The London 2012 Olympics

22 07 2012

This week sees the beginning of the Olympic Games in London.  Why not get your students into the mood by doing some Olympics related activities in the classroom?  The idea of this blog is to provide a space for us to share ideas and resources we create around IHWO so that we can motivate and inspire our students to learn English as well as enjoy the way London hosts the Olympic Games.

Please do add your ideas and resources to the platform both as files and here as comments.  I’ve been brainstorming a few ideas to get you underway.  Hope you like them:

Olympic Activities

Present an Olympic sport:

            Rules

Students explain to classmates how one of the Olympic sports / disciplines works.  Great for developing vocabulary and research and speaking skills.  When giving their presentations, the classmates can be making notes, filling in a chart (to later compare sports) or thinking of follow up questions to ask. 

            Olympic history

Students present the Olympic history of a sport or discipline.  How long has it featured in the games for?  When was it first included?  Who were its most famous winners?  What Olympic stories are most connected to this sport.  Listeners can fill in a chart or ask questions or decide on the most Olympic sport / best presentation. 

            Olympic timetable

Students present the where and when and how to watch this Olympic sport, aiming to make it as attractive an event to the other students as possible.  Listeners can choose one event to watch, fill in an info chart or decide which presentation was most successful.  

 

Present the athlete

            Biography

Students choose a favorite athlete to present to the class, giving a summary of their careers to date and previewing their possible participation in the games to come.  Listeners can rank athletes in order of interest of decide on the best presentations.  or ask follow up questions on each athlete.  

            Career in pictures

SS can post a blog about an athlete, describing their career highlights and accompanying it with pictures from the web.  Students then comment on each others’ posts, asking follow up questions about their careers or making simple comments on the pictures posted. 

            Daily Olympic journal

 Students choose an athlete to follow throughout the games and each day / class/ week write a journal entry as if they were that athlete.

 

Present the country

            Top three athletes

Students research a country’s Olympic team and choose three athletes to focus on.  These can be presented as an article, a blog post, a picture presentation or a short speech.  

            Top three teams

As above, but focusing on teams rather than individuals (e.g. the women’s football team, the cycling team, the yachting team). 

            Gold medal possibilities

Students write a summary of a country’s best medal prospects.  The class can keep a log of each student’s recommendations as the games progress – did they win the medals predicted? 

            Country background /  Country history

 Students choose a country to write or speak about and can summarize their background or history, either sporting or entire, perhaps focusing more on lesser known or smaller countries. 

 

The host country

There are myriad articles available on the internet about all of the topics below and many more.

Students can each choose an article to read from the internet on the given theme and then in class they discuss the information in their articles, comparing and contrasting their research or giving each other tasks to do based on their texts (e.g. use of Englsi closes or reading comprehension tasks).

            Games preparation

            The bidding process

            The Olympic village

            Security arrangements

            The Olympic torch

            The Opening Ceremony

 

The Olympics

History

Each group can present a summary of a previous Olympic games 

Ideals

Students discuss what the Olympics mean to them and debate their value to society in the modern world.  

Future

How will the Olympic movement continue beyond 2012?

Students could prepare a pitch for their countries/cities to host the Olympic games.  

 

I’m sure there are millions of other activities that can be done using the Olympics theme and making the most of all the written and spoken materials that there is out there on the web.  but I hope some of these ideas help you to incorporate the excitement of the games into your lessons and help your students learn some English in a fun way.  

Happy Olympics everyone!

Neil 

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No Man’s Land – Finding the Middle Ground in the Dogme Debate

16 02 2012

No Man’s Land – Slides from Montevideo 29/2/12

Macmillan Montevideo

On Wednesday 29/2/12 I had another go at No Man’s Land at the Macmillan Montevideo Conference 2011 held at the Anglo.  It was interesting to see how the talk changed as a result of  having a different dialogue with a different audience – Montevideo was much less impressed with Dogme than Buenos Aires was and quite a few members of the audience were brave enough to call themselves Textbook Traditionalists at the beginning of the talk, although we all ended up as Dog-maurauders at the end.  The talk was also shorter, so I focused more on the ten key principles and had also summarised 10 key Dogme-rauder principles which the audience were happy to accept and take away to consider.  Let us know how you get on!

Many thanks to Nicolas from Macmillan for organising the day, my impressive fellow speakers Aldo Rodriguez, Phil Hanham and Gustavo Gonzalez and, of course, the anglo for hosting the event – although it was the great audience that made the day such a success.

Pro-T Buenos Aires

Here are the slides from the talk at Pro-T 2012 on Thursday 16th February 2012.

No Man’s Land

Many thanks to everyone who came to the talk on Thursday and to @lcamio and the Pro-T team for inviting me and organising everything so smoothly.  I really enjoyed the talk and discovering much more about the principles of Dogme ELT through the process of researching, planning and writing the talk and sharing it with you on Thursday.  It was exciting (and empowering) to put the decision about whether or not to ‘convert’ myself into a Dogme-gician in your hands, and participating in that Dialogic Co-construction of knowledge to see what emerged was an enlightening process.  I hope the talk has helped some of you to look at your classrooms from a slightly different angle and gives you some ideas about how to ensure our students are at the centre of everything we do.

If you feel you are a Dogme-gician, it would be great to hear how you have managed to incorporate your Dogme teaching style into the confines of the educational context where you work.

Dogme-gician's believe in all the magic of Dogme.

