‘Dyatlov Pass Incident’ – experimenting with Station Rotation Model

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Yet another week passed, I learnt some new things related to Blended Learning (mostly about learning environment and experience) but I also decided to give it a go and experiment with a model that seems to be the best suited to my work environment (a private language school). I think it went pretty well as the first time and we still feel like experimenting with the Station Rotation model. If you want to try, Here’s a short sketch of the 90 minutes lesson.

First of all I’d given a homework before: to read about the Dyatlov Pass Incident. Fortunately, most of them managed to do that, so I could briefly explain the goal of the lesson:

To obtain information re.: Dyatlov Pass Incident and make a panel discussion moderated by a group of students (group A) and presenting the version of the government (group B) and the version of conspiracy theories‘ followers (group C).

The stations are as follow:

1. A computer

2. A place for a free practice in a small group

3. A place for a practice with a teacher’s help

Time:

  • 1-20 mins

Group A -> station 3 (I help the moderators with the idea of panel discussion and how to conduct it; we discuss the most important and controversial questions to be asked: radiation, missing tongue and eyes, the mysterious missing of the case files in 1990)

Group B -> station 2 (knowing that the official statement of Russian government tells us nothing, the group has to come up with the most probable version)

Group C -> station 1 (they collect the info focused on conspiracy theories)

  • 20-40 mins

Group A -> station 1 (they gather vocabulary needed to ask questions)

Group B -> station 3 (the most difficult role is the one of this group, I help the students guess the issues that may be raised by the opposing team)

Group C -> station 2 (they come up with their line of explanation: aliens, military experiments etc.)

  • 40-60 mins

Group A -> station 2 (they polish their questions)

Group B -> station 1 (they collect the info focused on conspiracy theories and decide how to explain them)

Group C -> station 3 (I help the students to focus on the most controversial issues)

  • 60-85 mins

Students have a debate, the teacher is just a listener.

  • 85-90 mins

Teacher sums up the debate, corrects some linguistic mistakes and gets the information from the students: have they liked the lesson, the debate, what should be changed…

… and who has actually won the debate?

In my case the students had dramatically little time to learn about the incident beforehand, hence some minor problems during the debate. Overall I believe the experiment went better than expected, students had fun and even though it’s been a couple of lessons we still discuss the incident and its controversies. Maybe someday we’ll repeat the debate?

Let me share some links you may find very useful in familiarizing with the incident. Please, be aware that some of them include drastic photos of the bodies found.

Mysterious universe

Autopsy reports

Environmental graffiti

Aquiziam

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Being a teacher = being a learner (HQBL: 1)

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They say being a teacher is being a learner too, and I quite agree with that! So, when I saw a new course on coursera focused on Blended Learning I’ve decided to give it a go. Yay!

As the course is going to take 6 weeks, I’ve thought of sharing the ideas on the blog and give some examples of how they could be implemented in the EFL environment – I’m planning to experiment on my teenager groups who have already agreed and are surprisingly excited about it 🙂

So, let’s explore the idea of High Quality Blended Learning!

Blended Learning: Personalizing Education for Students by Brian Greenberg, Rob Schwartz, Michael Horn

First of all, let me remind you what blended learning is. Basically, it’s a program in which a student learns at least a bit through online learning with some element of control over the learning process (its time, place, path and/or time), but is supervised by a teacher. Both classroom and online learning complement each other.

Now, the lecturers define High Quality Blended Learning (HQBL) with the following aspects:

  1. personalization (a very learner-centered approach)
  2. mastery-based (focused on student’s achievement, not time)
  3. high expectations (student should have a clearly defined goal)
  4. student ownership (student is in control of their education)

The lecturers present three different HQBL models along with real-life examples:

Station Rotation Model

Here students rotate on a fixed schedule between different learning stations, and at least one of them is online. Other stations are usually small groups work, group project, individual tutoring, pencil-and-paper assignments etc. KIPP: LA is an example of this model.

Lab Rotation Model

Here students rotate on a fixed schedule between a classroom and a computer lab where they study online; the classroom is generally reserved for other activities. The example of this method is Navigator Schools.

Flex Model

Here online learning is the backbone of the course. Students have customized schedules, but the teacher still provides face-to-face support (small groups or individual, depending on a type of the model). Summit Public School is an example of this approach.

Now, you probably think what I’ve been thinking: if my students were to work on any of the programs above, they wouldn’t know what to do! People used to typical school education (learning for tests, not for real life) may have problems with HQBL simply because they don’t always have their goals defined (a typical educational system does not require that) and, well, not all of them know how to be in control of their own education.

So, before I jump with both feet into HQBL, I’ve decided to start with something smaller: Flipped Classroom. Here students rotate on a fixed schedule between a) face-to-face teacher-guided practice in class and b) online delivery of content after school. Seemed easier for my students to grasp the idea of HQBL and somehow try to control the way they acquire information.

