision as her faulty memory calls up her past
during a period of 24 hours or so in the past couple of years (it's not clear
precisely which year).
We first see her in a small, cluttered convenience
store, an image of a decaying Britain. Frail and doddering, she's given her
carers the slip and nipped down the street to buy a carton of milk for her
husband, Denis (a somewhat misdirected Jim Broadbent). Though some eight years
dead, he's haunting her day and night. The purchase of milk (which she notes as
overpriced) will remind most older viewers of her cancelling
school milk when secretary of
state for education in Edward Heath's cabinet in the early 1970s. Thus from the
opening moment the movie slyly throws little darts at what emerges generally as
an admiring portrait.
The octogenarian Thatcher is being visited by her daughter, Carol
(Olivia Colman), a brisk, lisping, confident presence, both loving and somewhat
resentful. She's come to help her dispose of Denis's clothes which have been
cluttering Margaret's central London home. The first flashbacks (triggered by
the Freudian slip of signing her memoirs "Margaret Roberts") deal
with her teenage life in Grantham, daughter of the thrifty, self-sufficient
grocer alderman Roberts. The second set (touched off by confusing a present-day
dinner party with a 1950 meeting with the patronising, upper-crust Conservative
constituency committee in Dartford) concern her entry into politics and meeting
the successful businessman Denis Thatcher, who was to offer her security,
enabling her to switch from scientific research to the law and eventually
fathering her twins. In these early scenes Thatcher is played convincingly by
Alexandra Roach as a gauche, aggressive, lower-middle-class provincial girl.
Here we encounter the two key figures in her life: the influential father and
the supportive husband. "I've always preferred the company of men,"
she says (women friends are notably absent), but these are the only two she
Then there's a sudden switch in the 1970s when the
two parts of Meryl Streep's altogether
remarkable impersonation come together – Thatcher in pathetically touching old
age and Thatcher in her political prime as party leader and world stateswoman.
It's at this point that the best sequences occur when her admirer, the Tory MP
Airey Neave (Nicholas Farrell), and her svengali, the TV guru Gordon Reece
(Roger Allam), take her in hand.They give her a makeover in The King's Speechmanner, creating the Iron Lady who
over the next 15 years will dominate Britain in a familiar divisive way.
Eventually, the film-makers suggest, Thatcher's increasing isolation, brought
about by her rigidity, singlemindedness, inability to accept advice and
contempt for most of her colleagues, brings about a form of madness that
foreshadows the Lear-like dementia ("I will not go mad") that infects
Subsequently the script packs too much in, briefly touching every
possible base from Brixton and Brighton to Goose Green and the miners' strike.
Nothing is examined or analysed, little is illuminated in any revealing way,
and because everything is seen from her distorted perspective there is no
countervailing moral, political, historical force or argument. But what we do
have is a study of the process of ageing, fading powers, doubt, disappointment
and loss that will come to most of us if we stay the course, and a stunning
performance from Meryl Streep to set alongside her Isak Dinesen and Julia Child. Breathtaking in
its detail and nuance, its subtle gestures and inflections, this multifaceted
jewel of a portrait is altogether grander than the commonplace setting of the
But suddenly, in 1941, Orson Welles entered the scene with Citizen Kane, a picture that fractured chronological narrative and constantly changed points of view while presenting a lightly fictionalised, highly critical life of the press tycoon William Randolph Hearst. The biopic was never the same again, and even in commonplace films about pop stars it became necessary to expose flaws and epiphanic Rosebud moments. In The Iron Lady, the director Phyllida Lloyd and the screenwriter Abi Morgan submit Margaret Thatcher to theCitizen Kane treatment, though the approach now seems as conventional as the Warner Brothers straitjacket.
sexta-feira, 17 de fevereiro de 2012
By The Gringa
It's Carnival in Rio and I am honestly not that excited about it. I did the whole Rio experience last year with a bunch of blocos, performing in the Children's Parade, and going to two nights at the Sambodrome (one night of the Special Groups, the other the Champion's Parade). My experience at the Sambodrome was amazing, an incredible opportunity, one I felt no need to repeat this year.
