Thoughts on ELT, English and whatever else comes into my head
Bright and early for Shawn Redwood‘s meaningful conversation from songs workshop. Shawn had been in the Annie McDonald talk and, by the way he made contributions to that, I had guessed he must be a speaker. Clear, charismatic, articulate comments in a big Southern American accent. For a blast of it go here.I just want to hang around with him and listen to him talk. He lives in my city and made the mistake of giving me his email so I am going to try! He had lots of interesting ideas about ways to get more out of songs than just gap fills, another project close to my heart and something I’ve been working on for a while and am about to put out under the name ESL Songbird.
Ideas he had that I’ve never thought of:
A combination of Annie McDonald’s pre listening suggestions and Shawn’s development ideas would make killer, stand alone song lessons and I’m going to tweak some of my song lessons accordingly.
I went to Hugh Dellar‘s dogme-ing the course-book as I didn’t really know what dogme was and figured it was about time I did. I can’t think why it wasn’t on my MA but I suppose it’s not so much a methodology as a style of teaching. I am not going to say too much about it as I think anything I could say would add nothing to the weight of dialogue about it. It seemed to me and quite a few others that Hugh – a course book writer – was really just advocating what we all do in the classroom after our rookie years of teaching are over which is intelligent exploitation of the materials rather than lots of supplementary, preparation heavy work.
Eminently sensible stuff but the question for me is why are publishers so intent on books that require so much exploitation? Why not make that inherent to the pages or, at the very least, in the Teacher’s Book? So many SBK rubrics and TBK’s seem to say little more than “Read the questions with your students and discuss the answers. Clarify meaning of unknown words as needed.” Err…you paid someone to write that?
Interestingly, The Thorn was in the audience of a talk that was basically saying his materials free method could be applied to materials and I can’t have been the only one expecting him to comment. He probably did over a tapa and cerveza later, away from the salivating crowds.
Dogme curiosity satisfied, and although wondering how The Thorn Q & A would go, I found a much more original presentation to go to. Ted O’Neill‘s unveiling of the Graded Reader versions of the classic 80’s Choose Your Own Adventure series published with McGraw Hill. Series Editor Marcos Benevides and other writers including Ted have got the trademark for the paper versions of the books and adapted them to 500, 700 and 900 headword ELT books that stand as the old adventure stories did but with a vocab glossary at the front and downloadable worksheets.
They’re designed with extensive reading in mind but there were suggestions for how to use them in class (more on them here) . This is very exciting and I happen to know two bloggers who will be very happy, Mike Griffin and Tyson Seburn. I think there’s definitely scope for the team to branch into originals under the same concept and hope to be able to be part of it if it happens.
Then what was, for me, quite a theoretical talk about Creativity with Carol Read. She staged it brilliantly using an adapted fairy tale to scaffold her talk which hooked everyone into the story, with her 6 questions about creativity as stepping stones along the way. I was dying to know what was going to happen to Princess Crystal Creative. The thing about creativity though is that talk about how we can make the classroom a place where creativity is likely to occur leaves me wondering about actual techniques for getting creative stuff out of students.
I’ve researched this before and not come up with much (Fiona Mauchline’s ideas do answer this partly) but what I have will be a blog post soon. I assume that design companies have loads of useful techniques but can’t find many willing to share them.
Unflagging, I was off to Fiona Mauchline‘s what-to-do-with-photos workshop. The most ideasful of all the session I saw, Fiona is obviously an incredible teacher and the co-curator of www.eltpics.com – a brilliant resource of pictures taken by teachers for use by teachers in the classroom. There were so many ideas, plus I went to her Sunday workshop about putting the creative into writing, that I think it warrants its own post.
Lastly, there was a slightly short presentation by Deanna Hinman on engaging and effective apps for the ipad for use in the language classroom. The main thing I took away from this was : ipads are amazing, I should get one.
A couple of nice ideas were using the dictation/voice recognition apps to improve pronunciation i.e. students can see where they’re going wrong when the app writes the wrong thing (the apps do tend to misunderstand NS too though) and the imovie app’s feature for making trailers for movies in different genres would be a fantastic class project.