Over 700 enthusiastic teachers from all over Europe attended the ACEIA 2016 conference in Seville on Saturday 12 November.
Under the banner ‘Creative Minds Inspire,’ the event was headlined by Pearson’s Antonia Clare, one of the award-winning authors of Speakout 2nd edition, with her inspirational plenary session ‘Language, Learning and the Creative Mind.’ Antonia examined the ways in which learning a language is in itself such an inherently creative task and looked at how to engender creativity, both on the part of the learner but also on the part of the teacher.
Teaching English to teenagers can be frustrating and fulfilling in equal measure. They can be full of energy and ideas that add a real buzz to the class, but they can also be sullen, self-conscious, reluctant to work together and difficult to engage. However, if you approach lessons with teenagers with the right ideas, materials and tricks of the trade, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be a great success.
Here’s our list of indispensable teaching skills for working with teens:
***Do group project work***
Group projects come in all shapes and sizes and work well with teenagers. They increase motivation, promote learner autonomy, have clear, achievable objectives, involve all four language skills, and can be managed in a way that lets everyone in the group take on a role that’s best suited to them. They also make a welcome break from routine and can be run over several classes, with a section of each lesson allocated to them. You’ll find plenty of examples of project workhereandhere. Continue reading →
Using videos in lessons is nothing new for most teachers, but what if there were an easy-to-use tool which insured active listening over passive and were able to provide assessment for learning, gauging understanding and informing future lessons? Enter EDpuzzle.
EDpuzzle is a free online video editing site, allowing users to manipulate content available on the web or indeed upload personal videos for editing. Its first key feature is the ability to crop videos: no more waiting around for your internet to load 11:44 or telling your pupils to “Listen, there’s an important part coming up!” So far, so simple.
It might come as a surprise to speakers of global languages such as English and Spanish, but there are in fact more bilingual and multilingual people on the planet than monolingual ones. In some regions, such as Africa, where most people speak the national language as well as their own indigenous language, bilingualism is the norm. Whether you’ve grown up speaking two languages or are learning your second one later in life, there are numerous benefits to being bilingual that go far beyond being able to order a beer and ask for directions while travelling abroad. Let’s look at some of them here. Continue reading →
Sometimes I feel like a treasure hunter when I travel. There are amazing educational jewels hidden in schools, and I love to find them.
It goes something like this: You visit a school and start to talk to a teacher or a headteacher. Nothing out of the ordinary so far. A normal school in a normal town. But suddenly you hear them say something that catches your attention, like the glimmer of a shiny jewel. Just follow it, ask the appropiate questions and…there it is!
A while ago I found one of these gems in a school called Betania-Patmos located in Barcelona. They had been asked by the regional governtment what kind of profile a teacher needs in this global era, but they didn’t rush to write down hasty conclusions as teachers. They did something smarter. They turned this into a task for their last year high school pupils. This is what they told them:
“Imagine you work in human resources and you have to hire a teacher. What profile would you be looking for?”
And those teenagers (you know, the ones everyone describes as being “lost”) worked in teams for a week, and then presented 11 ideas that demonstrate they might not be the ones who are lost after all, but the ones looking for someone who isn’t.
11 ideas about the Teacher profile required for a global era.
Recruiters: Last year High school students.
This first set of requirements had complete consensus amongst the group.
1.- Teachers commited to helping their pupils, who care for them, are close to them, and instill confidence through respect and generosity.
2.- Teachers with a deep, broad and up-to-date knowledge of their subject area.
3.- Teachers that can express themselves clearly and make themselves understood using structured methods.. Good communicators balanced and mentally organized
4.- Teachers that exude emotion about what they are explaining, and are enthusiastic and passionate about their subject and respectful of other disciplines.
Requirements with a very high level of consensus
5.- Teachers who have mastered different types of learning – from paper to the latest generation of technologies (drawing, writing, sound, image, and mixed media), following the idea of introduction not substitution.
6.- Teachers who have mastered different languages, with English being considered absolutely necessary.
7.- Teachers that teach critical thinking and promote alternative ways of doing things.
8.- Teachers with patience, modesty, energy and coherence.
9.- Teachers that promote participation, interactivity and practice.
10- Fun teachers, with a sense of humour that can make teaching and learning a pleasure.
Requirements sine qua non:
11.- Teachers that are punctual and don’t miss classes.
The first time that I read this I was struck by two things:
– When a teenager says that he is looking for someone stable and mentally organized…it makes you think about what he has seen
– Technology appears in a discreet second place. First people, then gadgets.
So, as you can see here, our youth are just looking for a stable reference in a confusing world. They are looking for educators that can teach their mind and their soul, someone who can maintain the essence of the educational experience even when all the elements keep changing. Because essencially our young generation is alone and we are letting them grow up alone with no tribe to guide them.
As usual Mafalda said it first and better: “Educating is harder than teaching. To teach you need to know, to educate you need to be” .