The blocos were an interesting cultural experience, but after I had a claustrophobia-induced panic attack at one of them, I wasn't so crazy about them. Though I love dancing, I hate being in the sun and heat in huge groups of people, especially drunk ones. Plus, though the music is great, it's the same short song played over and over and over again and I find it a little tedious after awhile. I do regret not going to any samba school rehearsals this year though; they're held indoors and are a lot of fun, where people seem more interested in dancing than in getting wasted. Another factor this year has been Eli, who was very sick for most of the week and isn't quite better yet, so I've been taking care of him and helping him take it easy. It's not that I don't like Carnival; I'm completely fascinated by it, but this year I prefer to take a step back and watch it from the sidelines. (However, I did have a fantasy that by now I'd have become a blogging celebrity in Rio and a local celebrity would invite me to his/her box seats at the Sambodrome. I have a very vivid imagination.)
But I digress, because the real point of this post is aimed at my gringo readers who haven't yet experienced Rio's Carnival, as well as the hordes of horny Googlers accessing my blogs in hopes of finding naked pictures of Carnival queens and videos of sex in the streets of Rio. There's a great deal of mystique and a wealth of misinformation when it comes to Carnival, so I'd like to clear up a few misconceptions.
I. Nudity & Sex
First of all, nudity is not omnipresent at Carnival in Rio. Though a number of women in the parade at the Sambodrome wear very little clothing, the rest of the participants wear elaborate, heavy costumes, and those are the dancers and musicians that make up the bulk of the parade. At the street parties (blocos), which are the second great pride of Rio's Carnival, revelers dress up in costumes or put on silly hats or accessories, but most certainly do not go half naked. You're more likely to find men in drag than women in thongs at the blocos.
Though nudity is not nearly as widespread at Rio's Carnival than people think, it is unfortunately one of the most commonly projected images of Carnival, Rio, and Brazil to the rest of the world. As a result, many foreigners incorrectly link nudity to promiscuity, assuming that Carnival is some sort of sexual free-for-all, an all out orgy.
But I have bad news for you: it's not.
There is no sex in the Sambodrome parade, there is no sex on the streets during the blocos, and there is no sex in public in general (there are, however, copious amounts of men peeing in public). The only instance of semi-public promiscuity I've heard about is at the Scala club's tacky Carnival parties, but I'm not sure how bad it really is. Due to heavy drinking, some people certainly hook up and some make out in public, but it's not much different from meeting someone at a club or a party. The same rules apply--there is no special sex loophole for Carnival.
For more on the misconception of linking nudity to sexuality, see my post on it here.
Some gringos believe that Rio is like Carnival all year long. Though you can find a few blocos and plenty of samba school rehearsals during the year, Rio is definitely not a perpetual Carnival. Though the work culture isn't like Sao Paulo, people work long hours and go about their daily lives without partying daily. I've noticed a certain something in the air during Carnival, a skip in people's steps, a definite weight lifted and a feeling of relaxation. Carnival is different from the rest of the year, a time when people let go and transform into something different. Carnival is, after all, a social pressure valve, especially in Rio.
Since people assume that Rio is a party city, it attracts some gringos to visit or move here. It didn't for me. I think the nightlife is far better in Buenos Aires and New York, but aside from that, Rio is an incredibly cosmopolitan city with museums, galleries, cafes, restaurants, movie theaters, shows, outdoor activities, and cultural centers. There's a lot more to Rio than its nightlife.
III. Authentic Experience
Some tourists come to see Carnival in Rio because they think it's the "authentic" Brazilian cultural experience. Though it's internationally one of the most famous manifestations of Brazilian culture, there are so many other celebrations and representations of Brazilian culture. There are Carnival celebrations in hundreds of other Brazilian cities and a huge wealth of holidays and traditions you can experience year-round.
Also, Rio life during Carnival is different from Rio life during the rest of the year. Few people work (with the exception of restaurants, hotels, malls, etc), the city slows down, and many Cariocas leave the city, while the tourists pour in. Seeing Rio outside of the Carnival season is just as authentic, if not more so.
quinta-feira, 16 de fevereiro de 2012
Eric Matez doesn't know what he'll do next. To put it euphemistically, he has been given the gift of time. To put it more bluntly, Matez, a 17-year elementary school teacher in Norfolk, Massachusetts, is out of a job, fired in January 2006 from the Freeman-Centennial School. His offense? Going off script.
