Pre-Assessment for Differentiation

Pre-assessment can be seen in two levels. On the one hand, it allows educators to determine student learning styles and on the other, it allows you to see what their knowledge is on a subject/unit before teaching it. Teachers can and should use pre-assessments on a regular basis to determine students knowledge and use this information to better prepare for and differentiate lessons.

Pre-assessment for learning styles:

Kinesthetic: These students learn best using their hands and actively moving during learning activities. In lower grades ELL I would use clay for them to form letters, shapes or words. Using their fingers to trace letters or use their bodies to indicate different body parts.

Auditory: Auditory students use sound to learn. They need to listen, hear and speak to learn at their best. Reading them the test questions or a story will help them to perform better. Recording their own voice is a great ELL teaching method, app’s like Voicethread have proven to be very helpful during my ELL-speaking classes.

Visual: These students need to see the material they are learning. They use pictures to remember and communicate. Writing material on the board for them to read(see) and forming word associations with pictures will help them learn at their best. In my ELL class, I use powerpoint presentations and whiteboards often to make learning more concrete for these students.

Pre-assessment for content

Preassessment Icon

During pre-assessment for content, educators are trying to establish student depth of knowledge on the unit material before teaching it. This allows teachers to differentiate the lesson plan to challenge each student at their skill level. Pre-assessments can take a variety of forms e.g. a quick quiz (see kahoot link – Kahoot game pin: 6497315), a game like 4 corners, brainstorming and yes/no cards. More ideas here.



  1. (n.d.). Retrieved May 23, 2017, from
  2. Pre-assessment Ideas – Differentiation & LR Information for SAS Teachers. (n.d.). Retrieved May 23, 2017, from
  3. A. (n.d.). Differentiation: It Starts with Pre-Assessment. Retrieved May 23, 2017, from





High-stakes testing

High-stakes testing can be found across the world in most schools and classrooms. It is one of the most traditional ways of student assessments and information gathering tools for educators and schools. High-stakes testing intends to show us the effectiveness of schools, keep them accountable for high educational standards and use them to determine punishments, accolades, advancements, and compensations. The reason for this was and still is to make students, schools, and teachers take the test more seriously.

“A highstakes test is any test used to make important decisions about students, educators, schools, or districts, most commonly for the purpose of accountability.” 1

This adds high pressure for all those involved in high-stakes testing and has become a hot topic worldwide concerning young people and education. I was educated in South Africa in a model C school ( a public school with split funding from parents, government, and donors). I moved to South Korea to teach English after graduating, and it has been my home for the past 5 years now. I feel this gives me a unique perspective when comparing both educational systems and those in the USA.

I have read, heard and seen many things related to high-stakes testing both at home and here in the ROK. Understanding high-stakes testing in South Korea has to do with their history (2)and how education was something reserved only for high social classes until very recently. Looking at the similarities and differences between the ROK, the USA and South Africa (RSA) regarding high-stakes testing can be revealing and surprising.

How does high-stakes testing affect students, educators, and schools?

  1. High-stakes testing: All three these countries have their own form of high-stakes testing. Where the USA allows for marks from all 4 years to be compiled into a final high school passing grade. South Africa and South Korea both present their students with a final exam that will determine whether or not you will be able to enter university. So the high-stakes pressure and affects are pretty drastic for students futures.
  2. Test prep- teaching to the test: In South Korea, students are subjected to cram schools from an early age and academics take precedence over balanced development. Students spend long hours in cram schools to supplement their education. Unlike South African and US student’s they have very little free time to spend on interest or talents. In the RSA and US, most test prep is left to teachers at school and students themselves to prepare, placing a lot of responsibility on these individuals. Across the board teachers also feel the pressure to show good results that leads them to teach to the test rather than focusing on a broader range of standards and skills students might need.
  3. Money: In South Korea parents, schools and educational stakeholders invest large amounts of money into students, cram schools and any other “thing” that will ensure more success on “high-stakes” tests. Many parents often work more than one job to support their child’s cram-school tuition alone. The same could possibly be said for other countries too, but usually, supplemental education is an option rather than a given like in the ROK, for students who are struggling to keep up at grade level. In both RSA and the USA teacher would often offer their time for free to help students get caught up, or students can sign up for tutoring buddies (depending on the school).
  4. Mental-physical health: High school is pretty stressful for all students across the world and the argument can be made that they are all pushed to the extreme. In South Korean however, I really do think students mental and physical health are pushed to the limit especially 3rd-year high school students who take a final exam that determines their university eligibility. The pressure is so high for this singular test that even younger students (Elementary and middle school) feel it long before they reach high schools. Due to this South Korea also has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. 3
  5. Scandals: Cheating is a problem in many testing settings, but desperate times calls for desperate people to cheat even more. Not too long ago the entire SAT was canceled in South Korea after tests were leaked (4). South Africa too has been struggling over the years to eliminate end of year exam cheating. Although the government is making examples of schools, educators, and students who do get caught it does little to deter future cheating. With a failing education system and more students wanting to go to a limited number of tertiary education providers this will remain a problem (5).

