Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

January 27, 2010

Should the current system of grading be outlawed and replaced with something more “21st Century?”


1-26-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST

What we said – in spades!


I think everybody achieved an A* in yesterday’s #edchat!

I picked out six words from the wordle above which seem to represent yesterday’s #edchat. They are:

learning, students, need, change, system, agree

  • A main theme was the need for learning to be at the centre.
  • Students are obviously key but are grading systems designed with them in mind?
  • I think need and change go together. There was a great desire for change but no real consensus on what that change might be or how it would look.
  • Systems for grading are inherent. There was unease about many of the systems in use but how these might be changed was hazy.

Generally we feel that there is a need for grading of some sort but we are mostly dissatisfied with the systems we have now. There is a great desire for change but it was difficult to pin down what a new system might look like.

To design a new system for the 21st century might be premature. So much is happening, especially in the realms of technology that this must feature in any new approach.

What was not in doubt was:

  •  We are grading the learning i.e. the ‘what’ not the ‘who’.
  • We need to look at including self assessment, and other elements such as portfolios, projects etc..
  • Grades need explanations, they need to be linked to ongoing learning
  • They need to be collaborative
  • We must integrate technology

 Here are some of the comments

jswiatek: Excited to start. I’m here with my business students. 13 seniors, 2 sophomores to give a student perspective. #edchat

 feedback from them would be great!

Deonna_CHS:  I agree that it needs to be changed, but I just dont know how they would change it

jasontbedell:  My school just tried a system without giving 0’s and replacing bad grades after mastery. Teachers complained, so it’s being dropped.

mattguthrie: I’m not sure what a 21C grading system would be. R we talking “grading” 21C skills? Either way, I think portfolios are the way 2 go

olafelch:  Which system of grading are we talking about? This is a worldwide discussion!

hadleyjf:  What are we wanting from sts? RT @msmithpds: @rliberni not who but what R we grading and why? what is the purpose of the grade?

passandr : IMHO the central part of grading needs to be the ability of students to adapt old knowledge to new situations, regardles of subject

bjnichols: You can receive a grade without learning anything. The importance should be placed on learning instead of grading.

msmithpds:  grading with rubrics for all Web 2.0 products

akamrt:  A new, relevant approach to “grading” would be narrative communications w/ parent & student together

cybraryman1:  earning the grade is when we learn everything. Everything that we have to do to earn that grade

Samm_CHS:   if its not broken don’t fix it

SigningElle:  Currently getting great grades in doc courses but not entirely sure what I’ve learned yet.

mattguthrie:  Elab pls @aly_chs: i believe the more digital things become, the easier it will be for more students to slip through the cracks.

raffelsol:  @swalker2 but when students do this often (grade themselves) they learn they can ‘pass’ if they lie. How do we make them accountable #edchat

tamaslorincz: whole idea of grading 1’s learning is outdated unfair, there r many learning outcomes at every stage as learners

aprilabtbalance : I’ve noticed that whenever my daughter’s had trouble with a certain system, it’s often been something the teacher doesn’t like #edchat

bjnichols: You end up learning to play the game to get through the program.

irasocol: Rather than “grade” – we want students to demonstrate knowledge or demonstrate skill. How should be up to them.

MissCheska: Are rubrics the only assessment tool in grading new media or collaboration? Love rubrics, but wonder if there are more

swalker2:  U dont gv stdnts tot control of grading themselves 4 the report – it shld giv students a way 2 get useful feedback on ongoing lrning #edchat

cybraryman1 : I definitely feel students should be a part of determining how they will be assessed. #edchat

kunami10: If we want to assess higher order thinking, then we must teach it. Too often teachers only assess basic knowledge.

irasocol: schools are always preparing kids for the world 40 years ago, assessing via standards from 80 years ago

To follow the complete discussion see here

For the stats on #edchat participation see here

As always some great links were shared!

Meeting kids where they are, not where we wish they were http://bit.ly/67CLAe

Pass fail or letter grades? Study about UVA Med School — http://bit.ly/8SgUbK

Article on collaborative grading here from a parent  http://bit.ly/4nPXvY

RT @k_shelton: @bjnichols you may want to check out this blog posting about grades by @shareski http://bit.ly/zmCNZ

Parents Fight for Easier Grading Systems: http://bit.ly/atbZnD

any followup studies on Stanford Law dropping grades (circa 2008) – http://bit.ly/9g8reh

WHAT we grade may also be grade level dependent – see blog post for tonite http://bit.ly/

A case study about about self grading: http://bit.ly/crBmf5

This teacher suggests using assessment for learning on outdoor activities, just as on indoors: http://bit.ly/9kKjac

Yes, I was thinking my blog post is really relevant here http://bit.ly/4R2pgC

this conversation is why we want to influence our policy makers in IA. #vanmeter needs ur help http://bit.ly/8ewLpS

Iowa Core’s website. Essential Skills/Concepts listed under content area by grade span. http://bit.ly/cSq4fW

reporting grades online Australia style http://bit.ly/cws7xZ

3 online resources 4 the modern high school teacher #teachertuesday #edchat http://bit.ly/bezRY8

1way i do it is w/a rubric http://bit.ly/iJvQY

Teachers can get very agitated about differing opinions regarding grades. http://bit.ly/701TGl

I’ve just been asked to host a new Edutopia forum on technology use at the high school level: http://bit.ly/9bWRb9

http://bit.ly/4GsM07  Watch @johnccarver speak 2day bout changing the educ. system

a blog post about my own paradigm shifts in #assessment – http://bit.ly/cbRbvM

Assessment change crucial at what Prof Heppell has described as “death of Education, dawn of Learning” http://bit.ly/6lzFyi

 Please read if you are a teacher, mentor, or parent, or school principal: http://bit.ly/cjcUfa

New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 400 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts!

