Professor of English and director of Honors and Faculty Development at Columbia College. In 2010, he was named U.S. Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation.
After a high profile career as CEO, Pierre Pirard decided to redirect his focus and became a teacher. Working in Brussels’ most disadvantaged neighbourhoods, he discovered that these children — usually portrayed as troublemakers — are able to rise above this negative image. He believes that these kids are the future of our society and that we should care for their education, no matter what their socio-cultural and economical background is.
Should cursive writing still be taught in our schools? The old debate is back with a vengeance as schools shift resources from the intricate, painstakingly rendered script to keyboard skills.
The Common Core State Standards, adopted by 42 states and the District of Columbia, call for handwriting instruction in kindergarten and first grade only, and teaching in keyboard skills after that. The standards don’t mention cursive. But 14 states require cursive instruction, and the skill inspires fierce loyalty, with some going so far as to argue that the founding fathers would disapprove of our abandonment of the script—students must learn cursive in order to decipher the intent of the original Constitution, for example—and others suggesting that our very identities are compromised when we can’t create identifiable signatures.
Show-and-tell, as we know, is an age-old activity in elementary school classrooms. Kids bring in a pet, or a parent, or a certificate they won in dance class, or a trophy from peewee baseball. But why stop with the younger grades? What about older students? Sharing a meaningful memento with classmates is valuable at any age—and can serve several purposes.
All this week, we’ve been celebrating the publication of Penny Ur’s new book 100 Teaching Tips, the latest in our Cambridge Handbook for Language Teachers series. Today, we’re sharing with you two of the book’s 100 hands-on tips across 19 different areas of classroom teaching, based on Penny’s comprehensive teaching experience in ELT over the past 40 years.
Talk a lot
Contrary to some opinions you might have heard, lots of teacher talk in English is actually a good thing. It’s an excellent source of English language comprehensible input.
Why not take a student-centred approach to presenting new vocabulary? Let students decide which vocabulary items they don’t know first, and give them time to work out the meaning from pictures, context, or examples. If they’ve tried to work out the meaning for themselves, they’re more likely to remember vocabulary than when they’re passively told it.
Educators are often asking themselves, ‘why should we engage with technology in the classroom?’ One of the key reasons is that technology provides valuable learning opportunities for educators which can then be applied to ensure technology is adopted in a cost effective, pedagogically sound way that is more likely to lead to learning.
To help illustrate this, let me tell you a story.
“…and this is our language lab!” the English teacher said, as she opened the door.
There are many reasons why peer observations with our teaching colleagues can be useful.
They often share your background and so understand your students, books, pressures, etc. They usually approach problems from the same practical perspective as you. They probably know you and so often understand the best way to approach you. And you can have developmental dialogues over time and so can explore ideas gradually.