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Month: June, 2012

“I’m a reporter” co-operative activity.

by Vilosopher

While we were talking about Co-operative learning in a class, it reminded me of a project we’ve done with my students just recently. I was extremely proud of how it turned out.

Here is what we did:

“I’m a reporter”

1. Students watched a video – a piece of news on the famous rope-walker Dean Potter.

2. In two groups of three they discussed what they understood from the piece.

3. Then, they were showed a silent version of the video and asked to write a script for it.

4. The students were allowed to use the Internet, but they essentially had to follow a news format, sticking to the facts and handling a certain discourse. At this stage, each student had a role: a searcher, a writer and a proof-reading expert.

5. Then, the students had to voice a video together and send me the audio file.

6. I edited the whole thing and returned it back to the students. They were exalted! It’s extremely rewarding to have an actual product as a result of the learning process. And they’ve done it together! Watch here!



A better human

by tarek50

Being a good listener/understander is a skill that not everyone is capable of having, but it is definitely acquirable. The speaker-understander practice we had yesterday, in my humble opinion, was not only for the purpose of being a better teacher, but also for being a better human. Applying the speaker-understander practice in real life situations, for example with spouse and/or children, especially teenagers, may be will result to a better understanding and improving the relationship between family members. Not to mention, applying it with friends and colleagues, especially those who are constantly complaining about everything and nothing, could help ease the frustration and may be make them realize how ridiculous their complaints are without you saying it!

Just a thought

The Best Therapeutic Phrase – Hmm…

by Vilosopher

Just like having become a grown up, I realized that my parents are not exactly Miss Universe and Mister President, I lately realized that teachers are not exactly gods either. Just a year ago, in a fit of noble anger, I would stigmatizing the system of education in the US and blame the government, parents and children, but never teachers. Now I’m working with very different people who happened to be teachers and I’m scared. I’m scared for the kids who entrust themselves to these teachers. But are all teachers  trustworthy? Despite the common belief, teachers are not a special kind, they are just normal humans like everybody else. Some of them are very educated, some of them have pedagogical talents, some of them are smart… However, there are also teachers who are neither. And they also teach. And they also influence peoples’ decisions. And they also have control over things.

But my point is not to criticize. My point is that I realized I am not superior either. Because I’m a teacher, it doesn’t give me the right to say what’s right and what’s wrong. So, what I’m trying to say is that, in this sense, the speaker – understander activity we’ve done yesterday was very meaningful to me. I think, it is particularly crucial for our profession to constantly remind ourselves that we are no difference from our students and therefore we should not put ourselves in charge of their lives. Not because it’s wrong to guide or help someone, not  because the best answers are coming from within (although it’s true), but mostly because we might be just not good enough. Having this healthy doubt in your own unimprovability should be a second nature of every teacher.

So, before giving another advice, just say “Hmm…”

Peer coaching

by pshaw48

Reflecting on today’s discussion after the coaching demonstration, I just want to emphasise the differences between peer coaching and other kinds of observation and feedback procedures.  The key features of peer coaching are that it is descriptive (not evaluative), specific and precise (not general), constructive (not threatening), solicited (not imposed), and well-timed (not poorly timed).  Evaluations by supervisors and mentoring experiences are different: the former  in particular will always have something uncomfortable and even menacing about it.  Even the gentlest of mentors may have occasion to point out problems to the apprentice teacher.  Peer coaching, in contrast, is aimed for maximum comfort and requires the coach to limit responses and comments to specific data from the observation.  General comments are to be avoided, especially if they are negative.  We are hoping for the teacher to become aware of flaws or difficulties in the lesson and to articulate these to the coach, who will respond by confirming from the observed data.

George made some very good points today and we all need to be aware that we may find ourselves in professional situations where we do need to point out to a teacher the problems with the lesson.  However, over the course of one’s career, consistent and meaningful professional growth is only, I suggest, gained from regular interactions with a trusted colleagues as our peer coach.


by tarek50

One of the privileges of being an employee in a governmental education institute, such as the Defense Language Institute (DLI), is the possibility to travel abroad on a job related mission. Based on the job descriptions and responsibilities, the mission is determined by the people in charge.

DLI has an Outside Continental United States (OCONUS) immersion program. DLI students have the opportunity to travel to a target language country and immerse there for a month. Selected DLI students, who are studying Arabic, Korean, Chinese, Hebrew, Russian, and many other languages, are able to travel to the target language countries and experience the full immersion linguistically and culturally in a country that practice the language they are learning.

For the Arabic program, our students used to immerse in Cairo, Egypt and Amman, Jordan. Due to the recent political developments in the region, Cairo and Amman became un-safe and the program was put on hold for about a year. At the beginning of 2012 the program restarted and a new destination was determined, namely Rabat, Morocco.

I was recommended, nominated, and then selected by a committee to go to Rabat for ten days in March 2012 through the Immersion Language Office (ILO) at the DLI. The purpose of the trip, the mission, was to visit and evaluate the site, the environment and the new Arabic pilot program in Rabat, which is offered to DLI students who are going to immerse in Rabat for a month.

More to come

My very first blog post!

by tarek50

I am totally new to the blogging world and just wanted to check it out and share my thoughts for today Sunday June 17, 2012.

Today was father’s day and my three children are currently out of town for the summer, but they all called me and wished me a happy father’s day, it was a nice treat for the morning :). As a gift for father’s day, I decided to go see the new Science Fiction and Fantasy movie Prometheus in the IMAX theater on Cannery Raw, Monterey. It was my first time to visit the IMAX theater and use the 3D glasses, and I was mesmerized. In that movie, like any other Sci-Fi Fantasy movies, there is a new language, written and spoken, it was the language of the Engineers or our makers, and only a robot could speak it!

That was a good Sunday and tomorrow back to work again. On Tuesday the summer Practicum class will resume and looking forward for all the exciting events.

End of my very first blog entry.



by pshaw48

These are the chronicles of a group of language educators in Monterey, California.  We are meeting three times a week this summer to share, discuss and problem solve around issues in learning and teaching second and foreign languages.  Our basic aim is to establish and then exploit a strong learning community with clear procedures for collaborative professional development.  These are our stories.


by pshaw48

This phrase is from a Frank Capra quote: “Friend, you are a divine mingle-mangle of guts and stardust.  So hang in there!”  I do not know who the friend was, or what challenges were being faced.  But I do know that the challenges of being a teacher are best met with a combination of very human determination and hard work together with creativity and inspiration.  It is that combination which we plan to exploit in our work together.