- I can assess how I might use the resources available in my school (OHP, computers, library).
I was lucky enough to attend a private junior high school for my teaching practice, which meant that there were many resources available to the teachers at all times. The first week I arrived I was sort of intimidated by the use of the interactive whiteboard. My mentor seemed to be an expert on it which made me feel more comfortable. After a few sessions of learning how to use it I believe that I got a basic understanding. Nevertheless, I quickly realized that the actual experts were the students, who were very liberal in their aid. As far as the library goes, I was given the freedom to roam around and marvel at the gigantic collection of books, both literary and academic, that put to shame even the university library.
- I can recognize the organizational constraints and resource limitations existent at my school and adapt my teaching accordingly.
Due to the abundant nature of resources at Athens College I didn’t recognize any exceptional organizational constraints. That was until I started preparing the activities I was tasked with conducting. I had the idea of preparing an activity that would task the grade 7 phase 2 students with creating a comic of their own. The subject that was being discussed during class was superheroes, so I thought it would be quite fun for us to use the computer lab and, after giving the students instructions on how to make their comic on a certain website and address the grammatical and lexical items they would have to include, they would proceed and create their comic. However, the school did not give access to the computer labs as easily and there was a very long process for applying to receive said access. So, after reflecting on the idea and trying to find a new angle, I decided to create the comic myself and leave the text bubbles empty, so that the students would then “write” the story themselves instead of creating the comic.
Activity 1: Description
My mentor and I decided that in order for the activities to be successful they would have to relate to the units they were already going through during the lessons. This proved to be more difficult than I realized, since I would have to follow the MYP program of studies, which was very new to me.
The first activity I had to design was for grade 9 phase 5 (3rd grade of Junior High School, level C1). This particular class approached the development of linguistic competence through literature, and when the time came for me to do the activity, it happened to coincide with the beginning of the new literary text they were to study, Frank R. Stockton’s "The Lady, or the Tiger?". After a brief talk with my mentor we decided that I would create a PowerPoint presentation introducing the new text to the students. In the presentation I included some basic information about the author and the text (i.e. date of publication, contemporary relevance, author credentials etc.), a brief summary of the story as well as a basic literary analysis of motifs, themes, genre etc.
During the presentation they were encouraged to take part in the conversation and after the presentation the students were given a handout which contained the activity. They were tasked with filling a questionnaire about the contents of the introduction, so as to evaluate what they were able to retain.
This introduction helped the students get a better understanding of the text they had to study and analyze, and provided them with all the tools necessary for them to excel on the following lessons.
Activity 1: Self evaluation of descriptors
- I can evaluate and select a variety of materials to stimulate speaking activities (visual aids, texts, authentic materials etc.). -> 8
The purpose of the presentation was not to simply give information to the students but actually strike a conversation on the important issue of the story itself, the role of the reader of any literary text. The students were very thrilled and actually participated in the conversation in a very meaningful way. However, at the beginning of the presentation I realized that some parts were a bit long, which caused the attention of the students to drift off. I was able to regain their attention, however, by going of the presentation for a split second and asking them about how they feel as young readers when engaging with the text. Afterwards, I was able to carry on with the presentation with the attention of the students.
- I can help learners to use communication strategies (asking for clariﬁcation, comprehension checks etc.) and compensation strategies (paraphrasing, simpliﬁcation etc) when engaging in spoken interaction. -> 9
Due to the intricate nature of literary analysis, the students were unfamiliar with a small number of terms and ideas. When they tried to ask about these certain terms, they were, at first, unable to communicate their point and actually opted for using their L1. Nevertheless, I was able to guide them through their confusion ad actually paraphrase in order to make their point. At the same time, I had to simplify many aspects of the introduction, as to not bring any more confusion, which proved to be successful.
- I can select and use ICT materials and activities in the classroom which are appropriate for my learners. -> 7
The only issue I encountered during my presentation was the format. The students didn’t seem to respond well to the amount of information that was present on each slide of the PowerPoint presentation. Being used to the university presentations I had to do during my studies, I forgot about my audience. Even though it seemed hard at first, I was later able to deconstruct the information during the lesson and actually have the students themselves try to interpret the main points of each slide during the lesson, which not only helped with the presentation, but it also grabbed the students’ attention and kept it focused on the task at hand.
