AIE's Blog

26 August 2016 By In Language Blog

In all the trainings I gave at different government and private schools and in Kasur, Gujrat, Hafizabad  and Khanewal, as well as Bulleh Shah Mills or BRAC Karachi, I used AV Aids to enable my training sessions to be more innovative and communicative. 

I have always enjoyed using AV Aids; they support my use use of songs, poetry and other literature and provide great opportunities for listening and speaking activities. Puzzles, flip charts, flash cards, pictures, building blocks  and charts have been extremely useful for developing curiosity, engagement and creativity as well as supporting my classroom management.

 

 

Whether they are government or private school teachers, they all love videos, music, toys and games, along with realia, for any task. The age group of the students does not matter. 

I have had wonderful experiences with new government and private school teachers as well as very experienced teachers from  prestigious institutes like Aitchison College, LGS, OPF, Jinnah Public School, DPS, Murtaza Academy, Cadet College Hassan Abdal and Lawrence College.  The teachers loved to be taught through realia and toys. The forty hours’ training of LGS that I was asked to conduct was the time I realized, to my pleasure, after two or three toys-based sessions on listening and speaking, that teachers were highly motivated. Most of them were very mature and had more than fifteen years of teaching experience, but they loved the use of toys and realia as strategies for developing language skills. 

 

The training at Trust Schools and F.C. College was a similar experience, where teachers remained connected and attentive throughout the workshop because of the use of A.V. Aids. 

 

 

 

 

 

26 August 2016 By In Language Blog

 In all the trainings I gave at different government and private schools and in Kasur, Gujrat, Hafizabad  and Khanewal, as well as Bulleh Shah Mills or BRAC Karachi, I used AV Aids to enable my training sessions to be more innovative and communicative. 

I have always enjoyed using AV Aids; they support my use use of songs, poetry and other literature and provide great opportunities for listening and speaking activities. Puzzles, flip charts, flash cards, pictures, building blocks  and charts have been extremely useful for developing curiosity, engagement and creativity as well as supporting my classroom management.

 

 

Whether they are government or private school teachers, they all love videos, music, toys and games, along with realia, for any task. The age group of the students does not matter. 

I have had wonderful experiences with new government and private school teachers as well as very experienced teachers from  prestigious institutes like Aitchison College, LGS, OPF, Jinnah Public School, DPS, Murtaza Academy, Cadet College Hassan Abdal and Lawrence College.  The teachers loved to be taught through realia and toys. The forty hours’ training of LGS that I was asked to conduct was the time I realized, to my pleasure, after two or three toys-based sessions on listening and speaking, that teachers were highly motivated. Most of them were very mature and had more than fifteen years of teaching experience, but they loved the use of toys and realia as strategies for developing language skills. 

 

The training at Trust Schools and F.C. College was a similar experience, where teachers remained connected and attentive throughout the workshop because of the use of A.V. Aids. 

 

 

 

 

 

23 August 2016 By In Language Blog

 

Children acquire their first language without the fear of making mistakes. On the other hand, second language learners are always conscious about learning a second language as they have already developed concepts related to their first language.  In such situations I find that using literary text, in ESL classrooms, is a highly effective way to keep students engaged and motivated which results in making learning less painful and more fun. 

Literary text can be used in an ESL classroom either in the form of a short story or even as song lyrics. Both of these forms can be explored in order to enhance students’ listening, speaking, reading and writing skills in the second language. Short stories provide students with an opportunity to gather information by reading fewer words. Short stories can be read in one go, so many short stories can be shared and explored during a taught course. Students can also find elements of interest in short stories which keep them motivated to read. Similarly, song lyrics have a beautiful rhythm which keeps the readers charmed and involved in the text. It is poetry with an edge. Exploring song lyrics provides teachers with wonderful opportunities to integrate pronunciation, rhythm,   rhyme scheme and stress patterns through listening and speaking. In addition, they also help second language learners become familiar with slang words, English expressions and idioms in interesting and entertaining ways.

 

10 August 2016 By In Blog Studies

A Well Aligned Course

The foundation on which student learning and our teaching is built is a close concordance between the desired learning outcomes (or course goals), the teaching activities and the assessment of students' work. When this trio of components all work together, students' learning is more efficient and effective, the teachers' work is easier and we say that the course is well 'aligned'.

 

29 January 2016 By In Language Blog

I get these recurring queries from teachers: “How do I improve English vocabulary?” and “How do I improve written expression?” and also “How do I help my students become more proficient in English?” Well, to be very honest, there is no sure-fire way to achieve these ambitions. However, I find that exposure to literature can definitely make this journey for both the student and the teacher relatively easier. How do I know this? I strongly believe that literature has an enormous impact on students’ lives and on their learning. Exploring children’s literature provides exposure to the target language in a natural context, which broadens students’ vision as they dive into the depths of reading. So, I always have my students begin with reading children’s literature. It not only leaves a positive impact on students’ attitudes, but also improves the writing ability of the learners. Literature arouses imagination, is a source of enjoyment and facilitates understanding of one’s ‘self’ and others (Raphael, 2000). Furthermore, literature has a variety of expressions set in contexts, which facilitates vocabulary development as well as exposing the reader to written expression.

Depending on students’ interest, various genres can be selected, though you need to start with what your students are interested in. For example, you can start with ‘The Famous Five’ or ‘Secret Seven’. What about the Harry Potter series, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and Ink Heart? My reason for choosing these in particular is that all of these are series. Once introduced to the students, I have found that the they become eager to read more, to ‘read the next book’, which generates an interest in reading and, as a consequence, the continued exposure eventually enriches their vocabulary and supports the development of their written expression. Classics like ‘Animal Farm’, ‘Charlotte’s Web’, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ should also be added to my list of ‘must reads’.

 

 

26 January 2016 By In Blog Science

Unfortunately, teaching science has become text-book based. Project Based Learning (PBL) and Inquiry based learning (IBL) are approaches to science teaching focusing on understanding the world by questioning, investigating, observing and explaining the order of the world around us. Some teachers may find it challenging to identify a project, but one cannot deny the learning that students experience through projects. Through engaging in projects, students can begin to understand the nature of science. 

A few months back I gave a project to my students. I made a dengue monitoring team. The team monitored the pond waters of the Institute and observed if there was any evidence of Dengue mosquito larvae. 

Students took water samples from the ponds. The samples were analysed, first with a magnifying glass (in the field) and then with a compound microscope in the science laboratory. The project concluded that the collected water samples did not have any evidence of Dengue Larvae. The students learnt different skills such as observation, data collection, prediction, and inferring etc. They also learnt to make microscopic slides. They also learnt to use different instrumentation such as microscope and pH meter. They extended the project by monitoring the pH value of the water and also collected data on different types of flora and fauna in and around the pond. 

Let’s bring theory to practice and make science more meaningful for our students.

 

25 January 2016 By In Blog Studies

My department and I at the Ali Institute were approached by HOPE TV, a private channel working in the field of education. Their main objective of these recordings was to record episodes for their educational programming. Initially it sounded strange as I was in the habit of interactive teaching, so I felt that I I will have to understand the idea behind getting my lectures recorded. After getting important information on different websites, I was able to widen my vision of how we misunderstand education. For most of us, education has taken place only in one sphere - in schools, colleges and universities. Learning, meant to stop our other activities, removes us to some distinct place and then for a certain period of time, we dedicate ourselves solely to learning. 

We never considered that one day work and learning (especially) and play and learning (to some degree) would converge online. The same site we use to chat with people who share our interests will be the site where we also find our research materials, our examples of best practices, and our online courses and programmes. 

After getting over the fear of facing the camera, I firmly believe that educational institutions need to do two things: First, they need to devise mechanisms that will enable their courses to be embedded in the offerings of a portal, and second, they need to equip both staff and students with the mechanics of portal education so that it is not considered as an alien tool for teaching and learning. 

I think we need to place a few considerations in order to comply with these digital demands. With respect to the development of online learning materials and support systems, we should not just develop portals just for their own sake, but we need to make them fully functional for our students:

• learn how to develop and deliver learning materials 'on-demand'

• learn how to produce customised or tailored learning programmes/topics/modules for particular individual students(students with specific weaknesses and concerns)

• learn how to provide a completely online learning experience (this includes things such as books, online quizzes, classroom videos, testing and grading tools)

• learn how to promote the authority and trustworthiness of online course offerings

• learn how to partner with other educational institutions offering courses and programmes in the same field.

