The Finale (Act I)

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Four – Individual Oral Assessment

IB Course Creator Tim Pruzinsky started his introduction video by saying this final module would be unique and no easy task. Armed with a floppy left arm (following my second installment of the COVID-19 jab yesterday) and a nausea (last weekend’s sickness has caused my appetite since to be largely under the requirements of a half-giant), I set on my studies. To baldly go… (shiny-headed pun intended)

Utterly the Higher Level!

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Three – Assessing the Higher Level Essay

What is a 4? What is a 5? The line between the two is foggy and at times completely a blur. So, here, I use the benefit of the doubt. My reasoning is simple. The overall piece was well written, clearly thought of in detail and delivered in an informative way. I still had some question. So, I went looking. I found that Calvin and Hobbes ran from 18/11/1985 to 31/12/1995 as a daily comic strip in the U.S.A. and across the world. I’ve certainly never stumbled on this strip, despite it landing in over 2400 newspapers! Humour, satire, politics, and family life mix well with philosophy and judging by the Wikipedia write-up, a dozen of so academics have touched on it too.

CriterionExaminer marksExaminer reasoning
AUnderstanding & Interpretation5/5Broad understanding of Calvin & Hobbes.
Strong appearance and understanding.
Clear persuasive interpretation.
Some focus on satire shows deeper interpretation.
Implications of text explained well bit could have had more detail.
Demonstrates a passion for the text.
Reference use is strong.
Portrays the comic’s intent and purpose well.
Line of inquiry allows for development &/or relevant/focus.
Some openness of interpretation may be conveyed from the chosen language features of the student’s works.
Who, when, what and how answered. The why is a little under-supported.
BAnalysis & Evaluation4/5Graphic aspects needed a little further contextual depth.
Would have benefitted from more language analysis.
Consistent flow with convincing analysis.
Insightful analysis of the text.
Is the reader intended to be active or an observer?
Clear that: Language + style + technique = meaning.
Evaluation of author’s choice clear & concise.
Further development of points possible.
Accurate use of technical terminology.
CFocus & Organization4/5Organised/cohesive, but a little complex.
Integrated example usage.
Adequate development of a line of inquiry.
Paragraphs clear and linear, however some back and forth to the appendix is needed.
DLanguage5/5Clear and well-chosen.
Appropriate register (effective/concise).
Vocabulary strong and supportive. Literary terms deployed.
Grammar usage largely accurate. Some sentence structure errors.
Total18/20

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Three – Added Extras (Extended Essay)

Firstly, the score weighting is different to previously marked papers, so it allows for flexibility in awarding a final mark. Deciding between a score from four or five is tougher than that of one from six or twelve. An in depth extended essay offers more chance to digest and deconstruct before reviewing and offering feedback. Overall, it is much more demanding. However, for candidate and examiner the process is more exacting and testing. It isn’t a short time task! A cup of steaming cappuccino was required!

CriterionExaminer marksExaminer reasoning
AFocus & Method (a reader should see the beginning to the end)5/6Effective speech chosen.
Culture/context/target language show connection.
In depth analysis versus that of a broader range of speeches.
Good usage of secondary sources as way of support.
Displays good intelligence.
BKnowledge & Understanding (a reader should be informed)5/6Social/political understanding of the speech fully demonstrated.
Subject-specific terminology deployed.
Primary and secondary sources support context.
No digression.
Public opinions over-generalised?
CCritical Thinking (a reader should see thoughts)9/12Research, analysis and evaluation evident and of a high value.
Exploration of the speech could have been furthered more accordingly (to gain full marks).
Concentrating their interpretation would be of more benefit to the writer.
DPresentation (a reader needs it to be clear)3/4Clear.
Some over-general citation use.
EEngagement (a reader should be engaged)5/6Initial topic starts and is abandoned.
Further two topics engage deeply.
Candidate’s voice lacks full bite.
Total27/34

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Three – Reflection

How can you use the assessment components, the learner portfolio, and more, to help achieve the IB mission?

Papers one and two offer opportunities for student encouragement and development. Each offers skillsets for life. The IB learner profiles can be explored and reinforced. The issues of identity, culture, class, environment and representation, amongst other matters can be explored through non-literary and literary study. Literature is a rich vein for exploration. It offers voices and opportunity to use effectively the approaches to learning skills. Drawing a connection beyond the non-literary and literary gives rise to language exposure and expansion.

Through paper one students can explore global issues across a broad range and bring them to the classroom for debate. Global thinking inquiring minds can be founded within the realm of paper one.