Matez was let go from the school for not teaching the curriculum to specification and for phoning the parents of his students to explain why he might be suspended; the latter act added the charge of insubordination to his disciplinary filing. "There's magic in my classroom," he says. "Going by the book, I couldn't make that happen. I wasn't going to give up the magic."
This isn't a case of poor test scores ending a teacher's career -- after his dismissal, an online message board for the town was flooded by testimonials from parents and students alike: "You were very kind to my son and made him fit into your classroom, when in previous years he was always the odd kid out. We appreciate that," read one. "You also made learning fun for him at a time when he started to hate school."
"He also has an inspiring integrity that spills over into his students, and I, for one, am ever so grateful for that," read another.
Matez's success in connecting with students and the community, and the school district's unwillingness to retain him, speaks to a bigger problem facing the education system today. Teachers across the country are increasingly becoming fed up with the mandated curriculum of the No Child Left Behind Act, of being told what and how to teach.
At the same time, school systems are afraid of what might happen to their federal funding if they allow teachers to explore alternatives -- no matter how successful those may be.
In this sense, Matez and others like him who have been fired or have quit out of frustration over curricular restrictions may one day be looked on as forward sentries, the outliers who paved the way for teachers to think outside the test and begin to take back the classroom from the bureaucrats.
When frustration mounts within a confining system, two common reactions unfold: First, seek out fellow travelers. Second, search for alternatives. This situation has led many teachers to bond online and use the Internet to find encouragement and alternative lesson ideas.
Not surprisingly, a trove of educational materials, sites, and tools exists on the Internet, catering to teachers hoping to ditch the textbook and, instead, reach their students in new ways. Tapping into these resources can be an exhilarating experience for educators, renewing their love of teaching, says Jim Moulton, an independent educational-technology consultant in Bowdoin, Maine, and Edutopia.org blogger.
"Isolation is the great killer of teachers," he adds. "When they see there are other people out there providing resources, the receptivity shoots up. Teachers aren't looking at a script. They have plenty of scripts. The lights go on when they see tools."
Tools to help teachers breathe new life into their classrooms can be found all over the Internet. As with anything people create, however, some resources are better than others. Many of the alternative tools have been created to adhere to educational standards; others are simply the informal work of individuals or groups.
And, as Matez's example points out, teachers should be careful before abandoning district-mandated curriculum wholesale. But in most cases, these materials can be used to augment standardized lesson plans or for extracurricular activities.
Some of the most intriguing aids reside at Instructables, a site produced by Squid Labs, a silly-sounding but serious organization staffed in part by alums of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab. Instructables, part of the group's Engineering for Good program, tackles projects that, according to its Web site, it hopes "will make a positive impact on the world," allowing anyone -- not just educators -- to upload detailed instructions on how to build or create a wide variety of projects. They're illustrated by photos or step-by-step drawings and include how to build a robot out of a computer mouse, how to craft a marshmallow gun, and how to create a helicopter toy.
"We're trying to create lesson-free learning, helping communities document their findings," Instructables cofounder Saul Griffith says. "People can show what they're building."
More than 600 "lesson-free lessons" are available free on the Instructables site, and Griffith hopes the number will grow as people in general -- and teachers especially -- discover project ideas as well as use the site to allow students to create their own Instructables.
"We live in an age when video games are dominant," he says. "It's important to make hands-on educational activities as fun as video games. We want to make projects mischievous and adventurous, and make learning about science and completing projects as fun as video games."
One of the highlights of the site is a section called Howtoons, which contains ingenious one-page paneled cartoons that offer instruction on topics such as how to make a flute from a turkey baster or how to create an underwater viewer using a 2-liter soda bottle. The cartoons (some of which will be published in hardcover), are licensed by the open-content organization Creative Commons, and interested teachers are encouraged to print them out and use them in their classrooms.
"The response to Howtoons has been very strong," says Griffith. "I've received a lot of email from teachers who are using them in classes. I assume that for every response, there are ten people using it and not telling you."
Any teacher who doubts that students, given the chance, would endeavor to create an Instructable or share their knowledge through a similar site should talk to Shanel Kalicharan, a 17-year-old high school senior living in Mississauga, Ontario, near Toronto. Between sessions spent filling out her college applications, Kalicharan stumbled across Wikibooks, part of the Wikimedia Foundation, best known for the open-source encyclopedia Wikipedia.
