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Independent learning and metacognition in learning laboratories
Activity Guide
Adapted from
The Quality Improvement Agency for Lifelong Learning (QIA) 2008

This activity guide has been developed for use for CETIS in order to create a working routine for use in the language laboratory. The following themes are offered:

Theme 1: Independent study skills: What are independent learning skills? Working with RMs. Caro, Arte, Ezequiel
Theme 2: Learning Styles: Find out how best students learn. Marta, Rosy
Theme 3: How to act, what is expected of me in the learning lab? Dania, Antonio, Luzma
Theme 4. Developing work cards and activities for students. Ale Memo

Introduction to theme 1.
One definition of independent learning or ‘autonomy’ in learning is: “…the ability to take charge of one’s learning” H. Holec, 1981 
Independent learning is usually developed throughout a learner’s time at school or college to give learners more responsibility for working or learning. It helps learners to make informed choices and to take responsibility for deciding what they need to do in order to learn. To do this and to have the motivation to learn independently, learners need to:

1. feel confident about taking and acting upon decisions
2. appreciate the value of reflecting on learning
3. decide whether learning has been effective or whether they need to try 
another approach: 
a focus on learning and not teaching. 
Independent learning means that learners make decisions about their learning rather than relying on their teachers to do it for them.
At first, many learners find this challenging. When they are more familiar with it, they realize that it allows them to focus on their own individual needs and to take account of the way they prefer to learn. 

Does independent learning mean working on your own? 
Independent learning is not only about ‘isolated’ or ‘unaided’ learning, or operating without the help of teachers. It is as much about sharing ideas and problems and working together to resolve those problems. Talking things through and explaining ideas to each other can help learners to clarify issues and understand concepts more fully. The characteristics of independent learning can just as easily be demonstrated by a group working together as by an individual.
Theme 1: Independent study skills: What are independent learning skills?
• setting own goals and deadlines
• reflecting on their progress
• organizing themselves, their time, and their work (making a work plan)
• evaluating their use of time
• evaluating your work. 

ACTIVITY 1: Design an activity card (ficha) for a work plan that can serve also as a goal plan. This is to help students develop study habits and learning strategies. Working towards a plan that THEY have elaborated is more motivating for them than doing what the teacher said to do.

Tips for creating independent learning
• Tip Reflection
• Sharing ideas
• Questions
• Learner voice
• Catch confidence
• Create opportunities for independent learning
• Learners center stage
Encourage your learners to think about what learning strategies work for them and what progress they are making.

Theme 2: Learning Styles: Find out how best students learn
Make a work card about the route that students should follow when they are working independently. Instructions can be online.
ACTIVITY 2: Investigate learning style questionnaires and adopt one for each level of student.
• Provide formats for learners to record this.
• Create opportunities for group and paired work, and for mutual support.
• Encourage learners to share stories and strategies, and seek ideas from other people in the group so that the teacher is not the only source of support.
• Develop a learning atmosphere and exercises that encourage learners to ask questions.
• Use problem solving techniques rather than finding right and wrong answers to closed questions.
Extra activity: Take a learning style questionnaire and represent it on Prezi or Mural.ly, or Animoto (for students, as an example)
Learners tend to become more confident when they know that their views will be taken seriously, so provide opportunities for learners to express their needs and concerns.
• Help them to feel secure by establishing a clear code of conduct from the start of their learning.
Theme 3: How to act, what is expected of me in the learning lab?
ACTIVITY 4: Write a code of conduct that supports independent learning.
• Provide a framework for recognizing and recording progress and achievement.
• Include constructive comments from peers as well as teacher and learner feedback.
• Tackle the self-doubt expressed as “I’m no good at that”.

• Do not be afraid to let your students tackle questions on their own or as part of a group exercise.
• Encourage learners to demonstrate what they have
• Support learners to develop their study skills
This activity is an excellent use of a Google Doc. Study skills students will be using are synthesis, summarizing, collaborating, and revising.
How to develop strategies, good study habits, and positive self-concepts:
• Build study support into your courses.
• Identify which reading, writing, speaking or listening skills learners need in order to cope with learning their subjects.
• Encourage students to identify their goals from the start of their journey with you.
• Discuss with them the learning that will help them reach those goals.
• Find out whether they need support with developing their skill strategies in reading, writing, or speaking skills.
Theme 4. Developing work cards and activities for students.
Write generic activity cards that can be used for multiple activities on multiple levels to have them handy in the language laboratory.
ACTIVITY 5: Design reflection activity cards
Linking key skills, independent learning and the expert learner
A process that underpins the acquisition of all key skills is the cycle of Plan – Do – Reflect – Review.