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat.

What do you think about grading systems? Leave a comment!

January 25, 2010

Improving IELTS Scores – part 3

Speaking and Listening

In my last 2 posts on IELTS I looked at ways in which you could improve your overall English language performance and more specifically Reading and Writing  in preparation for the IELTS examination.

Now I want to turn attention to the Speaking and Listening tasks on the exam. As with reading and writing, these two skills are linked. You can use language from your listening practice to help with your speaking. The more you practice the speaking the more you will be able to pick up on the listening.

  • Can you share examples of issues you have with either of these skills?
  • How have you been preparing for these papers?

If you have any suggestions, questions or problems then please share them.

Whenever you are listening to English if you find useful expressions and words write them down so that you can use them in your speaking.  Don’t restrict your practice to text books, IELTS or otherwise ,what you really need is exposure to authentic language.

  • Use what is around you- radio, music, TV
  • Eavesdropping on other people’s conversations (preferably people you don’t know, on the bus etc.. or use the internet) can be very useful – but make sure you do it surreptitiously!
  • Try to listen to a range of different topics and types of speaking (groups, interviews, talks etc..) this will help you with the different listening types in the exam and also give you information about topics for the speaking.

Approaches to the listening task

The thing you MUST do in the listening (and speaking) papers is concentrate. It is very easy to allow your mind to wander and drift away and thus miss an answer or main point.

  • Prepare ‘markers’  by going through the questions for the listening very carefully and underline keywords.
  • Use the information in the questions to anticipate what the content of the listening will be.
  • The keywords will help you locate the answers.
  • Listening for the keywords you have underlined will also tell you if you have missed a question.
  • Use the time given between tasks to prepare the next section – don’t go over questions you have missed!
  • If you miss a question go back at the end and use information you now have + common sense to choose an answer
  • Still don’t know? Then guess; you won’t lose anything and you might be right! 

During your practice don’t make everything a timed exercise. If you are good at spotting the correct answers you can easily practice speeding up the process. The important thing is to make sure your listening skills are good. Believe me even the most advanced students often produce bizarre answers which, when they consider with common sense, couldn’t possibly be right – skills first, speed later!!

See my post on improving listening skills

Try this listening exercise – You’re no-one of you’re not on twitter (a bit if fun)

Listen to this very short interview

Top Tip: use both common sense and instinct in selecting the answers – don’t spend too long making your choice.

Approaches to speaking:

The speaking test is completely under your control. The examiner will give you the topics and guidelines but you will drive the test.

  • Make sure you know what is expected – it isn’t just a chat.
  • Your preparation for the other papers should give you a wide range of topics with plenty of ideas and information that you can use in potential speaking topics.
  • Remember speed does not = fluency. Speak clearly and as accurately as you can you don’t need to rush (I am a native speaker but I speak quite slowly).
  • We don’t learn about these topics in my country isn’t a good excuse, you’re expected to have read about them in English – use the internet and read the news sites regularly.
  • As with your writing, give evidence for your statements and back this up with examples. Your answers need to be ’rounded’.
  • Go through lists of possible topics and ask yourself – Can I talk about this? If not then find out about it.

Practice is the key with everything and get as much exposure as you can. Find people you can practise with. Give each other feedback.

Read this case-study about one of my students and how he improved his speaking skills.

Top Tip: become an ‘English’ chatterbox!

So, preparation is the key element in improving your IELTS scores along with making sure that you concentrate on your language skills and not just the test!

Do you need help with your IELTS exam?

As a former IELTS examiner and with over 15 years of experience preparing and coaching people for the exam especially at Bands 7 and 8 I know what it takes to achieve these scores.

I work a lot with professionals (especially doctors) who need high band scores to move on with their careers.

Using my own Advanced English training site, Gapfillers and my own expertise in IELTS I can help you to get the score you are looking for.

Join my free IELTS Group in Gapfillers and get regular updates about preparing for the exam and also the chance to join in my teleseminars and seminars and all the other IELTS training opportunities I offer.

Joining is easy;  follow this link, register (it’s absolutely free), (don’t forget to tick the IELTS group button) and that’s it!

As soon as you register you will have access to my free 1-hour presentation THE TROUBLE WITH IELTS – the link is on the welcome page. Watch or download it, it’s your choice.

I hope to see you there 🙂




January 22, 2010

Improving IELTS scores – Part 2

Reading and Writing.

In my last post I suggested 10 things you could do generally to improve your English language skills for the IELTS examination.

Here I want to look more closely at the reading and writing papers and suggest some things you can do in your preparation for IELTS to help improve your score.

  • What are the issues you face with these papers?

Remember that reading and writing skills are linked. You can learn phrases and other aspects of language from your reading to use in your writing. Take note, as part of your study, how certain things are expressed this is very valuable for your writing.

  • Write down phrases you come across in reading which strike you as useful or interesting. Try and use these in your next writing task.
  • Make a note of any useful or new vocabulary.
  • Don’t make every exercise a ‘timed’ one – be more creative!

Approaches to the reading task:

  • Don’t read the piece through – start with the questions.  In fact, you won’t really have time to read the pieces properly so don’t try.
  • Analyse the questions carefully for key words that will help you find the information. Underline the key words. Spend your time here on the questions.
  • Look at the title and the first couple of sentences- this should give you an overview of the the topic.
  • Speculate about potential answers and then skim the text to find the information and prove/disprove your suggested answer. You should be able to find the relevant place in the text using your keywords and then read this bit very carefully.

All of these techniques speed up the process and give you more time to consider the questions and find the correct answers.

Question Types:

There are many question types on the reading test. I’m going to look at just two. The ones that seem to give my students the most trouble.

