Webinars this weekend – IATEFL WebCon17

Coming up on Friday and Saturday this week is IATEFL’s free web conference: WebCon17.  There are more than 10 different hour-long webinars on a range of topics.

IATEFL Web Conference 2017 - webcon17
Image by IATEFL

I’m particularly looking forward to:

  • Elvis is not dead: dealing with ethics and fake news in the lower secondary classroom (approx 11:00 GMT on Saturday, 25th November)
  • Developing learner autonomy in practice (12:00 GMT on Saturday, 25th November)
  • Current thinking on how pronunciation is best taught (17:00 GMT on Saturday, 25th November)

How to join?

For the full programme and how to register go here. You can double check the time zones via TimeAndDate.com.

The webinars are free if you watch them live, while IATEFL members can also watch them at a later date. Twitter will be active I’m sure, on the hashtag #webcon17.

YL bonus

If that isn’t enough, there’s also an interesting joint YL-Research Group webinar on Sunday: Research in the primary English classroom: Collecting informed consent from children (15:00 GMT on Sunday 26th November)

Over to you: Are you planning to attend any of the webinars this weekend?

Intensive Delta Module 2: Week 2 round-up

Welcome to the second weekly reflection on my experience with the intensive Delta Module 2 in Seville. You can read about Week 1 here. Week 3 and 4 will follow shortly.

Module 2 notebook

  1. What was your lightbulb moment or what blew your mind this week?
    It’s written discourse that I particularly enjoy teaching rather than teaching writing per se. The same goes for speaking (which I see as integrated in my lessons). As I see it, spoken discourse is where students’ speaking is upgraded by giving them more language – such as giving them more knowledge on “backchanneling devices” like “oh, I see” and “wow”.
  2. What has stressed you out most this week?
    Again, the waiting. My LSA1 was on Friday so as the week went on I watched my colleagues finish and move on to LSA2. I moved on mentally, and chose my topic for LSA2 but the grammar lesson was still looming. I am glad that I had time to chip away at all three assignments (BE second draft, LP and PDA) though.
  3. What do you wish you could have done this week?
    Moved on from grammar! I didn’t get as far ahead as I would have liked as I had a cold earlier in the week (yes, I do know it’s 30°C out, just my luck!) and had to spend some time recovering.
  4. What’s the best activity you observed, learned about or used this week?
    Transcription. This is what my teaching of listening has been missing! I’ve done work the other way: teaching connected speech, having learners anticipate connected speech and checking by listening with the transcript. But I’ve never had learners transcribe a short section from a listening. (I have done it myself when learning Vietnamese though!)
  5. Which area have you improved on?
    I started looking at tonic stress. As you may have guessed by the previous paragraph, I do quite a bit on pronunciation but sentence stress has always eluded me.
  6. What is the best or most useful tip you’ve gained this week?
    Ask your colleagues for books and resources. Between the whole group, we have a lot of resources and knowledge!
  7. What have you done to relax this week?
    Sleep because I was sick? I didn’t make it to dance class or yoga mid-week.
  8. What’s your new favourite word or terminology?
    I’m going to go with “discourse”. Not exactly a new word, but I feel like I have a better understanding of what this is now.
  9. What have you disagreed with this week?
    Some of the feedback on assignments I’ve submitted. But at the end of the day, the tutors have been doing this for a while and they know how to meet the criteria. Sometimes you have to just roll your eyes and make the changes. Or sometimes you have to rewrite your main aim
  10. What book have you added to your wishlist (or wish you’d already read)?
    Writing books for LSA2, particularly Hedge’s Writing and Tribble’s Writing. (Not very creative titles, are they?)
  11. What would you change about this week?
    Getting further ahead. I submitted a draft of my lesson plan the day before my lesson, but there were some holes so I only finished it the evening before teaching, then had to tweak my Background Essay and PD assignment as well as finish finding pictures for my powerpoint slides.
  12. What’s your top study tip?
    I made a bibliography “Master List” where I’ve added all the books I’ve referenced in all assignments. If you quote the same book more than once (eg. Hedge), you can just copy and paste.

    I also add each book to each essay’s bibliography as I write instead of adding them at the end. And, third and final tip, I write the page number for every reference in the document as I go along but now I highlight the ones where the page number isn’t necessary so I can do through and delete them at the end.

    Highlight page numbers to remove in the final draft
    I think I paraphrased enough to remove the page number in the final draft, but here it is in case I need to go back to it.

    One more study tip – know your natural rhythms. I’ve found I crash around 4pm or 5pm every day so doing some filing or photocopying or going home a bit earlier, taking a nap, doing some food prep allows me more time to focus at 10pm when I’m more alert.