If you’re a Dogme-rauder, it would be great to hear which principles of Dogme you have particularly pillaged and which ’emergent’ tasks and activities you have used successfully or are going to try out.

Dogme-rauders have a soft spot for the 10 key Dogme principles, but prefer to loot and pillage the best of all methods

And if you’re a Textbook Traditionalist, then it would be great to hear the reasons why.

Textbook traditionalists start their planning from the next page of the course book and feed their students grammar mcnuggets

The ones that came up during the talk were pressure from above (Principals getting in the way of principles?) and the necessity to prepare students for exams.

The first problem is going to take time and persistence in order to convince principals, parents and even ministries of education, that the syllabus can be covered and students can learn English and prepare themselves for exams without having to faithfully follow a course book step by step.

And exam classes can easily prepare through a less materials dominated approach.  Students choose the texts they want to work with (be they authentic, course book, test book or whatever).  Students can construct test activities for each other from these texts, empowering them to discover much more about the tests and the strategies needed to complete them successfully.   Students can decide which tasks to work on when, depending on mood, trending current affairs topics, previous classes, perceived weaknesses.   Students can design the course syllabus, selecting the test materials to use, the balance of test types to focus on, writing proposals at the beginning of the course, progress summaries during the course, reviews of the course as it progresses and reports on their progress towards the end of the course.  Obviously, the students will choose to use Practice Test materials during the course (I imagine), but this is all part of being a good Dogme-rauder – letting students choose, allowing the syllabus (as well as the langauge) emerge through a dialogue involving the whole class.

Al, Vicky and Susan enjoying the talk – laughing in the face of Dogme?

I seem to have burst into song – lyrics a-merging!

Looking forward to hearing where you stand and I was relieved to find out I can continue to be a Dogme-rauder at the end of the talk!





Me is for Method: Comment on Scott Thornbury’s blogpost ‘A is for Approach’

22 01 2012

http://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2012/01/22/a-is-for-approach/#comment-6497

Many thanks for such a measured and thoughtful rise to the challenge, which really helps me to move closer to my own understanding of what Dogme is and how it can help us to keep improving as ELT teachers. (Although I wish you’d linked back to one of my ‘real posts’ such as ‘Who Needs Dogme?’ rather than my post-run ramblings like ‘Plodding and Pondering’ :) ).

On first reading, your post almost convinced me that perhaps Dogme was, in fact, an Approach, but closer reading, especially of your Richards and Rogers quote, leads me, personally, closer to a conclusion that Dogme is, if anything, a Method. But certainly not ‘just another’ Method, Luke, don’t worry!

In order to be an Approach, Dogme would have to ‘refer to theories about language learning…’. I take this to mean that it suggests theories, or expounds theories, or borrows theories from other areas of academic research and applies them innovatively within the language learning field. As you admit later in your post ‘these theories are not original’, Dogme doesn’t do this.

On the other hand, if we read on and examine Richard’s and Rodgers understanding of Method, we find it…
“…is theoretically related to an approach, is organizationally determined by a design, and is practically realized in procedure” Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T (2001:20).

For example, a behaviourist approach to learning theory helped to pave the way for the Audiolingual method, which then gave rise to such practical techniques as drilling being used in the classroom.

Within this framework, I now feel Dogme is closest to a Method. It is theoretically related to socio-linguistic approaches to learning, communicative approaches to learning and, perhaps it could be argued, emerges from an eclectic approach to language learning.

It is organisationally determined by a design, since it reacts to the ‘overdesign’ of course book dominance of course content and syllabus design and seeks to place the responsibility for design firmly in the laps of the students, perhaps scaffolded by the teacher. Your further comment about Dogme utilising process syllabi is another very helpful suggestion, although it also adds to the feeling that Dogme’s not the most original of methods.

And it is practically realized in procedure, which can be evidenced by all of the mind-opening and technique-honing descriptions of Dogme practice that you so deservedly praise.

Indeed, Bartolomé’s definition of “effective methods” in a given “socio-cultural context” (2003, p. 411) seems particularly close to how I understand Dogme’s raison d’être:

‘‘The informed way in which a teacher implements a method can serve to offset potentially unequal relations and discriminating structures and practices in the classroom and, in doing so, improve the quality of the instructional process for both student and teacher.’’ (2003, p. 412)
And Larsen-Freeman’s assertion that:

‘’As teachers gain experience, they come to understand a particular method differently ‘’ (Larsen-Freeman, 2005b, p.11).

also fits in with your point about the similarities and differences between how teachers implement their understanding of Dogme in the classroom.

Perhaps it’s in the distinction between whether or not Dogme relates to learning theories in an original way, or combines by now ‘unoriginal’ theories into an original method, or does neither, that our views differ (I don’t share Jason’s view that looking at it as all three is very helpful).

But whether Dogme ends up being an approach or a method or something else, and whether it actually matters, as you hint it’s time to move on. Even if we disagree on where Dogme is coming from, we share a vision of where it should be going. As you say, only through continuous experimentation, description, debate and a little bit of debunking (mostly by sheep in wolves clothing such as meself :) ), will it mature into either an approach or a method. And this is where it provides excitement and where we all need to continue experimenting along with our students and trainees in their classrooms and where I’ll get amusing myself on my blog once I’ve had another run…

Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T. (2001). Approaches and methods in language teaching (2nd ed.).Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bartolomé, L. (2003). Beyond the methods fetish: Toward a humanizing pedagogy. In A. Darder, M. Baltodano, & R. D. Torres (Eds.), The Critical Pedagogy Reader (pp. 408-439). New York: RoutledgeFalmer.