What you should keep in mind:

Parents and school evaluators should always keep in mind that these test to do not form a comprehensive picture of the learner or schools’ academic powers and that several other factors might influence the initial results e.g.,. An ELL student or trauma etc. Instead, we should also look at signs of long-term improvements of academic performances. How does the school/student perform in various subjects? How do other students (similar to your own) do?

High-stakes testing is a small glimps into the academic world, an easy way to assess a large group of students but does not provide any information about where or why students are struggeling and how it can be adressed. It is not the end-all, be-all, and can cause serious problems on a number of levels for any participants. Considering some new alternatives to this type of testing might just reveal better test scores and less negative long-term effects.

Alternatives to high-stakes testing:


*Multiple measures including:

Performance-based assessments, portfolios, game-based learning that assess their skills and knowledge in an authentic way.

*Stealth assessments.




  1. Concepts, L. (2014, August 18). High-Stakes Test Definition. Retrieved May 14, 2017, from
  2. C. (2017, February 15). Supplemental Teaching and the Korean Student. Retrieved May 14, 2017, from
  3. Jeunes, L. V. (n.d.). Student Suicides in South Korea. Retrieved May 14, 2017, from
  4. @kaylawebley, K. W. (2013, May 10). For the First Time, SAT Test Gets Canceled in an Entire Country. Retrieved May 14, 2017, from
  5. Cheating scandal hits matric final exams again. (2015, November 17). Retrieved May 14, 2017, from
  6. G. (2013, February 05). The secret to comparing schools based on test scores. Retrieved May 14, 2017, from https:// www.
  7. Kamenetz, A. (2015, January 22). The Past, Present And Future Of High-Stakes Testing. Retrieved May 14, 2017, from

International Postcards- Innovative strategies

During this semester I realized that I would be teaching a unit on Travel to my advanced ELL elementary school students. The book we are using is geared towards speaking, and due to time constraints, it can get difficult to really get learners engaged, excited and motivated from topic to topic. Some of the themes we have done before, and so I wanted to come up with a new way to teach them about the world but also to make it as real and interactive as possible for them.

So after some web and social media searching, I saw a class on postcards and with some input from a co-teacher came up with the idea of international postcards (video and “old school info in the link).



  • Using videos students are able to experience English L2 from a variety of speakers across the globe not just their English teachers who they are used to.
  • It makes the world a little more real and tangible without having to travel (most are from a lower SES)
  • Real life applications and personal.
  • They can use similar technology to reply to postcards and have to think critically to adapt information to the purposes of communicating.
  • Videos I have seen of “making” classes, and PBL all show high engagement from students with age-appropriate activities, that are scaffolded carefully.

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Above: One of the cards I have received so far via a photo from Australia.


  • I had to plan far ahead to get postcards in on time for the lesson. I did not and have thus pushed back my teaching a little bit (I am lucky to have this freedom).
  • Snail mail takes long regardless of advanced notice. We managed to curb this problem a bit by asking participants to send me front and back photos of the postcards that I can print out in case they don’t get here fast enough.
  • People volunteer but don’t follow through- After sending a reminder to friends about the deadline, several replied saying they forgot or have other pressing deadlines of their own 😦 – This means being patient and also part of the reason why I decided to push back the date of this lesson a bit.
  • Students might struggle a lot with accents and handwriting (I did remind participants to write clearly and also speak slowly and clearly).
  • Making the postcards in might not be as fun for the students and could lead to letting volunteers who put an effort in down with responses.


All things considered, I am still excited about teaching this lesson and do think students will enjoy interacting with other English native speakers through this platform. Most students are from a lower SES and so this class will not only include them in the wider world but show them how English is essential to communicate with people around the world.



