Monday, October 31, 2011

Week 5: Project-based Learning, WebQuests, and rubrics

Project-Based Learning (PBL)is an approach that creates a "constructivist" learning environment in which students construct their own knowledge. The students work in groups to solve challenging problems that are authentic, curriculum-based, and often interdisciplinary. In Susan Gaer's article entitled "Less Teaching and More Learning", she mentioned that using PBL approach has helped motivate her Lao, Hmong Mien, and Lahu immigrant students to learn English for a purpose, which is to recite their folktales to 8th graders of a different school. It also promotes community among the class members which fosters the motivation needed to see their project to completion. Since the story-telling project gives meaning to their English learning normally goes on in the classroom, the project can create excitement and motivation not existing in a traditional, text-only class.

The last week's article by Chao-chih Liao "E-mailing to Improve EFL Learners' Reading and Writing Abilities: Taiwan Experience" gives me an idea of doing the same thing for my Structure II students. I can contact my friend who is an English course manager to build a project for his foreign students learning English in Perth, Australia and my students in Indonesia. The students can exchange emails on certain topics, for example: telling what their hometowns look like. Based on the information they get from their key pals, the students can write articles or brochures about their key pals' hometowns. I believe that this project will enlarge the students' cultural awareness and improve their motivation to learn English in more meaningful ways. Another thing is asking my students to create their blogs and type the tasks required by the teacher and makes reflections upon what they've learned that week. This idea has appeared since I joined this online course.

One definition of independent learning or 'autonomy' in learning is:
"...the ability to take charge of one's learning" H. Holec, 1981
Independent learning is usually developed throughout a learner's time at school
or college to give learners more responsibility for work or learning. It helps
learners to make informed choices and to take responsibility for deciding what they need to do in order to learn. (Source:
PBL as described above promotes independent learning in the sense that it provides students with an opportunity to create products in relation to what they are learning/have learned in the classroom. The rubric for the task can also provide extended information about what the students are capable of in addition to formal tests conducted in the classroom.

Alternative Learning & Rubric:

In addition to quizzes, assignments, and mid and final term tests, I have an idea to let them apply their knowledge in English tenses and other sentence constructions by allowing them to create compositions. The compositions will be closely related to what they have learned in the classroom. For example: this week the students are learning Passive Voice. I will ask them to write a composition to describe the class situation when they were studying this subject. They should write it in past tenses and passive voice. By doing so, they can directly apply the passive sentence constructions and past tenses at the same time. The rubric for this alternative assessment can be found in Rubistar. My rubric ID # is: 2110998. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Class Issue #3: Structure II

Learners: They are 3rd semester students. The class consists of 30 students – 23 females and 7 males – ranging from 19-22 years old. Their English competence is intermediate and post-intermediate. The students come from various parts of the country who possess different levels of education.

Course Goals:
Students possess the ability to:
§ Understand, use and produce compound sentences with their various forms of subject, direct object, indirect object, subject complement, object complement, object of preposition and appositive using:

Present tenses (simple and progressive)
Past tenses (simple and progressive)
Future tenses (simple and progressive)
Present perfect tenses (simple and progressive)
Past perfect tenses (simple and progressive)
Future perfect tenses (simple and progressive)
§ Understand, use and produce active and passive sentences in their various complex forms, meanings, and uses using the tenses taught.
§ Write English passive sentence constructions correctly.

Common Practice:
I always emphasize my students that the major attitude toward mastering English grammar is "Practice Makes Perfect". Learning Grammar is considered as tough materials for half of the students. Thus, in my course outline I write down grammar exercises they need to do prior the lesson. I want them to have ideas what they are going to learn when they come into my classrooms and ask several questions about the exercises they don't understand. However, sometimes, a few of them just copy their friend's works or they don't do the entire exercises recommended. They only work on some tasks and let the others empty.

Proposed Practice:
This online course provides me ideas of many websites that I can make use of in order to extend their learning experience by doing online exercises on the Net, such as:
I can also use some teaching tips available on the Net. For example:

Reading I and ABCD Objectives

Course Description:
The course provides the students with a lot of exercises in reconstructing the meaning of the reading comprehension passages as closely as possible to the intended meaning by the writer(s) in order that the students' schemata in different fields of life become larger and larger. As such the course facilitates the students with activities using dictionaries, cognitive maps, books, objects, pictures, maps, etc to increase students' schemata relating to the English intermediate reading comprehension passages selected for classroom discussion.

