Today, I did a simple inductive lesson in my English Language Learner World History class that I thought readers might find useful – not necessarily for the particular lesson itself, but because it provides a pretty good example of how inductive learning can work.
We’re studying prehistoric times, and the chapter in our textbook briefly mentioned the woolly mammoths and showed an artist’s drawing of one.
We took a break from the book and I showed this video:
Then, I said that scientists are trying to bring a mammoth back to life. I asked if anyone had seen a Jurassic Park movie (many had). We talked about “genes” (as well as “jeans”), and how scientists could take some from a frozen mammoth like the one in the video and use them to create a new one.
I first read it aloud, saying “ummmm” where the blanks were located, and then students completed it. We went over it, and then I asked students to work on their own to use the cloze to figure out the rule about when to use “they” and when to use “them.”
All of them came up with something like “they comes before the verb and them comes after the verb” or “they comes at the beginning of a sentence and them later.”
It went well, and is a textbook example of how to merge content knowledge with language instruction, and to have students “create” their own knowledge.
In the inductive process, students seek patterns and use them to identify their broader meanings and significance. In the deductive process, meanings or rules are given, and students have to then apply them.
I’m a huge fan of using inductive learning, and plenty of research (which you’ll find in the resources on this list) document its effectiveness.
I’ve written many posts about it, and thought it would be useful to bring together a few of my best ones, along with resources developed by others, that explain the inductive process and how to apply it in mainstream and English Language Learner classrooms (feel free to make suggestions of ones I’ve missed):
The British Council has shared a short post that Paul Kaye wrote six years ago that does a great job explaining the difference between inductive and deductive, and he provides a number of practical examples from the language-learning classroom. Check out his article, Presenting New Language.
Here are two British Council posts where I wrote about it:
So what do you think the purpose of consciousness is?
I think the purpose of it is to draw all the relevant information together in a larger space. It’s almost as if we can’t spot it because we are doing it all the time. Why do we love crossword puzzles and why are people addicted to sudoku? That’s what a huge bit of the cortex is primed to do — to spot [patterns] — and once we spot them we can assimilate them into our pyramid of knowledge and build more layers of strategy, and knowing how to do that makes us incredibly successful at controlling the world.
And that’s why solving puzzles or finding a useful bit of information feels so good?
We get streams of pleasure when we find something that can really help us understand some deep pattern. Sudoku isn’t the most [fun activity], but it sure feels good when you put in that last number. It’s why scientists love doing research. The way I approach my job, it’s like trying to solve a really big fuzzy crossword puzzle and when you do put in that new clue and see the deeper pattern, that’s incredibly pleasurable.
If our brains are hungry for information, then why do we tend to see learning as a chore and fail to recognize it as a huge source of pleasure?
I don’t know. Obviously, more intelligent people get more pleasure from spotting these patterns, but I think almost every normal person does this. I think it’s a pretty pervasive thing but it’s almost as if we can’t notice it because it’s so pervasive.
The blog also has a useful chart. It’s worth checking-out but, in summary, it discusses findings that students will remember things far better if they bring their own meaning to in a way they choose:
What this research suggests is that, merely in terms of remembering, it would be more effective for students to come up with their own organisation for course material…..You’ll remember better (and understand much better) if you try and re-organise the material you’ve been given in your own way.
If you are a teacher, like me, then this research raises some distrurbing questions. At a University the main form of teaching we do is the lecture, which puts the student in a passive role and, essentially, asks them to “remember this” – an instruction we know to be ineffective. Instead, we should be thinking hard, always, about how to create teaching experiences in which students are more active, and about creating courses in which students are permitted and encouraged to come up with their own organisation of material, rather than just forced to regurgitate ours.
It’s nothing particularly new, but any research that backs up that kind of perspective certainly can’t hurt….
Four years ago, in another somewhat futile attempt to reduce the backlog of resources I want to share, I began this occasional “Ed Tech Digest” post where I share three or four links I think are particularly useful and related to…ed tech.
Pixorize is a new site that is designed to use images to help students learn content knowledge. I’m all for using images and, though their idea is intriguing, I’m not sure how effective it’s going to be. Here’s a video example:
Knowhere is a new site that uses Artificial Intelligence to create three different versions of the same article – “right, left and impartial.” I’m not sure how useful it will be, but it’s probably worth a look. You can read more about it at TechCrunch.
There are many lists of different instructional/teaching strategies online. However, I thought readers might find it useful if I compiled a sort of “list of list” – a post sharing the exceptional ones.
And there aren’t many of them (though feel free to let me know which ones I’ve missed).
I’m just putting links on this list to compilations that share multiple instructional strategies, including quite a few that are not the “typical” ones many teachers already know. In addition, the site must be well-designed and share enough information that the teacher can apply each strategy immediately.
I’m starting off with only three, though am happy to add to it. In addition, I’m including a few links to related “Best” lists.
I’ve previously posted about E-Learning For Kids. They’ve added many additions online activities for math, English, Science and other subjects since that time.
EduTeach has lots of excellent video stories with closed captions.
