General

The 8 stages of teaching my own materials

I sat down to plan a General English class for our adult learners to the other day. I say plan, more like adapt. We have an in-house set of lessons so there’s already a plan in place, but the lesson needs tweaking to suit the learners. Anyway, I opened up my lesson schedule and there it was – ‘Lesson 93 – English around the World’. Just another lesson for other teachers, but really significant for me. It was the first time ever I’d taught published materials that I’d actually wrote!

I’m teaching my own materials week in, week out. Sometimes a coursebook or other materials are dry so I either just adapt them or scrap them and write something else. Most of my colleagues do the same, it’s standard procedure. I’m happy to share the resources I make with other teachers, if they turn out to be any good that is! But this time it’s different. I was actually paid to write these materials, they are formally published as part of a regional syllabus across 15 countries, and teachers across the region are using them daily.

My first thought – pride. It’s so cool. It’s a real sense of achievement to see something you wrote looking all organised on a handout. It’s funny to read teachers notes with your inner voice and remember the actual voice who wrote it was you…! Sure, it’s also a bit of an ego boost I guess, but that happens.

My second thought – relief. Phew! It’s Lesson 93! It’s one of the 50 or so lessons I wrote that I was fairly pleased with.

Third – confusion. Man, what are all these documents?! There’s like a handout and teachers notes, that’s standard, plus a few cut-ups. Then there’s a sort of jigsaw reading task, a running dictation, some more cut ups or something. Blimey. I went overboard for sure. A lot of this must be optional. I better read my own notes. (more…)

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10 useful terms for teachers of young learners

Teaching with Bear, what a classic!

This post is for anyone about to start a training course in teaching young learners. These 10 terms came up a lot on my YL training course so it’s worth reading up on them before you start. I’ve explained each one in brief, but you’ll also find some links for further reading. If more jargon pops up during your training I recommend this good online glossary for ELT related terms from eltnotebook.

  1. Differentiation

According to Carol Ann Tomlinson, differentiation is ‘tailoring instruction to meet individual needs’. Carol has a great summary article on this on the Reading Rockets site, which you can access here.

You can differentiate in tonnes of ways – adding more support or more challenge to a task, having graded outcomes, allowing learners to choose how they demonstrate learning, adapting the learning environment, etc. Tomlinson provides a fair few examples in the aforementioned article.

Rachel Roberts is also a great source of info on differentiation. This article and this webinar are worth viewing.

If you really want to get stuck into this topic, Larry Ferlazzo’s page is probably what you’re looking for. I’d say this is a must learn phrase! Then again, it doesn’t even make the glossary of Annamaria Pinter’s ‘Teaching Young Learners’, so perhaps its losing its ‘buzzwordiness’.

  1. Scaffolding

Scaffolding is providing structured support to help learners achieve a task. The clue is in the word I guess… Personally, I used to think of scaffolding as part of differentiation, until I read this useful definition from edglossary.com. The concept of ‘scaffolding of learning’ is attributed to Jerome Bruner. One important aspect of scaffolding is how teacher support given to learners is gradually taken away as the learners become more independent. I’ve posted a few examples of scaffolding in action, here’s my favourite.

It’s worth reading about Lev Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) if you want more context for Bruner’s ideas. (more…)

Integrating technology in the classroom

A few weeks ago I blogged about my recent experience of using edtech in class. Claudia Andrade shared an interesting response to the post:

This got me thinking about my practice and my reliance on certain forms of evaluation. Looking back at most of my reflections on this blog, it’s clear that I judge the success of new approaches or activities on two things – either self-reflection or student feedback. At best I use both.

