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…
For my teens? COME ON! Can I start again? No? Right. Ok… (more…)
Last weekend I had a pretty scary lesson observation…
I’ve been observed more at British Council Thailand than in any other teaching job, which is to me a good thing. There have been formal observations twice a year, observations during training courses like the CELTA YL extension, short management observations during teaching/learning reviews, peer observation schemes, the list goes on…
Personally, I think there are things we can do to optimise our observation procedures. I touched upon one of these in this IATEFL-related post. However, I can’t argue with the amount of opportunities we have to get feedback on our teaching from managers and peers.
Anyway, about the weekend. I’m lucky – my current boss and I get on alright. She was my tutor on last year’s CELTA young learner extension course, and she’s well aware of my strengths and weaknesses. I like her feedback style and I welcome her comments as they are always constructive. She unnerves me a bit during observations with the way she stares, yawns and subconsciously shakes her head, but she never reads this blog so I can get away with saying that.
My rapport with the boss should have put me at ease – so why was this observation particularly scary? Well, because I decided beforehand that I wasn’t going to try and impress anyone. What do people learn about me as a teacher if they constantly see me trying to put on a performance? During peer observations I’m normally just myself, but whenever a manager comes to observe I feel like I’m being judged – like I have to ‘up my game’ or something. In particular, I feel I have to stick to the plan rigidly. (more…)
I mentioned a few whiteboard tips this time last year. I should probably follow my own advice, because my recent whiteboard work has been a bit shoddy.
I’ve been taking some pictures of my recent boards. I won’t post them up in full – I’m embarrassed that I actually make quite a few spelling mistakes. I’m working on that.
Here’s a snippet of one though… this made me chuckle. It must have been an interesting gap year this student was having…
Among the abundance of scribbles and poor organisation, I have come across a few useful things. Obviously, if you’re taking pictures of your own board then you consciously try to make things neat or clear – some of these are recent things I’ve tried out so do let me know if you think they’re a bit rubbish!
I’m surprised I didn’t mention this in my first post. I do this quite a lot though.
I observed a teacher years ago who used that ‘not equal to’ sign to show opposites. I’m not sure it’s right but I’m now in the habit of doing it and students know what I mean!!!
I normally do this to raise awareness of word building patterns. What do you think?
I’m getting better. Paul Millard would be pleased.
Please share any tips you have, I’m always looking to improve my whiteboard work 🙂
For more tips, check out this awesome board from Anthony Ash.
I’m writing a series of short posts in response to Martin Sketchley’s blog challenge. You can view his new blog here.
At my current school we have interactive whiteboards (IWBs) in every classroom. These are a luxury, but I do think they have their drawbacks.
In ‘400 Ideas for Interactive Whiteboards’, Sharma et al (2011:10-11) list these benefits of using an IWB:
- Teachers and students can use a wide range of multimedia in the classroom
- They can make lesson lead-ins memorable (using videos, photos, etc)
- ‘Reviewing language has never been easier’, especially as you can save the flipcharts you create
- They help with creating personalised content
- It encourages ‘heads-up’ learning. Teachers can keep learners working at a similar pace, and focused by controlling what’s on the whiteboard. Feedback can be instant too.
- Audio transcripts can be displayed easily.
This is a fairly loose list of benefits – there are plenty more. However, they don’t mention many problems with using IWBs. They highlight that…
- technology is never 100% reliable
- there’s a temptation to use the IWB merely as a presentation tool (teacher-centred)
- there’s a tendency to overuse IWBs at first
Perhaps most importantly, they stress that IWBs are just another classroom tool – they should enrich the learning experience, but not take over.
Their book is a useful resource for IWB users, but it lacks discussion. Here are a few more pros and cons with IWBs that I’ve been thinking about recently. (more…)
In her latest guest post, Nicky Salmon talks about how to write effective lesson plans on the CELTA/Trinity TESOL course.
What is a lesson plan?
On a CELTA/Trinity TESOL course a plan is made up of:
1.The procedure. This is what I will be referring to in this post. (See the example below, kindly included here with permission of Action English Language Training in Leeds.)
2.An analysis of any language –grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation features- that may be included in the lesson.
Why do I need to write one?
When you are doing a CELTA or Trinity TESOL course, you will need to write lesson plans. Actually, the lesson plans are an important part of your assessment and you will need to file them in a portfolio together with feedback from your tutors.
I recently took a CELTA extension course for teaching young learners. The course went well and I quite enjoyed writing formal lesson plans again. Tutors said that planning was my strength, which probably meant my teaching wasn’t that good!
I’ve looked back at the positive comments from my tutors and shared some tips below for anyone who needs to write a formal lesson plan. These are a little random, and most are specifically aimed at those teaching young learners.
I had a request last week from a reader who wanted to know more about lesson frameworks. I wrote about how useful they are a while back, but only gave one example. So, I’ve dug out my excellent CELTA handbook (from IH Budapest) and summarised most of the frameworks mentioned. I’ve added a bit of information to explain some stages a bit more.
Here’s the basic structure for…
Receptive skills lessons
Note: receptive skills are reading and listening
Orientation to text – What do you need to tell the students about the text to prepare them for reading/listening? This could be text type, text source, speakers’ accents, etc. Whatever is relevant.
Gist task – set a short task based on general understanding of the text as a whole. For reading texts, the gist task is often timed. Students compare their answers together (pairs/groups) first before class feedback.
Pre-teach vocabulary – Teach any vocabulary needed for the detailed task
Detailed task – set a task based on detailed comprehension (formats might include gap fills, ordering events, true/false, etc). Students compare their answers together (pairs/groups) first before class feedback.
The above is the BASIC framework. In practice, and with more time than you get during a CELTA lesson, certain tasks might be extended or added. For example, I often add vocabulary, pronunciation and game stages after the detailed task in my classes. So, the above focuses primarily on reading and listening skills, in practice other skills/systems are integrated.
This term I’ve tried out a few different ways to introduce a lesson. These ones have worked well. They might be worth reading if you’ve exhausted my previous list!
- Song lyric gap fill
Example: 3rd conditional, regrets
Do a short gap fill on part of a song related to your topic. Mine was on some lines from Frank Sinatra’s My Way:
Regrets, I’ve had a few… (0.55 – 1.06)
We recently looked at an article in English in Mind about a child genius. She was the youngest black female ever to get a place at an American university. I created a few activities based on information in the text which went down ok, but it was the follow-up task that was really successful.
Before class I prepared 16 slips of paper, each with a ‘claim to fame’ written on it. Each started with ‘you were the youngest person ever…’, for example:
- You were the youngest person ever to grow a beard longer than 2 metres, aged 15
- You were the youngest person ever to sing with One Direction, aged 10
- You were the youngest person ever to complete a solo skydive, when you were 5!
My classes are normally organised into four different groups of four students.
I gave each student one slip of paper, and allowed a few minutes for them to make some notes, think of their story and the facts around it, etc. Then students had 10 minutes to mingle and listen to each other tell their crazy stories. They always started off by asking their partner:
‘So what’s your claim to fame?’ / ‘so what’s special about you’?
Students had to remember as much information as possible about each of their classmates’ stories. They returned to their groups and told the people on their table who had the most interesting story. I did a brief class feedback but didn’t want students to share too much information.
Then came the fun part! (more…)