Thursday, 21 April 2011

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

One egg, one lesson.

so, how do you turn this:
into a lesson?
The group: an ESOL Entry 3 class, pre-intermediate/intermediate level. 9 students out of 18. They did an exam on tuesday, and this was their last lesson before the holidays.
write 'holidays!' and 'Easter' on the board. give students some time to think of vocab associated with the words.
feedback from class, write words on board. explain any vocab. find humorous picture of chocolate rabbits.
next, put one small Cadbury's Creme Egg on the table in front of the board.
Ask questions: what does this mean? what do you think about these?
Give students a couple of minutes' thinking time, but not discussion time with others.
Place students in groups to discuss what they thought.
Run a quick feedback on ideas, adding any new vocab to board.
Next, in groups: what question would you like all the class to answer? students in their groups brainstorm some questions, then decide on one question they would like to ask.
students come up and write their question on the board. Here's a chance to do any necessary correction, eg use of auxiliaries.
groups explain why they chose their question.
whole class then votes on which question they would like an answer to.
after vote, they give their ideas in a turn-taking discussion. One student can act as scribe for vocabulary/ interesting ideas.
conduct final feedback on session - conclusions, ideas, feelings.
return to vocabulary and/or any grammar issues.
I ended up with my IWB looking like this:

the question my students wanted to answer was 'why is the egg a symbol for Easter?' which led to a fascinating discussion about Lent and Ramadan, different Easter traditions, how spring is celebrated in different parts of the world and in different religions, what fasting means, the advantages and disadvantages of fasting, and why Spring is important in some parts of the world and not in others. With the vocab, I asked my students if and how they would use the new words, and how they usually record vocab. Finally, we looked at the structure of a passive question.
See? Cadbury's Creme Eggs. A whole lesson in a yummy mouthful.

Monday, 4 April 2011

quick thinking point...

...just based on a bit of reflection. Like most British people, I endured the hell that is French at school: 30 students in a class, lined in rows, sharing textbooks and listening to a tinny little tape recorder* saying 'ecoutez et repetez. Ou est ma singe? Ma singe est dans l'arbre'. It's no wonder so many Brits don't learn another language.
Amazingly, however, some of my French actually stuck, and I can still read a French text and get at least the gist meaning. What I can't do is produce it, apart from a few lexical chunks.
A bit like my E3s, in fact. I was doing a reading exercise with them the other day, and it was very clear from how they interacted with it that they understood it. What they couldn't do was express the answers to the comp questions absolutely accurately. In other words, it was as if they were looking at the language 'fuzzily'. Or, possibly, they couldn't activate the language.
Here's the thinking point: We all know about active and passive vocabulary - the words we recognise and use, and the words we recognise but don't use. What about an active and passive grammar? Going back to me and French, I can't just read the text, I can generally also identify features such as tenses fairly accurately. But, again, I'd be lousy at producing it. So, is this an example of passive grammar knowledge? And how could this concept be tested in a group? Chew, digest, consider...

*for the kids out there - tape recorder: an analogue linear recording device, recording to a bilateral magnetic medium. Like your iPod, but you can stick a pencil through one end and spin it round.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Hiatus, again.

Perhaps I should rename this blog 'Paul's very occasional ELT Journal', as that would be more accurate. Actually, I haven't been too active over on main my blog either. Reason? I could say work and study, which would be true, but I have to admit it's also a healthy dose of torpor as well.
Anyway, work. situation: not good. As part of the government's ongoing campaign to support toffs by squeezing every shred of money out of the poor - sorry, the sensible and vital austerity measures - The college looks like it's going to lose at least half of its ESOL cohort, simply because they won't be able to pay for it. Not only that, but our college, thanks to some spectacularly fucked-up decisions by previous administrations, is now about £3m in the red, and one of the ways of tackling this is to have everyone re-apply for their jobs for about 11% less pay. Joy. I'm not even sure that I'll have a job after summer.
Next, study. In a pleasingly ironic gesture, the same college that may be telling me I don't have a job has actually funded me to do, finally, my DELTA course. Now, I know what you may be thinking - 'what? you haven't done your DELTA yet???' The truth is, I haven't had the combination of time, circumstance or money to be able to do it - finally it's here, and I may end up never using it in the end! Nice one, Fate!
Well, let's live in the moment for the time being, if you'll forgive the pun. I'm atually finding the course hugely enjoyable, depsite not being able to devote as much time to the studying as I'd like at the mo. Just completed an essay, and in doing the research on it, something struck me: why is language regarded as essentially a linear object? Why don't we consider it as something with dimension?
Think about it. Language is the output of a series of inputs - visual, aural, kinaesthetic, the whole VAKOG thing, basically. Language, in other words, is a medium, or device, used in order to make sense and relate these inputs. since these inputs constitute dimensions, shouldn't langauge also be seen as something three-dimensional?
I'm maybe not explaining myself too clearly here, but it struck me that we can regard a lexical item in terms of, for example, its register, style, deployment in a given situation, grammatical use, and intonation. In other words, we apprehend it almost as a physical object, with facets of meaning. And in fact, when we look at the tense system in English, doesn't the fact that we rely on aspect so much tend to suggest dimension rather than a simple linear transaction? What I' suggesting is that rather than look at lexis or grammar as something that is 'flat', we need to regard them as somethng with 'shape'. Well, it's something to work on, and I haven't a clue how you would begin to desribe it in simple terms. Yet.


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