Learning to read the world through other eyes

I’ve just come across this booklet as part of the reading on the PGCEi at the University of Nottingham. It’s a brilliant open access resource for exploring global citizenship. It offers a series of cross-cultural exercises, which help learners to…

  • develop understanding of different belief systems and values
  • explore how these values may impact of development agendas
  • examine western and indigenous interpretations of notions such as equality, education and poverty
  • consider ways to improve dialogue and mutual learning.

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Dialogue in ELT

I received some really interesting responses to my post on good working conditions in ELT – thanks for all the comments on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

One of the many comments that are worth exploring in a bit more depth was a tweet from paulw. He asked me three questions:

  • What is it that enables me as a white European person to have “good working conditions in ELT” in Thailand?
  • Is it the case that Thai people can expect such conditions if they go to the UK? (Answer: No.)
  • How many Thai ELT teachers do you have?

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What are good working conditions in ELT?

I’ve read a lot about poor pay and working conditions in ELT recently. Keith Copley’s recent article in ETPro touched upon some of the many issues that influence working conditions in the industry – institutional power, neoliberal-romantic rhetoric that promotes certain other aspirations (freedom, life experience) above renumeration, and so on. I’ve read tweets about strikes over pay at ELT centres, discrimination of NNES teachers, university lectureship roles which require advanced qualifications yet offer relatively low financial reward, to mention just a few of the issues.

Obviously I fully support the push for better, fairer pay and conditions. Now that’s said, what I don’t read often are stories of good working conditions. I get why. I mean, no one wants to be smug and come across as ‘well none of this affects me, I’m doing quite well out of TEFL thank you very much’. The fact is though, jobs in TEFL with good working conditions do exist. Keith Copley knows this as well as I do; we work in the same institution where, overall, the working conditions are great.

Here are the benefits that our employer offers us here in Thailand. I consider this to be a working conditions WAGOLL. On balance, there are very good conditions in our organisation – you’ll find a lot of teachers at our school have been here a good few years, and it’s no surprise why. (more…)

Lesson idea: Great British Bake Off

It’s the penultimate week of term. State schools are on holiday, so the students have already requested something ‘fun’ and ‘light’ for lessons this week. The current topic is food. It’s lacked a creative task so far, and I don’t want to go over old ground (designing a themed restaurant, menus, crazy recipes, and so on). It’s time (I think) for the Bake Off…

Note: this lesson does not involve baking! (more…)

More on developing meaning-building skills in reading

This post follows on from Rachael Roberts’ great article on developing meaning-building skills in reading. 

As Rachael says, comprehension questions have their place but they also have their limitations. Tasks that develop meaning-building skills, which you could use alongside/instead of comprehension questions, encourage learners to engage with a text in a deeper and more personalized way. They also give teachers a better insight into how their learners process information in a text. This can highlight learner strengths or areas for development, hence inform practice.

Part of my remit as the co-author of Startup Level 8 (Pearson) was to create the reading skills lessons for each unit. The publisher had prioritized these meaning-building tasks at higher levels (this was C1+). They still wanted comprehension questions, but meaning-building tasks were the main focus.

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Trends in the ELT materials market (?)

I don’t know what the trends are. No facts here. Just my opinion. I’m interested – do you agree/disagree/take offence/think these are pointlessly general statements/etc? Please comment!

  1. Key markets for most publishers seem to be China, Mexico, Turkey and Brazil.
  2. In most cases, print still rules…
  3. … apart from in China, where everyone is obsessed with adapting coursebooks for a ‘virtual market’.
  4. Primary publishers don’t seem to fully trust a CLIL-based approach (to be highly profitable, I mean). They like to cater for more traditional (grammar/typical vocab) approaches in their range too, and the success of CLIL-based resources hinges on teacher training, which may mean more investment for publishers.

Wait. Just thinking more about that last point… (more…)

Materials writing conversations #5: the recording

This is a completely imaginary conversation. No characters in the convo are based on real people – I’m just bored and imagining conversations I might have with editors…

Editor: We need to get all the listening texts finalised by early next week, as we’ll be in the studio on Wednesday and Thursday.

Me: Okay. Two full days in the studio. Sounds busy. I guess there’s a lot to record.

Editor: Yeah. It’s always a rigmarole booking studio time, making sure everything is ready and all that. Luckily, the two voice actors we used for the previous levels were both available again, so that saves some hassle.

Me: Wait. The same two voice actors? (more…)