Bringing out the inner voice

19 05 2014

Saturday May 1th 2014 saw me presenting a spanking new talk at MAC2014 – the annual Macmillan conference in Montevideo, hosted by the Anglo institute.  It’s the third time I’ve talked at the Macmillan Montevideo conference and it was great to catch up with old friends and make some new ones.

#2014mac

#2014mac

The talk has been a long time in the making since it was inspired by Jeremy Harmer’s talk at the 2010 International House DoS Conference – ‘Speak the speech, I pray thee’, which discussed improving students’ fluency by helping them to think and prepare inside their heads first.  It was an inspiring talk, but a little short on practical ways to get the students actually doing this in the classroom.  So I set about trying to motivate and inspire my students to think much more in the class, alongside their development of the other four skills. It’s taken me a few years to put what I’ve done into a talk, since it’s very much a case of small steps and slowly, slowly catchy thinking student.  As the Macmillan conference was focused on developing Life Skills, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to make myself write the talk and bring together my ideas on the topic.

#2014MAC Life Skills tree

#2014MAC Life Skills tree

The results are here, in the form of the slides for the talk in PDF:

Bringing Out The Inner Voice

and a video of them too:

as well as the video I used at the end as a way of having the students reflect on the ideas we discussed during the talk and think about how they could create more thinking space, structure and sensitivity into a lesson using this video.  Unfortunately during the talk the sound was dodgy, so the great lyrics couldn’t be heard beyond the front row (and apologies to the audience that I had to resort to singing some of them myself!

I also hope to put a lesson together myself using this text as a launching ad, so look out for that here too!

Next up is the example text-based guided discovery lesson I used.  You can read more about Guided Discovery and this lesson here if you’re interested.

global-int-unreal-past

And then here are some lesson ideas to use at the beginning of your efforts to inspire your students to think in English:

Thinking in English

A reading based on a text about why to try and think in English when learning the language, with a worksheet that has built in space and structure for thinking.

The Week in English

Encourage your students to do some thinking for homework and then discuss what they’ve done in class – the flipped classroom turns your students flipping (if they talk to themselves 🙂 ).

Anecdote feedback sheet An example of how the students can reflect on each others’ work and tech each other a little more about anecdoting.

Image

In full flow at #2014MAC





Day two at #iatefl from a downtown BsAs bus

10 04 2013

Starting this on the bus on the way home from the centre of town,

The 39 bus - from Corrientes to Carranza

The 39 bus – from Corrientes to Carranza

and no doubt won’t finish it til tomorrow morning, but wanted to try out making a post on my phone – after all, this is where our learners are headed, isn’t it?

Sandy has been a big help again today, easily my star of the conference.

iatefl-liverpool-banner-240x80

‘We’ ‘saw’ the following talks together:

Does the word “synonym” have a synonym? – Leo Selivan
Bridging the gap by Ceri Jones
From preparation to preparedness – Adrian Underhill and Alan Maley

Does the word “synonym” have a synonym? – Leo Selivan

talk sounds fascinating, I love travelling back through the history of the language as he did at the beginning of his talk and this pie chart of the make up of English I haven’t seen before:

Where does English come from?

Where does English come from?

And for some strange reason I always enjoy telling my students that English is the biggest language in the world (for some other strange reason my Argentine students never believe me and insist Spanish has more words, not a problem I ever had in the Czech Republic).

And of course, the main point Leo makes about synonyms is crucial when it comes to vocab learning (well-timed, since I’m doing our CELTA session on teaching vocab this afternoon – one of my favourites) – synonyms are not the same.  This is something I’m a staunch defender of and always pick up our trainees on when they say ‘they’re the same’ to the students in class (a little demand high CELTA tutoring there, Neil?).  If they were the same then we wouldn’t have two words for something.  The reason we do have two words for something, or three or four, is because there are subtle differences between them (perhaps because the different social or geographic classes saw things differently back when the language was being molded (hang on a minute, language is always being molded (although perhaps nowadays it’s being moulded too?)).  And so they don;t differ in basic meaning, but as Leo points out, they differ in their collocations, register, colligations and semantic prosodies, to name but a few.  And this does need to be pointed out to students, as I will point out to our CELTees this afternoon.

