Monday, 29 October 2012

Keeping it Real

Ever since the #ukesolchat I summarised in my last post, I have been pondering on  "relevance" and how I can ensure that I am doing every thing I can to furnish my learners with the language they need for every day life. You can imagine my delight when I stumbled upon this wee gem of a lesson during the course of a late evening resource trawl:

"Tis the season for parents evening in Shetland schools: events which can be as nerve wracking for parents as they are for pupils (and teachers).  I'm sure it must be a particularly hard slog for the parents and guardians of EAL pupils, which is why the parent's evening lesson plan (and accompanying teacher's notes) of the ESOL Nexus website is such a fantastic resource.

Both the lesson plan and teacher's notes are detailed and easy to follow and can be downloaded for free on the website, so I will not waste time repeating the procedure here.

My learners were thoroughly engaged throughout.  Even those who are not parents themselves can learn useful language and practice a variety of skills during the course of the lesson (although the majority of my learners do in fact have school age children).

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the concluding role play activity: I chose more confident learners to work as teachers, while other learners worked as pairs to devise questions about their imaginary offspring before attending "parents evening" together. The resulting performances generated much hilarity, but the earnest way in which the learners took notes during our whole class feedback session showed that they felt they would have a real need for this language in the near future.

A lesson which was both relevant and entertaining: thanks again ESOL Nexus!

Monday, 8 October 2012

#ukesol chat summary: Tuesday 2nd October

Are these people  relevant?

The subject of Tuesday's #ukesolchat was:
"Making Courses Relevant for Learners." The chat took place at 9pm GMT and was congenially moderated by @dianatremayne. Participants were: @teacherthom, @samshep, @ShetlandEsol, @harrisonmike, @cathywint, @MelKirkwood, @hooperchris and @pysproblem81.

Surely all ESOL teachers strive towards creating lessons relevant to the needs and interests of the individual learners who make up their classes. In last Tuesday's #ukesolchat, teachers got together to discuss the best way of working towards this aim.  A lively chat ensued: what follows is my attempt to summarise the main points. Sincere apologies if I have missed anything out!

 Needs Analyses

An in-depth needs analyses is key to establishing a teaching programme which meets the learners' needs. @hooperchris suggested that our starting point has to be asking the learners. @MelKirkwood agreed: noting the importance too of "getting to know the learners" and what they do when they are not in the classroom. 
So then, what exactly are we seeking to establish in our initial analyses? @hooperchris wished to stress that we should not limit ourselves to addressing the language needs of the learners. @samshep, however, felt that language  should remain at the forefront, and pointed out that "we can’t do stuff without language to do it.”@samshep went on to argue that learners often don’t have a sufficient “meta awareness” of language to pinpoint their own linguistic needs. 

@dianatremayne raised the issue of conflicts between the needs and wants of learners and the course they are doing: a very important point for teachers who work towards certificated courses. As @dianatremayne pointed out, "some courses can be hard to make exciting..."

Making Syllabi Relevant

Some interesting ideas came out of this thread. @samshep suggested starting with themes and topics, then identifying and sequencing language items in order of complexity within these themes. @samshep makes a mindmap of learners' needs and ideas for content which he then "whittles into a scheme." This seems like a neat idea, which puts the learners' interests at the very heart of the process.

@cathywint summarised @samshep's idea very neatly by suggesting that in this scenario, themes come from the learners and language areas from the teacher. 

@psyproblems81, however, felt that "getting carried away with themes" might put teachers in danger of  forgetting about language.   

Local Language, Local Accents

 Can you follow the dialogue in this short  film made by a group of Shetlanders?

This thread of the discussion was kicked off by @dianatremayne whose students had recently  interviewed staff members, and had struggled to understand the one Scottish accent! @ShetlandEsol felt that it was important to focus on building learners’ awareness of the accents they would be most likely to come into contact to on a daily basis.

@cathywint suggested the UK ESOL website as a rich source of authentic listening material, and duly found the link:

Teachers can make good use of the learners' surrounding environment to raise awareness of local language and accents. @MelKirkwood suggested asking learners to note down phrases and expressions they overhear when out and about: e.g. on the buses. This can then be extended into a classroom activity, where learners teach each other the new lexis they have learned. 

 The next #ukesolchat?

@ShetlandEsol wondered how teachers adapted ELT resources in order to make them relevant for ESOL learners. It soon became apparent from the quick barrage of responses that there is enough material here for a #ukesolchat in itself, and @dianatremayne suggested this as a possibility for next time.

Further Reading/Resources
 @cathywint suggested the Reflect for ESOL resource pack: a fantastic resource which aims to put learners at the centre of their learning.

This was the first time I had participated in a #ukesolchat and I really enjoyed meeting other ESOL practitioners. Till next time!

photo credit: <a href="">lairdscott</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>