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Are you an English teacher? Are you interested in sharing ideas about teaching methods? Do you want to have fun? This is the right place for you to be!!!

We are looking for highly motivated teachers who are afraid of not giving enough to students. We’ve created this blog for all English teachers who:

  • need support
  • want to have fun
  • don’t mind sharing tips, thoughts, plans, ideas and teaching experiences.

As this is meant to be OUR teachers’ blog, feel free to write anything you might find relevant.

If you have any thoughts on how we can improve, complement or innovate, whether it be in our current areas of activity or those which are related, we’d love to hear from you.

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clil

Why is CLIL always about second language learning?

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CLIL and Second Language Learning: A must?

Whenever CLIL is discussed within any content, the main topic is always: second language acquisition. This makes sense because CLIL is all about learning a second language while learning a subject at the same time.

Or is it?

The role of language within CLIL

As you probably know (I kind of assume you do) the CLIL acronym stands for Content and Language Integrated Learning. This implies language is involved. However, it is not stated anywhere that second language learning is involved. Yet, this is what we focus on quite a lot, if not always, when discussing CLIL.

Is that a bad thing? In my opinion: no, not per sé. Yet, being aware of this fact does have implications for how you teach using the CLIL Methodology. Let me explain.

My experiences in a ‘regular’ CLIL lesson

When I switched schools a couple of years I had to start teaching in Dutch again, my first language, because of the availability of bilingual classes and very capable teachers who were already teaching those groups. This challenged me a little: I had taught for years in English only and was afraid I would have to change my way of teaching.

You probably guessed it: I was wrong.

I could implement all of the CLIL activities I used to do in my English-talking classes just as easily in my Dutch-speaking classes.

And yes: I still made them aware of the language they used and had to communicate in. Maths contains quite a few phrases that are hard to understand even when you are ‘just’ speaking a first language.

Better teachers?

In an article published in CLIL Magazine Spring 2015 (page 12), Rick de Graaff actually mentions those subject teachers who teach using the CLIL methodology experience a development concerning their own skills as a teacher. Not just as a language teacher, which would make sense, but also as a subject teacher.

Being able to explain things in different ways is a skill every teacher (should) have, but how often have you thought about the role of language when explaining something new?

CLIL for non-CLIL teachers

Last year I was asked to host a series of workshops on CLIL for non-CLIL teachers. In other words: I was asked to train teachers how to use the CLIL methodology within a first-language setting. This was not only a very interesting request, the teachers thought they had really learned some new ways of working with their students, being made aware of the role they had within a class setting.

They were not just subject teachers. They were also language teachers. Without teaching in a second language!

Conclusion

CLIL is commonly used in combination with the second-language acquisition, and I get it. It makes sense to use a language-learning methodology when learning a new, second language.

However, next time you teach a first-language lesson, think about the role of language in that lesson.

What words are new? What words or sentences might pose a challenge? Do students really understand everything you say, even if it is done in their first language?

Answer these questions for your next lesson, and you might just end it becoming a CLIL teacher. Without the need for a second language!

from CLIL Media Magazine

Let's get Digital

Digital Tools to Build Vocabulary: Reference Tools

In today’s 21st century classrooms, digital tools must coexist alongside more traditional tools. Online tools, compared to their more traditional counterparts, provide a broader array of information about words and word meanings. In addition, some tools allow teachers to easily customize words so that students can practice, review, and play games with content or unit-specific words.

Digital tools have advantages. For example, many allow students to:

  • hear pronunciations;
  • read words in a variety of authentic examples;
  • view photos and images related to words (important for English language learners);
  • reinforce word learning through interactive games;
  • play with and manipulate language;
  • discover rhyming words; and
  • collaborate with classmates to create virtual words walls.

The following digital tools show promise to support word learning, review, and playing with language.

1.  Lingro

Lingro is a cool tool for both the “wow” factor and for its usefulness. Simply type in a website address on the Lingro website and it instantly turns the website into a clickable dictionary that translates text in 12 languages. Lingro hides in the background until students need it. To use, students simply click on any word and several definitions of the word are instantly displayed. I could see this as a very useful tool for just-in-time support for English language learners.

