22nd June – The perfect student?

What makes a perfect student? I’m sure you can recall people in your courses who were a real pleasure to have. They did their homework, asked engaging questions, helped their classmates, made notable progress, and continued to sign up for the next course. Likewise, you’ve probably had poor students who showed none of these traits. There are also the mystery cases, when someone stops attending the course at some point for some reason, and we never find out why.

Read this short article for some insights. How do the factors listed fit with your experience? Can you use the strategies in order to foster more “perfect students”?

Come to our next get-together on 22nd June at The Fitting Room at Welle 7 in Bern and share! Hope to see you there.

Jigsaw tasks

I’ve discovered an inspiring website stuffed full of resources, called Cult of Pedagogy. It’s aimed at school teachers, but certain articles apply to us language teachers as well. This page is about jigsaw tasks. There’s also a well done video about them here.
Do you use jigsaw tasks in your courses?
On Thursday 27th April, we’ll discuss information gap activities like the jigsaw, and other kinds of effective task based learning activities.
We’ll be at The Fitting Room, Welle 7, from 8:00 to around 10:00 pm.
Come be a part of it!

Reflecting on reflective teaching

The last gathering of Springboard teachers was another success! Teachers from a variety of contexts talked about how they reflect on their teaching, the methods they use to gather data, and how they use that data to improve what they’re doing.

Nick brought with him a resource about action research, something valuable not just to teachers, but applicable to  people in other professions and endeavors. Thanks again Nick!

It introduces the power of systematic reflection on your practice. It’s an easy to use process that can lead to perpetual improvement.

If you’ve got more ideas for how to get student feedback (like what questions you should ask on a survey), using self-reflection tools (like a diary or digital note-keeper), or how best to set the framework for peer observations, drop a comment below!

As a side note, I’d like to say a big thank you to the very friendly staff at our venue, The Fitting Room, for their great service! Without them Springboard get-togethers would not be the same!

Observations and Feedback

If you work as a teacher, you’ve probably had your boss or advisor observe one of your lessons. If you did a CELTA, you were observed by your instructor. What did you take away from it? Have you ever sat in on a colleague’s lesson? Was it a useful experience?

At the next Springboard get-together we’re going to talk about what’s effective in these encounters and how we can use them in our professional development.

We’ll also set out a framework so that you’ll have the opportunity to benefit from this experience with others.

Come meet, greet, and put a spring into your work on Thursday 27th October, at 8:00 pm.

We’re meeting at The Fitting Room in Welle 7. Hope to see you there!

Discussion: Testing and Assessment

This Friday Springboard will be bringing teachers together to chat and discuss testing and assessment. I’ve read an article by Dave Allan, which got me thinking about some questions that might be good discussion starters. What do you think? Post your comment below, and we’ll bring them to the discussion!

 

Discussion Questions: Testing and Assessment in Language Training

What’s the difference between testing and assessment?

Which is a better evaluation of a learner’s English capabilities: an objective test or a teacher’s assessment?  Why?

Do learners want to be tested? Why? Why not?

For assessment that involves various processes which go on over time, and measure more abstract traits such as discourse skills, fluency, flexibility and range, how can we give learners clear, formalised reporting on their language competence?

What are some best practices for teachers to integrate testing into a task based, communicative learning environment?

Adrian Underhill’s Pronunciation Skills

Adrian Underhill’s Pronunciation Skills changed the way I teach pronunciation. You can teach all of the sounds of English in about 2 lessons, but most importantly, it gives students a way of “discovering” the sounds themselves. Have you ever done the repeat-after-me exercise that just results in each of you saying a different word because the student doesn’t hear or can’t produce the sound you want? This will give you a way of communicating about pronunciation together!

I give students a printout of Adrian’s pronunciation chart and we usually go through the vowels pretty carefully. This area of the chart is often where a lot of trouble spots are and it also highlights 3 of the 4 pronunciation “levers” or “buttons”. These are the physical ways in which we make sounds (lips, tongue, jaw and voice). You can watch Adrian do his workshop here, it’s really cool the way he gets the participants to provide the sounds (I don’t do it with quite so much pantomime).

 

Furthermore, Adrian has a YouTube channel where he demonstrates and elicits the sounds individually and in combination to help learners (and teachers!) understand how to make them. He provides a lot of really good strategies for communicating about pronunciation and operating the “levers” that enable it. He also posts regular updates about teaching pronunciation on his blog.