Learning to Think, Thinking to Learn.

Thirty years ago, some theories about teaching and learning were based on training exercises and drills. The idea was that if facts were repeated enough, then students would memorize them, and this was learning. Under this concept learning is shown by a change in behavior as a result of experience, but nothing is mentioned about what students believe, what process they use to solve problems, or their own awareness of their thinking.

This post is based on the idea that teaching means teaching students to think. It assumes that teaching is not just about communicating facts or mechanical skills like Math rules (of course, you must have facts in order to learn), but is a process of coming to understand how you think.

The idea that all students should learn how to think critically is a relatively new one (certainly since the turn of the 20th century) and one for which most schools are not well prepared. The point is how we teach thinking, and how to make students aware of their thinking.
vtVisible Thinking is a flexible approach to integrating the teaching and development of thinking with your content and curriculum. This is a project of Harvard University. The essence of this project is a series of routines for thinking. They are simple and to the point.

The idea of visible thinking helps to make concrete what a thoughtful classroom might look like. At any moment, we can ask, “Is thinking visible here? Are students explaining things to one another? Are students offering creative ideas? Are they, and I as their teacher, using the language of thinking? Is there a brainstorm about alternative interpretations on the wall? Are students debating a plan?”

The central idea of Visible Thinking is very simple: making thinking visibleWe learn best what we can see and hear, although thinking is pretty much invisible. Mostly, thinking happens under the hood, within the marvelous engine of our mind-brain.

Visible Thinking includes a number of ways of making students’ thinking visible to themselves, to their peers, and to the teacher, so they get more engaged by it and come to manage it better for learning and other purposes.

In DEEPdt, visible thinking is a game changer. Thankfully, Harvard's Project Zero has created some pretty awesome routines that can easily be utilized in the DEEPdt process. In trying to visualize ...

Here are some of its key goals (extract from his website www.visiblethinkingpz.org):

  • Deeper understanding of content
  • Greater motivation for learning
  • Development of learners’ thinking and learning abilities.
  • Development of learners’ attitudes toward thinking and learning and their alertness to opportunities for thinking and learning (the “dispositional” side of thinking).
  •  A shift in classroom culture toward a community of enthusiastically engaged thinkers and learners.
    Structure.

The routines are structured well and only take a single page for each. It covers:

• The thinking routines itself
• Purpose: What kind of thinking does this routine encourage?
• Application: When and where can it be used?
• Launch: What are some tips for starting and using this routine?

pageshot

Visible Thinking Routines: SEE THINK WONDER

If you go to the Visible Thinking website you can download these in zipped packages of PDF files. I have also upload these and you can get them from here. The Routine cover the following aspects of Thinking:

This visual features a number of key thinking routines together with examples of how to use them with learners:

visible-thinking

Resources:

Creat_pdfs.zipCreat_pdfs.zip 472 KB

Fairness_pdfs.zipFairness_pdfs.zip 544 KB

Truth_pdfs.zipTruth_pdfs.zip 357 KB

Understand_pdfs.zipUnderstand_pdfs.zip 701 KB

AERA06ThinkingRoutines.pdfAERA06ThinkingRoutines.pdf 238 KB

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Pearls of Wisdom from Forrest Gump

The world will never be the same once you’ve seen it through the eyes of Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump is a 1994 American epic romantic comedy-drama film released in the  US on July 6, 1994, 20 years ago. The film won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director for Robert Zemeckis, Best Actor for Tom Hanks among others.

While waiting at a bus stop at Savannah, Georgia in 1981, Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) begins telling his life story to strangers who sit next to him on the bench.

¨You’ll Never Know What You’re Capable Of If You Don’t Try¨

His story begins with the leg braces he had to wear as a child in the 1950s, and as a result other children bullied him. His only childhood friend famously advised him to “run, Forrest, run!” when they began picking on him. He broke free of his braces and later enjoyed a successful career as a college athlete.Then he ran across the country for three years, but that’s another lesson you can find below. Always try. You may surprise yourself.

¨Stupid is as stupid does¨

It means that an intelligent person who does stupid things is still stupid. You are what you do. He lives with his mother (Sally Field), who tells him that “stupid is as stupid does.” His mother runs a rooming house and Forrest teaches one of their guests, a young Elvis Presley, a hip-swinging dance.

¨Shit Happens¨

“Así es la vida” or “C’est la vie”. Shit happens pay attention and keep your eyes open.
A universal religious concept:
Taoism: Shit Happens.  Hinduism: This shit happened before. Islam: If shit happens, take hostages. Buddhism: If shit happens is it really shit? Protestantism: Shit happens if you work hard.  Catholicism: Shit Happens, I deserve it. 7th Day Adventist:Shit happens on Saturday. Mormonism: Knock Knock, Shit Happens. Judaism: Why does shit happen to me? Krishnaism: Shit happens, ring a dingy ding. Jehovah’s Witness:People now living will see shit happen. Paganism: Each shit has its own name. Atheism: Bullshit! TV Evangelism: Send more shit. Rastafarianism: Let’s smoke this shit. By urbandictionary.com.

