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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Teaching skills for working with teens

Teaching skills for working with teens - Image by Mansour BethoneyTeaching 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 work here and here. Continue reading

10 ways to improve your English outside of class

Ways to improve EnglishWhen it comes to learning a language, you can only do so much in class. At some point, we all need to look beyond the classroom walls if we’re to put our abilities to the test and hone those hard-earned skills. Luckily, the age we live in has no shortage of options for the motivated learner.

Here are 10 ways to improve your English outside of class:

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EDpuzzle: getting the most out of video in education

EDPUZZLE video in educationUsing 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.

 

What’s 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.

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Innovations in how we measure progress

Innovate ELT Conference - Brian EngquistIn order to further prep myself for the Innovate ELT Conference in Barcelona where I will be giving a talk titled How technology helps you improve what your students can do I sat in on Ian Wood’s session yesterday at the Pearson Morning for English Teachers of Cambridge Exams event in Madrid.  Ian is something of our own in house guru on all things testing and is extremely adept at using clear language and metaphors to express quite difficult and meaty concepts from the world of English language assessment.

So, in that same spirit of clarity I would just like to sum up the thrust of Ian’s talk with this very simple, but important question that he reminded us we all hear from our students, but are often at a loss to answer entirely adequately: How good is my English?  All of us have our ways of dealing Continue reading

To la Rioja with love. Part II :)

Last week I had the privilege of collaborating with La Rioja region again.
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!).

The session objective was to complement the on-line content with down-to-earth experiences from bilingual schools in order to reflect on how Digital Competence can help us improve our pupils’ Communicative Competence. Continue reading

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

Teens, teen brains and exam prep

Ian Wood Madrid

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:

 

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mission impossible

 

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!

Please listen to them

The Myth…

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 Reflection…

 

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.

 

The Task…

 

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