These next two have a zillion animated stories perfect for ELLs. And they’ve been awhile for a while. However, I’ve been somewhat reluctant to share or have my students use them because I know that similar sites have hosted the same stories after having stolen them. Most of those sites that I know about have shut down, and these two have stayed around for many years. I don’t know if that’s because they host the stories lawfully, or because they may be hosted in China, which sometimes does not enforce intellectual property rights very forcefully.So. I’m adding them now, though will remove them if I learn they are stealing the stories from elsewhere. Let me know if you have any information: News 060s and E-Yep English Stories
ESSA & English Language Learners is the headline of one of my Education Week Teacher columns. In it, Margo Gottlieb, Sarah Said, Catherine Beck, Heidi Pace, Heather Wolpert-Gawron, Tabitha Dell’Angelo, and Lindsey Moses share their thoughts about how The Every Student Succeeds Act will affect English Language Learners.
I’m not sure how long they’ve had it, but the Al Jazeera news site has a very impressive tool for providing audio support for text – perfect for English Language Learners. It’s called “Read To Me,” and can be found at the top left of many, if not all, of its news stories. What makes it even more impressive is that each word is highlighted when its spoken, which makes it even more valuable. Yes, I know there are some concerns about Al Jazeera’s objectivity. However, I’ve never seen any issues with the articles I’ve used and shared. Teaching students how to be a savvy news consumer, of course, is another skill we have to teach (see The Best Tools & Lessons For Teaching Information Literacy – Help Me Find More). I’m adding it to The Best News/Current Events Websites For English Language Learners.
The question of how to best support Long-Term English Language Learners is one that many schools are considering, including ours….I’ve previously collected a number of related resources at The Best Resources On Supporting Long-Term English Language Learners,and we’re exploring those resources. We’re discussing lots of options, including creating a special classes that LTELL’s could take along with their regular mainstream English class, which appears to be a common recommendation. What does your school do to support Long-Term ELLs? Do you have special support classes? If so, what is your curriculum?
Earlier this year I sang the praises of the iSL Collective (iSLCollective Appears To Be A Jackpot For ELL Student Hand-Outs & Interactive Videos). I’ve continued to use the site as a wonderful resource for student hand-outs. However, for some reason, I didn’t really “bother” with their interactive videos. Then, I read about them again at Michelle Henry’s site, and explored them further. Boy, what a goldmine! Yes, you can create your own, and I’ll get around to doing that. But, for now, there are an amazing number of engaging, short videos that teachers can project and, as I do, have student with mini-whiteboards respond to questions when the video stops. The videos are searchable by lots of criteria, and there are already four hundred alone at the Beginner Level! Registration is free, but you don’t even have to sign-in to be able to use the videos (you do in order to create ones). Between their hand-outs and their videos, I’ve decided to move the site to an elite level – in my eyes. So I’m adding them to The Best Three Sites On The Web For ESL/EFL/ELL/ELT Teachers (which now makes four).
Less complex versions of our nonfiction and literary Articles [that are]Lovingly handwritten by our authors, who preserve all of the important knowledge of the original article, as well as the key academic vocabulary, rich syntax, word count, and beauty of writing.
Thanks to Nik Peachey, I learned about an excellent free site called Apps 4 EFL. The site has a huge variety of ready-to-use interactives and games for English Language Learners. In addition, teachers can use the site’s tools to create their own. Even better, teachers can create free virtual classrooms where students can enroll. You can read more about it in Nik’s post. I’m adding this info to:
Internet Polyglot is a simple site that is very good for Beginning English Language Learners. It teaches vocabulary in many different languages. It’s particularly helpful for the many Farsi-speaking refugees coming into my classes – Duolingo doesn’t have a Farsi course, and the Voice of American shut-down the excellent Farsi/English online site they used to have… I’m adding it to The Best Beginner, Intermediate & Advanced English Language Learner Sites.
Gianfranco Conti, one of the sharpest minds around in the language teaching world (I’ve previously shared many of his posts) has just begun a Facebook group called Global Innovative Language Teachers that includes teachers of all languages, including ELL/ESL/ELT educators. He was kind enough to write this description:
Global Innovative Language Teachers is a support group whose mission is to bring together language teachers from all over the world in the hope to go beyond insular views of language teaching pedagogy created by national curricula, imposed methods and theories and individual school policies and micro-cultures.
Ana Cristina wrote a post about an intriguing site called Word Booster. Paste in the url address of any online article and it will immediately provide you with several free PDFs of the article that has been displayed in a reader-friendly way, a word list, and a vocabulary test. I’m generally skeptical of sites that automatically create learner materials. I’ve got to say, though, that my experiments with Word Booster have resulted in some decent sheets. I still wouldn’t generally use them in my lessons. However, I think I will try it out next year by having students pick any article of their choice online and create their own sheets to complete. It might be interesting to see how it goes. I’m adding this info to The Best Sites Where ELL’s Can Learn Vocabulary.
Thanks to Carol Salva, I learned about a NY Times column headlined What Is America to Me? In it, writer Margaret Renkl tells about her experience working in an ELL classroom in Nashville, and the challenges facing students – especially after the election of President Trump.
Wordsmyth seems like an exceptional online dictionary that lets you create several different types of vocabulary quizzes. Teachers can get accounts for free. The site has many other features, as well. I’m adding it to The Best Ways To Create Online Tests. However, Bob Parks (its creator) tells me that they “are developing new functionality for teachers, including a full vocabulary study system.” When that happens, I might also add it to The Best Sites Where ELL’s Can Learn Vocabulary.
I’m a big fan of StoryCorps and have written about them many times. They’ve recently begun producing a “weekly broadcast” described as “Stories from Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs.” These are short and simple videos with images and the transcript appearing as the words are spoken. You can see all of them at this YouTube playlist.