1.       Headings: match a given heading with the paragraphs.

  • Read all the headings through first carefully.
  • Start with your first paragraph read the first two sentences.
  • If you know the heading fine,  if not, choose a couple of possibilities and mark these.
  • Do the same for each paragraph and slowly by a process of elimination you should have assigned all the headings.
  • Each time you are proving or disproving your choice, so look for evidence.

2.       Yes, no, not given: understand what these actually mean

  • A yes answer means that the information in the text and the question agree.
  • A no answer means that the statement given contradicts the information in the text – is the opposite if you like.
  • A not given means that you don’t have enough information in the text to answer the question.

Ask yourself these questions when you consider the answer

  • Is this the same as the text?
  • Does this contradict the text?
  • Can I really answer this question from the text?

NEVER consider information from outside the text. – i.e. what you know to be true from your experience.

Top Tip: If you can’t find an answer move on to the next you’ll probably come across it later on as you complete the rest and you can go back and complete the answer.

  • Have you used these techniques?
  • How did you feel about them?


  • How do you feel about the writing paper?

Writing and speaking are productive and completely in your hands. Don’t see the writing as the ‘bad boy’ of IELTS, as something to dread. You control your performance here and you must embrace this chance to show what you can do!!

I have written already about writing in the is blog and you can find many of my suggestions and comments in these posts:

You can also look at my section on writing on the Gapfillers website:

Some things to remember when preparing for the IELTS writing task:

  • Plan, plan and plan!!!
  • Look for models – use newspapers for task one you will find lots of good examples in the business pages and there are lots of good examples of essays in all the IELTS books DON’T IGNORE THESE!!
  • Get your work checked.
  • Don’t write more than one essay at a time 3 essays will be 3x the same mistakes.
  • Check check and check!!!

Top Tip:  when checking your writing read it aloud you will stumble over any mistakes and find them easily!

Do you need help with your IELTS exam?

As a former IELTS examiner and with over 15 years of experience preparing and coaching people for the exam especially at Bands 7 and 8 I know what it takes to achieve these scores.

I work a lot with professionals (especially doctors) who need high band scores to move on with their careers.

Using my own Advanced English training site, Gapfillers and my own expertise in IELTS I can help you to get the score you are looking for.

Join my free IELTS Group in Gapfillers and get regular updates about preparing for the exam and also the chance to join in my teleseminars and seminars and all the other IELTS training opportunities I offer.

Joining is easy;  follow this link, register (it’s absolutely free), (don’t forget to tick the IELTS group button) and that’s it!

As soon as you register you will have access to my free 1-hour presentation THE TROUBLE WITH IELTS – the link is on the welcome page. Watch or download it, it’s your choice.

I hope to see you there 🙂




January 20, 2010

Are 1:1 Laptop programs the future of education? How does that change the way students learn?

Edchat 1-19-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST

The most used words in this #edchat discussion

The picture tells the thousands of words shared!!


Last evening’s edchat really hit the ground running! It was as if we were all on the starting blocks before the pistol went. It was hard to keep up. This topic is certainly dear to many people’s hearts!

There was consensus on the need for laptop programmes and wider use of technology in education but great debate and the hows and whys of its use in and beyond the classroom. A strong element of the discussion was the need for good planning and training.

Here is a summary of some of the main points which emerged.

  • Why limit 1:1 to laptops only – need a wider range of tech
  • There are dangers of students not learning; gaming, surfing etc.. how best to monitor this
  • All stakeholders must have adequate training before launching a programme
  • What are the cost implications?
  • Can we really make it universal, will some students be disadvantaged by not having access to such programmes?
  •  The teacher role will shift this will be exciting to some teachers but terrifying to others – this needs management.
  • Students will take hold of their learning.
  • Learning can also be personalised.
  • We need to decide on why we implement these programmes, have a vision for how they will enhance learning.
  • Make sure teachers are fully on board and part of the programme – not hands off and letting the students ‘get on with it’.

Here’s a flavour of the discussion:

Lhiltbr #edchat Musts: Teacher prof. development and PARENT preparation for that program to be successful

Seanbanville   Big danger is students chatting, surfing, gaming, etc instead of studying

Dughall           Adults in the world of work have 1:1 access to PCs Kids see this. We must prepare kids for the world. They DESERVE 1:1 #edchat

Jasontbedell   I think tablets offer more applications than laptops. Students can be kinesthetically engaged and take physical notes. Win7 helps.

cybraryman1  Laptops are wonderful but teacher needs to know how to incorporate the tech & when and how to use it first.

hoprea:           If there’s no planning and teacher training, 1:1 is just as effective as 50:1.

olafelch           There are many tools that are available off-line.We are challenged by this at times. Benefits still outweigh the setbacks.

MissCheska   Good point on faculty learning ETS/IT; what programs r in place to motivate if they’re resistant to ed tech as is?

Akamrt           Only if the design of the learning is first stu centered. Have observed 1:1 situ where they are still teacher directed.

ShellTerrell    software filtering can be used to restrict access to ‘whitelisted’ sites only, during certain times

Techmunoz     I am starting to see more self-directed learning in my 1:1 computer lab. They would much rather listen to me on Jing tutorials.

GiseldaSantos            As we’r in some aspects learning how to use all this web 2.0 tools,the stds also need this time and this practical experience

Acmcdonaldgp            Thanks hadleyjf The laptop is the tool. The teacher matters matters most. It is the instructional style that matters most!

Shapah                        i’m with you! @ShellTerrell: I think I’m in the boat with those who prefer smartphones in stdts hands vs laptops

Bhsprincipal   Is it a problem to allow the classroom teachers the choice? Does it have to be a school-wide choice? #edchat

Mattguthrie    If worried about money for implementing 1:1… Take a look at cutting textbooks and testing. Prob solved! 🙂

SErwin            I have noticed an increase in learning outside of classroom in my 1 to 1. More interest, engagement, better content delivery.

