Date(s) : Saturday, September 11, 2021 / Tuesday, September 14th ~ Thursday, September 16th, 2021
Location : Live Online Classes via Zoom
Number of Trainees : 60 Secondary English Teachers
What was the Professional Development Program for Secondary English Teachers?
This program was a teaching methodology-based training program specifically for Secondary English Teachers in Gyeonggi province. All middle and high school English subject teachers were encouraged to register for the training program in order to enhance their knowledge of teaching tips and techniques and/or attain lesson ideas and concepts.
This year’s program was divided into two tracks. The trainees got to choose a theme to learn – either based on literature or 21st century stills. Trainees then focused on learning content, sharing and discussing ideas and creating a rough draft of lessons. The tracks are explained below:
1.Literature-based Performance-based Assessment (Angie Lee, Autumn Wright, Eric Flynn)
It is virtually every teacher’s dream that they have passionate readers for students, but that is rarely the case – especially in the EFL classroom. In this module, we’ll look at different tools andtricks to get your students reading (and enjoying it!), practical assessments surrounding literature you can do in class, and finally, how to accurately grade your students using hand-crafted rubrics.
The current era in which we live in a fast-paced one that requires certain core skills in order to succeed. In this module, we’ll look at some skills – primarily, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking – that are absolutely essential to both the 21st century student and workplace. We will talk about how to utilize and craft these skills in our own EFL classrooms, and how to help students achieve their full potential.
Online teaching has become a necessary part of school life during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. If we were to break it down, there are three models of online teaching that are viable in most cases: the synchronous model, the asynchronous model, and blended.
In the first method – the synchronous model – teachers and students use Zoom or Google Meet to teach students face-to-face and in real time via a computer. The second way of online teaching, the asynchronous model, has the teacher provide educational materials in a Google Classroom and lets students view the materials on their own time. The students then studies the material, completes the assignments and uploads them on Google Classroom or another LMS. The final model is blend between synchronous and asynchronous model where Google Classroom is used along with online classes with Zoom or Google Meet.
In today’s blog post, we’re going to discuss some tips that you can use in all three of these models for classroom success.
Zoom Tips for Classroom Success
Here at GIFLE, we have been mostly using Zoom to do synchronous online training programs and classes, namely our school visit program and the English Conversation Program. As a coordinator observing, managing, administrating and teaching these programs, the following are a few observations I had about doing classes through Zoom. However, as mentioned, these tips can also prove useful for those doing asynchronous or blended methods as well.
Bigger Text, Readable Fonts, Clear Pictures
The above PowerPoint slide was used in a class that I taught about US Culture. When making the slide, I thought all the text and pictures would be visible to the students.
That was not the case, and trying to use fonts that were too small interrupted my entire lesson.
When teaching in in-person class, this slide might be visible because you have a big projector screen or big screen TV. The small fonts and numbers might look fine to you when you’re making it, but on a Zoom shared screen, these are no longer visible. When making teaching material, teachers need to be aware of their presentations from a student’s perspective. Visual presentations need to be visible, clear and readable. Without these things, students will no longer be focusing on the lesson. Instead, they will be attempting to comprehend the visual content. Time spent on figuring out the pictures or text on a PowerPoint slide is time spent away from learning necessary content.
It Takes Longer to Do Things Online
When we teach in in-person classes, there is freedom of movement. You give instructions on an activity, you can teach some and then you can quickly move onto another task. Done.
However, with Zoom online classes, each action requires time expended. If you want to put students in breakout rooms, you need to press the breakout room button, make the breakout rooms, and provide instructions on getting into the breakout room and what to do once students are in there. Once they are done, you have to close all breakout rooms and wait until everyone leaves. Then you can continue on with your class. All these steps are done just to use the breakout room function.
Another example would be doing an interactive activity using non-Zoom software like Google Slides or Jamboard. With these, there is an added step of explaining the software and what to do with the software. All time spent on explaining and using different software and function is usually longer than expected. Some students can understand the technology quicker than others. To figure things out will take some time. So when planning for activities or tasks in lessons, account for more time spent moving from one thing to another.
Need to be Animated on the Screen
The above picture is a screen shot of a Zoom class where I shared my PowerPoint presentation. This is a common occurrence in most Zoom classes; the PPT takes up most of the screen, and you yourself are a mere tiny box. If a teacher does not move and/or has a monotonous voice while teaching, it can be difficult for the students to stay focused and interested. There has to be some movement in order to them focus on what is taught on the screen. A tip is that even if you are explaining or lecturing on Zoom, you have to be animated.
