It ended in the desert heat of Bahrain in charge of ICT at one of the largest teaching centres in the region. Any new job brings new challenges and the need to adapt and rethink our approach to a different context. This post outlines the major challenges my new role brought about:
Teaching Beginner YLs
Just thinking back over some of the training sessions I have attended on the topic over the years, there has been a wide range of areas covered. Some workshops have focused on giving instructions and transitioning from one lesson stage to the next, others have looked at motivating and engaging learners, some have presented ideas for establishing class routines, and others have centred on discipline and class rules.
Instead, we assess students on the four skills at various points during the term. There are usually two speaking assessments – one in the style of a mini presentation, and the other as a pair or small group dialogue.
They are mentioned at conferences, in articles, and are used as buzzwords when someone comes selling a new book or learning product. Early in my career it was ‘learner autonomy’. Later, it was ‘formative assessment’. Then, ‘digital natives and immigrants’ became the hot topic. Brain-based learning. CLIL. PBL. Blended learning. Gamification. They have all come and gone (and in some cases come back again) without a clear definition ever being given.
There are coursebook packages with all their extra components, graded readers, photcopiable resource packs, dictionary sets, exam practice papers, digital resources and much more. However, despite the plethora of materials on offer, teachers always seem to want more! Many produce and share their own worksheets and activities, while many more go online to find, adapt and download lesson plans and ideas.
It has helped me become more aware of my students and what they respond well to and it has helped me become more aware of the beliefs and ideals that underpin the way I approach my work.
It has also helped me develop when few other options are available. Until recently, I worked in Gabon, where there was no chance to attend workshops or conferences, no outside experts visiting the school, and only a small team of language teachers to work with. Introspective reflection and engaging with online networks were often my only sources of development.
‘Gamification’ is a term that has indeed been around for a few years now. Yet, like many terms and buzzwords it seems to mean different things to different people. It often gets confused with one of my favourite educational terms: ‘game-based learning’. However, they are quite different.
Students judged you by how confidently you could explain different uses of the passive voice, colleagues respected you if you knew your relative clauses, and when the DoS observed you, you would be evaluated on how well you had addressed the focal grammar point.
'Have you ever been to Moscow?'
Look! ‘Have you… Have you…’
And there’s more! ‘Have you ever been to Istanbul?’ Yes, Istanbul! Can’t get much more personalised than that!
A few years ago I attended a conference in and a coursebook author was on stage showing us an activity he had written while trying to make a very tenuous connection to the overall conference theme of personalising the language learning process.
As this week’s topic is lexis, it seemed only natural to contribute to this month’s vocabulary topic.