Larson-Freeman, D. (2005). On the appropriateness of language teaching methods in language and development. ILI Language Teaching Journal, 1 (2), 1-14.

 Scott Thornbury (19:24:50) :

Thanks, Neil, for coming on board, and in such a measured and well-informed manner.

Thanks also for raising the ‘method’ issue. You may have noted that I carefully avoided the term in my original post, mainly because the term now seems to have out-lived its sell-by date (see my video blog M is for Method for a brief overview). This is because (pace R & R) there seems to me to be no stable, identifiable and autononmous entity on the trajectory from ‘approach’, on the one hand, and the way that that approach is actualised in particuar contexts, on the other. In most contexts, if there is a construct that mediates between an approach and its practitioners, it is not a method as such (i.e. a set of practices that is prescribed by some higher authority) but the coursebook. But, of course, Dogme has no coursebook. It doesn’t even have a syllabus. It is simply an idea that has accreted practices, and out of these practices something recognisably distinctive seems to be emerging. But it’s not a method, any more than CLIL is a method, or task-based language instruction.

As for Dogme’s lack of originality, I wish i could count the times that I’ve said that there is nothing new about Dogme. Except the label. Just as there was nothing new about America. Until Columbus named it that way. ;-)

mcneilmahon (20:31:34) :

I really should be doing other things, Scott, but had to respond to this bit:

‘In most contexts, if there is a construct that mediates between an approach and its practitioners, it is not a method as such (i.e. a set of practices that is prescribed by some higher authority) but the coursebook’

…because in the contexts I’ve worked in over the last 15 years, there has always been a range of methods for teachers to choose from depending on which learning theories they believe in and which approach they therefore take. As I’ve said elsewhere (Who Needs Dogme?) perhaps this is because I’m one of the lucky ones. Encouraged to take an Eclectic Approach, I explore different methods (including Dogme and even a bit of Al or GT when the context suggests it), and practice a range of techniques that have evolved from and outlived those methods.

But I do find the idea of method helpful and persuasive, even if, as Seyyed Mohammad Reza Hashemi puts it in his conclusion to a fascinating article on post-method language teaching:

”Method is a strange concept, old and new, meaningless and meaningful.”

And he goes on to conclude benefits of methods that I imagine all Dogme-gicians would find heart-warming?

”With all systematicity it bears and the order it creates, method swings back and forth from meaninglessness to meaningfulness. At times, it deals with and leads to well-defined patterns as realizations of coherent thoughts and informed practice. There are also times when method equals chaos, especially when in the hands of unimaginative users, unreasonably insisting on sticking to their dogmatic principles. Methodic patterns as they emerge, though, are the quintessence of excellent harmony. However, when dictated and followed blindly, patterns would lose their context-sensitive meaning. Prescription of contextually isolated patterns would, then, impose limitation and this limitation will result in fossilization of practice. Teachers with dynamic minds would never let that happen, struggling to create coherence and meaning as they discover, perceive, interpret, implement and modify methods.”
(Reza Hashemi, ‘(Post)-Methodism: Possibility of the Impossible?’, Journal of Language Teaching and Research, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 137-145, January 2011

By the way, just in case anyone isn’t sure, I see slavishly sticking to a course book as ‘unimaginative use’ and most Dogme-gicians I know as ‘teachers with dynamic minds’.

And this is why I see Dogme as a method, but not ‘Just another Method’. Because most other methods that are fondly remembered on in-service training courses such as the IH CAM or DELTA, have been outlived by the techniques within in that have been shown to work, while the method itself has been shown to be flawed. Dogme is different in as much as it is alive and vibrant and is showing us at the moment that it can work. The real question is whether or not after a lot more debate and description and debunking it stands the test of time in the way most other methods don’t – it would be very exciting for all of us and our language learners if it does.

Time, as always, will tell, and it’s high time I was doing something else…





Who needs Dogme?

8 01 2012

Maybe I’m just one of the lucky ones?

This weekend at the IHWO DoS Conference there has been a lot of debate about Dogme and as usual I’ve been on the outside looking in.  While I agree with a lot of the ‘principles’ Dogme and its followers espouse, I just can’t whip up the enthusiasm to cry its benefits from the rooftops and, if anything, I tend to cringe at the evangelicism of it all.

This weekend’s debates, and particularly @jemjemgardner’s response to my above summary of the debate, have made me wonder why I react like this to well-meaning people with sound ideas.  And the conclusion I’ve come to is – maybe I’m just one of the lucky ones.

‘They’ say  90% of the impression we have of someone is made in the first ten seconds of meeting them (at least some such startling fact like this is the basis of reading texts in many course books over many years).  My first meeting with Dogme was Scott at his Borgesian best (lots of clever quotes and little meaty passion) – so perhaps that’s where my rejection comes from?

I also think ‘they’ say that the first year of a baby’s life is even more influential than we give it credit for.  The quality of the nutrition given is paramount for the intellectual and physical development of the child.  The quality of the interaction with the environment, the parents and other humans around is vital for developing socially.  And this makes me think that instead my underwhelming reaction to Dogme goes back to my  initial experiences of teaching 15 years ago (long before Dogme reared its ugly head).

