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Action in the ESOL classroom

8 Feb

What does it mean to take action with students? How can we make sure actions are led by learners not by teachers? How can we discuss and plan action in the ESOL classroom without imposing on students who just want to learn English? This January, English for Action staff and volunteers met up to explore these questions and share our skills, tools and ideas.

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Speak English!

6 Feb

Lots of our students have noticed a rise of racism and xenophobia in recent times. Streatham in south London is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse parts of the city – at one time boasting more languages than anywhere in the UK.

Where better to discuss multi-lingual London? Our students in one of our Streatham classes were discussing languages in the community. One student told a story of a friend somewhere out of London who was in the supermarket, speaking Polish to her daughter, when someone came up to her and told her to “speak English”.

The following week we discussed the issue in greater depth using a technique called “problem-posing from a code”, which originates from Paulo Freire, one of our inspirations at EFA. Here is the code, which is a picture of the story from the week before: Continue reading

Conference follow up: Notes on developing a student centred curriculum

29 Oct

“Curriculum is not a product (developed before the start of the program), but a process, which is constantly created through participant interaction.” (Elsa Auerbach)

At EFA London’s Exploring Participatory ESOL conference on 11th October we asked participants how topics emerged in their lessons. What activities did they use to find out more about their students and their interests? What strategies did they use as a teacher to create a classroom community where topics could emerge?

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Writing in the participatory ESOL classroom

10 Jul

I always look forward to the internal trainings we run at EFA London. As an organisation, we are constantly working on our ‘participatory ESOL’ approach, and trainings are a key space where our teachers and volunteers can master new tools and exchange their ideas, questions and experiences.

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ESOL and Forum Theatre Roleplays: take 2

9 Jun

In the Easter holidays we ran our second ‘forum theatre for ESOL’ course at the Katherine Lowe centre. The course involved two days of games, discussion and devising which culminated in performances for the group. After these performances, the ESOL-learner audience revisited scenes depicted and tried out interventions to improve the outcomes.

Our groups came up with scenes which touched upon the following difficulties

– sexist street harassment

– confrontations on a bus

– being laughed at for a lack of English

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Training at the Iranian Youth Development Association

6 Jan

On Saturday we delivered a training session for the Iranian Youth Development Association (IYDA). The session focused on using participatory tools to differentiate language learning for students of different levels. The Iranian Youth Development Association is a wonderful charity, set up in 1989, that provides Farsi language lessons and Iranian and Afghan cultural education for children. At the training we focused strongly on identity and working with students to talk and write about themselves in their own terms. We had a fascinating debate about the racism suffered by Afghans in Iran. One or two of the participants felt uncomfortable and “embarrassed” as a result. However everyone agreed that it was a really important debate to have though and this kind of delicate issues cannot be silenced. The job of the participatory teacher, along with his/her students, is to foster a learning community where authentic debate can emerge and students can take on throny issues, while at the same time everyone feels respected and supported.

Volunteering with English for Action – Discovering Participatory Learning

1 Nov

Volunteering with English for Action took my focus from the textbook, into the hands of the learner.

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