Bullying is brutal. It always has been, and probably always will be an issue that too many children and teenagers have to deal with, both at school and now, due to cyber-bullying, at any time and in any place. I created this lesson after seeing a short JuBafilm – A Piece of Chalk – whilst invigilating a 12th grade Cinema Studies class.
The speaking booklet, that I have been using with my 10th grade ‘Keep Talking’ class, has a whole unit devoted to the topic of bullying, so I simply adapted that unit to incorporate ideas that were raised by the film. This 4 lesson unit plan includes a mix of speaking activities: two oral presentations, and another short film – Listen to Me – which deals with the concepts of stereotypes and bullying. The lesson plans are aimed at students from both intermediate and proficiency levels (CEFR levels B1 – C1). I have provided suggested times, however, the lessons may need more or less time depending on the class.
Speaking is the most challenging of the four skills to teach in large heterogeneous classes. As speaking is interactive and demands an almost instant response, the pressure to ‘perform’ is often overwhelming for students.
With this in mind I created a fun lesson plan based on the famous song ‘It’s Friday I’m in Love’ by The Cure. Not one of my 10th grade students knew the song but they all quickly ‘fell in love’ with it.
My aim was to get the students speaking and using the lexical chunks from the song. However, to my amazement they quickly began singing the song, and asked me to play it again and again.
Our students are constantly asking us: “Will it be on the exam?” “Is there a grade for this?” When the answer is no, the next question is often: What’s the point? “So why bother? With this in mind we ran an informal evening event at the ETAI national summer conference in Ashkelon with our panel of experts: Denise Ross Hayne, Penny Ur, Batia Laufer, Amos Paran, Ben Goldstein . Our goal was to pose questions, sourced from the audience via Todaysmeet, for our expert panel, who were asked to give us good reasons for why we should still bother being ‘creative and demanding ELT teachers’ in an age of ‘bottle flipping, finger spinners and Google Translate.’
As the convener of the Q & A session I would like to share with you some of my post-event reflections.
Firstly, there was no need for the panel to prepare anything in advance, which enabled them to communicate directly with the audience, and to answer questions spontaneously, on their area of expertise, without investing further time in preparation in contrast to a Pecha Kucha evening (see Pecha Kucha and the Power of (saying) ‘Yes’).
Secondly, we decided to use Todaysmeet to source questions from the audience, because it is user friendly and has a good visual layout, and meant we did not need a person running around the huge auditorium with a microphone.
Lastly, as the panel members were all experienced conference presenters they understood that the aim of the evening event is to keep things light, fast-paced and informative.
Some tips for those of you who might want to use this format:
Set up the Todaysmeet room in advance, with a demonstration question, for example: ‘Why bother coming to ETAI when you could go to the beach instead?’JaneCohenEFL
Create a slide with instructions and a URL address to source great questions, and enable audience participation, as soon as they enter the auditorium.
As the convener, introduce your panel and then go straight to audience questions, otherwise you might expect some feedback like this:“Why bother asking us to write questions if you’re not gonna use them? Anonymous. Or: “Why bother asking us for questions when you’re using yours?” Anon
In order to keep the Q & A session fast paced, use a timer, and tell the plenary speakers that they have 2 or 3 minutes maximum to answer a given question. Note, I didn’t do this but would do next time.
If you want to remember any of the panel’s answers record the event, as it is really difficult to host and remember what was said. Again, I didn’t do this but definitely will next time as I missed out on so much personal learning.
Here is a sample of some of the questions sourced from the audience, and answered by the panel.
Why bother giving our students homework when we know they won’t do it anyway?
Why bother telling my friends how good ETAI conferences are when they never come?
Why bother trying to build up the school English library when kids don’t read books anymore?
Why bother teaching a 45 minute lesson when students can’t stay focused for that long?
Why bother travelling when we can meet online?
Why bother teaching Shakespeare when no one speaks that way anymore?
Why bother looking at research on ESL in the US
Why bother trying to get pupils to read books, they’ll never read enough books to really improve their English.
Why bother teaching English when they plagiarize and use Google translate and don’t understand what’s wrong with it?
Why bother correcting them on present perfect errors when there are more people in the world who use it incorrectly than those who do?
Why bother teaching vocabulary if the students can use electronic dictionaries?
Why bother going to IATEFL conferences abroad?
Why bother spending so much time with grammar when the goal is communication?