Daniel, my Trinity trainer at Oxford House College in the barmy summer of 97 wasn’t very impressive to be honest (most of his sessions were very much ‘do what I say not what I do’ and he failed one of my mates without any prior warning) but his comment on my final certificate (see pic) ‘Neil needs to ensure that his learners are not too material-based’ has stuck with me throughout my teaching career.  First of all, cos it doesn’t make sense and secondly, because throughout the course we were encouraged to lift the language off the course book page and make it our own through designing our own materials (I was particularly proud of a lesson where the controlled practice was students designing their own ‘Frankie says’-style t-shirts) so it seemed confusingly hypocritical.  But all the same, it was the area of my teaching I felt I needed to work on.

So the day of Princess Diana’s funeral I left London at it most surreal (I think I was the only person without a bouquet of flowers in my hand as I got the tube to Heathrow) and headed out to Prague for my first teaching job at Gymnasium Ceskolipska, a secondary school nestled in the housing estates of North-East Prague.  The next morning I turned up at the English department office to be told I was teaching in 20 minutes.  My first question once I’d recovered from the shear dread I was experiencing was ‘Where are the supplementary materials?’  There weren’t any.  The course book was arriving in a week if we were lucky.  I was teaching six classes of 35 minutes that day with teens ranging from 11 to 17 and Elementary to Advanced.  Needless to say I felt the first lesson was awful and I was ready to run all the way back to grief-stricken England and give up on this TEFL lark before I’d even begun.  But as the day wore on and I fine-tuned the delivery (obviously I did the same two getting to know you materials-free activities with all six classes) my confidence grew and I found out a lot about the kids and they found out a lot about me.  And thankfully they didn’t find me out.

I doubt I dealt with much emergent language during those early days, but hopefully I corrected their errors and told them what I’d say in that situation.  And the kids told me a lot about themselves and a lot about their country and a lot about their future plans etc.  And they asked me a lot about me and my country and my murky past.  And we learnt English together.  And when the course book did finally turn up two weeks later my relief was surprisingly tempered and it was greeted with a groan by most of the kids (and probably their parents who had to fork out a week’s worth of crowns to pay for them).   And so I sought to find a balance between covering the content of the course book and allowing the students space to talk and to ask and to enjoy themselves.  And, to be honest, it didn’t seem so difficult.

Looking back on these early, vital days in my teaching formation, I discover an answer to @jemjemgardner’s question comment on ‘Dogs and Elves’ – ‘Have you used Dogme much? Or had the opportunity to observe it in practice? I’d be interested to know if the reservations you express are because you have experienced them first hand?’  Yes, I have used Dogme much.  I was born using it.  And perhaps that’s why, like a rebellious teenager who reacts against their parents’ best intentions, I am sceptical of the need for Dogme.  And I realise now it’s because I was lucky.  ‘Dogme’-like principles and techniques have always been part of my teaching, and so, like @Harmerj suggested at #IHDOS, I’ve always seen it as ‘Just good teaching’.

Now, I realise there are many other teachers out there who weren’t so lucky in their formative years.  Perhaps they grew up in a prescriptive, test-obsessed environment and know no better?  Perhaps their teaching personae were formed in Tsarist monarchies where course book was king and unquestioning loyalty was demanded at all times?  Perhaps there are teachers out there who needed a Bolshevik revolution to wake them up from their teacher-centred slumber and wrench them away from the misconstrued comforts of published-materials paradise? Perhaps.

But Dogme therefore leaves me feeling like a February revolutionist.  Change was happening long before the Dogme revolution came along.  Teachers were realising course books are fallible, students are at the centre of learning, tangents are learning opportunities, grammar is but one of many important areas of language, making tasks authentic is motivating, fluency leads to accuracy etc. etc. And I see Dogme as a Bolshevik revolution.  And we all know what happened after that.

So my reservations about Dogme come from trying to avoid a cold war.  Trying to avoid a split into camps.  Dogme V Course book.  Luckily for me, I just don’t see the need.  So let’s declare the revolution over.  Let’s do away with the propaganda and the class struggle and the fighting and the stand-offs.  It does none of us any credit and doesn’t help our less lucky colleagues.  Let’s start looking for the middle ground now.  Let’s continue to train our teachers and encourage our colleagues to be eclectic, to teach the context, to use a course book selectively if they and their students / institute want to, to encourage students to negotitate the syllabus and select texts, to structure classes  with logical stages that achieve aims and to leave that structure when the context suggests it, to balance the focus on skills and language, to develop critical thinking skills, to encourage learner autonomy, etc. etc.

Dogme is dead.  Long live Just Good Teaching.





From Dogs to Elves – My fave tweets from #ihdos 2012 Day Two

6 01 2012

The IH Directors of Studies Conference takes place every year in London and unfortunately I can’t be there this year, so I’m following it on Twitter and avidly waiting for the videos to be published on ihworld.com after the conference.

Day Two of the conference is External Speaker day, where guests are invited to come and talk to the IH DoSes about anything and everything.  The programme looked like this:

0900 – 1000 Jeremy Harmer
Teaching unplugged beats acquisition? What to teach who, with what, and why
1000 – 1100 Luke Meddings
1130 – 1230 Nicky Hockly
Digital Literacies
1400 – 1500 Robin Walker, OUP

Teaching pronunciation for English as a lingua franca

1500 – 1600 Chia Suan Chong, IH London
My ELF Conversion – An exploration into the Pragmatics of ELF
1630 – 1800 Panel discussion

moderated by Nick Kiley

19.00 Quiz night (dinner and drinks provided) – SPONSORED BY THE IH TRUST


And these were my favourite tweets from the day: with my reaction to them. Looking forward to your reactions to the tweets and my reactions! 

chiasuan Chia Suan Chong

@Harmerj clarifying for Dogmeticians that doing #dogme doesn’t mean being lazy,but on the contrary requires teachers2be v attentive. #ihdos Yes, it’s very hard work this dogme business, which makes me wonder how many of us are up to it?