In order to move on, I’ve used one of my previous posts – a homework for B2+ students. In the original homework, I wanted my students to write a composition, but to make it more interesting I want to change it a bit and adjust to something reminding Station Rotation.

The students are still to find information about the incident, but I divide them into groups: the official-government-statement followers, the conspiracy theory supporters and the reporters. When they collect information (online) and decide in their group (see, groupwork) on their line of belief, they are to take part in a panel discussion (this form of discussion is extremely popular in Poland at the moment due to political issues). The reporters ask questions to each group (and dig into their theory, looking for weak spots) and finally every group makes a report of the discussion (online or pencil-and-paper).

Huh, seems like a lot of work, eh? I think it can be easily done in a 1.5hr classes and since I have the opportunity to do it next week I’m definitely going for it. For homework they would have to read about the incident. The stations would be as follows: online (to check more complex issues), small groups discussion (line of presentation / making questions as reporters), face-to-face teacher consultation (to check linguistic correctness).

Will it work? Hopefully 🙂 I’m going to update this post next week and write another one about the HQBL course.

Wish me luck!

Teacher, let’s watch a film…

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How many times have you heard your students moaning these words? Well – I like watching films just like my students do, but I’m not really convinced that spending two hours on watching a film is a great educational idea – fortunately in all language schools I’ve worked, I haven’t been allowed to watch such long films: a nice excuse for the students. Of course, watching shorter videos is most recommended, and I really like adding them to my lessons as often as I have Internet access + screen.

But I also want my students to watch real films, the classics, simply because they learn some cultural references. I would love my students to know what’s on my mind when I listen to their rather pathetic excuses regarding lack of homework and simply say ‘Frankly, my dear…

Well, no student’s got the point yet 🙂 But I’ve made a nice bunch of them ‘remember, remember the fifth of November‘.

Anyways, I’ve come up with a couple of nice classroom activities regarding mostly short videos, but also some ideas about watching films.

  • Short videos

I have already included my favourite sites: TED (in a homework for my students) and slideshare (in a tense presentation).  The first one is an incredibly inspiring site full of real knowledge and education. The TEDed page is perfect for language students because they learn something real, not only English – highly beneficial.

The second site comes in handy with an interactive board/ projector when I want to explain grammar – I also email links to those students who want to understand something and I can’t explain it myself (subject from a public school lesson etc.). Sure, I could make my own presentations – but why bother if there are so many good ones available?

I like youtube just as much: videos, cartoons, songs (+karaoke) – everything to your heart’s content. I especially like watching short videos with the younger groups: reading comprehension is about volcanoes? Let’s watch a short documentary about them! Videos work as great motivators: if you finish this activity nicely, I’ll show you a nice video…

I have also happened to use EarthCam as a background in the classroom. What’s cosier in the grammar review November afternoon classes than cracking the exercises glancing from time to time at people in New York? Somehow the lesson gets less boring 🙂

  • Real films

I strongly believe cross-cultural communication should be a vital part of the classes – the students have to be reminded they don’t learn only grammar and vocabulary. Cultural references should be made a part of a language course on every level and age.  It’s really easy with the Internet now, isn’t it? But since we – the teachers – have to know what’s going on in our students’ cultural environment (memes, music, events), we should also make effort and bring some of the older references to those inexperienced padawans, eh? We’re on a mission from God!

How can you claim yourself a fluent English speaker if you cannot use the Force? Not to mention the Schwartz?  So many film, so little time… plus, I cannot watch the film the classroom. So, what can I do? Well, I do the evilest thing possible and make them an offer they can’t refuse: we choose the film at the beginning of a course and they have a couple of months to watch it . Then I make the writing part of the final exam based solely on the film they are to watch. Plus, I design the questions so that the students have to watch the film and no wikipedia would help them. Last year I made my pre-intermediate groups watch the Star Wars trilogy (just the old one, I’m a purist) and questions were like: what would you do if you were a Jedi. I could easily see who had really watched the film.

I’ve been thinking on some nice films a teacher can recommend and that’s the result:

  • Elementary level

Children: Enchanted, Home Alone, The Lion King and other Disney’s films

Young adults: Legally Blonde, Transformers

  • Pre-intermediate level

Children: Cars, Ice Age, Toy Story

Young adults: Indiana Jones series, Allo, allo

  • Intermediate level

Children: Harry Potter series, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Young adults: Bend It Like Beckham, Friends, the Pirates of the Caribbean 

  • Upper-intermediate and advanced level

Young adults: V for Vendetta, Dead Poets Society, Mel Brook’s films

Not-at-all homework:

I have come up with a funny activity at the end of a lesson: show the students a trailer of a film they don’t know and make them work out what’s the film about (without using the Net!). Don’t tell them whether they’re right or not, just smile significantly and say you do like their stories.

I’ll bet half of them will either watch the film or read a full synopsis before the next lesson!