Friday, 28 October 2011

The Language Show, Saturday 24th October 2011: Seminars for Language Teachers

The first seminar I attended was about teaching grammar. James Stubbs, who now teaches English in Spain after many years of teaching languages in the UK introduced his concept of “Sticky grammar” taught through the Target Language.
Sticky grammar was presented as a way to reach all learners in a mixed ability group, supporting the lower ability student and stretching the higher ability one.
James then introduced his objective:  to use indirect object pronoun correctly: lui/le
The first step was to use direct object pronoun with agreement in present tense and we were shown how Direct Object pronouns can be taught through classroom routine:

Voulez-vous nous donner un point?
Voulez-vous nous expliquer l’activité un peu mieux?
Tu m’as parlé en anglais!
Veux-tu/ peux-tu nous repeater en anglais?
Peux-tu nous expliquer pourquoi tu es en retard?
Veux-tu lui expliquer pourquoi tu es en retard?
Vous devez…
Vous devrez surveiller les autres et il faut leur dire “éliminé”
Then was introduced the use of direct object pronouns with agreement for number and gender in the perfect tense. Success depends on students knowing the vocabulary and the gender of the vocabulary.
It is best to use a perfect tense where the past participle sounds different for masculine and feminine e.g. ouvert/ ouverte.
Use multiple choices as a starter activity to get students to focus on correct spelling and/ or pronunciation e.g. is it : ordinateur, ordinature or ordinataire?
Songs can also help students to remember vocabulary lists.
Colour-coding helps students learning the items of vocabulary with the correct genders attached to them e.g. blue for masculine, red for feminine.
Slow-reveal activities can help student practise vocabulary and develop their listening skills when it is combined with paraphrasing, reading a text or singing a song.
Genders can also be associated with a different side of the room e.g. to your right for masculine and to your left for feminine. Students may reinforce practise of the vocabulary by pointing to/ turning to the correct side of the room or moving towards it.
Print cards related to a story and read the story very quickly.  Students   will not understand everything and will have to re-construct the story sing the cards provided as clues.
More details about sticky grammar can be found on James’blog.
I then attended Joe Dale’s No brainer blogging for beginners workshop, which featured some of possibilities offered by Posterous blogs (now Posterous Spaces).
As the blog was being built in front of us, it showed very clearly that Posterous is a very pupil-friendly platform. As a result, I now really want to explore it further to develop students’ blogging. What struck me most was how easy it was to embed a range of media including word documents, powerpoints,  audio files, video and you tube links, something that can sometimes be quite problematic for beginners using platforms like Blogger or Wordpress.
The fact that Posterous also offers a choice between public and private blogs also makes it very suitable for student blogging.
Last but not least, I attended a very informative and entertaining workshop on memory techniques lead by Nick Mair, who was also at The Language Show to support the Speak to the Future campaign as shown by his “promotional” suit.
Nick adopted a no-nonsense approach to what can be done to support our students with memorization, acknowledging that the issue was general but that the solutions had to be specific to a wide range of students. He also mentioned differences in the amygdala that means that girls tend to find it easier to commit to long-term memory and learn from their mistakes.
Other issues mentioned enabled us to get a bigger picture of the issues linked with memorization like sleep deprivation, how teachers use and project their voice and visualisation.
I also found the explanation of the Link method quite interesting, as we were given an example where we had to tell a story linking a random list of objects to different rooms in our house. The aim was to create a way to visualise the whole list and it proved effective for many people.
Other factors to consider were:
Stress-how to reduce it and how to enable students to manage their mood levels. This can be combined with the effects of alcohol and drugs or general unhealthy habits: poor diet, lack of exercise…
Need to regularly monitor how effective the different strategies are for different students e.g. do you remember better using quizzes or flashcards
Students need to look at notes on a regularly basis to develop healthy studying habits
Students need to be organised-especially for male-as this will have a big impact on the quality of the final outcome
Avoid absenteeism at all cost as it interferes with good studying habits
Distribute study into “bitesize” rather than large chunks as the brain can only hold 5-9 things at any one time. 
Encourage peer learning as teaching someone else is a very effective way to commit to memory.
Last but not least, students’ exposure to a wide range of strategies was more likely to have an impact on effective memorization rather than any one specific approach.
The Language Show was yet again a fantastic opportunity to share ideas and learn lots of new things and as it was during our half-term holiday, it also gave me some quality time to think about how I was going to implement some of these ideas.  See you again next year!


A Salt said...

Thanks for such a detailed post, Isabelle. I particularly like the idea of gender on different sides of the room, and pupils turning as they learn.

Isabelle Jones said...

You're welcome!I did not think I could implement everything James put forward but it certainly gave me food for thought...