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.

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‘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…

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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.
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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!

 





Surviving Through Song – The Sixties: It’s My Party by Lesley Gore / Part Two for Teachers

21 08 2012

This is the second of a series of blogposts focusing on some of the best songs of the last fifty years and looking at how we can use them in the classroom and how they can help us as teachers to remember how we can survive in the classroom and reflect on our practice.

You can read the introduction to this series here.

One of my fave songs of the sixties (just as International House Teacher Training was getting in to the swing of things) was ‘It’s My Party’ by Leslie Gore.

We have already looked at how we can use this song in the classroom, so now let’s have a look at what the song might say to us as teachers and how it inspires us to reflect on our teaching.  

As the slides to the talk outline

(Surviving Through Song – Words of wisdom for EFL teachers)

this song helps us to remember that:

It’s not our party! and We shouldn’t cry in class! 

What this means to me in reality is:

•Put the students first, don’t talk about or plan ‘your’ lesson, plan theirs!

      If you have a problem class or student for example, you might find it easier to deal with them if you have them in the forefront of your thoughts when you are planning ‘their’ lessons.  This simple change in attitude / approach to planning, can help you to focus on what they need rather than what you (or your course book, perhaps?) want to do.  Which brings us onto:

•Do what the students want to do and need to do

It’s their party, so always have their wants and needs in mind when you plan your lessons and as you move through the class, don;t set the agenda yourself or be led by your institute or an anonymous course book writer who’s never met your students, if it’s going to be to their detriment. 

•Listen carefully to what your students are saying

Make sure you respond to them as human beings first and language learners later.  Make sure you listen to how you can improve the language their using – and also the language they’re not using – are they avoiding using any more natural or better ways of saying something and so need to focus on it? 

•Always be in a good mood

Your job is to also be positive and to ensure the students are provided with entertaining and challenging classes that allow them to learn and motivate them to do so too.  Don’t bring in any downsides to your life (be it an argument with a colleague just before you go to class or your grumbling about your lack of a pay increase) to the classroom.  The students want and deserve a happy teacher in a good mood.  If anyone cries in the classroom it should be the students’ tears of joy. 

The third of these four points inspires the observation task that goes with this song – you can either use this to self-reflect on your own lessons or use to observe a colleague during the peer observation process.  We use this task each month on our CELTA courses at IH in Buenos Aires. 

The Sixties – For Observation IHTOC50 NM TO Errors & Correction

I hope you enjoy these ideas and I’d love to hear yours – how does It’s My Party inspire you as a teacher?  

How helpful do you find the observation task?  Do you have any similar or better to share? 





Surviving Through Song – Words of Wisdom for NQTs

31 05 2012

At #IHTOC50 (International House Teachers Online Conference) on Friday May 25th, up to 500 IH teachers from around the world came together to share their experience, knowledge and love of teaching, as well as to celebrate fifty years of teacher training at International House.

I was lucky enough to be heavily involved in organising the whole conference, in my role as Academic Coordinator for Resources and DoS Support, but I also gave one of the plenary sessions on the day.

I then gave a slightly different face to face version of the session at the Anglo conference in Montevideo on Sunday 19th August, with the kind support of Macmillan Uruguay.  This session included the observation tasks you’ll find below, but I left out Ask by The Smiths as the song of The Eighties and left that up to Just Like Heaven by The Cure.

Surviving Through Song – Words of wisdom for EFL teachers

The idea behind my session was to give some sound advice to Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) about how to survive in their early years of teaching, based on my experience as an NQT myself back in Prague in the late nineties, and then as a senior teacher and DoS helping new teachers settle into their new careers, and most recently as a CELTA trainer sending new teachers off out into the wide world of ELT, and also as a DELTA trainer, welcoming not-so-new teachers back into the fold for further teacher development.

Since we were celebrating 50 years of International House teacher training (the first teacher training course took place at IH London in June 1962 and would later develop into what we today know and love as the CELTA), I thought it would be fun to look back over the best music of the last fifty years to find some inspiration.  Then it occurred to me that using song was a great way of ingratiating yourself with your students in your early years of teaching, so why not pass on a few ideas about how to use my chosen songs in the classroom at the same time?

And then during the planning stage and with some great input from people (mainly my former IHCAM and DELTA trainees) commenting on my previous blog post  ‘Turning CELTees into successful NQTs’, I realised teachers may also appreciate some help with reflecting on their own teaching, both through self-observation and peer / DoS observation.

So I ended up with a song from each decade of the last fifty years and one for luck.  And for each of these fab songs, I had advice for new (and not so new!) teachers, a lesson for using the song as listening practice and as a springboard for speaking or language activities, and also an observation task that can be used to help teachers improve in the area inspired by the songs.

To go through each of them here would make for one incredibly long blog post, so instead I’m going to try and post about one song/decade/idea on a regular basis over the coming weeks.  And as I do so I’ll add links to each of the posts here below so you have an index to all of them in one place.