@Harmerj asks: Are the three pillars of dogme structurally sound? #ihdos He thinks there might be a few cracks I’ve seen Jeremy’s talk before, in Buenos Aires, so apologies for the lack of tweets chosen on it. 

@Harmerj on what happens 2 sts who don’t function well on conversation& interaction&prefer2get their knowledge in other ways? #dogme #ihdos Yes, both learner styles and teacher styles mean any one approach, Dogme or not, is probably not enough.  What’s wrong with the context approach? 

@Harmerj says the magic moments where teachers work with what sts want to talk abt is simply good teaching, not #dogme #ihdos Gotta agree with this.  It’s called going off at a tangent and a good teacher knows when to do this and how to take advantage of it to provide learning opportunities.  Using a course book well can provide as many tangents if not many more than only student input…

@LukeMeddings on Grammarbks & gr exercises being like Coleman’s mustard. You slap on too much but never use all of it. #dogme #ihdos I’d never do that with my Coleman’s! Not after smuggled it out here in my suitcase.  Seems like the debate is swaying from good teachers to bad course book writers (or perhaps better said, editors and publishers)

@LukeMeddings : our sts r coming to us with their English and not for English. What sts want is 2 engage with it. #dogme #ihdos Nice emphasis, but we’re coming to you for answers, not with answers, so where are they? 

tgscott00 Tom Scott

#ihdos Materials-light now means bottom-up… ? LOL, I always wondered this too.  Language emerges at the beginning of a ninety minute lesson, so we jump on it and analyse it to bits and get students to use it everywhichway – the lack of materials can push us towards overanalysis perhaps?

chiasuan Chia Suan Chong

@LukeMeddings -the need to change how see teacher training&writing of lesson plans, which encourages people2teach the plan. #dogme #ihdos This is definitely an idea I’d like to develop were I ever to have the time. 

jemjemgardner Jemma Gardner

RT @phil3wade@chiasuan @LukeMeddings I do far more grammar and lexis in a dogme lesson – Same here – so much more to work with! #ihdos For me another concern.  Skills work and decent input seem to take a back seat…

aClilToClimb Chiew Pang

#ihdos #dogme is actually difficult to pull off bc you’d need a good knowledge of #grammar! Correction – knowledge of language.  Much more important to be able to feed in language that improves the clarity and concision of the student’s message

Shaunwilden Shaunwilden

Ooo there’s a term ‘synoptic learners’ and ‘ectenic learners’ #ihdos  One to look up and then use on my DELTA course next week. 

chiasuan Chia Suan Chong

@LukeMeddings Ectenic learners prefer control of their learning. Synoptic learners go with the flow & isn’t systematic. #dogme #ihdos

@LukeMeddings quoting Kat from Madrid how added space&organic interaction can spur inquisitiveness & bring class together.#dogme #ihdos Any more on this anyone?

Shaunwilden Shaunwilden

“Its about being independent, creative and asking questions, we need to be truly communicative” #ihdos Sounds more like doing Communicative Approach properly rather than Dogme

timjulian60 Tim Julian

@LukeMeddings says dogme has a social dimension for a questioning world #IHDOS Is he trying to say Dogme introduced Critical Thikn ing to ELT?  I hope not.  CT has much more of a future than Dogme, which let’s face it, is dead.  Long live the king!

aClilToClimb Chiew Pang

@antoniaclare @chiasuan cnt coursebook based classes B conversation-driven 2? #dogme #ihdos >Of kurs! But how many tchrs do that oftn enuf? This is where Dogme debate doesn’t help.  We need to train teachers to do more with the students and their coursebooks, not worry about trying to introduce radical and catchy new methodologies / techniques. 

tgscott00 Tom Scott

@Harmerj was about to reach for a copy of “teaching unplugged” then he came to his senses… #ihdos Bet this got a laugh or two.  Although was it clear from his talk whether or not Jeremy had read the book or not? 

chiasuan Chia Suan Chong

@TheConsultantsE Nicky speaking about how we can save the tree octopus! #ihdos Shame it didn’t exist in the end. 

@TheConsultantsE : sts need to be taught how to analyse the veracity of the information found on the web. #ihdos Critical Thinking rears its beautiful head once again. 

Shaunwilden Shaunwilden

if you want to see the definitions of the literacies Nick is referring to go here bit.ly/d7i4hu #IHDOS Very useful link, thanks Nicky

louisealix68 Louise Alix Taylor

@antoniaclare: dogme debate btwn @lukemeddings & @jharmerat #ihdos conf in London | should be on telly ;)” I wish! It will be on IHWorld.com very soon!

Shaunwilden Shaunwilden

RT @LukeMeddings: any #dogme colleagues got thoughts/tips on teaching low-level, unmotivated older teens in Oman -unplugged? #ihdos #eltchat I thought the whole point of Dogme was it magically motivated everyone to come up with topics and texts for discussion, even low-level teens in Oman?

nickkiley Nick Kiley

#IHDOS Using literal videos and parodies, some great ideas… What’s a literal video and please share the ideas Nick. 