The site came under fire in late 2005 when someone vandalized the article on journalist and political figure John Seigenthaler Sr., but it's generally a tremendous resource and a strong testament to what can happen when you pool the collective intellect of a large crowd. Nonetheless, teachers are strongly cautioned to verify material found here before using it in a substantive way in the classroom.
With Wikibooks, Wikimedia founder Jimmy Wales hopes to create online textbooks that can be used to supplement classroom learning; current books include those for algebra and general biology, plus a wealth of other subjects. Kalicharan discovered a project dealing with the solar system, one on dinosaurs, and one on ancient civilizations -- three topics of strong interest to her, so she set about contributing to the books.
"I've always loved reading, and I remember when I was younger I wanted to participate in making books," she says. "It's been great. The other contributors listen to your ideas, and we're working together to push everything along. I think others would benefit from doing it -- interacting with others, learning about other backgrounds and cultures, and learning more about themselves in the process."
Wales is known as a provocateur, and he displays it when asked about how the Wikibooks project got its start three years ago. "The academic system is stifling," he says. "It needs a breath of fresh air." At the same time, however, he's quick to point out the modest goals of the Wikibooks project in its current phase.
"It'll be a year or two before we can show something to teachers that they can use in the classroom setting as a textbook replacement," he says. "For K-12, teachers aren't given the flexibility to choose materials. They have to choose books from state-approved list. To get on the list, it's a process, and we're not there yet. Today, however, we can be used as a supplement, as a way to encourage students to contribute to a cool educational project."
New Sources, New Energy
Kathy Schrock, who runs the popular teacher-tech site Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators, a resource hosted by the Discovery Channel's DiscoverySchool.com, encourages teachers to breathe life into their standardized curriculum through the use of technology. Though Schrock cautions against using Wikibooks substantively in a classroom, she regularly hears from teachers desperate for additional resources.
"I get about 150 emails a day, and 99 percent of them are from teachers looking for help," she says. "There's so much teachers have to cover because of accountability and mandates. As a result, it's very hard to fit anything additional into the classroom."
On her site, Schrock points teachers to what she considers the best online resources. These sites and programs are broken up by subject matter, with links available for topics from Agricultural Education to World Languages and Regions. "There's so much out there," she says. "It has definitely piqued the interest of teachers."
Whether this interest is due to the realization that a lot of content exists online or increased frustration at the standardization effort is up for debate. Jim Moulton, however, knows one thing: Bringing alternative lesson ideas into the classroom electrifies the students.
"I just got back from consulting with a classroom in California, and once the teachers introduced the Web-based resources into the classroom, the energy in the room was tremendous," Moulton says. "It was amazing, actually."
Despite the tremendous feedback people such as Griffith, Schrock, and Moulton receive from teachers who turn to the Internet to infuse their classrooms with new materials, most teachers aren't taking advantage of the resource and reaching out to fellow educators, specifically by blogging or podcasting to create resources for one another. "Teachers are introverts," says Moulton. "Teaching is an act of intimacy, and teachers aren't ones who typically reach out."
Part of the problem, of course, is that educators who do reach out, that do upset the status quo -- even if their methods are successful -- are often the ones who are punished. "Schools don't treat innovators kindly," says Moulton. "Teachers of the Year don't come back. Standardization is sapping innovative platforms in elementary schools. In a knowledge-based economy, that's suicide."
Back in Massachusetts, Matez, inspired by a conversation with a former student's parent, originally decided to fight his dismissal. "A mom called me and said, 'You know, Eric, we're never going to get good, innovative teachers here in Norfolk if teachers think they're going to get fired for doing their job better'" he says. "Through this whole ordeal, she was the only person who made sense to me."
Since filing a grievance with the union, however, he has decided to avoid a drawn-out litigation and resign. He is now looking for work in another school district.
Eric Hellweg is a writer in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who specializes in business, technology, and entertainment issues.
quarta-feira, 15 de fevereiro de 2012
BY DIANE DEMEE-BENOIT
I'm a firm believer that new ideas and innovations result from networking with people outside of your normal social and professional circles. I've found they offer new ways of envisioning the possibilities. Educators too often overlook the power of networking. We tend to frequent the same conferences (technology advocates go to NECC, principals go to NAESP or NASSP, staff developers go to NSDC, and so on). We network and hang out with people who think like us, year in and year out.