The Sixties – For Students

The Sixties – For Teachers

The Sixties – For Observation IHTOC50 NM TO Errors & Correction

The Seventies – For Students

The Seventies – For Teachers

The Seventies – For Observation IHTOC50 NM TO Critical Moments

The Eighties – For Students

The Eighties – For Teachers

The Eighties – For Observation IHTOC50 NM TO On The Podium

The Nineties – For Students

The Nineties – For Teachers

The Nineties – For Observation IHTOC50 NM TO Successful Stages

The Noughties – For Students

The Noughties – For Teachers

The Noughties – For Observation IHTOC50 NM TO Going Round In Circles

The session seemed to go down very well and people said they found all three aspects of it useful, so I hope you find something useful in there too.  If you do, please let us know with a comment.

And then if you have other songs you’d like me to dish out the same treatment on, do let me know about them too!  Enjoy!





Turning CELTees into Successful NQTs

29 04 2012

Image With the second IH Teachers Online Conference approaching rapidly (Friday May 25th), as well as trying to arrange all the sessions and get the speakers up to speed,  I’ve been mulling over what to talk about myself on the day.  Since we’re celebrating 50 years of teacher training around the IH World (the first four-week course was held in June 1962) and as I’m an almost full-time CELTA trainer, I think what I’d like to discuss is how CELTA trainees can transition from the intensity of the course to a full-time teaching position, maintaining all the good habits they’ve formed on the course, while continuing to develop into more rounded teachers.

Which is where you come in!  Thinking back to your early days as an NQT (Newyl-Qualified Teacher), what helped you most to get to grips with a full timetable, a wider variety of coursebooks, completely different types of students, the need to inspire and motivate your learners, not to mention the paperwork this all entails?  And what would you change looking back over your first years of teaching.  What did you need that you didn’t have?  What would you like to take back and do over again?

I’d love to hear from you about your experiences and also what advice you’d give to today’s NQTs coming off CELTA courses and starting off in the wide world of ELT.  And as a little incentive, all contributors will receive an invite to the session on May 25th, so get commenting!





A Short Guide to Guided Discovery

26 04 2012

The other week I was reading Adam Beale’s fab blog ‘Five against one‘ rather than doing what I was supposed to be doing and yet again I found myself chastising myself for not going to #eltchat anymore (it’s actually the fault of doing CELTA at the times that the chat is held rather than of my own choosing), since Adam had blogged a summary of the latest chat, that just happened to be on one of my pet topics and favourite ways of teaching – guided discovery.

And so I was rather surprised with Adam’s concluding paragraph and this post is my own humble attempt at helping Adam address the balance.  Here’s what he had to say:

ELTchat may not have answered my question or provided me with the plethora of examples I was hoping for, but it certainly highlighted the need for some further hands on research and investigation. Now, I may be looking in the wrong places or typing the wrong words into my search engine. So please tell me if you know of any great resources. I know that there must be research papers out there, but for teachers what we really need is examples and people writing or talking about their experiences with it. So if you do use Guided Discovery and have some ideas get them out there, blog them or put it out on twitter. 

And so my response is to share my latest foray into Guided Discovery world on Wednesday morning.  I was teaching the CELTA TP students and being watched by my CELTA candidates – having to put my money where my mouth was since we’d had a session on conditionals the afternoon before where I had espoused Guided Discovery worksheets – time to show them the power of student-centred text-based step-by-step language clarification (i.e. Guided Discovery).

K had taken the students above-standardly through the text (Global Intermediate Page 95), so I simply started with the worksheet, which you can download here:

Unreal Past Conditions Guided Discovery Worksheet

The students anwered the questions about meaning alone, checked them with a partner and then we fed back on them.  The main sticking point was the question ‘Is this staement real or unreal’, since they mostly saw it as real.  I think I need to rephrase this question to something like ‘Is the speaker describing a situation in the real world or imagining an unreal situation in their head?’, although that seems too wordy to me.

A little bit of elicitation and refining the context by asking this question helped me convince them the statement was unreal.  And this elicitation of the fact that we’re talking about the past and we¡re talking about an unreal situation made eliciting the name of the structure to the top of the handout easy peasy – Unreal Past Conditions.

Then we drilled the statement aplenty.  First lots of choral drilling of each clause, backchaining the phrases ‘If he hadn’t noticed’ and ‘this wouldn’t have been’, and they had quite a bit of trouble at first reproducing /w@d@n@bIn/ (the @ are supposed to be schwas but I can’t get them to come out) but they got there after lots of laughs and backchains:

/bIn/

/n@bIn/

/d@n@bIn/

/w@d@n@bIn/

Then they completed the pronunciation section by themselves, in pairs and we fed back to the whiteboard.

Unreal past conditions pronunciation

Unreal Past Result Pronunciation

I did a bit more drilling to consolidate it with the written phonemes, which seemed to help them a bit and then they headed on to completing the form section by themselves which they found pretty straightforward.

Unreal Past Condition Form

Unreal Past Result Form

What really pleased me is they were able to come up with different possible modals for the result clause, they weren’t limited by the ‘third conditional’ misnomer to would, they quickly proferred could and might and may and must and should as well, although lots of credit must also go to K here who had brought out this point when guided discovering Unreal Present conditions on Monday.

