Life in the 21st century | An image-based lesson

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Here’s the third assignment from the ITDI course I did a couple of months ago on Creating ELT Materials with Katherine Bilsborough. We were asked to design materials around an image or images. I created some activities around three public domain images from the late 19th century. At the turn of the century, several French artists imagined what life in the 21st century would be like and they came up with some pretty fanciful images. The materials I designed focus on grammar – and a somewhat obscure but useful grammar point –  ‘future in the past’ structures with some speaking activities. My  favourite is image 1!

Have you ever used public domain images to develop materials?

 

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Spin to win | A verbing game with ‘body parts’

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In July, I did an ITDI course with Katherine Bilsborough on Creating ELT Materials. I plan to write a longer post about the experience at some point. In the meanwhile, you can have a look at this summary by Geraldine who was also on the course. Over the next couple of weeks, I plan to share the materials I designed for the course’s assignments.

Here’s my first one … well it’s actually the fourth and last assignment. Interestingly, it was the simplest (at least from my perspective) and the one that I spent the least time on.

Katherine asked us to create a game or a puzzle for this assignment.  Spin to win – the game I designed introduces Business English learners to idioms that use parts of the body as verbs in a process that’s called verbing. But I reckon you could could tweak it a bit and use it for other contexts because not all the idioms are necessarily businessy. You’ll find teacher notes on page 4. Let me know what you think!

 

Upcoming webinars for ELT educators | Sep & Oct 2018

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Here are some webinars to keep you busy over the next two months! I’m especially curious about this new ‘What about …’ series from MAWSIG. There are also a couple of interesting ones from Oxford and National Geographic. I’ll keep updating the list if I come across any others. Do let me know if I’ve missed any.

An asterisk (*) means that you’ll need to register to attend.

Business English & ESP

CLIL

Materials writing

Large classes

Learner autonomy

Technology

Testing

Young learner

Other topics

Image attribution: Photo by Dillon Shook on Unsplash

An allegorical map of teaching | A reflection activity

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In the 18th and 19th centuries, allegorical maps of love, courtship and marriage were very popular. Here’s a map of matrimony.

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You’ll find some more examples here. In this reflection activity, participants create their own allegorical map of teaching.

Objective

  • To encourage teachers to reflect on how they see teaching as a practice and a profession.

Materials

  • An example of a historical allegorical map (they’re all in the public domain) or perhaps one that you’ve drawn.

Procedure

  • Show an example of an allegorical map such as the one above.
  • Ask participants to draw and label their own allegorical maps of teaching.
  • Encourage participants to share their maps with each other and compare similarities and difference.
  • Get them to reflect on why their maps look the way they do and if they would want their maps to look different.

Extended reflection 

  • Ask participants to take pictures of their maps and revisit them after 3 months or 6 months. Are there any new islands or terrain they’d like to add to their maps? What do these represent? How did these changes come about?

NB: This activity hasn’t been road tested yet. I did create my own allegorical map – I’m not sure I’m ready to share it yet. It’s turned out a bit dark – something for me to reflect on?!

5 minutes of Feedly | EFLtalks

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I did a 10×10 (10 slides over 10 minutes) presentation at yesterday’s EFLtalks Business event. It was a lot of fun and some of the other speakers were very interesting. I particularly enjoyed Rob Szabo and Pete Sharma’s talks.

I talked about how I use a news aggregator app called Feedly with Business English and ESP learners. I work with a lot of professionals from technology and consulting organisations in India. A recurring need they experience is engaging in small talk with their global stakeholders because their conversations tend to be extremely transactional – focused almost solely on project deliverables.

The EFL perception of small talk is that it’s about things like the weather and the weekend. But in business in general and in consulting in particular, small talk is often about what’s happening in your industry. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate your credibility and expertise, develop a good working relationship and potentially deepen customer accounts because you might be able to cross-sell services in future. So, there are clearly benefits to this kind of small talk to both the individual and the organisation.

My learners find talking about what’s happening in their industry and the business world challenging because they rarely read. Continuing professional development doesn’t exist and information flows in a top down manner in training programmes and through communication from leadership. They’re often subscribed to role-based emails that curate articles but these tend to be full of internal thought leadership (read propaganda) which can give people a flawed view of developments in their sector.

Feedly aggregates updates from different sites. So once you’ve done the initial legwork of populating and organising your ‘feeds’, it becomes an easy way of reviewing what’s happening in your industry as well as parallel sectors. In this presentation, I’ve suggested some activities using Feedly which mirror the sorts of tasks people do at work. By incorporating tasks that get learners to use Feedly on their phones or laptops, they develop the habit of staying on top what’s happening in the business world in a way that’s quick and efficient.