  1. Mobile Learning Technologies for 21st Century Classrooms. (n.d.). Retrieved May 05, 2017, from
  2. Staff, T. (2016, April 12). 25 Teaching Tools To Organize, Innovate, & Manage Your Classroom. Retrieved May 05, 2017, from
  3. Waters, P. (2014, July 09). Project-Based Learning Through a Maker’s Lens. Retrieved May 07, 2017, from

Multicultural lessons – Why it matters:


Multicultural lessons about the community or the world are not always easy to access in all subject areas but as an ELL teacher, it can be quite easy to gear lessons to enrich students about the world we live in. If planning is done in a careful and thoughtful manner students will not only learn about many other cultures outside of their own but also get excited about the content they are learning. Learning English can be a huge struggle for students in South Korea for various reasons and affects their motivation in many ways. As an ELL teacher, I can show them how important knowing a second language can be to them and all the opportunities they will gain as they progress in their abilities.

South Korea is a very homogenous country and students (from lower SES) often don’t have the opportunity to travel to other countries or to interact with a variety of “foreigners” in their country on a regular basis. Most of their exposure would then be in the classroom and that’s how EFL/ELL teachers can make an important impact on students lives. Teaching them about music, cultural differences, foods, and many other topics can easily be incorporated into lessons. Teaching them to be compassionate, kind and understanding to others are invaluable life lessons that will help them in all their future indevours. Teaching students a second language and tying in multicultural perspectives also means they are equipped to deal with slang language or other unusual expressions and to be aware of cultural faux pas they might stumble upon.

How can we see if students are becoming culturally aware? This is a difficult question to answer for a number of reasons. Teaching mostly young(er) students for short periods of time, it is hard to measure or see if they are developing cultural awareness. The biggest measure would be their attitude towards the study material and motivation to learn “English” not only as a school subject but as a life skill. If students are willing to ask their teachers’ questions about interesting facts they come across or try to use different greetings it would surely help to measure their competence. But also seeing more empathy and compassion towards classmates would mean they are thinking of the world in bigger terms and that would be a small but great start.



  1. Building Emotional Literacy. (n.d.). Retrieved May 03, 2017, from
  2. Encouraging Students to Take Action. (n.d.). Retrieved May 03, 2017, from

Differentiating instruction

Student differentiation is one of the most essential aspects of teaching, being able to reach all learners at their level and working from there. The key to effective differentiation lays in teacher-student relationships. Knowing your students, understanding their differences and giving them choices that appeal to them individually will make differentiation meaningful.

Most sources agree that there are at least three areas or levels of differentiation; content, process, and product. Some sources also add the learning environment as a fourth area where differentiation can take place.


This address the level of readiness students have to any given subject matter.

How would you know what level they are at? Base assessments and personal information quizzes at the start of the school year/unit/semester. Looking at previous records and asking students lead-in questions about any given topic.

  1. Knowledge 0-39%: Sometimes they might have no prior knowledge of the content, and we would have to ensure teaching work from the ground up. Using Bloom’s taxonomy and focusing on remembering and understanding.
  2. Knowledge 40-69%: Others might have a basic level of knowledge of the work but are by no means masters. These students need practice and move up in Bloom’s pyramid applying and analyzing knowledge.
  3. Knowledge 70- 100%: These students might have mastery of the content but still need to take part in and learn more during the lesson. They would start to evaluate and create, the content using critical thinking skills during the lesson.


The process takes into account the different learning styles of all your students and helps you to plan how you will deliver the content in a way that best suits their learning style.

Student learning styles can range from visual, auditory, written format to more hands on styles like kinesthetic and movement based. Differentiation during this part can include textbooks, audiobooks, interactive assignments and discussion corners.

It also includes how students are grouped during the class and whether they need 1-on-1 interaction with the teacher or whole class instruction would be sufficient.


How will students show you what they have learned at the end of the lesson/unit? What will their assessment look like?

This part of differentiation is where students create output. They choose an option given by the teacher that suits their learning style or create their own unique option for assessments. This can be formal tests, oral reports, building a model, making a video presentation the options are endless. The important part is for the teacher to set clear, understandable guidelines for students to follow during this part.

Learning Environment

The learning environment can be divided into two parts; Psychological and physical. This refers to classroom management techniques and setup. Having a flexible classroom set up that can optimize groupings and individual work according to all the students learning styles.


Not one student is the same when it comes to learning and so no single instruction of content can be similar.  As mentioned earlier in the blog student levels of readiness will differ and we need to ensure we have a lesson prepared that meet all their needs as well as the needs of any student with special needs.