Paper two has a traditional feel to deliver in a form of written communication. That. construct must include balanced analysis, evaluation and be organised in a way that shows complete organisation through good time management and and thorough language use.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

Who watches the Watchmen?

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Three – Reviewing Examiner Marked Papers

Part One

CriterionExaminer marksExaminer reasoning
AUnderstanding & Interpretation4/5Demonstrates full literal understanding.
Insightful interpretation.
Fully supported/referenced to text.
BAnalysis & Evaluation5/5Convinced analysis of textual/visual features.
Supports how features/choices shape meaning.
Effective use of website provision.
CFocus & Organization5/5Coherent organisation of analysis.
Growth shown from writing’s beginning to end.
Conclusion is strong.
Supports itself.
DLanguage4/5Clear/carefully selected language.
Adequate register/style.
Accuracy in vocabulary, grammar and structure.
Ideas expressed clearly enough, but could benefit from more oomph.
Some grammatical endings likely prevented full marks.

Part Two

CriterionExaminer marksExaminer reasoning
AUnderstanding & Interpretation4/5Demonstrates full understanding of literal text, when combined with visual text elements.
Individual aspects highlighted.
BAnalysis & Evaluation5/5Conveys meaning & evaluation of features.
Highlights choice of word use; drawing details; story development; character choice.
CFocus & Organization5/5No focus on the story’s moral.
Paragraphing very clear.
DLanguage4/5Appropriate use of terminology for graphic novel/comic strip formats.
Notes inconsistencies.
Some tough misuse of punctuation. Tenses/clauses incorrectly used.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes – Latin for: “Who will guard the guards against themselves?”

Module 3: Paper II: One try.

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Three – Marking Rewards Content

Before tackling this, I hate red pens. I refuse to use red pens. I like to highlight in sky blue, what needs to be praised. I use orange (or pencil) to draw attention to something that needs reflection and evaluation. I use pencil where corrections can be made. So, my marking is looking to reward what happens to stare outwards and not what is missing. Marking should encourage students and not destroy their confidence.

Knowledge, understanding & InterpretationCriterion A7/10Shows knowledge about works.
Evidence of narration.
Experience of characters evident.
Comparatives used.
Contrasts clear.
Evident connection. Linked clearly to the question.
Generalisation overpowers specific areas of closer comparison.
Analysis & EvaluationCriterion B8/10Includes textual features.
Analysis connects technical features to texts.
Analysis shows connection of different perspectives.
Evaluates the chosen text.
Encourage use of explicit answers.
Encourage analytical terminology.
Focus & OrganisationCriterion C4/5Not very smooth in flow. Few conjunctions in use.
Focus seems to lack sharpness. Overall
Conclusion: vague.
Sentence length and structure needs revision.
What exactly is etc?
LanguageCriterion D3/5Some repetition of key points. Some repetition of key points.
Register appropriate.
Some spelling, punctuation and grammar faults. Proofreading would have removed these errors.
Encourage a wider range of vocabulary and terminology.
Lacks evaluation voice.
Total marks: 21/30

EDIT: Following the above work, I was allowed to read the below (which gives more guidance):

Non-Literary Unit of Study

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Two Wiki

Notes: It is important to use questions: WHO / WHEN / WHAT / WHY / HOW / WHICH / DO / DID / etc.

ConceptIdentity
Who is Boris Johnson? What was his political background? How did he rise to power? What roles did he have? How do you measure his success? Based on your analysis of several magazine and newspaper covers, is it possible for you to comment on his character? To what extent do these covers reflect his identity? Has he stylised his approach to that of Sir Winston Churchill?
Communication
Political parties and their members need communication methods. A voice within a newspaper column can have a great effect on the potential electorate. Every word is carefully written, edited, drafted and calculated.
How do people remember words from speeches?
How do people see written text and compare this to spoken dialogue through various sources?
Culture
Negative campaigns and advertisements are characteristic of certain cultures. Some cultures take these techniques much further than others.
§ How do texts in this unit compare to the election & political culture in your country?
§ Are they more negative or less negative than what you are used to seeing?
§ How are trends in negative advertising changed over the years in your country? Why is this?
Global issuePolitical landscape – battles of power
Area of ExplorationReaders, writers, texts
What are the different ways in which people are affected by texts and their attached imagery?
Time and space
What is the influence of cultural contexts on how texts are written and received?
Intertextuality: connecting texts
Which diverse texts have features in common?
Assessment ObjectivesHow are notions of political power constructed by the media? (Local, regional or international influence?)
How do newspapers play a role in shaping public opinion? (Or, to try to remain unbiased?)
How do politicians use language to persuade voters? (Or to dissuade?)
What kinds of debate techniques and argumentation fallacies are common in televised and political debates? (Is it civil? Or, closer to that of a talk show? Or, akin to that of Jerry Springer?)
In what ways do politicians use language to tear down their rivals? Is it respectful to the viewing audience’s collective maturity and intelligence?
Respond to non-literary texts to demonstrate an understanding and develop a personal interpretation (Paper 1)

