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!

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!

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.

ETAS PD Day

Do you feel like you work to live? Or do you live to work? I often get caught up in the trap of working to live, which is to say, I count the Francs instead of the experiences. In the end, this just makes me greedy, jealous, and unhappy.

On the other hand, when I get to the end of the day and count the “aha” moments that my students had, the improvised activities that went off perfectly, the diligently planned lessons that accomplished all the objectives, or the communication strategies that really helped, it feels so right that I do what I do.

This feeling is magnified after an ETAS event like the one I went to this weekend in Sargans. It was the professional development day for the English Teachers Association of Switzerland. Attending a talk, or participating in a workshop that teaches me about second language acquisition, grammar, corpus studies, classroom management, new technology, or teaching strategies reminds me why I love teaching English.

ETAS events also lets you acquire things that will directly lead to increased job performance and earnings. The networking opportunities might lead to your next great job. The publishers will give you books that make your prep-time shorter. The workshops will give you activities that bring new life to your classroom.

For one woman I met, who had arrived in Switzerland 24 hours prior, the take-away was probably more intangible. The day started with me asking her to volunteer to go up on stage for a presentation of the new website. It was a surprise for her, but helped break the ice. Throughout the day she got inspiration and connected with people like her. What was her take-away? Well, only she can say, but from the glow in her eye at the end of the day, I’d say she felt a big boost of confidence in the start of her professional life in Switzerland.

So in the end, if colleagues complain that they have to do professional development workshops and conferences on their own time, or that they can’t afford to pay the fees, I think maybe they’re forgetting that life is not just about money. Meeting motivated, like-minded people, learning from top figures in the field, and sharing experiences completely convinces me that it’s not about counting francs. It’s about gaining richness!

Were you at PD Day in Sargans? Or another ETAS event? Share your experiences below!

Teaching Teens

I’m not an expert on teaching teens. What I have done is content-based teaching of science, geography, and maths in English, and training and support of CLIL teachers – and that’s a lot easier than teaching English. The interesting lessons are often practical things, and mistakes in English are not even corrected!

Looking quickly for references for teaching teens, I found many coursebooks and online courses. I find the “interesting” themes are trivial and superficial – maybe I am too old! I don’t believe that these are much use in a Swiss environment, without British TV and pop culture.

I found https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/keeping-teens-interested is well worth reading. Please comment with your ideas.

Graham

Subjunctive in English

Have any of your students ever stumped you with a question about grammar?

In a recent class, a student asked me why the verb could be either “was” or “were” and I couldn’t give a straightforward answer! Her questions caught me off guard. I knew both were correct, but couldn’t say why.

If I were to hypothesize, I’d say this has happened to all of us. Why? Because we learn grammar inductively in our native language. As we grow up it is necessary that we understand grammar from context without explicit rules. (Whether or not we demand that second language learners learn grammar like this is a topic for another discussion!)

But back to the subjunctive. For whatever reason, I never learned the rules. I even managed to avoid it in my teacher training.

But I can and do use the subjunctive! I was familiar with it despite not knowing the rules. In fact, I’ve used it three times already in this post. Can you find the subjunctives?

It was a joyous “aha” moment when I figured out, thanks to my ELT Springboard colleagues at our last get together, that “were” is used because it’s subjunctive! After some research and study, I now feel confident that I can answer my students’ questions, if they were to come up.   😉

I found this website to be helpful:

http://grammarist.com/grammar/subjunctive-mood/

This quote is from that site. And doesn’t it ring true?

“If you’re confused by the subjunctive mood, don’t worry too much. As with all grammar and usage matters, the rules for subjunctive mood are based on centuries of convention. There’s no deeper reason; it just is what it is. But the subjunctive mood is useful, and it would be a shame if it were to go away.”

If you know something more about subjunctive in English or know of good resources, comment below!

Podcasts and apps from Alex

Alex St. John has contributed a list of links that you might find useful. Thanks Alex!

NEW Apps from the British Council:
LearnEnglish Elementary Podcasts by British Council
https://appsto.re/ch/F23cw.i
Video: 
prepositions of place (giving directions)
Swiss Military:
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 from Harvard Business School
and also download the script as PDF as of Feb 15:
Highlight any useful phrases Jorge uses.
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