In a very short time we can master these opportunities and support our teaching practices in a much wider and wiser way. 

 

25 January 2016 By In Blog Studies

 Are we ready to hear opposing ideas or thoughts from our students? Are we democratic in our teaching, thoughts, ideas, and actions or in our decisions? Are we ready to listen to student queries? I think these are some of the very important questions which we seriously need to ask ourselves as teachers. 

Although it is sometimes very difficult for us to hear conflicting or opposing ideas or thoughts from our students, as a teacher I feel we must have good ears. In fact, I feel we should give our students a chance to think and challenge our ideas in order to facilitate their own thinking process.

 I personally feel that the most important and beautiful thing is when students challenge our ideas, thoughts and philosophy on certain issues. It means that in fact we have engaged them successfully in active and effective learning, we are helping them in creativity and ultimately we are heading towards a student-centred classroom – it means we have actively engaged them in their learning. 

 

21 January 2016 By In Blog Studies

Some people declare that academic writing is a skill. A skill is the ability to do something with a high level of expertise. Fair enough - we are all expected to ‘do’ academic writing with high levels of expertise.

However, a skill is often associated with technique... but achieving expertise is not simply a matter of technique – knowing how to write well by understanding grammar, how to write a paragraph, how to structure a sentence, how to stage an argument and so on. It’s not enough to master the techniques of writing. This is necessary - but not sufficient.

Academic writers also need to know when to use particular writing techniques, and when not to. We need to know our reader’s expectations. We need to know institutional norms, disciplinary conventions and why they exist, what they do, and what might happen if we don’t conform to them. This is more about knowing what - know what to do, why and when.

We do need know how and know what because we don't just write for ourselves. We write for others. Academic writing is always social. It is a social practice. Academic writing helps us to communicate with others and we are judged by them on our writing (and how we are judged!)

Let us see a comparison. An artist isn’t usually judged simply on the basis of his skill with the chosen materials. Judgment is related to the ways in which he or she engages in ongoing conversations - with audiences and with the artistic traditions in which they are working. So it is with academic writers. We academic writers do need to know about audiences, purposes, styles, organisational conventions and genres.

Academic writing is a practice which not only requires both know how and know of what - but also what might be called ‘know-who’. Let us go back to the artist’s example again. Judgments about what constitutes good or great art don’t exist in a vacuum. They are part and parcel of a complex ecology of art dealers, galleries, critics, university departments and so on. The artist may or may not be aware of these, or want to take account of them, or indeed might want to resist, but they are judged - funded, exhibited, purchased, ignored - in this context anyway.

Academic writers also operate in a complex ecology of disciplines, institutions, commercial and non-commercial publishers, reviewers and funders. How our writing is perceived – whether it is judged as being of ‘quality’ - is not simply about whether we have acquired both the necessary know how and know what – but also what is made of that by others, the know who. Understanding the invisible gaze(s) to which we are subject, allows us to make better-informed decisions about whether to conform, resist, trouble or exceed expectations.

So to recap - writing a paper or thesis is never simply about know-how. It requires the know-what and know-who as well. This means, I think, becoming a “student” of your field, as well as in your field. Understanding the academic field you work in leads to an academic writer not only in control of their text, but also more in control of what they write, when, how and for whom.

What have you found out lately about your know-what and know-who?

 

21 January 2016 By In Language Blog

My Communication Skills Classes.

I’m so pleased with the students attending my communication skills classes at the Ali Institute. Why? Well, I work with a number of students in different institutions and schools, and my experience has been somewhat ‘shallow’ – it seems that ‘learning’ means ‘sitting in the classroom and listening to the teacher’.

I don’t believe it’s possible to develop communication skills simply by ‘sitting in the classroom and listening to the teacher’! I make my lessons for communication skills highly interactive, with plenty of scope for practice and practical application of skills. Perhaps more importantly, we had so much fun it didn’t feel like hard work and we were all having fun! It certainly made my teaching easier.

Here are just a few of the activities we did:

1. Active listening exercise

I ‘labelled’ students as ‘1’ and ‘2’. ‘1’s were listeners and ‘2’s were talkers. Listeners were taken out of the room and told to ‘actively not listen’ for 1 minute, ‘listen but show no non-verbal communication’ for 1 minute and then to ‘actively listen’ for 1 minute. Some of the strategies the students used for ‘actively not listening’ were SO funny, and irritating! Afterwards we discussed feelings about not being listened to and strategies for active listening.

2. Building a sculpture

I made a model out of children’s building bricks and placed it secretly outside the room. I put the students into small groups and had them select one student as ‘the viewer’. The viewers left the room and had 1 minute only to view the model (we called it ‘the sculpture’!) but they were not allowed to touch it. I placed a pile of building bricks on the ‘teacher’s table’. The viewer, with hands always behind their backs, had to direct their groups to collect bricks from the ‘teacher’s table’ in order to reconstruct ‘the sculpture’. We had some very strange results and had an informed discussion about the need for clarity in speaking, the need for checking understanding of the listener, and questioning skills.

3. Telephone game

We had a series of telephone conversation role plays. I provided the scenario for the ‘caller’ and the ‘called’. The students sat back-to-back on chairs and played out their roles. Not seeing each other’s faces simulated a telephone conversation. Afterwards we discussed the differences between communication where we can each other and communication over the telephone.

 

4. Question the film star

I was the film star! The students had microphones and had to devise questions to grab my attention as I made my way quickly from my limousine to the film theatre (the length of the corridor!) If they asked interesting questions I would stop and talk to them otherwise I simply kept walking! Their task was to keep me on ‘the red carpet’ as long as possible. It took a number of tries, but in the end they were asking really imaginative, engaging questions. It was also good exercise as we marched up and down the corridor!

 

20 January 2016 By In Blog Mathematics

A Teacher and Material Developer Should Think How A Child Thinks

 

 

A few days ago my youngest daughter, Pipi who is completing her pre-schooling, was solving a worksheet. I was observing her from a distance. Initially, I was seeing excitement and confidence from her facial expressions, but after a while these vanished. Instead I saw anxiety in her face. I realised that she was struggling with something. I silently approached her and looked at the work she had produced; I got a shock. I was sure her teacher would cross-out her work if she presented it, because the counting she had done was not in sequence. It showed a child who was not having a command of numbers and who was unable to write numbers. I realize, however, that the situation was not as easy as that. We, math teachers, try to guide toddlers to write numbers horizontally or vertically. Usually we provide them grid-notebooks having squares neatly aligned. Looking at the worksheet my daughter had, I could see that the layout was confusing her. 

Take a look at the picture of my daughter’s work in this blog. From the number 20, Pipi had difficulty connecting the next figure (21) because she was distracted by the layout, and this pushed her to write the number 21 in the square below. She continued to write numbers up to 24 following the line she had started, and  then write 25 on the previous line which suggested she didn’t know how to count. 

The purpose of sharing the picture and this experience is that maths teachers who develop resources for kids should think how a child thinks. Developers can make some layouts which look very stylish, colourful and attractive, but jeopardise the process of learning. So, if you are teacher always think how a user, a toddler, child or young-one, could think and interpret the resource or instructions you are using. 

 

20 January 2016 By In Blog Studies

Role-playing is an unrehearsed dramatisation in which students improvise behaviours to illustrate how they think their assigned character would speak and act in a realistic or hypothetical situation. I have been using role play in my classroom management sessions. Students are found deeply involved in thinking about how they would react in real-world situations. However I have experienced that one of the pitfalls of using role-plays is that they can become ‘entertaining ends in themselves’, rather than vehicles for learning. So I would suggest that you keep the learning outcomes in mind before using them. 

 

 

 

20 January 2016 By In Language Blog

Teaching Your Child the Most Common First

It is said by educationists and teachers that vocabulary building is the first and most important step in learning any language. Since English is used as a second language in our country, so we usually need to start our young students with the alphabet and some basic vocabulary words which begin with those letters. Apart from only focusing on the alphabet and the common nouns/names beginning with those letters, it would also be good for a child in second language learning to learn how to use the most common nouns in speech or in writing. This exercise of being able to use the most common nouns in speech and then writing enables students to start using English for the most common purposes first. Children, apart from knowing about the alphabet and learning some common and proper nouns, will be able to have a good use of basic English if they start using the most common nouns in various oral and written sentences. According to  Hagit (2005), the most common nouns used in English language are: time, person, year, way, day, thing, man, world, life, hand, part, child, eye, woman, place, work, week, case, point, government, company, number, group, problem and  fact.

