Do you want to be Pearson’s Global ELT Teacher of the year?

Pearson ELT TEACHER AWARD logoAt Pearson ELT we know that English teachers play a crucial role in the success of their learners. That’s why we’ve launched a new award to celebrate teachers and showcase good practice. The Pearson ELT Teacher Award will recognise teachers who have implemented innovative ways of teaching in their classrooms; from the big innovations to the everyday.

Five inspiring teachers will each win an all expenses paid trip to IATEFL (UK) or TESOL (USA) where they will enjoy the opportunity to hear the latest theories and exchange ideas with fellow professionals from all sectors of ELT.  A People’s Choice winner will selected by a public vote from the entries submitted. The winner will receive 20 Kindles for their class pre-loaded with a selection of Pearson English Readers. Continue reading

10 common errors Spanish speakers make in English

10 common errors Spanish speakers make in English

There’s no path to fluency in a second language that does not involve making lots and lots of mistakes, but as a teacher it’s worth knowing why your students might be making some of the same ones over and over. Here are 10 common errors Spanish learners of English tend to make.

  1. Possessive adjectives

Given that Spanish su, as in su libro can mean both ‘his book’ and ‘her book’, depending on the context, and that all Spanish nouns have either feminine or masculine gender, it’s little wonder that Spanish speakers often mix up his and her. Combined with a tendency to mix up he and she as well, this can lead to some very confusing anecdotes being told, in which you’re not sure if it’s men, women or both being talked about. It’s worth drilling the difference again and again. 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

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” .

 

 

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.

CLIL & ICT, a perfect marriage

Bilingualism and multilingualism in schools are hot topics in different regions of Spain that are and have been implementing different plans in order to improve students skills, and all of them have chosen CLIL as the most appropiate approach.

CLIL is a challenging and exciting approach developed by David Marsh and his team studies. It aims at a broader objective than just learning a language. It shows us how to use the language to learn and learn to use languages.

I have had the chance to work for several years in a bilingual school that, thanks to its principal and faculty, has achieved great success in implementing this approach and demonstrating how reflection, planning, commitment, passion and profesionalism can make a difference.

During my stay as a teacher there, I actively collaborated introducing ICT in the project and after all these years and experiences I can really confirm that the symbiosis between CLIL and ICT works beautifully! Communicative Competence and Digital Competence is a perfect marriage.

Now, I’m collaborating with the “Marc per al Plurilingüisme a Catalunya”, a very ambitious plan that aims to use the communicative competence of their students as leverage. I have attended some meetings with the people in charge of the plan to set a common framework and It was very interesting to observe that they are not only focused on external exams but on a more profound methodological change.

I delivered this session in Tarragona and in CPR Navalmoral, and It was great to meet and share some of my experiences with such passionate teachers.

As promised to all the teachers attending the sessions, here you have my presentations. Hope you enjoy it, and if you do…don’t hesitate to comment and share it!

What are you thankful for?

Last week I travelled to Malaga to deliver a training session, and I had the chance to visit a great school called CEIP Valdelecrín, an elementary school in beautiful Fuengirola.

They have been running a bilingual program for 6 years and they have achieved great success implementing CLIL methodology…but…this is only the formal part…while I was there I met two of the teachers, and they were the kind of teachers that are driven by passion. Like most other teachers, their interest goes beyond simple things such as money or social status, they are driven by something higher, they are driven by values, by knowing that their work makes a difference.

The economic crisis is hitting education budgets hard and teachers find themselves tied by a lack of resources, but they manage to keep smiling and find creative and great ways to keep moving “onwards and upwards”. Ken Robinson says that there´s no better school than its teachers and It´s so true.

While I was there, Alicia showed me the blog that she uses to engage the students (we have added it to our blogroll here) and she explained to me how parents are thrilled with her work, and how families collaborate by taking part in the video tasks she proposes.

She also showed me some projects that they have done, and one of them was about Thanksgiving, so I thought it was a great opportunity to share their ideas with you.

Children are going through hard times, indirectly they are on the receiving end of the consequences of the crisis that many of their parents face, and they sometimes perceive anxiety, sadness and anger. This makes them feel unsure, and children need security.

Making them reflect on what they can be thankful for can help to reinforce their self-confidence and happiness. It also teaches them an attitude to life,  the same that I have seen in their teachers. It´s not just about Thanksgiving holiday…it´s about being thankful.

I would like to express what I am thankful for. I´m thankful for enjoying the little details in life. I´m grateful for my profession, for having the privilege to learn from all the amazing teachers I meet.

I´m thankful for enjoying teaching so much. I´m thankful for this learning journey. Thank you Málaga.

What about you? When was the last time you thought about what you were thankful for?

What is the relation between being grateful and hapiness? don´t miss this TED video

Welcome on board!


Welcome to this new adventure. Our names are Brian Engquist and Marta Cervera and we are Teacher Trainers.

We travel a lot and are extremely privileged to be able to meet lots of different and inspiring educators.

Every journey we make turns out to be a learning story, since learning comes from interaction. While we travel and share our knowledge with teachers they teach us too with their experiences.

We both share a passion for learning and for technology and so we have decided that it would be great to be able to share all this knowledge with the rest of the educational community.

Want to come on board?

welcomeonboard