Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Workshop No.3: Know Yourself, Know Your Students

Over June and July I have participated in the IIEEC-Oxford University Press Teacher Training Certificate Program in Tokyo run by Ritsuko Nakata. For each workshop attended their is an additional task of writing a report. Even though I am not intending to apply for the certificates, as I have no plans of attending all 6 workshops, I thought I would give them a go anyway. Any feedback or comments are very welcome.
Here is the first instalment of the workshop reports: Know Yourself, Know Your Students presented by Miki Sakai.

The focal point of this workshop was the “Multiple Intelligences” (also referred to as MIs, which is something I learnt about whilst completing my TEFL course), understanding the details of the different intelligences and how to apply them effectively within the classroom when teaching young learners. Everybody is said to possess each and every type of the 8 intelligences, albeit in different proportions. Unfortunately, especially in my case, just possessing these MIs does not necessarily make you intelligent. However by understanding the 8 intelligences, we are able to identify our students’ skillset to create appropriate lesson plans that coincide with their learning strengths by catering to their strongest intelligences. For example, a person who possesses strong “Math Logic” (or “Number and Reasoning Smart”) will be better suited to activities involving counting or logical thought, whereas someone who is “Bodily-Kinesthetic” (or “Body Smart”) is more geared towards activities which comprise of gestures and bodily movement. By combining as many of the intelligences as possible during our lessons, we are able to improve our students’ aptitudes for learning English.
It is interesting to note that each of the intelligences can be trained or developed, much like any other skill, meaning we can turn any weakness into strength. Or at the very least develop it to a point where it is no longer considered to be a weakness. The MIs also interact with each other, often in complex ways; they are not so black and white.  Students may be accomplished in many of the intelligences and may respond better to tasks that integrate various skillsets rather than focusing on them individually. People can be intelligent in many different ways and we can come to realize this fact through the MIs.
Even before attending this workshop I have always made a point of having variety in my classroom by trying new fun and invigorating activities as often as possible. Sure it’s great to have a little structure and routine as well, but as we all know young learners can be quick to lose interest in repetitive activities, which can lead to a dull and mundane classroom environment. Having attended the workshop, I now understand the importance of respecting my students’ proficiency in the different intelligences, not just the intelligences I am most comfortable and familiar with, in order to incorporate activities that focus on my students’ capabilities as well as providing flexible lesson plans that utilizes the MIs that the students are most skilled with whilst also developing their weaker intelligences.
Now comes the important part, applying what I have learnt from the workshop into my classroom. From previous experiences I have found that a majority of students tend to be visual learners, meaning that many of my classes include activities that revolve around the “Spatial” intelligence. I like to use props and items of realia as visual aids where possible in place of flashcards and promote associating gestures with words or phrases, even if some may not seem all that conventional. Students respond much better when presented with a visual stimulus when introducing new vocabulary, whilst the gestures can serve as prompts for when the students are unable to recall a word or phrase. I have also found that at times students are able to remember the gesture associated with the word instead of the word itself, although this doesn’t mean they have learnt and memorized the words completely I still view this as progress nonetheless.
Songs and chats are also a fantastic way of involving many of the MIs at once, it also gets the students motivated and energised whilst allowing them to express themselves with their bodies. There are such a multitude of songs to choose from it’s sometimes hard to decide what to use! I tend to go with songs that allow the students to express their individual creativity while interacting interpersonally with their peers. One of my favourite songs to perform is “5 little monkeys” from Knock Knock English. It combines the “Verbal Linguistic”, “Math Logic”,  “Bodily-Kinesthetic”, “Musical”, “Interpersonal” and (to a lesser extent) “Naturalist” intelligences in just 1 activity. There is even a video version available on the “Super Simple Songs” YouTube channel that would then additionally include the “Spatial” intelligence. This song also gives me the opportunity to work on my monkey impression, which always gets a great reaction from my students. Some of my students probably think it’s TOO realistic.

All in all I found this workshop constructive and beneficial towards my personal development as an English teacher, especially for young learners. As well as learning about the MIs in more detail than I had previously, the workshop gave me the opportunity to be exposed to new ideas and teaching techniques which I will be adding to my ever growing repertoire.