At grade levels one, two and three, a Montessori teacher of English can practice using these words meaningfully with the students by making short sentences first and then longer ones orally. She/he can use these common nouns in the classroom in sentences talking about school or classroom matters such as, ‘We must come to the class on time.’ ‘There is a strange person standing there and I must tell my teacher.’ ‘Students who work hard all year get good marks in the exams.’ ‘It is a beautiful world.’ ‘Life is a great blessing of God.’ ‘You must wash your hands before eating anything’, and so on. When the students are able enough to write anything, then the teacher can use these common nouns to give exercises to students to write down sentences on their own. These exercises will enable young kids to start having the basic use of English as a second language. 

Students, in grade levels four or five can start using more common nouns in making everyday sentences. The teacher can also involve the students in display activities, such as writing classroom rules using these words, writing about themselves using these common words or writing about any of their favourite buildings or historical places using these words. 

According to World English (2003), there is another complete and longer list of the most common nouns in the various forms of English used around the world, which are as follows: (English, 2003)

 

Rank

Word

Rank

Word

1

the

126

name

2

of

127

very

3

to

128

through

4

and

129

just

5

a

130

form

6

in

131

much

7

is

132

great

8

it

133

think

9

you

134

say

10

that

135

help

11

he

136

low

12

was

137

line

13

for

138

before

14

on

139

turn

15

are

140

cause

16

with

141

same

17

as

142

mean

18

I

143

differ

19

his

144

move

20

they

145

right

21

be

146

boy

22

at

147

old

23

one

148

too

24

Have

149

does

25

This

150

tell

26

From

151

sentence

27

Or

152

set

28

Had

153

three

29

By

154

want

30

Hot

155

air

31

But

156

well

32

Some

157

also

33

What

158

play

34

There

159

small

35

We

160

end

36

Can

161

put

37

Out

162

home

38

Other

163

read

39

Were

164

hand

40

All

165

port

41

Your

166

large

42

when

167

spell

43

up

168

add

44

use

169

even

45

word

170

land

46

how

171

here

47

said

172

must

48

an

173

big

49

each

174

high

50

she

175

such

51

which

176

follow

52

do

177

act

53

their

178

why

54

time

179

ask

55

if

180

men

56

will

181

change

57

way

182

went

58

about

183

light

59

many

184

kind

60

then

185

off

61

them

186

need

62

would

187

house

63

write

188

picture

64

like

189

try

65

so

190

us

66

these

191

again

67

her

192

animal

68

long

193

point

69

make

194

mother

70

thing

195

world

71

see

196

near

72

him

197

build

73

two

198

self

74

has

199

earth

75

look

200

father

76

more

201

head

77

day

202

stand

78

could

203

own

79

go

204

page

80

come

205

should

81

did

206

country

82

my

207

found

83

sound

208

answer

84

No

209

school

85

Most

210

grow

86

number

211

study

87

Who

212

still

88

Over

213

learn

89

Know

214

plant

90

Water

215

cover

91

Than

216

food

92

Call

217

sun

93

First

218

four

94

People

219

thought

95

may

220

let

96

down

221

keep

97

side

222

eye

98

been

223

never

99

now

224

last

100

find

225

door

101

any

226

between

102

new

227

city

103

work

228

tree

104

part

229

cross

105

take

230

since

106

get

231

hard

107

place

232

start

108

made

233

might

109

live

234

story

110

where

235

saw

111

after

236

far

112

back

237

sea

113

little

238

draw

114

only

239

left

115

round

240

late

116

man

241

run

117

year

242

don't

118

came

243

while

119

show

244

press

120

every

245

close

121

good

246

night

122

me

247

real

123

give

248

life

124

our

249

few

125

under

250

stop

Rank

Word

Rank

Word

251

open

376

ten

252

seem

377

simple

253

together

378

several

254

next

379

vowel

255

white

380

toward

256

children

381

war

257

begin

382

lay

258

got

383

against

259

walk

384

pattern

260

example

385

slow

261

ease

386

center

262

paper

387

love

263

often

388

person

264

always

389

money

265

music

390

serve

266

those

391

appear

267

both

392

road

268

mark

393

map

269

book

394

science

270

letter

395

rule

271

until

396

govern

272

mile

397

pull

273

river

398

cold

274

car

399

notice

275

feet

400

voice

276

care

401

fall

277

second

402

power

278

group

403

town

279

carry

404

fine

280

took

405

certain

281

rain

406

fly

282

eat

407

unit

283

room

408

lead

284

friend

409

cry

285

began

410

dark

286

idea

411

machine

287

fish

412

note

288

mountain

413

wait

289

north

414

plan

290

once

415

figure

291

base

416

star

292

hear

417

box

293

horse

418

noun

294

cut

419

field

295

sure

420

rest

296

watch

421

correct

297

color

422

able

298

face

423

pound

299

wood

424

done

300

main

425

beauty

301

enough

426

drive

302

plain

427

stood

303

girl

428

contain

304

usual

429

front

305

young

430

teach

306

ready

431

week

307

above

432

final

308

ever

433

gave

309

red

434

green

310

list

435

oh

311

though

436

quick

312

feel

437

develop

313

talk

438

sleep

314

bird

439

warm

315

soon

440

free

316

body

441

minute

317

dog

442

strong

318

family

443

special

319

direct

444

mind

320

pose

445

behind

321

leave

446

clear

322

song

447

tail

323

measure

448

produce

324

state

449

fact

325

product

450

street

326

black

451

inch

327

short

452

lot

328

numeral

453

nothing

329

class

454

course

330

wind

455

stay

331

question

456

wheel

332

happen

457

full

333

complete

458

force

334

ship

459

blue

335

area

460

object

336

half

461

decide

337

rock

462

surface

338

order

463

deep

339

fire

464

moon

340

south

465

island

341

problem

466

foot

342

piece

467

yet

343

told

468

busy

344

knew

469

test

345

pass

470

record

346

farm

471

boat

347

top

472

common

348

whole

473

gold

349

king

474

possible

350

size

475

plane

351

heard

476

age

352

best

477

dry

353

hour

478

wonder

354

better

479

laugh

355

true .

480

thousand

356

during

481

ago

357

hundred

482

ran

358

am

483

check

359

remember

484

game

360

step

485

shape

361

early

486

yes

362

hold

487

hot

363

west

488

miss

364

ground

489

brought

365

interest

490

heat

366

reach

491

snow

367

fast

492

bed

368

five

493

bring

369

sing

494

sit

370

listen

495

perhaps

371

six

496

fill

372

table

497

east

373

travel

498

weight

374

less

499

language

375

morning

500

among

 

Students can be enabled to use this long list of common nouns in speech and writing tasks at grade levels three, four or five. They can be asked to use these words orally in describing various things in class and later write descriptive paragraphs and then short essays on any simple topic using a small and relevant list of these common words. When introducing our young learners to English as a second language, it is always more meaningful to have a knowledge of the most commonly used nouns or  words, but also an opportunity to use them step by step to develop their communicative competence. 

 

References: 

Borer, Hagit. 2005. In Name Only. Structuring Sense, Volume I. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

English, W. (2003, August Tuesday ). World English. Retrieved from World English Organization : http://www.world-english.org/esl.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

01 October 2015 By In Language Blog

Is there a difference between students and learners?  This question has been rattling around in my brain for a while now.  I began noticing that many people seemed to use the two words interchangeably as if they meant the same thing…but do they really?  In looking through dictionary definitions I failed to find any clarity.  Students are defined most frequently as people who learn in school.  Most dictionaries do not define learner.  Instead they direct you to the word learn and by so doing make the connection that learners are ones who learn.  All of the definitions gave me the impression that learners and students were the same thing and that the words could be used interchangeably.  

For me this just doesn’t feel right.  These definitions seem to fall short of capturing the true essence of what students and learners are.  So I’m back to my original question with the realisation that the definition needs to come from me and be rooted in my experiences.

