Shared Vision

Metaphor: Before you get behind the wheel of a car, you’re handed a book with all the rules of the road. This is a vision for how an optimal roads system operates. Then, you’re asked to pass a written test to assure your understanding of this vision before you motor out into the real world to start making all those grey area decisions required of a driver. Eventually you might define your own vision—within the letter of the law—of what optimally safe and efficient driving looks like, but while you’re learning, your driving instructor asks you to adhere to the DMV’s.

The same goes, we believe, for teaching. In order to learn and grow as an instructor, you need to have some vision for what optimal instruction looks like. This vision ideally has specific language for how to talk about that optimal instruction.

And, crucially, in a coaching relationship, there needs to be alignment around this vision. If you can develop agreement between coach and teacher, then feedback will make sense because you’re both operating within explicitly clear parameters. You both know you need 30 feet between you and the car in front of you on the highway—it said so in the manual. Now here comes the coaching. “Hey, teacher. You’re at 25 feet, let’s just tap the brake lightly.”

By clarity of instructional vision, we mean that both the coach and the teacher that they’re coaching should have a shared idea of what a high functioning classroom looks like at any given moment of instruction. Importantly, we believe that that vision should be student-facing. That is, the picture should be of what the students should be saying, doing, and thinking at any given moment of the class.

“Students are on task, paying attention, and working hard throughout the lesson. They think the teacher notices their behavior, so if they do slip off task for a moment. They’re able to be redirected without much fuss or complaining.”

“The students also feel like the objective of the lesson is really clear to them and it’s rigorous too. It’s something that’s difficult, yet still attainable for the given class period.  They also know that the activities of the class are aligned with that objective. They’re helping them achieve the ultimate goal of the lesson. And they feel like they’re getting tons of opportunities for practice and receive feedback from their teachers, so they know where they are at any given moment. And they know how far they have to go to master the goal of the class.”

The moral of this story is not that you need a particular philosophy, it’s that you need a shared approach with the teacher that you’re coaching. An aligned instructional vision is a necessary prerequisite to an effective teacher-coaching relationship.

Taken from: "Coaching Teachers: Promoting Changes that Stick" Match Teacher Residency.

¿Cómo mantener el Lenguaje Secundario?

En la actualidad nuestras vidas permanecen agitadas por gran cantidad de deberes y poco tiempo disponible. Entre el trabajo, los estudios y los quehaceres del hogar, se nos hace difícil encontrar espacio en nuestro calendario, especialmente para aprendizaje adicional.

Un área de la cual escucho inquietudes con frecuencia es la de hablantes de inglés como segunda lengua, quienes temen perder sus habilidades por el hecho de no darle uso continuo. Me preguntan cómo lograr seguir estudiando inglés si hay otras prioridades en sus vidas.

La verdad es que dominar una segunda lengua es un proceso complejo al cual hay que dedicar tiempo y esfuerzo para su adquisición y posterior mantenimiento, máxime, si la persona vive en un país donde la lengua oficial no es el inglés.

Afortunadamente, esta tarea se ha hecho más fácil en la medida que el idioma inglés ha tomado preponderancia, además del desarrollo de tecnologías para su uso. Adicionalmente, involucrarse en actividades que garanticen que el Lenguaje-2 se mantenga actualizado y listo para su uso cuando sea necesario.

A continuación, presento algunas buenas prácticas y medidas que pueden ayudar a mantener el lenguaje secundario en óptimas condiciones:

  1. Rodearse de exposición a todas las habilidades lingüísticas: programación de TV en inglés, listas de reproducción de canciones en inglés, podcasts de programas de radio en inglés, revistas, libros y periódicos. Finalmente, escribir un diario personal, un blog, la agenda, las notas de post-it, composiciones formales, etc. en idioma inglés.
  2. Utilizar un diccionario en el celular, tablet o laptop: Existen varias apps que pueden ayudar para estos fines. Merriam-Webster tiene algunas que son estupendas y que trabajan sin internet, hay otras que son igualmente adecuadas.
  3. Pagar una tutoría: Mantener un programa de clases individualizado puede servir a los fines de adaptación al horario personal y las facilidades de poder recibirlo en el hogar u oficina.
  4. Revisar los libros: Echar un vistazo a los libros de texto y de trabajo de niveles anteriores puede refrescar el conocimiento y aclarar dudas que hayan podido surgir. Tambien el uso de libros nuevos que esten el mercado es buena idea si se sigue un plan de clases que uno mismo puede diseñar.
  5. Hablar, hablar: Si se pudiera encontrar un circulo de amigos en el trabajo o vida personal que incluya personas que hablen la lengua, sería estupendo para mantener el idioma vivo. Viajar o visitar lugares donde podamos interactuar con hablantes es otra opción factible.




How to Produce Oral English

As I look back to the time I started composing oral language, I realize that it actually took place long time before that. It worked like magic because I didn’t have to consciously remember how to say things in my native language, and mental images would take the form of words when I needed it.

I’ve seen the same process in many of the students that I interview for placement tests and during casual conversations with intermediate levels. They are not sure how they achieved it, but they are able to find words and structures to express ideas.

You too, can develop this ability if you’re serious about your effort to learn a new language. All it takes is commitment and work. For some, it will be easier, and for the rest of us -like it was for me, it’s the result of systematic enforcement.