Edyoucation    As a parent, I cannot afford a laptop and smartphone-service for myself, let alone my 2 children – we share the laptop

brianDowd      1: 1 laptop programs r only as good as the implementation strategies

Marisa_C       Without trainingnothing ever works; but most educational change happens w/o consulting or educating the one who implements

Tkraz  I plan to ask all my students to convince me with reasons (apps, etc) to go 1:1 (any type) for next school year. Let them explore.

MrR0g3rs      @akamrt a 1:1 program in the hands of teachers like us might start the revolution we all dream about #edchat

To follow the complete discussion see here

For the stats on #edchat participation see here

 Some great links were shared!

 Good article on netbooks versus laptops http://bit.ly/65LGTO

Good article in THE Journal on students bringing their own devices to school. http://bit.ly/7jGn6J

Apple remote desktop is very effective and user friendly.: @BillCamp #edchat… http://bit.ly/86iFuM

I still believe the fundamental equation is “good learning design” = stu centered… http://bit.ly/4GR2mN

Check out Alberta’s 1:1 laptop initiative and resources http://www.1to1alberta.ca/resources.html

Some info on 1:1 schools and the Apple 1:1 conference http://bit.ly/2JLinU

this video is a good example http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEls3tq5wIY&feature=player_embedded how it can work

Digital Citizenship: http://tinyurl.com/yd68tt8

@jpsteltz We mustn’t forget technology is the way, not the goal. I blogged about this. http://bit.ly/6hUYDT

Check out this entire journal edition about 1:1 http://escholarship.bc.edu/jtla/

ISTE standards for tech integration RT @passandr: Here’s a good link: http://www.iste.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=NETS

wish i suffered from multiplicity so that i could attend more of the EduCon sessions coming up! http://educon22.org/conversations

Language 2.0 http://ow.ly/Xx98

RT @amandacdykes: kids reminded me this week that shouldnt just use tech to tch w/but for them to learn from http://bit.ly/5VQbqn

@jgmac1106 You can read all about the #PSU 1:1 conference here – http://bit.ly/52xFiq

curriculum-based learning activity #edchat http://tinyurl.com/yczdwsm  via www.diigo.com/~zmanrdz

RT @web20classroom: The Encyclopedia of Educational Technology….http://edweb.sdsu.edu/eet/

Began”1:1 Laptop Action Steps” discussion group on The Educator’sPLN: http://bit.ly/8b6KZd

Despite problems, laptops boost student test scores http://bit.ly/4BfdyW

New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 400 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts!

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat.

What do you think about 1:1 Laptop programmes? Leave a comment!



January 18, 2010

10 top tips for improving IELTS Scores

Having done a lot of work with IELTS students (in fact eons ago I administered the Davies Test which was a pre-cursor of IELTS!!) I felt it might be useful to pass on a few ideas I give my own students who are preparing for this test.

In the next 3 posts I plan to give an overview of the way to approach the tests and then look in more detail at Reading and Writing and then Speaking and Listening.

Most of the students I work with need to achieve a band score of 7 or 8 and in some cases they require a band 7 in each part of the test. This is no easy task and in order to be successful you need to be prepared for not only hard, but also smart work.

If you are preparing for this test:

  •  How do you feel about it?
  • What is your experience?

Please share your thoughts on IELTS in the comments box below.

I am sure that much of what I say in this overview you will have heard before but it is tried and tested and should be given consideration.

Three Golden rules for IELTS:

  1. Remember it is a test of your English language ability.
  2. The better your English language skills,  the easier it will be to approach the test.
  3. Concentrating on IELTS books and IELTS practice tests alone is not the best way to prepare for the exam. 

This may sound obvious, but the emphasis should be on improving your language skills not practising for test.

The test is a means to an end not an end in itself and the danger of only concentrating on the test is that you are not seeing the wood for the trees!

ie: You may be lucky enough to pass the IELTS with the score you need but you will not be adequately prepared for what comes after it – your course, your job etc…

  • How do you feel about this advice? Do you agree?

7 more things you can do to make you better prepared for IELTS:

  1. Use the language around you. If you are in an English speaking country then this is easy. If not then use the internet.
  2. I you have the chance, join an English speaking club where you can practise your speaking regularly (this could be a book club, cultural exchange or a hobby club) – or start one yourself with other ‘IELTS’ friends and have one rule – ‘English only’! See if you can invite native speakers to give short talks at your meetings. The value is in the speaking and trying to improve fluency.
  3. Do one English activity every day – listen to the radio, watch a film, read a magazine or newspaper article, have a conversation in English. Make it something that you are interested in and then ENJOY it!
  4. Volunteer to do something where you have to speak English – read to the children at your local primary school, help some high school students with their English etc… (if you live in an English-speaking country there are many opportunities – go to your local library to find out.)
  5. Join an online community. There are several to choose from, try out a few and see which you like. My own is Gapfillers, everybody welcome!!
  6. Practise little and often. Choose one activity at a time – for example reading, and really concentrate on that during your daily practice.
  7. Make sure you understand why things are wrong, go over any mistakes and learn from them. If you have a lot of mistakes then do the exercise again.
  • If you have other tips that you can add here please share them with us.

Here are some other posts that might be useful:

Here are some exercises you might like:

In my next post we will look at ways of  approaching the IELTS Reading and Writing tasks.

Why not subscribe to the rss feed on the right of this page so you don’t miss any posts on IELTS.

Do you need help with your IELTS exam?

As a former IELTS examiner and with over 15 years of experience preparing and coaching people for the exam especially at Bands 7 and 8 I know what it takes to achieve these scores.

I work a lot with professionals (especially doctors) who need high band scores to move on with their careers.

Using my own Advanced English training site, Gapfillers and my own expertise in IELTS I can help you to get the score you are looking for.