1. Gather ten political figures on different magazine or newspaper covers. Review the presentation, first impressions and back-up their opinion using the material evidence.
2. Observe a debate video. Discuss their answer. Refer to their arguments. Discuss fairness and tactical language usage.
Non-Literary textsMagazine covers
Front pages 
Debates (ITV News: Corbyn v Johnson) (BBC Newsnight: Johnson v Corbyn debate analysis) (Johnson declines debate) (Debate regarding Bexit deal)
Ads (Love Actually parody) (12 Questions) (Greenpeace: Wasteminster) (Boris vs. Obesity)
Overview & ProcedureText typesHow to develop activities / expansion ideas / Links to TOKthings to consider
An introduction.

See column 4.

Link to oral exam: YES/NO.
Video 

Social media source

News feed

Article

magazine piece

Speech

Transcript
Discuss the connection between:

Discuss the relationship between:

Compare the differences between:

What/how do we differ between right & wrong?

How do we know information is clear and accurate before voting at an election?

Do politicians lie?

How can you be certain your vote counts?

What are objective facts?

Is there an appeal to emotions in order to shape public opinion?

Do we have an ethical obligation to understand political issues/events/global issues?

Should language be simplified for the benefit of voters or the general public?

Should language and campaign materials be fact-checked and cross-referenced before being made public?

Is misinformation legal?

How far does freedom of speech go before it becomes libel?
audience

diction

mode

genre

register

rhetoric

purpose

linguistic relativity

stereotypes

receptive

interactive
images below belong to the publication title (as per their cover) – these are selected from Der Spiegel / GQ British edition / The Mail On Sunday magazine Live / The London Magazine / Elle / Panorama – Canberra Times / Time / The Sunday Times magazine / The Big Issue / New Statesman / The Guardian Weekly / The Spectator / Daily Mail / Private Eye / The Economist / The Philadelphia Trumpet
Wrap-up/reflectionWhat aspects of this activity resonated strongest with you?
How could I have improved this Non-Literary Unit of Study inquiry?
Has anything changed the way you look at the world?
How important is it to know what is fair or unfair?
Is there an aspect you would like to explore further? Why?

Review examples (1) (2) (3) (4)

Created by: Ahmed, Acton, and Olivia. Published at: INSERT LINK Submitted to: IB PD website on 21st JUNE 2021

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Two Reflection

  • “How did your thoughts about what you might teach change based on the TOK debate?”

The debate opened up new avenues of exploration, exposure to other influences shared by other teachers around the globe and created a wider lens to look at teaching options. The wider the scope of texts, the broader the issues that can be covered in comparative assignments.

  • “What is your role in creating an internationally minded literature syllabus?”

Turning negatives into positives, examples of adversity can be shown to create inspirational and deep characters. I believe I can highlight equality and inequality as a stepping stone from their comfort zones to the wider world around them, using relatable issues and examples. Trying to make students feel part of something or connect is a challenge and one that needs to be handled compassionately with complete empathy, and not through a patronising lens. We’re not trying to feel sorry for others. We can relate and encourage critical thinking and higher order thinking that seeks change for the better. We don’t want every issue or problem to overshadow the mood and emotion of study.

  • “Do you believe it is more important to teach canonical works or a diverse set of texts? Why?”  

Diverse foods create good tongues. Diverse music taste influences good listening skills and music knowledge. Diversity in reading creates a reader that can handle texts from numerous countries, cultures and backgrounds.

  • “And finally, what are you most excited about teaching and why?”

I am most excited to get students lifting new unfamiliar texts, through their own choice and confidence. In turn, I want to see each student set unique challenges and bring their own interests, choices to the classroom.

Syllabus construction

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Four Syllabus Construction – (draft II)

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Two Syllabus Construction – A checklist for language and literacy (draft I)

See Guide, pages 20-21. Use: Prescribed Reading List.