How? When explaining or giving instructions, use gestures instead of just using your voice. If you are counting down, then use to hand to count the seconds. If you are providing instructions, use hand motions to show what you want students to do. If you want them to read a passage, use your hands to show that they need to read something. If you want them to write something, use your hands to show that they need to write something down. These visual cues are important so that the students have something else to rely on aside from only your voice.
It might sound silly, but your facial expression cannot be the same. The only visual cues that the students have, aside from the shared screen, is your face. If your face stays the same without any change, the students can possibly lose interest in your class. If the students did a good job, provide positive feedback by offering words of encouragement and smiling and clapping. If you need the students to be serious, then your face needs to show that you are serious. When teachers are in the classroom, the students are able to see all of you. They can see your facial expression and body language. Since via Zoom, they cannot take visual cues from body language, teachers need to make more of an effort to use facial expressions to show what they mean to students.
Lag with Annotations and Shared Audio/Videos
Using the annotation function on Zoom and sharing videos are great ways to teach classes and mimic the way that classes are taught in person. The main caveat here is the timing of using the annotation function and sharing of videos. During my observations of GIFLE Zoom classes, I have noticed that the teachers would teach to what they see on the computer monitor. The problem comes from the students side. Just because a teacher wrote something on the screen at a certain moment doesn’t mean that the students saw that. There is a lag between when a teacher writes or draws and when the students see it. Teachers need to be cognizant of this fact when they are explaining something that requires lots of notes or drawings. Pausing and then continuing with the teaching is necessary when writing or drawing something in an online class. Students will be less confused with the lesson if the timing of the teaching and annotation is in sync. Teachers should write first, pause, and continue. This timing needs to be internalized when you are teaching using the annotation function.
The same concept applies to sharing audio or videos. When a teacher presses play on a video, that doesn’t mean the students see it immediately. There is a lag between the teacher’s computer and student’s computer. So when teaching by annotating on a word document or digital whiteboard and sharing audio or video files, teachers need to know that they need to wait a while before continuing onto the next part of the lesson.
When teaching on Zoom, things aren’t always as straightforward as they might be in an in-person class. There are all sorts of small things the teacher needs to keep in mind to have a successful class. However, if you follow the few tips that were presented here, we think that you can improve your online teaching and be well on your way to Zoom success.
The local officials in Korea are the non-teaching staff that you might see at schools, local district offices, training centers, research institutes, and/or any other government organization. They hold various different occupations and roles in their organizations and/or departments. They could work in accounting, facilities management, information technology, and etc. These people are the rank and file workers in the Korean government organizations. They are the most visible when you visit any administration office.
What was the Local Officials’ English Program?
The Local Officials’ English Program was specifically for any local official in Gyeonggi Province who wanted to improve on their English language proficiency (listening, speaking, reading, writing). The modules were tailored toward helping them use English that is related to their jobs and roles in their respective organizations and/or daily life.
What courses do you offer in this program?
The trainees took all the modules offered in the program. There were two types of modules:
Professional English Presentation (Angie Lee, Eric Flynn, Justin Howard) – One of the most daunting tasks we face in any language is public speaking … and this task is made all the more difficult when presenting in a language different from that which we usually speak. In GIFLE’s Professional English Presentation (PEP) module, trainees will learn a variety of skills for giving polished and memorable speeches in English for a wide variety of occasions, including: introducing professional organizations, informing an audience about a topic, guiding listeners through procedures, and more.
Business English Skills were divided into 2 skills.
Writing (Autumn Wright) – Email writing is an essential 21st century skill, but knowing exactly how to appropriately write one in English can be challenging. In this course, trainees examined different types of emails, identified parts of emails in English, and learned how to properly compose different types of business-appropriate emails (and responses) in English.
Speaking (Betsey Norman) – In this module, we introduced English vocabulary and phrases related to travel. Trainees were introduced a variety of settings and useful phrases for each “scenario” of a typical overseas trip. Using the phrases practiced in class, trainees were able to complete their own scenario along with adapting the phrases to fit the country they “traveled” to.
What is the Level One Certification Program for Secondary English Teachers?