Sandy reports only two practical ideas from Leo, collocation forks, which if I understand correctly go back to Lewis’ ideas in The Lexical Approach, and a website called Just the word, which looks like a useful reference page for teachers and students alike – demand high of yourselves by checking out collocations of words before you teach them (but remember to stay in the context in which you’re teaching).  My example nods to yesterday’s post about Day One at IATEFL:

I do like the visula simplicity of the little green bars, though I’m struggling to see why ‘cabbage at’ is just as used as ‘cabbage with’. Market forces I imagine.

Bridging the gap by Ceri Jones

is getting short shrift because I have some Academic Coordinating to do before pilates class, but seems worth a mention because the course book she is selling in the talk seems to be written on slightly more solid foundations than any others in recent years.  It seems to take into account the changing world and changing language around us and tries to be more relevant to learners by including them more in activities.  I imagine like most talks about course books she focused on the three best activities in the book, but hopefully that’s just me being cynical.  Definitely one to check out when it comes to choosing new books.  One activity she mentions that I am a big fan of is getting the learners to write a text before they read a similar text form the coursebook, they are then immediately comparing their own ideas and writing skills with those of the author, which makes the whole process more cognitive and affective.

From preparation to preparedness – Adrian Underhill and Alan Maley

This was one of the most eagerly awaited (and tweeted sessions) of the day and I picked up on the following:

This just made me want to be at the conference and at the session.  Whether or not the presenters were giving us good ideas, I’d love to have been there to see them try.

And this tweet makes me want to read these articles.  We should all be expecting the unexpected in our lessons – and enjoying it!  One of the things I loved most about our recent Delta Intensive was watching very good teachers (when the lesson went to plan) become even better teachers by changing the plan, adapting the plan and losing the plan depending on their students’ needs.

But unfortunately there weren’t too many practical ideas coming out of the session, except for this list:

Training teachers to improvise

Training teachers to improvise

Improvising teachers

Improvising teachers

Those last two are the ones I’m going to focus on more, since the others are hopefully already ‘just good teaching’, aren’t they?

Time to coordinate, so I’ll leave you with a few random thoughts on a few random tweets I favourited throughout the day:

Completely agree with this one, Mike.  I always try and set my self a new development goal each year (and normally manage many more along the way).  This year’s include blogging IATEFL :), writing a Delta Module One Live Online course and celebrating IH World’s 60th anniversary (hope you enjoy the free gifts, since many of them are from me).

This tweet too sounds like the kind of session I enjoy – practical activities that really work in the classroom.  How many were there?  What were they?  Do they really promote further fluency?  How can I find out?

I include this tweet because I don’t really get it.  Apart from people actually paying less attention to the speaker during conversations because they are distracted by their phones (although at conferences we probably concentrate more when we are tweeting / blogging during the talks?), speech itself isn’t changing, so how does the speaker envisage speaking activities reflect the more digital communication that there is?  Anyone who was there care to enlighten me?

This link sounded good so I’m sharing it with you.  Obviously I was intrigued by the Dogme / Demand High mix (’twas only a matter of time) so let’s see what it’s all about shall we? Not much D&D (un)fortunately, so little in fact I had to comment on it:

Hi Tom,
Very common sense if your students have the technology – sounds just like my kind of lesson and similar to one I shared yesterday in its use of whatever tech is ‘handy’.
Am interested in hearing how you made it Demand High though, since that doesn’t come out of your post and those dominoes don’t sound very Dogme (not that that’s a criticism).
But I hope your title and tags brought you a few new readers like myself anyhow ;) .

I’m a big fan of Wily’s and would love to have been at his talk – he really is an authentic teacher and always makes you think.  If I have time I’ll try and get more of a taste of his and Katy Davies’ talks to comment on tomorrow, because they sound like to of the talks of the day.

Work beckons.  What do you reckon?





