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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The Santa’s Singers at The British Embassy 2013

27 12 2013

A week after my debut with the Santa’s Singers, we were at it again, but this time at the British Embassy Xmas party, on Saturday 7th December 2013. 

Image

The British Embassy in Buenos Aires

This time around we sang the following:

 . let all creation celebrate
 
 
traditional christmas carols medley I
 
 
 
 
 
 
. I wish you Christmas
 
 
. el nacimiento
 
 
. the jingle jolliest season
 
 
traditional christmas carols medley II
 
 
Notice the Ambassador himself has joined the choir here to sing a few songs with us! 
 
 
 
. star of the east
 
And for the finale we’re joined by the children for some fave xmas ditties…
 
 
Once again as always thanks to Mike and partner for the filming, Ian for the choir mastering, and the Santa’s Singers for making xmas more xmasy this year.  Many thanks to the ABCC and the Embassy for having us as well. 
Merry Xmas everybody! 




The Santa’s Singers at Belgrano Athletic Club 2013

27 12 2013

My singing of songs took on a whole new plane last year when I joined the Santa’s Singers.  Unfortunately ( 🙂 ) I spent the whole of December 2012 in Peru and so couldn’t join the singers at any of their yearly carolling events.  But this year, after two hard months of weekly rehearsals, I made my Santa’s Singers’ debut at the Belgrano Athletic Club.  

Belgrano Athletic Club

Belgrano Athletic Club

Unfortunately, since I’m a tall bass and so stand at the end of the line, I spent most of the gig behind a lampshade, but you can enjoy my left ear at times.  And if you know my voice you might be able to distinguish my dulcet tones at certain more confident moments, although I was rather quiet tonight as it’s been a long time since my singing voice has been on stage, even among such supportive companions.  

The song list for the evening went as follows:

. come share this night of joy
 
 
. away in a manger
 
 
. el nacimiento
. the joy of christmas
. star of the east
 

Many thanks to Mike and his wife for organising the filming of the singing.  And congratulations to my companeros for being such a great choir and welcoming me with open arms.  And a special mention to our choir master, Ian, for leading us to heights undreamed of.

Enjoy!





Keep on waiting

1 07 2013

Somebody

Somewhere

Wants me too

Somebody

Somewhere

I love you

So where are you?

When’s it gonna be?

You and me.

You and me. 

 

Is it gonna be here?

Is it gonna be there?

You know I don’t care

I just…

…keep on waiting

Keep on waiting…

 

Keep on dancing all the night

Keep on laughing through the fight

Keep on singing the words aren’t right

Waiting

Waiting

Waiting

I keep on waiting…





Glastonbury Song

30 06 2013

43 years later than needed

Even though we just met yesterday

You’ve got more about you to live for

Than all the things I sing I say

So young, so beautiful so alive so a-love

So young, so beautiful so alive so a-love

 

So many weeks later than heeded

Even though I realised yesterday

You’ve got lots about you to fight for

More than all the things I bring today

So young, so beautiful so alive so a-love

So young, so beautiful so alive so a-love

 

So many days later than tweeted

Responding immediately to what you say

You’ve got what I wanted to die for

More then anything I can say

So young, so beautiful so alive so a-love

So young, so beautiful so alive so a-love





From ladders to mountains – cutting Demand High down to size

10 06 2013

This is a talk that I first did at the Macmillan Annual Conference at the Anglo on Saturday May 11th 2013.  I then repeated it as a workshop at International House in Buenos Aires on Friday 31st May 2013 at our weekly interschool teacher development meeting.

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IH Facebook photo

They were two very different and very worthwhile experiences and they both showed different ways in which using the ‘Demand High’ meme (as Adrian and Jim suggest we call it) can be a very powerful reflection tool for teachers of all experiences in all contexts.

A meme example

A little meme example for you – is this what A&J meme?

Slide02

First of all, in Montevideo, Hitting the Heights was much more of a talk, since there were around 300 people present and we were in an auditorium at a conference, so the set up was very talk-oriented.  Hence the use of the following slides, which you can access here: Hitting the Heights

But let me talk you through them a little, in case you’d like to join us on our reflection journey up the mountain, or would even like to  give a similar workshop yourself.

I started by explaining where my mountain metaphor came from – my wife wanting to climb Aconcagua while I wanted to go to the IH Dos conference in London.  Since I ended up not being able to go, I ended up enjoying the videos of the talks on the IH World website.

Jim's ladder of teacher stages

Jim’s ladder of teacher stages

First of all Jim Scrivener takes us through the reasons for Demand High and uses a ladder to explain why teachers can use Demand High as a way to continue developing their higher skill sets.

and then Adrian gives us some practical examples of putting Demand High into practice.

Slide09

What I did in the talk was summarise these two talks and blend them together with another by Steve Brown, the slides for which he makes available on his blog for others to use – and so I did!   Here are the aims for Steve’s session (click on the slide for a link to his blog) – he nicely splits them into Low Demand and High Demand.  The aim of my talks (and this blog post) were very much to allow the audience to reflect on their teaching…

One main tenet of Demand High is the focus on three areas of teaching and the teacher – our attitude towards our students, where we focus our energy and whether we are continuing to improve our techniques.

Slide13

The attitude shift they call for is key to the whole concept of Demand High – are we really pushing our students to do the best they can?  Are we demanding enough of them?  Or is our attitude more lax than that – ‘They’re doing enough’, ‘I doubt they can do much better’, ‘That’ll do’.  Most of my audience agreed that we do fall into this trap too often and we do need to keep ourselves focused more on pushing our students (and also getting them to push themselves).
Slide14In order to do this, we also need to focus our energies on high demand teaching and this is another key point that Jim & Adrian ask us – are we actually running away from the real teaching that needs to be going on in our classrooms?  Are we afraid to get our hands dirty? Learning a language is a messy, difficult job and we need to be putting in the detailed ‘grimy’ work to get it done.  The Communicative Approach in particular has led us (allowed us) to facilitate the students communicating, doing things (mechanically?), but are we getting involved enough in teaching forms and giving constructive feedback that ensures they are really making progress and improving step by step?

