British Council

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…)

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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…)

Lesson idea: crazy recipes

I feel like I say this a lot, but thanks to ELT-cation (Svetlana) for yet another great lesson idea. Your post on Wordless Videos for ELT was awesome.

I used the Western Spaghetti video from PES as inspiration for a crazy recipe task…

The basis of the task was for students to…

1) choose a dish they know well, write down the ingredients

2) think of a theme (sports, school, music, etc)

3) relate each ingredient to the theme – so for a school theme bread might be an exercise book, pepper might be chopped up pencil lead, etc

4) Write the recipe and illustrate

5) post-it note vote on the best/strangest recipe

Svetlana’s post came along at the perfect time for our module on cooking. It was a great end of term task for the students. They produced some really creative work that on the whole was pretty accurate and included plenty of target language for cooking processes. Thanks for planning my weekend lessons Svetlana! I guess that was a gift from one British Council to another!

                  

Lesson idea: Introducing inventions (2)

My Primary students (aged 11) are studying technology and inventions at the moment. I used this activity to introduce the topic – it worked well. This idea could be used for generating interest, sharing personal responses, developing schematic knowledge, revising comparatives, developing spoken fluency, and much more… It’s amazing what a few images can too – it’s fairly low-prep.

  1. Students work in pairs or groups. Give each group some images of inventions (like above). Do a ‘name the invention’ mini whiteboard challenge, or some variation. Use word scrambles for support (e.g. theelonep = telephone). Check and drill the invention names
  2. Instruct students to put the images in order – which was invented first?

Give them process language to help, e.g.

A: I think _______________ was invented before ____________

B: I agree / maybe / hmmm, I’m not sure. I think….

Etc. (more…)

Students that make my job easy

Full marks to my awesome teen class last week. The work they produced was fantastic and I’m so proud of them.

We did a short project based on describing graphs. It started off with scanning tasks and a few activities on reporting data, based on an infographic in Gateway B1+ (Macmillan)…

(c) Macmillan

Students then made their own questions for a class survey. Once they’d gathered data I gave them my own fairly shoddy model of a graph and a description of the data. They completed an ordering task and discussed the purpose of each part of the description. (more…)

Writing pronunciation activities – 5 things to consider

I’ve written quite a few pronunciation activities this year for a regional product (Asia). Here are a few random thoughts on the process…

Pronunciation for… what?

As Laura Patsko mentions in this interesting Pedagogy Pop-up, pronunciation is important for all skills, not just speaking.

A lot of the pronunciation stages in our materials focus on connected speech. The aim of these activities (IMO) is more to help learners decode natural speech rather than to produce a certain pronunciation feature accurately themselves. Of course, it would be nice if they could do both…

If the purpose of a pronunciation activity isn’t clearly communicated to teachers (and to learners) then this could lead to either having the wrong expectations. There is always a production element in our pronunciation activities, but accurate production of a certain feature might not be the primary aim of an activity.

What problems do the learners have?

This year I’ve been writing a regional product. I’ve taught in 3 of the 15 or so countries where the materials are used. I’ve found it’s pretty tough to address the needs of every learner with a regional product. Resources like Swan’s Learner English have been really useful for understanding common pronunciation problems faced by learners across a region. It’s always worth asking other teachers too – I’m pretty sure that our teachers have taught across the whole region between them.

Of course, it’s worth asking the learners themselves what difficulties they have, but there are practical issues. It might be hard to do this across a whole region, plus they might not actually know what they have difficulties with! (more…)

Learn English through football

Ball ball ball, footie footie footie! I’m a bit obsessed with the beautiful game, and I’ve taught plenty of students who are too! You may have come across Premier Skills English before, the British Council/Premier League site dedicated to teaching English through football. It’s full of great resources, really well-designed and well worth a visit. Premier Skills would be my first port of call for footie related ELT material, but Languagecaster.com is a new favourite of mine! (more…)