Once you start networking, you will be exposed to new ideas that will push you outside the box. However, taking an idea and shaping it into something that will work in a classroom or a school, and will be sustainable over time -- with changes in funding, leadership, policies, and so on -- is the challenge for many of the innovative school programs that spring up, and later wither because of change in leadership, direction, or whatever.
To reinvent schools for the twenty-first century, we need to take an entrepreneurial approach. I recently read "To Build Up Innovation, Break Down Your Networks" in Fast Company magazine. It offers some food for thought about change, opportunity, leadership, and strategies for school change. The author, Chris Trimble, is on the faculty of the Business School at Dartmouth College, with expertise in strategic innovation.
Here are some snippets from the article, which I found intriguing. Read the article and let me know what you think:
"Creating new networks is the only way for an organization to push innovation past the idea stage."
"Entrepreneurs believe in the power of networking. Many are very good at it. They become good because they recognize that most people with interesting notions usually only have one piece of a puzzle. Often unexpected combinations of ideas, or chance meetings of people with complimentary perspectives, ignite genuine breakthroughs."
"Too many innovation initiatives run amok because we celebrate ideas too much and understand execution too little."
"While enriching existing networks accelerates idea generation, breaking existing networks is often required to convert vision to reality... Breaking networks is the only way to prepare an organization to take innovation efforts beyond mere ideas."
"Managers are trained to operate through formal organizational structures, policies, and processes. This is effective for making a proven business ever more efficient, but not for driving innovation."
terça-feira, 14 de fevereiro de 2012
Creative teachers mix unconventional methods into their lesson plans.
BY GRACE RUBENSTEIN
On May 1, the ninth graders in Camsie Matis's South Bronx classroom were supposed to study how to graph and solve inequalities. The teens would need those skills to pass the state exit exam and, ultimately, secure a diploma.
But on that particular day, hundreds of thousands of people were marching in cities across the country to protest a pending federal immigration bill. Matis dropped her original lesson plan to launch a project in which students explored the impact of immigrants in the United States, sidestepping political spin for mathematical certainty.
Such spontaneity in the classroom is even bolder now than it would have been five years ago, before the No Child Left Behind Act accelerated the push toward what National Education Association (NEA) president Reg Weaver calls a "one-size-fits-all" approach to teaching. While some teachers tap the Web for unconventional, engaging lessons (see "Taking Back the Class: Teach to the Test? No Way!"), others prove there are myriad ways to break the mold -- as long as you have the courage and determination to try.
"The public school system doesn't motivate urban kids," Matis asserts. "The drill style of teaching to a test ends up defeating many kids who just can't keep up with the torrent of problems thrown at them. I find that kids will do more work, better work, if they care about what they are learning. And they care about what they can relate to."
Don't get Matis wrong; she respects the testing mandates. She recognizes that a public school's survival hangs on test scores, and she bases the content of her classes at the New Day Academy on the state math exam. But she grounds her lessons in problems of everyday life and insists there are some things her students must understand -- gas prices, buying on credit, compound interest -- whether or not they're tested on them.
Earlier this year, for example, she spent a full week with the teens pricing the most cost-effective phone plans for calling the Dominican Republic, where many of their families come from. More recently, she took her students to a car dealership as part of a project called So You Want to Buy a Hummer. Later, students calculated lease/purchase payments and gas, insurance, and maintenance costs.
Traditional math classes typically cover one skill at a time (for example, a day's lesson on denominators), but Matis finds that by engaging kids through exploration of real-life problems, she can pack three or four skills into one lesson. "That's how you can sell it," she adds, "if your principal says to you, 'This is not in the curriculum.'"
Eric Langhorst, who teaches eighth graders at South Valley Junior High School, in the Kansas City suburb of Liberty, Missouri, inspires his students' creativity through hands-on projects. For Langhorst's classes, learning social studies entails panning for gold with dirt from a South Dakota gold mine and putting Lansford Hastings, who recommended a deadly shortcut to the Donner Party, on mock trial for manslaughter. Each year, the students use a green screen and video software to create a "live" news broadcast at the Boston Massacre, complete with eyewitness reports and interviews from London.
Like Matis, Langhorst bases his curriculum on the content the state requires, yet he considers that only a starting point. "Tell me what you want me to get to, but let me get to that goal the way I want to," he says.
