Whenever I travel I spend some time learning a few facts about the new place; I also try to learn some phrases so as to be able to say Hello, Good-bye, Please and Thank you in various languages. Today all this is easy, any information is just a click away. Look around you, and you will see most people, especially the young ones, practically glued to a device. Does this mean that everybody is digitally literate? Not necessarily so. I first worked as a translator at a scientific conference at the age of 16.
Today's learners are indeed more diverse than they ever were. With the huge influx of people from other continents we are faced with completely new challenges. It used to be simpler to teach school children just because we have to follow the national curriculum. Thus we have a certain program, a set schedule; our academic year is more or less neatly divided into terms. We know that each year we have to achieve new levels, and to reach the final exams requirements by the time our students finish school. We are also aware of the fact that all classes are mixed-ability ones.
Nina MK, Ph.D.
There is a saying in my country: teachers are the people who continuously sow the Sensible, the Good and the Eternal. And then of course we reap what we sow. The four C’s announced in our May-June topics sound like something worth sowing, reaping and developing. In an ideal world we would teach our students how to communicate in a foreign language, how to establish cooperation, how to collaborate on projects and how to enhance everybody’s creativity. All these C’s presuppose the existence of certain factors.
A wise, very experienced German colleague once told me that while it may be relatively easy to teach students how to build all the types of questions, it is infinitely more difficult to teach them how to understand all the types of answers they may get. This wisdom stayed with me. We teach speaking skills step-by-step, using texts, audios, pictures. Students read a text and compose comments, listen to dialogues and make up their own, look at pictures and describe them. These are all staples, our daily props. We encourage them to produce full sentences, not just Yes-No answers.
TECHNOLOGY IN THE CLASSROOM.
Nina MK, Ph.D.
Here are some cautionary tales about technology at school.
BILINGUISM AND MULTILINGUISM
Nina MK, Ph.D.
Walking along a street I overheard the following dialogue.
Two young men shared their observations at a café excitedly:
“Did you notice that dude in the corner? No smart phone, no laptop, not even a cell, no earphones… He was just drinking coffee! Must be insane!”
More than 400 EL teachers from the region gathered together to listen to Mike Riley, teacher, teacher trainer and methodologist who spoke mostly about EL resources and the challenges of today. Mike started his career in Manchester, then spent fifteen years in Milan, Italy, progressing from EL teaching at all levels and ages to manager, director of International House, and is now a Macmillan specialist. His main report was titled “More than Words”. He demonstrated three types of resources, images, videos and graphs, and gave three major reasons for their usage:
The younger our students are, the more enthusiasm they show for any new task.
I usually define the grades very clearly. In primary school I use the following: Excellent, Good, Again. Sure, I know perfectly well that “Again” means failure, but the pupils do not realize that and happily accept it as a challenge. Add the fact that EL is a subject which stands aside from all the others, and the unorthodox system of grades is perceived as normal. Once we eliminate the fear of failure and/or a bad mark, we acquire a new stimulus for the students to strive and move towards a better one.