Genetic engineering covers a wide range of topic areas and depending on the knowledge and the background of the students they sometimes need an introduction to genetic engineering. Below are a variety of resources that can be used to discuss and explore genetic engineering. Some of these resources are suitable for ELT and some become more technical for an EAP/ESL setting: Read more
For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while you might remember a post I wrote entitled TEDx: An authentic English learning experience: A Giant Leap, where I outlined the TEDx project, TEDxSabanciUniversity. This is an independent event with a TED flavour, but organized locally. One of my students Can Aztekin had approached me to organize a TEDx event at Sabanci University.
I had agreed to organize it with him because I thought that for students it is an amazing opportunity to learn how to put together a mini conference where they make the executive decisions but all of this work also involves communicating, organizing, reading and writing in English for real life purposes. For the audience that attends, in our case, mainly university students, all of the speeches are delivered in English. Having sat in lectures where foreign language learners find it hard to concentrate on what is being said in the medium of English for more than 50 minutes, this event lasts for approximately 5 hours with only two breaks, with 9 speeches in English. Perhaps the format and listening to all the speakers different ideas creates a high motivation for the students.
For the team who created TEDxSabanciUniversity this year, not only did they not need me as a mentor this year, they tackled all aspects of the production, communication, choosing and training speakers, selling tickets, publicity and so on in English. You can see the TEDxSabanciUniversity website here. From their own initiative they also created TEDxSalon events at the university, watching TEDTALKS and discussing each one over pizza. I have to admit that they have blown me away. I had made a decision for this last TEDx event that I would stay as much in the background as possible so that they could really be in the driving seat. It about killed me as I love organizing events not to be fully involved but I am really glad that that was the decision I took. You see what I found was that by giving them a wide space this time, they ran with the ball, took risks, solved problems and learnt so many valuable lessons. By the end of the event they were exhausted but also proud at what they had achieved. They learnt to trust themselves and to create and I had learnt to let go.
Here are a few of my favourite talks from this years event TEDxSabanciUniversity ‘I am’: Read more
My mother is currently visiting Turkey and she reminded me today of a project I had done over 15 years ago, in which she took part for young learners. This project was code named ‘Flat Stanley’, after the story of the boy who was flat and could slip under doors or travel in envelopes. The participants in this project were about 120 10 year olds in a Japanese school where I was working. The aim of the project was to get these 10 year olds to actually make contact with foreigners and foreign culture in a meaningful way. At the time we did not have Internet use or the array of technological devices that we have now, but I have been thinking about this project and how to upgrade it with all the tools we have now available to us. Read more
When we hear the word ‘play’, we might go back to our childhood and think of the happy hours we spent as a child whittling away countless hours in playing with an assortment of toys. However, if we associate ‘play’ with adults it might appear to be childish. Apart from relieving stress in adults and allowing us to mentally renew ourselves, psychology indicates that play:
may in fact be the highest expression of our humanity, both imitating and advancing the evolutionary process. Play appears to allow our brains to exercise their very flexibility, to maintain and even perhaps renew the neural connections that embody our human potential to adapt, to meet any possible set of environmental conditions.
For language learners of all ages, the very nature of learning a foreign language requires constant adaptation and an array of environmental conditions. This is where play can become extremely powerful in helping learners prepare for those environmental conditions through simulations and other forms of play. Below are some of my favourite lessons that involve the element of play. Read more
This week in the world of EAP I wish to highlight 4 entries on the web:
1) The technology question or e-APing
Steve Kirk’s new blog the TEAPing point is a welcome addition to the EAP presence on the web. He has posted an excellent piece on the use of technology in EAP, following on from conversations on #EAPCHAT. The post is entitled Building e-AP Awareness. Steve looks at technology through the theoretical lens, considers practical application of technology vis-a-vis the theory and also poses open real life questions about how to implement technology, considering problems and asking for your reflections.
2) #EAPchat anniversary and review questionnaire
#EAPchat will be a year old in February. With this in mind Tyson Seburnt is asking for feedback on this platform so that it is responsive to its participants. The questions he is asking are:
- Why do you/don’t you regularly attend #EAPchat?
- How does/doesn’t Twitter work as the platform for #EAPchat?
- How do/don’t the chosen topics engage you in a meaningful way?
- Is it a goal of #EAPchat to extend the conversation beyond the chat session itself?
- What would you like to get most from the #EAPchat community?
If you want to be involved in this discussion then read Tyson’s post entitled Thinking about #EAPCHAT, Year 2 and leave a comment or /and join the #EAPCHAT discussion about this topic on December the 17th.
3)The English for Academic Purposes Group on Linked In
The English for Academic Purposes Group on Linked In seems to have recently started about 2 months ago and is run by Jessie Candy. It shares resources, has discussions and there are some posts from EAP bloggers posted here.
