With all of the demands on us as teachers to help our students improve their English we can sometimes lose sight of the fact that language is not the only thing going on in our classrooms. As important as improving students’ linguistic competences is, we know we are also getting them ready for using that language in the real world. And take a look around – the world is a pretty chaotic place (VUCA if you will) which can put a strain on the most resilient of us. Though no one is asking us to be professional psychologists, taking into account some of the principles of the Emotional Intelligence movement is a good idea if we want to help our students become happy, productive and resilient in addition to linguistically proficient members of society.
Once every two years the Official Language Schools in Spain hold their national convention. This year’s event at the EOI in Valencia (this Thursday 30th March until Saturday 1st April) marks the 10th time they will come together to share ideas and best practices.
We at Pearson are also very proud to be taking part by providing three engaging workshops. Two of these talks will be given by award-winning ELT author, novelist and co-author of Pearson’s Speakout series, JJ Wilson, on the topics of creativity and authenticity in the classroom. Also on hand will be Spain-based Teacher Trainer for Pearson Michael Brand who will offer his perspective on the characteristics of a C1 user of English and how to get our students up to this level.
For more details and times please consult the information below.
Last weekend Pearson was at the British Council ‘Learning to Learn’ Conferences with Michael Brand in Bilbao, Brian Engquist in Madrid and Elena Merino in Barcelona. We would like to thank all the teachers who attended our sessions, where we had the opportunity to share teaching ideas and get the most out of our coursebooks.
As promised, we are sharing our presentation and we hope you find it useful for your lessons. Continue reading
Last week I had the privilege of delivering a session in the TESOL- 38th Annual National Convention held in the Universidad of this incredible place called Salamanca, Continue reading
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
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
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.
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!
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!
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!
Last week in Madrid I had the pleasure of doing the second session at the Pearson Morning for English teachers at Adult Learner Centres. It was also a distinct honor (and more than slightly intimidating) as Speakout author Antonia Clare kicked the event off with her superb and provocatively titled talk: Love and the Art of Language Learning. All of us at Pearson sincerely hope those of you who attended the event enjoyed it as much as we did.
For those of you who could not be there, or those of you who were but wanted to have a second look, I am including below a brief summary of my talk: 5 major Edtech trends for English teachers to watch out for… and embrace, as well as the presentation itself.
From Content Delivery to Prosumerism
We started out by attempting to define Edtech and a quick look at a recent post at the site eltjam made it clear quite quickly that, if nothing else, it is a topic which is often politically charged and stirring up considerable debate. And we also saw a rather funky example of some pretty serious content delivery from the 1960s that showed us that Edtech is not exactly a new idea. But today instead of being almost solely about the delivery (or bombardment) of content, Blended Learning approaches are (or at least perhaps should be) increasingly about 1) putting learners in the driver’s seat as Prosumers (doers instead of merely consumers) and 2) providing them with a process by which to access their own individualized learning paths.
My five Edtech trends? Well here they are:
Though this may not sound very new, video is like the glue which holds everything together nowadays. It is THE medium which almost single-handedly defines the Internet experience today. It is now an integral part of what makes courses and online learning spaces work and has to be taken into account from the moment these products and services are conceived. They are no longer just an add-on or extra component. And from Prosumer video tools like Movenote to things like eduCanon which allow you to curate your own video content, or sites like Kieran Donaghy’s Film English where a true expert in video shares his ideas for how to use them in class, we are witnessing a real democratization of this form of expression applied to language learning.
There are lots of exciting advances in apps and e-books which are certain to take us in very interesting directions soon, but at the moment much of this is fairly straight forward content delivered in a pretty traditional way. The real value that mobile can add to you classes today resides in its ability to bring the learner’s experience into the classroom, not simply receive content. Just as a video or voice recorder your students’ smart phones are probably still worth more than most of the apps out there. And if you are going to use apps why not use those that your learners are familiar with? For these reasons BYOD is still king in most contexts.
I’ve spoken about this and backchaneling before, but in a nutshell: This is one way that we are speaking to each other today. As language teachers we know that anywhere and anyway that communication is taking place, we need to be there.
Online Collaboration Tools
What I find interesting about experimenting with things like shared Google Docs is the way they help us to see that the most transformative kinds of changes (see my explanation of the SAMR model for evaluating technology use) that come about from using technology do not happen because of the technology itself, but because an emphasis is placed on the types of skills needed to use the tool to its full potential. And the teacher working as a guide is key to helping students hone these skills to use these tools in new and unexpected ways. This example of “Chrome Smashing” is a great example of how you need to get creative to redefine tasks and take them up a notch.
Adaptive Learning (AL) and Big Data
This is perhaps the most fiercely debated of today’s Edtech innovations. Proponents claim data mining the information trail that students leave when completing work online will allow us greater insights into their needs, helping us to personalize their learning experience. Others feel that language learning is too complex to be able to be measured, or that any measurement will only be at the “McNugget” level. I actually believe that there is some merit to the McNugget argument, but only because these are very early days for AL. We still have only a very preliminary idea of where this may go, but new tools are already being developed which measure student progress far more accurately and granularly than before thought possible, give automated and nearly instantaneous results, and can measure gains using much more meaningful “can do” descriptors instead of the simple completion of discrete McNugget-type content items.
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!