HIGHER LEVEL (6 works)
STANDARD LEVEL (4 works)
conceptsplace* (3 / 2)period*
(3 / 2)
literary form*
(3 / 2)
Areas of Exploration
PRL (English) 1: William ShakespearerepresentationEngland/ Europe16th/17th centuryliterary text: poetryreaders, writers & texts
PRL (English) 2:
Nurrudin Farah
perspectiveSomalia20th/21st centuryliterary text: prose fiction / dramatime & space
PRL (translated) 1: Persepolis & Persepolis II (Marjane Satrapi)Cultures & identity: How does a text bridge a cultural boundary and create an insight? How do we approach texts from different times and cultures to that of our students?Iran
/France
/Austria
21st centuryliterary text: graphic novelsconnecting texts
PRL (translated) 2: Hanqing Guan / The Ballad of Mulan, anonymous / Njal’s saga, Óþekktur höfundurcommunication: How can texts offer multiple perspectives of a single issue, topic or theme?China/
Iceland
13th century; 4th century onwards; 12th-14th centuryliterary text: drama / poetry / prose fictionreaders, writers & texts
Free choice 1: The Levellerscreativity: how does the listener understand the meaning of a song and its lyrics; How are we affected by texts in varied ways?UK/ Europe20th/21st centuryliterary text: music lyricstime & space
Free choice 2: Tash Awwhy & how do we study language and literature?Malaysia21st centuryliterary text: prose fiction/novel
variousallglobal21st centurynon-literary text: websitesreaders, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
variousallglobalvariousnon-literary text: opinion columnsreaders, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
variousallglobal20th/21st centurynon-literary text: magazine and newspaper coversreaders, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
variousallglobalpre-21st century; 20th centurynon-literary text: public information texts readers, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
variousallglobalpre-21st century; 20th centurynon-literary text: propaganda pamphlets readers, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
variousallglobalpre-21st century; 20th centurynon-literary text: advertisementsreaders, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
variousallglobal21st centurynon-literary text: blogsreaders, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
variousallglobal20th/21st centurynon-literary text: self-help guidesreaders, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
variousallglobalvariousnon-literary text: photographyreaders, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
various (some translated)allglobalvariousnon-literary text: speechesreaders, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts
various (some translated)allglobalvariousnon-literary text: quotationsreaders, writers & texts; times & space; connecting texts

The Levellers were chosen for their breadth and depth of lyrics. I absolutely agree that I would be focusing on an exploration of the lyrics (as a form of poetry) more than any other aspect. The subculture of music videos, album art, posters, and instruments representing voices would supplement a non-literary body of work.

“Your daddy, well he died in the Falklands; Fighting for another man’s cause; And your brother he was killed in the last war; Now your mother’s, well she’s lying home alone” – Another Man’s Cause, The Levellers

There are songs within their 12 (or so) album catalogue that cover topics like human rights (food roof family), refugees (The Shame), peace (Exodus), anti-war (The Recruiting Sergeant), the 1917 Étaples Mutiny (Mutiny), homelessness (Cardboard Box City), identity (England My Home), nuclear trouble (Belaruse), being human (Julie), inequality (Dirty Davey), class and humanity (This Garden), a dived world (Generation Fear) and huge range of emotions, personalities and periods of time. There are many songs that mark a journey and an exploration of the individual. Some are simple. Some are deep.

“My father when I was younger; Took me up on to the hill; That looked down on the city smog; Above the factory spill” – One Way, The Levellers

The indie folk rock genre that The Levellers have inhabited for over three decades. They formed their own festival in opposition to the increasing numbers of festivals of a highly commercial nature. At first I was thinking about bands that are highly accessible like Coldplay and U2, but then I thought why not go off the beaten track?!

“The year is 1991, it seems that freedom’s dead and gone; The power of the rich is held by few; Keep the young ones paralysed, educated by your lies” – Sell Out, The Levellers

The Levellers were formed in the 1990s and were not afraid to speak and sing the truth. They’ve been on a musical revolution for over three decades. They edged on the fringes of pop in their early days but have found their home more across genres than any other British band. They have likely influenced more musicians disillusioned by the commercial and closed state of the music industry. Their lyrics have been heard by musicians, writers and poets. The alternative scene to as establishment has a voice that can echo far. This is a band named after a political movement during the 17th century, formed in the years of the late William Shakespeare’s growing influence (on the English language).

“They’re sending in the elite, complete with guns; To advertise the way to go; Faxing through the fax to make it clear; That they’re the ones who know” – Liberty Song, The Levellers\

Module II: Theory of Knowledge &

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Two Theory of Knowledge

Canon meaning (1): a general law, rule, principle, or criterion by which something is judged. Or meaning (2): the writings or other works that are generally agreed to be good, important, and worth studying. (Meanings interpreted from the Collins, Cambridge and Oxford dictionaries)

Module 2 mission:

I: theory of knowledge debate about the canon, the prescribed book list, and international-mindedness. Before building the course: What do you believe? Note: conceptual/flexible/international-mindedness core values (IB mission; allows freedom and exploration). Must be a connection between course of TOK and Language & Literacy.

