ELT Experiences

Experiences for English Language Teaching

By - Martin Sketchley

Reflection of 2011 – The #11from11 Challenge

I can’t believe it.  The year has literally flown by and I sit with wonder with a cup of coffee thinking about what I have actually done with the time.  Having read Mike Harrison’s blog post reflecting on his 11 posts from 2011 (challenged by @yearinthelifeof), I thought I should take up Adam Simpson’s challenge and write about 2011: it would offer some aspect of reflection and highlight what has been achieved during the past 12 months.  So without further ado, here is a reflection of my top 11 blog posts from 2011.

January
MA ELT – Assignments Complete: This was a brief blog post that reflected upon my studies at the University of Sussex and it is quite nice to look reflect on what I was focusing on during the beginning of the new term.  It is nice to look back and take stock of the Advanced Practical Teaching course (with my Dogme experimental observed lesson).  It is nice to see that I had posted/achieved what I planned to focus on: posting about the IATEFL in Brighton, wrote further book reviews.  Unfortunately, it was rather ambitious to write a weekly ELT related blog post and this was not fully exploited.

February
Pronunciation & Language Learning: This is one of my favourite blog posts this year and I continue returning to it to retrieve the same lesson plan (Pronunciation Phone Numbers) for my own YL/Adult classes.  It is successful and the learners love doing this lesson again and again.  It is also useful for readers to learn more about pronunciation and get some idea about pronunciation aims from the perspective of learners as it also included a little research analysis.

Using Newspapers in Class: This was an earlier blog post in February and it was reflection on the use of newspapers in the classroom as I had a formal observation at the University of Sussex as part of one of my courses.  In this blog post there were some images of my Teaching Practice portfolio and the materials that I prepared in class.  Also included in the blog post was the PowerPoint that I prepared for the lesson and all necessary materials that were required so that other readers could do this lesson if necessary.

March
Unplugged Teaching Practice – Formal Observations: During March, I was focusing on Dogme ELT for my Teaching Practice and it was the first ever time that I attempted a Dogme-related lesson.  Furthermore, I was having it being recorded and was also observed … so the pressure was on.  In this blog post I included my formal lesson plan, a video of Scott Thornbury, a self-evaluation of the lesson as well as a poster promoting a Dogme talk by Luke Meddings.  I suppose had it not been for attempting the Dogme lesson, I would not have researched Dogme ELT for my dissertation.

April
The 2011 IATEFL Brighton Conference: Life As A Steward – Day One: Having applied to volunteer as a Steward at the 2011 IATEFL Brighton Conference, I was requested to attend a training morning at the weekend and then start stewarding for the start of the conference.  It was a wonderful chance to meet so many people that I met in the twittersphere/blogosphere.  I always remember so many boxes piling up by the entrance in preparation for the rest of the week.  Thankfully, they all had disappeared the following day.

May
Teaching Unplugged – My First Video: This was a blog post focused on my Dogme ELT Teaching Practice from March 2011, which was recorded.  Having received the entire recording of my lesson, it was really useful to watch it back and look at how the lesson developed.  Over the following two months, I edited the video to a more manageable viewing of eight minutes.  It was so nice to share this with my readers.

August
Dogme for Elementary Japanese Learners: Whilst I MA classes had finished, I had some time to write my dissertation (which was focused on Dogme ELT) as well as teach part-time.  I was provided the opportunity to teach at the University of Sussex with Japanese Learners that had visited for two weeks.  It was so nice to incorporate my research in the classroom and decided to share a case of emergent language with Japanese Elementary Learners.  I have used this example within many teacher training workshops … so it is an incredibly important blog post that I hold close to.

September
Dogme ELT – Dissertation Short Summary:  Having completed and submitted my Dogme ELT dissertation, I decided to share an abridged version for all those people that helped directly or indirectly with my research.  It provides readers the opportunity to view a short summary of the dissertation and offer ideas for their research (if they are undertaking an MA or other related course).