  13. What’s your main priority for next week?
    Get further ahead! I’m going to get cracking on the background essay and lesson plan for LSA2 (Writing) and if I can, start the background essay for LSA3 (Listening, which I’ve already read quite a bit on).

And that’s a wrap for Week 2. Four more to go!

Intensive Delta Module 2: Week 1 round-up

Welcome to a weekly reflection post on my experience with the intensive Delta Module 2 in Seville. I’ve based the questions on these from a previous candidate, but I’ve added in a few questions of my own.

Module 2 notebook
My new notebook. Although, to my surprise, I’ve actually been taking notes on my laptop much of the time.
  1. What was your lightbulb moment or what blew your mind this week?
    I was so blown away I blogged about it: when schwa isn’t schwa.
  2. What has stressed you out most this week?
    Waiting. I wish I had been able to start redrafting my LSA1 (which was due on the first day of the course) or planning the lesson sooner. I didn’t get feedback until Friday so most of this week has been a waiting game. I have my templates all ready though!
  3. What do you wish you could have done this week?
    • I probably should have done more reading, rather than just photocopying things to read… I need to find a place for focused reading in my schedule as every time I’ve tried I’ve been too tired to concentrate.
    • I should have gone to yoga or dancing in the week. I did this last week during the Module 3 course, but the yoga class I went to is a bit far away from where I live and study.
  4. What’s the best activity you observed, learned about or used this week?
    I was really struck by another member of my TP group who use a really strong context to introduce her grammar point. I sometimes do situational presentations, but sometimes perhaps more context, especially when taking things out of the book, would be good.
  5. Which area have you improved on?
    I’ve spent less than 2 hours teaching this week on three different days. Two of those were really pressed for time so it’s quite hard to comment. I felt like didn’t really hit my stride until the third mini-lesson with the group, so I’m ready for improvements next week!
  6. What is the best or most useful tip you’ve gained this week?
    Instead of the general advice to “read” before the Delta, I wish I’d done what one of my coursemates did which is to make a list of useful quotes ready to refer to. I didn’t do much reading as I really struggle to read without a purpose. If I’m preparing for a workshop, it’s easy to read but with a vague idea of “read for your Delta” is not motivating enough for me.
    What I should have done to focus my reading was to search for quotes that back up my teaching beliefs (or contradict them!) and from a variety of sources. It was interesting to read a lot of Field’s Listening in the Language Classroom, but I won’t pass my essay if he’s the only source I quote.  Sad but true.
  7. What have you done to relax this week?
    A few long dinners with coursemates living in the same accommodation. By the end of the week, having a long dinner break started to stress me out though. I work best in the evenings!
  8. What have you disagreed with this week?
    We had a session on guided discovery, and I don’t agree with how black and white it was presented. Basically saying that a worksheet is guided discovery and at the board is teacher-centred and you “give them the rules”. The CAM recognised the middle ground where there can be elements of guided discovery, and ways they can be presented (eg. with scaffolded questions on the board). I ask my students a lot of questions and elicit, so would put myself in this middle ground most of the time
  9. What book have you added to your wishlist (or wish you’d already read)?
    Harmer’s The Practice of English Language Teaching looks useful to reference for the PDA
  10. What’s your favourite quote of the week?
  11. What’s your new favourite word or terminology?
    “Materials driven teacher” – I’d never heard of this before, but I’ve definitely been one of these in the past. Perhaps I’m not entirely over this stage (dogme scares me), but I’ve become a lot more conscious about my materials selection and creation.
  12. What would you change about this week?
    Well, I’m quite fed up of grammar. I started my background essay on 6th September and have been grateful to put it down a few times, for 3-5 days at a time. However, this weekend I’ve been procrastinating from finishing LSA1 work and getting ahead with my Listening LSA because that interests me much more. They’re not wrong when they say you should pick a grammar topic you’re interested in, but even then, be prepared to get a bit bored. Perhaps this is easier to deal with on an extensive course as you can build in more time off, or maybe it drags even further. I’m not sure. But I am sure I will enjoy the other LSAs a lot more!
  13. What’s your top study tip?
    Aside from my colleague who saved useful quotes, I’m glad of my templates in Word. I’ve been saving useful advice for each section (word limits, key things to include) into the template so I can refer to them when I write without having to keep flipping back to the handbook or my notes.
  14. What’s your main priority for next week?
    • Yoga or dance mid-week
    • Get through LSA1, and move on from grammar!