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2. Lexipedia

Looking for a visual thesaurus? Then Lexipedia is for you. Simple to use. Just type in any word and Lexipedia instantly displays the target word along with other words. It also colour-codes the words by both parts of speech and relationships. As you hover over a word, a complete definition is displayed.

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3. Shahi

Shahi, as described on the website, is a visual dictionary that combines Wiktionary content with Flickr images, and more! An absolute new favourite for me. Besides serving as a nonlinguistic tool, I can also see this as a very useful tool for English language learners.

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4. Snappy Words

Similar to Lexipedia, Snappy Words is another visual thesaurus. Teachers may want to introduce several of the thesaurus tools and allow students to select which works best for them. The visually sparse, cleaner display of Lexipedia works better for me.

Cattura

5. Visual Dictionary Online

Check out Webster’s visual dictionary which is simple to use. Type in a single word or choose a theme that also includes many sub-categories from which to choose. Even though Webster’s is simple to use, there is a downside to this tool. After typing in a word search, 4 or 5 Google ads quickly appear above the definitions. Distracting. Yuk. It’s so clunky I almost didn’t include this tool.

sfh

6. Word Hippo

An all-in-one reference tool, Word Hippo does the following: defines a word, provides a meaning, provides a word that is opposite, pronounces a word, provides rhyming words, places the word in many different contexts, and translates the word. Whew! That’s a lot.

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7. Wordnik.com

Wordnik has the look and feel of a traditional dictionary with a twist. Along with the definition, students can see images related to the word, hear related sounds, and even see tweets with the target word highlighted. The “related words” feature is particularly helpful. Wordnik also features a “Word of the Day,” “Random Words,” and pronunciations of words.

F16F_yourdictionary

8. Your Dictionary

Your Dictionary bills itself as providing simple, straightforward definitions and the easiest-to-use online dictionary. That’s about right. Sometimes simple is good. In addition to providing a definition, Your Dictionary also includes a thesaurus and places the word in varied sentence examples.

adapted from TeachThought

Teachers only

When it all goes wrong: 6 tell-tale signs you have lost control

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One teacher-writer recounts the catastrophic attempts at trying – and failing – to maintain class control and argues for greater genuine support in schools.

1. You send a child out – just out

I’ve done this a number of times; if you haven’t, you are doing well. A child enters your lesson with no intention of learning or showing you no modicum of respect. Instead of going through a series of sanctions and warnings, set down by some whole-school behaviour policy, you shout “Get out” with all the gusto you can muster. If he or she moves, you are lucky. You can leave them outside for five minutes while you figure out your next move.

If they won’t move, you have to call for a colleague or SLT and explain why you didn’t go through the normal sanctions system without saying, “I just wanted to get rid of this child without going through the normal sanctions system.”

Oh, another danger with this one, and I’ve done this before too; sending the child out and then forgetting about them. Thirty minutes later, a child in the class politely reminds you that their peer is still outside. Acting as though that was all part of the plan, you nonchalantly wander towards the door.

2. You threaten them with copying out

You know silent copying isn’t learning and you would like to think you would never do it. But sometimes, it’s just easier to control 30 non-compliant young people by resorting to one of the oldest tricks in the book. You feel guilty because you know that the minority who want to get on with things is also subjected to this medium, but your ability to single out the ringleaders suddenly becomes a lot easier. Nevertheless, you end the lesson feeling like a failure, knowing that you weren’t able to control them in any other way.

3. You blow up

It’s 10 minutes into a lesson and literally, no one is listening to a word you are saying from your carefully illustrated PowerPoint presentation and accompanying resource. You feel lost, frustrated and alone. You fall back on your old friend: the hysterical rant at the class.

You slam the board duster on a desk and shout as loud as you can: “This is not acceptable!” One of two things happens. One: the children are shocked into a stony silence. You can’t hear a pin drop. You lambast them for a solid five minutes and then tell them to get on with the work. Very gradually, noise levels go up, the sniggering starts again and the realisation that the joker in your pack has caused little more than temporary ripple dawn on you. Now, you might resort to seeking a colleague.