Join my free IELTS Group in Gapfillers and get regular updates about preparing for the exam and also the chance to join in my teleseminars and seminars and all the other IELTS training opportunities I offer.

Joining is easy;  follow this link, register (it’s absolutely free), (don’t forget to tick the IELTS group button) and that’s it!

As soon as you register you will have access to my free 1-hour presentation THE TROUBLE WITH IELTS – the link is on the welcome page. Watch or download it, it’s your choice.

I hope to see you there 🙂




January 13, 2010

How should standardized testing evolve to reflect digital elements & 21st Century skills?

1-12-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST

Yesterday’s topic certainly hit a spot with many ideas, aspirations, gripes and visions being shared! There was  consensus on the need for any testing to be valid and in the interests of the student. Beyond this ideas ranged from scrapping tests altogether to putting up and shutting up!

Here are some of the main themes which came through.

  • Should standardised testing continue at all?
  • Testing needs to be more diverse and dynamic to reflect our students.
  • Testing should be computer-based, online and use more tech tools making sure students are actually able to use these effectively.
  • Do we need to be involved in the testing question at all? Is it a national/regional issue?
  • Testing must reflect life in the 21st century. It needs to take into account the tech-driven society we are.
  • The need to collect data mitigates against any real change.
  • Cost implications and public accountability dictate the form of testing.
  • Continuous and classroom-based testing seem more valid.
  • Maybe we need to re-evaluate what we evaluate – this spills over into a larger questions about re-defining what we teach and how we educate.
  • The focus must be on learning not testing and grades.

Here are some of the comments:

MissCheska  21st century skills = collaboration, interpersonal and communication skills, ability to do basic skills dealing with technology #edchat 

andycinek standardized testing should become as diverse and dynamic as our learners. Most tests are still created with a myopic vision #edchat 

cybraryman1  It goes without saying that we have to prepare our students for life in the 21st Century so tests should reflect that. #edchat 

akamrt  I hope this doesn’t come off as snarky, but why should we involve ourselves in maintaining the testing culture? 

raffelsol    If we have to teach via multiple disciplines, why aren’t tests given in the same fashion? #edchat 

jgmac1106  One of the major reasons tech is described as fad is because no gain scores on stand tests. Tests not sensitive to 21st skills #edchat 

bedellj  @akamrt I don’t think most want to maintain testing, but gov. force us, so how can we improve what we’re stuck with? #edchat 

ctuckness  media literacy would be measurable in stand. tests #edchat 

Parentella   How can we expect out children to use tech IRL but refuse to educate them or test their knowledge? #edchat –AH 

andycinek  21st cntry tests need to move beyond the shaded circle and offer variety, however we are stuck in a system that loves bubbled data #edchat 

PearsonLongman And the public will always need over-simplified metrics to understand how its $$ is being spent @haretek #edchat 

elanaleoni  I’m wondering how many out there have seen classroom-based assessment programs work? #edchat Washington recently had some wins with it. 

weemooseus Interesting that most quality focused businesses have done away w/testing, creates more defects than it solves #edchat 

twoodwar  worries me that people seem to think the focus of our ed system should be on creating “workers” #edchat 

ShellTerrell  RT @franze98: to play devils advocate here, most kids know more about cell phones than the teachers i work with #edchat 

raffelsol: One problem with using tech to test is that things move so fast when something is developed, it is outdated.  

rachelala   Is standardised testing reductive ? Is security against ‘cheating’ the priority , whereas ‘cheats’ are a knowledge-share in C21? 

akamrt  @cybraryman1 #edchat We can’t keep saying we are preparing stus for a future we can’t know & then > 

mattguthrie  accountability should not be regurgitation of factoids (current system) #edchat 

olafelch   @twoodwar Education still has to serve future employers. It doesn’t help an educated kid if he can’t get a job. #edchat 

elanaleoni   Standard. testing doesn’t even come close to measuring collaborative skills <– a necc. 21st cent skill.  

juleach  RT @jgmac1106: I also fear state assessments moving online and states saying we measure 21st c. skills. they take test on computers #edchat 

@irasocol: @DrGarcia Why (example) must I write a thesis? Don’t I prove my research and knowledge base daily on line? #edchat

DrGarcia  Iron Educator lighting it up! RT @irasocol: “required knowledge” is a real thing. “Standardized testing” is fraternity hazing #edchat 

ITLynda emphasis shouldn’t be on the paper test; should be about finding out where the students are so we can meet them there #edchat 

Boundstaffpres The fractured curriculum we have plays well w/ stand testing. Put it   back together & u end the need for stand tst 

angelbrady  Is the standardized testing itself boring? Will tech solve it? Don’t we need standards to see where students are in learning? #edchat 

@scottac87 A hindrance to addressing ISTE-S comes from above. It’s hard to deal with digital citizenship when much is blocked. #edchat 

passandr  @karimderrick One of the huge problems is cost. Testing must be cost efficient or it becomes impossible. Unfortunately. #edchat 

@bedellj  I used online portfolios in college. Perhaps it is time that states begin using a similar system? #edchat

To follow the complete discussion see here

For the stats on #edchat participation see here

Some useful links were shared – here they are!

1 hashtag helps #educators change their schools: http://bit.ly/8Lrb1D

@rliberni Maybe not too narrow, but different in focus. See the Denmark experiment http://bit.ly/79xwCD

everything needs to change – change instruction so they have to change testing http://bit.ly/7LYhEo 

Parthcawl Primary School’s taken non C21 assesssment http://bit.ly/879Ulu 

An interesting article on grading in the digital age http://bit.ly/1LoKW2 

Here’s a graphic I’ve found helpful when talking about 21st century skills. http://bit.ly/59lBuw

prob is partially non-educators making policy http://bit.ly/4Qfsej | yes, we need 360 input but we have none #edchat

See UK project e-scape where structured portfolio. assess. measures creativity & innovation #edchat http://bit.ly/749SOt

this is our shot http://bit.ly/i9pvc

@bedellj #edchat My response to ur stud convo process http://tweetphoto.com/8581686

RT @ShellTerrell Some skills lacking in schools, make sure your students connected http://bit.ly/3qaLgl

Some assessment thoughts (not specific to stand testing, but may be relevant to discussion) http://is.gd/5OnPp   http://is.gd/5z9lA

New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 400 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts!