It is a teacher certification program that teachers in Gyeonggi-do are required to attend once during their teaching careers. This training program offers the trainees a chance to self-reflect on their teaching methods and techniques, network with their colleagues and study up-to-date teaching methodology and current trends in Korean foreign language education.
Unlike in other teacher training programs at GIFLE, the digital educational content and online classes are only part of the Level One Certification Program for Secondary English Teachers. The trainees must attend lectures and modules on a variety of topics that are related to being an effective teacher.
For the part that involves the GIFLE instructors this year, the Level One Certification Program for Secondary English Teachers has been offered in two parts : Online Training Program and Promoting Engagement in the English Classroom (PEEC).
Online Training Program (May 31st ~ June 13th, 2021)
For the online training program, the trainees studied ideas, techniques, tips, and resources that are relevant in English teaching for secondary students. They chose what to implement in their classrooms, created and taught their lesson(s) in real-life situations, and recorded the results. These observations and results were submitted as a written report and shared during the group discussions in the second part of the training program. The topics of the online training program are below (click on the link to view the content):
Promoting Engagement in the English Classroom (July 28th ~ August 4th, 2021)
The second part of the training program were taught via Zoom. The topic was Promoting Engagement in the English Classroom (PEEC). In this set of modules, the trainees learned about how to implement various techniques and strategies on how to get students to participate in English in the classroom. The module sub-topics and instructors are written below:
Effective Teacher Talk (Angie Lee) – As an alternative to Teaching English in English (TEE), this module focuses on making teacher talk more effective for student understanding and language development. Trainees will experience the impact of comprehensible input that caters to multiple learning preferences and modalities. In groups, trainees will practice developing instructional checking questions (ICQs) and concept checking questions (CCQs) to promote comprehension in the English classroom. In addition, trainees will model think aloud strategies that build metacognitive skills and motivation in students.
Day Starters (Betsey Norman) – In the module, we will be looking at day starters, which are activities that students do at the beginning of every class as a way to transition from L1 to L2 and settle into “class mode”. This module will showcase various tools and activities that can be used as day starters, how to implement them and the benefits of using day starters within a secondary ESL setting.
Total Participation Techniques (developed by Elizabeth Baldwin, Taught by Justin Howard) – Practical Techniques to Increase Participation is ultimately about students becoming independent learners. As student participation increases, so does active learning. Benefits of active learning include: Integrated skills, collaboration, and connecting learning outside the classroom. Additionally, student participation takes the focus off the teacher and instead, shifts the focus on the student actively engaged in content.
Trainees will examine and discuss four activities that promote student participation: Collaboration Summaries, Picture Notes, Cornell Notes and Anticipatory Guides. Finally, trainees will analyze a series of classroom situations and generate solutions to increase participation in their own classroom situation.
Assessing the Multilevel Class (Autumn Wright) – ESL classrooms often follow a one-size-fits-all approach in terms of assessing and grading students. However, this can be quite demoralizing and even unfair to students of lower levels. In order to motivate lower-level students and create a more dynamic classroom, a variety of different assessment techniques can be incorporated. In this course, trainees will learn about different assessment strategies that go beyond tests and quizzes in order to learn how to truly gauge their students’ level, check for understanding, and better their students’ language abilities. Trainees will first work on differentiating assessments for different levels of speakers, then they will work to create their own assessment. Finally, trainees will examine a baseline rubric (adapted from WIDA) and work on adjusting the rubric to fit students of all different levels.
Template-based Teaching (Eric Flynn) – In the Template-based Teaching module, trainees will learn methods for guiding and scaffolding students’ English in a way that minimizes hesitance and maximizes output. Trainees will be shown examples of speaking and writing aids they can implement in their classes, and practice creating their own.
Online Training Program – Presentations on Findings and Discussion (All Instructors)
In addition to the PEEC modules, the trainees will have time to present and share their findings from the lessons they created after studying the Online Training Program content. They will discuss the educational content and also receive feedback from the instructor and other trainees on their lessons and presentations.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, educators around the world had to adjust from teaching in an in-person, face-to-face setting to using an online platform. In past year and a half, Gyeonggi-do Institute for Language Education (GIFLE) also had to acclimate to online distance teaching and learning. Mostly, we have done classes and training programs through Zoom Video Communications and Google Meet. While using Zoom and Google Meet, we realized there are some limitations on teaching through these platforms. While searching for other online software, we have discovered Gather Town (gather.town) as an alternative to Zoom.