¨Be kind¨

After graduating, Forrest enlists in the United States Army, where he befriends Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue . Not only did they sleep back-to-back to avoid the mud, but after Bubba died, Forrest lived out Bubba’s dream of being a shrimping boat captain. Forrest was a good friend to Bubba because Bubba was so loyal to him. It’s simple: To Have Good Friends, Be a Good Friend.

“There’s only so much fortune a man really needs and the rest is just for showing off”

After earning a fortune, Forrest gave Bubba’s portion of the shrimping boat business to Bubba’s family. “There’s only so much fortune a man really needs and the rest is just for showing off,” he reasoned. “So, I gave a whole bunch of it to the Foursquare Gospel Church and I gave a whole bunch to the Bayou La Batre Fishing Hospital. And even though Bubba was dead, and Lieutenant Dan said I was nuts, I gave Bubba’s momma Bubba’s share. And you know what? She didn’t have to work in nobody’s kitchen no more.” If you can share your wealth, it’s worth doing. It’s Great to Give Back.

¨You have to do the best with what God gave you¨

Mrs. Gump: You have to do the best with what God gave you.  The Bubba Gump Shrimp Company becomes a huge success due to the elimination of competition. Forrest leaves the company in the hands of Dan, who invests their wealth in shares of a “fruit company” (Apple Computer), making them both millionaires. Forrest gives Bubba’s mother a sizable check, causing her to faint, then to retire from her low-paying domestic job. From the outside, that must have looked foolish, but he didn’t care: He was always true to himself. Do What You Love, No Matter What.

 

Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get 

 Forrest Gump: My momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Expect the Unexpected and Be Open-Minded.

¨Dying is a part of life¨

“Momma always said dyin’ was a part of life. I sure wish it wasn’t. Little Forrest, he’s doing just fine. About to start school again soon. I make his breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. I make sure he combs his hair and brushes his teeth every day. Teaching him how to play ping-pong. He’s really good. We fish a lot. And every night, we read a book. He’s so smart, Jenny. You’d be so proud of him. I am. He, uh, wrote a letter, and he says I can’t read it. I’m not supposed to, so I’ll just leave it here for you. Jenny, I don’t know if Momma was right or if, if it’s Lieutenant Dan. I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happening at the same time. I miss you, Jenny. If there’s anything you need, I won’t be far away.”

To know more about Forrest Gump Quotes and its wisdom:

LTTLA: Language Teaching, Testing and Learning Acronyms

You might be confused by the all the abbreviations you see connected with teaching English. To start off with here are the most common abbreviations that you will surely already know about Studing English:

E is for English and L Language

but we can have three acronyms if you study them:

EFL-English as a Foreign Language. Used when a non-native English speaker is studying English in a non-English speaking country.

ESL-English as a Second Language. Used when a non-native-English speaker is studying English in an English-speaking country.

ESOL-English for Speakers of Other Languages. This term is more recent and is intended to be a more inclusive term (includes ESL and EFL).

T is for Teaching

If we add T + EFL: TEFL is the teaching of English as a foreign language; note that this sort of instruction can take place in any country, although TESL (teaching English as a second language) are often confused. The difference is, theoretically, that TEFL (or EFL) is teaching English outside of the English-speaking world, while TESL (or ESL) is teaching English to non-English speakers within an English-speaking country.

TESOL is a more inclusive term for teaching  ESL and EFL.

T is for TEST

TOEFL – Test of English as a Foreign Language – the most common English proficiency exam for North American universities and colleges, also accepted by some British universities and employers as proof of English proficiency.

TOEIC – The TOEIC (pronounced “toe-ick”) is a Test of English for International Communication.

Trinity College London ESOL offers the Integrated Skills in English (ISE) series of 5 exams which assesses reading, writing, speaking and listening and is accepted by academic institutions in the UK.

Cambridge English Language Assessment offers a suite of eighteen globally available examinations including General English: Key English Test (KET), Preliminary English Test(PET), First Certificate in English (FCE), Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) and Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE). Cambridge English Test

IELTS – International English Language Testing System

London Tests of English from Pearson Language Tests, a series of six exams each mapped to a level from the Common European Framework (CEFR) – see below.

Common European Framework (CEFR) .