4)For those of you starting out in EAP
For anyone starting out in EAP or are considering entering this field Garnet Education has a book entitled EAP Essentials, written by Olwyn Alexander, Sue Argent and Jenifer Spencer. The book aims to be a jargon free introduction to teaching in EAP. At the link above you can click for a partial online inspection copy. For a review of this book visit the review posted at English Teaching Professional.
EAP/ESP Bloggers’ Showcase
The EAP/ESP Showcase is now up and running on Pinterest. It collects EAP/ESP bloggers from around the world. It has been expanded to include websites. It has recently been updated. If there are any more to add please leave a comment at the end of this post. The more we are connected the more we can exchange with each other. An interesting addition to the showcase has been The EAP ARCHIVIST:
The Archivist takes articles and examines them through the lense of what it means for EAP courses and practitioners.
An ongoing EAP Discussion at Teaching EAP this week
This week’s ongoing EAP discussion has been around a post written by Andy Gillet entitled EAP and publishers: the danger of teaching EAP for no obvious reason. This has centered around the production of EAP coursebooks by large publishers and whether they were relevant to the needs of EAP. Many comments were and are still being left on this topic. Such discussions have included:
- how much the coursebooks cover the actual needs of teachers
- how to approach material development through a corpus approach
- the possibilities of open source wikis as a possible avenue for material exchange
- what people have learnt from coursebooks
- where coursebooks fall short
Any has just posted an open invitation to comment further on the following:
It’s interesting that many people say they have learned from course books. I’d be interested to know what people have learned from coursebooks. I’d also be particularly interested in what people have not been able to learn because it’s not in the coursebooks.
So if you are interested go over and join the conversation.
#EAPCHAT & TPACK
One of the biggest chat on #EAPCHAT was the TPACK model for technology use in our learning environments. Adam Simpson brought this to the table last week and it sparked a lot of interest. For an explanation of the TPACK model visit Adam Simpsons’ blog on Teach them English for The #TPaCK model: An Introduction. This post also received interesting comments. For a practical application of TPaCK in an EAP environment visit, Ssh It’s a Secret. Secret Facebook groups in the English Language Classroom. This post also has the original TPaCK article.
EAP: PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
For those considering a long term career in EAP, it might be worth investigating the MA Teaching English for Academic Purposes from the university of Nottingham. The advantage of this MA is that it is a distance learning course. For more information click here
Doodling has never been the nemesis of intellectual thought, it has been its greatest ally
Doodling, drawing, colouring in the classroom, until what age is it acceptable? Just as Sunni Brown points to the intellectual nature of doodling, how receptive are we to it in our learning environments?
You can usually spot the doodlers, the colourers, the drawers. They have hard core pencil cases, with an array of upto date pens, of varied labels and thicknesses in an impressive array of colours. They usually also have an equally carefully chosen armament of stationary and post-it-notes. That alone says to me that these learners have come to the classroom prepared to unleash their visual, kinesthetic learning style on the their work, to splash it with colour, to draw meaningful images and push that knowledge into their memory. However, sadly, unless it’s a poster day or vocabulary notebook time they might not unleash their true potential into their learning.
There are a few students I guarantee are waiting for permission to get those pens out in public, but they are slightly afraid. You see as Sunni Brown points out, doodling, drawing and colouring are seen as something that belongs to the child, to primary school, even early teens but particularly at 16 or in the university years study, text becomes colourless. Examinations encourage the grey leaded pencil and the classroom recedes into endless streams of text to be compiled in linear bullet pointed notes in monotone black and blue. This is fine if your brain works that way but what if you need the colour. What if this how your brain works? How can you help learners with this need to work within an increasingly formal environment?
1-Spot the learners in question:
a-The pens, the doodles will be the first indication
b-A loss of interest at long dense text Read more
Writing academically at the best of times requires, concentration, language command and control. Add on top of this multiple graphs that learners need to compare and dealing with numeracy in a foreign language, many learners find themselves dazed and confused. This can also lead to looking for a short cut or a writing frame that can be memorized for the exam.
However by doing this learners can limit their written flexibility. They try to control the graph instead of letting the graph lead them to create an organized and coherent piece of writing. With a few simple steps learners can methodically approach the graphs in question and develop a writing plan.
Quite a substantial part of my career involved teaching English (as a Foreign/Second language) to 11-17 year olds. Sometimes this involved being an assistant kind of teacher, who they went to for language once a week, but the majority of the time it involved being their full main class language teacher and or their class tutor. I had these experiences not only in my own country but also abroad and saw many ways of exploring the maintaining the boundaries question within the classroom.
