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Review: Silly Shakespeare for Students

Silly Shakespeare for Students is a new series from Alphabet Publishing. It offers simplified versions of well-known Shakespeare plays, making them accessible and fun for English language learners. You can read the blurb from the publisher here.

A few key points about the resources…

  • Each play in the series has been cut to about an hour
  • They’re all done in rhyming couplets – short, sharp and engaging
  • They include lots of humour throughout, regardless of the original genre
  • Plays include stage directions, some production notes, plus an explanation of how the play has been adapted.

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Materials writing news and views, June 2020

Rushed off my feet. No time to put any news and views together in recent months. This one will be more views than news, and a bit loose.

So, what’s going on?

Work
I expected loads more cancelled projects due to COVID-19. There’s been talk of some, but it also seems like there are plenty of contracts around. My usual ‘bug all my connections on LinkedIn until someone caves in and offers me writing’ has reaped the usual rewards. Having said that, I’ve been too busy to take most things on. New teaching role (see here), lots to learn.

Change?

There’s understandably a lot of worry at the moment for writers. The question on everyone’s lips seems to be…

Will pay remain this low?

Yeah, probably. Experienced writers love to reminisce about when royalties and other perquisites came as standard. When publishers’ demands were reasonable, when writers really did retire to the Cayman Islands… We’re talking back when Babylon Zoo topped the charts with Spaceman. (more…)

All change!

It’s the end of an era! I’ve spent nearly five years with the same language school (British Council) here in Thailand, which is a pretty long stint.

Overall, it’s been a good experience. I mentioned before that the pay and conditions were good at our centre in Bangkok, and that probably kept me there slightly longer than expected. It wasn’t easy as a materials writer being a full-time teacher too, and I’ve had to turn down some good writing opportunities over the years. But hey, teaching is always my priority.

As with any job, there are highs and lows. The highlights of my time in the job included…

… working in a close-knit team. We have five centres here in Bangkok, and when I first arrived I was placed in the ‘main office’. It was a regional hub which I found a bit anonymous to be honest. Most of the important managers hung out there, making it easy to bug them so they couldn’t hide behind their emails. But apart from that it was a bit… soulless? So, I took the opportunity to move out to a smaller branch. We had a team of only 7 or 8 teachers over the years, and everyone got on well. I had some great managers at that branch, loved my classes, really enjoyed working with the students and engaging with parents. Awesome, I’ll miss it. (more…)

Types of curriculum

Leslie Owen Wilson’s useful post on types of curriculum is well worth a read. Before I read it my idea of ‘a curriculum’ was narrow. I thought of it as a group of subjects that are taught, plus the skills or knowledge you hope to develop. Hmmm.

So the curriculum is taught, it’s not learnt? And it’s about what ‘you’ as the educator hope for your learners to develop? And its about skills and knowledge, not dispositions or mindsets? Etc…

Wilson’s summary made me realise that there’s so much more than just an overt curriculum, which I guess is the one I tried to describe. I knew that in practice, because I used to spend most of my time as an EFL teacher rejecting the prescribed resources and teaching things that were more relevant or interesting for the learners (shhhh!). Most teachers do that anyway, but the fact that no one ever really checked what was going on in my classroom meant I had tonnes of flexibility with my ‘curriculum-in-use’. Trust me, P4C went down a lot better with the learners than grammar gap fills, so I don’t feel guilty. (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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Materials writing news and views, March 2020

One-year anniversary of these posts. Cool!

New releases

Congrats to Billie Jago, who has authored these practice tests for Cambridge C1 Advanced:

This is the first time I’ve come across the publisher Prosperity Education. Looks like they are mainly exam-focused, and they seem to like having smiley people on the front of their books.

Didn’t come across any other releases this month, feel free to add them in the comments.

Oh no, wait! I saw Bernardo Morales post on LinkedIn about ‘Practice and Pass A2 KEY for Schools’ (via Delta Publishing). Link to book here.

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How to get a DipTESOL Distinction

Oh, come on! There’s no secret formula to getting a Distinction in the DipTESOL. You know that. I know that. But people are still gonna google ‘get a DipTESOL distinction’, and someone’s gonna top the search list. It might as well be me. After all, I’m not selling anything. And somehow, who knows, I keep fluking these good marks in courses despite being a bang average teacher…

So look, here are a few things I did on the way to that Distinction. Note, not to get a Distinction. They might help, they might not. Are they generic? Meh, not all of them… (more…)

Hirameki with young learners (via Emily Bryson)

A very quick post to say thanks to Emily Bryson! She recently shared this interesting post on using the Japanese art of Hirameki as way to teach life skills and encourage creativity.

This worked a treat with my 6-year-olds! We are currently doing a module on animals and have just covered animal body parts. Emily’s activity was a great way to review/use this language. The learners turned their colourful splodges into animals and then labelled the various body parts. Simple, engaging, effective… and they were speaking in full sentences: ‘I think it looks like…’, ‘What can you see?’ Great to hear!

I can’t really share the learners’ own drawings on my blog, so the feature image is my own example (using one of Emily’s images).

Hey, that’s the great thing about reading other blogs! So much inspiration. Cheers Emily. Buying your book as a thank you, hopefully more inspiration in there!

12 conversation strategies worth teaching

One thing my CELTA course skimmed over was how to develop learners’ conversation strategies.

There seems to be a good amount of focus on conversation strategies in recent coursebooks. However, at times I find these can be problematic. Models of effective convo strategies/techniques can be naff sometimes. Where there are no models, and instead there are tip boxes for maybe using a convo strategy during a task, these can lack detail. They require the teacher to elaborate quite a bit. While the teacher notes can help, you might find (as I do on occasions) that there’s a bit of a mismatch. I.e. the language that is anticipated to come up during the task isn’t actually needed/is needed but is already known/needs to be built on. (more…)