In my mind a student is a person who is learning, typically in a formal environment or institution.  Students are placed into grade classrooms, assessed and evaluated and moved on through the system one grade after another.  When I think of students I think of books, backpacks, desks, rows, and order.  Order in the classroom, order in the school, order in the system that is providing the education.  Digging into my past experiences as a student in school I have many happy memories.   I was a great student.  I knew the “stuff” I was told I needed to know.  I knew how to be successful because I could easily figure out what teachers wanted from me.  I knew the game of school, what the rules were, how to follow them and could easily jump through all of the hoops.  I could memorise facts, poems, information, formulae and then recall them for my teachers when asked to do so.  I loved tests and exams because they allowed me to show how smart I was and almost always provided me with a chance to shine. 

At the start of teaching I realised that I had a problem…my learning as a student was not always helpful.  Knowing “stuff” didn’t matter, knowing “stuff” didn’t help the children in class learn it, knowing “stuff” didn’t help me become a better teacher. What I needed to learn was not the “stuff” but how to use it, adapt it, make it my own and more importantly, make it work for my students.  From that day forward I needed to become a learner.

Now as a learner I want feedback not grades.  I seek out opportunities for collaboration not competition.  I am in control of my learning and pursue not only areas of personal passion but also areas where I need to grow to better support the learners in my classroom.  This learning is not always orderly, in fact it is often very messy but it empowers me in ways that my learning as a student never did.  As a learner my learning is not confined by a building, a time or a preset curriculum - it was set by me.  This learning is relevant, authentic, engaging and extremely satisfying. 

My inquiry is not over on this topic but I do believe that there IS a difference between being a learner and being a student.  This difference appears to lie largely in who is in control of the learning and in the creation of understanding that transcends any one place and time. 

 

22 September 2015 By In Language Blog

Teaching students about Urdu Language Teaching (ULT) was as interesting as teaching them about English Language Teaching. I had imagined that it would be easier teaching a native language as students already have a foundation in it because it is their mother tongue (usually). Moreover, I felt that it would be much easier teaching adults because they already have a proficiency in the language, but when it came to teaching student Early Years practitioners for two days, there were some strange and funny situations. Many students did not know that genres are asnaaf’e adab and that the new terms according to them such as mersiya, nezm’e moera, qata, rubayi,, munqebet were just the types/names of many poems of Urdu that they had been reading since childhood ? The most interesting experience was teaching Urdu phonics; the word phonics appeared strange to them, complicated yet attractive, that was fearful in the beginning when I told them that they will study phonics with me the next day ? When I did Urdu phonemes with them, using some videos, they were pleased to know that they had been doing these sounds since their childhood, but not with the categorisation and sequence of phonics ? Moreover, the students were observed to be excited and playful like kids in the class when they did Urdu children’s songs - with activities - and they were naughty as well. Urdu riddles and puzzles made them even naughtier. Some also had difficulties in comprehending Urdu literature, some had in lesson planning… both problems seemed to be the same as we have in E.L.T. The best part of the lesson was when the Montessori student teachers were  silent while listening to, and watching, the Urdu stories and they all wanted to be the main character of those stories with more creative or funnier ideas ? All students, no matter what their age, do belong to the same age group more or less, especially when they are learning, and here is where the excitement of teaching and learning comes !

21 September 2015 By In Blog Science

Kitchen Chemistry

In the science week at AIE, we had an opportunity to interact with school science teachers on a number of different workshops. Out of five workshops I enjoyed conducting the workshop entitled ‘Kitchen Chemistry’ the most. The aim of this workshop was to help teachers explore how to use everyday kitchen items to conduct science experiments. During the workshop participants identified major food groups and the additives they contain. They performed simple experiments using kitchen ingredients and identified different physical and chemical changes taking place during in the kitchen. 

The topic was introduced by an activity in which I prepared tea and a sandwich in front of the class, discussing how these are made up of number of chemical compounds. Tea is a mixture of caffeine, water, sugar and milk. Bread is made from three main ingredients: water, grains and leavener (also called raising agent).  Making bread from yeast is an aerobic reaction. Cooked bread has a spongy texture due to carbon dioxide. We also discussed that there are many food items that contain additives which are mainly artificial in the form of colouring agents, flavouring agents, emulsifiers, stabilizers, preservatives, gelling and glazing agents.

The groups made jelly and sandwiches with mayonnaise and boiled eggs. When eggs are cooked they become firmer. This is because cooking changes the shape of the amino acid chains in the egg. This is called ‘denaturing’. Mayonnaise is an emulsion. It does not separate when it is left to stand. Mayonnaise is made using egg yolk. This contains lecithin, which is a natural emulsifier. Jelly is formed due to pectin which is a carbohydrate found in fruits. When sugar is added, the pectin in fruit precipitates out and forms insoluble fibres. We also discussed different chemical compounds which are responsible for the colours of different vegetables - for instance: orange is ?- and ?-carotene; red is lycopene; purple is anthocyanins; yellow is flavonoids; yellow-green is lutein.   

The workshop ended with lots of laughter - the participants learnt and had fun at the same time.

 

 

21 September 2015 By In Blog Science

During the AIE summer “Kids’ University” we explored the use of microscopes in one of the science sessions. It was one of the best sessions. The sight of the microscopes made them really excited (the felt like real scientists!) and the kids started exploring the use of the microscopes which raised many questions. They asked how a microscope works and what they can see using it.

I showed them how to adjust the microscope. The children prepared onion cell slides for the first time ever. They were surprised to see the layers of hexagonal cells stained blue with methylene blue dye arranged in an orderly manner. Even the nuclei were clearly visible. They learnt to change the magnification powers.  They learnt to use course and fine adjustments. They adjusted the mirror to focus the light on the slide.

 Later the students prepared slides of samples of moss and fungus. They enjoyed observing different samples under the microscopes. It was a great learning experience for them as well as for me. Even the small kids of Grade-2 learnt to prepare slides and operated the microscopes and recorded their observations on the worksheets. 

This reinforced for me the value of using hands-on and minds-on approaches for teaching science to promote students interest in this subject. 

  

  

 

18 August 2015 By In Blog Science

WHAT IS STEM? 

Knowledge expands with great rapidity. We are surrounded by the wonders of technology.  To prepare student-teachers for the challenging future this represents, it is important that we equip them with wide-ranging skills. The 21st Century teacher needs to look critically at what and how students are acquiring these skills. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is a well-known and well-practiced idea in many countries, here in Pakistan there is still scope for doing more.

I shared the idea of combining disciplines (i.e. STEM) with my student-teachers. STEM is about integrated learning, bring together opportunities for students to develop problem-solving skills, productive team work, decision-making skills, whilst engaging students in innovative projects, making connections with real world problems and creative solutions. 

The student-teachers decided to work on 3 different projects. One group made an anemometer - an instrument that helps to measure air speed. Another group designed a conveyor belt – to move things from one place to another. The third group designed a hand-biometric system. 

The students worked enthusiastically and enjoyed the projects. 21st Century teachers should always try to bring creativity and innovation to their lessons -  scientific literacy is the ultimate goal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

04 August 2015 By In Blog Studies

Answering Students' Queries

MC Keache is right in saying that “every class gives us a new challenge." Questions help the instructor to get prompt feedback from the students on what they are learning.  However, in my opinion it is both interesting and challenging when we  encourage our students to ask questions in our classes. A good teacher encourages students to ask questions and this means that sometimes we can face some very thought-provoking questions. 

A good question not only helps other students to clarify their understanding but it also helps to reinforce the content as well. Good questions sometimes open new research dimensions for the course instructor also. In my teaching career I have learnt a lot from my students in different ways.  A good question in a class not only promotes critical thinking but also encourages research among students. We teachers also learn from students' questions as this forces us to re-learn.

31 July 2015 By In Language Blog

Going Step by Step ! 

