How to survive and thrive as a language teacher of children - Carol Read - BBELT Conference - Mexico

It’s always a pleasure to watch and listen to Carol Read present. She has contagious positive energy and enthusiasm that can put the audience on their toes. I had the pleasure of watching her plenary speech online on BBELT Conference at Mexico, February 2020. She started by saying that the theme of this conference is Transformative Teaching and in order to transform we need to be able to cope with the children, and the situations we are in and to blossom and flourish with what we are doing. Sometimes, we forget about ourselves and feel guilty if we do so.
Teaching is a stressful and exhausting job, but what makes it so? Then, she asked the audience to discuss in pairs 6 reasons for that. Then she suggested a number of them:

n  Challenging behavior
n  Unrealistic expectations from parents and school administration
n  Pressure to pass exams
n  Limited space
n  Limited materials and resources
n  Learning differences
n  Long hours with a lot of work load
n  Low self-esteem. How teachers are valued and paid in society

Then she mentions the popular quote “a good teacher is like a candle……… it consumes itself to light the way for others”. Then she asked if the audience liked it, for which they gave a NO!! Then she continued: in order to transform the lives of our learners not at the expense our lives how can we light the way to them? We need a reliable charger if we are burnt out! So she preferred to share a better quote which is “To care for the teacher, is to love the learner”. Thus she believes that we need as teachers to survive and thrive as this is the way to the transformative teaching we are aspiring to. Then she shared six practical survival strategies:

A.                Look after your voice
n    Don’t speak too loud
n    Find your natural pitch
n    Stay hydrated
n    Do vocal straw exercises (you can see its practical application on the presentation link https://www.britishcouncil.org.mx/how-survive-and-thrive-language-teacher-children
B.                Make and break routines
n    Routines create order and security
n    Are predictable and build confidence
n    Save your giving instructions
n    Foster a learning community
n    Allow more time for teaching and learning
n    Help you look after your voice
She believes that when children get older, they want to break routines and have surprises. Then she started giving examples:
1.                  Gym sequence (practice different moves in class for energizing students)
2.                  Natural thinking puzzles e.g.
a.      A man rode into town on Monday, stayed 3 days and left on Monday.
b.      Little game: 
-          I like apple, but I don’t like pears
-          I like green and yellow, but I don’t like red
-          I like running and swimming, but I don’t like dancing and walking
(what is the criteria?)

3.                  Look for ways to be creative e.g. line up in order of name, surname, height, birthday…..etc. OR during checking the names for the school register/attendance, assign the students names of countries, so when you call the name of the country, they mention the capital city, or assign each a wild animal and they call out the name of the baby animal …. etc.
4.                  Spelling gym for spelling words and reciting the alphabet (see the wonderful practice of the idea on the link above 55:02 minute).
5.                  Memory game. Look at a number of pictures, cover them and ask the students to remember as many as they can and write them down. Then ask them, what is common among them? Is there a link between them? Identify the meaning of each picture.

6.                  Make Milage out of your materials to make them more attractive and agreeable to your students. Add a creative touch to your work.

C.                  No nonsense approach to classroom Management. Use SOS
n    Softly softly: go slowly with activities and explain reasons for using them. You can also change (adapt/set up) activities to enable us to manage our classes in a positive way.
n    Only one person: use the idea of CBG i.e. catch them being good. Look for the positive rather the negative behavior. Use praise never fake it. Show that you value their behavior.
n    Stay serene: Play the waiting game with one neutral body language. Also use the ‘art of the deadly stare’. She also suggested negotiating things with students for automacity and agency. You can also use choice boards.

D.                Find ways to reduce your work load.
Try that without cutting corners e.g. have templates for lesson plans or correct assignments for one objective to save time. She also suggested the need for achieving work-life balance as we need to thrive. Then she mentioned why is thriving sometimes hard:
n    Lack of work-life balance
n    In ability to switch off
n    Anxiety about things we can’t control
n    Negative thoughts
n    Tendency to be perfectionist
n    Feelings swapped by demands.

Then she moved to mention the importance of ‘Wellbeing’. It depends on your goals and way of thinking. It is important for both teachers and students as it leads to better academic achievement and performance and at the same time reduces increasing levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Then she showed some shocking statistics:

 She believed that ‘Wellbeing’ should really be ‘a goal or the goal’ for education as schools should prepare children for ‘the tests of life rather than a life of tests’.
After that she gave a number of ideas to improve ‘Wellbeing’

She also advised teachers to look for ‘the positive’ of our children and ourselves. Look for the things they can do rather than they can’t. Then suggested using sticky notes at the end of the week for example and ask the students to write three positive things and share one with the class. Interestingly, she moved to compare ‘fixed mindset and growth mindset’. They show how we look at things. A growth mindset helps us to have persistence and perseverance i.e. resilience that we need to breed. Thus ending her discussion with the 4 R’s:

n  Resilience ------------------ growth mindset
n  Resourceful ---------------  cognition, finding ways to develop our skills and help our
                                             students to be autonomous
n  Reciprocal ---------------     when to ask for help and be collaborative
n  Reflective ---------------      Train students to reflect on learning, be self-aware and apply
                                              all this to our teaching as well 


Then she summed up the whole session with the following slide

Closing with a final message

As this would help us become the transformative teachers we all thrive for.


