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Does writing by hand still matter in the digital age?

handwriting puntolingueteachersclubblogTechnology is having an impact on children’s handwriting ability. But what does this mean for learning and development?

Cast your mind back to the most recent thing you’ve written. Maybe it was a document for work, a message to a friend, or a simple shopping list. Did you use a pen? Or did you type it? The decline of writing by hand – particularly among young people and children – has been in the news. Last month, paediatric doctors warned that children were finding it difficult to hold pencils due to excessive use of technology. Letters to Santa are increasingly sent by email, and Cambridge University is piloting the use of laptops instead of pen and paper for selected exams after requests from students. Some academics have noted the “downward trend” in students’ handwriting.

But what of the role that handwriting plays in learning and development? And with technology changing how we live and work, what place does handwriting have in the modern classroom? These were the questions put to the teachers, academics and specialists in education and technology at the Guardian’s roundtable event on 27 February. The roundtable was supported by the Write Your Future campaign from Berol and Paper Mate. The delegates noted with interest that everyone at the table had chosen to use pens, not laptops, to make notes. One reason for this could be that writing plays a social role in our lives, said Dominic Wyse, professor of early childhood and primary education at UCL and incoming vice-president, president-elect of the British Educational Research Association (BERA). Having a laptop open would be rude in such circumstances, he argued – and he would find it more difficult to engage.

The level of engagement involved in writing by hand is important, said Diana Strauss, co-founder of Write Dance Training, which helps children develop their handwriting skills through music. She pointed to recent research carried out in France in which one group of adult learners was told to write notes while another typed them. Those writing by hand were later found to have a deeper level of learning. Ros Wilson, the founder of Andrell Education’s Big Writing model for teaching writing, described the process of handwriting as “creating a mental picture of the world” and said computer processing did not create the same picture in the brain.

This is why teachers encourage children to draw in the sand or water, which embeds learning in the early years, noted Naveed Idress, headteacher of Feversham Primary Academy in Bradford. “You never know what an A is unless you’ve physically drawn it.” In terms of writing in schools, there was agreement that increasing use of computers in university assessments could have a knock-on effect lower down the education system. “One of the concerns is that if you put high-stakes tests onto a computer it changes what schools have to prepare children for,” said Jane Medwell, associate professor at the University of Nottingham and consultant for the Write Your Future campaign. Encouraging children to concentrate on using computers too early might not be in their best interests in terms of development. Angela Webb, a psychologist and chair of the National Handwriting Association, explained that engagement with the physical environment activated certain areas of the brain and stimulated cognitive development, so picking up a pen has a positive impact not just on literacy but on other disciplines too. One example of this is the way that it helps to develop the muscles needed to sit at a desk for long periods, said Strauss. She said learning to write by hand aided physical coordination, rhythm, stamina and posture. Secondary school students are at risk of physical problems later in life if not taught to sit and write properly.

Wyse said that while he would like to see children taught to touch-type early in school, it was rare to find children who had formed their first words on a keyboard. But educators should also be careful not to teach handwriting before students were physically ready, argued Jonathan Rodgers, a primary advisory teacher for the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education. He criticised the “rush to mark-make, or to write when they should be mark-making before they have actually been squeezing things and climbing things and hanging from things”. Idress agreed that handwriting should be part of children’s holistic development. One way his school helped itself out of special measures was by focusing on music, which helped build focus and readiness to learn in the children. He believes handwriting gives children similar skills to those gained through music – resilience, creativity and the ability to interact socially. “We are not just talking about mechanical skills here,” he said. “We are talking about how children learn. We are making them ready for life.”

Nina Iles, head of EdTech at the British Educational Suppliers Association, said it was important to balance digital and written awareness and for children to be able to express themselves creatively through technology and writing. “The key is learning to do it well,” she said. “Sometimes if a child is struggling with their handwriting, that can be a barrier to them being able to use it effectively to inform and express themselves.” Delegates agreed it was important to achieve “automaticity” – the ability to get letters down automatically – to free up the brain to focus on creativity. But for Guy Merchant, professor of literacy in education at Sheffield Hallam University, this can take place with a keyboard or touchscreen just as well as with a pen. Helen Boden, chief executive of the British Dyslexia Association, said touch-typing can give dyslexic children the kind of automaticity they struggle with when learning to write by hand. Some are wary of putting marks on paper that would be a permanent symbol of their difficulties and are more comfortable with a tablet or computer where making corrections is easier.