Here are some more important abbreviations related to teaching, teaching certificates, and English exams:

BC – British Council

BEC – Business English Certificate – Cambridge business English exam certificate BrE – British English

CELTA – Certificate in English language teaching to adults (Cambridge/RSA Teaching Certificate also known as C-TEFLA)

DELTA – Diploma in English language teaching (Cambridge/RSA Language Teaching Scheme)

K12 – Kindergarten – 12th grade.

KET – Key English Test – The most elementary of Cambridge’s series of exams

L1 – Language 1 – native language  L2 – Language 2 – the language you are learning

MT – Mother Tongue

RP – Received Pronunciation – ‘standard’ British pronunciation

YLE – Young Learners English Tests – Cambridge Examinations for young learners

Wordle Applet Acronyms

Related Articles

Digital Natives (part 2)

“Everyone talks about leaving a better planet for our children. Why doesn’t anyone try to leave better children for our planet?”

Many of us grew up in a pre-digital era – we made phone calls and wrote letters, while public information was distributed through broadcast media. But now there’s a whole generation at college that has never known a world without the web. They bring with them a new way of engaging with the world, with information, and with each other.

An excellent video to understand how Digital Natives fit technology and open up to a world where anything is possible.

From Google+, Facebook, and Twitter to SMS and corporate messaging, this generation is developing an instinctive set of behaviors and expectations around these tools. They are very savvy in understanding which medium is most appropriate for the message and for the recipient, whether it’s a dinner invitation or asking someone out on a date.  They know they have to find the appropriate interrupt signal, and that different channels send different signals, with numerous subtleties that we are only just starting to understand:  Following Generation Z

In Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology, Allan Collins and Richard Halverson argue that the knowledge revolution has transformed our jobs, our homes, our lives, and therefore must also transform our schools. Much like after the school-reform movement of the industrial revolution, our society is again poised at the edge of radical change. To keep pace with a globalized technological culture, we must rethink how we educate the next generation or we (the Digital Immigrants) will be left behind. This groundbreaking book offers a vision for the future of American education that goes well beyond the walls of the classroom to include online social networks, distance learning with anytime, anywhere access, digital home schooling models, video-game learning environments, and more.

School leaders and teachers need to understand how learning technologies work and how they change the basic interactions of teachers and learners. Technology leaders need to work together with educators as collaborators in creating new opportunities to learn.

Technology is changing what is important to learn in a variety of ways. There are new literacies that are becoming important, such as creating videos, animations, and web sites. Computers can carry out all the algorithms taught through graduate school, and yet mathematical reasoning is more important than ever. Hence we should spend time teaching students to solve sophisticated problems using computers rather than executing algorithms that computers do well. Memorizing information is becoming less important with the web available, but people do need to learn how to find information, recognize when they need more information, and evaluate what they find. People will be changing careers often and transitions are difficult. They need help going back and forth between learning and work.

As technology continues to transform our society, those responsible for our current systems of learning and education are facing overwhelming pressure to adapt. Education technology, connected learning and the rise of the Networked Society is transforming the established concept of learning, teachers’ roles and even the nature of knowledge itself.

The revolution in education will alter not just the lives of students, but the entirety of modern society. As with any revolution, there are will be both gains and losses. Pessimists see people becoming subservient to their technologies and being left behind as technology comes to dominate our lives. Optimists see a golden age of learning opening before us, where people will be able to find resources to pursue any education they may want.

TAKING ACTION

Strategies:

1. RETHINK ASSESSMENT

With few exceptions, all the things our children are using to connect and learn outside the classroom — social media, cell phones, Internet connections — are banned inside classrooms. Move from a standardized testing teaching approach to a style that incorporates more creativity and adaptability.

Remaking assessment starts with this: stop asking questions on tests that can be answered by a Google search. Or, if you have to ask them, let kids use their technology to answer them. More often than not, we ask questions that can be easily answered by technology. That is unfortunate. Take a quick look at any of the state standardized tests for graduation, and you’ll see more of those than you can imagine.

Let’s scrap open-book tests, zoom past open-phone tests asking Googleable questions, and advance to open-network tests that measure not just how well kids answer a question, but also how literate they are at discerning good information from bad and tapping into the experts and networks that can inform those answers. This is how they’ll take the real-life information and knowledge tests that come their way, and it would tell us much more about our children’s preparedness for a world of data abundance.

This is an excerpt from Will Richardson’s new TED e-book, Why School?

2. CULTIVATE MENTORSHIPS

Encourage two-way intergenerational mentorships and interactions. This would create opportunities for youth adults to learn from each other. Gen Z comes to the workforce a wide set of new technology skills, determination and passion, among many other factors. Older employees can benefit from the connectivity, flexibility and creativity that are unique to this generation. These youth are still young, however, and have a lot to learn from their older mentors that will help better integrate them successfully in the formal working world. As these youth become a larger part of the emerging labor force, business must plan for Gen Z’s entry and the succession of the Baby Boomers as they retire. Mentorship programs not only get youth interested in and prepared for work in new fields, it introduces fresh skills and attitudes that help businesses flourish in a changing economic atmosphere.