At the start of the school year giving all students a baseline assessment will help determine what your students’ general readiness is. You will see that Jimmy has mastered certain work in math and is below average in reading. Sarah might have high readiness across the board and Sally might be failing or just average. Along with this you can give students an interests questionnaire or reach out to parents if possible to learn more about them and their learning styles. Jimmy might be a visual kinesthetic learner. Sarah might need audio and Sally is a little shy and struggles to concentrate, but enjoys listening to stories and drawing. Once you have completed this you can start differentiating their lessons and how you would present it.

One way to do this is preparing a mini lesson that covers the essentials of the lesson’s objectives. If there is a student with disabilities this needs to be worked into the lesson plan too. eg. seated close to the teacher, using a loud but friendly voice. Explaining the work visually, orally and any other available method that suits the content. After the mini lesson students can break into groups and work on the lesson at their levels. Some students can be paired with the teacher to work in a small group in this case Sally. While others can work on basic worksheets/computer programs that will challenge them at their level, Jimmy and Sarah. During this keeping in mind, the students learning style will be helpful in presenting and doing the work. Some might need to listen to an audio recording, or watch a video or work through a textbook and you would need to prepare this.

After the mini lesson students can break into groups, pairs or individually and work on the lesson at their levels. Some students can be paired with the teacher to work in a small group in this case Sally. While others can work on basic worksheets/computer programs/text books etc. that will challenge them at their level, Jimmy and Sarah. During this keeping in mind, the students learning style will be helpful in presenting and doing the work. Some might need to listen to an audio recording, or watch a video or work through a textbook and you would need to prepare this.

When we assess these students at the end of a unit the same differentiation needs to be applied. Giving them 3-4 options that you have created that will show their mastery and understanding of the work and letting them choose one they like most. Or they can choose their own option and allow you to”give it a thumbs up or modification” by a deadline. Some options might be to build different fractions using clay/legos, drawing or illustrating fractions on a poster or presenting an oral presentation to the class/teacher. Students with special needs also need modifications on the differential, allowing for more time or not letting spelling count or making the classroom accessible and keeping a positive environment.


M5U3A2- Differentiation


  1. Differentiating in Math Using Computer Games. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2017, from
  2. McCarthy, J. (2014, July 23). 3 Ways to Plan for Diverse Learners: What Teachers Do. Retrieved April 24, 2017, from
  3. Rick’s Reading Workshop: Overview. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2017, from
  4. What is Differentiated Instruction? Examples of How to Differentiate Instruction in the Classroom. (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2017, from

Articulating Outcomes: Thinking Like an Assessor

As teachers, we need to not only unpack standards, set objectives and then make well thought out, fun lesson plans. We also need to ensure that students are gaining the knowledge we intend them to gain when we started planning. This should take place by high stakes (evaluation at the end) and low-stakes assessments (not graded). I will be using my Gr. 1-2 EFL cluster group objectives from activity 1 in this module for this assignment.


English language learners communicate information, ideas, and concepts necessary in the content area of Mathematics.

Formative assessment

So for this standard and grade level, I choose to focus on shapes first and then it builds up to shapes and colors, numbers, and then eventually shapes and numbers. There are a number of formative assessments I like to use depending on the unit content and progress. During the introduction phase of an objective, I like to use hand signals to teach shapes, since it is easy to from. I will teach each shape and then show students how to form the shape with their hands. Then ask them to show me the shape when I say the name and vice verse.

For the start of the next lesson before objective two, I selected the slap game (or swatting game) to assess my students’ progress of the first objective- Identifying four shapes and their written names.  It’s played in pairs with a set of cards and slightly competitive. Students are required to use listening, reading, and decoding skills as well as hand-eye coordination. They spread the cards on the table and listen to the teacher prompts and then slap the correct card. At the end, there is usually a clear visual for me to see if some students need extra help (losing 0-8) or if the game was evenly matched (4-4 /3-5).

For the start of the next lesson before objective two, I selected the slap game (or swatting game) to assess my students’ progress of the first objective- Identifying four shapes and their written names.  It’s played in pairs with a set of cards and slightly competitive. Students are required to use listening, reading, and decoding skills as well as hand-eye coordination. They spread the cards on the table and listen to the teacher prompts and then slap the correct card. At the end, there is usually a clear visual for me to see if some students need extra help (losing 0-8) or if the game was evenly matched (4-4 /3-5).