Let’s face it, in this age group the learners want to know what the boundaries are and they are going to push the boundaries to see where the limits are. This comes with the territory of being a teen and with working with teens. This also becomes more intense if you are the foreigner without the native language or the automatic respect that might come with a title such as ‘sensai’ in Japanese or ‘hocam’ in Turkish. Apart from the school’s inbuilt disciplinary procedures, how can you tackle this situation and create a conducive learning environment where our students respect the boundaries?
The art of conversation:
Although I don’t agree with the military discipline that I have seen in some countries where I taught for this age group, there is one very valuable lesson I learnt through being friends with the discipline head at the Japanese junior high school I worked at. We did not always see eye to eye on his approach but the one thing I really learnt was that when learners are pushing boundaries or creating behavioral issues in the classroom, to affect long term behavioral changes conversation and dialogue are key. He might have had an ongoing conversation with the same student for months and in one case three years!!!. However, those conversations brought about change. Here are some ways to use conversation effectively:
A:Take time to find the reason for certain students behaviour
These conversations were not disciplinary talks about what the learner should or shouldn’t do but were to explore why the learner was doing it. What was the background story? I have used this again and again in my own teaching experiences with teens. Usually a teenager is disruptive in a lesson because they want attention and usually there is a background story to the attention need. I once was the tutor of a form class. One of my learners on a daily basis either hit someone, insulted someone, got himself thrown out of the class in another teachers’ lesson, would call someone names or on certain days would arrive into the lesson late, with the most outrageous outfits, creating so much noise that the whole class lost its concentration to work. There were clear boundaries in the classroom about behaviour but this alone would not work in this case. Everyday for about 30 minutes I would sit down with this student and chat about why all of these things were happening. After a month of the why conversation it turned out that his homelife was so troubled that school was the only place where he was seen and the only way he knew how to get attention was by being aggressive. We were then able to get to the root of the problem and look at other ways to feel good without getting into trouble. ı also made sure ı really praised his changes in behaviour even if it was minor as these were big steps for him. When we said out goodbyes at the end of the year, he thanked me because no one had ever asked him why or taken the time to talk with him about what was going on in his life. He told me, “you are the first teacher who has not seen me as trouble but as a human being”. The dialogue approach really worked. A learner is not their label. They are a person.
B: Decide on a learning contract together
Teenagers appreciate being included in the learning rules. I usually at the start of the year make a joint learning contract with my classes about class conduct, homework etc. This is a negotiated process between all of us in the learning environment. Each learner is given a copy of our agreement and if someone breaks the contract they usually accept that they are across the boundary and change their behavior
C: The intervention presentation (works in my experience from 14/15+ onwards)
Despite all of our best endeavours their are times when the the learning environment is less than conducive and the class becomes so disrupted that intervention is needed. I usually prepare a presentation about my concerns about the learning environment on a power point. I will then go into the classroom and explain that I have noticed that there are a few problems, that I am not angry and that I want to discuss these issues with them. I also make it clear that they will also have time to express their concerns and then to comeback and discuss all together. I give the presentation and then I say to them that I am going to leave for 30 minutes. I appoint a class chair and someone to type on the power point with structured headings and ask them to write down their feelings, opinions and problems and also solutions to the problems. After 30 minutes I come back and then we discuss until we can iron out the problems. These talks are very revealing, with learners speaking honestly and openly about issues. We are also usually able to find solutions so that the learning can continue.
Talking, negotiation and solution finding also give learners important lessons that they will need throughout life. Often teenagers like and enjoy raising to the challenge of taking control of their lives at a time when they are searching and striving for their own identity and independence.
This is the first time I have ever actively submitted nominations to the Edublog Award. With the new 2012 EDUBLOG AWARD Nominations now open, I wanted to give a big thank you and give back to the people who I have read and been inspired by most this year. So here goes:
Most Influential Post: Tyson Seburn: Academic Reading Circles
This is by far and hands down my most visited post of the year and has guided me through my teaching of academic reading and gave me the courage and a way to break out of a limited model that was not working in my classroom.
Best ed tech / resource sharing blog:Joe Pereira IF only: Interactive Fiction and teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL/TESOL)
Through Joe Pereira opening my eyes about interactive fiction and the effects on my students, I started experimenting with IF. This blog is packed full of lesson plans based around the electronic game genre of Interactive fiction.
Best Teacher Blog: Adam Simpson: Year in the life of an English teacher
Adam Simpson follows through the highs and lows of teaching as well as giving all round excellent resources and posts on the reality of teaching.
Best Educational Use of Social Media: Teaching English British Council’s facebook page
I have watched this page grow from the beginning. It is versitile, responsive to its followers and extensive, covering and supporting teachers and teaching in all aspects of ELT.
Best Individual Blog: Jeremy Harmer’s Blog
Although from one of the big names in ELT, this blog encourages open discussion and Jeremy’s human approach and honesty draw me back again and again.