Hits and misses from the IATEFL Day One ‘pool

9 04 2013

Image

So as promised, here’s what I got out of Day One at IATEFL. To be honest it feels like not very much, since I haven’t had much time to dedicate to it at all – just a few visits to twitter and a quick read through a few emails. I was hoping to watch the plenary session by David Crystal when I got home but then I got distracted by an irrational urge to make Delia’s braised red cabbage to go with the left overs from last night’s beef. Sorry, David, I promise I’ll watch it very soon (I have it on in the background as I write this). Here it is if you’d like to join me…

Congratulations too, David, on your new website launched today as well: http://www.davidcrystal.com something else to bookmark and come back to. Although I was all ready to explore The Memors until I read the description and came across the combination techno-fantasy and tweenagers – not for me then.

Anyway, back to IATEFL and the things that made my day…

iatefl-liverpool-banner-240x80

The biggest hit of the day for me, popping in and out of the conference asynchronously from the other side of the world, was easily Sandy Millin and her various blog posts on the talks she attended. No idea how she managed to collect so much info about so many things into such short concise blog posts, although I imagine it had a lot to do with blending her tweets together skilfully. Wonderful stuff, Sandy, and most of my impression of day one comes from your posts, so looking forward to more over the next few days.

Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of Sandy today was that she went to a few talks that I wouldn’t have wanted to go to, mainly because they seem more targeted towards ESL rather than EFL, which is my context. However, I was really interested in reading what she had to say about the following talks:

Penny Ur – Technology in ELT

Penny's conclusions - a means, not an end

Penny’s conclusions – a means, not an end

Seems from her conclusions Penny was talking a lot of sense and resonating with my own soundbite when it comes to technology – it’s not what you use or even how you use it but why you use it that counts. Penny’s ‘cautiously, critically, selectively’ mantra seems to reflect that. Though of course it’s also true of every activity we do in the classroom, not just ones using hi-tec specs.

I like this list that Penny shares of the things that technology offers us – word processing, editing tools, the internet, digital dictionaries, improved self-access, more and more engaging written interaction, more easily accessible audiovisual material, distance learning possibilities, and even interactive whiteboards (I’m still sceptical, but then I’ve never actually used one). All these things can help students learn – if we use them purposefully and they therefore give us something that other means don’t. So good common sense there then, but nothing new.

The downside and dangers she discussed aren’t new either, so let’s move on to the activities she offers. Nope, nothing new there either. Although I did come up with a new idea for a mobile lesson myself today, that may well have been discussed in Penny’s talk. I’ve just realised the power of having students with smartphones and the ease with which they can do quiet reading and research in the classroom.

This idea came out of a tweet I saw that wasn’t actually IATEFL linked, but very much linked to why I didn’t post yesterday:

Sean Banville Tweet

Yes, Thatcher died, and Sean has made a thirty activity lesson out of the news – incredibly impressive (not that I’ve had time to get beyond the quantity yet, but, yet again, I hope to have a look at some point), although it did make me think of a lesson about Thatcher I would do if I had a class at the moment (I’m CELTA training, though subbing Thursday night so I might try this out then), which wouldn’t involve any materials:

Lead-in – get the students to discuss the current news stories and see what they come up with (floods here in Argentina are much bigger news than the Iron Lady’s demise).

Steer conversation around to Thatcher and get the learners to discuss what they know about her and feel about the news of her death.

Lead the conversation towards the whole ‘she’s a saint’ / ‘dance on her grave’ debate and ask them for initial impressions.

Speaks for itself

Speaks for itself

Get the learners to research the topic. Tell them they have ten minutes to read up on the topic (this is where you need wifi and enough smartphones to at least be able to share in pairs / a computer room) and make notes in preparation for a debate.

Divide the class into two groups, one researches the positive side of Maggie, the other the negative side. It’s a good idea to elicit where they will go to get their stories (Facebook and TWitter are the obvious answers, along with the BBC and British newspapers).

After ten minutes research put each group together (or sub groups in a big class) and get them to share their research with each other.

After an initial comparison and exchange of info, introduce them to the idea of the debate, in which they’ll argue about the merits of Margaret. Quickly outline the debate schedule (I don’t have time to outline this here I’m afraid, wife will be home soon). And then off they go, debating Maggie (my debate format takes at least 45 minutes) to their hearts’ content – As v Bs.

