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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…)

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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…)

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…)

Metaphors for teaching materials

What are coursebooks to you? This question prompted plenty of discussion on our materials development course. We were given various metaphors to choose from – a springboard, a straitjacket, a recipe, a compass, etc. I opted for a crutch, as I felt it was something that supported the students learning (and my planning). Mind you, one coursebook I used recently felt more like a headwind. More specifically, a headwind while running on a sloping, pebbly beach in winter during a mild storm. I won’t name the book in question…!

(more…)

Reasons to explore your staffroom

What’s your staffroom like? Do you know what’s in all those cupboards and drawers? Is there dust collecting on most of the supplementary materials? What’s in that unlabelled ring binder?

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copyright OUP

I’m lucky to have worked in some really well-stocked staffrooms. I mean, the one in LTC Eastbourne had EVERYTHING – they were hoarders. Never had they thrown out a cassette tape(!), a freebie, a flashcard, a material produced in-house… it was a veritable ELT jungle. Despite the abundance of materials, I rarely explored the bookshelves and cupboards. The day I did… wow! Thirty minutes of rummaging saved me about 10 hours planning in the long run. It also resulted in me trialling ‘Teaching with Bear’, which wasn’t my finest hour. I can’t think why my intermediate adults didn’t take to it…

If I were inducting new staff I’d certainly schedule half an hour of staffroom rummaging. We don’t really make the most of the staffroom resources in my centre. We prepare almost everything on our computers, and search for supplementary materials online. Sure, it’s more convenient. It just that there’s a whole other wall of lesson inspiration just sitting there, and most of us have our backs to it!

So, yesterday I finally turned around. I was right, I knew I’d find something worthwhile. No ‘Teaching with Bear’ though…

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This book by Jamie Keddie was mentioned during my MA module in Materials Development. It’s full of great tasks for making the most of images and sometimes building whole lessons around them. ‘Noun Marriages’ looks like a good task, might give it a go soon…

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This ‘Top Tips for IELTS’ book is quite good too. It’s full of short tasks for practising different skills and strategies. It summaries key information about the course, and has quite a few of those tiny tips that really count for a lot of marks… (more…)

The role of research in TEFL

I’ve been thinking about the role of research in TEFL recently. This was prompted by Dr Paula Rebolledo’s closing plenary on Day 2 of the Teaching for Success online conference, titled ‘How could research inform EFL practice?’ You can watch it here. The talk reminded me of a few things I’ve read by Penny Ur, including this Guardian article in which she questions whether research is directly relevant to pedagogical issues.

Here’s a summary of points made in Paula’s plenary (I hope she doesn’t mind this blow by blow account but it was a really engaging talk):

  • According to her poll, most attendees felt that experience informed their decision making above research (and other resources)
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poll from talk by Dr. Paula Rebolledo

  • Research is often inaccessible to teachers (i.e. restricted access journals, costly, etc)
  • A lot of research is incomprehensible – it’s full of jargon and there are different discourses used among researchers and academics compared with teachers
  • Research findings aren’t always relevant to teachers (mentioned by Ur and others)
  • Teachers have different routes to research – engagement WITH research (i.e. reading it) or engagement IN research (doing it). NB: on the latter point – big up our Quircle!
  • Some authors (e.g. Ellis, Ur) have suggested that ‘mediators’ may be useful in helping teachers access, understand and facilitate teacher engagement in research
  • Huw Jarvis did a bit of self-promo in the chat box saying he was such a mediator. His site looks interesting
  • There could be a power imbalance between teachers and researchers. Teachers are seen as being on the receiving end of knowledge. We should rethink this. Perhaps researchers need to better understand teaching, as many may have been out of the classroom for a long time and more used to observing
  • Teachers may benefit from undertaking research or working with researchers in many ways, like these:
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slide from the talk by Dr Paula Rebolledo

  • The idea of ‘teacher as researcher’ needs to be a ‘bottom up, teacher-led enterprise
  • There are practical issues for teachers engaging in research – lack of time, the need for support from schools and society as a whole, etc.

(more…)

Teaching for Success online conference

Oh look, Se at TalkTEFL has been taking the Mickey out of our ‘Quality Circle’…

Sarah Smith and I will be chatting about our teacher-led development group (‘The Quircle’) at the British Council Teaching for Success online conference. We’re on the action research discussion panel on Wednesday 5th Oct. Come and share your ideas with us!

If you want to know about our group but can’t attend the webinar, check out the latest issue (106) of English Teaching Professional.