Tag Archives: pedagogy

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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Getting to know you…

23 Sep

I was delighted that 15 different students turned up this term for our class at Henry Cavendish school this term. Not many people in the class knew eachother and since I also didn’t know very many of them either I wanted an activity that would get us all talking. As such, I asked everyone to draw an ‘identity pizza’. An ‘identity pizza’ is basically a circle (or ‘pizza’) divided into segments, each representing different parts of who you are. So often, the first thing teachers ask ESOL students is their name and where they come from. But students may not consider their nationality as something key to their identity or who they really are. Because how students choose to fill their identity pizza is completely open to their own interpretation, they usually end up with a diagram that tells you much more about their interests, dreams and what’s important to them. Learners can write or just draw in each segment so everyone can join in, whatever their level of English.

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Participatory Course Planning

14 Oct

Aim
To use the river tool to create a living scheme of work and class profile. The river displays students’ ideas for classes, contexts they use and want to use English, and their interests and passions. Students can revisit the river and move things according to what they want to do andwhen.
Lesson One – Me
Students plan a presentation about themselves, planning using a combination of pictures and words. I encourage them to share their various identities, skills and interests as well as background. Students ask each other questions after the presentations and then develop a piece of writing with the title “Me”

Lesson two – Teachers
Around a picture of a teacher (drawn), students brainstorm adjectives (positive and negative) and verbs (positive and negative) to describe teachers. Inside the body of the teacher, students write some nouns that symbolise teachers eg. a map, a river, a mother etc. Students use the plan to write a poem eg. A teacher is a river / Guiding and moving / She encourages and cajoles / hopping and grooving

Lesson Three : The river
Draw a river along 5 or six flip charts stuck together. On the outside of the river, around the edges of the flipchart paper, students stick their writing “Me” and “Teacher”.
Students then work in small groups , brainstorming and writing on cards, the contexts in which they currently use and wish to use English. Eg. Talking about myself, Reading aloud to kids, chatting to colleagues at work, chatting to parents in the playground, participating in a parents’ meeting, talking to the doctor, reading letters from the council, writing cover letters
Collectively, as a whole group, students then negotiate where to put these activities on the plan (Eg. week 1, week 2 etc…). The stick the contexts, written on cards, onto the river with bluetack. Individually, students then choose three they are confident with and three they would like to improve. The teacher adds specific language objectives (possibly from the core curriculum) to the broad contexts (Eg. listen for detail, ask for additional information, make a suggestion, interject etc.). The cards can then be shifted around the river according to how the course is going. The course can be negotiated as it progresses. Card can be taken away, moved around or new ones added at any stage.

Lesson Four: Topics and interests
Learners think of topics and subjects (eg. sport, government, international relations, cooking, children, literature, travel, history of the UK, women’s rights, immigration etc.) they want to talk about, read about and write about in the class. Teacher then asks the class to position themselves on a spectrum line according to how interested they are in the subjects and topics and record the results. Add topics to the river where the fit around the contexts.

How did this go?


In my context the attendance is very up and down and I had students at different stages of the process. Some people were doing their “Teacher” poems and some were doing their “Me” writing. Then some people missed the contexts and rejoined during topics lesson. This meant that not everyone was always engaged in the process and some missed out on key sections.
The other major issue was one of space. We do not use the same classroom each week and we cannot display the river. This means it is not the living document it was supposed to be. The danger is that students feel undermined if they do not see the fruits of their labour. I am able to, and do, use the river to plan lessons but the learners to not have the control over the process that I anticipated. Is it better to have participated and lost (or be ignored) than never to have participated at all?