Saturday, 9 September 2017

Making the most of our resources

We all search for new ideas in books and online, and there is no harm in doing so; it just proves that we take teaching seriously and are prepared to invest a lot of time in improving our materials and methods. However, quite often we find it hard to adjust content or method to our situation. Groups may be larger or smaller than they should be, devices may be slow thus rendering the activity far too lengthy and not worth trying, our students are not playful or inventive enough to appreciate the activity or game and so on—the list is endless.

Eventually we find our way around and make the right adjustments so as to make the most of the resource. In order to do this, however, rather than rushing into the activity we need to pause and think about our students’ strong intelligences, their interests, the way they respond to the input and the difficulties each of them faces. By doing so we will be reinventing a resource which was born out of particular circumstances or was provided as a guide rather than a rigid template.

This is a process which not only does justice to our students but also builds up the teacher’s experience and contributes to establishing a theoretical construct on the basis of which we adapt our teaching. The construct has no permanent shape; it is being constantly modified by the cumulation of discoveries we make over the years.

By the time we reach the end of our career each one of us will have created a different approach which will be defined and demarcated by our own specifics. All of them will be right because they will have served the purpose.

If this sounds too abstract or theoretical, let me provide an example to illustrate.

Looking for something that could interest my B1 level students, I came across an article on the British Council Learn English Teens site under the section Magazine. The title of the article is: 3D printing: the future of food production?

I knew that my pupils, though quite young, would appreciate it if only for the novelty of the idea. But there were a few words that they didn’t know and in my mind I had decided that they should be able to enjoy the article without my mediation for clarifying words.

I therefore picked out the words that I needed to present before reading and rather than providing an equivalent in their mother tongue, I made a guessing game out of them. Even the mention of “game” was enough to put the children in the right mode. This was done orally in class and was thoroughly enjoyed as such but also speeded up the reading of the article and made pauses unnecessary.

What follows is a written representation of what went on in class but schematised here. In actual fact I asked a question and if the children did not know the answer, there was a lot of language production in English assisted by a fair degree of gesticulating as for instance when I explained “limbs”. The word “revolution” only required a date to make sense, which was 1821 (the liberation of Greece from the Turks) – a well-known fact to everyone.

Ø What does the word “dimension” mean?
Anything you draw on a sheet of paper is 2-dimensional.
Real objects are 3-dimensional.
You can even watch 4-dimensional films.

Ø Limbs=arms and legs

Ø Revolution 1821

Ø Raw as opposed to cooked

Ø Select=choose

Ø Do you buy updated versions of a game that you have already played?

Ø Convert euros into dollars.
Ø Convert a flat into an art studio.

Ø You have to change the inks in a printer when they are finished.

Ø Nutrients=all the useful stuff we get from food.

Ø Farmers get good crops or poor crops if the weather has been bad, for example.

Ø Concern(n.)=worry

Ø Modify=change

The presentation of vocabulary and the reading of the article followed by some explanations took about 60 minutes, which is the length of each session.

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