It’s such a simple lesson (if you have the tech) and involves a range of skills – speaking, reading, negotiating, debating, note-taking, listening etc. And minimal preparation time. And of course you can use it again and again whenever you have a controversial news story. I hope Penny would approve of this lesson, since it’s a very simple and small use of technology that really helps the learners prepare for the main speaking task (and they can always go back for more if needs be).

So there you go, my free activity of the day – much more overt than the one in my intro IATEFL post (which only three of you found – have another look). Sorry, got to go and stir the cabbage:

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 9.21.46 PM

And so on to:

Victoria Boobyer – Implementing Handheld Learning

Seems the talk was much more about the practicalities of setting up the use of ipads rather than how to actually use them – there’s some good advice in there and many things I wouldn’t have thought of before taking a box of ipads into class (as if I’ll ever get the chance…) and a couple of fun activities are showcased at the end – picture poems and comic stories. Been getting students to write their own stories to comics for years, but it does waste a lot of Tippex, so this is definitely an area where technology helps.

Swiftly on to

Jim Scrivener – How to Demand High

which I’m very interested in cos I’m doing a talk on Demand High in Montevideo, Uruguay in May, so I wanted to see if Jim had added anything to his talk at the IH World DoS conference in January.

Judging by Sandy’s take, he has. I like the idea of getting the audience to think of ways to demand more of their students using one exercise (exactly what I’d planned to do next month) and then compare to his own.

Unfortunately from the photos I can’t see too much of Jim’s ideas on his handout – can anyone help?

I can only make out the following:

Checking answers without rubber stamping

Getting behind the answer

Listening

Feelings

Various pronunciation exercises

Practice, memory, mistakes and being playful…

I imagine most of these are already in a few teachers repertoires and there’s a lot of benfit in encouraging more people to take them on board – less is definitely more and we need to take the time to spend quality time with and on language – I hope there’s some nice ways to do that here.

Which reminds me, I also came across this while trawling through twitter today:

Phil Keegan MLT

which sounds like a very helpful article for my talk next month. Roll on MET.

Missus is on way and cabbage needs turning again, here are a few more tweets I enjoyed today from IATEFL before I go:

Fluency/accuracy dichotomy too simplistic: also need fast/but form focused activities or focus on meaning/but slow – Jason Anderson#iatefl

Echos what we’ve just been talking about

“Seeing others notes before a debate makes you more willing to take part” – great session from Jason Anderson on fluency & accuracy #iatefl

Nice idea for debate preparation to combine into my Maggie lesson

Colin MacKenzie: thinking of creative professions primes us for creative thinking #tdsig #IATEFL

A little touchy feely for me but might just work, will give it a try. But we definitely need ways of promoting creative thinking (as well as critical thinking of course).

David Crystal at GISIG #iatefl: The two forces that drive language forward: identity and intelligibility.

I favourited a few of Jim’s tweets from David’s talk (although from what’s going on in the background on my computer I think the best bits must be at the end) but this is the most interesting. Lots of food for thought there in those 10 words. Speaking of which it’s dinner time.
20130410-145927.jpg

My dinner is on the table

So I’ve tried to give you a flavour of my IATEFL day and I hope it’s been of some use for those of you like me who are far, far away from the magic on the Mersey. I haven’t seen the plenary, I haven’t explored the facebook page and my app has been hapless today, but I still got lots to think about and play with from the day and I hope you did too. Night!

 





I’ve never been to IATEFL…

6 04 2013

My 16-year-and-counting career has had its ups (I’ve just finished a fabulous intensive DELTA course and am about to write a synchronous online Delta Module One course) and downs (at the last count I’ve made about 26 trainees / students cry on my courses / in my classes) , highs (I’ve got the longest title in ELT – International House World Organisation Academic Coordinator for Resources and Director of Studies Support)and lows (I’m responsible for co-ordinating IHWO’s Live Online Workshops), ins (I’m a member of the Delta-and-Lancelot-qualified-and-working–in-South-America group of one) and outs (I’ve never slept with a fellow IH teacher)2, but in 15 years of EFLing I’ve never been to IATEFL.

iatefl-liverpool-banner-240x80

This year’s conference kicks off tomorrow of course and I’m not going.  But, since various moons are colliding…