For the first, two assessments, my goal is to make sure students can identify shapes correctly using listening, reading and speaking skills. For the second objective, I would like to assess how well they form sentences and interchange the target vocabulary. Using a simple mingling or survey activity where students have cards with a shape and ask or answer questions before trading it. I can easily take part, listen, walk around and ensure I trade with every student at least once.

Summative assessment

At the end of the unit, I will give students a set amount of shapes that they can use to create any picture they like. At the bottom of the assessment sheet, there will be a table with all 4 shapes on the vertical axis and numbers along the horizontal axis. Students will have to tick a box to keep track of how many shapes they have been using and then finally write the number in the final box once they are done. They will then present their picture in a circle discussion pointing out the different shapes and using the target language they have learned. E.g. “This is a triangle. There are 5 triangles.”

My rubric would focus on:

  • Creativity
  • Pronunciation
  • Accuracy
  • Writing
  • Attitude towards work and friends (listening)



Hilliard, PhD, P. (2015, December 7). Performance-Based Assessment: Reviewing the Basics. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from

Lambert, K. (2012, April). 60 Formative Assessment Strategies. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from

Stanford SRN. (2008). What is Performance-Based Assessment? Retrieved April 12, 2017, from

Reflecting on Standards and Backward mapping.

Standards and backward mapping are essential to help teachers focus on the end goals students have to reach. This makes planning more direct and easier to measure over an extended time frame. Being able to breakdown standards allow us to identify the skills and big ideas the students need. While backward planning helps us to form the smaller steps for our learners to be able to reach it. Making it possible to plan lessons that are valuable and measurable to the greater benefit of each student.

Teaching in South Korea has never felt like “a real” teaching job. I think this is in part because we can work here without a teaching license and in part due to their ELL structure. When you are handed a book to teach, and the only requirement is to finish it on time, it does take off some of the pressure to plan an entire curriculum based on your student’s’ current levels. It also means that most of us never realize there are standards set for students to reach. Until this module, I always feared what would happen if I started a teaching position where there was no book to follow day by day. How would I possibly go about planning work for my students to ensure they are performing at grade level and future success? This felt like a massive responsibility that I had no idea how to prepare for adequately.

Finding out about WIDA and that there is an entire organization that sets standards for EFL is incredible. It has already been helpful to see that the work I am doing with my students is on the right track. I think this will help me focus more on the outcomes rather on what activities I have to teach. Looking at the standards, they are meant to reach and to ensure my lessons are derived from this using backward mapping. Learning to take standards and planning backward will take a certain amount of careful planning and time at first. For me, it will also require making a mindset shift that even though I don’t test me students that I can still assess them to ensure they are reaching the proficiencies and planning my activities from there.

Learning about standards and backward mapping is really helpful. This makes me excited about the work we will be covering during the rest of the module. I can see the value it has for myself as a teacher as well as my students. I think if I can practice and master these skills as a teacher, I would be able to teach my students knowing that I am preparing them well. It will give me confidence and a solid guideline to work within all teaching situations.  

Standards and backward mapping

When thinking about standards, lesson plans, and backward mapping the example of marathon running comes to my mind. You don’t just wake up one morning and decide to run the marathon, it is a recipe for disaster and disappointment. Running and completing a marathon is your end goal and to be able to reach that goal you need to plan for it. Asking questions that define your goal clearly and make it attainable, and then making steps/markers to follow and reach that goal.

The same is true about planning in teaching. Our standards can be seen as the end goals that we need to break down and define into smaller blocks to help our students achieve them. Keeping the end goal or standard in mind will help us plan more purposefully from unit to unit.

  1. Subject: EFL (English)
  2. Grade: 1-6 elementary school level (My focus is Gr.1-2)
  3. WIDA: English language learners communicate ideas, concepts, and information necessary for success in the content area of math.

Why this standard?

The reason I choose this standard is that it is one of the most essential building blocks for EFL students success later on in their educational careers. During module one I looked at statistics that showed EFL students underperforming in math in the USA. Mathematics is already a hard skill to build now add a language barrier to it, and you’re bound to see a misrepresentation of the students’ abilities.

Unit outcomes:

  1. Students will be able to identify differently shapes correctly.
  2. Students will be able to ask and answer simple present tense questions e.g. “What is this?” “It’s a ____.”
  3. Students will be able to ask and answer yes, and no questions using simple present tense e.g. “Is this a circle?” “Yes, it is.” / “No, it isn’t. It’s a _____”

How will we assess this?