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat.

What do you think about standardised testing? Leave a comment!

January 12, 2010

Using Modal Verbs – part 3

In this final post on modal verbs I want to look at how modals can be used to suggest levels of intensity and also how we can employ them to be tactful.

For more on Modals (grammar and lists of verbs)

In my first two posts:

Modal verbs 1 and modal verbs 2 we looked at the  way modal verbs are used for expressing different functions. In this post we will look more at how they express intensity and also the nuance that modal verbs can bring to a sentence. Finally we’ll look at a list of verbs which are very often paired with modal auxiliaries.

Expressing levels of intensity.

Look at these three sentences:

  • You must read the instructions before you begin!
  • You should read the instructions before you begin.
  • You could read the instructions before you begin.

What is the difference?

  • In the first we have no choice (or if we ignore the obligation there may be consequences).
  • In the second it is recommended that we read – but not obligatory – so we have choice.
  • The final sentence is quite neutral, do or don’t, it doesn’t seem to matter. The speaker might add – but it’s quite straight forward.

Here’s another example of how modal verbs help us to determine the level if intensity in an utterance.

Consider these sentences:

  • Students may not leave the examination room before the end of the exam.
  • You have to remain in the examination room until after the exam.
  • You can’t leave the examination room before the end of the exam.

 What is the difference here?

  • The first sentence is very formal. It expresses an external obligation (rule) and is more likely to be written than spoken.
  • The second also expresses a strong obligation which may be part of the spoken instructions before the exam begins.
  • The final sentence is more neutral and might be spoken between two of the exam candidates.

We see that it isn’t only the meaning of the sentence that is important but also the participants in a conversation and, also the circumstances. Let’s explore these a little more:

Jack and Henry are brothers

  • Henry, lend me your this afternoon car will you?
  • Henry, can I borrow your car this afternoon?
  • Henry, would you lend me your car this afternoon?
  • Henry, might I borrow your car this afternoon?

Some possible reasons for the different modal use:

  1. The car is old, Jack borrows it a lot, he is a good driver.
  2. Henry may want to use it, Jack doesn’t often borrow the car, Henry doesn’t often lend his car.
  3. Jack doesn’t usually borrow the car, the car is quite new, Henry is very proud of his car, it is for an urgent reason, Jack’s driving ability is unknown, Henry may need it.
  4. The car is special, Henry doesn’t lend his car, Jack damaged it last time, Jack isn’t a good driver, Jack needs it urgently, Henry was planning to use it and Jack knows this.

Our choice of verb depends on the relationship of the speakers, the situation and the ease with which the person can do what they are being asked to do. We can also add a further dimension – how easy is it to make the request etc.. (perhaps we have to interrupt the person). All of these factors dictate how intense, formal or polite we need to be.

Using modal verbs to add depth or nuance:

Modal verbs can also be used to express formality, belief and more subtle levels of meaning. Here are a few examples:

If we go back to the first list of sentences – we can here add another to the list.

  • You might want to read the instructions before you begin.

This sentence suggests that we may not have considered reading the instructions and the speaker (tactfully) suggests we do because they have information which tells them we should (this could be that we always do things badly because we fail to follow instructions, or perhaps the speaker has done this task before and had a bad experience as a result of not reading instructions first – they want us to derive benefit from their experience)

Here are some more examples:

  • You might have told me they had got divorced! 

The speaker found themselves in an embarrassing situation and is angry.

  • I might have been a famous singer ! 

We understand that something in the speaker’s past made this a possibility but it was never realised.

  • You really shouldn’t treat her that way.

Here the speaker is taking a moral stance as well as giving advice. What is happening is wrong in the eyes of the speaker.

  • I wouldn’t go that far, but I do think your ideas are a little odd!

Would here is used to express polite disagreement.

  • It would have been a good idea to let us know yesterday that the meeting was cancelled.

Again would is used to make this reprimand more polite.

  • They will keep spelling my name wrongly!

We know from this use of will that the speaker is very irritated.

Modals are the most common way of expressing stance in English especially in conversation.

Try this Gapfillers exercise on modal verbs which show a speaker’s belief or stance (the ex. shows probability).

Check out my post on Register for more on formality.

Finally, here is a list of verbs that most often occur with modal auxiliaries:

abide,  admit,   afford,  appeal, cope, guarantee,  handle,  imagine, interact, resist, survive, tolerate

and some that frequently do:
advise, aid, believe, benefit, claim, continue, contribute, count on, deduce, end up, expect, exit, focus, forgive, get over, grumble, harm, overwhelm, pause, reach, rely, respect, solve, withstand

As ever, check in your grammar book and try these out as soon as you can!

You may like to look at these posts:

Doing a language audit

Making progress as an Advanced learner

Advanced learners – a Pecha Kucha

January 6, 2010

Classroom management techniques

1-5-2009 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST

Yesterday’s #edchat was the first of the New Year, New decade! There were new participants and old friends and the discussion was fast and furious marking a fantastic beginning to #Edchat 2010!!