Under one roof: considerations on integrating content and language

Aleksandra Zaparucha

It was quite interesting to listen to Aleksandra Zaparucha's plenary speech on CLIL at Iatefl Liverpool 2019. Iatefl is still in the air. I can still remember roaming through the interesting streets of Liverpool although the weather was rainy most of the time. I can still breathe the pure air of the early morning greeting me as I approached the Conference Arena where the Iatefl took place. I hope I will have enough time to tell you about the unusual things that happened along the way to and fro and show you the exciting photos I took around. Now let's turn to Aleksandra and see what she has in store for us. 

Aleksandra started her talk by asking the audience to exchange one info about CLIL together. Then she introduced a slide with the three words she is going to concentrate on: Connection, Extensions and Challenges. Connection between what you know and what she will speak about. Extension of your knowledge of CLIL and Challenges to some of your perceptions.

 Then she mentioned that she will speak about the What, Why, How and What Content and end up with a Poetic Conclusion.

She started by answering the question “What is CLIL?” stating that CLIL can be seen as an umbrella term including EMI, Bilingual Education, Immersion and English across the Curriculum. It deals with language integration, a real challenge, methodology support. “Method to be used in any situation where non-linguistic content (i.e. school subjects) is merged with a foreign language in and outside the classroom.”

According to Aleksandra subjects and language can’t be treated equally, but to enable students to use the language effectively to express those subjects.
CLIL is divided into two types Hard CLIL: is delivered in a subject class by a subject teacher. It is subject driven (i.e. has a curriculum). While Soft CLIL: is found in a language class by a language teacher. It is also subject driven.

WHY has CLIL then become a buzz term' recently? CLIL is knowledge unity with a discipline to close gaps between curricula by cross-curricular modules. CLIL shifts language from grammar and vocabulary to speak about other topics, thus we show our students that language is a ‘tool’ rather than a goal in itself. This provides us with instant results and motivates students by asking them to present on different topics using the language learnt. This can be called ‘content and language unity’.

Here Aleksandra moves to the HOW and mentions the 4Cs used when conducting a CLIL lesson. Here the Content refers to the subjects used, Communication is the language of instructions, Cognition refers to the thinking skills, while Culture, on the other hand, refers to the topics included in the curriculum. “Here all 4Cs are given equal importance. Yet as a subject teacher, she remembered struggling with this approach specifically with the last C ‘Culture’. As a result she suggested a different approach.

She put the first 3Cs together divided into equal parts in a circle and surrounded them with a bigger circle of ‘Culture’ because she believed that “the way we communicate whether in a native or foreign language, the content we teach and the way we think depend on CULTURE.

Quite a number of books have been written about CLIL since the ideas has been introduced, one of which is “Putting CLIL into Practice” by Phil Ball, John Clegg and Keith Kelly (2015). The book addresses both soft and hard CLIL for teachers where it offers 10 detailed CLIL parameters rather than 4Cs.  These shouldn’t be dealt with separately “on the contrary they can be merged into one CLIL wheel.”

These parameters are:
1.                  Content Sequence
“Teaching a content subject is based on a sequence of info……… In geography before students are asked to use a map, they need to be taught what a map is. Such a sequence is desirable in Soft CLIL, a series of lessons rather than just one.”

2.                  Concept Language
We shouldn’t compromise the content for the sake of the language.

3.                  Task Language
The concept we use dictates the language we should use. E.g. a history lesson needs to be based on past tense whether studied by the students or not.

4.                  Guided Multimedia Input
It should be guided, planned and staged to avoid student confusion

5.                  3 Dimensions: Content, Language, Procedure
If a teacher asks the students to use a text to construct a mind map or Venn diagram; if this is new to the students, so the procedure needs a lot of attention. If the lesson has new heavy vocabulary, so it needs extra language support and attention on the part of the teacher. If there is extra challenge, the teacher should use simple procedure, no new ones. “Every CLIL lesson needs to fill in these three dimensions”.

