ELT Experiences

Experiences for English Language Teaching

By - Martin Sketchley

IATEFL 2012: Horror in the Classroom by Lucy Williams

On the flight to Glasgow

Having arrived safely in Glasgow for my IATEFL talk tomorrow, I had a chance to attend one of the last talks for Thursday.  Having looked at the schedule, I decided to attend the talk given by Lucy Williams named “An ELT Horror Story”.  My initial feeling was that this talk was about a teacher’s experience in a particular country and suggested recommendations to limit ‘horror stories’ from emerging within one’s career.  However, when I walked in to the conference room about 15 people had turned up for the talk and it was about incorporating horror in the classroom aimed for possible teenagers or young adults.  The talk was to hold about 100 people, but possible reasoning why it was not that popular could be related to some other big names giving a talk at the same time.  It was liberating to show some support for the small fish in the big pond of ELT, yet I have never incorporated horror in the classroom and I can’t wait to exploit this in the classroom.

Adjectives used to describe horror movies

Nevertheless, the talk was supported by Macmillan and their website OnestopEnglish.  They were promoting their new developments of the horror reading and listening series on their teachers’ website.  All attendees were given some access to the material which is to be published in the next few months.  Lucy gave an energetic and humorous talk about horror and generated interest by getting attendees to share their experiences of horror stories from their own country.  All I could muster was to refer to “The Lady in Black” and “Jack The Ripper”.  This was supported by guess the movie title by showing corresponding movie posters.  She showed a word cloud of various adjectives used to describe horror movies.

Next attendees were introduced to a new listening activity which supports and develops the “Live in London” series of podcasts, the 2012 Olympics, etc.  This listening series introduces students to different areas of London through the use of a “Ghost Guide to London” (which should be available for download on the OnestopEnglish website in the next few months).  Lucy played the initial introduction of the Ghost Guide and I was impressed by the sound effects, the atmosphere that it creates and the voice actor is wonderful.  I immediately started to think how this could be incorporated in the classroom and some ideas were to get students to close their eyes, dim the lights, and get them to listen to the Ghost Guide.  After listening, you could get students to draw what they saw and describe/share this with other learners.  I can’t wait to incorporate this in the classroom and it is great to see how OnestopEnglish is developing with new material.

The next part of the talk was about the story series and attendees were given a listening worksheet to complete (as part of a pre-listening activity) and fill or predict what to write in the gaps.  This was related to a spooky borror story and it was wonderful.  There are various lessons and materials to be exploited with teenagers, young adults and selected adults.  The story was split into chapters with extra material available to download such as the audio, multimedia websites, video as well as blogs.  The technology really exploits and encourages learners to immerse themselves in the story.  This got me thinking about how iPads and eBooks could be used to develop immersive and engaging lessons.  It would be wonderful to create to a lesson for learners to follow that is accessible on the iPad to gauge how effective it will be in the language classroom.

The SECC where IATEFL is this year

Finally, things were wrapped up and that was the end of the talk and it was great to be introduced to various lesson ideas as well as possible material to be available at a later date.  I can’t wait to attend more talks tomorrow, but tomorrow is the big day with my talk about Dogme ELT, so I might not be able to see as many as I would like.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had much chance to meet many people (as compared to last year) but I hope that tomorrow I am able to meet more people.  I hope everyone is having a great time in Glasgow and looking forward to reading more about the talks various people have attended.

By - Martin Sketchley

Dogme Lesson: from Sea Creatures to Question Tags

I was covering a Young Learner’s class the a number of weeks ago at the British Council and it was the second time that I had taught this class.  A few hours prior to the class, I prepared a story board activity based on the “The Ugly Duckling” but when I walked into the class, the lesson was put down as soon as I saw what the children had.

At a popular supermarket in Romania, they offer free sea animal cards if you spend a specific amount (above 40 Lei I believe).  As with the cards, there is a book which you can put the cards in.  Children in Romania are keen to show off, trade and compare the cards that they have (even in the classroom).  Anyhow, as I walked into the classroom the children were trading and showing the different cards they had in their possession.  As I mentioned, I was prepared to focus on a lesson about swans in the course book and with a story board activity about the “Ugly Duckling”.  As soon as I saw these cards and the students enthusiasm about them, I decided to delve into Dogme territory.