- I can evaluate and select a variety of texts, source materials and activities which awaken learners’ interest in and help them to develop their knowledge and understanding of their own and the other language culture (cultural facts, events, attitudes and identity etc.). -> 8
As I was designing the activity, I realized that I had to give a brief history of the contemporary world the author was in. In order for the students to fully understand the reason behind the author’s writing I had to develop their cultural awareness about how a literary text comes into existence. We discussed the fact that there is always a reason for an author’s writing and thus we were then able, as a group, to decode the meaning behind the symbolisms the author used in his text.
Activity 1: Samples of evidence
Activity 2: Description
The second activity I prepared was for grade 8 phase 3-4 (2nd grade of Junior High School, level B2). The unit that was being discussed during class at the time was Migrations.
They were reading a text called “Marlbu”, which was an excerpt from an autobiographical novel that gave an account of the mistreatment of aboriginals during the misplacement of aboriginal children from their families, conducted by the government of Australia during the 20th century. Due to this fact, I decided to conduct a listening activity that dealt with this precise issue.
I found a TED talk, on YouTube, of an aboriginal woman who talked about her experience of discrimination in Australia. It proved to be not only informative for the students but they were actually able to get a better understanding of the situation, which was very alien to them. Being able to relate and understand the racist attitude of Australians towards Aboriginals is not an easy task even for adults, let alone teenagers.
So, when they saw and listened to the video, they were able to have empathy towards the speaker and actually realize what the issue they’re studying was. After watching the video, the students and I had a conversation on the topic and they were then handed a handout with questions about the video, with multiple choice questions and short analysis questions.
*NOTE: The video used in this activity is not included in the samples of evidence. This is due to the lenght of the video, which is unable to be uploaded on this platfrom. The edited version will, sadly, not be available, however here is the link to the original video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7FU8zuHaHg
Activity 2: Self evaluation of descriptors
- I can select texts appropriate to the needs, interests and language level of the learners. -> 9
I was very careful during the selection of the video. From the beginning I knew that finding a video about Aboriginals that was not very challenging in terms of language was going to be hard. I was very excited when I came across the TED talk of Cally Jetta, it was very simple in regards to language and the Australian accent of the speaker was quite toned down (which actually proved to be the main issue I came across other videos before finding this particular one).
- I can design and select different activities in order to practice and develop different listening strategies (listening for gist, speciﬁc information etc.). -> 9
The activity I designed was aimed at developing the students’ ability to extract meaning from context clues. The video itself was the more challenging part, and for that reason I designed a questionnaire that would be simpler, yet effective. Many of the questions they had to answer were not clearly stated in the video, thus they were able to extract the meaning through their listening aptitude.
- I can evaluate and select texts, source materials and activities to make the learners aware of stereotyped views and challenge these. -> 10
The whole point of this activity was to challenging the racist stereotypes that, even to this day, are very prevalent in Australian society. I believe I was successful, because the video was not simply a personal account of discrimination, but actually an informative exploration behind the reasons these racist stereotypes still exist in Australia. The students were very receptive to this and, during our conversation after the activity, the were able to relate the aboriginal issue to the immigration crisis that exists in Greece today. This gave them a new perspective and attitude towards the issue, the students were able to empathize and understand the struggles minority groups face in today’s society.
- I can design ICT materials and activities appropriate for my learners. -> 9
The issue with finding resources online is that one can never finding exactly what they are looking for. I came across this problem when researching for this activity. The accent of the speakers, the level of language and the vocabulary included were never precisely right for my purposes. The length of the video was also concern, so when I found this particular one, I decided to edit it down and, in the process, remove any parts that I deemed inappropriate for the level of the students.
Activity 2: Samples of evidence
Activity 3: Description
The third activity I designed was for grade 7 phase 2 (1st grade of Junior High School, Level A2+). This was the most challenging I activity I had to design, in regards to the students. Many of the students of this group suffer from learning differences, like dyslexia and ADHD. Due to the level, the age and the difficulties of this group I decided to design an activity that was simpler, more fun and more interesting to the students in question.
During the previous week the unit they were studying during class was about superheroes. For these reasons I decided to design a writing activity that would be conducted through the use of a comic. I found online a website (storyboardthat.com) that allowed me to create a six-panel comic strip using many different characters and backgrounds.
I decided to center the story around the issue of bullying by depicting a girl that is new at her school and is being bullied by the other students until one of them stands up and defends her (thus introducing the topic of real-life “superheroes”). After the students and I went through each box and talked about the meaning behind the pictures and the emotions of each character, the students were tasked with filling in the bubbles of the comic strip with dialogue they deemed appropriate for each box.