If there isn’t enough knowledge of a language then communication is not effective. What happens then is that communication errors take over - often with very funny results. This happens in our ESL English language classrooms where students do not have enough vocabulary. I realised that in my teaching of ESL (English as a Second Language) class, that I was actually teaching EFL (English as a Foreign Language). I experienced this with some students in a B.Ed. class who came up with funny answers during some communication activities; ‘The stupid man was very intelligent’, ‘The long boy stood in front of the line’, ‘She has tall hair’, ‘I will not setress you do this work’, ‘I need waater far life’, ‘He is a happy cat’, ‘It was a happy class’, ‘He is a beautiful teacher because he has good results’, ‘It should must happen’, ‘I was eaten by that food’, ‘I want to be a nice cook passing B.Ed.’ , ‘I will play in my childhood’, ‘I was eat food’, ‘First I die, then I enjoy me life’, ‘Me Lord, I don’t know you.’ Not to mention how students make a plural of a word like 'fees'! These and many such expressions of some students in the language classes during speaking activities made me realise in the beginning of the teaching sessions that I need to start with the basics. Every language course cannot be designed or taught in the same way. For students lacking the knowledge of the parts of speech, the teacher needs to be patient and plan his/her lessons carefully. The teacher needs to start with vocabulary/noun activities using pictures integrated with listening and speaking, moving to creative speaking and writing. Starting from nouns, then adjectives (how the nouns seem/look), verbs (what the nouns do) to adverbs (how/when/where the nouns do) and then to joining them using conjunctions and positioning them using prepositions is a good step-by-step technique that enables these ESL initial learners to conceptualise language in an effective way. First of all, the teacher needs to assess the students’ knowledge and level of understanding. It is essential for a language teacher to start classes with basic speaking and writing activities in order to form a strong foundation for the students to begin to develop their English language skills. This comes from knowing the level of each student developed from a need analysis. Asking them to enter the  'library of language' to discover more is the aim of the teacher's creativity, becomes an ongoing motivation for students.  This is what I have been doing successfully with my Foundation, Functional Grammar and Communication Skills classes and it has made my lessons as easy as climbing a ladder - it's a challenge, but not impossible!

 

 

03 June 2015 By In Blog Studies

Coping with exam stress

Last week I saw my students gathering around in the corners of the institute, discussing some issues quietly, some were sitting in the cafe with a dead look on their faces as if they had no point in living anymore, but still some managed to smile back at me. I soon figured out that the cause of all this emotion was the exam schedule that had just been announced. I knew that everything had been properly scheduled so what was all the fuss about? I discovered the cause. One reason is family pressure on the students to succeed in exams and the students can begin to feel a little overwhelmed by it all. Surprisingly, students who are actually good at coping with all these pressures start feeling nervous also, just because they are part of the same group. Another cause of ‘exam stress’ comes from students imposing on each other - sharing and explaining notes, coaching through problem areas, collaborative study. The impact of this on those not experiencing anxiety is that they also begin to experience anxiety. Unfortunately, we don't have a magic wand that can make exams go away, but I would like to share some tips that will help any student teacher stay well, focused and prepared for exams. 

The three vital things your body needs to keep well are food, water and sleep. 

Water

Keeping hydrated is important for brain function, distributing nutrients around the body and removing what we no longer need. If possible, carry a water bottle to the exam hall to rehydrate.

Food

Say NO to dieting during exams! Don’t be afraid of the extra pounds that you might put on – I promise they will go away after the exams. Fuel your body and mind with lots of greens, fruit, nuts and seeds as healthy energy boosting snacks and make sure you have a balanced diet of three meals a day. If you don't feed yourself properly your regular tummy rumbles will make it incredibly hard for you to concentrate. Try and eat as naturally as possible and stay away from refined sugars - found in sweets, fizzy drinks and chocolate. Yes they'll give you a boost initially but very quickly you'll notice a slump, leaving you feeling sleepy. 

Sleep

Sleep is so important; it's your body's healing time, when the cells repair and your brain archives the millions of thoughts that have raced through your mind during the day. If you find that you have started dreaming a lot, it's because there has been a lot playing on your mind during the day. 

To help you get into that sleepy zone, give yourself 30 minutes to wind down - that means no TV and no smart phone! Pick up your course book which will help your eyelids drop immediately. :-)

Keep yourself focused

When you wake each morning don't rush to the nearest set of notes or textbook. Sit and think what targets you want to achieve today, think of a time line and get started.

Let it pressure go

Accept the things that you can't change. Your exams are coming, they will happen and then they will be over. Instead of leaking energy on worrying about them, create solutions and focus on what you can control.

02 June 2015 By In Language Blog

A Small Achievement 

A few months back we started using language development software (i.e. Rosetta Stone) with our student teachers. They can use this software in their language lab classes but they also have the opportunity to use the software whenever they want. At the start, it seemed students were not taking advantage of this opportunity but today I was happy to see its effect on the language skills of students - especially on those student teachers from rural locations. 

In the morning, I had a class of English Language Teaching with the students – a lesson on Phonetics & Phonology. I gave them a chart of consonant & vowels sounds and asked them to pronounce these sound after listening to an audio; they pronounced these sounds without listening to the audio. They made hardly one or two mistakes in reproducing these sounds. They said they had learned all these sounds while working with the language software.  In the exercise they had a lot of fun discovering various phonemes within words in order to create new words with the sounds because they were doing it for the first time, but at least they were familiar with the sounds.   

A small, but important achievement.

28 May 2015 By In Language Blog

Students’ Presentations 

I believe presentations play a very important role for developing students’ communication skills. 

In my opinion, presentations are an extraordinary approach to have learners achieve the linguistic competence (grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, syntax) and sociolinguistic competence (when, where and how to use the target language) needed for effective communication. 

Students’ presentations are helpful for them in the following ways: 

• Presentations help the learners to communicate better in every field of life. I also observed that the students who are good ‘presenters’, are better communicators as well. They are capable of structuring and expressing their thoughts clearly.   

• Presentations offer a channel for students to impart to others what they have comprehended. It is additionally an opportunity to test and develop their own understanding. 

• Presentations provide learners with an opportunity to be independent.

12 May 2015 By In Blog Studies

Using TED Talks in School

TED Talks are “Ideas worth spreading”. Let me first explain the idea of what TED Talks are all about. They are relatively short and deal with the most pressing issues of the day, packed with interesting ideas containing information to be shared. It’s no wonder that they’re embraced by all kinds of learners in every stage of life across the world. Just explore the net and you can find them on almost every possible area of learning. TED Talks can make teachers think differently and can encourage the same in their students. Good TED Talks make us laugh, touch our hearts or even inspire us. 

How can teachers use TED Talks to their full advantage? Let’s take a look at a few creative ways I’ve used to do just that. I find that using TED Talks to convey an important message or spark creativity to be more effective in teaching students than giving a lecture or presentation.

To Spark Conversations

The most obvious way to use TED Talks in the classroom is to show talks that relate in some way to the subject material you’re currently covering. They can be used to capture student attention, reframe understanding, and spark a high calibre discussion amongst students which won’t be quickly forgotten.

Love the TED-Ed Platform

TED is well aware of its potential utility to the world of education — so aware, in fact, that it has an entire website, ed.ted.com, devoted to using TED in the classroom. TED-Ed is a powerful platform that helps you create entire lessons around specific TED Talks, so do go through these websites and learn the art of TED. 

Make Your Own TED-Ed Club

It’s not just adults that have good ideas; in fact, if you browse through any number of TED Talks, they often hold up young people, who see fewer limits than adults do, as the creative ideal. So why not feature student ideas by giving them a platform of their own in your school?

Have Students Give Subject-Specific TED Talks

So far, we’ve discussed the ways students can benefit from hearing or discussing big ideas in the most general sense. But there’s no reason you can’t use the TED Talk model as inspiration for more specific curriculum activities. Let’s say, for example, that you are a history teacher and you’re currently focusing on the Mughal Dynasty. Why not have each student pitch their own big theory about this famous dynastic family? Certainly this would beat the typical presentation style!

No matter what route you take, the idea here is to take the TED Talk format and apply it specifically to whatever subject or unit you’re currently teaching.

In Short TED Talks make for a great base for so many different kinds of educational experiences. Whether you’re simply using a talk to spark discussion or you’re creating a TED series of your own, TED Talks make a creative, exciting, and rewarding teaching lens.

07 May 2015 By In Blog Studies

This time I have been given a course on “Teaching of Islamiat’.  I wanted to make it somehow interesting and challenging for my trainees.  In the beginning they are supposed to study different religions. As a term paper I asked them to work on the following task:

• Try to follow Buddhist’s Eight Fold Path for 48 hours. 

• Blog your results. Did you make it through? If so, was it tough? If not, what made it challenging?

Trainees are coming to me saying that although it is very challenging, they feel very “different” doing this activity.

