Tuesday, June 19, 2018

End of year reflections 2018

It is that time of year again......the students have left the building.....
I have finished cleaning my desk and I have 60 minutes to kill before I go to my colleagues for lunch. 60 minutes in which to summarize this school year. An impossible task of course, but what are some of the things that I take with me from this year? 

The answer to the question is "many things for sure". Let's start with all of the reading that the students have done. 

In year 1 (English 5) we read A Monster Calls as part of the Global Read Aloud (GRA) project during October-November 2017. The process during reading was rewarding in the sense that the students were very active during the discussions and we used Flipgrid to connect with other readers at our school and in parts of the USA and Canada. At the end of the reading we came to a close with watching the film version of the book, starring Liam Neeson as the monster. Thumb's up for the project that always succeeds - Global Read Aloud for the win! 

In year 2 (English 6) my students read Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Rifka Brunt,  Never Let Me Go by Nobel laureate Ishiguro, Flowers for Algernon by Keynes and The Island of Dr Moreau by Wells. Even though all of the books were appreciated by the students it was a definite landslide win for Tell the Wolves. Most students were immensely engaged in the lives of the characters and we had a great deal of fruitful discussions in the classroom. Some even said that "I will carry this book with me for quite some time" and "I loved it!". Never Let Me Go was still a good choice for discussion, however some expressed that "I can't really connect with the characters or feel for them" while some were captivated by the love story between Ruth and Tommy. With this one too, we finished the project by watching the film version with Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield. 

The latter books were studied and discussed as part of a joint project with Biology called "Medical Ethics". Among other things, the students argued in a formal essay how the rules of medical ethics were broken or violated with regard to the books. In the end-of-year evaluation a majority of the students thought that the Medical Ethics project was among the best of the year. 

Finally, many short stories have been devoured during the English courses as well, the best ones being "The Moment Before the Gun Went Off" by Gordimer, "Chinasa" by Ngozi Adichie, "Indian Camp" by Hemingway and "The Hour" by Chopin this year.

When it comes to writing the ultimate challenge has been to try to get a few of the students to grasp the basics of writing, such as using capitalization and full stop at the end of sentences (I kid you not!). On the other hand, a few others have penned exquisite writings embellished with the utmost care, consideration and creativity. The first project in August-September for year 2 (English 6) was called "No Limits" and there was a choice between writing drabbles or stream of consciousness narratives, somehow connected to the street art festival "No Limit" in Borås, where we live. Many chose drabbles, which are concentrated forms of prose using exactly 100 words. The results were exceptional. The project was among the favorite top ones when all 90 students evaluated. 

In November we had a look at cover letters and more formal writing. Argumentative essays were dealt with during the fall as well as towards spring, as a preparation for the national tests. The writing task at the national tests in May gave an indication as to what the focal points for next year need to be. As I concluded, students find it bothersome to comprehend the principles of agreement of concord, to keep the formal writing strictly formal, spelling and there is a rather substantial lack of synonyms...

Padena speaks to two students in the Basque country in Spain

Generally speaking, students are good at speaking! At least that is what they think most of the time... What I have gathered though, is that a majority are good at speaking BUT they are also fooled by their own impressions of what and how they sound like. They mistake good fluency and pronunciation for good proficiency. And there is a definite difference between the two! A good fluency and pronunciation do not necessarily mean that you have an extensive vocabulary or that you form sentences in more complex manners. Oftentimes the opposite is true. Fluent speakers tend to be quite informal and sometimes very challenged when it comes to more formal circumstances where a wider scope of complexity and depth is needed. Next school year I need to implement a stronger emphasis on distinguishing between formal and informal spoken English in the classroom. 

I still use Skype in the classroom on occasions and in November we had a Skypeathon again, this time for 12 hours. In December and January we had a collaboration with a teacher and school in the Basque country where the students skyped individually/two and two for about 30 minutes. For practicing informal and colloquial exchanges, as well as useful phrases, Skype is fantastic. Additionally, Flipgrid has been essential too, as a tool used in various projects throughout the year. Some students, however, started to grow tired of the tool at the end of the year.  

Listening is an ability that is always practiced during lessons,  but usually more in an informal way than anything else, and next year an additional focus on listening strategies will be on my agenda. 

To make a long story short...this is what  I will do MORE of and LESS of next school year, based on my own and the students' evaluations:

* Read (and only interesting, challenging titles)
* Work on expanding vocabularies more continually
* Work on distinguishing more between formal and informal registers, in speech and writing
* Practicing spelling more continually
* Homework (= actually giving them homework once in a while - I am not a steadfast believer in that it actually improves results, but the students want them!! - yes it is true! )
* Evaluation and exit tickets - the feedback is imminent and should guide me further

* Read uninteresting short stories 

Now, I am going to dive into my book - The Underground Railroad - and not even think about school until August again. Have a lovely summer ! :)