So they had been guided and they had discovered.  Time to practice.  Turn over the worksheet and consider the other inventions mentioned in the global text and discovered by accident.  What would have happened if their accidents hadn’t happened.  Off the students went to try and complete their own conditional sentences.  It was a very challenging exercise since they had to go back to the text to remind themselves of the accidents that had led to the discoveries.  But they were able to have a good go at it, although there were plenty of forms errors in their work.  Have was being missed out regularly, one or two weren’t using past participles and one was using the past simple and so talking about the present.  But with a few points back at my boardwork and the odd return to my CCQs – are we in the past? – they were able to self correct or at least peer correct when they got together to confirm answers.  By the time they got to the group feedback they had the correct structures between them and I elicited them to the board (after some more focused drilling) to consolidate the structure for these very visual learners.

Unreal Past Conditions Controlled Practice

Unreal Past Results Controlled Practice

Unfortunately the 40minute lesson was drawing to a close, so there was just time for a quick discussion of the inventions in Practice 2 and how things would have changed if they hadn’t been invented.  Not surprisingly, some of them had unreal present results rather than past ones, but this was a good thing as they were able to form them correctly on the back of K’s Monday lesson and they were all happy to accept these as correct answers.  No time for discussing the difference or for personalisation, but the practice activities will live to fight another day.

If I’d had more time, I’d’ve done more personalisation. 

We’d’ve discussed real and unreal results of unreal past conditions, if the lesson had been longer.  

They’d’ve practised more freely and probably have made even more mistakes if we’d gone any further. 

But they wouldn’t have felt such a sense of achievement if they hadn’t discovered the rules for themselves. 

There was no accident about their discoveries.

Hope that helps Adam and any other Guided Discovery newbies out there.  Let us know how you get on if you try using the worksheet yourself or adapting it to another piece of language.  Go discover!





Turning CELTA candidates into Dogme-gicians

15 01 2012

Commenting on my post  ‘Who Needs Dogme‘, @alastairjamesgrant, IH’s very own Dogme-gician, asks me:

Be it Trinity, CELTA or whatever, we have all learnt our initial teacher training tools through the use of course books. Are they therefore essential? 

My reply got too long and took too long to write (when I should have been doing other things today) to leave as a comment, so it’s become a blog post.  Here it be: 

No we haven’t, Al. We’ve learnt our initial teaching techniques (which is what I presume you meant to say?) by teaching and getting feedback on our classes from our peers and our tutors. Course books are most often involved in this process, but the continued insistence of a lot of Dogme-gicians such as yourself to lump all the blame for ‘bad teaching’ on course books is the lazy argument that makes my Dogme-friendliness dwindle.

CELTA courses are about so much more than course books and there’s plenty of room for even a pure (i.e. all ten commandments) Dogme lesson within the CELTA framework if candidates want to teach that way. On our course at IH Buenos Aires Teacher Training we show candidates different lesson frameworks: a receptive skills lesson, a test-teach-test lesson, a text-based guided discovery lesson and sometimes a situational presentation, as well as showing videos of a TBL lesson and a functions dialogue build.  Two of these six involve course book texts, but there’s no need for them to and I’ll change them for authentic texts my past students have brought to class if you like.

The candidates are given a coursebook to work with and supporting notes from us about how to adapt the course book to these lesson frameworks and make them more communicative and student-centred at the same time.  We see this support as essential for candidates to be able to focus on certain aspects of their teaching at a time (I hope even the most Dogmatic Dogme-gician would agree doing a Dogme-esque lesson in week one of a CELTA without being able to give clear instructions, monitor or give useful feedback is a recipe for disaster).  By week three they are encouraged to become more independent and react to the course book materials with their students in mind, adapting or supplementing or rejecting them as they see fit (with tutor guidance where required) and in week four the candidates are choosing what to teach and how to teach it all by themselves.  If we added a loop input Dogme style session in to complement the other lesson-types and changed those two course book texts for more authentic ones then we’d have a very Dogme friendly CELTA course – and I’m working on it.

Why do CELTA courses get so much blame?  There is no criteria on a CELTA course that says you need to show good techniques with course books.  If you look at the CELTA syllabus, course books aren’t mentioned once and only three points even come close:

4.4 The selection, adaptation and evaluation of materials and resources in planning (including computer and other technology based resources)
4.5 Knowledge of commercially produced resources and non-published materials and classroom resources for teaching English to adult learners
5.4 The use of teaching materials and resources

That’s three points out of a total of 45 (if we include the skills breakdown points).  And the point that comes closest to mentioning course books (4.5) also discusses ‘classroom resources’, which may well mean a CD player or IWB if you’re (un)lucky enough, but aren’t classroom resources also what Dogme-gicians are meant to be using instead of course books?

CELTA is all about giving candidates the tools and techniques to teach in the classroom.  All Dogme-gicians use these tools, so please stop criticising the CELTA.  Criticise CELTA courses or CELTA trainers who put the course book before the student in their teaching practice if you want, but it’s simply not CELTA’s fault.  It’s not even course books fault that some teachers don’t put their learners at the centre of their classes, but I’ll save that for another day as I have work to do.