Connections and Influences – Barry

Shankly and Me – byBarry Jameson

Barry Jameson

“The socialism I believe in is everybody working for the same goal and everybody having a share in the rewards. It’s how I see football, it’s how I see life.”

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The above quote is by the late, great manager of Liverpool Football Club, Bill Shankly.  Shankly was one of those special characters that transcended sport.  You can find websites dedicated, not only to his football achievements, but to his quotes.  Strangely, when I think about teaching, he is often the person I think of.  It is hard to have heroes in modern football.  It is full of overpaid prima donnas, cheating, diving, and commercialism.  Shankly reminds me of the purity of sport, the purity of human beings working together to achieve mutual goals.

His beliefs mirror my own about life.  Socialism without politics.  It is a way of life, working together.  Shankly used his beliefs to inform his approach to football.  His influence shapes my teaching.  I would simply change the last line to, ‘It’s how I see teaching, it’s how I see life.’  Few (if any) of us become teachers to become wealthy.  From my experience of connecting with teachers around the world, there are common traits.  A willingness to share, to help others reach their goals, whilst also trying to achieve our own.  It truly is a case of sharing the rewards.

Football and teaching are similar in many respects.  Teamwork, dedication, and commitment are needed to reach the heights.  When players step over the white line there is little the manager can do.  It is enough to support, to guide from the side-line, and hope that they do the job.  Teaching, for me, is similar.  Ultimately, the students are the ones who have to learn and develop by themselves.  All I can do is try to guide, support, facilitate and prepare to the best of my ability.  You try to give them the tools to succeed.  You train, coach, inspire as much as you can and hope that, in the end, it is enough.

When it works, the rewards truly are shared.  I am sure we have all felt the immense pride when we see a student reach their goal.  All the struggles, the blood, sweat, and tears to get to that point are briefly forgotten as you bask in their achievement.  The satisfaction for me comes from knowing that I gave everything to help them.  I can take no glory, as they are the ones who put in the real hard work, but I can feel satisfied that I may have played my own small part in their success.  Sometimes we make a deep connection with students.  Sometimes we don’t.  The important thing is that we act in an honest way and do our best for each and every one of them.

Another quote of Shankly that I often think of is:

“I’d like to think that I have put more into the game than I have taken out. And that I haven‘t cheated anybody, that I‘ve been working for people honestly all along the line…”

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Reading the thoughts of Shankly changes how I approach teaching.  If I succeed, if I fail, at least I try.  I never cheat a student.  I try to go home each day knowing that I’ve given my best, even though my best is sometimes not good enough.  Work together, succeed together, fail together, and improve together.  These are the principles that I attempt to follow.It seems fitting to end on another quote from the great man:

“I’ve been a slave to football. It follows you home; it follows you everywhere and eats into your family life. But every working man misses out on some things because of his job.” 

This is how I see teaching, and I would have it no other way.  - Barry Jameson

Read more work from Barry Jameson on his always interesting blog All Things ELTand as Barry is an iTDi Mentor you can connect with him and other iTDi mentors from around the world by joining the iTDi Community. Sign Up For A Free iTDI Account to create your profile, connect with our community, and get immediate access to our social forums and a free trial lesson from both our English For Teachers and Teacher Development Courses. 

 

 

Error correction – Scott Thornbury

Scott Thornbury

What are errors & how should we  deal with them in our classes?

– Scott Thornbury

When I first started teaching the answer to these two questions was clear and unproblematic. What are errors? They are any departure from standard English. How should we deal with them? We should correct them lest they become ‘bad habits’.

Subsequently, these two questions have become the most difficult, problematic and mysterious of all questions related to language teaching.

What are errors? We simply don’t know any more. Why? Because there is no agreed upon standard by which to measure learners’ output. For a start, there are so many varieties of native speaker English (both spoken and written) that it’s impossible to decide if a sentence like ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’ is ‘wrong’ or not. On top of that, many learners are not interested in speaking ‘native speaker’ English anyway.

What should we do about errors? Research suggests that correcting errors has only an accidental effect on accuracy, and that many so-called errors (like failure to add –s to present simple third person singular verbs, as in she work) are an inevitable stage of language learning, and are extremely resistant to correction. On the other hand, if we don’t correct errors we may send out a message that accuracy doesn’t matter, which may threaten the long-term language development of our learners. Also, we need to be aware that excessive correction can be very de-motivating for many learners, while not to correct errors will make us look incompetent in the eyes of other learners.

In short, errors, and the way we handle them, are an enormous puzzle, and I would be fascinated to know how you deal with this puzzle yourself.

Scott

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Lesson Planning As Process – Cecilia Lemos

Lesson Planning As Process

– Cecilia Lemos

My lesson plans – and the concrete results of my lesson planning – have changed greatly over the many years I have been teaching and they continue to change every semester. They change because me, my students, my students’ needs, my needs, and the tools I work with have changed. It would be foolish if my planning didn’t change as well. It’s an evolutionary process that I explore in some depth HERE.

