UPTC 2012 Slides and Links

May 27, 2012

I was invited to give some talks at the annual teachers’ conference at La Universidad Panamericana in Aguascalientes, Mexico. The conference title was ENGLISH TEACHER DEVELOPMENT: A HUMANISTIC APPROACH.

The event was really well-organized and a real privilege to be part of. The teachers that attended were great fun too. It was also nice to meet one of my online PLN face-to-face for the first time and also great to extend my PLN further by making new connections.

I gave three sessions: one plenary titled Taking Responsibility for our Own Development; and two workshops, one on teaching using a Dogme framework, and another on using classroom observations as a tool for professional development. Prezi presentations and links for all three talks follow.

Plenary: Taking Responsibility For Our Own Development

In my plenary talk, after quickly looking at how humanistic approaches had found their way into our classrooms through various techniques, methods and approaches, and after considering the weaknesses of various models of teacher development, I argued that the best kind of teacher development would naturally be humanistic in nature. We explored a number of practical steps that teachers could take to kick start their own development, including conducting focused classroom observations and developing an online PLN. Participants were very responsive to the ideas proposed. You can see the Prezi presentation here:

Or see it on Prezi, here.

Web links:
Here’s Brian Tomlinson’s article on the dangers of in-service teacher training, from the Teacher Trainer journal.

And Tomlinson’s article on materials development TD sessions here, from Humanising Language Teaching Magazine.

Here’s a link to Russel Stannard’s Teacher Training Videos, which is where the original idea for using screencasts for grading students’ written work comes from. There are also plenty of other fantastic videos about using technology in the classroom on Russel’s site.

Here’s a link to the International Teacher Development Institute.

Links to books:

Here’s a link to Michael Wallace’s Training Foreign Language Teachers.

Ruth Wajnryb’s book on classroom observation provides a comprehensive, practical guide to using classroom observations as a teacher development tool.

Also, the first edition of Jim Scrivener’s Learning Teaching had an excellent collection of focused observation tasks, but I couldn’t find the observation tasks in the the latest edition, so I just tweeted him to find out why:

That’s what I was getting at in my talk when I said that the world is flat!

For an extensive overview of teaching methodology, read Richards and Schmidt.

I also mentioned that David Nunan’s Second Language Teaching and Learning was a must read for anybody want to their classes more student-focused.

Dogme ELT – Preparing Class Materials-Light
I ran a workshop on teaching using a Dogme framework. The first part of the session was a micro-lesson sequence involving a dictogloss task about an embarrassing travel experience. I read my anecdote out loud twice, allowing the he participants to take notes the second time. Participants then worked in small groups to reconstruct the text. We then briefly looked at the uses of the past progressive for providing background information, and finally students told each other about their own funny / embarrassing travel experiences.

In the second part of the session, we analysed the dictogloss sequence using the following criteria: Was is productive? Was it communicative? Did it integrate language skills? Was there a focus on form? We then moved on to look at the rationale and principals behind Dogme ELT and looked at Dale Coulter’s excellent ideas of using lesson skeletons to prepare for Dogme classes. The final stage required participants to design a lesson skeleton for an interaction-driven Dogme activity.

The participants really seemed to enjoy this session and I got a lot of good feedback.

See it in Prezi here. And you can click this link: Dogme Handouts, for the handout containing the interaction-driven tasks that I used in the final stage of the session.

Links:
Scott Thornbury on Dogme.

Thornbury and Meddings book,Teaching Unplugged – the link also has downloadable parts of the book in PDF.

Dale Coulter’s Language Moments blog.

Martin Sketchley’s e-book on incorporating Dogme into your teaching.

Initiating Classroom-Based Action Research Projects: Observation Tasks
The third talk was a workshop on using classroom observation as tool for professional development and it drew heavily on Ruth Wajnryb’s book on observation tasks.

The session started with the participants reflecting on their experiences of classroom observation before we brainstormed and discussed the different aspects of the learning and teaching process that could be the focus of observations. The participants then analysed a series of observation forms before planning their own observation plan.

The session went well but the participants initially struggled to see the idea of observation as anything other than an assessment tool. Hopefully by the end of the session, they were beginning to see the potential that observation tasks hold for teacher development! Here’s the Prezi slide show:

See it here on Prezi.

Links
Ruth Wajnrib’s Classroom Observation Tasks

Jim Scrivener’s Learning Teaching

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Student-Generated Comprehension Questions

February 8, 2012

Paul Emmerson, the TEFL writer / trainer has an excellent section on his website with tips on using authentic texts in class which involve zero preparation.

I’d been looking for ways to make work incorporating authentic reading and listening texts purposeful and fun without depending too heavily on worksheets (last thing my production workers want either before or after their 9-hour shift is a worksheet; and part of the ongoing “unplugging” of my teaching!) and was delighted to find Paul’s ideas. I’d like to add to Paul’s ideas with a couple of my own.