Ian Wood’s visit to Spain last week was not only a wonderful opportunity for him to get the message out about changes to the Cambridge exams. At our Madrid and Seville events he also did us the added favor of looking at teenagers, teenage brains and exams with this thought-provoking talk:
Click on image to download
The teen brain is a topic which I’ve written about before, and so it was great to be able to follow up his talk with one of my own, Helping students help themselves with assessment. It focused on implementing technology via the SAMR model to foster a Blended learning approach in exam preparation courses by giving students more autonomy and protagonism.
At the center of both of our talks was an emphasis on the teen learner as a doer actively constructing their own learning in a social context which is relevant to them. Voice, choice, grouping, creativity and personalization were words that really jumped out at me on slides 18 and 19 of Ian’s presentation, for example. And when he spoke about using media teens relate to, like texting for practicing writing skills, it really resonated with me as it is also similar to something I’ve been thinking about recently.
I know I speak for both of us when I say we sincerely enjoyed giving these talks and getting a chance to meet and speak to many of the teachers who came out to see us. Thank you for all the energy and good vibes!
I have to admit that I spend a huge amount of time browsing the web searching for resources and trying to be as up-to-date as possible. And while diving into educational sites, you can read a lot of grandiose statements about children – about what they like and how they learn, sometimes written by non-teachers far away from the reality of the classroom, or, as the Pope says ” Lots of shepherds not living with the smell of sheep”
And…you know what? I feel a kind of sadness when I read statements such as:
“All children are bored in schools”.
“Children don’t like books anymore”.
“Poor children! They have to listen to their teachers”.
“Children learn like this, children like that….”
Most of the time, those statements are not based on serious research or real experiences but on general prejudices, not respecting the wide range of children’s personalities and interests.
The fact is that after more than 15 years of teaching I have to say that:
– Children usually love going to school since it’s their universe.
– They like to have books because they love to have something of their own and books can also facilitate those intrapersonal moments that every human being needs. I believe in complementation not in substitution. Books and technology can live together.
– They also love to listen and talk to people who care and who listen to them. As Rita Pierson makes clear in her passionate TED Talk: “Children don’t learn from people they don’t like” since learning flourishes from interactions and relationships. Innovation should always start from there.
We talk a lot about innovation and about thinking outside the box, but sometimes innovation could be easily found by looking carefully inside the box and listening more to our children. Once, a great principal from a great school told me: Nowadays, great teachers speak a little, listen a lot and reflect on that all the time.
I’ve also learned that encouraging students to reflect on their own behaviour, feelings or knowledge, and making these thoughts visible by expressing them in a logical and coherent way helps to structure their minds and to interiorise their own learning.
So, that’s the reason why a while ago, we decided to interview young students asking things such as: How do you learn English? What do you think about the material you use in class? How do technology and videogames help you? How do you solve problems?
I asked Pedro Fernandez (colleague and friend) for some help, and he presented his 5th grade pupils the following task:
He told them that we needed their help so as to improve our materials. We wanted them to think and reflect on their own learning and explain it in their own words. We made clear that there wasn’t a right or a wrong answer, we just wanted to know their point of view. They had 2 days to reflect on it before the day of the recording.
The day of the recording we just made sure that they felt comfortable enough so they could speak freely and then we pushed the record button and just listened to them.
Children have a lot to say. They should be listened to more often
The UK’s largest teachers’ union, the NASUWT, released the results of a survey which showed that fully one in five of its members have been the targets of “adverse comments” by both pupils and parents on social networking sites. The nature of the comments was sometimes so severe as to impair the ability of the teachers to do their job adequately.
Amazingly “fewer than half of [the] incidents were reported to the school or the police” leading union officials to call out for “clearer sanctions” against those taking part in such abusive behaviour and “a better system for removing offensive material from websites.” Certainly you are going to find few people arguing with such measures, not only in light of the serious nature of the behaviour but also because of how commonplace it seems to be.
Still, my concerns go beyond what such punitive, after-the-fact steps will ever be able to remedy. I worry that social media itself will be further demonized while the root problem, namely how we speak to each other, will continue to be ignored.
Social media and similar online communications tools hold huge potential for learning. They give students, teachers, parents and institutions the ability to engage openly with one another outside of the physical class space and underscore learning as a social activity in the broader community. Knowing how to use these tools is becoming vital to the way we interact with one another and solve problems together.
As a language teacher I tried to make clear in my last post that it is not the tools we use to speak to one another, but the content of the conversations and the rules and considerations we take into account when interacting that need to be given centre stage. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram aren’t going away whether we like it or not. It is imperative that we give our learners the communications skills they need to have respectful, constructive conversations be they face to face or online.
Punishing behaviour which does not conform to socially established rules is often necessary, but we first need to establish clearly what those rules are. And in this rapidly changing world that is the kind of conversation that teachers, schools, students and parents need to be having.
Mario Herrera is the author and co-author of many acclaimed ESL/EFL series that are used in levels ranging from pre-primary to junior high schools. As an international consultant and teacher trainer, Mr. Herrera travels the globe, directing seminars and delivering professional development workshops throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia…and we have had the enomous privilege to talk with him after his BIG conference in Madrid.
Thank you Mario, it was a pleasure to learn from such an experienced traveller, you gave us one of the biggest learning journeys!