Monday, February 27, 2012

Ice Breaker Module 2

I am Adria Arafat.  The Adria part is my name given to me by my mother – Adrienne.  Her name was given to her by my grandfather – Adrian.  I, of course, named my daughter wait for it….Adrienna.  The Arafat part is from my wonderful husband of almost 30 years, Aiman.  Yes, I married a Palestinian named Arafat back when it was one of the most recognizable names in the world.  And no we aren’t related.  We have four lovely children and two grandchildren.  My two oldest live in the U.S. with their children, so I don’t get to see them much.  My two youngest are here – one at Sharjah University, and one at Raha International school. 

I was born and raised in a very small town in Utah, U.S.A.  I had never been east of Denver, and then moved to the Middle East.  I have taught ESL in the U.S., Palestine, Oman, Egypt, and most recently UAE. 

I was reminded while reading the other postings that I have always been curious.  I was always the one my family asked to ‘fix’ things.  My father would go for days not knowing what time it was because he could never figure out his digital watch and would wait for me to come home from college and reset it.  My parents were founding members of the flashing 12 club (think VCR’s a while back).  My father used to say he wasn’t on the information super highway, he was on the information cul-de-sac.  I am just the opposite.  I can’t get enough of the internet, gadgets, widgets, music, movies, etc.  I played with an Ipad at an educational conference, and had to get one the next day. 

Having said all that, I am pretty low tech in my class.  I try not to use any more than is necessary.  The key word is necessary. What do my students have, and what do they need. 
I teach foundation English.  The key word there is foundation.  My students aren’t ready for academic classes yet.  It is my job to get them ready.  You know the one about you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink?  Well, I feel my students are a lot like that.  I can lead them down the road, but if they aren’t willing to do the work (I gave a homework assignment – only 1 out of 18 did it) then I must try something different.  I won’t give up, but reaching these students is proving very difficult.  I try to make my classes interesting, exciting, lively, but at the end of the day, my classes are still the basics.  We were supposed to be “reviewing” the present continuous and most of the class acted like they had never seen it before in their life!  I ended up ‘teaching’ it.  
I would love to “flip” my classroom, but fundamentally I know that this would a)not be practical, b)not be allowed by the powers that be, c)not be accepted by my peers, and mostly d)not be accepted by the students!  The students would never watch the videos.  Not because they aren’t interesting, but because they just don’t spend any time outside of class doing any school work.  I don’t want to become the ‘teacher that shows videos’ just so I don’t have to teach.  That isn’t my goal.  I want to show videos because they are entertaining, and educational – edutainment. 
I have a lot of ideas in my head, it’s the implementation of these that I have problems with.  I look forward to the module and reading all of your stories, ideas, and insights.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Students on thinking

I have come to appreciate “meta-cognitive’ thinking.  If we are a full participant in our own learning, we cannot but learn something. 
I took this idea to my class room.  Specifically, my reading classroom.  I haven’t taught reading for a long time, so I needed a refresher course.  I stumbled upon “clicking, and clunking.”  To some, this may be very old, but for me, it was new. 
I have a class of mixed – some coming from level 2 to level 3, and some repeating level 3.  For the new ones, the material will be new.  For the old ones, the material will have already been done, and done poorly.  I needed something that was interesting, but easy.  Something they could get their head around, but useful.
I put the students into groups after giving a brief explanation of what they were to do.  This was after a class in which I had explained clicking and clunking. 
To me, this was magic.  I had groups actually talking about the reading with understanding.  They were helping each other, but not in a bad way – just giving the answers.  They were helping their fellow student to understand! 
 This was a very small group, and they were higher level than before, but it was a 'teaching' moment.