ACEIA 2016, Seville: a resounding success!

Over 700 enthusiastic teachers from all over Europe attended the ACEIA 2016 conference in Seville on Saturday 12 November.

Antonia plenary

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.

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Looking for a lesson idea? Try Cockney Rhyming Slang!

Bus London - Cockney Rhyming Slang

Would you Adam and Eve it? The trouble and strife’s on the custard and jelly!

To the uninitiated, and almost certainly to most Americans, such a phrase sounds like gibberish, but your average Brit would understand the expression of disbelief (Adam and Eve: believe) that his wife (trouble and strife) was on the telly (custard and jelly), slang in itself for TV. Welcome to the world of Cockney Rhyming Slang!

Where is Cockney Rhyming Slang from and how does it work? Continue reading

Famous English teachers

Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte Bronte

Picture the scene. You’re teaching a class of rowdy eleven and twelve year-olds, trying desperately to elicit some vocabulary or practise a grammar point. New to young learner classes, you haven’t quite got a handle on discipline yet and are worried that the restlessness bubbling away in front of you might at any second boil over into chaos. Left to their own devices – for example, should you to need dash off to the staff room for a set of photocopies – you’re worried your charges will run amok, un-taming the classroom and turning it into something out of Lord of the Flies. You might, at just such a moment, be sorely tempted to change career. If so, then there’s a veritable list of former English teachers in whose footsteps you might want to follow. One of them was the author of Lord of the Flies himself, William Golding. It was his experience of teaching English to unruly boys at an all-boys school in Salisbury, England, combined with the horrors he had witnessed in the Second World War, which inspired him to write his famous dystopian novel. Continue reading

Achieving universal primary education

IMG_3822 (1)In the year 2000, the United Nations Millennium Summit established eight goals for improving the lives of the millions around the world suffering poverty, hunger, disease and the effects of environmental degradation. Thousands of NGOs and civil society organisations took part in the process that drew up these Millennium Development Goals, and every single UN member nation (189 at the time) committed to achieving them by 2015.

Goal 2 was to ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.

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To La Rioja with love :)

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of collaborating with La Rioja region.

The Department of Educational Innovation has included a blended course of CLIL methodology addressed to all the teachers interested in implementing bilingualism in their classes (or already implementing it!). Continue reading

Phonics, Reading & Technology

A month ago I had the chance to attend to a great training session delivered by Jude Edwards at Alloha College, in Marbella. Everything she explained was so interesting that I really wanted her to share it with as many teachers as possible. So, it’s a pleasure for me to introduce Jude and all her experience to you. I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

About her:

My name is Jude Edwards. I teach children and teachers. I’ve spent a lot of years in the primary classroom teaching all ages from 4 to 12. I’ve also had a number of years in school management and leadership.

More recently I’ve been providing continual professional development to primary teachers in Maths, Literacy and Special Needs.

Learning Journeys: Why did you start to use phonics in your class?

Jude Edwards: British teachers were advised by the government to use a programme called ‘Letters and Sounds’. The government listed all the phonemes (sounds) that children should start to learn when they come into reception class at the age of four or five. Some teachers teach directly from this list and improvise ways to help make it interesting and relevant for children. Other teachers use phonics teaching schemes such as Phonics Bug – so that the hard work is done for them!

LJ: When do you think it’s the best age to start with phonics and why? (in Spain people start very early, since they use phonics more for pronunciation than for reading)

JE: I think it makes sense for children to learn phonics from their first days in school. Letter sounds are going to be more useful for them in the beginning than letter names.

 LJ: Have you got non-native speakers in your classes? and if so, how can phonics help them?

JE: Phonics is an enormous help to those with English as a second language. What teachers are really doing in phonics sessions is teaching pupils how to turn symbols into sounds and sounds into symbols (i.e. graphemes to phonemes and phonemes to graphemes). In a recent lesson with seven year olds, I had pupils explore how the sound /ai/ can be spelt; they came up with ‘ai’ ‘a’ ‘ay’ ‘a-e’ ‘eigh’  ‘aigh’ ‘ey’ and ‘ei’ …. And of course they were correct!

 LJ: Why synthetic phonics?

JE: The word synthetic comes from the word to ‘synthesize’ – meaning to blend different parts together. That’s exactly what we want children to be able to do; to blend phonemes together when reading and to separate or segment them to spell.

