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.

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In full flow at #2014MAC





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!





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!





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 One for Students

5 06 2012

This is the first 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.

First of all, let’s have a look at how we can use this song with students.

It’s My Party by Lesley Gore

I suggest a straightforward Text-Based Guided Discovery lesson in order to compare and contrast real and unreal conditionals, which both come up in the chorus.  This means you can use the song as a straightforward listening lesson and then come back and do the language lesson another time (or not at all) if you want to.

So the lesson starts with a lead-in about parties you can find some suggested speaking tasks here in the first handout:

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

Then we have a gist listening about why the singer is crying and then more detailed listening about the facts of the party and the situation the singer finds herself in.   You could just follow this up with a speaking task about when people cry, the last time they cried or perhaps write a letter from the singer to Johnny breaking up with him or form Johnny to the singer asking for forgiveness.  However, both of these writing tasks might also include conditions and results, so why not have a look at the language of the song first?

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

Our guided discovery focuses on the meaning of the two structures in the chorus which are made up of conditions and results:

‘I’ll cry if I want to’

and

‘You would cry too if it happened to you’.

What I really like about this song is the context gives us a clear difference between real conditions and results in the present and unreal conditions and results in the present.

The singer is clearly singing about now (rather than the past) when she imposes her condition ‘if I want to’ and her result is also clearly

It’s My Party by Lesley Gore

in the present ‘I’ll cry’.  The context also makes it crystal clear that it is very likely that the singer is in the crying mood and tears are on the way.

Which contrasts really nicely with the second condition she puts when she addresses her listener ‘…if it happened to you’.  This is clearly again based in the now but this time is an unreal (imaginary or hypothetical) event.  And once more, the same clarity goes for the result of this condition and the fact that it is unlikely to happen.

All of this clarity can be used to let the students discover for themselves the different forms used to express the conditions and results by asking them the questions in the guided discovery handout.  There’s no overt pronunciation discovery here though, so don’t forget to drill the structures and other similar ones before you feedback on the form-focused questions (which begin with In real present conditions we use…).  And then of course it’s time to practice!

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

These two practice activities are fun, challenging and involve lots of personalisation.  They also challenge the students to use the correct conditions and the correct results in the correct contexts.  The learners always have a choice between real and unreal and that’s where the success of a practice activity and its focus on meaning and use as well as form really lies.  I particularly like the freer practice since it’s simply a little different to what students are used to and at the same time clearly shows then how and when they might use conditions and results in their own lives.  It also isn;t so free that they can avoid the structures all together.   Just beware that the students might need lots of examples to understand how to arrive at conditions they are under (hence my multiple examples!).

I really hope your students enjoy the song, the guided discovery and the practice activities.  If you do use the song with your classes, please do let us know how it went down and whether you added anything or your students had any trouble with anything.  And if you have any questions about how I’ve presented the language and created the guided discovery do let me know and I’ll get straight back to you.

Next time out we’ll look at the message Lesley has for us as teachers and how we can look at our teaching through the message of the song.  See you there!





B2 Listening & Vocab Lesson Plan – The Kinks – Dedicated Follower of Fashion

11 08 2011

B2 Listening lesson – The Kinks – Dedicated Follower of Fashion

This is a lesson I’m teaching Monday morning as an observed lesson on the CELTA.  It’s based on Unit 3A of Straightforward Upper Intermediate (Kerr & Jones, Macmillan 2006) – an excellent course book, as course books go.  

The worksheet provides a lead-in and a test-teach-test vocab pre-teach stage. 

The second page is a word grab which can serve as both the freer practice for the vocab and the gist task for the listening.  If you don’t have the Straighforward book for the detailed listening, I’m sure you’ll find the links online.  

Enjoy, and as always if you do use the materials please let us know how you get on.

Post-Lesson Update

The lesson went well this morning and the students did lots of talking, learnt some new idiomatic (and I think quite useful) vocab and did some intensive listening practice.  They said they enjoyed the song and their continued exploration of British tribal culture (I wonder if the Celtees will mention the riots at any point?)

The level was actually more challenging than I’d thought it would be, for quite a strong Upper Intermediate (B2) class.  The vocab was mostly new, as expected, and they were motivated to learn it and try to use it.  In the teach stage we looked at flatter and flattered as well as flattery – all useful stuff.  Some fun drilling ensued, with me giving them compliments or criticisms and them replying I’m flattered or reacting angrily to criticism.  

The listening was challenging.  The vocab grab was fun,. but there was a lot of misgrabs (probably because of all the f-words), so it needs careful monitoring.  They were able to decide on the correct part of speech successfully most of the time but had quite a bit of trouble deciding which words went in which gaps – this needs plenty of time and careful monitoring to be successful, but it’s a more worthy exercise than just listening and filling – it really gets them to think about the meaning of the vocab and how to decide what goes where through context.

Just wish I’d got through the warmer quicker and left more time for feedback after the detailed listening, but at least I know now this will be a whole 90 minute lesson with my Advanced Ones tomorrow.  

Post Advanced One Lesson Update

As suspected, this material easily filled up an hour and a half at Advanced One level (C1).  They had a lot to say about the best brands and why they liked them and we corrected their pronunciation of a few labels and clothes words.  I was surprised to find they didn’t know any of the pre-teach vocab words except one student who knew flatter, so the test stage was a tad demotivating for them.  But they enjoyed learning the new vocab and we had lots of personalised examples of flattery and flitting and fads (apparently fur-lined boots are the fad of the moment?). They were able to do the part of speech exercise very well and that helped them a lot to predict which words went in which gaps, but it took them time and they didn’t get them all, but once they listened most of them were able to fill the gaps correctly.  Definitely a challenging listening, motivating vocab and it fitted in nicely with a word formation exercise in their course book (Advanced Expert – Page 61) about fashion and buying trends.  All in all a fun and useful lesson – I recommend it!