AIE's Blog

29 January 2016 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 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 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. 

 

25 January 2016 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. 

 

21 January 2016 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!

 

21 January 2016 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?

 

20 January 2016 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

20 January 2016 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 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. 

 

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