Another of my favourite authors is David Geurin (you may have read the posts Passion or proficiency? or Teachers as warm demanders): his texts are sometimes controversial, but always encourage reflection. And this post, “What would happen you weren’t successful?”, seems a great find for the coming New Year and the plans we’re setting ourselves. There’s too little time and no enough resources to do everything, so how do you choose your priorities? David suggests thinking about the consequences of not doing what you have in mind. If nothing really horrible happens – well, then perhaps it’s not the biggest priority, and vice versa.
What do you think, would this work for you?
If your students come back after their first trip to the UK slightly shocked (‘I didn’t understand a thing they said in the streets!’), this collection of materials from Queen Mary University of London can help. Even very proficient speakers will find some of the recordings challenging, and lower levels will appreciate the scripts and suggested activities. It’s definitely a resource for teachers, not for self-study, but what a great collection! You get 17 teaching units consisting of a short recording with a script and very comprehensive explanatory notes about discourse markers, slang, non-standard grammar, pronunciation features – amazing. I could spend the whole Christmas break there 🙂
This article is about creating online learning activities, but parts of it can be easily applied to any materials creation and, in fact, all kinds of task-setting in a lesson. How do you make sure that your learners don’t focus on finishing faster, but take the slow path and achieve more learning? John Allan, the author of the article, suggests ten solutions, from limiting easy question types like True/False to making questions that are impossible to answer without listening or reading the input again. Seems common sense, but it’s also something we tend to forget about 🙂
Yes, it was exactly one year ago when I published the first post. Seems like a good time to look at the results of this little project!
What did I hope to get from it?
- an incentive to keep myself up-to-date in my field: make a public commitment to read a lot of professional blogs and write about the most interesting posts
- an opportunity to talk to like-minded people both online and in real life: it’s great when you can discuss an article or post with colleagues
- a bit of a boost to my professional reputation: have my own space to publish conference presentations and event reports, share thoughts and ideas – well, you know 🙂
What have I got?
Honestly, a lot more than I hoped for:
- I’ve been reading more widely this year, and the best part is that now it’s easier for me to spot high-quality and inspired writing. I can see patterns emerging, old topics reinvented, new ideas exploding all over the blogosphere – and it’s really rewarding to be able to curate and share it all.
- I’ve met lots of new people online and in real life thanks to this blog. More than 500 subscribers, dozens of visitors every day – it’s not much compared to real ELT gurus, but I’m grateful to each and every one of you for dropping by (and I know you’re not my mum because she hits ‘like’ without ever reading the posts 😉 ).
- I’ve learned to use Instagram (yes, I’m that old) and Canva, and write a paragraph of text balancing between ‘useful digest’ and ‘no spoilers’ – so that readers find the time to click through to the original text.
- I’ve been able to spread the good word and share what’s new and what’s great in ELT with the colleagues at my own teaching centre and around the world – how cool is that?
- I’ve developed a new confidence in my blogging self: I know which topics get the most clicks (edutech, looking at you!), but I’m happy to write about anything that resonates with me – and I just love hearing that an obscure post has inspired someone to read more or given them a lesson idea.
I’d say it’s been a great year, and I hope there’s more to come!
Now for my new year resolutions, to keep that public commitment thing going:
- Experiment with new formats and media
- Publish more of my own work on the blog
- Hope to engage with you all a bit more 🙂
And what would you like to see when you open Kate’s ELT Crate next year?
Todd Finley is one of my favourite writers at Edutopia (you may have seen these posts: Ride the recency effect or Group reading galore), so it was even more exciting to stumble upon this cool infographic by him:
I can easily see it on a poster in the teachers’ room or above a desk, to use as a lesson planning aid. Bloom’s taxonomy? Check. Assessment for learning? You got it. Sense of progress? Very much so!
My own attempt at using The Character Scrapbook for one of my favourite characters of all times: Ayla the Cro-Magnon.
Another useful find at freetech4teachers: an interactive character profile from Scholastic which can be completed online and then printed or saved digitally. Elementary and lower secondary students will probably enjoy it the most, though I can see adults appreciating the structured approach and bright colours. You don’t have to limit yourself to book characters, either! Why not use the template to create a new character for an original story, or describe a family member (or a pet – there are options for animals)? Simple and nice.
Here’s an entertaining take on the age-old game: ‘human’ tac toe for vocabulary revision. Cristina was inspired by the video of a game show and created her own version for the classroom. The rules only seem complicated when you read them first, but the video makes things much easier. If you have students write their own questions, it will become low-prep and high-yield – what’s not to like?
After my epic journey into the land of online teaching, I really want to do something tangible 🙂 How about Play-Doh from Martha Ramirez? She has excellent advice about using it with teens and adults: for metaphors about self-development, for introductions, for practising language (in flip stations, of course!). Who ever said that young learner teaching techniques can’t be adapted to the adult classroom?
The final post in my Online Teaching series has certainly been long in coming! As always, I feel I have barely scratched the surface, but it’s time to stop reading and start working.
There are still myths and misconceptions regarding online teaching, whichever its form (the synchronous virtual classroom has been my main focus, but some ideas are equally applicable to asynchronous forms). And yet, there are a lot of teachers, trainers and researchers all over the world who see online teaching as a new exciting tool, an opportunity to engage students in a new way and reach new audiences.
At the very least, online teaching is always better than no teaching at all; if planned and done right, it can provide unique opportunities to students to study in a relaxed home environment without distractions, to develop their soft skills and knowledge and even to work around their shyness. Online teaching can be at the same time cooperative and differentiated, emotionally engaging and factually informative.
To benefit from it, students simply need to have ‘good transportation’ to class (a metaphor I borrowed from a book by Susan Ko and Steve Rossen about online teaching at universities I read this week): broadband connectivity and reliable equipment, as well as basic skills of using teleconferencing software.
To make sure students get the most out of online classes, teachers first and foremost need to be good teachers. In fact, the same book by Ko and Rossen says: “Techies” don’t necessarily make the best online instructors. An interest in teaching should come first, technology second.
That said, some preparation can’t hurt:
- be confident about the technology you need to use
- plan lessons carefully
- adapt activities and materials to online use
- incorporate more visuals
- build in reflection and feedback activities
- modify your teaching behaviour for the webcam
- read more articles (anything by Nicky Hockly is a great start!), blogs, books (e.g. Teaching Online: Tools and Techniques, Options and Opportunities by Nicky Hockly and Lindsay Clandfield or Teaching Online: a Practical Guide by Susan Ko and Steve Rossen)
- take courses (e.g. Coursera or FutureLearn courses on online teaching)
- … and practise!
I think I’ve found several weeks’ worth of reading material about online teaching: the website of the Online Learning Consortium looks very promising. For example, this report on Virtual Classroom training focuses on the components a good training programme for instructors should have – and what it usually includes in reality. Apparently, too little attention is given to the real experience in the virtual classroom (as a student and as a trainer) and too much to the technological side of things. The authors also urge to pay more attention to the pedagogy of online synchronous learning and how it – and the materials – should be adapted to the new medium. Interesting!
P.S. Note that the materials there are behind a registration form; so far it hasn’t turned into a paywall, but I have opened only a few reports.