Questions that spring to mind are:

Is there a difference to gaining knowledge from literacy, language or other methods of learning?

What do we actually learn through the study of text?

Is there a scientific method to language and literacy study?

What is the purpose of non-literary text and why is it often compared to fuller literary text types? How is it best to interpret these different forms? Any clinical ways to explore them?

Who understands and comprehends a text best?

Do clashes exist in interpretive strategies? How can you review such diverse viewpoints?

The word canon brings to mind William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, T.S. Eliot, or Mark Twain. Homer, Geoffrey Chaucer, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney and many others make up a largely male list. Jane Austen, the Brontë family, Virginia Woolf and Elizabeth Gaskell often make the list to offer a feminine perspective. Gwendolyn Brooks is the only writer of a different racial group that I recall reading in secondary school. That was because Mr Mack, my year 9 English teacher, loved poetry and wanted us as students to understand the world beyond England.

Western writers always appear elevated over often-so-called new world, African, Asian or other regional writers. I have found myself in China, reading translated pieces by Kǒng Fūzǐ (孔夫子) or as he is known globally, Confucius and trying to follow Sūnzǐ (孫子) or Sun Tzu, so I can relate to Chinese students trying to master Shakespeare or other works set and written in a different world! For me, text without Confucius and Sun Tzu needs to be accompanied by the interpretation of other writers. Canon writers are predominantly the popular and classical writers that A-Levels and GCSEs have covered. Those modelled courses and their American and Australian equivalents have travelled through international schools to far flung places and huge populations like India and China. It surprised me on arriving here in Dongguan, China to see Jack London’s Call of The Wild and O. Henry’s The Gift of Magi. The latter is on my reading list but struggling to find its way off it. I found it odd that English classics had more perspective than translated versions of domestic Chinese literature. Surely, writing an essay on such relatable matters would boost comprehension of western writing interpretation?

IB curriculum schools open doors to places around the globe lesser known. I wandered into a class earlier this year themed around Persepolis. Inspired by this choice in MYP, I found a transcript of writer Marjane Satrapi’s Chicken with Plums translated from French to English. I introduced the lesser graphic edit to my PYP Grade 4 students. Later, one of the students advised they had seen the movie and didn’t know there was a book! We were there and then led to Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence (Doris Pilkington AKA Nugi Garimara), and Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner – under slight edits to remove scenes unsuitable for ten year old students! A unit of inquiry about migration, refugees and where we are in place and time had been connected, all because of one literature piece’s indirect influence.

I’m a firm believer in diversity and multicultural integration. I’ve seen first-hand the horrors of divide, but also the beauty and magic of inclusion and togetherness. Access and exposure to literacy and language has the power to close divide and bring people closer. It can open discussion and encourage dialogue or understanding. Remake a Shakespeare play as a movie or live action theatre by all means, but make sure those watching know their stories and the stories that are relevant today.

Increasingly there is an element of pick and mix to reading texts. Newspapers, online media, word of mouth, social media and movie adaptations are highlighting international writers, giving readers chance to develop international mindedness. With that young learners are blessed to have education bodies and influencers that can modernise and expand Prescribed Reading Lists. Context that can easily get lost to the wrong audience should not be overlooked or ignored. It should be connected and explained.

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module Two Learning Engagement

“What are the three things you want to make sure you do when you design your own course?”

Having reviewed the concepts that underpin the syllabus content, I began to unpack the course syllabus. Below is a work in progress. I am creating my tailored course outline to reflect the flexible nature of IB teaching and learning. Through freedom of design and under continual improvement, I hope to have a course outline ready for use and continued modification to enhance my learners and their learning experiences. I want to ensure that students can connect through their own identities, cultures and find a suitable perspective. The students must be offered a place to display their creative talents and all texts must represent both popular and obscure examples. In short, trio of design demands must engage, inform and educate in a natural flow.