These skills underpin both independent learning and the concept of the expert learner. They encourage learners of any age and stage of development to:
• think about their intentions and purposes
• plan a course of action
• implement the plan
• reflect on their progress towards the plan
• review the plan to suit changing circumstances or to overcome problems
• devise a new plan when the original one has been fulfilled. 
In particular, the wider key skill of improving own learning and performance encompasses a range of process skills, interpersonal skills and personal qualities that align closely with the skills and attributes of the expert learner.
• Process skills Set targets
• Plan learning Review progress
• Interpersonal skills Communicate own needs
• Accept constructive feedback
• Negotiate opportunities for learning and support
• Personal qualities Confidence
• Motivation Persistence

TOEFL Preparations: Why you need to know about prepositions

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Prepositions are everywhere. They accompany adjectives, adverbs, and nouns in sentences. They never stand alone.
They give us specific information which otherwise would turn our sentences into long strings of prepositional phrases.

Please watch this video about Prepositional Phrases, The first time, just enjoy it. The second time, write all the prepositional phrases that you find. Show your list to the teacher.

Motivating our students

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In order to motivate our students, we need to know what they think, what they believe, and the ideas they come to the classroom with. The best time to do this is at the beginning of the semester. We have been exploring different ways to do this; and the easiest way to do this is to apply a survey.

Since the beginning of our course we have been studying the formation of our students. We know that we need to understand the way they think in order to hep them learn. The saying “I teach, therefore, you learn.” does not work.
See the video, I teach, therefore, you learn.

In order to form an instrument which is adaptable to your students’ needs, you have read three different short instruments which asks students questions about what how they learn language. Please write three of your favorites on the word document 2013.instrument at Google Docs to share your favorites. From your favorites we can write an instrument for CETIS 120.

If someone has already written in your favorite, then just add your name to the name box. Do not write the sentences again.

One Last Word

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As I was catching up on my own blogging and my own mentors, I found out that this past weekend was the ISTE International Convention.
During the convention, two teachers who had been blogging together since 2008 met in person for the first time.

I have been following their blogs and consider them to be mentors. I would like to share their presentation with you. You will find their blogs as you work through the teacher challenges which is on this blog.

Here is a Powerpoint presentation I made of their meeting and blogpost.

You can visit them in their blogs through teacher challenge and through this post.

Have a great summer!

Sharing a blogpost from one of my mentors

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AS we were talking about the new trends in teaching today and the movement away from teaching towards learning, one of my mentors fro Australia posted on her blog something that I would like to share with you. Enjoy.
Edna’s post

Bringing it all together

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So, we have discussed active learning, literature circles, collaborative learning, and sharing.

And we have created a vehicle for sharing our instructions and collecting our students’ artifacts: our blogs. But we need to bring it all together. How can we have our students actively learning, collaborating and using online tools that call their attention?

Please access this document to add your ideas about how we can bring it all together. Remember that reflection is a very important part of this process. With reflection built into your lesson plans, you can help students build better study habits, critical thinking, and self-efficacy. When we turn around to see where we have been, where we are, and where we are going, many things fall into place.

Google Docs is a great way to bring it all together. It is an authentic learning opportunity at its best. Please find either a Powerpoint tutorial or a video tutorial about using Google Docs. Share what you learn in the Google Doc with a table in it.

Another non-threatening tool is Bubbl.us to work with your students is to make great mind maps online. You can save them as a picture and add them to your picture collection. If you google Bubbl.us, you can find tutorials in Spanish and English.

Things to do:
Before anything else, sign up for a Gmail account.
1. Discover Google Docs, Google Presentations and all it can do for you.
2. Discover Bubbl.us, and create a mind map. Post it on your blog in a new post. Use it to brainstorm some ideas you can use int eh language lab.
3. Continue working on the teacher challenges to set up your blog.

Writing Artifacts 2+2=1

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So, what is next? We have been working with artifacts that students can produce speaking. What about writing?

Normal teacher responses to writing:
Ugh, I can’t bear the thought of correcting all those essays.
It’s too much work.
Are you crazy? I have too many students!
They don’t need to write for the TOEFL exam, so I skip over the writing activities in the unit.

Get the picture?

Here is the plan:
1. Finish creating artifacts using Voicethread and Fotobabble.
2. Jump into writing by accessing this writing…online
3. Follow the steps in the Powerpoint. Explore the different writing tools.
4. Find two that you like and create a lesson plan with them.
5. Upload the lesson to your blog.

Remember, 2+2=1
Two sites combined, during two months equals one great project.

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