toolbox

El papel de la emoción o en busca de la C perdida

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El otro día leía en Twitter una noticia relativa a una publicación educativa que aseguraba que la neuroeducación está validando la extendida opinión de que el aprendizaje está determinado fundamentalmente por la emoción. “¡Noticias frescas!”, exclamé. Sin embargo, me di cuenta de que, aunque esto sea obvio para cualquier docente en su quehacer diario en el aula, no lo es para el conjunto del sistema educativo, ya que carecemos de la cobertura y herramientas para aprovechar al máximo este descubrimiento.

Echando la vista atrás, no fue hasta las décadas de los 60/70 cuando la psicología y la pedagogía se dieron la mano y se reforzó el ‘lado emocional’ de la educación. En la enseñanza de idiomas adicionales fue en esta época cuando se promulgaron métodos tan curiosos como  la “Suggestopedia”. Su propulsor, un egipcio llamado Caleb Gattegno, aseguraba que era necesario ‘desugestionar’ al sujeto antes de que pudiera realizar un aprendizaje efectivo. Para ello, se ayudaba de música barroca, textos leídos a media voz, sofás y una luz tenue. Si esto es parece bizarro, imaginaos la cara que pondrían ellos al vernos todo el día frente a una pantalla iluminada.  ¿Hemos perdido la emoción en nuestra sociedad?

Francisco Mora, catedrático de Fisiología Humana en la Universidad Complutense, y catedrático adscrito de Fisiología Molecular y Biofísica en la Universidad de Iowa, EEUU, aporta algo de luz a mi pregunta. En su colaboración con Carlos Arroyo en el blog de sociedad de El País apunta a la definitiva unión del binomio “Cognición-Emoción“. Para ser más exactos, “Emoción-Cognición“, ya que el cerebro primero pasa la información por la emoción y luego por la cognición, según sus palabras. Así pues, la emoción es inherente al ser humano en todo proceso cognitivo. (¡Qué interesante!) Además va más allá, asegurando que aprendemos para sobrevivir, y que, por tanto, el que aprende menos suele vivir menos. Tener una mente abierta al aprendizaje, y por ende, a la emoción, nos hace estar más capacitados para la supervivencia.

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¿Pero cómo podemos llevar todo esto a las aulas? ¿Cómo podemos potenciar el lado emocional del aprendizaje para hacerlo más duradero y útil? Marta Palomar, del Instituto Superior de Estudios Psicológicos, nos da algunas claves que intentaré analizar aquí. Para empezar, parece obvio que cada etapa de nuestra vida tiene diferentes momentos de aprendizaje. Es decir, no se trata de que cuanto mayor nos hacemos, menos aprendemos, sino que tenemos picos de actividad, y algunos periodos son más activos que otros. Así pues, debemos cuidar de que los niños tengan entornos que favorezcan el aprendizaje desde etapas tempranas. Para poder conseguirlo tenemos que favorecer el contacto de los niños con la naturaleza, y favorecer el movimiento físico. Esta es una metodología muy común en países como Finlandia y Alemania, por ejemplo, y en centros de carácter experimental-innovador como las escuelas-bosque.

De acuerdo con Palomar, el sistema se vuelve menos sensible a las necesidades emocionales de los estudiantes según estos van creciendo. De manera que cuando el cerebro ya tiene pleno potencial emocional, por así decirlo, es cuando los estudiantes son expuestos a materias de corte racional (y Palomar cita la biología y la física, por ejemplo). Admito que no estoy del todo de acuerdo con esta idea, ya que considero que estas materias no son racionales ‘per se’, sino que depende de la manera en la que se enfoque la asignatura. Esa es la impresión que tengo de lo que veo en mi día a día en el Centro Universitario Cardenal Cisneros. Conozco a profesores de asignaturas de corte científico que realizan numerosas actividades que acercan a los estudiantes los contenidos y ayudan a desarrollar las competencias a través de la experiencia (y por tanto, de la emoción). Otra cosa es que el currículo escolar o los materiales didácticos utilizados pasen por alto esta dimensión, o que hayamos cometido el error de meter las asignaturas en ciertos compartimentos estancos (el aprendizaje no sabe de cajones).

Exactamente pasa lo mismo con la aplicación de CLIL. En diversas ocasiones os he comentado que creo que la utilización de las 4 Cs: Contenido, Comunicación, Cultura y Cognición, ayudan al profesor a desarrollar actividades y herramientas que ayudan al estudiante a realizar un aprendizaje efectivo. Sin embargo, nos faltaba subrayar que en esa palabra mágica: “Cognición”, está también escondida, como la otra cara de la moneda, la “Emoción”. Quizás ésta sea la C perdida, el quinto elemento del entramado CLIL. No podemos enseñar en una lengua adicional si pasamos por alto la ’emoción’, y para buscar la ’emoción’ de chavales que rondan los veinte años hay que dar, desde mi punto de vista, un paso previo: conocerlos, escucharlos, observarlos. Aquí os doy algunas ideas que me han servido para trabajar aspectos emocionales en el aula:

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Write a letter to your students and ask them to do the same. Ask them about their hobbies, their families, their worries and their expectations on the subject you’re teaching or on the degree in general. Te permitirán, además, saber el nivel inicial de lengua de tus alumnos, y conocerás cuáles son las áreas en las que puedes trabajar. Si alguien comparte sus talentos artísticos, deportivos, etc., tenlos en cuenta para las actividades que vayas a desarrollar. Deja espacio para que puedan integrar sus habilidades a la par que llevan a cabo las tareas de clase ¡les ayudarán!

