Posts Tagged 'grammar'

No Basic Differences in Textbooks in 50 Years: Go Virtual

I examined two textbooks that are fifty years apart, a Spanish textbook from 1960 and one from 2010

Both:
Teach the same grammar – present, present irregulars, preterite, preterite irregulars, imperfect, …..
Teach the same basic vocabulary- family, occupations, house, …. The 2010 textbook does have more modern words such as cell phone, computer…
Start each lesson with  written dialogue
Focus primarily on grammar- almost all the exercises are grammar focused
Have images – The 1960 has black and white illustrations and the 2010 has many colored photos.
Include cultural information
Have dictionaries

Some differences:
The  1960 textbook contains 200+ pages while the 2010 textbook has 500+ pages.
The 1960 has some testing/practice material while the 2010 textbook has  much online grammar practice.
The 1960 textbook has a story line of a family with a father who travels to Latin America.  The 2010 does not have a storyline.
The 1960 textbook teaches practical vocabulary essential to daily living and traveling while the 2010 teaches specialized vocabulary such as words to describe art in a museum.
The 1960 textbook follows the grammar translation methodology while the 2010 follows the grammar use methodology.

The 2010 textbook, once all the colored photos are removed, is essential the same as the 1960 textbook.
Do modern language teacher still want to focus primarily on grammar instead of communication?

For your subject area, how has the textbook, the staple of most classes, changed over the last 50 years?
Does it scaffold information to make it easier for students to learn?
Does it include strategies to help the students better learn the material?
Does it organize information in a way to help students see similarities and differences?
Does it build in self tests so students can measure their progress in a formative assessment manner? Does it provide formative feedback?
Has it gone to the “less is better” with more concentration on critical learning  or has it gone to “the bigger is better” way of thinking?

I’ve written several blogs about textbooks Smartphone (Mobil Learning Apps as Alternative Textbooks)  and Why a Physical Textbook?

Think of creating your own virtual textbook that truly matches the state goals and your district’s goals.

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Smartphones (Mobile Learning) Apps as Textbook Alternatives

In a previous blog, I mentioned that physical textbooks seem so “yesterday” and suggested using online resources.

I would like to enlarge on that concept through the use of Smartphone or Mobile Learning Apps.  Let’s use a Spanish class as an example.  Spanish students need to go from mere memorization to high level language use.

Students can use apps for basic memorization of words.  For example, they could use a program such as

Spanish Flashcards Free  (http://freeapk.com/app/1093_android+app+Spanish+Flashcards_1.6.html).  Likewise, they could use an   app such as 1001 Spanish Verb Android App  Free (http://androidappsgames.com/android_app_1691.html)   to learn basic verb forms and to see the various conjugations of a verb

A step up from mere memorization on individual words  is learning language phrases. The free Hola Spain Tourism HandAPP (http://www.appbrain.com/app/hola-spanish-handapp/com.movinapp.hola) has Expressions organized into categories such as Greetings, Phone, shopping (22 expressions), directions, etc..Since these are grouped into categories, the student sees both the essential questions and answers. These cover many of the common vocabulary topics presently in the school curriculum.

With these apps, students can practice on their own anytime and anyplace.The classroom time can be spent in creating conversations based on the learned words and phrases. If the student has done a practice conversation such as about health and has not remembered a certain phrase, the student can quickly review the phrases using app on the mobile device.

These few apps show that a language teacher can certainly replace a physical textbook. In a future blog, I show how students can use apps at a high language level.   Students can become more engaged and more active in their learning as they use apps

Are you app to use apps in your classroom?

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Pre-assessment: Open Eyes or Blinded

This semester I have given many pre-assessments to my students. Last semester, I made many mistakes in instruction because I did not know enough about my students before the beginning of the semester. I taught material that they knew and did not delve into material that they did not know. I assumed that they could read the textbook when their reading rate and comprehension which I tested once I saw a problem revealed an average class reading rate in the low 100s and a comprehension rate of 60% or lower. I thought that since they were college students they could organize their own writing.

So this semester, I have given them writing diagnostic, writing patterns past knowledge diagnostic, grammar diagnostic, vocabulary diagnostic, and reading diagnostic. I can hear the moans about wasting all the time on diagnostic. My students spend 45 minutes on the combined writing and grammatic diagnostic, three minutes on the vocabulary one, four minutes on the past writing patterns and about 15 on the reading one. So in just about one hour and ten minutes I have done six diagnostic tests that have transformed how I teach writing to the students.

What pre-assessments do you give and how do you change your instruction to better improve your students’ learning?

Does our diagnostic assessment give valuable writing and grammar information?

I spoke of a teacher who gives a three hour grammar diagnostic test.  I tried a different route.  I gave an essay writing diagnostic and I recorded each grammar and  writing errors or proficiencies on a chart as I read each student’s paper. When I finished, I looked for patterns.  Their diagnostic assessment took 45 minutes for them to do and about 30 minutes for me to read and record.  I found that out of all of my students that there was only one “grammar”learning gap that three students shared and that was spelling.  There were a few learning gaps that two students shared.  The writing diagnostic revealed that they could use grammar fairly well; it did not interfere withe the comprehension of what they wrote. Their biggest learning gap was not in grammar but in their actual writing.  About 80% of the class lacked specific examples to prove their points. I  will focus on writing and teach grammar when I see specific needs.

What powerful diagnostics do you give?

Diagnostic testing Questions

I was sharing college teaching stories with another instructor who also teaches a course similar to mine. She has her students do a three hour online diagnostic test and then the students do the grammar drills for each part that they did poorly on.  I was shocked  to hear that they spent three hours on the  diagnostic and then about 1/3 of each class on grammar drills and quizzes.  She shared her course outcomes with me and grammar in one of several items in only the first of  the seven outcomes.  When do our students spend more time  being tested rather than being instructed? When do we know so much about our students through diagnostic tests but do not have time to change how we teach them? When do our diagnostic tests not really measure our true goal such as writing? I took a grammar term practice test and missed a few questions although I considered myself a fairly good writer!


RSS Education with Technology

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