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Probably the most dreaded activity for many students is oral presentations. Our school guidance counsellors have told me they get lots of visits from extremely anxious students around this time.

Providing supportive environments, a back up stool for shaky legs, making preparatory tasks fun, viewing inspirational speeches for motivation all help but for a core group of learners, none of this really works. You could argue that speeches are just one of those evil necessities (like going to the dentist) but where’s the engagement in that?!

And while we might be able to jolly our juniors along, for the Level 2 alternative English students I teach, opt out rates are high. Four credits up for grabs but if you’re terrified of public speaking and chasing reading and writing credits, it’s a no brainer.

I think for those students, a better selling point might be developing more relevant, accessible tasks. Broad topics like “adaptation”, “choices”, “courage” are simply not doing it for them.

As long as we can assess against the schedule – is it appropriate for the audience, does it contain conventions suitable for the type of presentation, is it crafted and controlled, are a range of speaking techniques used in the delivery – alternatives to persuasive formal speeches need to be offered.

  1. Small group seminars – a seminar is more interactive than a formal speech. It should contain some visuals, some direct engagement with the audience and be informative. With Level One students, I’ve used this activity and linked it to career planning. We started by completing the career quest survey online, whittled the job options down to three then one, carried out research and developed a seminar on a specific career/industry. There are clear links here to with the Vocational Standards on offer.
  2. How To presentations -Instructional clips are popular. From making loom bands to using a green screen, it’s likely that students have consulted YouTube at some stage so this is a genre they’re familiar with. Due to the lower levels of crafting involved, this is probably better suited to junior students. Here’s some links to clips some American students have created and presented on Smart Phone apps which range from 30 secs to two minutes. Students need to produce story boards, scripts and practise their delivery. Here’s the backgrounder with rationale explained in detail.
  3. Mihimihi – This is an introductory speech that shares whakapapa (genealogy, ancestral ties) and other relevant information. A mihi is presented in Te Reo. A few years ago, a junior student who was struggling to write a persuasive speech nailed this. He began presenting his mihi as per the conventions and then proceeded to unpack the relevance of each reference point to his identity. I still have the scrawly, hand written transcript.  A Level One student also chose this option and invited her whanau to school for the presentation. Again, it one of the best pieces of work she completed all year. Engaging, crafted and delivered with pride.This may just provide the deeper connection some students seek and also help them to draw strength from their whanau and whakapapa thus overcoming nerves.

Here’s a clip on making a visual mihi too:

There’s a few alternatives. I’d be keen to know what other people have tried as well.

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 710 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 12 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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It’s a common complaint in English departments acorss the country and probably the world – they’re just not reading.  We all know that there are plenty of reasons why young people are opting out of reading and we all try our best to encourage reading inside and outside school.

This year, in addition to library visits where my junior classes take part in book waterfalls, book speed dating and other activities designed to turn them back onto reading, I’ve launched another blog. Initially this was to share my own reading experiences with my students and point them to sites to inspire their reading. what I found was, they just weren’t using it and if they were, I certainly didn’t know about it.

I’ve now sent invites to 58 students with a view to them being able to post about their reading as well as comment on posts.  It seemed when we shared reading expereinces in the library orally that they were most keen to hear what their peers were reading so here’s hoping their additional format helps to build on that, and helps to develop their writing skills along the way.

Watch this space!

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Online pinboards

I’ve always been a fan of pinboards as sources of inspiration and motivation. Our kitchen pinboard is jammed with random postcards of favourite spots, appointments, photos and general reminders of family life. The boys have one each in their bedrooms featuring accolades, favourite art work, school photos and other precious memories.

In the past I’ve used Scoop.it as an online focal point for students to find out more information about specific topics. While I love ScoopIt’s easy navigation and interface, I’ve reached the limit of my three free pages so if I want to collate more, I need to pay. Darn. I can still use Scoop.it to follow other teachers as well as source and share material with students but unless I want to delete a site, I’ll need to sign up.

Hello Pinterest. I’ve been aware of this site for a while but steered clear mainly as Scoop.it met the need. Pinterest is based on the same concept – you “pin” photos or pages of interest and group them in folders. So far I’ve got a couple of school related folders plus a personal one. My aim is to link these to the school’s ultranet site to reinforce recent lessons on poetic devices and give my junior students some visual and fun reminders to use as revision at home. It’s also incredibly easy to use and has plenty of potential for students to create their own sites of interest for revision or plain old inspiration. There’s an app for iPads so you can collate on the go. Get pinning! (more…)

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Friday. Students currently enjoying coffee and croissants supplied by me (on World Teachers Day too!) as inspiration for an afternoon of feature writing with a 4pm deadline looming. So a chance to reflect on digital technology my students have embraced independently to enhance their learning as part of a Media Communication course.

It was with some delight I learned at the end of term one when conducting a survey on their study habits that several of the keener learners had been connecting outside the classroom via Skype. Now Skype (or a Voice over Internet Protocol VoIP as it’s technically known) isn’t new.  But what has been interesting is how my students have utilised this tool. It has been hugely significant in terms of reflecting a transition towards taking more responsibility for their own learning which has been a challenge for many of them this year. While the keener learners set it up, the less engaged were also using this option by the middle of the year when they could see and hear how the rest of the class were benefiting from it. Skype has enabled them to :

  • clarify ideas/concepts discussed in class
  • brainstorm story ideas
  • share ideas/networks for interviews
  • develop their intro writing skills through the “tell a friend” approach
  • learn how to give constructive criticism of their writing
  • test their knowledge of key terms and concepts
  • revise for tests

Yesterday they started work on a class newspaper with their peers in Christchurch.  Coordinating a class newspaper with a team of fledgling reporters some 350km apart is a daunting prospect (for me at least).  They met for the first time via video conference and learned when trying to allocate roles that paper-scissors-rock doesn’t work via VC due to broadcast delays!

That afternoon, they quickly set up a google docs account where they are building a bank of story ideas, allocating pages and assigning tasks.  Again google docs is not new. It enables users to create and edit web-based documents, spreadsheets, and presentations as well as store documents online and access them from any computer. I am interested to see how my students are using it to their advantage.  Our chief reporter is currently watching the ChCh-based editor type feedback in real-time as they refine story ideas together. Simple.

And while I have used Moodle this year for extension work, sharing readings, assessment updates and to send email messages to students, the ChCh group has used Facebook.  Straight after yesterday’s first VC my students were added to the ChCh group and can now instant message their peers to keep each other informed of progress, share ideas and give encouragement.  Perfect.

So while producing a 14 page, tabloid newspaper with a group of students based in separate cities who have never met might seem daunting, suddenly thanks to digital technology, social media and good old Kiwi ingenuity, anything is possible!

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Why teachers rock

 

 

And don’t forget an apple for your favourite teacher on World Teachers’ Day October 26!

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Had to share this – would be even more funny if it wasn’t so painfully astute!

 

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