October
iPad Game Lesson Plan: “Jetpack Joyride”: Having read (prior to reviewing the book) “Digital Play”, I was inspired to create a lesson plan that included some form of game.  It was a challenge but I decided on an iPad game called “Jetpack Joyride” and also included a video that was available to watch on YouTube.  I used some of the images of the video on the basis of a storyboard.  I used this in class the following day and the Young Learners were really receptive and enthusiastic to use a game in class.

“Digital Play” – Book Review: The second blog post during October that I consider important is the book review of “Digital Play”.  This book I found pushing the boundaries of gaming in the language classroom and have personal experiences of this in South Korea by playing on my son’s Nintendo in Korea or visiting a Korean PC Café.  It was so nice to receive a copy of this book and write one of the first online book reviews.

December
Zeitgeist 2011: A Lesson Plan: My final blog post for this challenge has to be the Zeitgeist 2011 YouTube videos that I decided to use as a basis for a lesson plan.  It received some interest from my PLN and appeared to prompt a conversation-driven, materials-light approach to teaching.  I used this lesson with my private language learners and although they are teenagers, they were incredibly motivated and keen to share about their experiences during 2011.  It seems fitting to have this lesson included as a final of my eleven best blog posts.

Naturally, there are many blog posts that I would like to include in this list but the above the best eleven posts during 2011.  Nevertheless, I look forward to 2012 and am wondering what the next year will bring in terms of achievements but you can rest assured that I will be sharing my experiences, thoughts, lesson plans and book reviews in the future.  The biggest event in my diary for 2012 is my IATEFL Talk on Dogme ELT in the Classroom on March 23, so I look forward to seeing you all in Glasgow in a few months time.  Finally, I would like to wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year.

By - Martin Sketchley

Zeitgeist 2011: Lesson Plan

2011 Light Writing, Daily Dose (c) 2011

As 2011 draws to an end, it is a time of reflection, consideration and possibility for the future.  This lesson plan is aimed at B2-C1 level students and may work with selected teenagers, but it may be more successful with adult learners.  Possible language which may emerge could be associated with reflection and talking about the past (There was a Tsunami in Japan, There were the Arab Springs during 2011, etc) as well as talking about what the  future might bring (In 2012, I would like to …, In the next 3 months, I want to …, etc).

As with all material, it is suggested to be sensitive to the learner’s background and choose examples to scaffold that are appropriate: perhaps the talking of natural disasters might not suit Japanese learners.  However, learners may have a story to tell and I suppose you are the teacher that knows your learner better than anyone and can make the choices that are suitable and appropriate for your learners.

Context & Introduction to Topic

  1. When starting the class ask students:
    • what they have achieved during 2011
    • what is their most memorable event during the year
    • what was the most surprising element of 2011
    • learner or teacher resolutions for 2012
  2. Monitor language for correct tense usage, monitor language as well as boarding and scaffolding emergent language
Zeitgeist 2011 YouTube Video
  1. Tell learners that they are going to be watching a video but put learners in pairs or small groups
  2. Describe to each pair or group of learners that before they watch the video, they need to work together and think of five important events that happened in 2011
  3. Elicit possible important events during 2011 from the learners and write their suggestions on the whiteboard
  4. Tell learners that they are going to watch a video that is related to 2011.  The learners need to watch the video and check to see if any of their suggestions are in the video.
  5. Play the video.
  6. Once the video has been played, ask learners to mention what events that were suggested (and transcribed on the whiteboard) are in the video.
  7. Elicit any other important events from 2011 the learners and add these to the whiteboard (if the learners can remember some of the other important events in the video).
  8. Play the video for a second time.
Discussion Time
  1. Once several events from 2011 have been written on the board, tell students that they are going to be working in groups and have to re-order the events in importance (one being the most important and the last one being least important).  All learners within the group must accept the order of importance.
  2. Monitor learners for suitable or potential language that could be used to scaffold (I think … is the most important, Why do you think …?, What do you think?, etc).
  3. After learners have completed the re-ordering activity, get several groups together and to compare results with the potential to debate.
  4. Allow sometime once the debate/discussion has finished for feedback and error correction.
As ever, any feedback on this lesson plan would be greatly appreciated.
By - Martin Sketchley