Activity 3: Self evaluation of descriptors
- I can evaluate and select a variety of materials to stimulate writing (authentic materials, visual aids etc.). -> 10
This particular class had a noticeable problem when it came to writing skills. I knew that a simple writing activity where they had to produce a cohesive text would be very hard for them so I decided to use this comic format to make them realize that writing is not restricted to the exercises they find difficult. By exciting their creative thinking through such a familiar, for them, formal I was able to attract and keep their attention while simultaneously getting them into writing grammatically and lexically correct sentences.
- I can help learners to plan and structure written texts (e.g. by using mind maps, outlines etc.). -> 8
Even though it might not seem like a comic strip could help students in organizing their writing, I designed the activity in order to aid them in this matter. Comics are very simple to understand and very familiar to 12-year-old students. They have a clear story from a to b to c and so on. This helps the students understand the structure of written language. The conversation I had with the students about the comic was centered around this idea. We went through all of the boxes one by one and collectively decided what is implied behind them, thus giving them a basic idea of what they need to write in each one. I believe that we created a sort-of outline for the activity before they had to undergo the task, and it actually worked as many of the students filled out the comic strip with items that were thought out and relevant to each box in addition to a cohesive, overall result.
- I can evaluate and select activities which enhance learners’ awareness of register differences. -> 9
Due to the nature of the activity the students were tasked in creating dialogue. This is quite difficult as they are used to producing written discourse that is more formal. For this reason I decided to include a few sentences as “catches” to give the students an example of the rregister they had to use. They were quick to understand what the task was and by following the example they were able to use the correct register (i.e. direct speech, correct pronouns etc.).
Activity 4: Description
The fourth and last activity I had to design was for grade 7 phase 4-5 (1st grade of Junior High School, level B2-). The unit that was being taught during that period regarded friendship. For this reason, I decided to design a reading activity that included idioms about friendship.
This task proved to be difficult and so I found an article on a learning website (learningenglish.voanews.com) and then I added the idioms I wanted to teach the students. This particular website is very helpful because it has articles on many subjects, from politics to teenage problems, and they are written for specific levels of linguistic competence. The particular one I chose was written for B1 students and it was concerned with the friendship between dogs and humans.
I chose a less challenging text so that I would be able to balance out the unknown vocabulary I would be adding. After reading, the students were tasked with identifying the idioms in the text and then matching them with the correct definitions, which were provided. The reading and identifying portion of the activity was done in a group format and the matching was conducted individually.
Activity 4: Self evaluation of descriptors
- I can select texts appropriate to the needs, interests and language level of the learners. -> 9
Thanks to the very useful website I found in my research, I was able to select a text that was very appropriate to the level, age and interest of the students. They responded very well to the subject matter and found no difficulty with any aspect of the text, other than the idiomatic language that was added. This proved to be helpful to the students because they were able to quickly identify the idioms and prepare for the matching activity.
- I can help learners to develop critical reading skills (reﬂection, interpretation, analysis etc.). -> 9
The use of idiomatic language that was unknown meant that students had to extract the meaning through their critical thinking. After reading the text, the students and I went through each paragraph and tried to identify the idioms. At first, they thought it was easy but as we went on they realized that they had to do more work in order to find what was asked. After a while they started to analyze the discourse in order to find the idioms. In addition, during the matching activity they had to use their interpretation skills to match the items to their definitions. Some students tried to guess but as I went by and asked each student if they were running into problems, I was able to guide them into using their critical skills to decode the meaning.
- I can evaluate and select a variety of activities which help learners to learn vocabulary. -> 8
The idea behind this particular activity was for the learners to acquire the new knowledge without having to learn the definitions by heart. They were able to not only find out what each expression means but also see it used in the greater context of a text. This helped them retain the knowledge and have it ready for use in case they ever need it.
- I can guide learners to use the Internet for information retrieval. -> 9
Even though this activity was not ICT related I had to use the class computer at one point. The students found a certain unknown word in the text that was not one of the idioms. This caught me by surprise since I believed this particular word should have been already acquired knowledge. Nevertheless, I observed, during the first phase of observations of my teaching practice, my mentor use the internet to search for definitions of unknown lexical items, instead of just giving the students the answer. I used this technique when I needed it, and proved to be very helpful as I was able to teach the students to use legitimate online resources, like the Cambridge dictionary website, instead of more unreliable resources, like Google Translate.