An intermediate level reading passage entitled: "New Fossil Finds Challenge Long Held Theories Of Evolution" taken from

ABCD Objectives:
1. Given ten comprehension questions about the reading passage [C], the students of Reading I [A} are able to write down the correct answers [B] with eight correct answers [D].
2. Given twenty difficult words from the reading passage [C], the students of Reading I [A} are able to answer fifteen out of twenty words correctly.

Week 4: Skill-building Websites for Reading/Writing Skills and Technology-enhanced Lesson Plans

Among the articles we're supposed to read, I like an article entitled "Using Technology to Assist in Vocabulary Acquisition and Reading Comprehension" by Andreea I. Constantinescu.

She argues that reading is an active skill that involves the reader, the text, and the interaction between two. Mastering reading skills is important for EFL learners. It is a dynamic and interactive process, during which learners make use of a variety skills and strategies, combined with background knowledge, L1-related knowledge and real-word knowledge to be able to understand the texts. She believes that reading skill and vocabulary achievement are inter-twinned. one cannot improve his/her reading skills without developing his/her vocabulary, and vice versa.

According to her, annotations and glossaries are important features for the learners to understand written texts better as well as to provide meanings of difficult words. She says that glosses can increase reading comprehension and vocabulary retention. Among three kinds of glosses on the computer screen for understanding a text - full glossing, limited glossing, and no glossing, the first one shows greater positive impacts.

In line with what she mentions, English textbooks in schools in Indonesia also contain annotations and glossaries. Since the status of English in Indonesia is EFL, having annotations and glossaries in the reading sections help Indonesian students understand the text and improve their vocabulary.

Sample Lesson Plan with Technology

Class (name, type of student): Reading I
The students are 2nd semester students of the English Education Study Program. Their English competence is intermediate level. The students come from various parts of the country that possess different quality of education.

Duration: 1x 50 minutes

Technology component downloaded from/accessed in class at:
An article entitled " No stopping after eating 25,000 Big Macs " taken from

Review of previous lesson:
An article "Dialogue: A Business Presentation" containing Present Perfect from

Objectives of this lesson (tell students about them):
•   By listening to the teacher's questions and reading the first three paragraph of the text [C], the students taking Reading I [A] are able to answer them [B] correctly [D].
•   Given the reading material [C], the students [A] are able to complete the gap-filling exercise with Past Tense or Present Perfect [B] with 5 correct answers out of 7 [D].
•   After reading the text and do the exercises [B], the students [A] are able to make a summary of the reading passage [C] in at least 80 words [D].

Presentation (teacher or student), including key vocabulary.
  • Warm-up: Students move around the class and ask their classmates: Is there anything that you eat or drink everyday? Why? And try to find somebody with the same food habit.
  • Warm-up: The teacher writes on the blackboard: sesame seed bun, pickles, onions, sauce, cheese, fries, soft drinks, fat, calories, packaging. Ask: What type of food is the article is about? Students discuss in pairs and check meanings in dictionaries. 
  • Students listen to their teacher's reading the first three paragraphs and answer the questions orally.
  • Students read the rest of the article and complete the sentences.
  • Students complete the text with Present Perfect or Simple Past.
  • Students write a summary of the article in their own words in at least 80 words.
  • Key vocabulary: Big Mac, burger, calory, diet.
Activity (student)
  • Students move around the class and interview their classmates.
  • Students discuss words in pairs and check meanings in dictionaries.
  • Students listen to their teacher's reading the text.
  • Students write down the exercises.
  • Students write about the article in at least 80 wordds.
Learning styles addressed:
Kinaesthetic [moving around and interviewing], Auditory [listening to the teacher's reading the text], Visual [read the text].

Technology alternative (in case things don't work as planned):
I download the article and have it copied for my students.

Review before the end of the class session:
The danger of eating too much calories.

One or more exercises about Present Perfect or Simple Past.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Week 3: Delicious Oral/Aural Skills and Project Review

This week I am learning how to store my useful links in Delicious. It is one of the world's leading social bookmarking. It is a way to save web links (Favorites/Bookmarks) and find them from any computer on the Internet. It also allows me share links easily with others. Before using Delicious, I usually bookmark useful links I find related to ESL/EFL websites in my browser either in my laptop or my computer in my office. Of course, it is always confusing me if I want to visit my saved website but it is stored in different computer. I have use the computer where I store the saved website/link. Fortunately, my problem is solved now by I can now save my useful websites and even compile them into categorized stacks. I can also share my saved links to others.