Why bother teaching them literary terms? Why not just deal with the message and the useful vocabulary?
Why bother using grammar books with gap-fill activities?
Why bother with spelling tests when our pupils will write e mails and use electronic notebooks in their future?
Why bother giving written feedback on student drafts when they do not bother correcting their work accordingly?
Why bother making kids read books when they don’t even read them in their own language?
Hosting the Pecha Kucha evening at the 7th International ETAI conference, 4-6 July 2016, provided me with the opportunity to source the international and local presenters, send them guidelines with a delivery deadline, and then review their presentations, to check they had met the criteria and had the automatic timings set correctly. The presenters in order of their presentations were:
When initially approached, some of the presenters immediately gave me an affirmative answer, “Yes, sure” or “Ok”, whilst others were more hesitant. One presenter wrote to me saying, “If truth be told, I’d forgotten that I’d allowed myself to be talked into doing a Pecha Kucha!!! I’d been thinking about chickening out, but …. hey why not! Another presenter stated, “At first I groaned – And then I thought about what I could do …. So, end of moan. I am happy to do something. Am I mad? Yes, I am.” The latter responses were similar to my own when Leo Selivan (Leoxicon) asked me to host the event. “I don’t think I can. I work full time. I’m studying etc.” I responded and then I stopped myself and thought – If Leo is asking me then he must believe I can do it, and in the words of Richard Branson, “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you are not sure you can do it, say yes. Then learn how to do it later.” This year’s team of courageous ELT presenters demonstrated that they also subscribe to the Branson philosophy, and as a result each of the presenters put themselves out there, and we, the audience, benefited from their experience and humour, and had a great time.
Giving a Pecha Kucha is different from being a plenary or keynote speaker, it seems to fall much more into the ‘edutainment’spere, and the pressure on the presenter to ‘perform’ is not insignificant. For the host, though, once the presenters have agreed to present and their presentations have been received and checked, all that is left to do is to choose the order of the presentations, upload them onto the computer in the auditorium, check the timings, and write some introductory notes about each speaker. There shouldn’t be any surprises.
However, on Tuesday 5 July, a few hours before the Pecha Kucha evening was due to start, I bumped into Mel Rosenberg and Andy Curtis, who told me that they had had an idea that they wanted to run by me. “Andy is going to do my Pecha Kucha, sight unseen. What do you think?” I looked at Andy and asked him, “Do you know what Mel’s Pecha Kucha is about?” “No, not a clue.” Andy responded. “Though it would be a great example of creativity, if I presented it without seeing it, don’t you think? Do we have your permission to do this crazy thing?” I thought to myself, Mel’s presentation is not clear to me, and I’ve seen the slides, so how is Andy going to present it? But then I thought, this could be an opportunity to do something different from the ‘traditional’ Pecha Kucha format. So I said, “Yes. I like the idea.” Andy looked a little surprised, as he hadn’t expected me to agree quite so quickly. And thus the first Pecha Kucha ‘Unseen Hack’ was born.
Video courtesy of @MelRosenberg
As teachers we are always putting our students on the spot in front of their peers, asking them questions, getting them to do presentations, prepare speeches and debates and complete numerous other language tasks, that many of them don’t feel comfortable doing. Our students usually have no choice but to say ‘yes’, as the task often forms part of their summative assessment. As teachers/ELT professionals we must be role models for our students, and also be willing to put ourselves ‘out there’ in front of our peers, even when we may feel uncomfortable about the request, because saying ‘yes’, can be both challenging and rewarding. In fact, Emily Liscom (Education to the Core) would go even further, and say that by using the word ‘Yes’, to our students more than the word ‘No’, we might be surprised to experience improved classroom management and teaching strategies.
Thank you to each of the six/seven presenters for saying ‘yes’, when I approached you – each of you were courageous and inspirational, and are great role models to other ELT professionals and students across the globe.
“What is a book? According to the Merriam Webster dictionary it is “a set of printed sheets of paper that are held together inside a cover.”
At this year’s ETAI winter event more than 50 English teachers were taken on a book discovery tour through the impressive National Library of Israel, in Jerusalem. The 120 year old library has a collection of more than 5,000,000 books, 2000 manuscripts, 700 personal archives and 30,000 hours of recordings which are available to the public, at no cost.