Classroom Activities to Prompt Authentic Interaction

I remember when I first started teaching in South Korea, I was handed the course book and quickly thrown in a classroom full of young children.  My heart was pounding and my head was spinning.  It was only a few days previously that I flew into the country with my family and I was still trying to find my place in this wonderful country.  Nevertheless, after a number of months I gained confidence and tried to read more about teaching from various websites to give me more ideas.  However, I quickly found that to prompt authentic interaction and conversation between the learners or the learners and myself was increasingly difficult.  I decided to use various articles that would interest the young learners but found that the 50 minute class was too short to take advantage of this.  In the end, I started using games and activities to relax and prompt authentic interaction in the classroom.  I suppose at the time, I was unaware of a Dogme ELT movement and was trying to keep teach myself at the same time.  On a side note, for budding teachers wanting to experience a different culture and get a job, English language teachers are employed in Korea with the only requirements for applicants to have a degree in any subject and an interest in the culture/language.  I suppose I am, what is now referred to, as a backpacker EFL teacher.

Anyhow, I suppose the greatest challenge for any language teacher is to get learners to converse and interact in the target language.  As I have a keen interest in authentic conversation and autonomy in the classroom, I got “Teaching Unplugged” in 2010 and this provided the basis of developing activities to prompt authentic and Dogme-esque moments in the classroom.  The lesson ideas require very little preparation, limited materials and the focus is on getting the students conversing in the hope that there is emergent language that can be scaffolded.  I have relied upon these activities with various classes and the learners have always been receptive.  Some of the activities have been customised from “Teaching Unplugged” and give credit to such a wonderful and inspirational book.

Dogme ELT – Lesson Ideas(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “http://www.scribd.com/javascripts/embed_code/inject.js”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

I hope you get the opportunity to incorporate some of the lesson ideas in your classroom.

By - Martin Sketchley

BELTE 2011 – Saturday 15 October 2011

Opening talk for the BELTE 2011

This blog post has been on my to-do list for over a month and I am really glad to eventually put pen-to-paper (or  fingers-to-keyboard).  I travelled to Brighton for the annual BELTE (Brighton English Language Teaching Event) last month with the aim to meet some familiar faces and catch up with those that I met (albeit virtually) on Twitter.  Gordon Watts pulled out all the stops when organising the event (in association with Sussex Director of Studies Association) and there were some big names presenting during the day.

Nevertheless, when I arrived at the main building for the annual BELTE, I was provided with a free bag of goodies (an IELTS book, some publicity material as well as a summary of speakers for the day).  As expected, there were various publishers and representatives in the main hall of the school.  There were some people (teachers and publishers) that I recognised and we had the chance to catch up.  It was wonderful to see the LTC Eastbourne (whom I work with quite regularly) as well as the charity that I volunteer for on Saturdays, English in the Community, present at the BELTE.  For the opening of the annual event, the Mayor of Brighton, Anne Meadows, was present and provided some warm words of encouragement for the ELT industry.  After the opening of the event, I had the privilege to chat to Jeremy Harmer who was going to give a talk on Dogme ELT and was able to share some views and opinions of this technique of language teaching.  Also present was Mike Harrison which I met at previous EFL Conferences, including the BELTE 2010.

Annie detailing the elements of Academic Writing

The first talk that I decided to attend was focused on “Principles of Academic Writing” by Annie Broadhead.  It was an useful talk but I felt that it focused too heavily on the alignment of writing with ESOL Examinations, rather than providing any useful lesson ideas or lesson recipes which could of been incorporated into future ESP classes.  Nevertheless, it reconfirmed the idea that ESP classes are expected to produce genuine results within a specified time period and the pressure on teachers could be overwhelming.  However, the speaker providing some great ideas for teaching Academic Writing such as looking at cohesive and linking devices, incorporating the CEF (Common European Framework) into classes as well as developing student autonomy when they check their own written compositions.