 I'm interested in reading the article entitled "The Employment of CALL in Teaching Second/Foreign Language Speaking Skills". Like what Roza has commented in the previous post, the article clearly mentions the two aspects of spoken language competence, mainly mechanical and meaningful aspects. Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) websites and software also try to address these aspects for their users.

One of the recommended sites that I want to try to discuss is a website of One Stop English at This page provides us with tips and tricks to help teachers prepare for English speaking practice in the classroom. It has six different teaching ideas readily to be applied in the classrooms according to their levels.

Take one of its teaching ideas, Get out of the classroom 1. It gives several activities to overcome students' boredom of studying inside the classrooms. The teacher can choose one activity to be used and take his/her students to do deliberate speaking activities. In conclusion, I think this webpage is categorized into meaningful aspect as it tries to provide communicative functions in a given, meaningful speech community.

This week I review an article of the previous projects created by Prem Bahadur Phyak, from Department of English Education, University Campus, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal.

His students were 300 Master degree students coming from different areas and knowledge. They had to write theses as a part of their academic program. However, they didn't have any background knowledge of research and academic writing. Furthermore, his department was under-resourced as there was no internet access, updated library and relevant journals. He was challenged to improve his 20 students under his supervision to make use of the internet.

He motivated his students to expand their knowledge through the Net and improved their computers emails. He also conducted a focus group discussion to know their progress, their feelings towards technology,and other stuffs. He was able to teach them. That's what I like from him was his perseverance

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Week 2: Personal Reflection

Materials learned in Week 2:

  • Effective Web Searches

  • The ABCD Learning Objectives Framework

The first thing I learn this week is knowing and comparing various web search engines available on the Net. Visiting the webpage Choose the Best Search Engines for Your Information Needs opens my horizon of many web search engines. Previously, I use Google to find information I need.  After reading most of the posts in Nicenet, I find out that Google is the most frequently used search engine by the participants. I believe that each search engine serves different functions and may come up with different results. In my opinion, there is no best search engine in which I can find any query I want to find out. Using more than one search engine is the best way to sharpen my query searching.The more we try to use different engines, the better result we can find as we know which engine we use for certain type of information.

The A-B-C-D Learning Objective is the other thing I learn this week. It stand for Audience, Behavior, Condition, and Degree of mastery.  It provides us as teachers to determine how successful their material has been. By clearly stating the results we want the learners to accomplish, we can identify whether students have gained the appropriate skills and knowledge. Because objectives should be stated before learners begin their instructional materials, they provide students the means to organize their efforts toward accomplishing the desired behaviors. Though I teach this material to students every other semester, I find it very beneficial to learn it again as it can refresh my mind, enlarge my understanding every time I read the participants' posts in Nicenet and serve as my reminder whether I've done what I've taught to my students.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Comparing Search Engines for My Information Needs

When I visited the "Choose the Best Search for Your Information Need" link, I was surprised to know the fact that there are quite many search engines on the Net that we can use for our professional purposes. Thanks Robert for showing that link!

Last semester I taught Speaking III containing Argumentative Speeches and Debates. This semester I'm preparing my students to participate in regional and national English debate competitions. As debating requires vast knowledge in many fields, both in pro and con sides, I need to help my students to find certain topics using Google, my favorite search engine. But there are actually several other search engines I can use.

I tried to compare several search engines to look for the pro and con of Euthanasia, a common topic for debating. Thus, I typed in my query: euthanasia +pro +con. The results are as follows: 10 out of 14 results shown on the first page are of what I look for. However, the good thing is on the right side there is "Related Search" where I can find related useful links about the query I typed in.

Google: Great! All 10 results it shows on the first page is about the topic I want to know. It seems to me that Google is more precise than the previous search engine.

Glean Comparison Search: This search suits its name "comparison". It does give me comparisons on the topic I typed in. I need to choose positive and negative comparison terms.I find it a suitable search engine to find pro and con of debated issues. Awesome!

Google Custom Search: Actually it gives me the topic I'm looking for. However, it provides me very limited links. It mostly provides information from

IDEA (International Debate Education Association): This website is dedicated to anything related to debates, one of which is debate topics. I can find the pro and con of Euthanasia easily here. The pro and con ideas have been there to be used. Cool!

