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Teaching Tips 213


Minor Monitoring

We spend quite a bit of time in class 'monitoring' our students, gauging how they are getting on with all types of activities from roleplays to helping out with written tasks. Here are a couple of considerations & ideas.

It is often difficult for the inexperienced teacher to decide what to do when monitoring, with the tendency to either stay completely out of the activity or get into it too much to the detriment of the students & the activity. Creating the right balance depends on the students, the task & the stage in the lesson. Sometimes the students would prefer to be allowed to do a task on their own, while at other times they might prefer some intervention from the teacher. Sensitivity is key in deciding how far to go & clearly experience helps here.

And then how do you monitor? During discussions teachers sometimes find it difficult to hear what's going on due to the noise level. They then move around, sitting near to the group they are monitoring. Depending on the size of the class sometimes it is possible to sit in the centre & listen in to the different groups without moving positions.

Monitoring a written task can be done from in front but can be a bit imposing for the students & uncomfortable for the teacher. Sometimes the size of the room makes this the only way to get around & see how individuals are getting on, but if you have a bigger room monitoring from behind the student may be preferable, making it easier to see the student's work without getting in the way. Writing tasks really do need intervention from the teacher as there is so much you can do to help improve their texts & develop their awareness of a host of things. This is especially true if the students' writing are to be put on public display e.g. on the walls for all to read. The students themselves would prefer there to be as few mistakes as possible if read by others.

The teacher could be making notes for feedback afterwards, especially for the freer speaking tasks. Different task sheets for different activities could easily be designed that help the teacher focus on the students& the task at hand.

The students could be asked to do some monitoring. For examples in the Tip ' Working with Triads', the students are divided into threes, where student A & B do a task which student C monitors & takes notes on their performance. At the end of the task the monitors feed back to the observed & the whole group & the area being monitored can be expanded upon & refined for all.

Students could be assigned monitor buddies for lessons. They monitor each other to see how they go about the tasks given that day. At the end of the lesson the monitor buddies get together & discuss the strategies they used.

Part of Stephen Krashen's ideas on the Natural Approach concerns the 'monitor model'. Adult learners consciously monitor their own output & will try to self-correct before speaking & know some of the mistakes after speaking. Three types of monitor users are mentioned; monitor over-users are those who are very accuracy-conscious, monitor under-users are not bothered about making mistakes, & optimal monitor users get the balance about right.

A way of encouraging optimal monitor use for under-users is to ask the students to monitor their talk during speaking activities & encourage them to take notes on when they felt unsure of how to say something or would have liked to have said something in a different way. At the end of the activity students could give each other feedback, you could take questions from the students, or they could be encouraged to put their comments in their learner diaries for written feedback from you. The more often the students take notes the less obtrusive it will be in the activities. For over-users lots of freer speaking activities with the emphasis on fluency with, initially, little correction afterwards can help them to loosen up.

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World Space Week logo
Over the Moon

World Space Week poster

2013 'celebrated the benefits of space and excitement about space exploration' while this year:

'World Space Week 2014 highlights the benefits of satellite navigation to humankind. In 2014 we are seeing the rollout of many improved and brand new Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), like 3rd generation GPS, Glonass, Beidou and Galileo. With the increase in systems we are also seeing an enormous increase in satellite navigation applications, in road navigation, but also in aviation, shipping, agriculture, disaster recovery and many other areas in society. And let's not forget about the GPS receiver in your own smartphone, helping you to find your way or locate places in your neighborhood!'

Video explaining World Space Week.

