Friday, February 17, 2012

Week 6 - Snowed In

Cold Reception
Photo on Flickr by Jackson Carson

We are having a very cold winter. If you have been reading this blog, you might remember that I have already complained about the weather. Sub-zero temperatures, snow and cold winds. Sometimes together, sometimes in three-day intervals (snow, then wind, then it all freezes, then snow...). People have lost lives in blizzards and avalanches. A neighbour of mine was killed by a fallen icicle. Now we are worried that, once the snow starts melting, there will be floods.

That is why my school has decided to postpone the beginning of the new term. Instead of the 20th, the term will start on the 27th. The fact that I have only four people in my online forum (and I was hoping for 12) is one consequence. Another, more serious one, is that I am practically teaching a long-distance course now. The plan was to integrate my little online forum with the face-to-face teaching. That will have to wait for the 27th. In the meantime, I have to make this new situation work for me and my students.

As teachers, we have to improvise and adapt to circumstances all the time. Writing lesson plans and course syllabi is very useful, sticking to them at all costs could be completely wrong. It is the same with my Yahoo Group project. Maybe the new circumstances have made the students more keen to post, to keep in touch with English. Taking into account that there are only four of them, I can't complain. Three different versions of the ending to The Lady, or the Tiger were posted and a student has suggested a great new topic for the forum. I know this isn't much, but it is the first step.

Photo on Flickr by Thomas Bresson

There are other changes that I need to make. When I first planned this project, my idea was to provide opportunities for the students to practice the four skills. Their speaking is quite good for the intermediate level, their reading and listening are good too. However, their writing is on a much lower level. Somehow I haven't noticed how serious the problem is until now. I think I will need to address this problem, since I have the chance to do something about it now. Therefore, I will shift the focus from the other three skills to writing. That shouldn't be too difficult to do since forums are perfect places for practicing writing. I told them I wouldn't be correcting their mistakes in the forum. I want them to write freely. I will collect their mistakes and create a pool of mistakes to work with in the next semester. That is another thing forums are very good for.

The way it works now is that I give them a writing prompt. I want them to read and listen as well as write, which is why I posted the short story. We also did Steve Jobs' famous speech at Stanford University, as it is something I had promised to do with them last term, but ran out of time.

I talk about my online project at such length here not because this was something we were told to do in our blogs this week, but because a lot of my attention has shifted from the Webskills forum to my own baby-forum. It is as it should be. We were given the tools, now we are playing with them and trying them out. This week contained an unusually high amount of readings, but I enjoyed them a lot. We learnt about large classes and PowerPoint presentations, but the real topic of the week was interactivity. Interactive classes, interactive PowerPoints. We were given some very useful teaching tools this week and I can't wait to start implementing all these tools in the classroom.

Creating an interactive PowerPoint was a new concept for me and I had to work hard to make my slides link to each other. I created a vocabulary quiz that my students can do from home. You can see it here, but to make it interactive, you have to download it and watch it in the View mode.

I also played with Prezi a little this week:

I like Prezi. Once you learn how to use it, you can do almost anything you want with it.

I will sign off here. This has been an insightful week for me. I feel that I am going through a major change as a teacher. I will not be the same when I go back into class after this learning experience.


  1. Dear Natasa,

    Wow It's beautiful picture with thick snow covers your garden? I don't have snow in Indonesia, I hope one day I can touch it. The terrible weather in your country can be an obstacle, but try to enjoy it. If something doesn't work as it is plan, that is normal. Just believe that you will overcome that soon.

    By the way, I like your preposition Prezi. I will try to create one someday.

    Cheer up

    1. Imas, this is not my garden. It is just a picture I found on Flickr. I live in a flat:( I have a holiday house in the country with a beautiful garden. I hope it is in a good condition now and that the roof is not leaking, as that can be one of the problems of this much snow.

      I hope you get to see snow one day. Personally, I am not a big fan of the kind of climate we have here (very hot summers and very cold winters). Too many extremes. I prefer summer to winter and don't mind the heat. I will definitely look at the snow with different eyes tomorrow and think of you.Maybe I will even take some photos, though it is starting to melt now. The image of melting snow is somehow sad.

      I am glad you like the Prezi. It is not that difficult to make, just watch the tutorials.

      Thank you, my friend.


  2. Hi, Natasa.
    Very nice post. It was as if I was talking to a friend and listening to her complaints. IF you have a look at my own blog posts, you will see that we are all experiencing more or less the same. Things aren't as smooth as they should be and time is dust escaping through our fingers. But it's great that you have decided what to concentrate on: writing. I am also doing a writing extension and the material I'm collecting will certainly be very helpful for further work with them.


    1. Hi Luisa.

      Thank you. I am glad you enjoyed reading my post even though I was complaining.

      I looked at your posts and I can see we are going through similar problems and we both had a bit of a shock when we faced the student writing. You were right from the beginning when you decided that you were going to practice writing. I interviewed the students first. I was thinking that, since they are adults, they will know what they need to work on.

      I agree with you that the time for the project implementation is too short, but just discovering how much I have to work on their writing has been important enough.


  3. Hello, Natasa!

    I really enjoyed reading your post. You say, you are changing as a teacher. I have absolutely the same feeling of inner change.

    Special thank for Prezi. You seem to be the first person to mention this amazing tool during our discussion on Nicenet.

    Good luck with your project.

    1. Thank you Helen. I think this week in particular has changed me. I know you feel the same.

      I am glad the Prezi is helpful. Luisa mentioned it first, then Robert picked up on it and asked others to share their experiences and that's what gave me the idea.

      I wish you good luck with your project too.


  4. Dear Natasa,
    You have nicely articulated your project plan, though for the unforeseen Natural obstacle the process is getting delayed. But you are so sure of what you are going to do. I am really impressed! I am still groping as our new term is going to begins from the end of April. SO I will have to visualize my goals and end results as to how to incorporate technology in my classroom transaction. But with the guidance of Robert and my friends here, I have been enriched with a lot of knowledge about it.Lets see how it materializes.


    1. Dear Nizara,

      As you have already seen from my post, I am between terms too. When my classes start next week, I am probably going to have some new students, maybe even a lot of them.

      I am sure your final project will be great, even though you don't have real students right now to try it with.


  5. Hi Natasa,

    I really like the way you write reflections… I always enjoy reading your blog, and this time is no exception.

    I especially want to thank you this week for introducing and motivating me to learn to use Prezi. I read your post about it on Nicenet, in which you said you didn’t know much about PowerPoint, but honestly your Prezi show was so well made. I was immediately mesmerized by by its potentials for educational purposes. I have used MS PowerPoint quite a lot, but this is the first time I look into Prezi. Hopefully it will be something I can use more often in my future classes.

    Thanks again for sharing, and see you online in week 7.


    1. Hi Ky,

      I am so glad you like my blog. It is good to have a place to reflect on our learning process.

      Yes, I think Prezi is great and I am glad if I have managed to pass my enthusiasm on to others. I feel I have a lot to learn when it comes to Prezi, but it will be time well spent.

      Thank you for reading this.