tefl

Review: Barry Reinvents Himself

Barry Reinvents Himself is a TEFL-lit novel by C.Cotterill (aka Twitter’s @ContinuouslyT).

After being kicked out of a minor prog-metal band, Birmingham-based Barry looks to shake his old image and bounce back. Lured by images of an old college mate living it up in SE Asia, Barry opts to take a CELTA, dragging fellow band reject Russel along for the ride. Shady schools, dodgy colleagues, frustrating students and a series of bad decisions follow. Barry dabbles in/with politics, spirituality and live listening lessons. Russel’s development as a teacher is stifled by long hours and habitual drinking. The pair have no idea where they’re going or what they’re doing. Will the duo’s bond remain intact? Will Barry find himself? Will either of them find love? (more…)

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.

(more…)

Should I do a PGCEi?

I’m currently doing a PGCEi through the University of Nottingham. The course is specifically designed for international educators with a focus on improving professional practice. It is an 11-month course which is mostly distance learning, although there is a short face-to-face component.

The course seems popular with teachers who are working at ‘lower-tier’ international schools and who do not hold a teaching certificate from their country of origin. It also seems popular with EFL teachers hoping to transition to international school teaching. However, that’s just a snapshot – my cohort on the course is extremely varied and includes edtech business owners, state-school teachers in Thailand, educational materials writers, and unknown bloggers (*waves*).

Here’s a Q+A style chat I had with a friend on the pros and cons of taking this course. For context, we are based in Thailand, and I currently teach at an international school. (more…)

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

(more…)

Bottery’s Educational Codes

During the face-to-face component of our PGCEi were introduced to Mike Bottery’s Educational Codes and Values (from The Morality of the School, 1990). Bottery outlined four codes which underlie approaches to education in schools. Here’s a grainy snapshot from Bottery (1990:7)

In an update from 2018, Bottery added an additional ‘Ecological code’. (more…)

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!