Assessments can be done individually or in group or class format. For vocabulary checks, I like to do a whole class and then group assessment of knowledge.

  • Asking students to identify the shape I’m holding up.
  • Asking students to listen and then draw the shape they hear me say.
  • Having a small quiz at the end of the introductory class or start of the new lesson.

When the grammar starts requiring students to make sentences I like the use of individual and whole-class assessments.

  • First asking them to provide the question e.g. “What is this?” or “Is this a ___.” as a group together and me answering it.
  • Then asking them questions and allowing them to answer me to see how accurate the team is.
  • Using worksheets where students circle correct answers after listening to voice prompts.

How will we transfer this into learning experiences or activities?

  • Quizzes can take any number of forms for Gr.1-2 students. In this case letting them play a short memory game or bingo game would be ideal. If I want to check speaking abilities, I will play a whole class game where students respond to me, and I can see the overall progress. They can however also work in groups or pairs using small playing cards for the memory game or pulling shapes out of a hat for the bingo game.
  • Class survey- Giving each individual student a shape and a worksheet and asking them to circle (collect) all the shapes while using the target language.
  • Students divide into groups. One group will build forms using their bodies the next team will then identify it by making the word using letters and then saying the target language.
  • Carnival type games: Placing shapes on buckets and then asking students to volunteer one-by-one asking them a question about any form. If they answer correctly, they can pull a point card from the bucket.
  • Sitting in a big circle where we ask and respond to questions in sequence against time.



Adrio, N. (2016, April 11). Unpacking a Standard. Retrieved April 08, 2017, from

DIGITAL CHALKBOARD. (n.d.). Retrieved April 08, 2017, from

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Search the ELP Standards. (n.d.). Retrieved April 08, 2017, from


Applying Classroom Rules and Procedures

When we apply classroom rules and procedures to students there should usually be both positive and negative consequences. It is important to establish these consequences at the start of the school year or semester with the student input. They should be addressed frequently and routinely to help direct learner behavior. Consequences both positive and negative are most effective when they are enforced quickly. However, they must be used in appropriate ways to be effective. (Behavior and reinforcement can always reverse from +/-)

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(a) When and how will positive reinforcement to students who are following the rules be given?

As mentioned above it is best to give students feedback on their adherence to classroom rules and procedures immediately. This can be done in a number of ways.

  1. Verbal and non-verbal feedback: One of my classroom rules for my elementary school students is to “Be nice.” We practiced the rule by making small hearts with our forefingers and thumbs. So whenever I see a student doing something nice I send them a heart and say: “good job for being nice.” Another classroom rule is to raise your hand. When we do question and answer sessions, I only call on students with raised hands and say: “Thank you, for raising your hand.”
  2. Tangible recognition: When students are working hard and quietly I will usually go to their table look over their work and say: “Good job” accompanied by a high five. If they participate well in class, raise their hands to answer and then answer correctly, they are given a token to hold onto. This adds points to the group as a whole, at the end of the class these tokens are collected and added up for a reward like stamps that at the end of the semester counts as money.
  3. Home recognition: Due to the language barrier this is currently not really applicable to me. I do however tell the Korean teacher from time to time how students are behaving when she makes home phone calls or if I know the student’s parent and see them somewhere I make a note of saying how good he/she is in my class. I have memorized a few phrases to say like “Min Chan works really hard.” or ” Kwon So Dam is a good student.”

(b) When and how to respond when students are breaking the rules or not following procedures?

Similar to the positive reinforcements of rules and procedures, we have to punish learners when they are not following them. Similar strategies can be used to respond to pupils when they are breaking the rules accordingly.

  1. Verbal and non-verbal feedback: When students are asked a question and don’t raise their hands I will usually ignore them and call on someone who has their hand raised and praise that student for the correct response. Or when students are talking when they should be quiet I will raise my eyebrows or call on them by name to refocus their attention.
  2. Tangible recognition: If they continue to break the rules by talking I usually remove tokens they might have earned during the lesson or take away stamps. I will then give them opportunities to earn these back if their behavior improves.
  3. Use of office and home: It is very hard for me to contact parents as mentioned before. However, if a student is really disruptive or I need them to tell me why they’re behaving the way they are, I take them to our office where there is always someone available to translate the situation. If needed the Korean speaker there can follow up by making a phone call home.