All three of the entities mentioned in the title above have an interesting connection. You might be thinking how on earth could Neuroscientific discoveries, ELT and MIT Robotoics (artifical intelligence department) have any kind of connection. MIT scientists trying to push robotics processing power to the complex abilities of humans have discovered that the main and vital ingredient is understanding human emotions. They hold the key. Brain scans and studies written in the neuroscience field have also confirmed that inorder for more complex processing to occur the emotions are an essential ingredient. If the emotions are out of balance they can actually hinder complex processes needed to learn. Which brings us to the ELT part of the equation. Deep learning it seems cannot take place unless the emotions are operating to open learning. This actually is one of the clearest transportable findings from neuroscientific studies for us as teachers.
At this point I want to ask you to take a pause and think about your ELT classroom experiences. I also want you to reflect on the situations in your classrooms where learners have been emotionally blocked. Here is a quick list of some of the learner behaviours that might suggest there is an emotional block to learning:
- the learner disrupts the class
- the learner does not engage in the lesson (looks out the window, does not bring the material needed, does not seem to do anything)
- excessive sleep
I am sure there are more behaviours that could be added to the list. The next questions are slightly more tricky. How much do you take into consideration the possible emotional blocks when planning the lesson? How do you react to these situations? Some negative reactions might be:
- I am not a psychologist, this is a classroom.
- I know it’s not interesting but we have to do it.
- Either work or get out
- Relief that the student in question has not come to the lesson
- accusation (i.e: The learner is lazy)
Kathleen Graves in her conference plenary at Bilkent University this year spoke about how teaching tradionally has focused on scaffolding content and skills needed in the learning environment but that it is becoming clear that affective scaffolding of learners is also equally important. From my own experience, addressing emotional needs head on actually enables learners to overcome their learning obstacles and put themselves in the direct driving seat of their own learning. The transformation can be profound. So how can we go about doing this effectively in our own classrooms?
1-The getting to know you tutorial
Within the first couple of lessons of any new course make sure there is a getting to know you tutorial and casually asks the students how things are going? Some learners quite openly will tell you if they are uncomfortable about study or even life.
2-Noticing quickly and checking in
We are in a unique position as teachers where we can understand quite quickly our learners needs or obstacles because we are in quite frequent contact. If you notice that a learner does not seem themselves, privately ask them if they are ok. I usually grab them in a breaktime and privately chat to them outside the classroom, just once again asking them how they are. If they have shared something with me, the next time I see them I will just check in with them to see how they are. Just knowing that they can talk about study, life etc. can relieve the emotional block.
3-Know where you can be helpful and where you need outside help
If your learner is facing a really difficult private problem it is important to refer them to a professional psycologist when needed. If you have one in your establishment make sure that you ask the learners’ permission before making an appointment for them or before emailing the psychologist. The learner should be included in all the written correspondance.
4-Patience and talking
Rome was not built in a day and emotional obstacles usually take some time. Some emotional issues around study etc. do not disappear after one conversation. I have found that being open to talk about the same issue again and again, with the learner, helps them to process how they feel.
We have all lost it at one time or another in the classroom due to various reasons. If you feel the behaviour is becoming challenging, breathe, count to 10 and then address the situation with the student outside of the lesson. This does not have to be on the same day if you are agitated by the behaviour. Calm yourself first and remember to use the ‘I’ language. For example: I feel that you were not comfortable in the lesson last week, I was wondering if everything is ok’. This is much better than ‘you continually keep disrupting the lesson, why is that?’.
Just those five small steps have really helped change the learning environments I have been working in. If we ignore the fact that learners need a place to explore emotional challenges in the learning environment we are not really addressing a person’s whole learning needs. However, if we include and acknowlege the central role of emotions in learning and have affective strategies to help them remove these barriers, the learning flourishes and the learner is able to reach their full potential.
For more neuroscience related posts have a look at: Bloom’s Taxonomy, Neuroscience and ELT
Thanks @UEfAP for sharing this with me.
In order to process effectively, read fluently in an L2/L3 and not use up cruicial real time online working memory research seems to indicate that you need to recognise and know 95-98% of the words alone in a reading text (Koda, K 1997). You also need other automation features such as automated syntatic parsing, orthographic, semantic, and phonologicial decoding. All of these need to be automated.
Renowned researchers in the field, Grabe, Stoller, Johns, Nation, Koda, the list is endless, line up in favor of extensive reading in the curriculum and in the classroom. We all know this, but frequently due to restraints such as time pressure, learner resistance to reading, the long term commitment and lack of testability means that while extensive reading is acknowledged as important it is often sidelined or seen as the element of reading instruction that can be left for home and checked for homework. In the classroom reading activities might focus on strategies, critical discussion of reading texts, analysis of language or various comprehension activities. How effective are these activities in bringing about the kind of automation needed? One of my favourite quotes on classroom reading and vocabulary acquisition comes from Nagy, Herman and Anderson (1985: p.252) who were researching vocabulary learnt in context. Here were the conclusions from their results:
Our results strongly suggest that a most effective way to produce large-scale vocabulary growth is through and activity that is all too often interrupted in the process of reading instruction: Reading.
