Oscillating wildly

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What a year it’s been. Busy, stressful, frustrating, disappointing and very much varying in quality. For those that didn’t know, I completed both part 1 and part 2 of the DELTA this academic year. It wasn’t planned, as I had originally wanted to spend a year reading and gearing up for it, but the chance was offered and I took it.

At this current moment in time my feelings about the course are mixed, but I’m not afraid to admit that they are mostly negative although I feel that it might be far too early to comment on the course as a whole. Firstly, because I don’t have the results from either module and secondly, I simply haven’t had the time to process everything and the opportunity to put it all into practice.

What I would like to talk about is the effect that doing a course like the DELTA, which is designed to take you beyond the CELTA level of teaching and “elevate your career to the next level”, had on my teaching this year. The effect was that my teaching was all over the place, ranging from barely registered interest and the need to just get through the lesson to full on lesson plan and incorporating new techniques and ideas from that days DELTA input session.  It was difficult to get any kind of rhythm going and any idea of establishing routines within my classes disappeared as soon as they were started. All I could think about was the DELTA, my essays, what hoops I needed to jump through next and when it was going to finish. I couldn’t sleep, I stopped exercising and lost the majority of my weekends to study. I’m not sure I was a great person to be around for most of the time.

Ultimately, I have been left with the feeling that I have let the majority of my students down and failed to use this year as another advancement in my teaching career. A plateau if you like, but one with no shelter and no significant point of reference in order to move forwards and upwards. Where to go next?

To begin with, back to basics. A focus on the four main skills, with equal measure. Bringing writing back in from the cold and making listening a main player. Grammar is now officially taking a back seat. While doing the DELTA I pushed myself to concentrate on the skills I was weakest in and by doing so my eyes were opened to just how neglected writing and listening were in my classes, more importantly it highlighted how my students were suffering from the lack of focus on these skills.

Grammar is the bane of the staff room where I work. All I hear is teachers talking about the grammar point that they taught and need to teach before the exam. This is interspersed with the whining about how the students still haven’t got the hang of the present perfect or the passive or what ever the hell they were being taught. And I have to hold my tongue not to shout out and tell them that it’s the first time they have seen it, give them a break! Did you really expect them to understand, process and then produce mixed conditionals in one lesson, or for that matter after 3 lessons? And yet they feel as though they need to hammer away at it because it’s coming up on the test. I have never heard a teacher in my staff room talk about a skilled based lesson, doing a task based lesson or focusing purely on vocabulary or collocation.

So my classes will be different, look different and feel different. If I can get away with barely touching the coursebook for the first few weeks, I will. Then, once we really get going the coursebook will only be a springboard for discussion and any kind of grammar sections and exercises can be left for homework. Grammar will be dealt with as and when it comes up in class. That’s what my W/B is for and that’s what I get paid to do. Grammar will be constant yet always in the background. And, when the students inevitably complain about not doing enough grammar in class, as they have been indoctrinated to do so, I will point to the W/B and say, “Behold! We were doing it all along!”

But what about the exams, I hear you cry!

“Screw the exams!” (A.Beale, 2014)

 

I will make my own exams, based entirely on what has been happening in class. The main section of the exam won’t be made up of the grammar and vocabulary covered in sequential order in the book. Vocabulary that will probably never be used again and grammar points which the students are unable to use beyond sentence level. The four skills will take front and centre. I will design my own speaking assessment, because, and you might want to sit down for this, the school I work at doesn’t actually require us to give the students a speaking assessment. In fact, I remember one of my students this year who, knowing that the end of term exam was coming, asked, “Do we have a speaking assessment?” to which I replied, “No, but I have been assessing you the whole term.” Her reaction was to fist pump and audibly breathe a sigh of relief. It was almost as if she knew she would fail. Yet, she had made it this far through the system and will continue to do so.

I feel as though I should stop there, before I rant  say too much. I’m not sure why I wrote this, but it felt good doing it and I’m glad I have laid down a marker for myself. I will undoubtedly come under some sort of criticism from somewhere and I’m likely to get into trouble at work, but as long as I can arrive at this time next year and be able to say without doubt that I didn’t let my students down and I gave them a different and valuable learning experience, I will happily take the flak.