 LJ: What other methods do you use in class to complement the reading and literacy skills?

JE: The obvious strategies, such as contextual and syntactical, plus of course reading for meaning and enjoyment. When teaching early readers I also anticipate which ‘tricky words’ they are going to come across before they start reading the pages. We do a little bit of work on these words first so that it doesn’t put them off when they’re in the flow of the text or story.

 LJ: How do you work on phonics awareness in your classes?

JE: Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. Before children learn to read print, they need to become more aware of how the sounds in words work. Therefore it’s important to spend time segmenting words  – taking a word apart by listening to the individual phonemes that it’s made up of. And then it’s important to do the opposite, to spend time blending – hearing different phonemes and combining them into a word. In the early weeks of school this involves lots of aural and oral work, tapping and clapping sounds and using memory aids such as those found in Jolly Phonics and the more modern video clips found in Phonics Bug.

Later on in their phonemic development, children are introduced to graphemes, which is just a way of writing sounds down. I like to let my pupils experiment with graphemes, perhaps using magnetic letters or on an IWB so that they are ‘spelling sounds’. Sometimes those graphemes are one letter, and sometimes they are digraphs, tri-graphs or even quad-graphs!  I like children to be as confident turning sounds into symbols (phonemes into graphemes) as they are turning symbols into sounds (graphemes to phonemes). This is what we call letter sound correspondence.

LJ: Do you think technology helps when learning phonics?

JE: Yes definitely. Even children as young as four can appreciate quality visuals and sound clips. Technology really helps to embed learning and to ensure that what is taught stays taught!

LJ: Tell us about the results that you have noticed in your class.

JE: When phonics is taught well and pupils are engaged with the learning, their new knowledge becomes an extremely effective springboard for future literacy tasks. We must remember that good phonetic knowledge equips us to spell as well as to read. Children who miss out on quality phonics teaching will not achieve to the same extent in literacy as children who do receive it.

LJ: How do you guide families on how they can support their children if they are not aware of phonics

JE: I would suggest they talk to their children about sounds and have some fun ‘spelling sounds’. For example, the phoneme /ur/ can be found in ‘church’ ‘bird’ ‘work’ and ‘sister’ but in all of these words the /ur/ sound is spelt differently! They could then extend older or more able children with the /ur/sound found in ‘learn’ ‘journey’ and ‘were’!  Families could even have little charts up on their walls showing ways to spell different phonemes. Of course, parents can also invest in educational materials but the most important thing is to talk about letter sound correspondences and have fun exploring them.

 LJ: I loved the beans and sausages idea, could you explain it a bit?

JE: First of all you have to open a tin of Heinz Beans & Sausages if this is going to make any sense!

When phonemes are written down as graphemes and combined into a word, it is sometimes helpful to identify the sounds within that spelling. For example; ‘brown’ is made up of b + r + ow + n. That’s 4 phonemes and 4 graphemes. If I were to draw marks under the letters to identify the phonemes, I would have a bean (or dot) for b, a bean for r, a sausage (or dash) for ow, because it’s a digraph, and a bean for n!

Get it?!

Therefore:   ‘ mat ’ would be bean, bean, bean for (m+a+t)

‘stick’ would be bean, bean, bean, sausage for (s+t+i+ck)

‘chip’ would be sausage, bean, bean for (ch+i+p)

LJ: Thanks a lot Jude!

         ŸŸ

 

 

11 ideas about the teacher profile

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” .

 

 

Big trends in ELT by Mario Herrera

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!

We hope that you like it as much as we did!

Social context, not just tech with teens

A few days ago,  I looked at why it’s important for us not only to teach our teenage students good English, but to do this while stressing higher order 21st Century skills at the same time.  Because adolescents’ brains are undergoing enormous changes in the pre-frontal cortex they are particularly receptive to work done on these social skills which are so vital to their future success as confident individuals who can work well with others.

Today I want to talk about how this impacts on the way we use technology with our learners.  And what I would like to suggest is that the most productive lessons on the use of technology for our teens (and maybe for us as teachers as well) actually have very little to do with technology per se, and a whole lot more with our awareness of  the social context in which we use it.

A particularly interesting model for the evaluation of technology use which was developed by Ruben R. Puentedura in 2011 called the SAMR model might be instructive here.  If you’re interested you can hear him speaking about it in this video, but let’s just quickly deconstruct the acronym to get an idea of what it’s all about.