As a consequence of my experience I would like to share with you ’10 things I now know about the National Library of Israel’:
The map room houses the most significant Holy Land maps’ collection in the world
The Ardon Windows (pictured) represent Isaiah’s vision of eternal peace
The oldest book in the museum is a Koran, dating back to the ninth century
Israel’s ‘Book Law’ requires two copies of all printed matter published in Israel to be deposited in the national library
The museum is divided into 4 major collections: Judaica, Israel, Islam & the Middle East and the Humanities
Gershom Scholem loved to write notes in the margins of his books, which can be seen in the Gershom Scholem Library (comprising 35,000 items related to the Kabbalah, Jewish Mysticism and Hassidism)
‘Ephemeral’ means transient or short-lived
TheTime Travel and EuropeanEphemeralcollections are made up of letters, tickets, posters, postcards etc., and provide a rich resource of life and culture that can be used for engaging our students in the English classroom
The library has an educational partnership with the UK, available via an online site, and includes lesson plans and worksheets for use in British classrooms, which could be relevant to our English language classrooms in Israel
The National Library has a resource rich Facebook page in English which is regularly updated, and provides authentic materials for English teaching.
So why should English teachers teach with Primary Resources? Karen Ettinger, Project Manager for Education at the NLI, explained that primary resources are motivating, relevant, make use of authentic material, enable students to practice 21 century skills, exercise their critical thinking and research skills, whilst connecting them with their past. So if you want to do some, or all of the above I strongly recommend a trip, either physical or virtual, to the National Library of Israel.
Thank you to all of the National Library staff who took us on a journey which made me think differently about the role of the library in the English language classroom today.
It isn’t often that you get an opportunity to be present at the start of something new, something that has the power to change the way we think about teacher training, about the proficiency of non-native ELT teachers, and about the role and impact of research upon English teachers in the classroom. Today, at the ETAI pre-conference Teacher Training and Development, inaugural Special Interest Group, I was privileged to witness the start of a movement for change.
Dr. Lindsey Shapiro Steinberg, opened the day with questions regarding the recruiting of talent, and whether need necessitates compromise. What is a good ELT practitioner? What level of proficiency is required by English teachers? What is learning, and how is learning assessed? Following Dr. Shapiro Steinberg’s opening Dr. Debbie Lifshitz spoke about ‘Shaking Up the Israeli Conventions of Teacher Training.’ With statistics to demonstrate the challenges faced by Non-native English speaking teacher (NESTS) trainees, regarding proficiency at entry and exit of teacher training programmes, and the challenges that lay ahead. Dr. Lifshitz suggested that proficiency levels of NESTS are critical for teacher retention in the schools, in a system where teachers are aging, and more than 40% of newly qualified English teachers never even enter the school system upon graduation.
Following the morning presentation participants divided into 3 discussion groups, Proficiency, Methodology and Linguistics, and discussed changes that could be taken by each of these areas, to positively impact upon the proficiency of future NESTS . (Watch the ETAI website for a summary of each group’s suggestions.)
The afternoon session was expertly led by Professor Penny Ur who discussed ‘Research and the language teacher.’ Professor Ur asserted that “Research is not the main source of teacher knowledge, but it can enrich it.” She stated that it contributes to teaching in three ways by:
Producing evidence, that can be used to create practical principles for teaching
Providing new insights / information that would not have occurred to teachers otherwise
Contradicting inaccuracies in methodology or firmly held theoretical beliefs
Professor Ur provided numerous examples of why research is regarded so highly by the academia and ministries of education, and yet is often seen as trivial, irrelevant or impractical by teachers in the field. The sheer quantity of literature is overwhelming, and therefore needs to be read selectively and critically. Professor Ur suggested that if we want preset and inset teachers to read research there is a need for ‘mediators’, chiefly teacher trainers, who can mediate the research on their behalf.
The day closed with an open discussion led by Professor Penny Ur and a thirst for more discussion and dare I say, action. “Professional Development takes place through professional conversation.” Garton and Richards (2011) Today was truly a day of Professional Development at the inaugural Teacher Training & Development SIG.
Quizlet – for learning vocabulary items, lexical chunks, collocations and so much more.You can create a class, and sets of items (no more than 20 items is optimal), you can use synonyms, definitions or translate the terms ( supports most languages including Arabic), add images and even use it for comprehension tasks. It is easy to share with your students, and you can encourage them to make and share their sets. No need for students to sign up. See Sandy Millin‘s detailed guide here .
WhatsApp for creating class groups to share images, texts and recordings – this is the most important App of them all as all the URL addresses can be shared with your students via your class group.