A new space poem each day of the week:

A few classroom ideas:
- for/against space development v investment on earth.
- roleplays around the navigation theme of WSWeek - e.g. asking for justification on where they've, parent/child (for YL), employer/employee....
- Past Tip 'Life on Mars' lesson plan about the Mars project & search for volunteers:
- the NASA game - speaking survival on the Moon task - choosing, justifying & persuading:
- predictions - future life for human race.
- space TV & films - favourites - tell, guess, sepak, write.
- NASA apps for phone & tablet.
- Songs - e.g. Space Oddity - Bowie, Rocket Man - Elton John....
- space quiz - design with the facts at:

For younger learners:
- draw an ET, imagine life on their planets..
- design a spaceship, full of space vocab.
- roleplay first contact with an ET.
- decide on 10 things to send to space to represent the age.
- NASA Kid's club - lots of things to do online.
- rocket race - draw rocket, fill with space vocab & then have race, rockets on ground....
- stories - Teddy goes to the moon.....
- what life would be like on Mars.
- plan holidays on planets.

Obviously by no means a comprehensive list of activities, these are to stimulate you to come up with your own.

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It's International Literacy Day on 8th September & clearly very much related to our work.

There is an excellent video of literacy teaching in action at the Teach English website - 'Judy Kirsh explores some of the different pproaches involved in teaching basic literacy to ESOL learners who have no, or very little, literacy in English or any other language. She begins with a brief overview of possible approaches and theories of literacy learning, followed by a closer examination of the 'language experience' approach.'

Here's the Wikipedia definition of 'literacy':

'The traditional definition of literacy is considered to be the ability to read and write, or the ability to use language to read, write, listen, and speak. In modern contexts, the word refers to reading and writing at a level adequate for communication, or at a level that lets one understand and communicate ideas in a literate society, so as to take part in that society. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has drafted the following definition: "'Literacy' is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying contexts. Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in the wider society." In modern times, illiteracy is seen as a social problem to be solved through education.'

There is literacy in the mother tongue & then being literate in another language. Our learners have a variety of different needs that depend on their future target situations & preferred learning aims. For learners living in English-speaking countries the need tend to be very clear & for those wishing to live or visit one of these countries in the future, much the same needs apply. And then a lot of other learners would like this more functional approach taken with their learning as a matter of course. However there are those who do not see themselves interacting with native speakers as much as the non-native speaker in a business setting.

In the wider context, the UN has this to say about literacy:

'Literacy is a cause for celebration since there are now close to four billion literate people in the world. However, literacy for all – children, youth and adults - is still an unaccomplished goal and an ever moving target. A combination of ambitious goals, insufficient and parallel efforts, inadequate resources and strategies, and continued underestimation of the magnitude and complexity of the task accounts for this unmet goal. Lessons learnt over recent decades show that meeting the goal of universal literacy calls not only for more effective efforts but also for renewed political will and for doing things differently at all levels - locally, nationally and internationally.'

'On International Literacy Day each year, UNESCO reminds the international community of the status of literacy and adult learning globally. Despite many and varied efforts, literacy remains an elusive target: some 774 million adults lack minimum literacy skills; one in five adults is still not literate and two-thirds of them are women; 75 million children are out-of-school and many more attend irregularly or drop out.'

Wikipedia's page on the Day:
The aim of these ESOL citizenship materials is to help the ESOL teacher develop the learners' knowledge of life in the UK, help them become more active citizens and to support applications for citizenship and settlement. If you are an ESOL teacher working with learners at Entry 1, Entry 2 or Entry 3, we hope you will find them useful anyway. But if you are teaching ESOL citizenship, they are essential. Use of Citizenship Materials for ESOL Learners in an ESOL citizenship and settlement course is now a Home Office requirement, if the learners wish to apply for UK citizenship and settlement. Excellent free downloads useful for all English language teachers!

A few more links to interesting & useful material - among many!:
Sample British-ness tests.
Simplified spelling lesson from Ed Rondthaler, age 102, former president of the American Literacy Council - YouTube.
Literacy Tools
The 'really useful guide' to words & numbers.
Write On - an interactive web site to help you improve your
reading, writing and numbers skills.
Literacy Resources for Learners of English as a Second Language
Picture Stories for Adult ESL Health Literacy

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