When we are new to teaching, a detailed lesson plan is essential because it gives us confidence. By thinking of all the steps, all the procedures, all the materials needed, all the types of interactions that might take place along with predicting the time each activity will last, we get the feeling of being ready for the lesson.  By thoroughly planning a lesson, we reduce the chances of being caught off-guard — something that can be very frustrating to any teacher, but that can be especially difficult to those new to the job. No matter how long we’ve been teaching, though, it’s always important to ask ourselves questions like these as we plan and reflect and work to plan a lesson:

What will my students have learned after this lesson is over?

What will they be able to do by the end of it that they weren’t able to do before?

How will this lesson help them progress in their learning?

(and most importantly)

How will I help them get there?

When planning lessons, besides considering what I will talk about, how I will talk about it and what materials I will use as I talk about it, I try to predict possible difficulties and questions the students might have so I can be ready to address those. This helps me fit the lesson within the bigger picture of the term and the content I am supposed to cover. I reflect on the balance between types of activities and types of learners. That always makes me calmer before teaching. More than planned, I am prepared.

That brings me to what I truly believe is the heart of lesson planning: not the printed – or in my case, the handwritten  - plan itself, but all the thinking behind it as I consider the groups I’ll be teaching and their individual and collective needs.

Nowadays, my physical lesson plan consists only of bullet points – key words, book pages, links or worksheets. That is the result of nearly 20 years of teaching. The fact that my lesson plan can fit on one side of an index card does not mean it is somehow been reduced to that. There is a lot behind those words on my index cards, but all that’s in my head. I don’t have to write the procedures for each activity because I have done them so many times I know them by heart. On the other hand, when it is a new activity or tool, I do write the procedures out, just to have something to rely on if my memory fails me.

I have also used lesson planning to work on my own specific problem areas that either I have noticed myself or that have been pointed out to me after an observation.  For instance, once I got feedback that my instructions were long and confusing. What did I do?

For a while after that, when planning I would think of the words I would use to give instructions for the activities I had planned and write them down. Seeing the instructions I wanted to give written down helped because I could reflect on their effectiveness and edit them as needed so that they became more clear and concise. Having the instructions written out before actually giving them and that process I went through as I worked on them made me a better teacher — I hope!

That is what lesson planning is really all about.  It’s not about having planned, but rather about being prepared, staying on top of things, and getting better in the process.

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Critical Thinking – Barb

Thinking Is Critical  –  Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto

Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto
Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto
Course Director

Long, long ago, when I was working toward my first teaching license, I was introduced to Benjamin Bloom and began a love-hate relationship with his taxonomy of learning objectives.

I loved having a rubric that helped me include higher level thinking skills in my lessons. I hated that my lessons so rarely touched on the skills at the top of the pyramid. It’s easy enough to write lesson objectives that incorporate higher order skills:

Students will analyze the appeals used in popular television advertisements, evaluate which appeals were most effective, and create an original advertisement incorporating one appeal from each of the categories studied.

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The challenge is to make sure that students remember the names of the persuasive appeals, understand how they are used in advertising, and can apply that knowledge in new contexts so that they can make the most of the more challenging tasks. It’s the time spent on building the lower level thinking skills that make the class project a meaningful activity.

If we’re doing this activity in a language class, we also need to make sure that students are comfortable with the language needed to discuss, negotiate, and produce a group project. The tasks at the top of the thinking pyramid reinforce the language and concepts that we’re trying to teach. But, without the foundation of remembering, understanding, and applying language, students will be unable to accomplish the tasks in English. On the other hand, teaching language without also teaching students to think when using it can produce students who answer questions with grammatically correct utterances that make no sense in context. Naomi Epstein addresses this problem, and introduces a simple approach that helps students become better at producing answers that are relevant to the type of questions being asked in her The “Reading Pictures” Strategy.

All levels of thinking are critical. And all have an important place in our classrooms.

I like the visual image of a pyramid because it helps me remember that my goal in teaching English is to make language a tool that has value in my students’ lives outside of class. For that to happen, I need to help them make connections between the language they’re learning and the creative ways in which the language can be used. One cannot happen without the other. In Moving beyond “Do you like? Randy Poehlman shares a clear step-by-step example of how he builds the language students need to discuss, share, and support opinions.

The taxonomy can be a useful tool for incorporating higher order thinking skills with even the youngest learners. For example, rather than telling your students why we say It’s a ball but It’s an apple, give them several examples and let them figure out the rule behind the pattern. Even if your students don’t have the language to explain to you that whether to use a and an depends on the initial sound of the word following the determiner, they can show you that they’ve analyzed the language by providing the appropriate determiner in front of new words.

