Monthly Archives: December 2013

Resolutions

The age-old tradition of making New Year’s resolutions seems to be somewhat out of favour in our strenuously modern age, but for the predictable fortitude of health and fitness evangelicals who, following weeks of guilt-inducing gluttony, contribute briefly to the annual, January surge in gym membership. By mid-February one’s festive over-indulgence is but a distant memory and the determination to eat more broccoli and goji berries tends to have waned.

In any case, I’m sure the question of “Have you made any…?” has been put to a good many students already in the hope of eliciting some language to build upon or simply to get a discussion going. You may have been fortuitous enough to receive such heart-lifting responses as “To dedicate more time to serious study of grammar” or “To read a novel in English”, or you might have been met with quizzical expressions all round. If these considerations haven’t made their way into your lesson plans as yet, you can negotiate the latter occurrence by facilitating the invention of resolutions as part of the lesson.

Encourage students, in pairs or groups, to talk together about any aspects of their lives they would like to change if they could, then have each invite suggestions from their classmates as to what they might do to make the desired alterations. Give students time to think about it- perhaps in a break or over lunchtime- so that they can be confident in their answer and offer some detail as to how they are going to achieve whatever it is they want to achieve. They are of course not required to express a genuine intention but rather to formulate an accurate answer to the question, utilizing the correct future tense, vocabulary and so on.

For my part, I resolve to limit my TTT (Teacher Talk Time) still further by implementing a more committed task-based approach in lessons- not so much a New Year’s resolution in fact, more an ongoing battle with intermittent, alternating periods of relative peace and skirmish.

And so, as 2013 draws to an unseasonably mild close, it remains for me and all at Peartree Languages to wish you a very merry Christmas and a prosperous new year.

Tristan Francis
Director of Studies

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No phones in class (?)

Who attended the recent English UK Teachers’ Conference? What did you think of it? I thought the event offered a very interesting selection of elective sessions, but wasn’t the only one attending to note the general lean towards topics related to technology. But for a very practical and educative workshop with Jonathan Betts based around the question of how to get more, and the most, out of coursebooks, the sessions that I joined were predominantly tech-focussed.

Following his very involving opening plenary, Russel Stannard went on to divulge how various online ‘tools’ can be utilised in the delivery of task-based learning to the end of encouraging students to speak more in and out of class. Russel’s thread was picked up on later by Paul Gallantry, who was standing in for Jane Willis following the sad passing of her husband, ELT luminary and task-based learning pioneer Dave Willis. Through group work with my fellow attendees, I found that the vast majority of those I spoke with were ELT professonals interested in the potential of broadening their media horizons by incorporating more use of technology in their lessons and schools, much like myself.

More than one academic director that I met either in the sessions or over the veritable banquet generously laid on for lunch spoke of being ‘sent’ to the tech-talks, either because it was the direction that their own school, or the competition schools in their area, were headed in or because it was a trajectory that their manager wanted them to pursue. For whatever reason, while the motivation for some was about assessing the advantages and potential drawbacks of hand-held devices in class and online resourcing, for others such matters had clearly been settled.

The high drama of Hugh Dellar’s thought-provoking closing plenary, which set the current drive towards the ‘techological classroom’ against the need to maintain teaching principles (including some alarming examples of the former treading upon the latter) in our profession, was an appropriate end to the day and must have prompted more than one attendee to question their own attitude to the issue.

This year I have been steadily introducing smart phone use (for internet access, not calls) in my lessons. Most if not all have one about them, and it seems like a waste of a resource when an image or video can be so easily brought up and shared with classmates. Students locating and showing material themselves is also obviously more proactive and participatory than having something simply shown to them by the teacher. I am aware, however, of the danger of relaxing the former ‘no phones in class’ rule in favour of MSP (mobiles for specific purposes), but so far the slope has thankfully proved to be decidedly unslippery.

Have you, or do you encourage your students to use their phones in class? Would you prefer them to access an online or a paper dictionary, and for what reasons? I would love to hear some ideas on this topic, so do get in touch and leave your comments.

 
Tristan Francis
Director of Studies

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