Matis insists that every teacher can think outside the test. Even where teachers must follow a strict scope and sequence of lessons, she says, "instead of just doing the textbooks or the worksheet, spend at least one period a week on a real-life problem, and then the kids will be hooked." Matis starts lessons this way so that when she shifts back into traditional instruction and practice problems, the germane application keeps her students going.
The key, Matis and Langhorst agree, is being able to justify what you're doing -- especially by demonstrating improved student performance, as both have. "How does playing with pans of dirt fit into what you're teaching?" Langhorst says. "If you can prove at the end that you're getting to the point, I think most administrators will let you do what you want."
For Eric Langhorst's eighth-grade students in Liberty, Missouri, social studies is more interactive than sitting through a lecture. Alexis Hansen finds some gold in dirt from a South Dakota gold mine. Credit: Eric Langhorst
Fueled by their passion, these teachers make their methods sound easy. But here's the rub: Teaching as creatively as Matis, Langhorst, and other mold breakers do is really hard. Martin Haberman, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, has spent four decades researching what makes great educators. By his definition, only about 8 percent of teachers are what he calls "stars" -- those who hold themselves personally responsible for motivating and engaging students. He says, "It's the difference between brain surgery and a Band-Aid."
Natural innovators will innovate no matter what constraints they face, says Kate Nolan, chief officer of the Professional Services Group at Learning Point Associates and a specialist in professional development. But, she adds, they'll do it with more success and less strain if their principals support them.
Educators recommend a host of steps for encouraging innovation. Nolan and Weaver, the NEA president, both say it's crucial to nurture new teachers through programs such as mentoring (see "Teacher Preparation: Learn from the Masters"). Weaver adds that principals can help by allowing teachers to take risks. "A lot of the time, if you make a mistake, you're punished or penalized, so teachers go straight by the book," he explains. "If they are allowed to make mistakes while being creative, it sends a big message."
South Valley Junior High School students in Liberty, Missouri, become journalists to study the Boston Massacre. Rebecca Dillon (with microphone) interviews "eyewitnesses" Breanna Ormsby (left) and Brittany Ruechert.
Scott Painter, a physics teacher at Atlanta's South Atlanta High School who served as a commissioner with the nonprofit Teaching Commission, a three-year bipartisan project aimed at elevating the teaching profession, says schools can help by scheduling time for collaboration -- not just "meeting for meeting's sake," but real brainstorming to keep classrooms from being islands. Langhorst suggests connecting with fellow educators by any means possible: conferences, professional organizations, Google searches. "I'm teaching the same thing as literally thousands of other teachers," he says, "so it would be insane for me to think, even if I have great things going on in my classroom, that what I've done is the best way to do things."
Why go to the trouble? Langhorst admits creative lessons take more work than photocopying worksheets. The point, he explains, is to keep it interesting -- for students and teacher alike.
"The whole point of testing is really good," says Matis. "The problem is that kids are still getting left behind, and what do we do? I get them excited about math -- and I'm not going to get them excited about math by saying, 'We're on section three, problem ten, on Thursday, October 17.' I say, 'Hey, there were a million people marching for immigration. Let's look at the numbers.'"
Educationally speaking, that's brain surgery.
Grace Rubenstein is a senior producer at Edutopia.
segunda-feira, 13 de fevereiro de 2012
Filipe is talking about "Climbing". He is very passionate about it and talks and talks with a light in his yes and a thunder drumming in his chest as he is a bit nervous: he has an audience, people are watching and judging him as he talks about his greatest passion.
He is one of my learners
A natural risk taker, Filipe doesn't give up, never surrender and presents his topic while the audience starts learning about the techniques, equipments and all the chills regarding his passion
I am not sure if he could present this topic in public in Portuguese, but he does it quite well in English. Every now and then, he has some pronunciation mistakes, mixes up some grammar structures and lacks technical vocabulary, however, he keeps talking and showing people about all the risks and pleasures of his hobby.
He keeps stretching his English, knowing his communication boundaries and overcoming any doubt that people might have about his ability to describe in English such a complex topic.
Filipe doesn't translate a word that he doesn't remember, he describes it. In a certain moment, he wants to tell his class mates about the rain and he doesn't remember or doesn't know the word "rain drop" and instead of translating it ( all his audience can understand Portuguese and translate it would be the easiest way to keep moving) he says " pieces of water".
Pieces of Water?