…I have a ‘slow’ week at work

I haven’t blogged much yet this year and need to get started up again

International House is 60 years young this year and we’re celebrating the fact at IATEFL

IH Buenos Aires has been doing CELTAs for five years now and I’d like to celebrate that fact with a bit of a social media push during my ‘slow week’ and therefore can persuade my boss that me spending my work day keeping up to date with IATEFL is good for business

…and…

I have a new smartphone…

My new phone

My new phone

I feel like I might be able to take an active part in the conference even though I’m 7000 miles away and four hours behind conference time.  How do I intend to do this?  Well I’ve downloaded the conference app to my phone, I’ve checked out the online support pages and forums and I’ve scanned the schedule and tried to fit it in with my own.  I’ve availed myself of the conference hashtag (#IATEFL), the conference Facebook page, cast an eye over the IATEFL registered blogs, signed myself up as one of them  and now I’m ready to roll.

The idea is to post a blog a day summarising my thoughts on my IATEFL interaction.  In order to do this I need to interact.  The plan is to…

…follow #IATEFL on twitter and retweet any interesting tweets with my own take on them (if space allows)

Following #IATEFL on tweetdeck

Following #IATEFL on tweetdeck

do much the same on the Facebook page

choose a different forum each day to read and post in

IATEFL Forums

IATEFL Forums

and then summarise this activity in a ‘what did I get out of / give to IATEFL today?’ type post.

IATEFL on A Muse Amuses

IATEFL on A Muse Amuses

Why don’t you do the same?  We can be in this together! Come and visit me each day and share your take on events.  Let’s catch up on twitter and Facebook and the conference forums and share ourselves.  We can’t go to the ball and the talks and have a coffee between them or a beer afterwards, but we can engage online and share and share and share alike.

And who knows?  Maybe as a result of our sharing, something wonderful might happen…

…a new idea for a lesson activity

The Game's Up!

The Game’s Up!

a further understanding of how our students learn English

One of my classes in IH Buenos Aires Recoleta ten years ago - has much changed?

One of my classes in IH Buenos Aires Recoleta ten years ago – has much changed?

a new friend in ELT world is made

ELT friends in Montevideo

ELT friends in Montevideo

old CELTA trainees get back in contact

Some of our lovely CELTA trainees at IH Buenos Aires Teacher Training

Some of our lovely CELTA trainees at IH Buenos Aires Teacher Training

new sources of information and knowledge are discovered

OTTI - best online resource I've ever discovered...

OTTI – best online resource I’ve ever discovered…

I get double figure visitors to my blog page

Screen Shot 2013-04-07 at 9.38.28 AM

someone invites us to talk at next year’s conference…

Macmillan Uruguay Conference 2012

Macmillan Uruguay Conference 2012

Whatever does happen, let’s hope I can at the very least keep to the blogpost a day pledge and that you enjoy the journey.  I’m going to IATEFL!

Footnotes
1 Just like to point out this is the author’s own opinion, not an academically researched fact. 
2 As I was writing this I actually honestly believed it was true.  While there was SPOILER 1 (fond memories), she wasn’t a teacher.  And then there was SPOILER 2 (further fond memories), but she wasn’t IH.  But then I was about three quarters of the way through writing the rest of the post when I did actually fabulously fondly remember SPOILER 3, and she was a teacher at IH, and so in the end this statement is not strictly speaking (or in any other manner of speaking) true.  But it amuses me so I’ll leave it in anyway and hopefully this footnote saves me from having actually knowledgeably lied on my blog for the first time. 




Comment on Scott Thornbury’s ‘S is for Student-centredness’

17 02 2013

http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/s-is-for-student-centredness/#comment-8978

mcneilmahon (18:42:13) :

For me, student-centredness is an attitude – an attitude to planning and teaching. A teacher who says ‘I’ve got to plan my lessons’ is not demonstrating as ‘student-centred’ an attitude as a teacher who says ‘I’ve got to plan my students’ lessons’. It might seem a tad facetious, but the simple switch in language use highlights the importance of having the students in the forefront (or should that be centre) of your mind when planning your / their lessons. And some may go even further and say ‘I’ve got to plan how my students are going to plan their lessons’.