The #IHDOS conference is good for your elf (badum tish – I’m here all week…) LOL, miss you and your humour Nick – wish I was there all week too!

timjulian60 Tim Julian

360 million English speakers in the “inner circle” 150-330 million in “outer circle” #IHDOS Up to 1,500 million in “expanding circle” I’d like to hear more about these circles. Is inner NS, outer NNS and expanding those learning but not really speakers yet, perhaps? 

emilyvbell Emily Bell

#IHDOS Robin Walker suggests ‘native speakers’ need to learn how to be intelligible in international meetings. Perhaps teacher trainers like myself could set up shop in NS contexts teaching NS to grade their language like teachers do?  How to market this need and make my millions from it?

timjulian60 Tim Julian

Consonants critical to ELF, with the exception of TH #IHDOS Again, I’d like to hear more.  Maybe I need to read Jenny Jenkins? 

Consonants, consonant clusters, vowel length and sentence stress key to intelligibilty #IHDOS Exactly what we preach on our CELTA courses at IH Buenos Aires (and Delta as from Monday)

chiasuan Chia Suan Chong

Robin Walker :Assimilation, coalescence, schwa and weak forms in fact are damaging to intelligibility in ELF communication. #ihdos Shame, I’m a big fan of the schwa…

Robin Walker- a good analogy of using ballroom dancing and breakdancing to show the diff between NS-target English and ELF. #ihdos Very helpful analogy indeed, helps to convince not a lowering of standards…

timjulian60 Tim Julian

A lot of NNESTs avoid teaching pron as standards are intimidating #IHDOS And therefore we need to do something to change the standards – ELF does this nicely

emilyvbell Emily Bell
#IHDOS Ts can use Ls’ L1 to help teach pron by showing links rather than seeing L1 as an issue to battle with Indeedy

#IHDOS would you rather have a rally driver or instructor teaching you to drive? Pedagogy needs to be dominant factor Another excellent analogy for the NS / NNS misnomer.  I need more analogies in my conference talks…

Harmerj Jeremy Harmer

@emilyvbell @chiasuan yes I think NS are often less ‘charitable’ than NNS when dealing with NNS ‘politness’?#ihdos Same here Jeremy.  More opportunities for training for NS from us English teachers there then. 

Shaunwilden Shaunwilden

@emilyvbell tweeting for @shaunwilden for the next hour while he runs around with the mic for panel debate #IHDOS Idea of Shaun running around with a mic like a roving reporter is my visual of the day

mcneilmahon Neil McMahon

RT @chiasuan@Harmerj on benefit s and inevitability of CLIL. #ihdos > Not in institute contexts where they already get it at school though Am only including my own tweets here to save me re-reacting to the great original tweets.  Hope you don’t mind. 

RT @Harmerj: cloning’= taking model speaker (e.g. Penelope Cruz in Spanish) + using as model 4 lang learning #ihdos > Bet her model was NS!

RT @Shaunwilden@harmerj – the need for organisation & planning for managing difficult classes #IHDOS > which goes beyond the classroom

RT @Shaunwilden@chiasuan – dogme doesn’t mean hippy rule free classrooms! #IHDOS > Not at all, they can be samey due to need 4 structure

Shaunwilden Shaunwilden

RT @mcneilmahon: So #ihdos panel say niche teaching, project work, pron, CLIL are the most important developments in EFL? >yes & no. Not all new developments but all relevant > Surprised Critical Thinking didn’t make an appearance here > agreed @mcneilmahon #IHDOS

Fighting almost breaking out between @harmerj & Robin Walker! #IHDOS – can NS examiners switch from accent to intelligibility? Can imagine these two rising to each other’s baits…

@TheConsultantsE – setting up a blog is an easy way of including digital literacy in ELT while also teaching skills & language #IHDOS Simple, but excellent point

@LukeMeddings – importance of critical literacy also includes digital literacy #IHDOS

Robin Walker – there is no ELF relevant coursebook yet. Need to train Ts pre-service to promote ELF so that ideas can change #IHDOS I’m open to offers if a publisher needs an author…

mcneilmahon Neil McMahon

RT @Shaunwilden: Experience of learning has been that coursebook can bring Ls together + dogme #IHDOS > Tasks are key to success, not texts

From tweets, sounds like @Harmerj / @LukeMeddings dogme debate at #ihdos was a draw, but @alastairjgrant outshone them both yesterday?

So that was Day Two of the IH Dos Conference 2012.  Lots of Dogme, lots of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF), lots to think about and lots of great tweets from some great people.  Many thanks to all who’ve contributed and kept us up to date through #IHDOS.

Looking forward to your thoughts on the day’s events…





B2 / C1 Scrabble reading lesson – the history, the rules, the scoring

25 08 2011

C1 Reading lesson – The History of Scrabble

C1 Reading lesson – The Rules of Scrabble

C1 Reading lesson – The Scoring of Scrabble

After the Facebook episode I’ve been looking at different ways of using Facebook with my students and one suggestion from Rosie that I’ve taken on board in a big way is playing Scrabble with the students.  At the moment I’m in eight different games with different combinations of the class and it’s great to be able to add an example sentence of the words I use to help the students learn new vocab.  Even though most of them are losing to me badly (I just can’t help it, i’m not really trying to win, honest) they’re still super keen to play and are learning lots of idiomatic (and a few useless) words as they go.