Here’s a slightly modified version of the presentation I used for the EFLTalks Business event.

You can find out more about EFLtalks from its site (it’s temporarily offline), its YouTube channel and Facebook group.  Alternatively, you could also connect with its founder, Rob Howard.

Life after CELTA | An interview with Parvathy Nair

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I think I am up to any challenge the classroom has to offer.

Here’s the next installment in my Life after CELTA series in which I attempt to document the professional journeys of Indian CELTA trainees. Parvathy Nair did the CELTA in Mumbai exactly a year ago. I was interested in catching up with her because in many ways, she represents how many trainees on the CELTA in India differ from those on courses elsewhere. The CELTA might be a pre-service course in other countries but in India, it tends to be a mid-career course that teachers do as a way of reinvigorating themselves professionally or finding new directions in their teaching careers.

Parvathy came to the CELTA, having taught school-level English in Pune for many years. I was curious about what she hoped to get out of the course as an experienced teacher of English and what kind of impact, if any, it’s had on her teaching practice.


What sort of work were you doing before the CELTA? 

I was teaching as a primary teacher in a CBSE School in Pune, when I took a month-long break for my CELTA. And now I am the Head of the Department.

What motivated you to do the course?

I did not have a certification that qualified me as a language teacher. Specialising in English for my B.Ed. did not help me in any way either. The B.Ed. was more about the philosophies of education proposed by the various thinkers and educators of modern India and there was little about language teaching. I felt it was high time I learnt the pedagogy of language teaching. And CELTA fit the bill.

What do your employers/colleagues know about the CELTA? 

When I told my employers about the course, they asked me why I wanted to do it – a reaction that probably stems from the comfort zones that the teaching fraternity often operates out of. I had to convince them that this certification was important for my personal and professional development. But a couple of my colleagues who had taught in international schools knew about the CELTA.

What kind of impact did the course have on your approach to teaching?  

Pre-CELTA, I was in an ‘ignorance is bliss’ mode, and thought that the techniques that I was using were the most appropriate. But once I completed the course, I discovered multiple approaches to teaching language. While the CELTA, by definition, is targeted at teaching adults, my experience over the last year has been that it works wonderfully for young learners as well.

What kind of impact has it had more generally on your professional life? 

I have become a very confident teacher. And I think I am up to any challenge the classroom has to offer. I never thought I had it in me to teach a class that comprised a visually impaired child, children with learning disabilities, first-generation English learners and children with conventional needs, all at the same time.

Have you had opportunities to apply what you’d learnt outside your regular school context? 

Yes, I have been fortunate enough to apply it in the curriculum that I am designing for the RTE students. These are first-generation English learners without much access to learning resources and are typically from economically challenged backgrounds. While they attend their regular classes during school hours; two days in a week are dedicated to language learning under my supervision. I used my CELTA learning experience to design the approach used on this course.

Many newly CELTA-qualified teachers in India would like to work with schools but find this challenging without a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.), existing experience teaching at a school, and/or lack of awareness among school administrators about the CELTA. What advice would you give them?  

If a teacher intends to teach in an ICSE, CBSE or State Board school, a B.Ed. is a must. These schools do not see the CELTA as a recommended qualification, but just an additional self-development course. The CELTA does not impact your pay scale and does not offer job security either. A B.Ed. on the other hand ensures a salary as per the prescribed government pay scale and also secures your job (unless the school flouts the government-laid rules and regulations). The IB and IGCSE schools though, do not have B.Ed. as a prerequisite, as the affiliations are not based out of India. But these schools are far fewer in number and do not cater to the larger population either.

CELTA course administrators will have to work with policy makers, government and schools to emphasise the importance of this certification. Until such time, B.Ed. will remain a prerequisite.

What are your plans for continuing professional development?

There are two courses that I would like to take up in the future – an M.A. in English Language Teaching and short course on the history of English.

Where to next? 

At least for the next two years I intend to continue in the same school.

In India, we get a lot of trainees, who like you, come to the CELTA with many years of teaching experience. What suggestions do you have for experienced teachers who intend to do the CELTA? 

Unlearning is, as much a part of learning and one should have an open mind. I would leave it at that.


Parvathy blogs at The Nomadic Gene although it’s not strictly ELT focused. You can also connect with her on Instagram. She’s a talented poet and I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing a link to ‘I sent the horses back home’ which she wrote in response to the sexual assault and murder of an 8 year old girl in Southern Kashmir last year. 

Going paperless with OneNote

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Over the weekend, I presented at a professional development event in Chennai – Perspectives in Business English Training – hosted by ELTAI BESIG and Ethiraj College. We had Evan Frendo from IATEFL BESIG as our keynote speaker. Here’s a summary of my presentation on going paperless with OneNote.