I think I will recommend my students to use Google, Glean CR, and/or IDEA in order to find some controversial debate issues.

Classroom Description: Structure II

A private university in Surabaya, Indonesia
Faculty: Faculty of Teacher Training and Education
Study Program: English Education
Mission: To produce teachers of English for elementary and secondary schools.

Name of the Course: Structure II
Learners: They are 3rd semester students. The class consists of 30 students – 23 females and 7 males – ranging from 19-22 years old. Their English competence is intermediate and post-intermediate. The students come from various parts of the country who possess different levels of education.
Course Goals:
Students possess the ability to:
§  Understand, use and produce compound sentences with their various forms of subject, direct object, indirect object, subject complement, object complement, object of preposition and appositive using:
  • Present tenses (simple and progressive)
  • Past tenses (simple and progressive)
  • Future tenses (simple and progressive)
  • Present perfect tenses (simple and progressive)
  • Past perfect tenses (simple and progressive)
  • Future perfect tenses (simple and progressive)
§  Understand, use and produce active and passive sentences in their various complex forms, meanings, and uses using the tenses taught.
§  Write English passive sentence constructions correctly.
Learning Strategies:
§  Lectures
§  Group discussions
§  Homework
§  Assignments
§  Quizzes
§  Mid-term test
§  Final-term test

Student needs:
They need to master all tenses both in active and passive sentences and several sentence constructions and apply them in contexts. It needs in-depth understanding of forms, meanings, and uses of various tenses so that they can apply correct tenses in appropriate contexts. Possessing this ability is essential for the students as they will use them when they become conduct their teaching practices in schools.
Computer literacy:
The English Department possesses several laboratories with many computers connected to the internet, which are Multimedia Laboratory, Digital Language Laboratory, Reading and Writing Laboratory. Wi-Fi is also available for those who want to use their laptops. All students have ample computer literacy and most of them have Face book accounts.
Each classroom has a computer, LCD projector, a big screen and two whiteboards on two sides of the wall. However, the computer is not connected to the internet.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

My Reflection: Blogging and Grammar Lessons

After reading two recommended reading materials Blogging for ELT and Weblogs for Use with ESL Classes and creating this blog, an idea hit my mind. Why don't I ask my students to create their own blogs (learner blogs) to extend their learning experience outside the classroom? I believe a good idea should be worth trying.

I'm a teacher at the English Education Study Program  of  the Faculty of Teacher Training and Education in a private university in Surabaya, Indonesia, aiming at producing English language teachers for elementary and secondary level of education. One of the subjects I'm teaching this semester is English Grammar 2. It focuses on the mastery of most English tenses and other sentence structures, such as Passive Voice, Elliptical Constructions, and so on. The students are required to master the Form, Meaning, and Use of those grammatical points in order to be able to teach their students in the future.

The students are learning the materials using Cooperative Learning (CL) approach. I've been trying my best to make them apply the good principles of CL. First of all, of course, they have to study the materials individually and do the assignments prior the classroom. This will enable the students to attend the lesson with something they have possessed in their heads, not coming to the class with empty knowledge of what is going to be discussed in the lesson. By having self-study before, I hope they can immerse themselves in group discussions, practicing what they learned in the group of four, and teach their group mates if they need further explanation. I, the teacher, act as the last resource if they need further help or explanations. I believe that the students will get better insight of the materials they are learning  when they are actively engaged as suggested in the Learning Pyramid diagram.

So far, the results have shown that the majority of the students achieve satisfying scores. I assume if I can ask them to create their own blogs to provide better opportunity for them to apply the grammatical points they've learned, it'd be a good idea. In addition to the advantages of having learner blogs mentioned in above articles, the students will be very motivated to go online as well as express their ideas/stories in blogs. Their learners blogs can contain their experience or stories using certain grammar points (e.g. Past Tenses). I hope it will work well as I imagine.

I welcome any comments or inputs upon what I've written above.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Me, Webskills, and Blogging

I haven't created any blogs for several years since I made my first blog in 2008.

As the Webskills online course requires all of us to create our own blogs, I need to refresh myself how to create my new blog. And this is it! Though it's still far from my expectation, I'm sure that I will gradually improve the interface of my blog. I'm happy to create it anyway.

I found an interesting clip in Youtube entitled "A Vision of K-12 Students Today". Hopefully, it will motivate all of us to do our best in this online course.