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

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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





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?





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.





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!

 





Materials for Surviving Through Song – IHWO LOW September 2012

8 09 2012

Here are all the materials you need to enjoy ‘Surviving through Song – words of wisdom for EFL teachers’ which I’m presenting as an IHWO Live Online Workshop this September – Enjoy!

I’m hoping to post blogs about each of the songs used in the workshop, but having done a couple of them, I can see it might take me a while to do them all, but hopefully we’ll get there eventually.  

Here are the first few:

It’s my party – for students

It’s my party – for teachers

The slides:

The Songs:

Lesley Gore – It’s my party

The Boomtown Rats – I don’t like Mondays

The Smiths – Ask

Oasis – Wonderwall

Dead or Alive – You spin me round

The Cure – Just like heaven

The Handouts

IHTOC50 NM HO Lesley Gore – It’s My Party Handout 1

IHTOC50 NM HO Lesley Gore – It’s My Party Handout 2

IHTOC50 NM HO Lesley Gore – It’s My Party Handout 3

IHTOC50 NM HO The Boomtown Rats – Tell me why I don’t like Mondays

IHTOC50 NM HO The Smiths – Ask

IHTOC50 NM HO Oasis – Wonderwall

IHTOC50 NM HO Dead or alive – you spin me round

IHTOC50 NM HO The Cure – Just Like Heaven

The Observation Tasks

The Sixties – For Observation IHTOC50 NM TO Errors & Correction

The Seventies – For Observation IHTOC50 NM TO Critical Moments

The Eighties – For Observation IHTOC50 NM TO On The Podium

The Nineties – For Observation IHTOC50 NM TO Successful Stages

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

I hope you enjoy the workshop – if so, please do leave a comment and tell a colleague about it!





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?