Yes, pieces of water. The people laugh, I clap! He has done it, he has found the way to keep talking and using his own words and descriptions to tell a story. I couldn't be more proud of him.
In twenty minutes, Filipe has shown that he is learning how to be a real learner. English is not a barrier for him anymore, the second language has become another way of expressing his thoughts and experiences.
He still has a long way to go: there is grammar to be studied, vocabulary to be learned, but he has achieved the half way of his journey to the top of his communication mountain and if he keeps taking risks, very soon, he will become the speaker he is trying to reach.
sexta-feira, 10 de fevereiro de 2012
Most teachers readily agree that the students should receive as much opportunity to speak as is possible when learning English as a foreign language. This idea is especially true in the EFL classroom, where students don't live in an English-speaking country. In such cases, the students may only have the chance to practice English as a conversational tool during the sixty or ninety minutes of the lesson. But whatever the situation, the more students speak in English, the better English speakers they become.
But what should the balance be between teacher talk time and student talk time?
It's best to consider talk time in the following percentages. Students should speak for 70% of the lesson. Teachers should speak for 30% of the time. Of course, some lessons may require longer explanations on the part of the teacher. Or other lessons may only require a minimal amount of explanation, and 90% or more may be devoted to conversational activities. But this 70/30 figure works well as a goal in most classroom situations. Consider the following positive and negative examples as well:
1. The teacher praises students.
2. The teacher provides feedback, correction, and possible guidance.
3. The teacher presents information or gives instructions.
4. The teacher sets up and/or demonstrates activities.
1. The teacher offers personal anecdotes that don't connect to the lesson.
2. The teacher speaks too quickly (or slowly) for the level of students.
3. The teacher offers too much correction.
4. The teacher explains the target language for too much.
5. The teacher excessively uses slang and fillers.
How does the 70/30 figure get affected by specific activities?
Listening activities, examples from the teacher, demonstrating an activity... all can affect talk time. Let's look at some of the following examples to better highlight good use of talk time.
1. The teacher reads a paragraph as part of a listening activity. The teacher speaks most of this time, as he reads the monologue several times and asks comprehension questions. However, his talk time can be deemed effective because the students get to practice their listening and comprehension skills. To increase the effectiveness, though, the listening activity could segue into another activity. Maybe the students could pick out idioms and try to use them in subsequent conversations. Maybe the students could imagine subsequent events from the monologue, or rewrite it as a dialogue. Maybe the students could summarize the monologue in their own words.
2. The teacher provides examples before eliciting a few more sentences from the class on a particularly difficult grammar point. Although his talk time is quite high here, the class can better use the form and function of the language. In other words, they know the structure of the target language, how to use it, and why to use it. This translates into better and more accurate usage both later in the lesson and out in the real world.
3. The teacher explains an activity's directions step by step, then demonstrates the activity with a student. Last, he checks confirmation with a few questions, such as "What will you do first?" and "How about after that?" Again, the talk time is high, but students can immediately begin the activity without confusion.
How about student talk time?
A lot has been said so far regarding the teacher's talk time. For students, the most effective use of their time occurs when they are actively using the target language. This can come in the form of drills early in the lesson or as part of a meaningful conversational activity later. Be careful of the following negatives, though.
1. Students drill the target language throughout much of the lesson, and don't have the chance to use the new grammar or vocabulary with previously studied material. Drills are great to set the pattern of the target language, but students won't know how to use the language outside of these narrowly defined parameters. If students are still practicing with drills towards the end of the class, then the teacher may have introduced too much in the lesson. Retention will drop, and talk time will be rendered ineffective.
2. Students don't practice the target language enough in drills, and so make numerous mistakes with the grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and so on. If this continues during the whole class, then students may not understand how to correctly use the target language. They will continue to make the same mistakes outside of the class. Although the students may have spoken a lot during the lesson, they used the target language incorrectly. Again, this translates into ineffective talk time.
3. The teacher talks or calls on students one at a time. Although the talk time for the class may be roughly 70%, individual talk time is quite low. In a class of ten during a one-hour session, answering questions one by one translates to six minutes of talk time for each student. This isn't enough of an opportunity to speak and practice the material! A better course of action would be to pair up the students, have them practice in drills and free(r) activities throughout the lesson. Two students speaking in pairs for one hour would mean roughly thirty minutes each of talk time, which is a huge difference!