There’s been a change in how teachers’ professional development is covered at our school. In previous years, everyone got together every couple of weeks and we had a session on a particular topic – which mean that you could sometimes feel that content wasn’t immediately relevant to your teaching environment or, in some cases, that familiar content was being revisited again.
I’m really excited about the change for this year – today we had the first meeting and could choose one of three threads that we wanted to look at this term, These fell into the categories of The Language (specifically phonology), The Classroom (with the funky term “tissues and issues”) and The Bigger Picture…which this term also had a funky title “RetroTEFL”. (Aside: Aaaah, yet again phonology is the Cinderella of ELT. However, despite lacking a funky title, it was the most subscribed to thread for this term!).
A really engaging first session today – we identified why we had chosen that threads and set ourselves SMART goals to work on during the next few weeks. I’m not sure if you’ll be able to see from my handwritten notes, but I’m planning on turning the tasks I try into blogposts, as well as jotting down my thoughts in my journal.
I had a great time the other day with my 11-year-olds as we were practising the present simple through picture dictations. One thing I particularly enjoy about running picture dictations with Spanish speakers is that it removes their desire to dictate “phonetically” – in a normal running dictation, learners are obviously keen to get the spelling correct and so end up dictating things like, “The to-ast is very de-li-ci-ous” or “I li-ke waa-ching TV”.
A quick stage guide:
- Introduce and model the activity with a learner.
- Pair learners up and give instructions.
- Learners work on running dictation in pairs.
- When they have all the pictures, instruct them to work together to write a sentence (remind them to use the present continuous).
- Swap papers with another pair to correct. Elicit sentences from learners, write correct sentences on the board.
I told the groups there were a maximum of five points per sentence and that they should take off a mark for each mistake (hence the numbers on some of the pictures).
I did quite a fun activity with a couple of groups today – it’s a mish-mash of a dictagloss and a circle activity which a former colleague, Richard Whiteside, once told me about…here’s the activity…
Divide the class into groups of 3-5 students and give each group a piece of blank paper and a pen. Explain that the activity is like Pass the Parcel, but instead of music, you’re going to be speaking; and instead of opening the present, they have to write a sentence*. The students start passing the paper and pen round and you repeat the first sentence of the dictation, perhaps 4 or 5 times. Then stop and the students write it down – the rules are that only the person with the pen can write that sentence, but anyone in the group can help. Keep doing this until you’ve dictated the whole text. Then nominate students to read out each sentence and do whole group feedback; students could also check their answers with another group first, or swap papers and correct another group, etc.
Although at times students are so fixated on passing the paper that they don’t really listen to the sentence, it is interesting to see what they pick up and how they transform the original.
*OK, so perhaps don’t tell them it’s like Pass the Parcel as you’ll get their hopes up only to dash them to smithereens!
This idea follows on from a previous post on how to use Post-its in the class and I’m going to try it in an input session this afternoon.
I always find it difficult to position the sentences in a running dictation so that they can’t be easily read from people’s seats, so buy writing them on the sticky side of Post-it notes, you ensure thyat students have to get out of their seats and physically lift the Post-it to read what’s on the back.
I’m going to do a running dictation in my session this afternoon partly to show the trainees how the activity works and also as both a revision and engage activity. I have eight questions written on the Post-its: four of them are a review of what we learnt last session and the other four are questions which they will be able to answer by the end of the session. Also, as it will be 6 o’clock on a Friday afternoon in Cádiz, in August, with the Levante wind blowing through, I think it will be nice to do something to energise them for the last hour of Week 2.
Here’s another great activity from Catherine Morley’s TESOL-SPAIN workshop…
Type up the lyrics to part of a song and stick them on the wall outside the classroom. Put students into pairs and then explain that student A has to go outside, read and remember part of the text and then come back in and dictate it to their partner who writes it down. This works well if you put a line halfway through the song so that the students swap roles. Remind students that they can’t shout and (depending on space) can’t run. When students have finished, check the lyrics for spelling mistakes and then play the song for them to follow.
I did this activity with a Primary group the other day, using one of the songs from their coursebook – as you know, I’m always looking for ways to exploit those songs! They really enjoyed the activity – it was competitive but very inclusive: the stronger students perhaps did it a little quicker, though they still made some mistakes, and for weaker students it was an opportunity to use the skills they have, but which are sometimes afraid to show when doing group or whole class activities. And even though there was a competitive nature to the activity, there was no “reward” for doing the activity faster.