Many ideas about classroom management from big picture to micro-management came up in the discussion but the following themes seemed to strike a chord with everyone:

  • The teacher-student relationship is key.
  • Mutual respect, empathy and a passion and excitement  for learning create an atmosphere conducive to success.
  • Good planning and organisation send out good messages to students
  • Boundaries, rules and procedures agreed democratically and not ‘imposed’  create a well-managed environment leading to good learning outcomes
  • Room for everyone to contribute and be valued, not a top-down approach
  • Variety and change of pace, silence and noise appropriate to the tasks
  • A positive atmosphere
  • A community of learners which includes students, teachers, parents, admin etc.. which, when they all pull together will foster great learning
  • Consistency with a hint of chaos now and again
  • What does classroom management look like in the virtual classroom? How will it look in the future?

Here is a selection of some of the comments:

Hadleyjf  What works – our own passion for subject and for sts to learn. They sense fraud

UltimateTeacher   I allow students to help create the rules ahead of time…s o they have ownership in the classroom mgt.

CoachB0066    A well-planned 1st day, structure, consistency and a love for students, content area and learning

cybraryman1    Kids should help formulate rules

 @MissCheska:  @hadleyjf I agree- passion and enthusiasm for the content, and equal passion and enthusiasm for the students

Heureuse  @UltimateTeacher Yes, allowing the students to have input. And listening to them intently.  

UltimateTeacher  Another way …is to model, model, and model what you expect and NOT expect in class…(I love to make this fun..like a skit) #edchat

Tamaslorincz  @hadleyjf Sts – admin- parents – you name it. A convulted mess where sts miss out and become part of an inefficient machinery. #edchat

Aldtucker being aware of what’s going on. tech-wary tchrs worry that they don’t know how kids are being off-task, and they are scared 2 try

Lekpen Passion is essential but have a clear goal–simple & doable in the time you have. Link to prev class discussions.Use stud examples #edchat

Deerwood  is the concept of classroom management somewhat outdated for 21st Century? I mean, ‘classrooms’ ? will we still have those?

Hadleyjf    RT @ShellTerrell: @juleach 1 of the best trainers told tchrs to get rid of high heels & swap for tennis shoes! And be ready to run #edchat

Olafelch The best teachers I’ve experienced have all had presence. They had star appeal (even if I didn’t like some of them) #edchat

Republicofmath  Lees teacher talk, more teacher watching and listening is better classroom management, IMO. Many math teachers talk too much. #edchat

@andycinek:  Classroom management starts with building rapport, mutual respect. Find one thing each student likes, take interest! #edchat

 @juleach:   Good classroom management has to include a teacher that is willing to get up and move!! #edchat

 Thenewtag   Eye contact-established/regular/expected B4 you need it 2 redirect. All eyes on the speaker, whoever it is, all the time.#edchat

Thenewtag  Building a community of learners where everyone owns and everyone is responsible for managing the classroom.#edchat

Todd_conaway  @ShellTerrell agreed. maybe “classroom management” is disservice to learning as learning surrounds the classroom. #edchat

 Colport   I think strong and fair reward systems work. I work with 7/8/9 year olds, and they work together in groups to be best team #edchat #edchat                              

@andycinek   Teching is 90% relationship building 10% content. #edchat

av2learner   It’s tough to give up control, but students become more involved when you do #edchat

@andycinek  that’s why i love it. just like live theatre, never know what will happen

 Todd_conaway  Perhaps we should change name and idea from “Classroom management” to “learning management” it might include more in our thinking #edchat

Tomwhitby   A prob with Clsrm Mgmnt is that new tchrs seek guidance from vets who may be practicing methds of the 50’s and 60’s.I was there then #edchat

Tamaslorincz   If we take it out of the classroom and don’t try to manage it … it might work. Classrs are organic entities that evolve? #edchat

 @TEFL:  If your mind is elsewhere their minds will be too. Forget about multitasking! One important thing at a time. #edchat                              

JennaLanger  @awassenmiller Good point, technology helps with the external management of the class #edchat

Awassenmiller   There is a difference between controlling and maintaining control. 

xmath2007   #edchat Don’t over “rule” them. Let them know that you expect normal, human behavior, and you be a normal human, too.

Feedtheteacher  students tend to respond better to teachers with a good sense of humour, so a key tool for great classes: a smile 🙂 #edchat

Hoprea   We all need a certain dose of authority and limits, especially when we’re young. Doing it fairly and wisely is key. #edchat

 Elanaleoni   Mixing up your teaching styles is a good way to keep students involved 

Dughall #edchat Be positive. If you must have rules/guidelines for learners,  make them DOs, not DON’Ts.

Colport  Ok-question. With a new class, do you start off tough and mellow. Or start nicely then toughen up? Or depend on students? #edchat

To follow the complete discussion see here

For the stats on #edchat participation see here

Some great links were shared. Here they are!

Kids should help formulate rules. cybraryman.com/classroom.html.

Article on #edchat topic by Shelley Vernon in case you want to discuss it: http://edition.tefl.net/articles/teacher-technique/respect/

@hadleyjf Brain research shows that variety every 10 minutes helps per book Brain Rules http://www.brainrules.net/attention#edchat

@TEFL There’s research on multitasking being bad in Brain Rules attention chapter too. http://www.brainrules.net/attention (Pretty good book.) #edchat

Q: What’s the Best Classroom Mgmnt Advice You’ve Gotten? Some answers by @Larryferlazzo & @alicemercer here: http://bit.ly/2NeUzM

@ShellTerrell Interesting. I know @tweenteacher used twitter to manage her c/r remotely. http://twitter.com/hagdogusc#edchat

RT @baded: RT @msjweir: New blog post: Success in engaging a reluctant student. http://msjweir.wordpress.com/2010/01/05/121/<– You rock. #edchat

Here’s one of my fav articles on c/r mgmnt: http://bit.ly/4qdCZw

Great collection of web 2.0 by @swedishteacher #Edtech #Edchat #elearning http://www.tech-classroom.com/2010/01/best-site-for-web-20.html

Gr8 chapter on class mgmt! RT @journalproject: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Teaching-Black-Girls/Evans-Winters-Venus-E-Evans-Winters-Venus-E/e/9780820471037@ileducprof #edchat

@aldtucker @derrallg Engagement could seem loud and chaotic. #edchat James Herndon “The Way it Spozed To Be” great read..