Jacqui sharing her ideas on rapport in the classroom

The next talk that I attended was “Rapport and Empathy in the Learning Environment” by Jacqui Dowding.  This was an incredibly useful talk as Jacqui introduced the importance of developing rapport and empathy within the learner classroom.  She introduced the idea of rapport and empathy, then provided attendees to discuss how they develop rapport with their students.  When I first started my CELTA course at the British Council in Seoul, I was advised to initially develop rapport with the learners as everything else falls into place.  However, I was left wondering how to develop rapport.  This workshop offered to plug in the gaps and answered this question.  It was incredibly useful to learn further techniques and ideas to develop rapport.  Some of the ideas presented in the talk was to include humour, share forth comings as well as learn more about student backgrounds.  Unfortunately, with humanistic as well as sociolinguistic forms of teaching and learner backgrounds, it is intangible and can be elusive.  I suppose the largest aspect to consider when developing rapport and empathy within the classroom, is to be more approachable in classroom and seen as a friend to help and guide students on their road to language learning.  It would have been useful to receive some teaching ideas or a cookbook of teaching recipes to incorporate in the classroom to develop and extend rapport with learners.  Most teachers are aware of the common GTKY activities but I have never really looked at improving my classes devoted to developing rapport.  However, I suppose there is an important correlation between rapport with learners and improving a conversation-driven approach to Dogme ELT (and apologies if I try to draw a distinction between the two but I believe firmly that this is definitely the case).

Mike Harrison making notes on his iPad

The following talk that I attended was focused on “Teacher Observations: What is a good teacher? And who says so?” by Vic Richardson.  This talk looked at an initial video of a newly certified EFL teacher, teaching a range of learners from a coursebook and we were requested to share our opinions of the teacher (a pretty bold approach to assess a teacher from a one minute video clip and whether it was successful).  Nevertheless, the talk progressed towards detailing what makes a ‘good‘ teacher and whether there is a distinction with an ‘expert‘ teacher.  Vic determined that there indeed there was a difference and an expert teacher:

  • can identify essential representations of their subject
  • can guide learning and provide feedback
  • can monitor learning and provide feedback
  • can attend to affective attributes
  • can influence student outcomes
When comparing to “Teaching Unplugged” (2009), it becomes apparent that these characteristics are similar to teachers willing to pursue Dogme ELT.  For example, a Dogme ELT teacher adheres to the following principles:
  • establishing a classroom dynamic that is conducive to interactive talk
  • orientating lessons to the learners’ needs and interests
  • setting up activities that are language productive
  • providing the necessary scaffolding to support talk in a second language
  • recording, reviewing and recycling instances of learner language
Essentially, an ‘expert‘ teacher is one that incorporate traits not that dissimilar to Dogme ELT.  However, one must question the suitability of assessing and observing teachers as Dogme ELT, as is other forms of humanistic teaching, intangible.  Furthermore, how can someone observe and grade a teacher if they are seeking something which is intangible as is Dogme?  I put this question to Vic but his answer was less than adequate.  Perhaps he was not expecting such a question but it got me thinking whether Dogme can be assessed and whether it is either possible to observe possible Dogme-moments in the ELT classroom.  I would welcome for Vic to respond to this question that I initially put to him.
Does anyone know what this Dogme lark is?
The final talk that I attended was “Teaching unplugged beats Acquisition?  What to teach to whom, with what and why?” by Jeremy Harmer.  It was definitely a talk that I wanted to attend as it was related to my MA Dissertation and it would offer me the opportunity to listen to this particular area of ELT.  This talk was suitable for those teachers that were new as well as those that had much experience of incorporating Dogme ELT.  Jeremy conveyed well the principles of Teaching Unplugged and used video interviews within his presentation so that those around the world could share their experience of Dogme ELT.  This demonstrated that Dogme was incidental and happened when teachers were least expecting it.  Next he introduced the idea of language acquisition with reference to multiple intelligences. He questioned whether teaching unplugged would suit a particular set of learners and whether more structured and regimental forms of learning with greater aims be best for other learners.  It was an interesting concept and found that it provided greater scope to consider.  Nevertheless, it was great to finally hear about Dogme out of the context of my Dissertation.
It was an incredibly rewarding day and I look forward to next years BELTE Conference.  There was talk that the next BELTE will try to include some form of technology or twitter feed.  This would be really useful and I hope that this is really the case.  It was wonderful to meet so many teachers in such a wonderful location.