Games like I Spy or Twenty Questions encourage problem solving as students learn to ask smarter questions without feeling like hard work. You can also challenge your students to solve a problem that you face in every class, coming up with activities that practice target language in an enjoyable way. Rather than choosing a project or creating a game that reinforces language objectives, let your students come up with their own solution. The process of creating a game, of coming up with and testing different rules for play, and then evaluating how well the game meets the language objective is an easy way to strengthen your students’ thinking skills while using language for a real purpose.

We do something similar in our English for Teachers course by asking teachers to focus on both language and teaching objectives in our lessons. For example, in EFT Lesson 2, teachers strengthen their language skills by focusing on collocations and logical connectors in listening, vocabulary, grammar, and reading sections. Not too different from any language course, except that the context for lesson is teaching – in the case of EFT 2, about how we can incorporate a variety of thinking skills in our lessons. (We made sure that the language focus was authentic and relevant by having discussions on the same topic with our iTDi Associates first, and pulling language for the lesson from those conversations.)Teachers connect the language they’re learning to their own experience by participating in discussions about teaching thinking skills with iTDi Mentors and other teachers working on the same lesson.

Thinking skills and language skills are not separate learning objectives. Including both in a lesson creates a more effective learning experience. The key, I think, is to find what motivates your students – games, projects, discussions, or something else – and use that to engage them in lessons that build both their language and thinking skills.

~ Barb

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Music, Stories and Magic – Chiyuki

The power of storiesChiyuki Yanase for blog profile

–  Chiyuki Yanase

Storytelling, storytelling, storytelling! Wherever we go, whenever and whoever we meet, that’s what we do. We tell stories to each other. Some of us are better at the telling than others. Despite the quality or quantity of the story, everyone has got something to tell. Once I become aware of this human tendency, every day has been filled of lines of storytelling events and I love that change. Some stories are heartwarming. Some are heart-wrecking. Some are heartbreaking. Whatever the story is, it inspires or provokes powerful emotions, which makes me feel alive and thankful for the hearts that bring to me all kind of colors of human sentiments.

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This sensitiveness in my heart, I suspect, must have been nurtured by numerous stories that I heard in my childhood. I had such a huge family compared to the modern nuclear one. My family included my grandparents, my parents, two uncles, two aunts, two cousins, two younger brothers and a helper of the family. In total 14 including myself. What a noisy household it was, especially at meal times when everyone gathered at the table trying to get what we wanted to eat while sharing our stories of the day. In addition to those personal narratives, my mum never failed to read bedtime stories for her children — my brothers and me. My grandpa often said to her, “If you hadn’t bought those books, you could have built a house!” My mum smiled and said, “I have all kinds of houses in all kinds of countries. I can do it because of those books I have read. Books can give my children a powerful force called imagination. Nobody can take that from them.” My grandparents shook their heads as if she was a silly person and was speaking nonsense. But her children didn’t mind at all whether she was silly or not because we all loved her bedtime stories.

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In addition to those daily personal narratives and bedtime stories we heard from our family, my grandma’s massive number of friends showered us with more stories about their lives. There was never a day without having a few guests at home. They visited us, had lunch and went home, leaving their stories ringing in our ears. Some stories were beyond our comprehension but I remember the sensations that went through my spine whenever someone told us one of those stories about the storytellers’ dreams.

The other night, my mother said in my dream, “Stay away from trouble.” I think she meant that I shouldn’t get involved with the troubles of one of my friends. Perhaps she is involved in something more serious than I can imagine. My mother looked really worried. I think I should take her advice and won’t get involved with the matter.

In such cases, my grandma and her other friends usually nodded and said, “You’d better listen to your mother!” Then they moved on to the next story after a few seconds of pensive silence. The ambiguity of language that is part of the art of Japanese storytelling was way beyond children’s capability to decode. However, I thought to myself one day I would understand those stories like my grandma and her counterparts and would join them as I nodded slowly and deeply like them. Thanks to all the fantastic storytellers, my childhood was filled with numerous forms of stories told by various generations of people. Naturally, I became a big fan of personal narratives and children’s literature.

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My love of stories continues today. It is one of the influences or inspirations that defines me as a person and is the most powerful force to get me to stay in the business of teaching English for young learners. In my view, stories are vehicles to take us to the world of narratives where you can be as free as you want to be. This kind of freedom in mind can empower children and help them to develop their imagination, creativity, empathy, morals and curiosity towards other fellow beings in reality. Such healthy curiosity towards lives of other human beings is one of unique characteristics of our race. This uniqueness can be the force to bring whatever innovations are needed to bring progress to the history of the human race. In comparison to other species on this planet, the human race can be the most destructive one. However, we can also be innovative and productive in many ways. To me, weaving stories with others to share is one of these ways. - Chiyuki Yanase

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