These strategies are usually good to sort out most problems I might have during lessons. But I have also found that being pro-active during lessons is even more efficient.

  1. Whole space: During group work or individual work, I roam through the class. I also use a presenter so that I can move around the classroom while teaching them new work. I try to make sure that during a lesson I call on every student (keeping them on their toes) by using a pattern that varies each session.
  2. Seating charts: During the first few lessons I observe student behavior as closely as possible and then arrange a seating chart. Since I know most students from previous years, this makes it a lot easier, and I can keep troublemakers away from each other or close to my table to stop most misbehavior.
  3. Graduate responses: Different steps depending on the situation, but as an example, I will use a noisy class. When my class gets a little too loud, I will make a general statement to reduce the noise like “Quiet please!” If the noise continues I will make them stop what they are doing and refocus on me first; using a phrase, we practiced. Teacher: “Listen” students: Carefully!” This grabs most of their attention and makes it easy to see who is not paying attention. I will first wait and look at them directly, if that does not work I will start walking towards them. If they still don’t stop talking I place my hands on their table and ask them to be quiet, please. Once I have everybody’s attention I give a class warning. The next person that then makes noise is asked to stand up behind their chair. If they speak, again they stand by the door, and if that still doesn’t stop them, they go to the “scary” Korean teacher. If they refuse to go, I usually send a helpful student to call the Korean teacher to my classroom for assistance. Students are aware that they can move back these steps by correcting their behavior and participating in a meaningful way.
  4. Class contingency: On other occasions, I take away class points when some individuals don’t behave correctly. This affects the whole class, and they quickly correct their peer’s behavior. This is done by taking away tokens or keeping them after class time has ended. From time to time I have a student who is always tardy. This is usually because they forget, play a game or just plain drag their feet to my class. Once I establish the reason behind continued tardiness and have given a warning, I ask them to apologize to the whole class for wasting their learning time, when they do so again. In Korea, this is a very powerful due to their culture of “losing face.”
  5. Overcorrection: I sue this strategy when students damage things in my class, write on tables, kick the wall or don’t clean up their trash. In cases like these I ask them to stay after class and scold them in English, then I call in the Korean teacher, who scolds them in Korean. We hand them cleaning supplies and ask them to wash all the tables, or the whole wall or sweep the entire classroom floor.

I found that different strategies work for different situations and different students. At the end of the day, I don’t want them to be demoralized or feel personally attacked by punishment. I can still remember teachers who punished me severely when I was a student and how it felt. So after each incident, I take the time to explain to students why their behavior upsets me and why I have to punish them. I try to make sure and notice their improved behavior often afterward and encourage them when they are doing well. Using positive verbal and non-verbal feedback.


Marzano, R. (2010). The Art and Science of Teaching. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Creating High Performance Learning Environments

My personal interpretation of this week’s U4A2 focuses on three teaching-learning situation videos. All three of these videos showcased some exciting examples of teaching-learning situation. It was apparent from the camera viewpoint that all the students were actively engaged throughout each lesson.

Of the three videos, my personal favorite was the project-based learning activity.

Roller-coaster Physics

Throughout this lesson, students learned how to combine math, physics and real-life problem-solving to complete their tasks. Learning was student based, and information passed directly from classmate to classmate. That allowed the teacher to assess progress and understanding of all students in the class.

From an academic point of view, the teacher clearly states the use of the STEM curriculum for this teaching-learning situation. There are clear objectives in each lesson for groups to reach and guidelines on how to accomplish these goals. Students are required to solve problems by collaborating not only with their own team but also with teams from another class. As I stated before, students have to combine knowledge from a number of other subjects to be able to complete the task successfully. The work is scaffolded into manageable parts; students are taught to question each idea and how things work. They are reminded to use academic language at frequent intervals and on all their notes and discussions.

This lesson is very carefully crafted to challenge students at their level, so it keeps them engaged. Learners are allowed to choose their own roles in the group according to their learning style, ensuring everyone is contributing to the team’s success. Though there is no evidence in the video of bad behavior, the Glog lesson plan does outline consequences for bad behavior that I assume was communicated to students at the start of the project. There is a high level of trust between the teacher and her students evident from the bathroom sign out sheet. In the Glog, there is an extra attachment on bladder issues that I find funny and smart on the teacher’s behalf to control unnecessary bathroom breaks.