The same goes for in the lesson too – are you making decisions as the lesson progresses based on their lesson and how its panning out, or your lesson? This student-centred attitude can ensure that even the most teacher-fronted stage of a lesson can be completely student-centred (exactly what these students need at this point, eliciting from them, them making notes, etc. everyone completely involved in what’s being discussed) and a completely student-fronted stage (all sitting in a circle discussing something, teacher on the sidelines monitoring) can involve very little student-centredness (only one or two students involved, teacher chosen topic, teacher led discussion, only teacher knows the aim of the stage).

Looking at student-centredness as an attitude therefore means you can have very student-centred lessons within Tyson’s context because the teacher has chosen topics they know the students need preparation in (even when the students themselves don’t) and as Carol highlights this is true across a whole range of approaches.





Conference presentations index

6 10 2012

Here is a list of all the workshops, seminars, talks and plenaries I have done, with links to any relevant pages, particularly those I have reworked here on the blog:

2014

From Ladders To Mountains – cutting Demand High down to size

Refreshing ELT, Bahia Blanca, Argentina

Think About It!

Refreshing ELT, Bahia Blanca, Argentina

IH Buenos Aires Joint Meeting

Teens and Tools and Twiddling Thumbs

Refreshing ELT, Bahia Blanca, Argentina

Stringing Students Along

IHTOC6 – IH Teachers Online Conference

Bringing Out The Inner Voice

Macmillan Uruguay 4th Annual Conference (Plenary), Montevideo

IH Buenos Aires Joint Meeting

2013

Hitting the Heights – Demanding Teachers for Demanding Students

Macmillan Uruguay 3rd Annual Conference (Plenary), Montevideo

IH Buenos Aires Joint Meeting

IH60 Lesson Ideas 

IHTOC60 – IH Teachers Online Conference

Take the stage!

IHWO Live Online Workshop

2012

The Game’s Up

IHTOC3 – IH Teachers Online Conference (plenary)

Surviving through song – words of wisdom for NQTs     

IHWO Live Online Workshop

IH Teachers Online Conference – 50 years of IH teacher training (Plenary)

Back to the future – IHWO Resources Update     

International House Directors of Studies’ Annual Conference (Plenary), London

Realising Reading

Macmillan Uruguay Annual Conference, Montevideo

No Man’s Land – Finding the middle ground in the Dogme debate  

Macmillan Uruguay Annual Conference, Montevideo

Pro-T Conference, Buenos Aires

Feedback Fiesta   

IHWO Live Online Workshop

2011

Feedback Fiesta

IHTOC1 – IH Teachers Online Conference

International House Montevideo Teachers’ Centre presented by Macmillan

KEL Martinez, Buenos Aires, on behalf of Macmillan

APIZALS Conference, San Carlos de Bariloche, for Macmillan (Plenary)

Correction Celebration     

International House Montevideo Teachers’ Centre presented by Macmillan

Professionally Developing  

ABS  Conference for Directors of Studies and English Coordinators, Buenos Aires

2.0 Web or Not 2.0 Web?

ABS Younger Learners Conference, Buenos Aires

2010

Professionally Developing

International House Cuernavaca Local Coordinators’ Training Day, Mexico

International House Veracruz Local Coordinators’ Training Day, Mexico

IHWO Resources Update

International House Directors of Studies’ Annual Conference (Plenary), London

DoS Special Interest Group Thread    

International House Directors of Studies’ Annual Conference (Plenary), London

2009

Feedback Fiesta     

International House South American Regional Workshop, San Isidro

The Drill Bit               

ABS Conference of Professional Development for Teachers of English, Buenos Aires

Teenage Texts     

ABS Conference of Professional Development for Teachers of English, Buenos Aires

2008

Coordinating Against The Clock – Time Management for Coordinators     

ABS Conference for Directors of Studies and English Coordinators, Buenos Aires

LANCELOT – The Synchronous Online Training Course

International House Directors of Studies’ Annual Conference, London

2007

The Mighty Noun Phrase

ABS Conference of Professional Development for Teachers of English, Buenos Aires

ICC – It’s Just Not Cricket!