I started exploring OneNote a few years ago in response to some conclusions I arrived at after reflecting on my ESP courses.

  • We use too much paper in Business English and ESP courses: the difference between the volume of paper handouts we use and the amount of paper that’s used in a large digitally driven organisation has only become more pronounced over the years. I recall walking past a series of meeting rooms with glass walls to the one that I was training in at the end of the corridor for an in-company workshop. All the other rooms were filled with people busy on their laptops, smartphones and at the whiteboard. I don’t think there was a single piece of paper in any of them. My room was the only one swamped by paper handouts.
  • Our courses don’t reflect the realities of the workplace and workplace communication: whether it’s in terms of the amount of paper we use, or the limited way in which we use technology, Business English and ESP courses are often divorced from how communication occurs in the workplace. Evan Frendo in a BESIG webinar once spoke about the tendency for teachers to ask students to stand and deliver presentations when the great majority of presentations at work are delivered sitting down and often over the phone.
  • Even millenials or digital natives need support with using technology meaningfully and resourcefully at work: we assume that young people are on top of tech. This isn’t necessarily true particularly when it comes to mapping the affordances of digital tools that are available at work to their communicative needs.
  • Texts within courses and training programs don’t reflect the multimodal nature of texts at work: coursebook texts are quite different than the range of texts that working professionals encounter which include multiple genres within a single text type, data, images, infographics, video, audio, hyperlinks, embedded social media, all of which are underscored by intertextuality (how texts connect and speak to each other).
  • Written tasks at work are often collaborative but written tasks in the classroom are usually done individually: I can’t generalize and say this is true for everyone. Certainly, when I think of a typical email writing task on my courses, I don’t usually set it up as pair or group work. But even emails are often written collaboratively by teams in meetings – not to mention other sorts of documents such as presentations, proposals and reports which often have multiple authors.

But it was a specific event that led me to OneNote. Four years ago, I was teaching a course that focused on improving communication in meetings and it also included some on-the-job coaching. One of the outcomes we focused on was getting learners to produce useful minutes/notes during the meeting. I got them to watch a lot of videos and participate in simulations, and write up minutes on flipcharts with colourful markers. By the end of the course, the walls of the room were covered with rainbow coloured ‘minutes’ in large writing. I was feeling very pleased with myself.

Later that week I found myself observing a meeting with three of these learners. It also included some attendees who’d joined in telephonically as well as a client who’d been dialed in. Interestingly, all three of my learners were taking notes in different ways. The first was using the Notepad application on his laptop. Notepad has no text wrap or formatting so he was essentially writing one long sentence across his screen. The second learner had an Outlook message open and he was typing the notes directly as an email. He even had all the attendees’ and the client’s email addresses filled in the To: field; presumably to send the notes the minute the meeting got over. The third learner didn’t have his laptop with him. Instead, he was writing in a physical notebook. Halfway through the meeting, the second learner suddenly put up his hands and started to apologise profusely – he’d accidentally sent the email with half-written barely understandable notes to everyone. He then went to his Sent items folder and opened the message, and started writing in it again! And all this while, his colleagues continued to make their own notes and the other virtual attendees were conceivably making their own notes.

I saw a need and a opportunity – and a definite gap in the way I was approaching course design and delivery. I needed to

  • Make in-class tasks more authentic
  • Mirror real life tech use
  • Build digital literacy along with language and soft skills
  • Allow for collaboration
  • Reflect the multimodal nature of work.

My research took me to OneNote, a relatively unknown application in the Microsoft suite. OneNote comes bundled with Microsoft Office which means a lot of people already have access to a licensed version without realising it. It’s certainly on most work systems that have Microsoft Office. OneNote also has a free app for mobiles and tablets although it restricts you to a maximum of 500 notes.

Initially, I only focused on getting my learners to use OneNote to take meeting notes. But I soon discovered what a versatile tool it is. It lets you record audio, draw, research, organise, and collaborate among other things. One of my favourite features is Insert stickers which lets you personalize stickers and use them to give quick feedback for written work. I also like the web-clipper which is a button that gets added to your browser and is an easy way to collect links, articles etc. This can be really useful for web quests with a bit of learner training. The best part is that it’s easy to share a Notebook with your learners and get them to work collaboratively on it either using the OneNote mobile app or on their laptops.

You’ll find more ideas in this presentation which is a slightly modified version of the slides I used for the session.

OneNote also has an additional Class Notebook add-in which is specifically designed for education with lots of useful tools. Unfortunately, this version is only available for people who have Microsoft Office for Education which in turn is only available to those in the formal education sector.