In the Classroom with Benjamin L. Stewart

Making teaching and learning more transparent.

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Nov 30th, 2018 by bnleez at 4:00 pm


 Show Notes

In this episode, we discuss a recent performance conducted by our English language learners - pre-service English language teachers at an A2 proficiency level.  


Show Notes


This group is a first-semester writing I class for pre-service English language teachers who are Spanish-speaking English language learners at an approximate A2 level of English proficiency. The excerpt found in this episode was from taken from week 14 of a 16-week course.  Each week learners address one essential question that usually relates to some content-based objective.  This week's essential question was more reflective in nature, and was designed to introduce a capstone project that provided an opportunity for learners to demonstrate knowledge and skills learned in each of the different subjects from the current semester: listening and speaking, reading, writing, grammar, and learning strategies.

The term PROPE refers to courses that make up a propaedeutic year of courses designed to help learners gain a B1 level required to begin a four-year bachelor's degree program in English language teaching.

All lessons from each week are posted to Google Classroom which loosely serves as a content management system where learners can freely access course content both during and outside of class.


Essential Question: How do I express what I have learned so far this semester in PROPE?

Instructions: This week we work in our PROPE project teams - event scheduled for November 23, 2018 (10:00 AM - 12:00 PM).

Overview: Form into your PROPE project groups and determine who will write each paragraph:1) describe your country by including at least three key question words: who, why, how, when, where, etc., 2) describe how you worked together this week to create all non-writing I outcomes for your PROPE project, 3) explain any team challenges that you overcame this semester in any of your PROPE classes, and 4) present two to four key successes that you achieved as a team this semester.

Details: Each of the four points listed above should be developed as one unified, coherent, and cohesive paragraph with five to eight sentences.  A combination of the three different transitions discussed in class also should be included: sentence connectors, introductory phrases, and subordinating clauses. Each team member is responsible for one paragraph - if more than four members make up a team, then an additional topic should be developed as determined by team consensus and prior approval with your instructor.  Each team member is responsible for developing and analyzing their respective paragraph.

Analyzing a paragraph: Analyzing a paragraph should include the following:

  • All team members should follow the same system for analyzing their respective paragraphs: color-coding, annotations, footnotes, etc.
  • Indicate different sentence types: simple, complex, compound, and complex-compound.
  • Indicate different clauses types: main clauses, subordinating clauses, and relative clauses.
  • Indicate different phrase types: noun, verb, prepositional, and participial.
  • Indicate all parts of speech.

When analyzing your paragraph, do not analyze every word.  Only analyze one-three examples of each of the grammatical structures listed in the above section, Analyzing a paragraph.  In other words, you need a paragraph that exemplifies at least one of the grammatical structures above in order to identify it.

Team communication: This week requires good communication between each team member.  A successful week will include a team who maintains good communication in determining who is to do what.  At times this week you may work together as a team while other times you might need to work in pairs or individually - decide which works best for you individually and as a team.  Regardless how you work, make sure you communicate with your team members throughout this week so that everyone is on the same page throughout the entire process.

Team Leaders: Team leaders have been sent an email invitation to their respective team’s country (Google) document.  Please share this document with the rest of your team members using their respective gmail address.



Nov 12th, 2018 by bnleez at 6:00 pm


Show Notes

    1. Problem: Learners resist giving presentations and many other aspects of school-related activities, tasks, and performances.


  • According to a recent survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, oral communication is one of the most sought-after skills in the workplace, with over 90 percent of hiring managers saying it’s important.
  • a tweet posted by a 15-year-old high-school student declaring “Stop forcing students to present in front of the class and give them a choice not to” garnered more than 130,000 retweets and nearly half a million likes. A similar sentiment tweeted in January also racked up thousands of likes and retweets. And teachers are listening.
  • “Nobody should be forced to do something that makes them uncomfortable,” says Ula, a 14-year-old in eighth grade, who, like all students quoted, asked to be referred to only by her first name. “Even though speaking in front of class is supposed to build your confidence and it’s part of your schoolwork, I think if a student is really unsettled and anxious because of it you should probably make it something less stressful. School isn’t something a student should fear.”
  • It feels like presentations are often more graded on delivery when some people can’t help not being able to deliver it well, even if the content is the best presentation ever,” says Bennett, a 15-year-old in Massachusetts who strongly agrees with the idea that teachers should offer alternative options for students.


  1. Students are resisting in-class presentations… by Annabelle Timsit

    1. According to the American Psychological Association, “When people are fearful of something, they tend to avoid the feared objects, activities or situations. Although this avoidance might help reduce feelings of fear in the short term, over the long term it can make the fear become even worse.”
    2. In her piece, Lorenz quotes a 14-year-old student named Ula, who says that “Nobody should be forced to do something that makes them uncomfortable.” But the best available science tells us that, if they want to be successful in life, maybe they should.

Participatory Call to Action: How do you encourage learners who resist participating in your class?