To celebrate this new phenomenon I decided to do a Scrabble lesson with them, which also went down well.  For the History, we did a jigsaw reading, the rules they had to put in order and then compare with other groups and discuss the best order (there isn’t really a correct order) and for scoring they had to make up questions for the other teams to answer.  It ended up in lots of reading, some useful gaming vocab and even more enthusiasm to play Scrabble and increased their vocab.  Hope you have as much success using the materials with your classes!

 





A brilliant feeling of fulfillment

13 08 2011

I’ve just spent the last two weekends in Montevideo, Uruguay, a three hour ferry ride across the world’s widest river from my home town, Buenos Aires.  They have been a hugely rewarding, fun, stimulating, knackering two weekends full of new faces, interesting ideas, invigorating enthusiasm, knowledge retrieval,  developing teachers, welcoming smiles, new learning, lovely lunches, three-hour wifi-less ferry crossings, delightful dinners, unwanted 5am car alarm wake-up calls, and informative note-swapping with like-minds in different contexts.  Challenge, creativity, responsibility and learning were all there in abundance.  And they will continue to be there for the next four months of this blended Delta One preparation course (mostly the next two months with a lull before the mock in November and the exam itself in December).  A veritable fulfillment fiesta!

I have been challenged to prepare 22 teachers of varying backgrounds, experience, knowledge and motivations to take the Delta 1 exam in December; to design a course that suits their varying needs and wants, to deliver that course in a short timeframe with only two weekend visits available for face2face sessions; to design a blended learning support system from scratch wihout incurring costs; to organise and motivate the teachers to continue with the course through to the exam.  And I love it.  And I’m feeling fulfilled. 

I created an entire Delta One course, 12 face2face sessions and 9 weekly exam practice modules.  Ok, that’s not strictly true.  I adapted the face2face sessions from the face2face course we ran here in Buenos Aires 18 months ago, stripping down the super sessions created by my colleagues to 90 minute mosaics of Delta Module mayhem, attempting to introduce, remind, extend and exhume the candidates knowledge and experience of the Delta syllabus.  Pretty creative stuff, nevertheless.  A challenging and enjoyable jigsaw where I had to throw away half the pieces and add in a few of my own to complete the picture as best I could.

Mangling the raw material of a past paper and welding it onto an online wiki space to create the Delta One online exam practice equivalent of a Michaelangelo was an entirely different creative kettle of fish, but just as fun in its unique and unruly manner.  And I loved it.  And I’ve been feeling fulfilled. 

I am now deeply immersed in the responsibility of giving these teachers the best possible chance to do themselves and their uncountable talents justice in the pressure cooker of a Cambridge-invigilated exam hall.  I’m responsible for keeping them on track, for covering the syllabus, for supporting and facilitating and guiding and cajoling and pushing (and maybe shoving?) and relaxing and invigorating and picking up and adjusting and entertaining and…and I love it.  And I’m feeling fulfilled.

And, my oh my, am I learning and learning and learning.  Almost certainly learning more than my charges are.  Had to learn the wiki back to front in no time.  Had to learn how the charges learned and where they were at and how they’d get to be in next to no time.  Had to learn how to deal with my fast-fading memory of all things organisational in I can’t quite remember how much time.  Had to relearn all I’d learnt while on the Delta myself and while last doing the course all those months ago (a great gorging of gratitude to Jim (R.I.P. wherever you are, you live on within so many of us) and Dana in Prague and my colleagues here in Buenos Aires for all the knowledge I’ve acquired from you) in a matter of days.  And I’ve loved it.  And I’m feeling fulfilled. 

But I also feel human and I know it’s only part of my work and while I’m involved in the doing and the challenge it brings and the creativity it demands and the responsibility it brings and the learning it offers I feel fulfilled.  But I’m still left wanting something more.  What’s wrong with us humans? 





Reflecting on (the back end of) #RSCON3

3 08 2011

First of all I have problems knowing which section of my blog to post this in.  Should I put it in Printing Press, because hopefully it will be added to the great other reflections on the conference available at: http://preview.tinyurl.com/3mgat9s

Should I include it in Running Roads since I attended in place of going for a run, nursing my swollen foot while attending sessions on Assessment, Metacognitive Learning, The Future of Education and the fast, furious and fun Technological Smackdown?  And even though I didn’t run, the conference still left me flowing with thoughts like some fresh air and a lake normally do.

Or should I put it in Loving Language, since I haven’t got much in there yet and it was my love of language and teaching language which drew me to the conference in the first place.  In fact I could even put it in Singing Songs, since the conference ended in a lovefest of mutual appreciation and thanks for others blood, sweat and tears that almost inspired us to break into song (and there may still be some at the post-conference shindig next weekend).

In the end it doesn’t matter.  The conference could go anywhere and help anyone and be everything to everyone.  In fact I was never quite sure what it was trying to be and maybe it was that lack of trying combined with that determination to help, to share (Great sharing: http://preview.tinyurl.com/3utbagz), to inspire that made the conference such a success.

I could only attend the conference on Sunday, the last of the three days, but when the call went out earlier in the week for more moderators to help I was only too happy to oblige, it would make me feel more part of a conference which went far beyond EFL and I’d be able to put my experience with the Elluminate platform towards an excellent cause.  In the end I wasn’t needed, but it was nice to know they knew I cared.

As for content, I caught the end of the panel on assessment, which only made me wish I’d got up earlier and caught more of it.  And #CeciELT’s blog post on her views on the subject only augmented that view.  It was heartening to see broad agreement with my chatbox opinions – it’s not testing’s fault that testing is so discreet and objective.  We need to change the syllabus first and encourage our students to think more rather than just regurgitate facts and others’ opinions, then changing our modes of assessment will follow on more smoothly.

