Comment on Damian William’s blog post ‘Solutionism in ELT: magic bullet or malady?’

16 01 2015

Brilliant blog post by Damian Williams inspired me to comment thus:

Thanks for introducing me to Solutionism, Damian!
And just to further your thought, while course books get a lot of flack these days, it’ll be teachers getting a lot of flack tomorrow, while technology ironically takes us back a century. And while I don’t agree that course books are unrivalled (my students get a lot more out of authentic materials, unlike solutionists) I do agree that good teachers are and always will be.





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





IH60 at IATEFL

14 04 2013

So IATEFL  2013 has come to an end and all of the delegates have left Liverpool.

IH colleague Shaun Wilden says Goodbye Liverpool on Facebook

IH colleague Shaun Wilden says Goodbye Liverpool on Facebook

But in many ways the conference is only just beginning.  Now there’s more time to read and reflect, to revisit and review, to draw conclusions and put into practice.  I hope to continue doing this throughout the rest of April.  But for today I’d like to show you the best bit of the conference for me, in case you didn’t have the chance to visit it – the International House World stand!

60_Gifts_image

The reason being this year International House celebrates its diamond jubilee – 60 years since John and Brita Haycraft set up the first school in Cordoba, Spain.  We’ve come a long way since then and to celebrate we’re giving away lots of fabulous presents to teachers, as well as giving you lots of fabulous opportunities to contribute yourselves and get your students participating in the celebration, participating in a range of competitions we’ll be having throughout the year.

60 years of International House

60 years of International House

Hopefully those 2585 of you who were lucky enough to attend the conference yourselves are proudly clutching your IH world gift on your way home and have already signed up to our gifts list to receive all the fab freebies we’ll be sending your way throughout the year.  And those of you who couldn’t make it can do so right here:

Screen Shot 2013-04-14 at 1.22.26 PM

The free gifts already available on the website include a sample 6 lessons / activities / games from our various resource banks – General English Activities, CEF Activity packs, the IH Writing Portfolio and the IH Games Bank.  I’m very proud to say that I edited the first three of these and wrote the Games Bank in its entirety.  Of course, if you want to have the complete resources you’ll have to become an IH teacher!

We are also running a Lesson Plan competition for all teachers around the world.  The lesson simply has to have a link to the word 60 somehow.  I have created an example lesson to give you an idea of what we’re looking for and to provide a template for you to use for your entries.  You can enter as many times as you like and could win a free IH training course – take your pick:

Win a free IH online course - many to choose from, something for everyone!

Win a free IH online course – many to choose from, something for everyone!

Full details of the competition are available in our special IH60 section of the website:

IH60 Lesson Plan competition details

IH60 Lesson Plan competition details

You can also access all of the videos from the IH DoS conference in January (just in case you’ve already watched all of the IATEFL videos):

IH DoS conference 2013 videos

IH DoS conference 2013 videos

and my favourite section of the IH60 gifts page at the moment is the ‘I wish I’d known’ section, where 60 IH teachers from around the world share what they wish they’d known all those years ago when they started out in the world of English teaching:

I wish I'd known...

I wish I’d known…

So many exciting gifts to start off with and many more to come during the rest of the year.  Get thinking about some of your favourite lessons and think how you can get the word 60 into them so you can enter them in the competition.  Visit the IH experience page so that you can see how to get your learners involved and keep up to date with our various competitions as they come online.

Screen Shot 2013-04-14 at 1.45.30 PM

And make sure you sign up to the IH60 gifts list so that you keep getting lovely presents throughout the year, as well as news of our various conferences and workshops and competitions celebrating 60 years of International House.  Happy birthday IH World!

Screen Shot 2013-04-14 at 1.47.23 PM





Comment on Sandy Millin’s blog post ‘Surviving the DELTA’

24 02 2013

http://sandymillin.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/starting-the-delta/#comment-3244

sandymillin.wordpress.com

sandymillin.wordpress.com

Many thanks for this, Sandy, and Chris. I’m going to make both your blogs obligatory reading for all of our prospective Delta Modules candidates here in Buenos Aires, so that they are as clear as can be about what they’re letting themselves in for. It’s never quite the same being ‘told’ by a tutor how hard it is – reading the experiences of others going through it is much more effective.

Best of luck with LSA3, Sandy, and the whole course, Chris (do think about coming and doing Module Two with us here in Buenos Aires!), and while I’m here best of luck to all my current Deltees who are doing their externals this week – eek!

 

 





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.





Comment on Vicky Loras’ blogpost on CPD

13 01 2013

http://vickyloras.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/professional-development-for-now-and-the-future-inspired-by-michaelegriffin/#comment-3497

mcneilmahon says: January 6, 2013 at 15:15

Yes, great idea Adam. This post, Vicky, reminds me of a talk I did a couple of years ago in Mexico and Buenos Aires on this topic and there are even more ideas for us to choose from – the slides are available here: https://amuseamuses.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/professionally-developing.

This is a great time of year for us to be thinking of what we can add to our CPD (are teachers the only people who still make New Year’s resolutions? ). I definitely recommend making sure you guys get observed more – definitely the best way to develop for me. I’m being observed tomorrow, so will choose Join conferences as my ‘new’ one for this year. I need to make sure I go to LABCI  even if I have to walk there!

Vicky Loras says: January 6, 2013 at 16:11

Hi Neil, Many thanks for your comment and links. Have fun at LABCI!