Every time I read it I weigh up its simple truth. Our classrooms are not exactly conducive to learners being able to focus and actually read. We set time limits and the physical environment of the classroom is not usually enticing to settle down for a good read. How many of us when reading an article, enjoy sitting at a desk under time pressure? Some of us will but others won’t.
However, by relegating extensive reading only to the homework environment might actually be doing our learners a disservice. Over the course of sixteen years, various needs analysis, interviews, off the record conversations with learners perhaps our assumption that they know how to read extensively is misplaced. My own work environment is set in an cultural environment where the majority of learners never went to the library or grew up in a print culture or where there is a greater emphasis on oral culture. Reading from early childhood is still seen by some as the job of the school and there are still many people who cannot read. The learners I have come across have some of the following dilemas:
1-They don’t know where to begin. The majority of learners I have met have a desire to read, they just can’t find their way in.
2-They feel anxious and confused by library referencing systems (despite sevral orientations) and panicked by the level of quiet in the library building itself that they want to leave. One learner told me that if the library was like a popular bookshop he would actually pick up the books.
3-They are demotivated by graded readers. My learners are 18+ and to them using a graded reader, even though they know it might help, does not feel authentic.
4-They don’t know where they like to read, or how to experiment to find that place.
5-Some learners hate reading or do not really read extensively in their own language. They have a large affective obstacle to reading.
Faced with the importance of extensive reading, I have been experimenting with extensive reading in and out of the classroom that goes beyond setting up a library system, or a homework only approach but combines extensive reading in classroom time as well as outside. The outside suggestions actually came from a working group of learners who wanted to explore this problem for themselves and to help their peers become motivated to read.
Some Classroom Solutions:
a-Entice the learners by laying the ground work:
i-For the first two/three weeks of class, every morning I dump my bags on the desk before class, leave the books I have been reading on the way to work, and say I need to go to my office. When I come back, the learners are usually flicking through the books. I also leave ones in Turkish as I am about their level. Then they start asking me strategy questions such as, how much can I understand?, How much do I look up in a dictionary?, Is it enjoyable?, Is it possible for them in English? This often becomes a discussion among themselves and over a couple of weeks they ask more and more questions.
This main aim of this technique then allows me to indirectly plant the idea that reading in a foreign language is not only possible but that it might be interesting and enjoyable. Sometimes, I might even begin the lesson by asking about cultural references or a word I was reading and they teach me something that I didn’t know etc. Usually, one learner in the class raises the question of whether I think it’s possible for them, and then they ask me to recommend a book. I read alot so I usually ask them what they are interested in and then lend them one. This also then gets the other learners curious. This sometimes has a snowball effect where other learners come to get books or ask for them.
b-Change the classroom environment: I usually begin on the regular textbook readings just to get them used to a different environment)
There are several possibilities I use when we do any kind of reading:
i) Let the leanrers sit in the classroom as they want to. When we do any kind reading I have learners sat on the windowsills, the floors, the desk. They can put their feet up, listen to music through headphones etc. I do not mind how they do it as long as they are reading.
ii) Let them go outside of the classroom to read in classtime: One of the biggest problems I have found is that learners do not really know where they like to read. My learners sometimes have long academic texts that they need to focus on and read. I will actually give them 50-60 minutes in classtime to go out and read. Here are some of the places they go to:
b-their dormroom (we are on campus)
c- the grass
d-sat on a wall outside
e-in the corridor
f-in the seated break area
g-in their car
h-by the lake
i-2/3 leaners stay in the classroom
When I talk about this with fellow teachers they are worried that they might not read but take time out. Usually this doesn’t happen. The learners arrive back having read and ready to discuss or to ask questions. This is one of the most effective strategies I have used to increase reading exposure and uniterrupted interaction with text.
c-A structured approach to extensive reading:
Once we have dealt with their motivation, created a belief that it might be possible to read in a foreign language and identifying where ro read, I slowly introduce an extensive reading programme. Here are a few pointers:
Explaining the importance to learners: It is really important that you discuss why extensive reading is crucial to becoming an effective reader. I actually tell them what research has found and how it is an essential part of learning. I also link it to tangible outcomes or problem areas tht theyhave been experiencing. For example a student might say to me, ’I memorised the word, but couldn’t retrieve it fast enough’. I then explain the scientific basis for this and how extensive reading can help fix it.