RT @billyfens: http://twitpic.com/wsg1t#edchat

@ShellTerrell easy way to monitor & control computer screens from afar http://bit.ly/I9HHv & #opensource #edchat

great site for math HW tutoring, IWB’s w/ web confrensing #Edtech #edchat #elearning http://www.tech-classroom.com/2010/01/edoboard-awsome-tool-for-homework-help.html

Teaching science? Here are videos on the symbols of physics and astronomy. Cool! http://blog.taragana.com/science/2010/01/05/a-cosmic-family-portrait-13-billion-years-in-the-making-hubble-sees-universe-as-a-toddler-2638/#edchat

A vision for strengthening education http://bit.ly/8bQVbe

Another great #edchat Thank you for voting it as #1 Tweet series! I hope you are wearing your badges on your blogs http://bit.ly/6BB7oD

#Edchat Ppl may continue the discussion in the Edchat Group on the Educator’s PLN http://edupln.ning.com/. Pls Join today

This article may help w/ changing class environmt for mgmt issues http://prestwickhouse.blogspot.com/2009/12/step-outside-of-classroom.html#edchat

RT @rliberni: RT @readtoday: Thanks #edchat folks you always inspire me. I leave you with this video. It says it all http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6oHV3nI-Gw

Interesting article on tech in the classroom, “New Jersey education in 2010,” that may of interest to educators http://bit.ly/8X1GX2

Cool site! > RT @morsemusings Kid-rated fun: http://www.nga.gov/kids/kids.htm#teachetuesday #edchat

If you’ve not read, I offer my humble view on the Art of Teaching. http://blogontheuniverse.org/drjeff-on-stuff/the-art-of-teaching/#edchat

Check this video out — #Edchat: Join the Movement http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuIxpz6UklE

and an extra 

How to make things fall apart – a behaviour model for creating incompetence


Phew!! So many resource links!!

New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 400 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts!

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat.

What do you think makes for good classroom management? Leave a comment!

Using Modal Verbs – part two

In part one we looked at a definition and some of the language functions in English where we use a modal verb. I want to continue with more functions here.

If you listen or read English you will see that modal verbs are commonly used in a variety of different ways. It is, therefore, worth spending some time to make sure you know how and when to use them. Correct and appropriate use will enhance your English and help it to develop and grow.

Here are more functions which require a modal verb.

  • probability
  • prohibition
  • obligation
  • advice


May, might, ought to and should are the modal verbs used for probability.

  • I may go abroad to work next year. (I’m thinking about it)
  • I might apply for a job in the USA. (It looks good but I’m a little apprehensive still)
  • You shouldn’t have any problems getting a place on the course with your qualifications. (Id be very surprised if they didn’t accept you)
  • House prices should improve this first quarter. (The conditions indicate this.)

Note that should is used for positive situations. For negative statements we tend to use will.

  • House prices will plummet this year!
  • I’m sure that she won’t be chosen as team leader.


  • Things ought to get better from now on. (The newspapers are saying this.)
  • They ought not to have told her about Jenny and Steve. (probability resulting from an action in the past – she is upset or angry)

Try this exercise  from Gapfillers to test modal verbs for probability.


mustn’t, shouldn’t, oughtn’t to, may not, cannot are used to express prohibition it is also possible to use (be) not allowed to

  • You must not use pencil in this examination. (It is a rule and you will fail if you do.)
  • You shouldn’t tell anybody about the accident. (It might upset people.)
  • You ought not to stay alone in this house. (It isn’t safe but it is your choice.)
  • Visitors may not use the employee rest rooms – facilities are available in the foyer. (A softer/polite way of prohibition)
  • You  can’t smoke in public buildings in the UK. (This is a fact)
  • You are not allowed to ask questions during the presentation. (The speaker has requested this very strongly).

(We will look a little more at degree and politeness in the final posting on modal verbs.)


 must, should, ought to, all express an obligation to do something with varying levels of urgency. Have to and need to can also be used to express this language function. Sentences using these modal verbs are opposite in meaning to prohibition (where their negatives are used).

  • UK drivers must wear a seatbelt in their car. (It is the law.)
  • I had to go and see the Director this morning. (He asked me to go and see him.) We use have to where must isn’t possible, as here in the past tense.
  • You should stay in bed with that bad cold. (This is my opinion as you don’t seem very well.)
  • You ought to speak to Janice first before you ask Sean to help. (If you don’t she may be angry.)

Need (without to) can be used as a modal verb to show absence of obligation

  • You needn’t clear up, the cleaner will do that later.

or in questions.

  • Need you make so much noise? I can’t hear  television.

We use need to and have to interchangeably.

  • I don’t need to/have to attend the meeting on Friday.


ought to, ought not to, should, should not, must, must not, had better, had better not are all used to give advice which is another function of modal verbs. (for advice using conditionals see my post on conditionals)

  • You really ought to re-draft that proposal. (It’s not very well written.)
  • You ought not to go out tonight. (The weather is very bad.)
  • You should get your application in early. (It will show that you are organised.)
  • You shouldn’t let things get you down. (They’re not so important.)
  • You must get a new suit for the interview! (You want to make a good impression.)
  • You mustn’t let him borrow the car. (He’s a terrible driver!)
  • You had better let Dr Jones look at you. (You don’t look well to me.)
  • You had better not go out this evening. (The weather is bad and you are not well.)

Check you understand these usages. Learn them and above all use them as soon as you can!

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