The Noticing and Personalising Language Conundrum

Here is a free PowerPoint presentation I made in collaboration with Riccardo Chiappini. As the title suggests, we talk about how to get students to notice language, why it’s important, and why personalising the language, helps students to retain what they have noticed.

All comments welcome.

In the future when all’s well

I wrote this last week, on LinkedIn. I thought it might be worth sharing here.

Many of us in the ELT world are now preparing to switch to online teaching due to COVID-19, trying to maintain client satisfaction and continued learning for our students. This makes sense and will be easier for some than others. However, the idea that things will simply go back to normal in a few weeks or even a month may be misguided.

I am willing to bet that this will be the beginning of a dramatic shift in ELT. I have often wondered about how long the brick and mortar mode of delivering English teaching would last for. Now, I believe that we are about to see a huge sea change in the industry and within 5 years time, I predict the more established of the larger flagship schools will fall by the wayside, with many other schools, unfortunately, failing to survive what we are currently experiencing.

As with all large scale disruptions, a period of reflection and investigation will begin. My advice, for what it is worth, is to look at how to create a lot more flexibility in the delivery of classes. Invest in the right technology, future-proof yourselves with the right training. The physical schools that we know now are drawing their last breath and there will be a large gap for freelancers and well-organised Co-operatives to exploit.

Stand up and be counted – by Adam Beale

TEFL Equity Advocates

I recently started to apply to other academies here in Madrid. Several had been recommended by friends and colleagues and so I decided to send off my CV. I had an interview at one for a senior position, but no luck. I persevered and tried for another of the schools on my recommended list. Within a couple of hours of emailing them I received this response;

Hi there Adam,

Thanks for your email and interest in our schools. We are now holding interviews for the coming academic year 2016/17 between now and early September. Please get back to us and let us know which dates and times are good for you to attend an interview here in Madrid.

Our minimum requirements are that applicants be native speakers, hold a European passport (or have working papers for Spain),  have a degree, the CELTA (or equivalent diploma) and a minimum…

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Big think – Advanced level discussion idea

big think

Here is a quick lesson idea that I tried out earlier today and went down very well with my C1/C2 class of lawyers.

I try to listen to a variety of podcasts when I have the time and one that has provided me with food for thought recently has been the Big think/Think again podcast which you can find here. Alternatively, you can listen here;

Other ways to listen:

The premise is quite straightforward. In every episode a guest (professors, artists, actors, poets, writers and leaders in a wide range of fields) is interviewed and asked to react to several audio excerpts picked at random by the podcast producers. The topics are excellent for generating debates and pushing you to think a little bit more outside of the box.

Here is what I did with my class;

  1. I chose 4 or 5 different episodes which contained a question or statement I thought would get my student’s attention and ultimately produce an in-depth discussion.
  • Monogamy is ridiculous” Episode 2 Henry Rollins(Artist) – Monogamy/sexual opportunism (audio starts at 3m 28s) Warning: Contains explicit language
  • Is attention an endangered species?” Episode 12 George Takei (Actor+Activist) – Ego/Focus/Xenophobia (audio starts at 1m 40s)
  • Is stress good for you” Episode 8 Maria Konnikova (Author) Mindset/Creativity/Suburban B-Boyz (audio starts at 1m 17s)
  • Is it better to be happy or interesting?” Episode 15 Salman Rushdie (Novelist) – Happiness/Monsters (audio starts at 2m 43s)

2. In the classroom I presented the statement to the class and asked them to discuss whether or not they agreed or what they thought about the statement/question. We discussed it as an open group and immediately they were interested. At this point I realised that in another class it would be a good opportunity to practice turn-taking and language for agreeing/disagreeing.

3. Once everyone had spoken and the arguments and discussion died down, I played the audio of the person who proposed the statement/question and why they took this particular stance.

4. Once the audio had finished I asked the class to react to what they heard. Did it confirm what they had already said? Was it completely different to what they thought it would be? Did they agree/disagree with this persons argument? etc. Again, there was a lot more talking and discussion.

5. As an extension and further listening, you could also play the audio of the how the guest reacted to the audio and further talk about whether the students agree with the response or not.

This is a simple activity which produced a large amount of discussion and opportunities for slightly lower Advanced levels to practice there speaking and listening skills. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any audio scripts for the episodes but the audio doesn’t tend to last any longer than 2 – 3 minutes.

Enjoy the lesson and let me know how it goes.

A letter from God to man

God to man pic

Here is a quick writing lesson idea which I recently put together. I received some really good feedback from my students about it so I thought it was only fair to share it with you.

The lesson was originally designed for my ILEC (International Legal English Cert) students and the task rubric takes the form of part 1 of the writing exam. The recommended level for this material is Strong upper-intermediate (B2+) and above.

The text for the lesson is a set of lyrics by Scroobius Pip from the UK hip hop duo Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip. A link to the YouTube video can be found here.

The main theme of the lesson is God, religion and what you would say to him if you had the chance. Clearly, this is a difficult subject for some students, so think carefully about whether it can be used in your classroom.

The lead in is entirely up to you. I simply began by asking who believed in God and who didn’t. I then announced that God had written a letter to mankind and that I had a copy. The reason I had a copy was because the people in the room had been tasked with the job of replying to him.

I then distributed a copy of the task rubric to each student;

God has recently contacted the people of Earth and he is not happy with us.

There has been much debate as to who should reply and how to answer. The world’s leaders have elected you to respond, therefore creating a buffer zone between them and any potential blame for the onset of Armageddon if it all goes wrong.

Choose your words carefully.

Read the letter carefully, on which you have made some notes. Then using all the information in your notes, write a letter to God on behalf of the entire population of the Earth.

Good luck.