And that’s a wrap for Week 1. Five more to go!

When /tə/ isn’t /tə/

schwa is good
Student love for the schwa

to – one of those words that, most of the time, is unstressed and uses the schwa /ə/, right?

That’s what I thought until one of my Delta Module 2 input sessions this week when my mind was thoroughly blown. It turns out it’s dependent on what comes next.

Let’s take an example with telling the time, as last year both me and my Primary students had fun when drilling weak forms.

  1. It’s ten to two.
  2. It’s ten to eight.

In the first example, all is as expected: to is unstressed /tə/.

But in the second example other phonological rules come into play, don’t they? Schwa /ə/ is a vowel and is followed by eight which starts with the diphthong /eɪ/.

What happens with two consecutive vowels in connected speech? Why I’m glad you asked – what we get is an intrusive /j/, /r/ or /w/ depending on the sounds involved. Here it’s /w/.

In #2, I think the schwa is still there (though I am no phonology expert and could be wrong). I think that most of the time, there is still the intrusive /w/ which means it comes out as /təweɪt/. Most of the time. I’ve been saying it to myself and sometimes I’ve not heard or felt my mouth move to the /w/ position at all. But in another example such as to eat /təwiːt/, the /ə/ and /w/ are clearly there to my ear (and pronounced differently to tweet /twiːt/).

So, what does this mean for the classroom? The way we drill the sentence (or phrase) changes. It’s not quite as simple as /tə/ + /eɪt/. We naturally introduce the /w/ when speaking at full speed, but is it always there when drilling? I’m not sure. I think it’s entirely possible I’ve oversimplified it when teaching.

Going forward, I’ll be watching out for this!

Over to you: Have you thought about this aspect of the schwa before? What have you learned or been surprised by in your teaching of phonology?

Musings on lesson planning

I am a slow planner.

I had accepted this as a fact, and when I read an article a few months ago suggesting writing lesson plans on post-it notes, I was internally opposed.

Photo from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @ij64, CC 3.0

One fateful day

But then a few weeks ago I had to cover a 9am teenage class with less than 1 hour’s notice. And I was still at home when I got the call.

I was very, very stressed.

Luckily, there was an IWB flipchart for the lesson on the shared drive at work and colleagues sprung to my rescue and armed me with some supplementary resources which I quickly photocopied and dashed to class.

For the first three quarters of the lesson, I was barely a step ahead of the students. While they were doing the reading, I was scanning the grammar section of the book and the flipchart, trying to figure out what I would be doing next.

The leftover materials
The aftermath. A photocopiable, an error correction made in the break and notes I took as we went along.

I think I did overlook a couple of things and didn’t present the language as clearly or as well as I could have. However in informal feedback before and after the grammar point, students showed an increased confidence level.

In that sense I met the main lesson aim.

It was rather stressful and that’s not a feeling I would like to experience again anytime soon. And as I said, there were shortfalls in how clearly the language was presented. But sometimes there is anyway, even when I think I’ve properly planned a lesson. Sometimes even for observed lessons, where I spend hours typing the whole thing into the required template and preparing a cover sheet with anticipated problems. We’re human, we miss things.

So, what are my takeaway points from this?

Well to be honest at times this term, I’ve been so busy (particularly with the CAM course) that I’ve ended up doing something similar to the cover situation above. I’ve prepared materials or an IWB flipchart but walked into class with the stages still in my head or briefly written on a post-it note. I usually did this with a lovely class who I knew would ask me questions. If I did overlook anything, it would most likely come out. Those lessons probably weren’t my best lessons, but they also weren’t my worst.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this for every class. I’ve taught groups who were struggling at their level and needed things breaking down. I’ve taught groups who needed​ so much behaviour management that I must have a firm plan in place so that I can devote my attention appropriately. (And if I don’t, I have a hard time trying to keep the lesson going and my energy gets zapped.) I’ve also taught groups that are so chatty a whole lesson can fly by without making much progress.

And, unless you find a way to keep and organise your post-it notes, the next time you teach the same course, you’ll have to go through your thought process of (micro) planning all over again.

a lesson plan on a post-it
Hmm this is about 80% of a full plan, squashed onto a post-it. I can’t find any shorter ones right now.

But sometimes, maybe there is something to be said for walking in with materials you’ve looked at or made, and a loose plan on a post-it note.

And I can’t help thinking about what I could do with the time saved. I could give more detailed and timely feedback on some writing. I could set up a speaking task that I can use for continuous assessment. Wouldn’t my students benefit from this?

Over to you: Do you ever outline instead of plan? What do you do with the time you save?