Technology smackdown was a lot of fun and gave me a list of websites to check out and see if they’ll help me help my students in future, or are worth passing on to colleagues.  The names I remember are:

Live binders – is it a portfolio online?

Todaysmeet – closed twitter tool

Posterous and Voice Menu – blog and voice recording?

Diigo – social bookmarking

Big think .com

Pic Lit

Glogster

Zimmer twins

Automatoon

Tenmarks

As always with this kind of thing, it’s what you do with it after the event itself that makes it all worthwhile – which is why I suggested ‘How are you going to follow up on RSCON3?’ as an #eltchat topic for this week, should be a good conversation come Wednesday evening.

Next up I kept one ear on Paula White’s keynote ‘Who directs the learning?’ while watching England run India ragged in the Second Test at Trent Bridge.  I’m sorry, Paula, but you just couldn’t compete and we all know the students direct the learning anyway.

And then I chipped in quite a bit on the chat about Dave Dodgson’s session on error correction and writing feedback.  We share many ideas about correcting student’s work being a very different kettle of fish to giving them feedback on their work.  Although I was surprised to hear Dave not go beyond content as an area to feedback on (I’ve always been a big CROAT fan myself, but maybe that’s for a blogpost in itself, or an #RSCON4 session later in the year?).

Another keynote next – it was an excellent idea to switch from sessions to keynote and back again, the format never seemed to get tired (although it was tiring for some of the stalwart organisers, I think it was around now that @shellterrell took an unplanned nap).  Steve Hargadon, who seems to be a big boss at Elluminate and who donated all of the Elluminate rooms for the conference, kept me rapt while he discussed what a Teacher 2.0 is and outlined the increasing say we have in education, how bottom-up is becoming more the way forward thanks to the democratising effect of technology (at least that’s the way I remember it, perhaps I should refer back to tweets for a more accurate remembrance).

Then I was all geared up to help moderate Dr Timony’s session on Tacit Knowledge and Pre-cognitive Thought (= taking advantage of the self-preserving mind), but @ktenkely had all bases covered (or just didn’t see me slip through the virtual classroom door) and so I sat back and enjoyed the session and tweeted the highlights for posterity.  It was a very interactive session, in fact Dave seemed to be just chatting with some of his students most of the time, and I left interested, but without much of a direction to head in (and a craving for olives).

The conference’s final keynote was by @timbuckteeth who must be the owner of one of the best twitter handles I’ve ever come across, although it seems to have nothing to do with who he is – Steve Wheeler.  Now I went tweet crazy, as Steve said some very inspiring things, backed up with memorable visuals to enhance the effect, which more than anything helped kindle the confidence I need to continue with this blog – thanks Steve! Tweet highlights (in reverse chronological order of course) were:

When you retweet, you are not repeating; you are AMPLIFYING > better if you add your 2p worth after the retweet 🙂
Web 3.0 connects knowledge, Web X.0 connects intelligence > if we teach critical thinking!

Content curation a new role for teachers > Think he means getting our students to think critically about content met
Content isn’t king, it’s a tyrant.
Any teacher can be a global educator – become a blogger, however small your ideas – mine here http://bit.ly/mOCPrv
We can all be change agents – it’s not that hard. Opposition = impact
Education is about teaching students, not subjects – Truss
Hitting an easy target – regimented education systems

So no practical ideas there for the classroom but lots of interesting snippets and food for thought – an inspiring way to end.

All that was left was to say thank you to the organisers, the presenters, the (almost) moderators and most of all to the participants who made the conference such an enjoyable three days.  And then not win a prize in the raffle,  but not to worry, we can still win the big prize if you fill in the survey here before the weekend. Good luck!

Final thought for me personally coming out of the conference was another nugget of Steve’s – ‘When we share knowledge we don’t lose it, we gain it again’ or something to that effect.  Steve is a big fan of sharing your work and ideas with others for free and that we shouldn’t make a currency out of knowledge – and so am I!

See you all at #RSCON4!





Comment on @CeciELT’s blog post: ‘My (Initial) Two Cents Worth on Assessing Students…’

31 07 2011

 

http://cecilialcoelho.wordpress.com/2011/07/30/my-initial-two-cents-on-assessing-students/#comment-1086

mcneilmahon July 31, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Hi Cecilia,

Sorry couldn’t make either of your contributions to #RSCON3 but thanks for the post to give us a taste of your thoughts.

Reading the early paragraphs makes me wonder whether assessment didn’t get a bad name because of the forwardwash caused by education systems and curriculum based on fact retention. I have always been struck by not just the amount of learning demanded of my Czech and now Argentine students in their schools but also the lack of thinking it inspires.

I remember hating having to put myself in the shoes of a loom operator soon after the industrial revolution hit Britain and write a diary entry detailing impressions of a day in my life (and I scored much worse at this kind of task than the fact recall types) but I now appreciate how valuable those attempts at developing my critical thinking skills were.

Before we change the assessment, perhaps we need to change the curriculum and the forwardwash effect it has?





CEF Activity Packs: Can Doing Around The IH World

17 07 2011

This was an article I wrote for the IH Journal in 2009 to promote the CEF activity packs which I had edited the previous year for IHWO in my role as Academic Coordinator for DoS Support.  The CEF Activity Packs are available to IH teachers on the affiliate site of www.ihworld.com.