Answergarden for brainstorming, checking students prior knowledge and getting short (20 characters) answers. No need for students to sign up.
Mentimeter for brainstorming, mind mapping, allows for longer answers. I like the visual features. No need for students to sign up.
Linoit – Collaborative board for sharing ideas, images and videos via sticky notes. Easy for students to use. IPhone users now need to download the app in advance to see the canvas (collaborative board), which is a recent and less convenient change. No need for Android students to sign up.
Photofuniafor creating fun posters, billboards and other images on Smarphones, using photos from the Smartphone gallery.
All of the apps in this post are free and have websites where you may feel more comfortable creating your language task than on your mobile device. You can then copy the URL address and make it tiny with goo.gl which generates a QR code, your students can then scan the code with a QR Code Reader app, which takes them straight to the task you have created for them.
When using Smartphones in the class always ensure that the use of the app meets the learning aims of the class, and that you have tried it yourself on a mobile device, and preferably get somebody else to try it too.
For those of you who attended my presentation Mobile learning – empowering teachers and engaging students here is the promised powerpoint presentation.
‘Engagement’ was one of the keywords that understandably cropped up again and again in presentations at this year’s IATEFL. This was also the conference where I transitioned from being more of a passive learner via Twitter (following other educators to learn about new ideas and tools) to an active learner/user.
As a consequence of actively tweeting from sessions I was engaging in the presentations in a new way. I found myself trying to summarise the speakers’ points and tweet concisely and interestingly. I was happy when people retweeted my tweets and found myself checking the #IATEFL hashtag to see what was hot or not, and what I had missed in other sessions.
One of the best Twitter experiences for me was when I finished my presentation on the last day of the conference and discovered to my joy that three people had been tweeting from my session. This felt like affirmation, that maybe I did have something worthwhile to say after all. I also wonder if my tweeting during the conference had led to people choosing to hear me speak when they could have gone to the IATEFL signature event with David Crystal, or one of the other 18 sessions that were running simultaneously.
A few thoughts and lessons learned:
Use relevant hashtags so that others can see your tweets, i.e. #IATEFL #ELT #edtech #eltchat
Look for the speaker’s Twitter account in advance of their presentation in order to include them in your tweets
RT – retweet tweets that you like, identify with and want to share
Thank others for tweeting from your sessions, and for retweeting your tweets
The conference continues well after it is over with the blog summaries being posted on twitter
As it is s so affirming when someone tweets from your sessions, why not tweet things your students say that will resonate with the rest of the class?
It is a great way to check students’ understanding of a lesson by asking them to tweet what they now know as a consequence of the lesson
Although only a couple of years ago Tweeting seemed to me to be abstract and not relevant to me as an educator, I am now a twitter convert. I have learned so much from following educators on twitter especially Edtech and #eltchat educators, that I can’t imagine what kind of educator I’d be without it.
Russell Stannard, creator of www.teachertrainingvideos.com, was this year’s British Council sponsored presenter. Russell started his hectic presenting schedule with a 90 minute workshop which focused on getting students speaking and developing their fluency through the use of digital tools. Russell started us off with a pair-work activity in the virtual classroom, set up by Russell, on TodaysMeet. We quickly joined the classroom and wrote our greetings to Russell before being asked to define the role of Learning Technologies in the classroom. We finished off with an activity for low level learners where we had to list all of the fruits we could think of. The fact that students don’t need to sign up to the site makes it immediately attractive for teachers. It is intuitive and easy to use and a cool tool for brainstorming. Russell went on to share with us a variety of tools that he has used over the years to encourage his students to speak both inside and outside of the classroom in a connected way: mailvu, vocaroo, Brainshark and presentMe. As always Russell’s energy had everybody excited about using this great audio visual tools. You can check out Russells presentation here.
‘M is for More and Making the Most’ was Russell Stannard’s talk on day one of the conference which focused on a variety of screen capture tools, and in particular JING. Russell described how these tools meet the needs of different learning styles. Russell shared examples of how he uses these tools to provide oral feedback to students on their presentations and written work. Russell has found the results to be very powerful as the combination of spoken feedback together with highlighted text, is more likely to be embedded by learners than traditional feedback methods. Russell has also used screen capture for teaching pronunciation. Russell gives a word list and then highlights the syllables to be emphasised, whilst adding his voice. A nice homework task is to get students to choose a picture of a famous person, JING it, and then record your voice describing the person. The JING lind can then be uploaded onto a class WIKI or blog or sent directly to the teacher. Russell demonstrated in Chinese (which he is currently learning) how even beginner students can provide oral information about themselves with screen capture. Russell typed on a word document: Tell me 3 things about yourself: Name; Job and the Languages you speak. Russell then JINGed it, recorded his speaking which he can then simly upload, or send it to his teacher. See Russell’s presentation here.