Create student cards with ‘unusual’ categories such as your most embarrasing  moment, or the happiest day in your life. Geniales para revisar el uso de tiempos verbales en pasado. Se pueden organizar con algo de “scaffolding” utilizando la estructura 1,2,3,4 de Aprendizaje Cooperativo. Primero trabajan individualmente, luego comparten en parejas, después en pequeños grupos, y finalmente con el grupo entero. Puedes organizar un Talk Show sobre el tema.

Use poetry, songs or short short stories to discuss on a particular issue seen in class. No olvidéis la literatura, por favor. Si estáis trabajando sobre biología o física, hay relatos recopilados en antologías editadas por Isaac Asimov que son una maravilla (fáciles de leer, y con un montón de potencial para debatir en clase). Recopila materiales que puedan unirse al temario de tu currículum para tenerlos a mano. Para poemas sobre cualquier tema, recomiendo los volúmenes escritos o editados por Pie Corbett.

Use drama-based activities, such as describing an initial scene, and inviting students to imagine what they would do in that situation, and write a dialogue to perfom the scene. No sé qué haría sin mis drama-based techniques. Crear diálogos que respondan a situaciones concretas es una técnica que podéis emplear en cualquier asignatura. Si no habéis trabajado con guiones de teatro antes, incluir una fase previa en la que los estudiantes puedan familiarizarse con el género. Una buena fuente de ideas es la página de Dominic Streames, efltheatreclub.

Espero que el post os haya resultado interesante. No dudéis en comentar 🙂 See you next time!

Toolbox: Interactive boxes

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I’m the type of teacher who loves using envelopes, slips of paper and boxes. I’m always carrying materials like these to my classes, as I believe that they can be used for many purposes. Last year I attended a session about ‘learning boxes‘ in a Training Day for teachers and since then I was thinking about how to integrate this idea together into my lessons. At that time, my colleague prof. Juanjo Rabanal popped in my office to ask for my opinion about types of activities which could be carried out in the ‘Jornadas de Educación’ (Education Workshops), which are held once a year at the university where I work, and a light turned on in my mind. Why not turning ‘learning boxes into ‘interactive boxes’?

Interactive boxes are plastic or paper containers in which we put a task or activity. Students need to be able to carry it out without any lecturers’ help, and the task should ideally involve cooperative learning. Boxes need to include clear instructions about what students need to do to produce a learning outcome. Another characteristic is that time is restricted (that makes students go to the point and collaborate!). Instructions can be included as a paper worksheet, a digital file in a pen drive, a link to a video you have previously recorded, etc. Once students read the instructions and negotiate its meaning in their group, they start working to complete the task. In the box you may include objects they need to use in the activity. In this case, as we were working on interactivity, we used ICTs together with other objects, for example, a mobile phone, a tablet, a laptop, a measuring tool, etc. To make things more challenging, prof. Eva Peñafiel contributed to the project with an added difficulty using geocaching. In that way, students were given the coordinates of the location where the boxes were hidden (this was the first step to start working). We were really happy with the results of this experience, and it looked like students were finding it quite innovative.

My second try with interactive boxes was in a Postgraduate on-campus session.Lecturers from different departments created cross curricular activities which revolved around the topic ‘Scientific Expedition Trips‘. Students were divided into groups and given an explorer’s pack (introduction to the activity, a map with the places where the boxes where located, and a tablet). Once they read the instructions to the activity, they had a limited time to complete the task. For example, I designed an interactive box with fragments of real texts taken from diaries written by explorers. Students had to create a comic strip using photographs and an app to create Comics. Students created freeze frames and took pictures. When we finished the activity, teachers and students had a round-table discussion together. This was guided by the analysis of the activities carried out and the discussion about their design, usefulness,etc. One of the best things was to discover that many students were thinking about adapting this activity to their teaching contexts.

From a linguistic point of view, cooperative learning sets the best context to make participants use expressions related to negotiating meaning, giving opinion, praising others’ ideas, or encouraging peers to participate, among others. Also, it is advisable to encourage participants to reflect about what they have thought and felt while involved in the experience, and to encourage them to come up with more ideas to create new boxes they may use in their lessons.
Are you thinking about using this resource? Have you already used it? Was it successful? Would you like to have more ideas to develop it? I’d love to hear from you.

Interactive boxes are resources full with possibilities
Interactive boxes are resources full with possibilities

 

Ready to start

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Let me start by wishing you a wonderful academic year 2013/2014, full of exciting lessons, great learning moments and interesting projects.