I picked up a number of cards and as a class decided to look at the vocabulary of the creatures of the deep.  I was eliciting vocabulary, writing a number of the words on the board and drawing some examples of words.  As soon as I got about ten names of sea creatures on the whiteboard, I got students to work in groups and decide the creatures in order of least to most dangerous.  This was a wonderful activity and I transcribed their group decision on the whiteboard and compare differences.  During the decision process a discussion emerged (in English) during the activity: I was walking around and making a note of good and poor examples of English.  At the end of the lesson (with these examples of English utterances produced during discussion), I got each group to guess which sentence was appropriate and which was not.  This developed into something else.

A typical example of many learners is to utter a sentence with a rising intonation to create a question.  For example: “You think it’s dangerous” changed to “You think it’s dangerous?”.  As mentioned, this is a typical error that I have encountered with differing nationalities (especially Asian learners).  The above example was uttered during the discussion and a learner tried to ask a question but used the imperative form.  After the grammar auction activity (choosing which sentence was appropriate or not), I decided to focus on ‘Question Tags’.  I took the example above and elicited the correct question form (“Do you think it’s dangerous”) but then asked the young learners how else they would ask a question.  One clever young learner suggested using question tags.  I wrote up an example: “You think it’s dangerous, don’t you?” and tried to illustrate the common rule of question tags.  Next, I wrote up some example sentences and got all the learners to add the question tag at the end.  This was followed by some drilling and reinforcement to ensure all learners had learnt the use of “Question Tags”.  The total time of the lesson was an hour and a half but I worked on the above activities for about an hour and a quarter. With fifteen minutes left of the lesson, I decided to use some IWB game (Wordshake which is available on the British Council Teaching English website).

It was the first time that I had used some of the material that the learners had brought in to the classroom (especially with Young Learners) and it was so good to see all students appear to be enthusiastic.  In reflection, the lesson was immediate to the learners and involved material which was brought in by learners and exploited to its full potential.  The biggest thing that I have noticed when incorporating aspects of Dogme in the lesson is that I have developed my understanding of language acquisition inasmuch that acquisition (or emergence in some cases) is based upon interaction.  I have noticed that as a teacher, I feel happier when teaching, find planning lessons less burdensome and not as keen to plough through numerous student handouts.  The above sharing of the lesson is a good example when planned lessons can be put on hold and opportunistic areas of language learning are exploited.  Hopefully readers can relate to the above lesson and share their experiences of a ‘materials-light’ and opportunistic aspect of their teaching.

By - Martin Sketchley

Dogme ELT Dissertation – University of Sussex

I have received many emails and correspondence requesting a copy of my dissertation.  I have made the decision to make public the full dissertation.  Nevertheless, as it is currently in the public domain, I hope that it inspires further study into ‘balance in the classroom’ and assists current understanding of Dogme ELT.  Should you have any questions regarding my research, please do not hesitate to contact me as I would be delighted to help.

By - Martin Sketchley

IATEFL Glasgow Conference 2012: Supporting Documents for the Talk

I am now starting to think about the IATEFL Glasgow Conference which is being held in a couple of weeks from now.  Last year, I submitted my application to hold a talk which was related to my MA dissertation.  Fortunately, this talk was accepted and I am now sitting down to finalise the presentation and all the handouts.  I also am hoping to promote my iBook that I published recently on the iBooks Store (further information is available below).  Some of the material (and previous blog posts) that I shall be referring to during my talk is available below:

eBook Available: “Prompting Authentic Interaction in the ELT Classroom”
Further information and a link for the iBook about Dogme ELT and the incorporation of this in the classroom.

Classroom Activities to Prompt Authentic Conversation
Some ideas to develop and support authentic conversation in the classroom.

Dogme ELT: Short Dissertation Summary
A short summary of my dissertation that I submitted last year towards my MA course at the University of Sussex.

Dogme for Elementary Japanese Learners
Some post reflection of a class that I taught at the University of Sussex about the incorporation of Dogme ELT.

Teaching Unplugged: First Video at the University of Sussex
As my final experimental teaching practice for the TEFL-Q course was recorded, I decided to incorporate Dogme ELT into this course.  This blog post includes a video of my first time of using Dogme in the classroom.

Further information about my IATEFL Talk is below:
Date & Time: Friday 23 March 2012 at 12:40 to 13:25
Room Number: Staffa

Further information about the other talks available at the IATEFL Conference can be accessed with the Conference Programme.  I look forward to watching some of the other talks and meeting some people from the twitter-sphere.