Reading Material Choice: I do not mind what the learners are reading. For this to work they have to have choice and more importantly interest in what they are reading. I begin with short extensive reading sessions in classroom time, and try to lengthen these to an hour throughout the term. The reason we begin with short bursts is so learners do not panic. For some learners who are not used to doing this in their L1 this can be a very daunting first step. I will also accept the material in any medium. It can be a book, a magazine, a newspaper, the back of a packet!!! It can be electronic or in paper form. The most important thing is that they read. They have had some interesting choices that sometimes surprised me:
3-The New York Times
5-The History of Heavy Metal Music
8-The Twilight Series
9-A brief History of Time
Once they have started reading, sometimes, they need to rethink the choice as it is too difficult. I know that this might happen but for learners to discover this themselves and then realise this through experience means they are more receptive to looking at how to make more infomed choices abour reading materials for their own level.
Various Reflection Activities based on Reading:
Learners try out the reading for about a week. They then feedback to me about their reading. All I ask them to feedback on is this one request: Tell me how it is for you when you read in English. There are various ways that they can feedback:
a-write a reflection, but I ask for it like an informal letter as many of them stress out about their writing
b-a chat in my office
c-A comment in our facebook group
d-A facebook message
Based on what they say, I then can encourage them to keep reading, identify emotional blocks to reading or frustrations. One of the most common responses is ‘I am bored’. Do not be discouraged by this answer. I have often found that when you ask them about boredom there are important reasons beneath it, such as not being able to follow the story line, or vocabulary overload.
This exercise continues over the term. I also keep following it up with them.
1-Presenting the Book Back To the Class: Depending on the group and how they feel I might ask them to present something to the class about the book. This could be a written, spoken review on our Facebook group wall, turning a part of the book into a graphic book, a prezi presentation. However, I do not always do this as I do not want to decrease motivation by turning this into some type of assessed performance componenet. There are other types of reading activities on our courses that are assessed or product oriented.
2-As part of classroom fillers: If learners start to lose concentration on an activity in the classroom or they finish early on an activity, I get them to read. Sometimes it might be their own material, sometimes I have added 2-3 options to the facebook wall for them to take a look for 5-10 minutes. This also increases positive feelings towards reading. I try to chose for interest because then they will stick with it.
Some Outside Solutions From the Learners:
1-Have a more reader friendly environment in the Library: We often have quiet areas with formal seating but what the learners pointed out that if their was a noisy area where they could sit on the floor or a couch they might read more.
2-Stealth: For a long time I have been collecting literacy projects used in communities around the world. The learners have come up with several ideas on this front:
a-A Book crossing style system for the campus: Books or QRC barcodes mysteriously appear all over the campus. Learners are able to pick up a book randomly, read it and then drop it again randomly on the campus. The book has a code which links to a website and then the book can be tracked. The website also catalogues books that are available for pick up in the area. Book Crossing is also active in most major cities around the world, so you even get the learners book hunting.
b-A randon book dropping point around the campus. People leave books and pick them up.
c-Facebook groups and lists: Learners are doing this already in Turkish on our university campus. Using the same style book list systems for adertising books could also be effective.
Interestingly when extensive reading is active in and out of the classroom learners reading becomes more fluent. Leaving it out of our learning environments we are actually signalling to our learners that it is optional when it really is not. Currently writing the curriculum objectives for reading, I am experimenting with how to make this focus on extensive reading a written part of the curriculum document so that it is not overlooked. With workshops, discussion and training plus a concrete approach, perhaps extensive reading will filter into the classroom and be given its righful place. Will this work? I don’t know. What could the objectives look like? That is still being worked on. Any ideas would be gratefully received. All I know is that it’s definately worth trying to make the reading classroom more about reading than ongoing interruption.
Grabe, W. & Stoller, F.L. (2002): Teaching and Researching Reading. Great Britain: Pearson Education
pg170-171 has some examples of action research to investigate extensive reading in your institution
Koda, K. (1996): L2 word recognition research: A critical review. A Modern Language Journal, 80:450-60.
Nagy, W., Herman, P. and Anderson, R.C. (1985): Learning words from Contexts. Reading Research Quarterly, 20: 233-53
For more articles and ideas on reading please visit The Reading Space section of Sharonzspace.
Over the last 6 years in my current job I have been on a very hard but very valuable journey into creative learning environments. My boss seems to have a technique (she might correct me on this one) where you are given a very free wide space to explore the whole concepts of learning. Yes we do have a curriculum, book etc but what you do in that space is up to you, what you explore or question is totally in your hands. So within the first year of my teaching I must admit that I was at a loss. You see, I had realised that my classroom environment was out of touch and it was no longer a place where learners were responding as much as they used to. I decided that it would become a place where learners would be creative, producing exciting projects. With my new found mission at the start of the second year, I literally walked into my fall classes and practically demanded through various activities the following subliminal edict ‘create’. For those of you who have tried this method you will know what happenend next…….