Comment on Sandy Millin’s blog about Guided Discovery Language Clarification

13 01 2013

http://sandymillin.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/clarifying-language/#comment-2881

Hi Sandy,
It’s not completely clear from your post if you have embraced guided discovery worksheets or not? If not, then I definitely recommend them as a way of getting the students to work alone and then in pairs / groups to discover the language for themselves. The worksheet will have your CCQs on it for the students to answer and then they can finish off a guided form themselves as well. You might even get them trying to drill each other before you provide models to make it even more student-centred, though that can lead to problems and does need learner training.

Using Dale’s SS WBs can be a big part of feeding back on this stage (I just use laminated blank A4 paper – can you actually buy them, Dale?), or you could get groups to create their own posters of the grammar point as they understand it. Or if you’ve monitored everything to your and the students’ satisfaction and they seem to be going good you could just praise their work so far and head straight into using the language to see if they can cope with it.

For examples of what I mean with conditions and results see:http://wp.me/p15rqq-bX (though this does include a whiteboard-based feedback session :) ).





A couple of comments on ‘Five against One’ by @bealer81

6 10 2012

An International House colleague, Adam Beale, finishes off his second year of teaching and heads into his third with a couple of pertinent blog posts and much promise of an exciting new project for the year ahead:

http://fiveagainstone.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/consider-me-an-object-and-put-me-in-a-coursebook-shaped-vacuum/

I think I’m looking forward to your blogs this year even more than last years – hopefully we’ll get lots of adapted materials out of you to share on the IH platform! And will you be presenting for us at IHTOC3 –http://tinyurl.com/IHTOC3info ?

http://fiveagainstone.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/i-was-a-rabbit-in-your-headlights/

Adam, interesting reading and a lovely way to bring the project to a close – really enjoyed following it all the way through.

That you finish with a comment about emergent language and a formula is great too – I have many doubts about Emergent language and I love formulas. I think the Dogme movement are confused when they speak about emergent language, what they really mean is interlanguage. As I understand it, emergent language is the result of the process, therefore your formula could read:

interlanguage + input = emergent language

I’d be a lot happier with this formula, but it’s also one that’s been around a lot longer then Dogme…





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:

2017

The Key to ELT – Exploit the c**ts

IHTOC9 – IH Teachers Online Conference

2015

Raiders of the lost ART

Refreshing ELT, Bahia Blanca, Argentina

IH Montevideo Spring Conference, Uruguay

Mobile Phones and the Temple of Doom

Refreshing ELT, Bahia Blanca, Argentina

Blowing Hot and Cold

IHTOC7 – IH Teachers Online Conference

2014

From Ladders To Mountains – cutting Demand High down to size

Refreshing ELT, Bahia Blanca, Argentina

Think About It!

Refreshing ELT, Bahia Blanca, Argentina

X Anglia Examinations International Congress for English Language Professionals

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!





Participles in boxes

26 09 2012

Yesterday I was standing in for a colleague who’s gone to Disney with her kids, and so I was teaching an Upper Intermediate 2 class (they’re preparing for FCE in december).  The previous class they’d read a text about Pompeii and the other teacher had left me with the remit of continuing on into the language focus that followed on from the reading – participle clauses!

While I can imagine some of you might think participle clauses aren’t for the faint hearted, I was actually quite excited at the prospect, since it gave me the opportunity to try out a game I designed for the IHWO Games Bank, which I’ve never actually had the chance to use in a class before.  And since the class was a group of teens from 13 to 16, a game of boxes was just what I needed to keep their attention on the target language and get some intense practice in.

We quickly looked at the example sentences form the text and explored together what participle clauses actually were.  Normally I’d do this as a guided discovery, but the downside to GD is the prep needed and when substituting I like to keep that to a minimum.  So old fashioned teacher-at-the-board presentation it was, although I elicited all of the info from the students, of course!

Then it was straight into the game.  Hopefully you all know how to play boxes?  It’s basically joining up dots to complete the four sides of a square.  The strategy comes in because it’s the team that completes the fourth side of the square that wins the box for their team – and the team with the most boxes wins the game.  In our class version of the game, the teams have to correctly add a participle clause into short sentences in order to win the opportunity to draw a line and start building up squares.  Here’s the game and rules for you to try with your students:

Level 7 Lower Advanced Participles in Boxes

I knew the success of the game would hinge on keeping the pace high, so I set the game up very carefully.  They had to use a new verb in their clause each time.  They had ten seconds to answer, once I’d said the initial participle-clause-less sentence.  I simply counted down the ten seconds on my fingers, ensuring I didn’t distract them from thinking up their clauses, but also keeping the pressure on and the pace high.  Indeed, if they could think of both an active and passive participle clause for the same sentence they got two goes at box-making.

The game actually worked even better than I thought it would.  The students were motivated to be playing a game they play anyway amongst themselves and they were motivated to try and solve the challenge of creating sentences that would win points but also try and entertain me at the same time.  I think the topics of the original sentences also helped here.  The momentum of the game and the ten second rule also helped to keep the game flowing and the two point rule also allowed us to actually make some boxes in the time we played for (about twenty minutes).

The game also helped the students to see how participle clauses can make their sentences more interesting and informative and they also were challenged to make logical sense with their clauses – there were quite a few non-sequiturs to start with which I didn’t allow, leading to some interesting arguments about the logic of what they were coming up with.

In the end the game was so successful that I’m very tempted to continue playing it at the beginning of the next lesson to revise the use of participle clauses, but only if everyone’s done their homework of course!  I hope you and your students enjoy playing Participles in a box too – let us know how you get on!