Technology can also help those with little or no English to interact with their classmates, said Hana Emami, primary school project manager at the National Literacy Trust. Yet she warned that not all young people have good access to computers in their schools or at home, meaning too much emphasis on technology could set up educational inequalities. Teachers can sometimes be wary of technology because it doesn’t always fit with their idea of what educational success is, said Boden. But Merchant insisted digital literacy was essential, especially in a world where means of communication are rapidly diversifying. So is there a balance to be struck in how we teach children to write? For Idress, this is key: making sure we help children choose the right tool for the task in hand – whether that’s a pen, a laptop, or something else.

the Guardian

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Classroom Must-Haves From Ikea

Room environment is so important. Ikea is a great resource for teachers because their prices are often affordable. Check out these Pinterest pictures to get more ideas about Classroom setup, Kids rooms and Kindergarten centre management.

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Little Tricks to Get Your Class’ Attention

how-to-get-your-class-attention

Beginnings are always the hardest. Ask any teacher who walks in at the beginning of the class session and finds Casy text-messaging someone, Katie and Sam chatting, and Tom snoozing. This behavior isn’t limited to children, either; inattention is endemic in our fast-paced culture with so much competing media and information distracting us. However, it is necessary to get the class’s attention at the beginning of the session to establish order, the plan for the day, and begin instruction. But it’s not always so easy.

What can you do to get the class’s attention riveted on you?

Starting off Strong

Often students goof off because they just don’t know what else to do. You can start strong every day by establishing a clear routine and expectations for starting off: that they come to attention, be in their seats, and ready to work. Hold to this routine to establish order in the class. Having a clear plan for the day also gets student’s attention.

5 Tips to Get the Class’s Attention

1 Change the level and tone of your voice
Often just changing the level and tone of your voice, lowering it or raising it, will signal to the students it’s time to pay attention.

2 Use props like a bell or whistle
Better for lower level or younger learners, props like these clearly mark beginnings, endings, and other transitions within the class.

3 Use a visual related to the instruction
Holding up a striking picture related to the session, such as environmental debris if the class topic is related to the environment, is sure to get all eyes on you. Don’t comment on it; allow students to start the dialogue.

4 Make a startling statement or give a quote
Writing a surprising statement or quote related to the content on the board has a similar effect: for example “More than half of children in California speak some language other than English at home” if the topic is language acquisition.

5 Write a pop quiz question on the board
Write a basic comprehension question related to the reading on the board. Students have to answer it on slips of paper and turn them in. This gets students focused right away on course material. The question can then lead to discussion after the quiz.

10 Tips for Holding Attention

Now you have your students’ attention; holding it is another story.

1 Relevant tasks
Know your students and relate content to them, and relate the content to the course objectives. For example, if the content is the Vietnam War, finding out what they already know about the Vietnam War and how it relates to their lives is important.

2 Teach at appropriate level of difficulty
Material too hard or too difficult can result in student inattention. Check for understanding or boredom at the beginning. Then tailor the material to the class: for example, if you are teaching the past tense and find students already have control over the simple past and past progressive, find out what they know about the past perfect. Or if you’ve given all three tenses at them, assuming it’s just review, but they appear lost, focus on just one tense.

3 Use choral chants of material
Better for lower-level students, having students chant together key phrases or sentences from the material gets them focused on the material. This also provides practice in the rhythm and intonation of English.

4 Make presentations clear
Use of clear charts and visuals hold students’ attention and make the content clear.

5 Involve students in lecture
Don’t just lecture on the past tense with charts and board work; this will surely put everyone to sleep. During the lecture, stop to ask students about last weekend, summer, etc., to keep them involved in the content and practicing the material.

6 Use humor
Use of humor related to the content is another attention-getter: students appreciate teachers who know how to use humor appropriately related to the material. For example, relating a brief humorous anecdote about what a bad day you had yesterday to demonstrate past tense verbs will get students’ attention and lighten the mood.

7 Establish the routine, task, and time limit
If students are to work in groups, for example, they should know which group they belong in, what they will be doing, and for how long.

8 Plan carefully and fully; make the plan apparent to students
Students will lose focus if the objectives and plan for the lesson are not clear to them. Writing what the class will be doing on the board helps keep focus.

9 Divide tasks into manageable subskills
If students are going to be participating in a class debate, telling them to “Debate the issue” may result in a lot of students wandering around confused. Outline what is involved in a debate on the board and break it down: today decide the issue and our sides; tomorrow establish the roles within our teams, the next day research, and so forth.