6.                  Key Language
Notice here that “we moved swiftly from content to communication (key language). This is no challenge for language teachers, but for content teachers. It needs extra attention. Key language is not limited to technical terms, but general academic terms like: observe, hypothesise or the usage of the past tense with history or passive voice when used in science.”

7.                  Language of instructions
These need teachers to be more careful with short, clear written ones.

8.                  Need for student-student interaction
Students should be given the chance to use the academic language studied through pair work, group work,……..etc.

9.                  Supported student output
Producing both oral and written language requires a CLIL teacher to give a lot of support through sentence starters, substitution table, graphic organizers……………etc.

10.              Cognition --------- Thinking
All these need student engagement both physical and mental.

Then, Aleksandra finally moves to “The What to Teach” after covering the ‘What, Why and How’. She believes that we should speak to subject teachers who can suggest topics to close curricula gaps. She then suggests including Global Issues to inform the students, develop their skills, change attitudes and help them take action. “Science is changing around us greatly with lots of problems.” “The costs of changes and dangers are increasing and that needs more attention.” “We have every reason to include CLIL not only in teaching language (EFL), but throughout the entire education systems.”

She then, discussed a number of topics: Food, Clothes and Waste in details proposing ideas to be used in classes to fulfill the reasons mentioned above. She also suggested these three topics along the lines of SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) of the United Nations and the book compiled by the British Council on ‘The Creative Approach to SDG in an EFL Classroom’.

Eventually, she ended up with a Poetic Conclusion using the poem ‘Teachers’ written by Alan Maley. She asked the audience to read the words in black and she read the blue ones.

To close, she asked the audience to mention one reflection on the Connections, Extensions and Challenges she discussed and asked those who are interested to join her for more discussions in room 3b at 11:05.

How far do you think you can apply CLIL in your class? Would these ideas give a lot of of food for thought !!

You can find the recording of the session on https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/under-one-roof-considerations-integrating-content-language

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An interview with Silvana Richardson at Iatefl 2019

It was a great pleasure meeting Silvana Richardson, Head of Teacher Development, Bell Educational Services at #iatefl2019

Here she gives us   https://youtu.be/NTUa0k87VGw
**The latest news of #NonNativeTeachersAdvocates Call that she started about two years ago. 
**She also gives interesting and important tips for teachers!!
Thank you Silvana Richardson. Hope we meet again so soon 

Stay Tuned for a summary of Silvana's interesting session at Iatefl about Continuing Professional Development Evaluation

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Rudi Camerer at #iatefl2019

Rudi Camerer at #iatefl2019

Here comes Dr. Rudi Camerer 's short interview where he answers the first question: What do you think of the new CEFR changes?
Your comments and questions are welcome 

Stay Tuned for his answer to the second question about Assessment !!
Stay Tuned as well for a short orientation on CEFR and how to apply it in class!!




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Deconstructing Jigsaw Activities _ Jason Anderson

Then came another interesting sessions analyzing Jigsaw activities and their use. Anderson started first by giving a definition of Jigsaw, then a short idea about the history of Jigsaw with its pros and cons. 

  He explained the dynamics of the process in class, then he introduced the jigsaw taxonomy. He divided it into 3 stages:
      ** Input stage                                                        ** The Gap filling
      ** Communication stage
The Input stage is divided into: Test source, Text Type, Text medium written, aural….etc and Text difference. On the other hand, the Communication stage is divided into: (a) Group interaction dynamics (how to get the groups to work together whether f2f or online) and (b)Communication Type: including different suggested ideas for taking the process forward. Check the following links for the Handout and PPP   http://www.jasonanderson.org.uk/downloads/taxonomy_of_jigsaw_activities_for_language_teachers.pdf

Later on, he posed a number of interesting ideas to use jigsaw activities for teaching and practicing grammar
1.                   Divide the students into groups with two different comprehension passages. Ask each group to pose typical of comprehension questions to the other group and those who answer correctly get the points.  Then ask them to pose Synthesis questions and follow the same pattern.
2.                   Divide students into groups. Each group is responsible for a grammatical item, for example: past simple, past perfect, past continuous and time expressions. Each group gives a review of the tense they are assigned. Then mix them into different groups so that each group includes a member of each of the different groups set at the beginning and ask them to write a story, present, discuss and give feedback.

3.                   A third idea: give them a story without articles and ask them to add them in groups and discuss.
4.                   Whole class jigsaw  e.g a story  

5.                   Translingual news Jigsaw. Students are asked to check different kinds of news in their L1. Then they exchange ideas concerning the way the news are presented and biased. This is beneficial if we have students with different nationalities in class. If not, you can make use of bilingual or multilingual students’ knowledge. 

He ended up with advice on how to deal with these idea with students from level A1 to C1.

 Stay Tuned for more news and reviews !!

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