Or, two: the initial shock factor of your opening salvo fades so fast that one student says “Calm down”, to which the rest of the class start sniggering. You turn your attention to that child and in so doing, don’t see one of the students throwing a banana skin at another, who now complain loudly about this infringement that you failed to see. Meanwhile, conversations break out of all sorts as your theatrical villain piece is dismantled. Your cheeks are now red, the class are still ignoring you and you feel so small, it genuinely hurts.

4. You use the warning system like a machine gun

The wild soldier, suffering from shell-shock, wielding an AK47, firing it frantically in all directions with the thousand-yard stare on his face. That’s you as you recite the warning system at various children like a version of the Hail Mary. “First warning, second warning,” you say to one student. “Second warning,” you say to another. “Third warning,” to another. All the while, you’re relying on your power of memory to remember who has warnings and who doesn’t. Within minutes, students are arguing the toss over how many warnings they’re on.

While trying to maintain your veneer of control and surety, you proclaim “you have two” before realising you may have mistaken this particular student for their twin sister, sat adjacent to them. Staring at the two children, you wonder if you are seeing double or you have just cocked up. Either way, now that nearly everyone in the class has accumulated at least one warning and you have no record of their indiscretions to hand, you are lost in no man’s land, with no distinction between enemies and friends, and no ammunition left in the chamber.

5. You issue a whole-class detention

“Right, you’re all staying behind at the end.” I did this, once, back in 2009. I won’t forget it because a parent came in to make a complaint on behalf of their daughter because she had to pick some crayons up off the floor having done nothing wrong. I knew said the parent was right. It was a hard lesson, and one I didn’t repeat again. However, the allure of the whole-class sanction is like being George Bush with the little red button shimmering on your desk saying “push me”. The temptation is always there to just place the punishment blanket over the whole class. The consequences are never good in the short term, or long.

6. Mr Nice Guy

In a desperate attempt to be respected, you hatch an ill-conceived plan to make the children like you. “Can I go to the toilet sir?” is met with “Certainly”. “Can I sit next to my friend over there? (the one chewing gum and swinging on their chair) is met with “Absolutely – as long as you promise to work”. You smile reassuringly.

As requests become more and more ridiculous, you wander around the class, becoming a sycophantic slave to those whose influence you feel you need to win; the naughty kids. Everyone else takes a back seat as you pander to their every need and want, asking them if they need help every couple of minutes while they successfully engage you in conversations about anything other than the work for the majority of the lesson.

Soon, your presence resembles background noise – it’s as if you don’t exist. Your desire to be liked and avoid conflict has created a monster as children start to take the mick. Suddenly, your attention turns to the clock on the wall, as you count down the minutes until the bell rings and pray that nothing bad happens in the meantime because you sure as hell aren’t going to stop it.

I will freely admit, these scenarios aren’t foreign to me personally. I would beat myself up over much less, so when they played out, you can imagine the stress.

I can giggle now, but the serious story is that thousands of teachers are the “you” in this story, day after day, week after week. Whether its because they have particularly tough classes, they have little support from anyone or they just don’t know what they are doing because no one has told them how this is the reality for many. It shouldn’t be. Rather than judge or pity, support should be real, genuine and swift.

Thomas Rogers runs rogershistory.com and tweets at @RogersHistory

Continue reading “When it all goes wrong: 6 tell-tale signs you have lost control”

Classroom Resources

Scaffolding Strategies to Use With Your Students

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What’s the opposite of scaffolding a lesson? Saying to students, “Read this nine-page science article, write a detailed essay on the topic it explores, and turn it in by Wednesday.” Yikes—no safety net, no parachute, no scaffolding—they’re just left blowing in the wind.

Let’s start by agreeing that scaffolding a lesson and differentiating instruction are two different things. Scaffolding is breaking up the learning into chunks and then providing a tool, or structure, with each chunk. When scaffolding reading, for example, you might preview the text and discuss key vocabulary, or chunk the text and then read and discuss as you go. With differentiation, you might give a child an entirely different piece of text to read, or shorten the text or alter it, and/or modify the writing assignment that follows.

Simply put, scaffolding is what you do first with kids—for those students who are still struggling, you may need to differentiate by modifying an assignment and/or making accommodations (for example, by choosing more accessible text and/or assigning an alternative project). Continue reading “Scaffolding Strategies to Use With Your Students”