10 Establish clear roles
In doing the debate, to continue the example, everyone within the group should have a task: either preparing some research for the debate, outlining the debate, preparing a counterargument, etc. If everyone’s role is clear, and everyone has a job to do, this results in less web-surfing and updating Facebook profiles during class. (Yes, adults and ESL students do it, too.)

by Stacia Levy

A Cup of Teach

The New Skills Agenda for Europe

The European Commission has adopted a new Skills Agenda for Europe. The agenda aims to make sure that people develop the skills necessary for the jobs of today and tomorrow. This task is essential to boost employability, competitiveness and growth across the EU.
The agenda calls on EU countries and stakeholders to improve the quality of skillslink outside the EC domain and their relevance for the labour market. It looks to reduce the number of Europeans lacking adequate reading, writing, numeracylink outside the EC domain and digital skills. At the same time, it seeks to help highly-qualified young people find work that suits their potential and aspirations, make it easier for employers to recruit employees with the right profiles and to equip people with the skills and mindset to start their own businesseslink outside the EC domain.

10 concrete measures support the Skills Agenda for Europe.

Concretely, the Commission proposes 10 actions to be taken forward over the next two years, some of which will be launched soon:

  • A Skills Guarantee to help low-skilled adults acquire a minimum level of literacy, numeracy and digital skills and progress towards an upper secondary qualification.
  • A review of the European Qualifications Framework for a better understanding of qualifications and to make better use of all available skills in the European labour market.
  • The “Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition” bringing together Member States and education, employment and industry stakeholders to develop a large digital talent pool and ensure that individuals and the labour force in Europe are equipped with adequate digital skills.
  • The ‘Blueprint for Sectoral Cooperation on Skills’ to improve skills intelligence and address skills shortages in specific economic sectors.
  • A “Skills Profile Tool for Third Country Nationals” to support early identification and profiling of skills and qualifications of asylum seekers, refugees and other migrants.
  • A revision of the Europass Framework, offering people better and easier-to-use tools to present their skills and get useful real-time information on skills needs and trends which can help with career and learning choices.
  • Making Vocational Education and Training (VET) a first choice by enhancing opportunities for VET learners to undertake a work based learning experience and promoting greater visibility of good labour market outcomes of VET.
  • A review of the Recommendation on Key Competences to help more people acquire the core set of skills necessary to work and live in the 21st century with a special focus on promoting entrepreneurial and innovation-oriented mind-sets and skills.
  • An initiative on graduate tracking to improve information on how graduates progress in the labour market.
  • A proposal to further analyse and exchange best practices on effective ways to address brain drain.

Ten actions to equip People in Europe with better Skills – Frequently asked questions

Skills in Italy

Digital Skills in Italy

 

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Strategies to Ensure Introverted Students Feel Valued at School

introvert

When Susan Cain wrote Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking in 2012, it was a big success. The book made the cover of Time magazine, spent weeks on the New York Times best-sellers list and was the subject of one of the most-watched TED Talks, with more than 13 million views. From that grew The Quiet Revolution, a company Cain co-founded that continues to produce and share content about, and for, introverts. The site offers an online training course for parents and stories submitted by readers about being introverted. In her latest book, Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts, she’s taking her message about introverts to teenagers. Though the book is written for young adults, it’s also a tool for teachers and parents.

“Introverts often are really amazing, talented, gifted, loving children, and they feel like there’s something wrong with them. Our mission is to make it so that the next generation of kids does not grow up feeling that way.”

So what does it mean to be an introverted child?

It’s really not different for a child than for an adult. It’s a person who feels at their best and at their most alive when they’re in quieter, more mellow environments. And it stems from a neurobiological difference between introverts and extroverts. Literally, different nervous systems. Introverts have nervous systems that simply react more to everything that’s going on around them, and that means they feel more in their sweet spot when there’s less stuff happening. And extroverts have nervous systems that react less, which means that they don’t get to their sweet spot until there’s more stuff happening. And so this is why you see these different behavioral preferences. An introverted kid would rather draw quietly or would rather play their favorite sport with one or two other kids. A more extroverted child would rather be part of a big gang and a big noisy birthday party, and not only not be fazed by it but seem to really relish all that stimulation.

And it’s different from being shy?

It is different. Shyness is much more about the fear of being judged. It’s a kind of self-consciousness and not wanting people to look at you and feeling easily embarrassed or easily shamed. These are all the feelings that a shy child would have. And in practice, many introverted children are also shy, but many are not, and you can also have children that are quite extroverted but who are shy, and as soon as they overcome their shyness, you see them being in the middle of the big gang. So it’s really important when you’re working with children to understand what is actually happening inside them so that you make sure that you’re responding to the right thing. Continue reading “Strategies to Ensure Introverted Students Feel Valued at School”