CONCEPTS (underpin syllabus content)
1identityReading a text, for a student, or by a student, will see them make their own narrative and perspective. They may imagine the voices and characters, each in differing ways. They may imagine a deeper backstory or be influenced by movie or television adaptations. They may connect the characters to previously explored texts. This is normal. The writer and the reader each place part of their identity within the story. Sometimes the author doesn’t make reading easy to follow or understand. Their identity can bend, shift, change and be quite complicated. This complexity can make an understanding difficult to follow. Reading across texts may even deepen that mystery – or paint a clearer picture. Reading texts by James Herriot or Colin Dann gives a reasonable interpretation and insight into the writer’s background. The World War II fighter pilot, Roald Dahl, may be clear in some of his closer autobiographical books, but his children’s texts are far further from his life experiences. Or, are they not? Readers will have their own interpretation and it’s important to know that diverse responses to perspectives are possible.
2cultureJRR Tolkien penned the epic ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of The Rings’ books. These works and his other compendium of titles reflected his life story in some shape and form. He was born in an independent nation the Orange Free State (now part of South Africa). The landscape of the African continent was complex and difficult. Family circumstance saw his widowed mother move to England. Place names from his upbringing, a spider bite, the tragedy of World War I and countless other stages of his life influenced his writings. Here was a man propelled into his first job at the Oxford English Dictionary and fell in love with language. His translation of ‘Beowulf’ showed considerable international mindedness, a theme that slips in and out of his Middle Earth adventures. Beliefs, values and attitudes shape a writer. They target an audience willing to lift open the pages. Quite often the writing follows a similar style to that read in the years before it. A connection between the familiar and the new is important for a reader. Does text reflect where it was formed and when? The place and time of a text can often be acknowledged from the feel of the text.
3creativityImagination is key. Creating something and engaging it has to be in reach of the reader. The writer’s role within a text is to paint a canvas vividly enough to make the words leap from the page. The often written cliche about transporting the reader to another place is important. Interpretations can take multiple forms and transcend that of a simple text. The writer and the text will be heavily original in ideas, shapes and forms. Originality will make a work stand out.
4communicationBoth non-literary and literary text have the problem of getting their message across loud and clear. Does the writing aim to convey a message to the reader? How can the writer know that the reader will see the message? The audience must be assumed to be in on the writer’s previous works, or of a particular kind that can easily access the text. Some readers may struggle to follow the messages hidden or directly thrown at them from the text. Some may ignore the bias of a message and value their own views more highly. Cooperative readers may follow more closely, but even so, text meaning is not always definitive.
5perspectiveAuthors can also write in ways that do not follow their views in any shape or form. They may take the role of devil’s advocate just to sell more books, or open a debate. This is one example of literacy devices available to writers that readers may or may not be aware is being used on their perception of a text. The reader may or may not bring their own complete perception which clashes with the views in the text. Before you know it, there’s critical thinking, attention and a discussion as the reader tries to interpret the text. What will the end result be? Will it influence the reader or not?
6transformationIntertextuality: the connection and relationship across texts, especially that of literary ones. One text can lead to a heavy influence on the next text. Sometimes it is the creation of new ideas from one text to another. Some texts may follow one another, across authors, or not. Some may be reimagining or taking elements of a story into their own works. C.S Lewis penned ‘Perelandra’ which is often cited to be a reworking of John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ and the biblical ‘Book of Genesis’. Some texts will influence a reader changing their perception of reality. Reading Michael Crichton’s ‘Congo’ as a teenager opened my mind drastically to interspecies communication and in later years whilst volunteering at a zoo, I found myself communicating with an orangutan, like you do. Potentially, personal interpretations can be hugely transformative.
7representationSome texts are abstract. Some are relatable to reality. Some are every step between. Accurate reflections of reality, potential futures, to artistic imaginings are central to a reader connecting the text to meaning. The form and structure of the story must connect between both the author and the reader. The largely popular space soap opera epic ‘Star Wars’ started out under the pen of George Lucas. His dog, an Alaskan breed would find itself as a relatable humanoid representation in that of the character, Chewbacca. Throughout his writing he represented characters using human touches.

With the above in mind, the course can be further dissected and placed in the required syllabus areas of explorations. They can be supplemented by the Prescribed Reading List.