Nothing, absolutely nothing. In fact I felt the students resist more, not open up. I sat down at the end of the term for what I must admit was a despondant moment at my office desk in despair. My creative projects were in tatters with nothing to show. Why had the learners not been creative?
The question continued for a further month and then one day it hit me. How creative had I been in my own life? How in touch with my creative side was I? The full need for creativity in my life had been surpressed. I had not persued art, something I loved, beyond age 16 even though I could have because I was afraid of failing, of taking the risk to create. Since that time I had shut down the creative part of myself and had convinced myself that it wasn’t important. Now in my office, I realised that the reason learners were not creating was because I was asking them to take risks that I wasn’t prepared to take in my own life and more importantly I was asking them to do it for me in the classroom. Learners are savy and they had sensed the hypocracy. Who was I to presume that I could force someone to create and dictate how this should happen.
Upon this realization I knew that before I could even open up a space for creative possibilites, that learners could explore, I needed to face myself and rediscover the creative part of me. It was a slow, sometimes painful, yet exhilirating adventure. I began by looking at what made me fear my own creative self. The answer was the fear of failure, of not arriving. of not producing. A hang over from my own educational experiences. This shocklingly went against everything I emphasised in the classroom, that the process was the important part not the product. I also read, right at that time, about Iceland. In the book it highlighted that people created not for the end result but for the sheer pleasure. ‘Nice idea’ I thought but it seemed easier said than done.
Then it struck me, I needed to ask myself, if I could experience anything without fear of failing, without judgement, just for sheer passion what would it be. A few surprising answers slowly over a year began to tumble from within: art, singing, astrophysics, mathematics (that one was a shocker!!), programming to create games, writing children books, creating kids games, education. In fact all of these I had loved as a child, and the more I became educated the more I had lost sight of my passions.
I was now in the fourth year of my job and I suddenly noticed one day that learners had started to respond more creatively in lessons or more accurately they had started to control their own learning journeys, through their own interests. Now in the sixth year the creative processes present in the learning environment with my learners are charged with their creativity. What has changed?
I have. Instead of presuming to force creativity I found my own creative self. I took a difficult journey through my own inhibitions and knocked down walls that had been built inside myself. No one can force another to create, all we can do is offer a wide space, an open door, ears to listen and a safe nurturing environment where if the learner wishes to take that journey to find their creative self they have a place to do so. It also means that the learning environment becomes just that, learner led and learner responsive. I am still on my creative journey and discovering new things everyday through newly opened eyes. At the start of each new academic year once things have settled down, very quitely near the end of a class I sit on the desk and explain that I am about to ask the two most important questions on the course, I am also going to ask them of you too:
If you could be creative without fear of judgement or failure what would it be? What is your passion?
The future influences the present just as much as the past.
The 29th ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival on possible futures is now on the move. The main idea of the carnival is, in the same way that the past influences us now, the thought of tomorrow can shape how we are today. This is somewhat true for our own lives as it is true for the educational environments in which we find ourselves. In the media or at conferences the future of education is discussed, we conduct needs analysis with learners based on their current and future needs and we wonder in 30 years time what education will look like, how will it be in this globally connected environment. The posts represent future visions, perspectives and warnings of all kinds pertaining to English Language Education.
A carnival arrives @ beeoasis.com.
Last week in the blog carnival we traveled to Canada and then onto Turkey and Western Europe.We were delayed slightly by a bout of bronchitus at home. Our next travel destination is to Beeoasis.com and to the blog of Joey Poulshock in Japan.
Now let’s continue the journey…
JULY 31st: Is reading really that good?
Joey Poulshock explores an experience with an exceptional Japanese student ,which in turns unlocks the power of reading for learning a language.
In this post, Ewan Mcintosh explores non-linear alternatives to traditional education through transmedia. He explores the advantages of transmedia, its potential for learning but also the potential of education to shape a grammar that has not settled and completely defined itself yet. Enjoy your journey today into the fascinating world of transmedia.
JULY 17th: Lesson Plan: Galatea (Upper-Intermediate)
Digital Games seem to be one of the possible avenues for education. According to some neuroscientific research, games provide excellent mental stimulus and conditions for learning. For this leg of the journey we are going to venture not only to Portugal but also into the back to the future world of Interactive Fiction. If you have never met the term ‘Interactive Fiction! before then please visit the link here at another of Joe’s site the Swan Station for an introduction. Interactive Fiction has been around for many years but Joe has been pioneering in this area, exploring its use for education in TEFL and TESOL. The post Galatea on his blog ‘IF only’ describes a full lesson plan for Upper Intermediate using Interactive Fiction as the medium of learning.