N.B – Thank you to all of the people who have followed the blog over the last year. Sorry I haven’t been able to write as much as I would have liked. I will be breaking for the summer now but I aim to be back in the saddle come October next year. Stick with it and I will make it worth your while.

 

The seven deadly digital sins

This lesson is based around a wonderful set of videos made by the National film board of Canada and the Guardian, and can be found here; http://www.theguardian.com/technology/ng-interactive/2014/jun/06/-sp-digital-deadly-sins

It features artists such as Billy Bragg (musician), Josie Long (Comedian), Bill Bailey (Comedian) and Jon Ronson (writer/journalist), amongst others. Each of these people talks about a deadly sin and relates it to their own use of the internet and social media. Discussing how we are all affected socially, morally and personally by the digital age.

As well as videos, each sin comes with interactive questions and short articles related to other areas of internet use and applications, which may well be of use to students for further language study.

I have chosen to use the videos for listening and discussion practice as it exposes the students to a variety of different accents as well as providing some interesting discussion points.

The lesson is suitable for Advanced C1 learners and above.

I have given the answers for the specific vocabulary questions but I have left the rest of the questions open to individual interpretation, and this will also get the lazier teachers among us, to actually watch the videos and put the answers into their own words.

I have begun to transcribe the videos and these can be found in the file below. It contains the transcriptions for the videos, Wrath, Lust and Pride. I will try to have them all up as soon as possible.

The files are word documents and can be changed and edited as you see fit.

Enjoy the lesson. Comments are always welcome.

Seven deadly digital sins teacher&student notes

Seven deadly digital sins transcript

SLB is Go!

Originally posted on Cooperativa de Serveis Lingüístics de Barcelona:

After months of hard work and frustration, the cooperative Serveis Lingüístics de Barcelona is finally fully operational!

We have actually been registered with the Registre General de Cooperatives de Catalunya since the beginning of March, but complications with our bank account meant that it (along with all our initial capital) had remained blocked – until last Wednesday, when a phone call from the bank delivered the good news we had been waiting for.

SLB president receives call from bank, last Wednesday

SLB president receives call from bank, last Wednesday

Getting this far has, to say the least, been a challenge. Anyone familiar with Spanish or Catalan bureaucracy – or the ignoble art of making the possible impossible, as someone once said – will know what we’re talking about. Part of our problem has been a lack of understanding of the type of coop we want to be and how we want to work. Because, as a “services” cooperative…

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Box-ticking or mind-mapping?

Originally posted on unwrapping the education box :

This is a joint post between Willy Cardoso and Divya Madhavan on questions about ELT professionalism.

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We worry about the current box-ticking culture in ELT teacher training and development. We think this impacts how professional knowledge is valued and how it should be valued. And we’re really not sure this is a good thing. In the words of Gert Biesta “are we valuing what we measure? or measuring what we value?”

What is box-ticking culture? It…

-focuses on visible behaviour as the main form of evidence of professional knowledge

-assumes that a change in behaviour means change in cognition

-focuses on teachers’ techniques, classroom management and control, repertoire of activities, rationales for activities, etc; all of which should match externally constructed knowledge and their translation into assessment criteria (i.e. boxes to tick)

So, boxes are ticked based on demonstrable classroom behaviours. The artistry of teaching inevitably falls into the ‘additional comments’…

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Angel or devil? The strange case of Sugata Mitra

Originally posted on Jeremy Harmer:

Last Saturday Sugata Mitra gave a plenary at an international teachers’ conference. When it was over a proportion of the audience gave him a standing ovation, but an equal number refused to get to their feet and a proportion of the ‘reaming seated’ crowd expressed outrage and fury at what they had heard and seen. He was an angel. He was a devil. You can watch the plenary in question here, and you can read Graham Stanley’s careful response here.

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I have blogged about Sugata Mitra before in reference to his TED talk – and his plenary at the IATEFL 2014 conference over a year later was not significantly different from his TED appearance. And back then, like most speakers at TED conferences, Mitra was encouraged speak passionately and idealistically about something he believes in – and something which promotes technology’s ability to answer all problems – and…

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