Firstly, there’s the need to increase vocabulary, which is the base of language. It’s been said that a learner needs to incorporate at least 7 new words everyday, so imagine the importance of collecting words, expressions and collocations, so you can speak up.

Secondly, being aware of the structure that is required to keep up with a conversation, such as: simple present tense, simple past, and future. Learning the rules of tenses includes different types of sentences: affirmative and negative statements, Y/N questions, WH-questions.

Lastly, making sure that intonation, pronunciation and clarity comply with the standard accepted; in other words, there’s no effective communication if the other person cannot easily understand you.

So, just follow this 1-2-3 method to accomplish the goal of producing oral language, and be proud of communicating with others, through this wonderful channel.



Cheating is Big Mistake!

Learning takes effort from students but if they follow the lesson plans from the teacher to achieve good class scores, success is granted. On the other hand, there are those who prefer to take the easy way and without regret, they cheat.

Actually, students and teachers must remember that scores are not the main reason why they attend school, but rather, to develop knowledge with classes interaction, previously organized and based on academic objectives, i.e. class scores.

On the other hand, cheating is unacceptable behavior inside and outside the classroom and it is one of the reasons why the society is outraged with cases of public dishonesty as common occurrences of failure. This only makes it worse every time!

In like manner, schools represent the future and the way learners react to academic challenges will set the pace to further demeanor. After all, Is it valid to showcase high scores when these do not reflect the actual level of skills, knowledge and comprehension?

When we see famous people, public figures, politicians and even athletes being judged because of their wrongdoings, it is a clear warning of the shame involved in cheating .

All in all, let us try to be the best we can but never forget that it will make you feel better if the rewards we are given are based on hard work and honest decisions made with a clear conscience and heart. It is even more fun, I assure you!

Ugh! Homework.

ecr 2In the first place, homework is not! Some teachers like to give it a different name like Home-Play or Extended-Activities and I’m cool with that.. students must avoid the negative connotation of this necessary re-encounter with lessons they have previously practiced to ensure effective learning.

In reality, these learning tools designed to be made at home provide several benefits for the cognitive development due to several factors:

  • Students retake the ideas discussed at school and are now able to reflect on them at a more personal stage.
  • The effect of reproducing the learning experience in a different and comfortable environment contributes to endure retention.
  • Reviewing aspects of the lesson at students’ pace facilitates comprehension of key knowledge.
  • The creativeness process is strengthened since students are free to consult external sources encouraging critical thinking and decision making.

While homework represents a complementary stage of lessons, it should be carefully planned to ensure  continuity of previously covered topics. This planning involves sequential exercises to guarantee long-lasting learning using different teaching approaches.

One particular sequence is defined through the ECRIF framework, as it depicts five stages of language learning: Encounter, Clarify, Remember, Internalize and Fluently use. In short, homework assignments should contain exercises oriented to Remember and Internalize what has been already Encountered and Clarified.




Four Basic Skills for TOEFL

Learning a foreign language is easy if you prepare a plan where you improve the four basic areas of expression: Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing.

The order in which I listed the skills comes from the sequence of tasks that are given in a worldwide prestigious exam such as the TOEFL. Here, participants demonstrate their abilities by performing diverse assignments during a period of almost four hours. The exam has a cost of around $200 and it is a requirement to enter colleges in USA.

Many students overtake this language endeavor because they have gotten a scholarship, or because they are ready to study abroad under their own means. Regardless of the motivation, truth is, TOEFL will prove you abilities to the extend of being able to receive tuition in English language.

I use different resources to prepare students for this challenge: exam strategies, language knowledge and several simulation practices. Indeed, the key to get a decent score at TOEFL lays on the student’s ability to successfully understand sophisticated academic vocabulary, as well as to express themselves in written and spoken language.

A major factor is intelligibility in both written and verbal expressions. For the later, TOEFL takes into account good pronunciation, clarity and correct intonation. As for the first, students must demonstrate appropriate level of grammar and writing mechanics.

Lastly, Reading and Listening are receptive skills that can prove our understanding/reporting capabilities after the analysis of a text. To do well in these sections, we can use several resources such as note taking, transitions signal words and other language devices.

All in all, this type of exams can hugely impact on our learning experience because of the amount of language features we must use and more important, reflect upon.

Tips to Improve English Pronunciation

Pronouncing correctly defines the level of your English to others, especially native speakers. We need to consider several aspects and improve in each one of them: Linking, Intonation, Stress, Vowels and Consonant sounds, etc.

There are English students who develop good levels of fluency, but it’s hard for others to understand what they say and this is why we must try to speak fluently, but more important, to speak clearly.

Engaging in practices such as repetition, modeling sounds, imitating native speakers and such, can really make the difference for English to be comprehended.

I chose this simple video because it is one of multiple tools that you can use in your goal to become a proficient speaker. Please click on the link and make the best out of it.

5 Techniques to Speak Any Language

This is very INTERESTING, Sid Efromovich speaks seven languages and he gives testimonial of how to learn a new language reflecting on meaningful learning. The five tips he provides are:

  1. Make Mistakes
  2. Scrap The Foreign Alphabet
  3. Find a Sticker
  4. Shower Conversations
  5. Buddy Formula

Watch this video and start practicing!