Image-based Text Summaries.
Show students a collection of photos related to the article / report that you’re going to use (a lot of online newspapers have news galleries that you can use – see the Guardian ones, for example). Instruct students to write down a few words /phrases that come to mind with each picture. Get students to pool their ideas and write a 2-or-3-sentence summary of what they expect to see / hear in the story. When students are done, give them the text to check their ideas. They can then amend or add to their summaries.

Key Info Prediction Task
Activate students’ prior knowledge and topic knowledge by looking at the headline and photo of a news article and pre-teach any necessary vocabulary. Then, write some of the key details from the text on the board and have students try to guess what the details refer to – students can discuss their predictions pyramid style and come up with a final list. Then, give out the text and get students to check their answers.

Jumbled Articles
Find two different news articles and cut them up into sections which each contain 2 or 3 sentences. Give each pair of students the two jumbled stories and have them separate and order the texts. Once they have finished (and you have checked that the texts are in the right order) give one of the complete texts to one of the pair, and the other complete text to the other partner (i.e. text 1 to student A, and text 2 to student B) and have them write 3 or 4 comprehension questions based on their text. Finally, have students exchange texts and questions and get the students to answer each other’s questions about the text.

Typical Texts
With texts that tend to have a fairly predictable structure, such as film reviews or job ads, have students write questions that they expect the text to answer, then give out the text and have students answer their own questions (i.e. What happens in the film? Who stars in the film? What’s the salary? What are the main job responsibilities?) Here’s a sample text that you could use for this:

Would love to hear more ideas from you…


In The Spirit of Dogme: 4, 3, 2 Presentations and Other Gems

October 19, 2011

Recently I’ve enjoyed reading various blogs / blog posts on putting Dogme or materials light teaching into practice in the ELT classroom. See the excellent An Experiment with Dogme, ELT Reflections, and Language Moments, for example.

As Thornbury writes in his A to Z blog, Dogme is all about “teaching that focuses on emergent language.” What this means is, rather than walking into the classroom with a pile handouts and predetermined set of activities “to do”, or language areas “to cover”, we work with the language the naturally results from classroom talk.

Spurred on by the excellent blogs and posts that I mention above, here are 3 staples of my classroom teaching over the years that seem to fit in with the spirit of a Dogme approach to ELT.

N.B. I do not claim to have invented these activities, they all come from, or are adapted from, published teaching resources.

4, 3, 2 Presentations
Basically, students prepare a 3 minute talk on a topic of their choice. In the first round they give their talks in four minutes to each other. Students then change partners and give their talks in three minutes to their new partner. In the final round, students switch partners again and repeat their presentation, but this time in just two minutes. The idea of all this being, of course, that it boosts fluency and automaticity as students get the chance to repeat their talks.

Variations / adaptations are infinite – students can be given specific lexis / chunks to use in their talks, and can be asked to tick of lexis / chunks as they hear them. A really fun one that was suggested to me the other day by my colleague Mike Rowley for higher levels, is to have specific pieces of languages to be used but also to have the listener interrupt and try to stop the speaker getting his or her message out.

15 Minutes of Today
This is nice for intermediate + learners and above. Each student thinks of a specific 15 minute period of their day and then writes down 20 things that they did during those 15 minutes. The teacher helps out here pushing students to break activities such as making a cup of coffee or checking email down into its individual actions (“I filled the kettle”, “I took a spoon form the drawer”, for example). Once students have their list of 20 activities, they read six of them randomly to their partner. Based on those six, the partner has to guess another six actions / processes from their partner’s list (e.g. “Did you boil some water?”). In a business English context, this work really well as generates a need for quite specific lexis for processes and work tasks.

Collaborative Emails Error Correction Task
This small group writing task works really well with classes of 8 to 16 business English students and in classrooms where there is a large board. You start by asking groups to think of a work problem that they can all identify with (for example, server problems, or low staffing levels) and then ask to state specifically what the problem is and who they would address this problem to. The teacher then divides the board into sections according to how many groups there are. Groups are then given time to plan and write their emails on their section of the board. Once they are done, the other groups are invited to come make any changes that they feel appropriate to the other group’s emails. This correction stage typically provokes a lot of discussion and generates a lot of language work.

Teaching Resources
Here are some resources that have helped me teach “materials light” over the years: Mario Rinvolucri’s Grammar Games and More Grammar Games is a must for so many imaginative classroom activities; Friederike Klippel’s Keep Talking has a load of good ideas; as does, of course, Thornbury’s How to Teach Speaking. And last but not least, the Humanising Language Teaching online magazine, which, while not the most user friendly website, is well worth exploring.