AREA OF EXPLORATIONS
1readers, writers text#0.1 Why do we study language and literature?
#0.2 How do we study language and literature?
#0.3 How does text affect us? [Use real world examples]
#0.4 How does text affect us? [Use variety]
#0.5 Meaning: constructed, negotiated, expressed and interpreting
#0.6 language use variation: text types/form/genre
#0.7 Building confidence through structure
#0.8 Non-literary and literary differences
#0.9 Language & literature: an introduction.
#1 Breaking down the complex
#1.1 Text type: style & structure – the affect on meaning
#2 Investigate texts, the various forms & types – pay close attention
#3 What choices do writers make to communicate meaning? (e.g. images, sounds and words)
#3.1 Texts: an insight? Form a response
#3.2 Texts: a challenge?
#3.3 Personal vs. academic responses
#3.3. expand your response
#3.4 metacognitive awareness
#4 What role do readers make to understand meaning? (e.g. images, sounds and words)
#5 The role of creative language.
#6 How does creative language relate through literature?
#7 The power of texts/perspectives
#8 Linguistic and literary messages: what are the authors communicating?
2time and space#A social capacity: connect to community, culture & history (advertisements, poems, etc)
#B variety of cultural contexts (places, cultures, times; insights?)
#C Do texts reflect or refract our world? (Is there a social or political agenda? How do we approach older texts? Still relevant or obsolete?)
#D How do cultural conditions affect language? (Any representation of social, political and cultural concerns? Do meanings and impacts change over time?)
#E How are cultural conditions a product of language? (Bound by societal framework and the implications? Do they represent cultural practices?)
#F How is identity and culture influential to how text is received?
#G Explore cultural and historical perspectives (Open, plural or cosmopolitan?)
#H The role of text to oneself, local and global connections (Does it provoke influence of raise questions?)
#I Is a text complex or dynamic? (Is there a hidden story of reality?)
#J An exploration of the author’s background (historical events, narratives in terms of critical reception; is it important?)
#K Who is the author’s audience? Obvious or unapparent?
#L The intricacies of relatable places and times across generations and boundaries (Is a society or identity represented reflected in language use?)
3intertextualityRelate: past to present.
Engage: literary & linguistic traditions.
#i Connections between text and audience (ideas and traditions in respect of diversity; is a classic text still valid?)
#ii Making a comparative (deeper appreciation; how can different perspectives highlight an issue, topic ore theme? Can a comparative and an interpretation be transformative?)
#iii Unique characteristics and complex systems as a connection (Similarities & differences? Can diverse texts share points of similarity?)
#iv How to and when to openly discuss your interpretations (create a critical lens; expand on a meaning; question it; what’s your view? How does a system of reference evolve over time?)
#v Mode & genre of text, literary form, chronological development, topic or concept, debate or theoretical perspective. Do texts deviate from literary forms and genre? Why? How?

“What two principles of course design spoke to you personally, why, and how will you use that to design your syllabus?”

Integration and variety will enhance interest. I believe as a teacher our heaviest influence sits in these two areas. Students are mostly familiar with autonomy and accountability. These should be well-trod paths across IB subject areas.

COURSE DESIGN PRINCIPLES
1varietyStudents can connect, compare and contrast across multiple texts. This can include translated texts and those in an original target language. The traditional canon and the voices of emerging voices can strike a balance to form a varifocal view of the world at large. The bigger the lens, the deeper the understanding? The text students are exposed to should reflect global society, local society and multiple cultures. The protection and preservation of texts should be side by side with literary forms, places times and most importantly voices. Is less more? Or, is in terms of literary form more diversity essential for diverse understanding? Linguistic and language evolution is ongoing, and tied to literary developments. Students must understand that they are the master of their own exploration. Their individual selection of texts will open new doors for others within the classroom cohort. “Variety is the spice of life” – William Cowper, British poet.
2integrationA learner profile needs more than reflection. How can a student look at each current and previous text to form a connection? Do students need to form spider webs and mind maps to draw and illustrate connections? Will as Minecraft-style virtual map help relate and show their connections? Lines can be drawn across areas of exploration and through the seven concepts. Organisation skills will be needed throughout.

Everything should connect. Compartmentalisation has little value to complimenting the study of multiple texts. Inherent, context-related and comparative text studies should be integrated to demonstrate to students that references from outside of the classroom cohort’s own research are relevant and supplementary to their development.

Why is integration important? Oral assessment / Paper 2 – meaning elaboration required.

“Integration happens when all your parts of your being are in harmony.” Amy Leigh Mercree, author.
3autonomyStudents must be empowered. They’re the keepers of their destiny. They prepare their likely routes of study individually. They work towards assessment, formative (self-assessment and peer-assessment will encourage evaluation skills) and summative. They must make decisions with care. They will need pushing through positive encouragement. A variety of materials and access to research tools, the right syllabus components, how an assessment is made, and full scaffolding support (in the case of students new to the IB or international schooling). A teacher’s role is to guide and ensure texts are appropriate to the short-term and long-term study at hand. Is the text connected to the concept or issue? “I want to sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.” – Rumi, Persian poet
4accountabilityAcademic honesty.
Whole class awareness of the course requirements.
A plan of action that is clear and achievable: the pathway to assessments.
Individual assessment components must be used on a sole occasion, keeping it fresh and balanced.
“Simplify, slow down, be kind. And don’t forget to have art in your life – music, paintings, theater, dance, and sunsets.” – Eric Carle, author and illustrator

“What one question do you still have about the philosophy or the practicalities of designing a course syllabus?”