Extract from GENERATION Z CHALLENGES 

3. EMPHASIZE PUBLIC SPEAKING AND CONFLICT MANAGEMENT SKILLS.

These skills are increasingly valuable in the workplace and society more broadly. Greater emphasis should be placed on their development. The ability to manage conflict is probably one of the most important social skills an individual can possess.

5. ENTREPRENEURIAL EDUCATION

According to the Key Competence Framework, the entrepreneurship key competence refers to an individual’s ability to turn ideas into action. It includes creativity, innovation and risk taking, as well as the ability to plan and manage projects in order to achieve objectives. Include business and entrepreneurial skills in school curricula in order to equip students with a background in that area, making entrepreneurship less of an idea and more of a viable possibility for those students.

Entrepreneurship Education at School in Europe. [Eurydice]

7. PROMOTE SERVICE LEARNING

Civic engagement is instrumental in building community awareness, teaching tolerance and cultivating socially conscious young people. Service learning should be integrated into K-20 education.

8. TEACH RISK-TAKING

We must teach our youth to look for opportunities and that failure in pursuit of them is a learning opportunity and not a stigma to avoid at all costs. To help our students, we need to directly ask for academic risk-taking behavior (e.g. asking questions, dwelling in uncertainty, and advancing untried hypotheses) and identify it whenever we ask for it, so students know we perceive and value the challenges they face.

Teaching Risk-Taking in the College Classroom

SOURCES:

RETHINKING EDUCATION IN THE AGE OF TECHNOLOGY:  THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION AND THE SCHOOLS. (PDF) By Allan Collins and Richard Halverson

http://www.scoop.it/t/digital-natives-by-frank-tudela

The Common European Framework

As teachers, we need to know a way to specify what our learners are able to do at certain levels, how these levels can guide our teaching and the way we select course books and resources. In short, we need a common language by which we can describe language learning, teaching, and assessment.

In most countries there is general agreement that language learning can be organized into three levels: basic/beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

But, what you mean by intermediate. What is an intermediate level? What does intermediate mean to you as a teacher and to your learners? What does intermediate refer to? To the amount of vocabulary, to the grammar items, to how a learner communicates or at what level understands. Consider how you would describe to a learner what you mean by intermediate. How can we assess a learner’s achievement at an intermediate level if we don’t define exactly what we mean by intermediate? …

Furthermore, levels can mean different things among different institutions and in different countries. Can we directly compare the proficiency level of an advanced English student to that of an advanced Spanish student? …

How do we establish international standards for learning, teaching, and assessment for all modern European languages?

The answers to all this questions is the CEF. The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages(CEF): Learning, Teaching, Assessment published by the Council of Europe (Language Policy Division ) in 2001.

The Common European Framework describes what a learner can do at six specific levels: from A1 to C2:

  • Basic User (A1 and A2)
  • Independent User (B1and B2)
  • Proficient User (C1 and C2)

For each level, the full CEF document complements this by describing in depth:

  • Competencies necessary for effective communication.
  • Skills and knowledge related to language learning and competencies.
  • Situations (people, place, time, organization, etc.) and contexts (study, work, social, tourism, etc.) in which communication takes place.

Common reference levels are based on statements of what a learner can do at each level. The Global Scale is based on a set of statements that describe what a learner can do. The “can do” statements are always positive: they describe what a learner is able to do, not what a learner cannot do or does wrong.

The following table describes each of the six levels of the Global Scale.

levels-chart

However, the CEF is more than the Global Scale. The CEF goes further by breaking down the

Global Scale into more descriptive scales covering three areas of communication:

  • Understanding (Listening and Reading)
  • Speaking (Spoken Interaction and Spoken Production)
  • Writing

The CEF deliberately does not refer to grammar or structures. It is designed to describe how language users communicate and how they understand written and spoken texts. As it is used to describe and compare European languages, we cannot hope to provide a detailed list of grammar structures.

In its own words, the CEF “provides a common basis for the elaboration of language syllabuses, curriculum guidelines, examinations, textbooks, etc.” (CEF: 2001: 1)

Links:

Niveles de competencia lingüística

CEFR (pdf)

External links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_European_Framework_of_Reference_for_Languages

http://www.cambridgeesol.org/about/standards/can-do.html

http://www.examenglish.com/CEFR/cefr.php

Jimenez, Carlos César (2011). El Marco Europeo Común de Referencia para las Lenguas y la comprensión teórica del conocimiento del lenguaje: exploración de una normatividad flexible para emprender acciones educativas