Helping my Students Change their Perception about Mistakes in Exams

According to this excellent post from Edutopia, mistakes happen for a reason. I cannot agree more, and I  am considering asking these new questions to my students when I return their exam corrected.

    • What did this exam assess?
      • Question 1
      • Question 2
      • Question 3
  • Do you still have any problems to understand any of these, according to results?
  • What can be done to solve the problem?

I already give them about 20 minutes to look at their corrected exam and select three errors which they will include in their Learning Diaries, but they do not always work as hard as I would like them to.

In this case, I think handing these questions to students, and  giving them a few minutes to answer them, may be effective to make them reflect about the steps they should take to lead their own learning. They would have to do this, in addition to what they already do. For the time being, turning the information in would be optional, at least till I decide if this new strategy is worth the effort.

Ways to Make Grammar more Visual in the Learning Diary for Lower Secondary

I have just come across this original mind map from www.engames.eu. I think I should suggest my lower secondary students to consider it, to make the grammar an teacher tips sections in their Learning Diaries more visual, and creative.



You can see the Template for our Learning Diary here

Fresh ideas for our EFL Learning Diary in Upper Secondary

A few days ago I attended a workshop organized by Cambridge Exams Barcelona on assessment of students’ writing. It was called Help! How do I know I am marking my students’ writing Correctly? I enjoyed it a lot. I am also reading some literature on Learning Diaries. Consequently, I am full of ideas, and I have decided on two innovations for my upper secondary Learning Diaries.

These two innovations are going to be:  

  • Encouraging not only individual words, but also phrasal verbs, collocation and connectors in the vocabulary section.
  • Including a section where students will talk about the characteristics of different writing functions. This way, the conventions and rhetorical format of different types of writing would, hopefully, become clearer.

Mind maps can be a good way to make the vocabulary section more creative and personal. The section on writing conventions can be linked to specific planning for the different writing tasks.

Furthermore, lower and upper secondary students currently use the same Learning Diary template. Making these small changes will hopefully help us not to get stuck into a structure and ensure headway towards a CEFR B1 level.


What I learned in the APAC Convention

The Annual APAC (Associació de Professors d’Anglès de Catalunya) convention was held in Barcelona last week. These are, very briefly, the things I learnt there.

Our “Consellera”

She mentioned a TV3 programme for children in English that is broadcasted at noon. She also said that knowing English will be more valued than seniority to get a post in a school, in the case of civil servants.

The Opening Speech on e-language and corpuses by Ron Carter 

Speaking skills are becoming more and more important because of eTools. Take, for example, Dragon Dictation, Voki of Chatbots. Furthermore, there is a growing tendency to write as we speak, because of them.

Carter recommended a book by David Crystal, Internet linguistics and another one by Walker & White, Technology Enhanced Language Learning

I wish he had talked more about English Profile as I know he is part of this extremely interesting project. He only referred to it in the last five minutes of his talk.

Mark Levi on Teacher Training and 21st Century skills

Marc recommended a text on Assessment of 21st Century Skills. He also mentioned a reading: Hockley, Dudeney and Pegrum’s Digital literacies and a TED talk by Rita Pierson.

Susan Dreger on VLEs and assessment

Susan Dreger introduced three tools. Edmodo, which is a sort of moodle; Collaborize, which is an interesting little tool to make students share opinions and classdojo which is good for young students for classroom management.  She also talked  briefly about rubrics. She mentioned Rubistar and Rcampus

Scott Thornbury sharing a skeptical view on ed-tech

Scott  identified six problems to which technology should provide solutions. Unfortunately, I can only remember 5 of them:

  1. Input
  2. Output
  3. Interaction
  4. Feedback
  5. Gamification

His recommendation was that we should ask ourselves whether there is any added value in using ICT in order to solve these problems.   He also recommended a book that sounds promising: Growther, H. 2010, One Hundred fears of Solitude. The Greatest Generation Gap

Patrick Zabalbeascoa and ClipFlair

ClipFlair is a project to teach English by including voice and subtitles in films. I am as much interested in the tool and the activities of this European Project as I am on the theoretical framework that guides it, which Patrick mentioned it was explained on the website.

I was particularly interested by what Patrick said about the traditional 4 skills framework as being too restrictive when we deal with audiovisual, and I certainly want to learn more about it. Audiovisual skills (i.e. watching a film in English, subtitled in English) involves different skills, and I certainly want to read about what this project has to say on this.

Patrick also mentioned there will be a convention on the 18-19 of June in Barcelona, where we will be able to learn more about this tool. He also mentioned his previous European project, called LEVIS.

Christine Appel and Jackie Robins on online speaking tools

Speakapps is another European project, this time to develop online tools for speaking and Interaction. The UOC will be happy to share any of its three tools, LangBlog (video and sound recordings), Tandem (student oral interaction) and VideoChat with secondary teachers, so that they can use them in their classes and provide feedback about them. We will contact them to try LangBlog in my school.

Reflections on Task Design in a Description of a Place

Although I know I have to decide what I want students to learn when they write a composition before I actually design the task, I tend to rely on the textbook too much and then assess holistically, focusing mainly on grammar and vocabulary aspects.

However, I have discovered lately that task achievement is probably the most important criteria to consider, as it is task achievement that determines whether my teaching objectives have been reached or not. If I focus only on grammar and vocabulary, then the marks I give my students consider only their current level of English, and pay little attention to progress, which I should expect them to achieve through carefully thought task design. Task achievement forces me to take my role as task designer seriously. Furthermore, students may not understand why a given word or grammatical structure is wrong, but they can see whether they have followed instructions or not! For this reason, I have to think carefully what I ask my students to do, and make sure they are rewarded or penalized if they do not follow instructions.

The next writing task my students will have to face is a description of place. You can see whatever will come out of it here.  The issue now is, what do I want them to achieve?

Task achievement
  • Is the composition at least 100 words long?
  • Is the student following the example on page 50 in the textbook?
  • Is the student talking about different places /aspects?
  • Do some of its sentences include adjectives that allow you to “see” the place?
  • Is the style formal?
  • Are useful expressions from page 158  used (It is well known for… / It offers… / It’s popular with tourists because… / The views are… / You can see… / it is located… / It’s got… / You shouldn’t miss… The atmosphere is…)?
  • Are adjectives from page 158 used (peaceful, beautiful, crowded, quiet, ancient, noisy, colorful)?
  • Is the description structured in at least three paragraphs?
Coherence and cohesion
  • Do organization and linking of ideas follow a logical order?
  • Is the student using a variety of linking devices?
  • Does the description have an opening, a body and a closing?
  • Is there a good use of commas and full stops?
  • Range: Variety of grammatical features.
  • Accuracy: Proportion of accurate sentences.
  • Range: Variety of words and expressions used.
  • Accuracy: Words used accurately.
  • Relevance: Relevant vocabulary.

And this is how I have designed the task:

A description of Barcelona

A very important customer is visiting Barcelona for the first time. You want to describe your city to him.

  • Yo can talk about Barcelona in general, or focus on a particular aspect.
  • You cannot talk about a single monument.
  • You have to write something a bit formal, because you are not talking to a friend. That means you should not use contractions or informal expressions.
Write 100 to 150 words.
Deadline: Monday, 3rd February at 11:59 P.M
Follow the example of the book (page 50).
You also have an extra model and some tips and useful expression in page 158.

Your description should have:

  • An opening paragraph
  • A body
  • A closing paragraph
  • Do not forget to use descriptive adjectives.
  • Remember adjectives never take the plural in English.

Criteria for Assessment – Description of a Place

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