07 May 2015 By In Blog Science

Science Kits –An Innovative Solution for  Primary and Middle Grade Science Teachers 

In our country, science laboratories are only available to High School students - there are biology, physics and chemistry laboratories in every school to fulfill the practical components of these subjects. Unfortunately, we do not have Primary School or a Middle School science laboratories. This means that primary and middle school teachers are not equipped with the necessary materials and resources for practical science teaching. The importance of learning about science in these grades cannot be overlooked. The lack of exciting, positive learning experiences in primary and middle school science leads to poor performance in later learning.

A few days back, I shared the idea of science kits with my student teachers. A science kit is a portable box having resources for performing different experiments. We discussed in detail about the importance of science kits, different types of kits, and what might be the characteristics of a good science kit. Fortunately, I had a few kits to share with my students. They liked the idea and we decided to develop some science kits for the primary, middle and secondary levels. 

After a month, I was surprised to see 15 kits covering the major concepts of physics and chemistry at the Primary and Middle Grades. The kits were supported with an instructional guide for the teacher mentioning the details of the experiments for which the kit was developed. I was surprised to see the creativity of the young trainee-teachers in developing the improvised apparatus (mostly constructed from home-made materials). They enjoyed the activity and decided to develop and use such kits in their future teaching. 

No doubt, such Science Kits can serve as an innovative solution to the practical needs of teaching science. 

 

 Aqsa Kamran

Asst.  Professor, AIE

27 April 2015 By In Blog ELDC

ELT CONFERENCE….I  can’t believe it’s over. When I started doing it , I never expected that we were going to get such a tremendous  response as this was our inaugural English language teaching (ELT) event. We called it ‘Moving Forward in ELT 2015’ because we really wanted to give English teachers the idea that this could be the beginning of something very positive for the future. I  really wanted to give our teachers from different regions an opportunity to grab as much as they could from the variety of highly-respected trainers we had assembled for the event. There were a total of 28 workshops and a fascinating panel discussion which everyone really enjoyed, along with the good food and the opportunity to network with other English teachers. 

 

There are off course  many lessons that I learned from this event , which will be really useful in planning our next conferences. 

 

I must say, all my friends – the AIE FACULTY - worked really  hard  and with big smiles, and it’s only because of their support I was able to manage the conference so smoothly, and thanks to the custodial staff for putting up with my running after them for all the last minute details. Thanks everyone :)

ELDC plans to do much more in the coming months, so everyone out there keep in touch.

16 April 2015 By In Blog Science

Enjoy the Joy on your Students’ Faces

Science is a practical subject and so it should be taught through lots of experiments and activities.  Last week I was teaching states of matter to my students. The class was due to start at 10:30 am. I went to the Science Laboratory an hour before to arrange the material for the activities and experiments. I arranged material for the 5 experiments on the laboratory tables. These experiments were related to the following concepts: liquids have no shape and they take the shape of their container; liquids have a specific volume; air has weight; air occupies space; air does not have a specific volume; particles exist and are in continuous motion. 

The students started to arrive at 10:30am. I was very excited because it was my first class with them. After the usual introductions with new students, I asked them to perform the activities, helping them out wherever I could see them struggling. They were working in groups. Each group shared the results of their experiments. At the end of each round, as I explained the underlying concepts behind the experiments, I could see the students were so happy! They had become very animated in class – enthused by what they had learned. At that time I felt like the conqueror- the most successful teacher in the world! At the end of 3 hours I felt completely energised! I enjoyed the joy on my students’ faces. Do you also feel the same at the end of your class? 

Aqsa Kamran

Asst Professor

03 April 2015 By In Blog Mathematics

Yesterday was a really pleasant afternoon. I thought to leave the institute a little early and avail the chance to pay my utility bills and school fees of my two kids. I found my kids, Mimi and Pipi, at home. I took them for a ride to the bank so that it could be a little outing for them and I could pay the bills. 

We reached the bank well before bank closing. We had time and I thought instead of simply paying the bills myself why not turn this into a learning experience for my kids. I asked my elder daughter, Mimi who is recently promoted to grade four, to take a paper and pen, make a list of all the bills and make two fee slips. Initially she didn’t have any idea how to complete the task. With a little help she drew a table and filled it with the information. I asked her how much we need to pay to clear our dues. She started adding five four-digit amounts. Then I extended the situation and asked her, if we pay fifteen thousand rupees to the person at the bill collection window, how much will he return to us. She confirmed the sum she needed to do with me and then started subtracting amounts. She told me that we will get thirty rupees in change. I handed over the bills to Pipi (recently promoted to preparatory grade) and the money to Mimi, and asked them to go to the window and submit the dues. I sat comfortably to watch what happened. Both were a bit anxious but very excited as it was their first experience at submitting bills at the bank. Both went to the window. Pipi found it a little difficult to reach her hand up to the counter but she managed it by standing on her toes. It was funny to see the cashier stand up to see who was beneath the bills and fee slips! Both sisters submitted their first ever payment slips in the bank and came back with the body language of queens! This gave me immeasurable pleasure.  Almost everyone - including some mothers - in the bank had noticed us, and there were some passing smiles of appreciation. I am quite sure, if not all then at least some of them will certainly use this idea with their kids.  

This situation took ten to twelve minutes. I can do it in a few seconds but then I would have missed the sight of both sisters walking towards me. Those additional ten minutes had changed them; more confident and closer to the real world.  

There are numbers of routine activities which we do, that we can turn into valuable learning experiences for our kids - lifelong learning experiences. Do involve your kids and students in such experiences, and do share them with me on my email address This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

01 April 2015 By In Language Blog

Teaching Handwriting Skills to Young Learners

Throughout my teaching career, I never once considered that teaching handwriting skills to young learners would be difficult. The first time I realised how difficult it was to teach young learners to write was when I got my three year old son admitted into a school. He enjoyed his school but when it came to writing, he was not willing even to hold a pencil. 

I searched the internet to find what I could do but nothing worked for him. Then I bought him a writing board and coloured chalks. He showed little interest and started scribbling but still that did not help much. One day while I was busy doing something else I saw him scribbling and doodling on his story book. That gave me an idea to use colouring sheets instead of making him trace letters or shapes.

At first, I gave him coloring sheets which had his favourite cartoon characters, which produced amazing results. He not only started holding coloured pencils and crayons properly but also ended up spending all his free time in colouring different sheets (at times 12 to 15 per day).  Later he sat with me to search for the colouring sheets of his choice. Within no time he began to trace and write letters of the alphabet, numbers and now he can draw some of his favourite cartoon characters and animals as well.

A closer analysis of the sheets he coloured, helped me to identify why he could do it so quickly. Have a look at some of his colouring sheets; he uses various stokes (horizontal, vertical, round etc.) to colour. He rarely uses a single colour; he always prefers multiple colours, always of his own choice. A variety of strokes, while colouring, strengthened his grip and helped him to trace and write properly.

     
     
30 March 2015 By In Blog Mathematics

Importance of rough-work to solve maths sums

I remember my childhood experience of doing mathematics. My maths teachers created a habit of maintaining rough-work along with the actual working of a maths sum. My classmates and I used to draw a vertical line about one third down the page and wrote the heading prominently: ‘rough-work’. This provided evidence for our thinking process as we used it to solve questions. I remember my teacher was very concerned about the rough-work along with the actual solution of the sum. That style of working, which was rigorously maintained, helped the teacher to address our way of approaching maths problems.

Last Friday my daughter – a grade 4 student - came to me to seek help regarding a maths sum. Rather than telling her straightforward steps to solve the sum, I used a student-centred approach. I asked, “Mimi where you will do rough-work?” In response to this question she didn’t say anything. She was quiet, her body language and facial expression made it seem like I was speaking some alien language. I asked her about the routine she was guided to use by her maths teacher when solving a maths question. She described the process but there was no role of rough-work. 

I thought about that - Why didn’t the maths teacher value the use of rough-work along with the solution to the question. It may be because of time; teachers have more work to do and guiding students about rough-work and ‘the right answer’ is problematic for them. It could because of students; they have more to do and maintaining both portions side-by-side is difficult for them. It could be because of school management who are focused on a ‘traditional-style of Mathematics teaching’ or they figure that rough-work makes the exercise book look messy! May be there is no need to doing both types of work? 