Write a letter of between 150180words in an appropriate style. Do not write a postal address.

Once the students had read the rubric and were clear on what they had to do, I showed them the letter and the notes that had been made. Click here to open the word document. A copy of the rubric is on the second page.

We dealt with any unknown vocabulary and then talked about how the students might respond. I mentioned that they might want to think about their own relationship with God and how this might affect their response, as well as the register they think would be most appropriate.

The students really enjoyed the process and their finished letters were funny, touching and cleverly done. They commented on how difficult it was to begin the letter and how they had to think a lot more about the style they wanted to use, compared to that of the normal coursebook tasks. Overall, it was a successful departure from the standard course material and a fun writing exercise.

Please feel free to edit the word document as you see fit. The comments I made were appropriate to the class and the time, but you may feel the need to change them.

Please comment on the lesson if you used it and let me know how it went. Enjoy!

Stiff little fingers

image taken from www.healthtap.com
image taken from http://www.healthtap.com

We’ve all got them. We all use them. Most of the time without thinking. But how do you use them in your classroom?

On Friday night, I found myself teaching a 3 hour one-to-one with an A1 student. Almost immediately, my fingers began taking on a life of their own. Every time I asked my student a question, I would use a finger to represent each of the words in the question. Nothing ground breaking and I had done it before with my YLs but in this lesson I took it to a whole new level. All my questions were accompanied by my fingers, often bringing them together to indicate a possible contraction. When we reformulated my student’s responses to the questions, again the fingers were used to help the student along. I would keep them hanging there, and waggle the finger to indicate that the student hadn’t pronounced it correctly or that they had missed it out. I could see the student following my fingers as they came up and I genuinely believe that their employment was useful and I hope to continue using this in the subsequent classes. More importantly, I will ask my student if the fingers are useful or if she thinks I’m mad.

Does anyone else do the same thing? If so, what’s your reasoning behind it? Have you discussed it with your students? Do you have any tips? (pun intended)

Work-life balance – A business class idea

Photo taken from TED.com
Photo taken from TED.com

This lesson idea is based around a funny and thought provoking TED talk by Nigel Marsh. The talk is titled; How to make work-life balance work.

I have used the class with C1.3 and Proficiency students and each time the talk prompts different conversations within my groups, leading to good language work and exposure to authentic listening.

Here is the link to the talk – Nigel Marsh; How to make work-life balance work. (link will open in a new tab)

Here is what I did

  • Begin the class by asking your students to discuss two questions:
  1. Do you think you have a good work-life balance?
  2. If yes, how do you maintain this balance? If no, what would you like to change to create a balance?
  • An alternative opening could be to put the following statements, taken from the video onto the board/projector and ask the students to discuss and say which they agree/disagree with.

there are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hateto enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.

commercial companies are inherently designed to get as much out of you [as] they can get away with. It’s in their nature; it’s in their DNA; it’s what they do — even the good, well-intentioned companies.

We have to be responsible for setting and enforcing the boundaries that we want in our life.

  • Let this run, and try to make notes as you listen. Get feedback and ask any more relevant questions to push the students further.
  • Next, introduce the video and the title. Tell the students that they are going to listen to exactly the first 5 minutes of the talk. I prefer to use the video purely as audio. The video contains nothing of importance visually, i.e no slides, quotes etc. The only task for the student is to listen and when the first part is over, to say whether they agree with the points mentioned in this part. Encourage the students to write down any vocabulary as they are listening.
  • In my classes the following vocabulary was picked out and discussed; startled, thorny issue, getting to the nub of smthg and abattoirs of the human soul.
  • My students had a lot to say about the talk and most genuinely agreed with what was said. It was great for getting them to personalise the subject and talk(moan) about the companies they work for.
  • Once this dies down, remind the class that at the end of the 5 minute clip, Nigel Marsh begins to talk about how he sat down and wrote out his perfect working day. The video stops just before he tells us what it is. Get your students to write down or think about their perfect working day. It needs to be based around their current job. Get them thinking about what time they would start, how many hours they would work, time for lunch, when to finish and what they would do with their spare time.
  • Get feedback and ask more questions.
  • Now the students will listen to the remaining 5 minutes of the talk. They need to compare their ideal day with that of Nigel’s and again write down any vocabulary they want to discuss. In my classes the following vocabulary was discussed after the second part; daunting, upheaval, moronically simplistic
  • Again, work with the discussions that come up after the clip and ask how the students felt about Nigel’s perfect day. To finish off, here are some questions worth discussing;
  1. Is it true that we often neglect the intellectual, spiritual and emotional side of life?
  2. Do you dream of retiring or do you live for the hear and now?
  3. What small things could you change in your life to create a better work-life balance?

I hope the lesson is useful. As always, please feel free to comment and let me know how it goes. Remember that with all TED talks you can activate subtitles and also access an interactive transcript of the talk.

Audioslave

It’s been a ridiculously long time since I wrote anything on here. In order to blow off the blogging cobwebs I am going to try something different for the month of October. The idea is very simple. At the end of each of my lessons I am going to record my immediate thoughts, feelings and reflections on each lesson and upload the audio. To accompany each audio file I will hopefully have a photo of my board work, in order to provide a little more insight into the lesson. I am hoping to keep the audio short, although I will apologise now if I ramble. Let me know what you think and leave a comment below. The link for the first lesson is below.

Lesson 1 – This will take you to Soundcloud.com

Board work - Lesson 1 Own photo
Board work – Lesson 1
Own photo

Lesson 2 – Link will send you to soundcloud.com

own photo
own photo

Lesson 3  – Link will send you to soundcloud.com

Lesson 4 – Link will send you to souncloud.com

Lesson 5 – Link will send you to souncloud.com

own photo
own photo