Slide15

And finally, in order to do this, are we using the best, most effective techniques to do so?  Are we armed with ways of helping our learners learn?  Are we equipping them with the best techniques for learning by themselves away from the classroom?  Are we continually striving to explore new ways of doing and reflecting on the most effective ways of teaching in the different contexts we find ourselves?  Are there enough ‘nudging interventions’ in our classes?

Most of us seem prepared to answer No! to most of these questions, which is why I find this session such an excellent reflective tool.  It makes us ask the questions of ourselves, and hopefully as we now move into the detail, provides some possible answers too.    Jim goes on to compare received contemporary ideas with their suggestions for Demand High teaching.  In the workshop we tried to match these up ourselves, but here you have them in their full glory.

First of all consider the left hand column – do you agree with Jim that these are part of the status quo?  Do they happen in your classroom?

Slide16

In the talks, we had a mix of yes and nos, which shows that most of us are a little further up the mountain than Jim and Adrian give us credit for (or perhaps they felt the need to start below sea level in order to include everyone and not lose some less able / experienced climbers along the way).  And when we compared them with the right hand column, there were lots of knowing nods and ‘yes that happens in my class’ and ‘yes that’s always my aim’, but it was good to see some ‘I’d like it to happen even more’ ‘I don;t always achieve this’ and ‘I hadn’t thought of that’ or ‘I’ve forgotten about that one recently’ in there as well. So wherever your starting point, be it base camp, halfway up the mountain or even below sea level, there’s definitely something in here for you and this task opens us up and prepares us for some more detailed reflection on our teaching.  Which brings us back to Steve Brown…

Steve suggests some areas which we might already consider as Demand High teaching :

Slide21

but then asks if they really are such good ideas after all.  This is where things get rather controversial, since Steve takes a very ambitious view of Demand High teaching.  In fact, he gave me some…

so I had to talk to the mountain to see where I stood on these matters.  So in the slides you have the original wisdom, Steve’s Demand High turn around, and then my middle ground.  One example here to show you how to interpret this section of the slides…

Slide23

Steve suggests and we probably mostly agree that it’s received wisdom to plan your lesson.  But Steve asks us to consider what the Demand High results of not doing this might be, listed in the above slide. I then take these to the wisdom of the mountain, and come up with the responses in the slide below.  Sometimes I completely agree with Steve, sometimes I think he goes a little too far to elicit a reaction and sometimes I think he’s missed a point.  As you work through the slides and compare the two views, you can make up your own mind, but the idea of the activity is to help you see where you stand on some fundamental concepts of classroom practice.

Slide25

Plenty of theory to be getitng on with then.  But what about putting it into practice?  Jim and Adrian don’t suggest too many ways of actually Demanding High in the classroom.  Adrian has a pronunciation suggestion (of course!) which is an excellent drilling technique I’d never come across before and it does work really well.  It simply involves getting the studnets to hear your model of the language before they repeat it themselves, to hold on to their mind’s recording of your voice and repeat it as many times as they can before they lose it (normally after around five seconds) – try it out in class, it’s quite a powerful technique.

To finish up I suggest a few ideas of ways I’m going to try and Demand High in my own classes, which you can enjoy below…

Slide46

Slide48

Differentiation is an area I’ve not thought about too much since I tend to teach monolingual classes which are pretty well levelled, but I know it’s an area I should be considering more even within this context.  I found a helpful self-reflection task on how differentiated your teaching is, which also gives some practical ideas about how to go about doing it.  Are you more to the left or the right of the differentiation clines?  As with all these ideas I could blog a separate post on them, so keeping it brief here.

Slide49

Slide50

Early finisher exercises are another area I’d like to widen my repartee in.  I give one simple example here, but want to spend time and perhaps a blog post leading to a workshop on how to engage and push the fast finishers.  I obviously need a lot more time to Demand High of myself…

Slide51

Slide52

And as a teacher trainer, I always like to encourage observation, since I consider it the most effective development tool.  So here are a couple of Demand High peer observation tasks for you to try out when watching and being watched.

Hitting the heights observation

Student peaks

And finally, giving the learners more motivating, realistic/authentic and Demand High homework tasks is an area I feel I can improve in.  Again I share just one simple idea here, but hopefully more will be on the way someday.  Learners had to go and watch youtube videos and find examples of unreal past conditions and results to share with their classmates.  Then they brought them into class and their friends had to guess where they were from.  We ended up showing them in context on mobiles to check their predictions.  The blank one is because some didn’t find any – but they had lots of intense listening practice anyway as they tried to find them…

Slide54

Slide55

It’s a very simple idea with very little teacher preparation, but really engaging and personalised for the students. One I’m going to use again and again, tweeking here and there of course. So we’ve reached the summit of the mountain and the view looks pretty spectacular.  We’ve had some tough times on the journey and had to look inside ourselves to find the attitude, energy and techniques to get to the top, but with a little help along the way from Jim, Adrian and Steve we made it!

Now all that’s left is to share the tale of your journey with friends and family once you get back home.  How are you Demanding High of yourself and your students?  Which areas are you going to choose to work on?  What Demand High techniques and activities are you adding to your teaching?  Please do share with us here, we’d love to hear from you.

Congratulations on Demanding High, enjoy the view, and remember by Demanding High, you’ll Hit the Heights!





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?