I pose both questions to you, to my readers (maths teachers or parents):

‘Is it beneficial to maintain rough-work along with the solution of a maths sum?’ and

‘What could be the reasons students are not maintaining rough-work along with solving questions?’

Do share your valuable opinion with me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

24 March 2015 By In Blog Studies

Using ice breakers and team building activities

Team-building activities are a great way for teachers to get to know their colleagues on a more personal level and, this can work in many different ways but here I will talk about our recent experience on the faculty retreat.We started off with an activity of answering different questions according to the candy we had selected. This icebreaker not only got us as all talking to each other, but it also got us to work with each other. It was also quite simple as well: selecting three candies and chocolates each one of a different type can excite any age and gender. The leader posed some questions on a piece of chart which made us talk all about ourselves in different teaching situations 

This icebreaking activity can also be extended by issuing one situation for the entire group or allocating a different situation to each team member, or pair, to work on. Depending on the situation chosen, the activity can be a lot fun.

Those candies and chocolates excited all of us; hence I am posting another idea using our favourite candies called M&M’s

The M&M Game 

Pass around a bag of M&Ms and have each person take as many as they want. For each colour of M&M have a question they can answer. For instance, 

Red: Name a campus resource.

Blue: Mention one thing you would like to change about the school

16 March 2015 By In Language Blog

Video Recording as a Self-Assessment Tool

I have often observed that the term ‘Assessment’ generates fear or anxiety among learners. In order to reduce that fear factor, I use self assessment tools in my teaching sessions.

Self assessment facilitates students to reflect on their learning. It does not require them to grade their performances rather it enables them to identify their strengths and weaknesses.

Among the many other self assessment tools, I consider video recording as the most valuable tool for self assessment. 

 After recording students’ microteaches and presentations, I encourage them to follow these steps: 

 

 

I use the following questions to help the learners to take notes while observing their performance:

i. Were your instructions clear and simple?

ii. Did you rephrase your instructions if students were at a loss?

iii. Did you encourage the students to participate/ answer?

iv. Did you try to involve the whole class?

v. What modes of interaction were used?

vi. Can you specify the proportion of teacher talk vs. student talk?

vii. How effective was the use of technology or A/V aids in your lesson?

viii. Did you notice any errors in your speech?

ix. Did you implement the objectives you had planned?

x. What questions would you like to add to this list?

By 

Samia Chattha

09 March 2015 By In Blog Mathematics

How did I Lose My First Ten Chess Games?

There are any number of activities we can do in our free time. Different activities require different skills. Personally, I value those activities which require knowledge, abilities and skills…and chess is at the top. My personal experience of losing my first ten chess games will help you understand the complexity of this game:

I lost my first game because I could not distinguish between the shapes of the different pieces. At that time, I suppose I used my visual-spatial intelligence poorly. I lost my second game because I could not understand the rules of the game. The third I lost because I lost concentration. The fourth - I was just looking at my own pieces and I neglected to watch the pieces of my opponent, and I lost my fifth match because I paid more attention to my opponent’s pieces rather than my own. The sixth was lost due to lack of planning. I lost my seventh game because I was playing aggressively and the eighth because I was playing defensively. The ninth game was lost because I was not thinking what my opponent was thinking, and the tenth was lost because my opponent guessed what I was thinking. 

Actually, the list does not end here. In every game I play now, I try to improve – to build on my deficiencies. Every game makes me learn. With every game you grow more composed, focused and logical. 

Is there any game in the world which requires various intelligences, skills and abilities in the same way? Even if you feel you don’t have time or you are burdened with lots of work, if you are tense, one game of chess will be time well spent.

04 March 2015 By In Blog Science

Let’s Start Reflecting

“Today the class went very well. Students enjoyed the pictures on the power point slides that made the topic interesting for them. Everybody participated very well but Sarah did not participate as usual. Although I asked some very easy questions from her, she was not able to respond. I wanted to talk to her after the class but Group-1 students surrounded me with their queries regarding their project work. I will talk to her personally tomorrow and try to find out what is disturbing her. I really want to help her. I still remember her happy, smiling face a few months back when our class went on a field trip, to a paper making company. There must be some problem with her - maybe at home. I will find out tomorrow…”

Abstract taken from the reflective diary of a science teacher. 

Spending five to ten minutes daily on reflecting what went well and what was wrong and how I can improve further is very important. We all should reflect on our everyday life situations and, as teachers, on our teaching practice. These reflections not only inform us about classroom issues but also guide us as what to do next. At the Ali Institute of Education we claim that we transform people into Reflective Practioners.

 

 

By Aqsa Kamran

Asst. professor

04 February 2015 By In Language Blog

Establishing Writing Habits

I believe writing to be the most neglected language skill. The writing skills development of students can be developed through establishing some simple, good writing habits. Make it enjoyable for learners by letting them write their routine tasks or notes to communicate with others. Encourage them to write a wish list for birthday presents, a list of grocery items, small notes to convey messages to friends and family,  maintain a personal diaries, write for a class journal or a blog…

It is better to start with shared or guided writing practices. Once they are used to writing regularly, give them independent writing practice and make them write about the things they imagine.Do not forget to keep them motivated by displaying their work on your classroom soft board or publish it on the blog. 

16 February 2015 By In Language Blog

Teaching Poems

The selection of the right poem matters when you’re teaching poetry; even more so when you are teaching poetry communicatively. You need to stimulate students’ interest and support their proficiency level with the language. 

Here are a few things I do after I’ve a selected an interesting poem: 

i. Show some pictures (taken from newspapers, magazines or the internet) which can diagrammatically represent the poem. Ask students to guess what the poem is about, by looking at the pictures.

ii. After introducing the selected poem, encourage students to discuss the main theme. For this, I always provide relevant vocabulary, sentence starters or clues.

iii. Let them read the poem in chunks and then talk about what they have read, first in small groups and then in whole-class discussion.

iv. At the end I always let the students share how the particular poem made them feel. We do this in small groups or in whole class discussion.

03 March 2015 By In Language Blog

What did you do at the weekend?

Technology presents us with amazing opportunities to re-design the way we teach and learn English. Mobile devices allow me and my learners to interact seamlessly with each other in formal and informal learning contexts.  I also have learners from rural areas and they are not as much proficient in English language but somehow they are aware of the usage of mobile technology.

 I encourage the students to create a personal visual story about their daily routine. They take a series of snapshots of different moments in their day- e.g., their alarm clock, a toothbrush, a cup of coffee, their walk to the shop….

They describe the actions to me, e.g., I take a shower and get dressed….. Most of the time, it also highlights different aspects of language that require input from my side. 

For the next step, I ask them to record themselves speaking English and share it with friends, who can offer feedback. This is a great opportunity to practice pronunciation as well. 

Using mobile technology in the classroom has turned the question, “what did you do last weekend?” into a personal story, as students share with other fellows what they did, where they went and how they felt. 

Ms. Sumaira Latif 

02 March 2015 By In Blog Mathematics

MATH IS IN THE AIR: MAKING OF A GIANT-SIZE CHESS SET

I have a strong belief ‘THERE IS NO MEANINGFUL SURVIVAL WITHOUT MATHEMATICS’. Every maths teachers, every mathematician, is doing, applying and taking help from a very important field of knowledge. If anyone disagrees with this argument, just recall today’s routine and consider when you didn’t use maths!  

Every field, occupation, task and activity is incomplete without maths. To reinforce my point I’ll share my recent experience. Ali Institute of Education is arranging a chess tournament between school kids for the  first time ever. It is planned that the finals will be played with giant size pieces on a huge chess board, 8 metres square, on the Ali Institute front lawn. The task was to make a huge chess piece to understand the mechanics of producing a stable and long-lasting chess piece. The problem solving process was started with observation. I looked at regular chess pieces with a mathematical eye. They are three-dimensional objects which needed to be converted into a two dimensional drawing, disintegrated into small segments; the measurements were taken for each part, a scale is used and a scaling factor was identified. Proportionality between the actual piece and the large-size piece was maintained by cutting and using circular disks. Contours were made through a series of sequential disks of various sizes. The amount of material and time required to complete the task was estimated. A table containing a list of material, the unit price and the cumulative prices were entered and a request was made to the purchase office. 