I’ve done enough training courses that have drummed that ‘plan-do-review’ cycle into me…

A nice diagram from Youth Work Essentials

Plus, as I’ve become a more experienced practitioner I’ve improved my ability to reflect critically and (somewhat) objectively on my approach and how it works for my students. I’ve involved students far more in this reflection/evaluation process as time has gone on. Looking back, it makes me cringe a bit when I realise how little I appreciated student feedback in my early teaching days…

However, I can see there are weakness in the way I evaluate the impact of an approach or a particular resource. I don’t think I use enough tools to help guide my reflections – I could make far more use of pedagogical frameworks as a guide when evaluating my practice.

This is particularly true of my approach to edtech at times. Although I’m looking for ways to integrate technology, more often than not it seems that I trial a piece of edtech in an unprincipled or isolated way. This normally results in me using a tech tool merely as an alternative to my established approach rather than as an enhancement. (more…)

How I plan with coursebooks

Coursebooks. Arrgh.

I write and read so many rants about them. Global coursebooks are too ‘catch-all’, they’re not aligned with what we know about second language acquisition, they’re a straightjacket, the images promote certain ideals, the content is too diluted, etc.

Like them or not, many teachers are bound to using a coursebook. Maybe a syllabus is coursebook-driven, the school demand it, the expectation from parents is that they’ve shelled out for the book so it must be completed cover-to-cover. Whatever. It happens. I can rant about it on my blog until the cows come home, but at the end of the day I’ve got to find a way to use it.

My school mostly use their own in-house materials, but we have a coursebook-driven syllabus for the teens (well, until next year). Here’s an example of some of the steps I go through when planning from the book. These are meant for less-experienced teachers. They are representative of my classroom practice but I can’t guarantee they’ll be effective (!). Every class is different.

Here we go. I have a copy of Beyond A2+ (Macmillan). I’m opening it at random… and we got…

Ew…

For my teens? COME ON! Can I start again? No? Right. Ok… (more…)

Behind the scenes – thoughts on the blog

Ages ago I was asked on Twitter to write a ‘behind the scenes’ of ELTplanning. Well, here’s one (of sorts). It’s not about the process I go through, more just my feelings on blogging.

Loads of teachers have contacted me through ELTplanning this term. Thanks so much for all the compliments. I’m really glad you’ve found some of the activities on here useful.

I started this blog to give something back (sure, a cliché ). So many teachers have helped me on my teaching journey with ideas, encouragement and support. I felt like I wanted to do the same. Naturally, as time goes on motivations change. I wrote about my blogging experiences in this article for ETPro, and mentioned some of the difficulties I’ve faced. (more…)

Edtech exploration

I’ve come across loads of edtech sites/tools recently. I’ll forget them all if I don’t start writing them down. Here’s a random mix of stuff I’ve come across or have been using.

Things I tried in class last term…

Quizlet

I had to do a fairly long piece of action research into edtech for my MA. I chose to focus on Quizlet, you can read about my initial thoughts here. Overall, despite plenty of encouragement, I found that Quizlet lacked longevity. The wow factor died down after a while and the students rarely used the app for self-study towards the end of term. Verdict: Meh… (more…)

Global Digital Citizen Foundation

I came across this great site after they linked to an old blog post of mine. What a stroke of luck!

According to the site, Global Digital Citizen Foundation is a ‘non-profit organisation dedicated to cultivating responsible, ethical, global citizens for a digital world’. They work with educators around the world to help develop modern learning environments, with a focus on helping learners develop autonomy and skills such as problem-solving and critical thinking. You can read more here.

The site had loads of really good downloadable resources, most of which are free (you do need to log in though). I’ve downloaded a critical thinking workbook and ideas for project-based learning, both of which are really useful. Selected resources available include ‘Medial Tools for Teachers’ (full of tips for great free media sites), classroom motivational posters, guides to using social media in class and much more. They also have a blog and post frequently.

According to the ‘Who we are’ section of the site, one of the driving forces behind the project is Andrew Churches. He has a blog that is also worth looking at – especially for the useful downloads related to Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy.

Let me know what you think of the sites!

Images copyright Global Digital Citizen Foundation