Lastly, the norms and procedures used in this class: several times during the video the teacher refers to the work as; “Your fun assignments.” This creates a really positive association for students to see what they’re doing as fun, not work. Some of the procedures are written in the Glog. For example, what students should do if they were absent or if their work is late. 

Math class

During this video, we can see and hear students chanting the multiplication table in Chinese. Chinese students are some of the top performing learners in math around the world.

They are required to memorize multiplication rhymes from a young age. This is a tradition of repetition to help pupils master challenging work. Here students will spend up to fifteen hours or more doing math work in class and at home. Math teachers in China write very detailed lesson plans and work in small local research groups to exchange knowledge and resources. 

In terms of behavior, it is hard to be sure if all the students in the video were participating. It is, however, noticeable to see the teacher calling on students crowded around the board. In China, the instruction is whole class based, and students are asked to show their work in front of others by writing on the board. One of my high school math teachers in South Africa did this, and I can honestly say my homework was always done in this class for fear of being asked and my grades were the highest they had ever been.


The norm for these math classes seems to be practice and repetition. Pupils are expected to work diligently by parents and educators alike. Teachers invest a lot of time and energy into creating classes that help students to learn how to develop an understanding of concepts and how to prove concepts with little emphasis on real world applications.

Whole brain teaching


This teaching-learning situation is the most unfamiliar to me. I had to read a bit more and watch other related media to grasp the idea behind this technique.

Whole brain teaching seems to focus on short instructions (one minute) enforced by a body movement. Learners will then repeat this instruction with accompanying actions. It teaches academic content using several senses and students actively uses memory to repeat information to peers. I saw a similar use of this teaching-learning situation a few years ago at a kindergarten that uses a book called Zoophonics. It is a great strategy for long-term memory storage and fast recall using cues. The speed reading part made me a bit doubtful about how much students are learning since they only read every other word’s first letter.

Because instructions are short and all interactions high energy, students are able to stay focused and on task. They are required to mimic words and actions back to the educator almost immediately each time, so paying attention is essential. Good behavior is praised, and students can earn points collectively. Students are also expected to teach each other, holding them responsible for taking part in the class. Recalling movements makes remembering words easier.  

The norm of the class is to follow directions quickly and respond to keywords in certain ways. Students have to take part, learn all the motions and buddy teach. This is a full commitment technique that teachers have to plan carefully to ensure uniformity over a long time frame for ultimate success.


I am an ELL teacher in South Korea for elementary school students. Being a specialty teacher means I get to teach students from every level at our school. Some students from my school and other schools in the area visit my class for a special morning program once a semester or year with their whole class. Other students sign up for afternoon classes and attend classes two to three times per week.

This situation makes it a bit difficult to form meaningful relationships with all my students. I try to have five to eight rules that are easy for students to remember. Using the whole brain teaching approach; I can teach all students these practices in a quick, fun way, and convey to learners what I expect of them. The whole brain teaching method also provides great attention getters. I will definitely use their system to call pupils attention in the future and to improve body postures for active learning.

Chanting and repetition are also great learning practices for ELL students. They have to become familiar with how words sound and form in their mouths. Having students repeat chants will help them to normalize the language as well as memorize the needed vocabulary. This is something I tend to overlook when planning my classes because I feel pressured by time and workload. If I can find appropriate chants to complement the material we study in the long run I will be sure to use them.

Project-based learning is very exciting and something I hope I can use more often. This units sample video and Glog gave a clear outline on how to attain high levels of achievement, excellent classroom behavior, real-life purpose and still, reach STEM curriculum outcomes. Being a specialist teacher with very limited time constraints to see most students I usually aim for shorter projects to engage students. These projects can be done in a day and are not as elaborate as the roller-coaster lesson. I want to include a more detailed plan for these projects and add more media for students to work with.

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  1. Biffle, C. (Director). (2017, February 1). Whole Brain Teaching: Intro to Lesson Plan Power Cards [Video file]. Retrieved March 6, 2017, from
  2. Biffle, C. (Director). (2010, February 12). How to Begin Whole Brain Teaching [Video file]. Retrieved March 6, 2017, from
  3. Chen, C. (Director). (2011, June 13). 3rd grade Chinese–math class [Video file]. Retrieved March 6, 2017, from
  4. Teaching Channel (Director). (n.d.). Roller Coaster Physics: STEM In Action [Video file]. Retrieved March 6, 2017, from
  5. Wei, K. (2014, March 25). Explainer: what makes Chinese maths lessons so good? Retrieved March 6, 2017, from