Is all this possible without maths? We certainly do lots of tasks with the help of maths, both consciously or unconsciously. Do share these experiences with me: ‘Maths is in the Air’ and consolidate this belief globally ‘THERE IS NO MEANINGFUL SURVIVAL WITHOUT MATHEMATICS’. Please share your thoughts with me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

20 February 2015 By In Blog Mathematics

Finding the Right Balance

I am standing at the front of the classroom, beside the whiteboard, carrying a few equations in my arms, standing still like a witch has cast a spell on me. I feel like my feet are stuck in concrete and my joints and muscles are frozen. I am looking at twenty five faces. My eyes making contact with fifty eyes, all conveying different messages. Their features, their expressions and their body language are conveying different messages. The words that describe the feelings here are: accepting, accomplishing, aggravating, amusing, angry, annoying, anxious, awaking, blank, bored, calm, cheerful, cold, complacent, confused, cranky, curious, depressed, determined, disappointed, drained, ecstatic, energetic, excited, exhausted, happy, impressed, irritated, lethargic, naughty, pessimistic, pleased, shocked, sleepy, stressed, tired and many more. My God, twenty five in the audience and more than twenty five feelings. More than that, my lesson plan is telling me to go on – I can’t repeat the session as it will affect the whole course, and I can’t offer off-course time as I have lots of tasks to complete. I can’t refer to any other teacher as no-one is there. 

Suddenly I get some flashbacks, a chat between me and a student teacher: 

“Sir, what should I do for my students? I have a diverse group of students. Sometimes I run out of ideas, my plans get fouled up and I face difficulty making myself understood?” 

In response I lecture her about the area under the normal curve and distribution of various types of students in a natural setting. The last thing I said to her, proudly and confidently, was “DEAR, FIND THE RIGHT BALANCE”. 

I am hearing the echo ‘FIND THE RIGHT BALANCE’ and realising perhaps this is the easiest proverb to say but certainly the most difficult action to do. 

 

25 February 2015 By In Blog Studies

Why Is Research Important for Teachers?

I have heard people saying that experience is the best teacher. Your own experiences and experiences that other teachers, administrators, and experts share with you will make you a better teacher. We all get a great deal of knowledge from personal experience. We ‘generalise’ from what we observe and frequently turn memorable encounters into lifetime conclusions.  But how valid are these conclusions? Sometimes we misinterpret what we see and hear. We cannot be totally objective. We may become a victim of bias. One way to clarify any situation is to research into it. Research is a valuable source of information about the teaching and learning process. 

Maria

18 February 2015 By In Blog Science

Bisma is a 7- year old Grade-1 student. She was weeping badly when she returned home. Her mother asked the reason for being so upset. She told that her teacher said, “You cannot do any thing, your handwriting and spelling will never improve. You should have not been promoted to Grade-1.”  These words upset the mother as well. She comforted her daughter by saying, “Don’t worry Bisma, we will chalk-out a plan and will work on it.  Nothing is impossible in this world, I am with you and with a little effort you can make a big difference.”  Bisma regained some

17 February 2015 By In Blog Studies

I remember when I entered my first elementary classroom. I felt as if I had returned home after a long absence. So much was familiar. The soft boards still displayed “students’ work”; bells still interrupted the lessons to announce that the lesson was over; the dusty odour of chalk still filled the air. The familiarity of these sights, sounds, and smells made me feel very comfortable and at ease; rather, it made me think that it was

17 February 2015 By In Blog Studies

Pre-school learning can be nurtured if children are provided with an environment that fulfills their demands. Hence, enabling environments play a key role in supporting and extending children’s development and learning. Such environments persuade young children to play because they feel relaxed, content and happy with their surroundings. When children feel emotionally safe and secure they are able to explore; they can observe, experience and manipulate.

16 February 2015 By In Language Blog

There are many people out there who are struggling to learn a second language. There are obviously a lot of programmes and products that cater to them. As most people embark on their language-learning journey, this very question comes to mind: “Should I learn a language solo or find a classroom/formal education option?” Everyone has a different learning style, some tending to be more well-suited to learn solo and some require more of a classroom setting. Knowing what type of learner you are helps greatly.

04 February 2015 By In Language Blog

Grammar- The very mention of the word strikes fear into the heart of the staunchest language learner. Many English Language teachers also feel the pit of their stomach churn at the thought of preparing and giving a grammar lesson. But what are we to do? If lexis and vocabulary are the building blocks of language, then certainly grammar is the mortar or structure that holds them together. Teaching it and learning it are therefore inescapable. The only thing to do then is to make it as interesting, pleasant or at least as painless as

04 February 2015 By In Blog CPDC

Some very exciting, fresh and innovative things are happening in the Ali Institute of Education (AIE), aimed at revitalising what had unfortunately become the white noise of higher education development, pervasively throughout the entire bedrock of what should have been quality learning in the country. Recognising that to defeat ignorance, one needs to progress towards new methodologies and deviate from the norm, AIE is developing new courses and workshops to put that spring into your best foot forward into the wide world of education leadership and owning your place in it.

22 January 2015 By In Blog Mathematics

What is the purpose of maths education? 

I think about this question quite frequently and my thoughts swing between two themes; maths education as a means to develop inquisitive humans, aware of the world, or maths education as a means to support the rigours of day-to-day living.

22 January 2015 By In Blog Studies

As a teacher, I believe that we have some professional obligations.  As a beginner teacher in your first years of teaching, you will be in a unique position. As a professional, you have an obligation to provide the best educational services to your students that you know, but on the other hand as a beginning teacher, the experiential basis for your actions is limited compared to those with twelve or fifteen years of experience and

22 January 2015 By In Language Blog

All languages have words. Language emerges first as words, both historically, and in terms of the way each of us learned our first and any subsequent languages. The coining of new words never stops nor does the acquisition of words. Even, in our first language we are continually learning new words, and learning new meanings for old words. Without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed. If you spend most of your time studying grammar, your English will not improve very much. You will see most improvement if you learn more words and expressions. You can say very little with grammar, but you can say almost anything with words! 

22 January 2015 By In Blog Science

As teachers we are always looking for resources to make our teaching experience memorable for our students. A chicken’s egg is a resource that is easily available and can be used in a number of different ways.

1. The raw chicken egg can be used to demonstrate carbon dioxide (CO2 ) gas formation in the class.  I asked my class to think about how to remove the egg shell without touching it? One of the students came up with the idea of putting it in vinegar. As we know, the egg shell is made of Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3 ) so when an egg is allowed to sit in the beaker of vinegar (acetic acid, CH3COOH), bubbles of CO2

15 January 2015 By In Blog Mathematics

Undoubtedly one’s understanding of language is hugely enhanced by knowledge of basic grammar. Apart from that, it is an exciting phenomenon that human’s learn to speak different languages especially without being aware of grammar. Children and adults can easily make sense of ungrammatical sentences!

The case is exactly the same with the language of mathematics. Up to a certain level, one can do and speak mathematics without knowing how to classify the different sorts of words one is using. Daily conversation or human involvement in daily life activities sensitises the brain to understand patterns and structure, called the grammar of mathematics. 

21 January 2015 By In Language Blog

Reading Clubs provide students with a platform to spend time together in order to share and enjoy what they have read. Such groups motivate students to read. Availing these opportunities gives them exposure to a variety of reading texts. At the same time, reading in groups helps them to improve their listening, speaking and writing.

To explain the impact of reading on an individual, I would like to quote an extract from the famous novel ‘Ink Spell’ (Funke, 2005):

“Isn’t it odd how much fatter a book gets when you have read it several times? As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells… and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there, too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower… both strange and familiar.’’ 

17 December 2014 By In Language Blog

As English is the Lingua Franca, the English  Department at Ali Institute of Education aims to enhance the language skills of the students.  Various teaching methods and techniques are used to improve the reading, writing, listening  and speaking skills of the students. Students are not only trained in grammar but also trained in how to practice language with correct use of grammar. We aim to polish our students in language and communication that can help them improve their interaction and communication with people. We train them in language through

22 November 2014 By In Blog Science

Learning and teaching about theories was always very boring for me and my students.  I always tried to make these lessons interesting by using a range of different innovative ideas. These days we are learning about the teaching of ‘atomic structure’ in our B.Ed class. We discussed different theories related to the structure of the atom such as Dalton’s Atomic Theory, the J.J.Thomson Plum Pudding Model of an Atom, Rutherford’s Atomic Theory and Bohr’s Theory.  I asked my students to be very creative and make the learning of these theories simple and

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