Russell Stannard gave the closing plenary ‘Where is Technology Taking Us? to a packed auditorium. Russell discussed how collaboration and communication are now the essential skills required by employers for new recruits in the 21st century workplace. Consequently teaching and learning needs to change to prepare learners to become lifelong learners, who will need to be autonomous. We need to prepare them to train, retrain and retrain again as new professions are constantly being created. This is particularly pertinent to language learning, as English is needed more and more as the global tool of communication. As teachers we need to think about how we can help our students become better learners, how we can encourage them to collaborate and work in teams and focus on problem solving on real world tasks. We need to look for ways to assist our students to make decisions about their own learning. Russell left us all with the desire for more. You can see Russell’s presentation here.
Leo Selivan, had his audience totally absorbed in his workshop ‘Not a word was spoken (but many were learned)’ Leo took his former film in the classroom workshops to a whole new level, with ‘Sound Off’ and ‘Vision Off’, ‘Split viewing’ and ‘Dictation’ techniques being radically upgraded through the use of silent movies and lots of pair/group work. Leo’s chose of short movies which provided language rich speaking opportunities, along with the given task of ‘commentating’ the movies, was both challenging and entertaining and pedagogically sound. Check out Leo’s handout here.
In ‘What Teen Learners Can Learn from Children’, Leo Selivan shared with us his passion for lexis. I loved the analogy of the ‘Biological Clock of the brain’, whereby our ability to learn languages decreases dramatically as we get older. This certainly rings true for me. Leo described Krashen’s model, whereby language can be acquired either implicitly or explicitly, where acquisition is defined as a subconscious process, similar to L1 learning, whereas in contrast learning is a conscious process and the result of formal instruction. Leo pointed out that child learners see language as a tool for communication in contrast to older learners who are aware of language as a phenomenon. Leo shared language research by Fillimore and Wray to demonstrate what older learners can learn from children. Leo concluded by telling us to start teaching with chunks and then try and accelerate the process of chunk learning, we should focus on probable language rather than possible language. You can see Leo’s presentation here.
Dr Carol Goldfus gave a riveting presentation, ‘The Brain and Music’ in which she described how teachers can use music to shape the brain and dramatically improve learning outcomes – “Teachers are’ after all the ultimate brain changers “they are in a profession of changing the human brain every day,” Sousa, 2010, p.23. Goldfus’ energetic statement, ‘We teach language, we do not teach the present simple because the present is not simple. We do not teach the present perfect because the present is far from perfect. We teach language,’ clarified even more forcefully for me why grammar should take the back seat in our classrooms. Goldfus explained that humans are not born with a reading a brain, but rather it is developed through good teaching. Goldfus suggested playing music at the beginning and end of a lesson and teaching in the middle. The reasoning for this is that by listening to music the frontal part of the brain is activated, it is this part of the brain that that is responsible for planning and spoken language. Goldfus asserted that by listening to music we are naturally rewiring the brain. Classical music can be used as an intervention tool for teaching. It provides an excellent model for organizational and rule-governed behaviour. Goldfus asserted that the goals of listening to music in the language classroom are:
1. To develop sensitivity to organizational and rule-governed language
2. To develop timing, sequentiality and fluency
3. To develop word meaning and store the information in the brain
The audience left the room with a strong awareness of the power of music and our power as humans to rewire our own brains, and to assist our students to do so too.
For details of my own PCE Think mobile! Think more! workshop you can read my post here.
At my workshop on Monday’s PCE in Jerusalem I discussed the issues raised in this article Why apps and smartphones are the future for education. I showed teachers a number of ways that they can integrate smartphones and mobile devices into their language lesson to engage and motivate even the most reluctant learners.
Want to get your students speaking and writing more in English,
and motivated and excited about their homework? In this
hands-on workshop you will learn how to integrate mobile
technology, Web 2.0 tools and a few simple thinking routines
into your lessons and homework tasks, and engage even the
most reluctant learners.