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Касенова А.Б. [Часть 1] Teaching English as a Foreign Language

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ACTIVE LEARNING

Hello everyone! I am Albina Kassenova, a teacher trainer for English teachers at the National Center for Professional Development ORLEU, North Kazakhstan branch. Today I start my posts on ‘ORLEU Online Resources’ project. Every Monday you will enjoy my posts about contemporary issues in teaching English. The very first post is about Active Learning issue.

The following description of an activity, illustrates how learners can be actively involved in their learning. This activity will begin to show how a different approach to presenting a topic can impact upon learning.

Learning Activity
Reading. This activity assumes that learners have read a wide selection of
poems.
Learning Objective: Compare and contrast poems and investigate poetic
features
Activity: Identifying poetic features
The activity is designed to link assessment and learning.
Learners are asked to work together to sort a set of cards into three piles:
AGREE / DISAGREE / IT DEPENDS ON (we need to find out more)
The cards might look like this:

rhyme

have an ending

follow rules

involve feelings

have punctuation

tell a story

are written in lines

have verses

contain verbs

are written in sentences

The cards are designed to challenge the learners’ ideas. The discussion may lead to some disagreement. Learners will have to justify their ideas and this might challenge their thinking.
Cards can be created by teachers to explore learners’ ideas in relation to other topics – e.g. punctuation, sentence structure. They are also appropriate for issues found in stories like characterisation and figurative language. The cards should include some ‘incorrect’ ideas or ideas that often cause confusion. Using blank cards can be a good idea so that learners can add their own ideas – more able learners may do a slightly different task where they are given blank cards and asked to do the same task by filling in the cards themselves. Less able learners may be given fewer cards.

Follow up:
Groups can be asked to present their ideas. Areas of disagreement can become a focus for further learning. Learners can be given a range of poetry books and asked to check their ideas. They may find that they can produce a list of features for particular types of poems from their cards.

This type of activity shows the strengths and weaknesses of learners by engaging them in a positive way. Asking learners to write a list of features common to all poems would not result in such good quality learning. This type of formative assessment can inform whether the objective has been met or whether further work is required – this may affect the next lesson or form part of a plan for a later follow-up lesson.

Active learning recognises that the focus in teaching is getting learners to ‘do’ rather than ‘listen’. This emphasises the practical nature of teaching at the primary phase. Learning by doing attaches real meaning to whatever related knowledge is being taught. Being told how to swim is after all not the same as being able to do it and as thought is an action too, we need to put it into a context, connect it to our emotions as we discover its applications. Understanding requires belief and these three simple points are a neat reminder of how that deeper learning is accessed through activity.
• I listen – I forget
• I see – I believe
• I do – I understand
It is clear that a range of different teaching strategies will be needed to provide the correct environment in which learners can develop their skills, knowledge and understanding. Included in these are methods that encourage active learning, thinking skills and independent work. The role of the teacher in planning, providing and adapting learning experiences to cover a range of learning abilities (differentiation) is central to promoting skills and knowledge development.
Good differentiation is the key. Be ready for the next post about differentiation next week.

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