It is now two weeks since we started classes in my University, and one of the things I hate most of these days is that I have to make students read one dull document we call “Study Guide”. It is basically the syllabus of the subject, and students find it pretty hard to organise all the information all their lecturers are giving in just a few days.

This summer I thought about more dynamic ways of making them read the document and understand what is written on it!, and I would like to share some of these ideas with you, just in case they are working for any of the reading activities you’re planning to carry out in your courses.

1. CHECK-IN POINT. This is a list of four-six questions my students have at the end of the document. They go through them to check if they have understood important information contained in the Study Guide. These questions can also be used as a TRIVIAL PURSUIT activity. The teacher divides the class into groups, and they get points for each question answered correctly.

2. QR CODES. I don’t know about you, but my students cannot be separated from their mobile phones. You can divide the study guides into different parts and covert the text into QR Codes using any app, for example this.

3. THREE, TWO AND ONE. This is an activity I use in many situations, when finishing a lesson as a recap, when starting a lesson as a warm-up, as a reading comprehension activity, etc. It is so useful in my lessons, that I created a poster with easel.ly to have a nice visual to use with my students.

My 3,2,1 ease.ly poster
My 3,2,1 ease.ly poster

You can download it here

4. STUDY GUIDE CUT-OUTS. I prepare a blank copy of the study guide, leaving just the headlines. The body of the text appears in paragraphs. Students have to stick each paragraph to the correct section. This makes them read, understand and classify the text.

5. FIND THE MISTAKE. I make some changes to the original version. These should be crazy and funny, so that students can easily identify them. For example, you may include a crazy aim, such as ‘to be able to fly to the Moon’, or ‘to write Harry Potter’s prequel’ 🙂

6. JIGSAW ACTIVITY. I divide students into pairs. Student A and Student B have half of the information contained in the Study Guide together with a set of questions. They ask each other to complete the information which is missing.

I hope you find these ideas helpful and practical, if we are lucky, we won’t have to answer that very last question. “Is there an exam in this subject?”

 

 

Toolbox: using infographics

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infographic
infographic

Hi everybody!

Today I’m sharing a teaching-learning project I have been developing with my students during the past weeks. We were involved in getting acquainted with the nuts and bolts of CLIL, and I designed an assignment which was based on the use of infographics. Students had to prepare an infographic related to bilingual education and CLIL, and explain it in an oral presentation in front of their classmates.

I used infographics because I wanted my students to resort to visuals when explaining. More often than not, they do not provide any type of scaffolding when they are giving information in class. Taking into account that they will become bilingual primary teachers in the future, I consider that using visuals effectively is essential to ensure better learning.

To create their infographic they were suggested  the following free software:

http://www.easel.ly/

http://piktochart.com/

http://infogr.am/

http://creately.com/

As a reference to create their own infographics, I recommended visiting this website: http://www.coolinfographics.com/  Also, I provided them with an article dealing with Visual Stories through Infographics: http://blog.lewispr.com/2011/03/infographics.html

I guess that the use of infographics may be interesting for any subject, but probably more for those of you working on Social Sciences. It may be used to make students gather, organise and present information of any kind. Also, introducing this resource will force students use their High Order Thinking Skills (creativity involved here!).

Finally, I’d like to gather more information as to write an article on this experience. I’m curious about students’ reactions to this project, and their perceptions on the content and language learning gains it has granted.

Have you ever used infographics? Do you find this proposal interesting? I’d love to hear from you.

Toolbox on…Creative reading resources

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Creative reading toolbox
Creative reading toolbox

Good morning, afternoon or evening, everybody!

This is the first of a series of posts devoted on sharing resources and materials. I have entitled them “Toolbox”, because that’s what they are thought to be.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am now involved in compiling resources and materials I have been using (or I would like to try out) to make a more creative reading and writing classroom in Primary and Secondary school. It may be the case that these resources are applicable to a university context too. In my case, as I’m training future teachers, I make them aware of the importance of knowing and using as many didactic tools as possible.

The resources I’m about to share were organised for the MA’s subject I’m lecturing at the Universidad de Alcalá (Madrid) on how to make a creative use of short stories. They go around three main topics:

– the use of ICT in the reading classroom. I consider it essential to blend ICT with reading. If well integrated, students work with many more language skills and develop high-order thinking abilities.

literature/literary circles. Extensive reading has proved to be a useful tool to make our students improve their communicative abilities, and this is one way of doing it.

readers’ theatre. I have been using readers’ theatre with secondary students, and I plan to design a project for my University students next course. This gives us the opportunity to work on intonation, pronunciation, and true comprehension.

I have compiled all these resources using a Symbaloo you can access here. My next toolbox will be focused on online stories you can use with children at infant and primary level (EFL and bilingual contexts).

Do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to make a suggestion or question. This is an open space for all of us to share experiences and opinions.

Have a nice day!

Note: the toolbox image has been taken from http://www.marapets.com/toolbox.php