Nov 9th, 2018 by bnleez at 7:04 pm


Show Notes

  1. Problem: Working in isolation - teacher burnout...
  2. Personal learning network: How do you engage in your own personal learning network?
    1. Define PLN: collection of social, material, and ideational connections or nodes designed for a specific (professional) purpose that has both historical (over time) and specific value.
    2. Twitter (@bnleez)
      1. Bidirectional/unidirectional communication
    3. Feedly/Buffer/Pocket
    4. Facebook Groups: In the Classroom |
  3. Workflow
    1. Ferrite for audio
    2. Lumafusion for video
    3. Google Docs: Show notes
    4. iPad Pro 10.5/Android smartphone
  4. Participatory Call to Action:  As an instructional leader, how you work against isolation?
Nov 2nd, 2018 by bnleez at 4:17 pm


Show Notes

  1. Problem: backwash effect: how assessment can influence instruction
    1. Readings in Methodology: A collection of articles on the teaching of English as a foreign language (2006) (pp. .
  2. What is portfolio writing assessement
  3. Self-regulation through portfolio assessment in writing classrooms
    1. Relationship between PA and the four phases of self-regulation (Figure 1, p. 5).
    2. Phase I: instruction and scaffolding
    3. Phase II: self-assessment, peer assessment, teacher feedback (first draft)
    4. Phase III: Teacher feedback (second-final draft) - cycles back to phase I
    5. Phase IV: error log and reflection; publish to eportfolio (decision-making process)

     4. Participatory Call to Action: How do you incorporate portfolio assessment in your current teaching practice?

Oct 27th, 2018 by bnleez at 8:00 am


Show Notes

In this episode, I provide an excerpt of a class that is designed to assist English language learners - at an A2 level - to complete a story (one paragraph long) that is inspired by an image (painting or a picture) of a cabin in nature. 

Content Objectives

  • Build vocabulary related to nature: objects, animals, emotions, five senses, etc.
  • Gain awareness of paragraph unity (staying on topic), coherence (organizational patterns), and cohesion (transitions)
  • Gain awareness of sentence types: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex
  • Gain awareness of parts of speech, types of phrases, and types of clauses
  • Gain awareness of comma usage: serial comma, compound sentence, complex sentence, sentence connectors, introductory phrases (five words or more), and appositives

Language (Linguistic) Objectives

  • Rheme and theme
  • Transitions
  • Comma usage
  • Descriptive texts using adjectives and prepositional phrases
  • Simple, compound, and complex sentences

Pedagogical Notes



Oct 24th, 2018 by bnleez at 4:00 pm


Show Notes

  1. Problem: Lean Teaching… how efficient, effective, and engaging is our teaching practice?
  2. Workflow...
    1. Keep in mind the following three things when considering one’s workflow: learner to learner engagement, instructor to learner engagement, and learner to outside expert engagement.
    2. Google Classroom
    3. Google Docs
    4. Google Gradebook
    5. Google Photos
    6. Eportfolio

Sources: Lean Manufacturing - Wikipedia; Lean Thinking (Womack & Jones, 1996)



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 Show Notes

    1. Instructional-learning episodes: knowledge-skill; metacognition-cognition; far (new context)-near (similar context) transfer; reproductive (less complex)-productive (more complex)
    2. Class
      1. Essential question: How does a song communicate with you? (far-near transfer)
      2. Brainstorm individually: emotions, people, events, etc. as a list. (knowledge - writing to understand)
      3. Convert brainstorming list to Mindmap and take a picture (Cognition, learning strategy, knowledge)
      4. Convert Mindmap to first and subsequent drafts
      5. Work/Upload information to Google docs
      6. Feedback - few students uploaded their paragraphs until the very end

Sources: Elshout-Mohr, Hout-Wolters, & Broekkamp, 1999; Volman & Ten Dam, 2011


TLC Socials

Show Notes

How can a teacher decide whether to break down the input into step-by-step activities or start by challenging students by asking them to perform a task where input proficiency is required? (Bottom up, top down, task based, structural content based)


  • Task-based supplementation: Achieving high school textbook goals through form focused interaction: Conclusions: “Results” have historically been defined and measured by “objective” language tests - standardized tests.  However, focusing strictly on form (not meaning, use, discourse, culture, etc.) ignores the fact that we have no true way of knowing exactly what a learner does specifically that leads to language acquisition. Also, a learners’ internal grammar goes up and down… down in the case when internalizing new content.


    • Conclusions: Task-based learning extremely effective when attending the personal, affective, and social development of the learner.
    • Instructional-learning episodes: reproductive (less complex)-productive (more complex), knowledge-skill, metacognition-cognition, far (new context)-near (similar context) transfer
Oct 13th, 2018 by bnleez at 7:22 am

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In the Classroom: Why In the Classroom?

In many ways, episode #25 is the “first” in the informal reflective discussions I have planned for this channel related to curriculum, assessment, instruction, and educational technologies.  My intention of this channel is to provide the means for me to share with the public my interests and perspectives around what I read (theory, research, internet, etc.) and my own teaching practice.  My hope is that others will voice additional perspectives on similar topics by addressing through line questions related to each episode.