Puentedura divides uses of technology into those which merely enhance the way you carry out learning tasks and those which truly transform those tasks and the learning process leading to improved outcomes.

Enhancement is represented by the letters S (Substitution) and A (Augmentation) of the acronym.  An example of substituting a technological tool for an existing one might be using a word processor instead of pencil and paper, or sending your teacher your work via e-mail instead of handing it in.  It’s kind of nice, but it brings little new to the table.  Augmentation goes a step further and the student might start to use some of the improved functionality of the word processor to format the document differently, add media or use a spell-checker, for example.  If you notice, what the students are adding to the task in both of these cases are mostly technical elements.

But ultimately I think students can do many of these things on their own.  What really interests me are the M and the R – the ways we can transform learning with technology.  Puentedura identifies these as Modification, where you can significantly re-design a task using technology, and Redefinition, where students are going beyond what was before possible, being empowered to employ the technology to carry out tasks which have never before been undertaken.  Obviously this level of outcome is precisely what we should want our students to aspire to as it impacts not only on their individual development, but ultimately on how innovative our society as a whole can become.

Putting aside what a truly transformative task might look like for a moment ,there does seem to be a great deal of agreement about the kinds of skills that are required to make them work.  In contrast to the almost purely technical skills required to carry out substitutional uses of technology, Transformation, as I read it, can only take place if higher order, 21st Century skills are thrown into the mix.

For Modification and Redefinition to occur we need to have prosumeristically-minded students who are able to collaborate with others, organizing information by applying critical-thinking , sharing it in an appropriate way which will impact positively on continued debate and stimulating future contributions by others.  In short we are asking for nothing less than to have them lend a hand in building up this vast shared construct we call human knowledge.

And this is where the teacher comes in.  When you think about it there is nothing particularly 21st Century about 21st Century Skills.  Were Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity unheard of before 2001?  Of course not, but they have once again been put center-stage by a society which has seen an explosion of internet-based tools which demand a new understanding of these skills in a new context.  And the role of the teacher is to help our students transfer existing analog skills to a new digital and increasingly hyper-linked landscape.  But the trick is to see them more as social than technical aptitudes.

Take a Google doc.  It’s a fantastic tool for pushing our students in this direction – a shared document which lends itself to collaboration, shared insight, group editing and, hopefully, sharing or publishing – the ultimate in empowerment.  But when you open up a document it is still nothing more than a blank page.

Students are likely have the technical know-how to deal with all its bells and whistles, but how many really know how to work productively on a project with their colleagues?  How many have the social skills to undertake a project with that level of organization?  How many are prepared to give or receive criticism or correction from a classmate, turning their mistakes or someone else’s insight into a personal or collective gain?  And how many are aware of the power and risks implicit in pressing the publish button in today’s day and age?

Once again, this is where the teacher comes in.  When teaching with technology we are often under the impression that we need to master the tool.  But what is really true is that we need to help our students master the context in which they will use the tool.

And as teachers we already have these skills, honed over years of experience in getting students to analyze print texts, think of their effect on the target reader, the register and context they are written in.  It is only a question of transferring them to a new and highly public arena where titles pop-up in Google searches, footnotes have morphed into hyperlinks and even URLs can provide context.

In many ways things really haven’t changed all that much.  In forming literate members of society we have always started out with the basics with younger students, gradually increasing not only the linguistic difficulty at which we expect our students to read and express themselves, but also building their awareness of the social complexity into which our cultural artifacts are woven.  Known as “Digital Literacy” this is a logical extension of where our society is going and it obviously impacts very directly on how we need to see our role with our students  (if you need any more proof of this – or practical examples of how to approach teaching it I suggest you check out Digital Literacies by Dudeney, Hockly and Pegrum).

Our teens are moving quickly towards a future where much of their lives will be online.  We know that one of the things which can help them the most at this age is raising their awareness of social behavior, helping them to work together effectively  and empowering them to make their own critiques of the world around them.  If you open up a shared doc with them (or use any other tech tool for that matter) maybe you shouldn’t sweat the tech stuff so much.

Stick first and foremost to what you already know as a teacher – how to foment an understanding of communication in a broader social context.  And see it as an opportunity for a project that’s going to help them ask bigger questions about their future than which tab to click on to get the chat box to come up.  They’ll figure that part out for themselves.  It’s how they use that chat box with their classmates which is going to make the difference.