Gather Town is a video conferencing software program, much like Zoom and Google Meet. The difference is the format. With Gather Town, teachers can create a virtual world for their students that simulates real-life school and classrooms and interactions between people.
We’ve made a guide to help you get started with Gather Town! You can scroll through the presentation below to see how to get started.
When teaching through Gather Town, there are some things a teacher needs to consider. The following are benefits and cautions when designing a virtual world and teaching students via Gather Town.
Movement is possible – One of the disadvantages of Zoom is that all movement and interactions need to be arranged beforehand. Once they are in a Zoom meeting, they must stay in the meeting room. The students cannot form partners or groups by themselves. Movement can only occur when the teacher creates breakout rooms and assign students to enter a breakout room. In addition, the students cannot spontaneously interact with other individuals, groups or the teacher privately. In Gather Town, spontaneous movement and interactions are possible. Since students are using an avatar, instead of being fixed on a screen, they can move their avatar around to move around the classroom to do assigned activities, form groups easily, and speak privately without the assistance of the teacher.
Interactive Objects – With Gather Town, teachers have the ability to create objects in their virtual space that students can interact with. These objects can be embedded with videos, Powerpoint presentations, Google Docs, Google Slides, Youtube clips and etc. These objects are easily clickable and accessible for the students. Instead of sending files to the students and not knowing whether they received it or not, teachers can create an object where any student can click in order to access teaching materials. If the students need assistance with technical issues, the teacher are nearby ready to assist them.
Mirrors real-life classroom – When preparing for in-person classes, teachers would try to arrange desks and decorate the classroom so the environment is conducive for learning. The Gather Town virtual space or classroom gives teachers the ability to arrange or decorate the classroom that their fit their lesson. This ability to design the classroom and the freedom of movement in the classroom provides the teacher with more options to mirror in-person classroom teaching in an online setting. There is less of an adjustment for trying to prepare lessons for online format. Instead teachers can take what they do in -person and create a virtual space that simulates the real-life classroom experience.
No Camera Fatigue – When taking online classes via Zoom, the teacher and students are fixed in a certain position and staring at the screen. There is a physical toll when staring at a screen for a long time, especially if you are just looking at the same thing. In Zoom, people are just looking into the camera and viewing the other participants. This makes the teacher and students set physically in a fixed position. The eyes are on the camera and the posture is set so With Gather Town, there are a lot of things to see. People are moving and depending on the virtual space set up, the eyes are moving from one object or person to another. Even while sitting and taking online classes, the teacher and students can move their eyes and neck and change their posture while taking the class. It relieves a little of the stress of staying still.
Too much movement – Since the avatars can move around the screen, it can be a distraction while doing classes. The students may pay attention to the movement in the classroom rather than on what the teacher says. Teachers have to spend time managing the movement in the classroom which takes away valuable teaching time. Basic Gather Town classroom rules and etiquette needs to be established in order to minimize movement distractions in the classroom.
Cannot share files immediately(drag and drop) – In Zoom or Google Meet, the teacher can share documents or files by dragging and dropping them in the chat windows. This is important in case students don’t have the teaching materials immediately in front of them or they are not able to access any links. With Gather Town, documents and files cannot be sent using the chat window. Only messages can be typed in order to communicate with the teacher or other students. This means that the teachers need to spend some time to set up the classroom so the students can smoothly access documents and files. Usually, this will happen by creating various interactive objects with links embedded in them. Then the students are able to access documents and files while interacting with objects.
All group discussion can be difficult – In the Gather Town classroom, students can move easily in and out of public and private areas in order to participate in group work or discussions. The students can talk to other trainees without being heard by others but still feel like they are not isolated in a breakout room. The discussions that can be difficult is the all group or class discussion. There are times when the teacher has to lecture to the whole class. During the lecture, a teacher can pose a question that he or she wants a student to spontaneously respond. This type of interaction may be difficult because students cannot swiftly and easily shout out the answer. The students either need to be given a spotlight function by the teacher or go to the spot with a spotlight indicator to speak. Then they can participate and speak to the whole group. This added step to speak to the whole group may make all group discussions not run smoothly.
As with learning all new online software, tools and apps, there is going to be a learning curve. Don’t let frustrations and failures discourage you. Hopefully, with these how to instructions and advice on using Gather Town, you can utilize them in your own classrooms and have an online teaching experience that can be similar to your in-person classroom teaching.