teacher development

Research in brief: Critique of BICS and CALP

BICS and CALP in a nutshell

BICS and CALP was an idea first proposed by Prof Jim Cummins in the early 1980s. BICS stands for Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills, and CALP is Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency. Here’s what they are:

‘BICS refers to conversational fluency in a language while CALP refers to students’ ability to understand and express, in both oral and written modes, concepts and ideas that are relevant to success in school’ (Cummins 2008: 108).

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Free access to Twinkl

Just a quick one! Twinkl ESL are currently offering free access to users in South America in response to school closures. Miranda’s doing a great job at Twinkl and offering loads of awesome resources, many of which can be adapted for (or are even best suited to) online learning.

I found Twinkl really useful during online learning. I made various guided reading sequences on Seesaw using their resources and my learners responded well to these. I’ve since found other Twinkl resources useful for EAL classes with my Year 4 students (fronted adverbials for the win!).

Here are the access codes:

Colombia: educarjuntosCO

Mexico: educarjuntosMX

Peru: educarjuntosPE

Brazil: educarjuntosBR

Argentina: educarjuntosAR

For other locations just get in touch with Miranda via the Facebook group or via Twitter @Mirandacrowhur1

Hope you find it useful!

Here’s a recent post from Miranda at Twinkl on ELT Planning.

Guest post: Student and teacher reflection journals

It’s been a while since a guest post on ELT Planning. Michael Walker is a PGCEi-qualified teacher who has spent a while teaching EAP at a university in the Republic of Korea. In this cool post, Michael describes the impact of using reflection journals on his practice and on student learning.

I may be a bit of an anomaly in the EAL field, truth be told, teaching English doesn’t excite me, never has. What does get me up in the morning and into the classroom is developing a student’s interest in learning.

Like many EAL teachers, I fell into language teaching. Spending a year in a foreign clime teaching well-behaved children was and probably still is a cushy option for a recent graduate. However, my interest in learning never left me. In fact, after several years teaching elementary students I found myself voluntarily searching for pedagogical literature, having discussions with other staff members on how to excite and inspire students, and spending hours developing materials that will appeal to a diverse bunch of learners. Not because I was overly passionate about instilling an understanding of comparative adjectives into my students, but just because I wanted the students to develop a love of learning. (more…)

Useful links: Project-based learning

I’ve been reading a bit about project-based learning (PjBL) recently. I had to write a critique of an approach used in my context as part of the PGCEi. Our Secondary course now follows a PjBL approach*, so I thought it was worth trying to understand the approach in more detail and evaluating whether it’s effective. Here’s some useful reading on PjBL in general.

Larmer et al (2015) seems to be a go-to resource for PjBL, and set out some clear design principles for the approach:

Check out their ‘Gold-standard PBL’ white paper for an overview.

Thomas (2000), shares a great overview on the difference between ‘doing a project’ and ‘project-based learning’. They stress that in PjBL…

  • projects are central to the curriculum rather than peripheral
  • driving questions or problems guide the learning
  • projects are student-driven and realistic (authentic)
  • projects involved constructive, sustained investigation

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ELT Twitter chats

I did a digital reset of my Twitter account recently. I now see a much wider range of content than before, and have found loads of awesome EAL/ELL/ESL teachers to follow.

One really useful thing about the reset is that I now see loads more tweets from organised ELT chats. The only chat I used to get involved in was #ELTchat. I say involved… I’d normally dip into the 24-hour slowburn. I probably joined the actual hour-long chat no more than five times, as it was always after midnight here in Thailand. Also, I found it a bit difficult to get involved in sometimes – they’d discussed so much stuff already that I wasn’t really sure what to add without going over old ground.

#ELTchat may be on hiatus at present, but there seem to be loads more organized chats around for EL teachers. Here are some of those I’ve come across since the new year… (more…)

My dissertation

Sharing my recent MA dissertation for general interest. I say ‘general interest’, but I imagine the interest will be extremely specific! Here’s the title:

Pronunciation materials in an A2/B1 level British Council Adult General English course in Thailand – do they meet the needs of the learners?

The main reason I chose this topic is because it is applicable to my context and my own learners. I wanted to analyse our current resources and affect some kind of change, if any was needed. Alas, it has had very little impact.

In hindsight, I really regret choosing this topic. I enjoyed a lot of the reading, and the research has informed my own practice. However, I knew there were institutional constraints from the start. The sample size is so limited, it serves only to have an impact on my immediate context and nothing beyond that really. Plus, if I’m honest, there are a billion other topics in ELT I’m more interested in!

I don’t want to completely put you off, but the literature review is sparse, there are assumptions made about the value of the Lingua Franca Core, and some of the questioning methods are leading. Still, ya know, I’m accountable for that – my tutor was great and really pulled this study into line. Alan Pulverness, kudos!

If you find it useful, it’s there!

Webinar: The Value of Gamification for Language Learning

I watched this short webinar today from Cambridge Assessment English on gamifying learning (Sarah Albrecht and Ollie Wood). It was a straightforward introduction to the topic of gamification, then a short Q+A between presenters and live listeners. Here is the recording, as shared by Ollie Wood on LinkedIn:

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Pronunciation articles for DipTESOL students

I’m trying to persuade our DipTESOL students to engage with some pronunciation-related research. I’ve hand-picked these five articles for their relevance to our context (well, the last one is more general), and I’ll be sharing them with our candidates this week. Thought I’d chuck them on the blog as well, as others might be interested in them. I’ve left in the reasons why I’ve chosen them for the candidates here – you might find they connect similarly to your own context. (more…)