JULY 14th: The 1-minute guide to the mobile classroom
Mobiles seem to be the tool of now but also their versatility and reduction in cost will make them one of the key classroom tools of the future. In this post Nicky Hockly looks at simple ways to introduce mobiles to the classroom. All the suggestions are practical and there are links to other posts and idea as well as more mobile exploitation ideas on her site the e-moderation station.
In Brad Patterson’s post he reflects on not just being a better teacher but essentially being a happier one. He goes onto to explore what we need to let go of. This has been inspired by Dana on Purpose Fairy in a post entitled “The 15 things you should give up in order to be happy”. Exchanging with Brad on Twitter last week he expressed the thought that this was a lifelong journey. If you wish to contribute to this journey there is also an opportunity for you to add to Brad’s list, helping him to get to 15 things you should let go of to become a better teacher, by leaving your ideas in the comments section at the end of the post.
So we have arrived at Merve’s Oflaz’s post. Here she describes the people of the “future” as students, teachers’ psychology and what might happen when you set students free. She gives a concrete example of this freedom in action.
JULY 3rd : Our latest destination: ‘G is for Grapple’
Our destination will be Tyson’s post ‘G is for Grapple’. In this piece Tyson addresses the reality of creating a curricula for a course when balancing this with the course book. He approaches the balancing questions of how to do this with honesty and from a variety of different angles and thoughts. Many of us will also have grappled with this issue. The question is, how does he resolve the grapple?
The other posts originating from Istanbul at the start of the carnival are below:
Paul Raine, an ELT educator currently teaching in Japan while undertaking his masters in Teaching English as a Foreign and Second Language, explores the dichotomy of the techno rich image portrayed of Japan, as opposed to the reality in educational environments. He explores the technological issues face by edıcators and learners that could impede the future of up-to-date use of computer technology and access to WEB 2.0.
David Petrie at TEFLGeek ponders the future of language schools from a business model perspective. A comparison of other modes of learning, as opposed to the traditional language school model are analyzed. This culminates in the big question of whether language schools realistically can survive in the current educational climate. This is a discussion also true for other physical based language environments faced with the globally connected world in which we live and work.
Lindsay McMahon touches on an area of language learning that starts from the perspective of culture rather than simply words or grammar, particularly for students living an English speaking host culture. This post highlights that we are not talking about a cultural checklist of what to do or not to do in the culture but something deeper. Many of the issues raised in this article could also be applied for those of us as teachers who work and live in different cultures. We too could learn from the ideas of culture being our own compass.
Teacher Marija reviews previous tools that had been recommended on this site for classroom use and then revisits the recommendations with interesting and surprising new twists. It also leaves us with the thought of what the future Teacher Marija might think of these.
This post explores some of the exciting findings coming from neuroscience today and early tentative implications for ELT. As brain scanning becomes more sophisticated there will be pioneering discoveries that might lead to major implications in the way that we conduct the education of the future. Sharon Turner looks at some of the findings so far and reviews some of the work of Janet Zadina, educator turned neuroscientist.
THE NEXT ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival…
David Deubelbeiss is hosting the next ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival — the 30th edition — on August 1st!
Here’s how he’s describing it:
The theme for this blog carnival is The Best Posts For Helping New Teachers. September is a start for many new teachers and we hope your blog submissions will help many new or even well honed teachers with ideas.
Submit the blog post URL on his Contact form including a note about it if you wish. The deadline for entries in by July 31st.
I had a moment of revelation at the 12th BUSEL EAP conference held at Bilkent in Ankara, Turkey last week. One of the plenary speakers was describing a bridge that we try to move students across towards faculty requirements. Then she looked at her own picture and said well it’s a ‘one way bridge’. In that moment I started to examine the way we use the word ‘bridge’. Even a presentation given by my collegue and myself at the same conference had the expression a ‘bridging course’ for maths and science into faculty. In education what do we exactly mean by bridge.
Usually in our every day experiences a bridge allows us to cross from A to B but we also have the option of recrossing the bridge, of turning back, of stopping to admire the view. It is very rare that a bridge is not recrossed or experienced again. Yet how many of our learners in an intense EAP situation are able to actually go back to point A if they need to and not just once but as many times as they need to. How much do EAP programmes allow for that? From what I heard from that weekend and from that of my own and other experiences there seems to be a ticking clock where learners need to complete the level in a certain time frame to make it to the next stage. EAP has far more in common with a computer game where learners have to complete levels but there is little turning back.
Realising this made me feel quite sad for those learners who need to travel from A to B many times, to come home and leave again at their own choosing. I wondered as I sat staring at the bridge, which looked more like something from Indiana Jones whether EAP programmes could be more flexible to allow learners to have a bridge like experience.