Digital activities’ project as a support network for English language students in quarantine
By Andreia Machado Castiglioni de Araújo, MLitt. UEFS/Brazil
Introduction: Beginning the Words
This paper has the main goal to share some pedagogical practices for K12 learners, using a mix of educational technologies and other possibilities that can be done at home for significative learning of English.
In 2020, due to the quarantine from the novel coronavirus (which can lead to the disease COVID-19), a worrying unprecedented historical situation was established in the world. In this challenging context, teachers needed to reinvent themselves in the complex task of teaching; thus, they found themselves in the need to create opportunities and support networks for contacting their students.
These experiences happened in Feira de Santana, a city in the northeast of Brazil, with a general area with 1,304 km² and an estimated population of more than 600,000 inhabitants. So, there was created a digital platform by our Municipal Department of Education, with the direction of pedagogical possibilities in the virtual environment, aimed at students and teachers for our local reality. Within this context, in particular, for keeping in touch with our students, it was created a support network with some suggestions of interdisciplinary activities in the digital environment.
Digital Pedagogical Routines
According to this project, named #emcasatambemseaprende (which means #athomewelearntoo), the main goal has been to promote, especially during this social distance, possible paths for meaningful learning at home with different activities for each subject school (in my case English). This production started in March and it continues in action for the duration of the suspension of classes in the public network of Feira de Santana (Brazil).
As an English teacher and one of the people responsible for preparing these educational suggestions, I tried to present the diversity of this target language in the world and the cultures involved in this international web. In this case, these activities were developed with a focus on playfulness and connectivity, within the interests of the youth audience.
Also, weekly routines were set up with suggestions focused on some relevant themes, such as ethnic-racial relations, special education, environmental education, sustainability, socio-emotional skills, creativity, among others. These English activities have had the role of sharing possibilities within the virtual environments of free access for students, such as games, songs, videos on social media, cards, podcasts, ebooks, among other possible scenarios for this support network during quarantine in our locality.
Thus, I will share here some activities as suggested interdisciplinary in these special thematics. The first was “Right to Education” that we have the Malala’s speech as an inspiration for understanding that learning should be a right for everyone. It isn’t only to be at school, but the students can experience in their classes about some values like respect, inclusion, and equality. So, this activity was that the students build a pictionary (a kind of dictionary with some images) for some relevant words as citizenship, democracy, freedom, etc. Also, it was suggested that they play some games (www.gamesforchange.org), to watch Malala’s interview and the movie “The Boy who Harnessed the Wind”.
The second pedagogical suggestion shared here was about the connection between English, racial and ethnic relations, diversity and culture such as: read/watch the popular speech “I have a Dream” (Martin Luther King), read the book “The Bluest Eye” (Toni Morrison) and watch some films (“Hidden Figures,” “Black Panther,” etc.) for discussing this theme.
The third one was about environmental education and sustainability, specially as a way of being aware of our actions on the planet, dialoguing with three important Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle). So, it was suggested to play some games (“Green City”, “Selective Collect” and “Planet Hour”), watch some videos (“Man” by Steve Cutts and “Earth is our home - let’s protect it” by National Geographic), and, finally, the students can create themselves some posters about their comprehension using Canva.com.
The fourth suggestion, that I will share here, was about creativity and socioemotional skills. In this case, they could discover new vocabularies using a joke with junctions of words (for example, the word “limão” in Portuguese can be broken in “Read”=Li + “Hand”=Mão, whetting students’ curiosity). Also, it was suggested to have some experiences with 5 senses while eyes were closed, such as tasting some food for describing it, or smelling it to discover the ingredients, etc. Finally, they could share their feelings answering the question “How are you feeling this week?” using emoticons, gifs, drawing or writing their impressions for an imaginary friend, and surprisingly creating a poem, a song or a podcast with these experiences.
Figure 2. Themes Related to this Project’s Pedagogical Routines (images from Pixabay)
Ways and Theories in Educative Environment
Some theories base these purposes. Initially, the Learning pyramid of William Glasser (1990) shared with us that for achieving above average of learning, students need to have active practices as argue/talk/ask/debate (50%), write/interpret/express (75%) and explain/structure/elaborate/teach (90%).
Figure 3: The Learning Pyramid (adapted from https://www.ntl.org/)
Also, the ideas of Paulo Freire (1996) composed our theoretical basis which the students and teachers need to express their voices with autonomy and singularity of their contexts and realities. Supported by English as lingua franca (JENKINS, 2009; GIMENEZ, 2015; SIQUEIRA, 2010, 2011), thereby we can communicate with variable uses in a globalized world and enhance these intercultural ways, idea as well presented in our official document Common National Curriculum Base (BNCC, 2017).
Lastly, but not the least, it’s agreed the digital influences in society, specially based in New London group theories (1996). According to these, multiliteracies bring a conception that students can increase their access to cultural and linguistic diversity using communicative situations and technological perspectives, significatively (COPE & KALANTZIS, 2008). In Brazil, Rojo (2012) points to the multiplicity of literate practices and the articulation of different language modalities for interaction in the world. Add to this idea, Multimodality (KRESS, 2003, 2000) appears as an approach to produce information and senses, using a variety of modes for communication (images, audios, letters, gestures, movements, etc) in multiplicity of ways.
In this way, it can be seen that efforts have been made to maintain contact with students, even in the face of so many gaps and adversities in our locality in this pandemic moment. It is worth noting that these English activities have had the role of sharing possibilities within the virtual environments of free access for students, such as games, songs, videos on social media, cards, podcasts, ebooks, among other possible scenarios for this support network during quarantine in their realities.
Thus, this production continues in action for the duration of the classes’ suspension in the public schools of Feira de Santana (Brazil), trying to continue our pedagogical actions and preserve this communication with our students, by providing the exercise of critical-reflexive thinking, dialoguing for active participation in society as citizenship, human development and the fight against inequality.
Finally, this project was built for thinking about the social, historical, geographical and natural relations of human existence and its multiple languages, in an interdisciplinary way, in order to problematize this worldwide phenomenon and other possible reflections.
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About the Author
Andreia Machado Castiglioni de Araújo graduated as an English and Portuguese Teacher, with a Specialization course in Education and Social-cultural plurality and a Master’s degree in Letters, from Feira de Santana State University (UEFS). She participated in a Professional Development for Teachers program (in Kansas State University, 2019). She works as an English teacher in the Municipal Public School (Elementary) and English Curriculum Coordination at Municipal Secretary of Education of Feira de Santana. And also, she is the creator of Instagram’s profile @professorautor. Research areas/interests: Education, Digital Technologies, Continued Professional Development for Teachers, English language, and Curriculum critical theory.
Her contact email is email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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