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Teaching Tips 132

Beam me up!
International Literacy Day
Blogging away


Beam me up!

It's the turn of the overhead projector this week, a very useful but underused piece of classroom hardware, that, although expensive, can last a lifetime. A few advantages include a professional approach in your classes, their usefulness in providing a focus for the large class, the drastic cutting down of photocopies, transparencies can be pre-prepared to save class time & they can be built upon, overlaid, to highlight different aspects. Here are a few ideas:

• overlaying - different scenarios can be built up with new information being provided with each new overlay being added. The desert island scenario is good for this - the students have to work out how to get across or escape from the island. You begin with the island & a couple of basic features & then add another transparency on top with more features. As the discussion takes place you could add another transparency on top that brings to light more information they need to account for in their discussion.

• if you are good at drawing, simple narratives can be built up over the one scene, with different characters & objects entering. Great for the younger learners.

• also for the younger learner, with monsters or robots, give each child a central rectangle - the torso - on a transparency, & ask them to draw on a different part - the head, a right leg, the left arm..- overlay the results & mix & match until they are happy with their monster!

• language analysis overlays make for a very clear visual highlighting. Cohesion is an area that is usually used for this. The first transparency is the text & then in the feedback, after the students have been asked to find specific features in the discourse, the first overlay shows examples of ellipsis, the next examples of anaphoric reference & so on - highlighted in different colours with boxes & arrows.

• if projecting on to a whiteboard, other information can easily be added, via the whiteboard, without writing on the transparency or overlaying, hence saving preparation time.

• very useful for the 'board stage' of the lesson. Either have the form, examples, meaning & phonology all marked or elicit it from the group & write on the transparency before they copy down into their notebooks.

• text highlighting - leave gaps between lines for comments, parts of speech or translations to be added.

•students can be involved, much the same as the whiteboard. As the group are getting on with a task in pairs, have two students do theirs on the OHP transparency so there is a model for all to compare with in the feedback stage.

• students can prepare their presentations with a transparency & pens.

If you're lucky to have access to an OHP, then there's always a use for it in each lesson.

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Literacy Day

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

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 needs 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.'

"Literacy is the best remedy"
'International Literacy Day (ILD) 2008 is placing a special focus on the important relationship between literacy and health. This is the theme for the 2007-2008 biennium of the United Nations Literacy Decade.
UNESCO and its partners are underlining the significance of literacy for healthy societies, with a strong emphasis on epidemics and communicable diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. These are some of the world’s most important public health concerns. This year’s slogan is “Literacy is the best remedy”.'

Wikipedia's page on the Day:
Simplified spelling lesson from Ed Rondthaler, age 102, former president of the American Literacy Council - QuickTime video

Here are a few links to interesting & useful material:
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
National Institute for Literacy archived content
Picture Stories for Adult ESL Health Literacy
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.
Sample British-ness tests.
US Civics and Citizenship Study Materials

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Blogging away

It was BlogDay on 31st August - better late than never. Here's what they say about it:
'BlogDay was created with the belief that bloggers should have one day dedicated to getting to know other bloggers from other countries and areas of interest. On that day Bloggers will recommend other blogs to their blog visitors. With the goal in mind, on this day every blogger will post a recommendation of 5 new blogs. This way, all blog readers will find themselves leaping around and discovering new, previously unknown blogs.
What will happen on BlogDay? - One long moment on August 31st, bloggers from all over the world will post recommendations of 5 new Blogs, preferably Blogs that are different from their own culture, point of view and attitude. On this day, blog readers will find themselves leaping around and discovering new, unknown Blogs, celebrating the discovery of new people and new bloggers.'

There's no doubting that blogs have been one of the major social outcomes of the internet explosion, & one that quite a few teachers are exploiting with their students. Clearly setting up a blog project with your students is fairly straightfoward on the technological front with the abundance of free & easy blogs that you can set up - there are some links to some of these below. The problem with blogs is getting your students to actually keep one. Public writing doesn't appeal to everyone, especially in
another language so no matter what you do, some are not going to take to it. But for those that find it interesting & see the usefulness, blogs can be a very rewarding way to develop language.

One the keys to making it successful is to keep it all low-key, relaxed & short, & one way to do this is to focus on what they come across on in their travels on the internet. The students write about interesting sites & current affairs stories they have viewed. Visitors to their blogs can then follow up the links & possibly comment in the original blog or in their own blog. You
need to join in, at least initially, until they get going.

So get along to one of the following & set up a blog for each student, or give them the link for them to set up their own. A few well known free blogs, amongst hundreds out there: - Blogging for teachers and students, made easy

Then set the task for all to cite three interesting websites they have visited recently. All visit each others' blog, posting comments on the sites & discussing the sites in class, deciding on the most interesting links.

It's free, fun & a natural way to practise & develop language. Try it out & see if it works.

Some more links:
'ESL / EFL Teacher Blogs - A collection of the best ESL teacher blogs on the Internet. These sites provide insightful information, lesson plans, local cultural information on the countries they teach in, as well as reflections on teaching English as a second or foreign language.'

Getting away from teaching, here are some most popular list of blogs for you to check out:
'Blog of the Day Awards offers the best selection of weblogs and famous blogs on a variety of topics.'

There are also the blogs in Moodle that can be used by all. For more about Moodle & our hosting solution:

The Olympics:
If your students haven't already had enough & would like to look back on the Olympics, here are some photos to provide stimulation for a discussion:

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