ABS Conference for Directors of Studies and English Coordinators, Buenos Aires

2006

Tip Top Teacher Talk

ABS Conference of Professional Development for Teachers of English, Buenos Aires

Metaphor Magic

ABS Challenge Your English Conference, Buenos Aires

Putting Action Research into Action

ABS Conference for Directors of Studies and English Coordinators, Buenos Aires

2005

A Perfect Present – The Future of Grammar

ABS Conference of Professional Development for Teachers of English, Buenos Aires

Nurturing Noun Phrases

IH Buenos Aires Annual Conference

Teacher Talk Hokey Kokey

IH Buenos Aires Teachers’ Centre

Get Cracking!

ABS Challenge Your English Conference, Buenos Aires

Keeping to the Script

ABS Conference for Directors of Studies and English Coordinators, Buenos Aires

2004

Forward Thinking on Feeding Back

IH Buenos Aires Annual Conference

Drill Bill Vol.1

IH Buenos Aires Teachers Centre

2003

Keeping It Real

IH Buenos Aires Annual Conference (Plenary)

101 Vocab Bag Activities

IH Buenos Aires Teachers Centre

2001

Just Joking!

IH Prague Annual Conference

IH Budapest Annual Conference

2000                           

Revealing Remoteness

IH Prague Teachers Centre

Win When You’re Singing

IATEFL Annual Conference, Plzen

IH Prague Annual Conference

1999

Christmas Crackers

IH Prague Teachers Centre

If you have a particular workshop you would like me to rework (or come and present in your town/ school, please do let me know by commenting below!





Weaving the magic of literature circles

1 06 2012

Last Wednesday evening I was standing in for my Director, who has a Post-Proficiency literature class once a week here at IH Buenos Aires Teacher Training.

He asked me to do so last Thursday and low and behold on Friday morning I was moderating Ratna Ragunathan from IH Malaysia’s Live Online Workshop ‘Weaving the magic of literature circles’ and I quickly found my standby lesson staring me in the face.

The idea of literature circles is that each learner takes a different angle towards the book / story they are reading and leads a discussion of that angle when the circle meets in class.

The different roles:

DiscussionLeader_IH

Illustrator_IH

RealLifeConnector_IH

Summarizer_IH

StoryConnector_IH

WordWizard_IH

The story we read:

The Story of An Hour – Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin

Since I didn’t know the learners it was difficult for me to assign them roles I thought they would get into, so I asked who would like to be the Illustrators and then gave out the other roles at random.  In the end there were eight students, so I ended up giving out the first four roles to pairs, who then helped each other prepare the role in relation to the story and then the class split up into two circles to discuss the story.

To be honest I was expecting more discussion to come out of the roles, I felt students at this level (post-proficiency) should have been able to mine the text for more ideas and have more interesting responses to it.  Perhaps a combination of things played against my expectations for the activity being fulfilled:

  • the students not knowing me and therefore being a little hesitant as we got to know each other
  • the students not finding the story so inspiring – I’m sure there are many better stories out there that could be used with the literature circle roles
  • it being the end of a long day for most of them and they simply weren’t fully-focused on English
  • my expectations were simply too high in the first place after Ratna’s fantastic workshop

Actually, by the time they had got through the four roles about an hour of the lesson had passed, so the circles had taken a good 30minutes, which is actually an excellent amount of continuous speaking in a normal kind of class – it just didn’t seem that fluent and engaging as they were doing it.

Then I gave out the last two roles and each circle discussed one role in preparation fro swapping over and, in pairs, leading the discussion of their new role with a new pair of partners.  This lead to more good conversation, and as before I had trouble finding anything to give them constructive feedback on language-wise, so I didn’t.

And then finally I gave each of them a part of Kate Chopin’s biography and they had to discuss the story in light of her life, thus sharing with each other more details about the author and the time she lived in.  It would have been good to have more time for this stage of the lesson, since it ended up being the most interesting discussion for them.

So, all in all, a successful first attempt at using literature classes and I will definitely go back and use them again, although perhaps with more concrete texts, particularly at lower levels.