I want to think mainly in terms of reflection:

Is my course fit for purpose? Are all the outcomes specific, attainable and measurable? Does the content and method match the outcome? How well can students achieve the necessary outcome? How can I make the course a better fit for the differentiated learner? Are my course syllabus learning outcomes reasonable in relation to the contextual issues? Are all the outcomes going to be theory-based or will it be possible to draw on transdisciplinary skills to highlight skill-based outcomes?

I should hope any student on the course has a level of English that’s appropriate but I’m willing (as is the school) to intervene and develop that level. The level of interest is something I half-worry about. Parent power in China is strong. Some students may feel pushed into the more traditional areas of education and lose sight of their personal interest. A student studying English, here in Dongguan (China), is often a source of pride to family and face. Developing and maintaining an interest in era heavily flooded with video game, social networking and other distractions takes time and patience. As a teacher we must adapt and evolve with the times. Discouraging a student will only create a barrier. How can we integrate their other interests to reinforce interests in literature and language?

How did your thoughts about what you might teach change based on the TOK debate?” The understanding that knowledge is a reconstructed or constructed representation as opposed to a perfectly symmetrical mirror image of life and reality.

What are you most excited about teaching and why?” Engaging students in their time and place and uncovering their viewpoints. Watching as they evolve confidence in understanding the viewpoints of others. I’m excited to help our learners at TWIS develop inquiry and critical thinking skills alongside literature and language. I hope that they can recognise the value of reflection, transferring their skills into other disciplines. Explorations should be shared. Are we told by the author to read their text in a certain way? Can we choose to interpret their work in terms of our own cultural assumptions? How do communities of students, academics, teachers or other groups view a text? The same? Differently? Constructing knowledge around text will be enjoyable. Meanings shared are often enlightening.

As a teacher the challenge is monumental. Explaining things sometimes lost in translation will be challenging. Exploring how a text may have been written for a completely different audience (ethnicity, location, time etc) will determine how open-minded a learner can be. Perhaps, there will be absence of an international viewpoint that can be explored. Charlie Hebdo,a French publication known for satire have experienced extreme examples of how an approach to place and time could be considered divisive and unhelpful in international outlooks and mindfulness. Poets, bloggers, cartoonists, and journalists must all take careful approaches. The learner too. They are each subject to their interpretation techniques.

To I.B., or not to I.B.? [Wrap up]

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Module One reflection

Is the learner profile relevant?

help teachers build rapportdeepen a teacher’s professional relationship with their learner(s)connect support levels and buddy peersallow informed planningallow a teacher to observe a student’s perspective more closely
allow for suitable timetablingallow teachers the chance to create a relevant scaffolding of learningdetermine classroom layoutdevelop tutoring support through differentiationallow group and class participation
Information is not static. It moves. The student’s profile is a record and guidance for new teachers.Pertinent information such as interests can be aligned to teaching.Highlight strengths and needsAllows supply and cover teachers a fairer insight into the individualpersonalisation
it can be a document, a portfolio, a combination of digital and traditional formsTHISISABOUTINDIVIDUALS
Formal or informalCan contain conversations, questionnaires, video interviews etcA place for their aspirations & passionsRecommendationsTo inform discussions between teaching staff, parents and guardians
Insert things they dislike and wish to avoidDocument life experiences, people, pets, moments of inspiration or importanceHighlight what they do when help is neededExamplesExemplars selected from other sources that guide the student
Select appropriate curriculum material/supportHelp develop maximum engagementProvide assessment dataExplore the profile’s purposeReview snd evaluate the profile format
Two-way process between the teacher & the learnerUnderstandingA chance to show inclusion of all in the learning journeyHow does the individual adapt?What tools and/or techiniques and/or technologies do they favour?
A chance to express themselvesAddress assumptionsSkill setsHave their own saySupport transition

To I.B., or not to I.B.?

There are numerous forms of education systems and curricula out there. The University Admissions Officers Report 2017 may argue that A-Levels are in-depth looks at specific avenues. Many will have you look at US, Australian, or British curricula. The International Primary Curriculum is reportedly the fastest growing primary school system on Earth. So, as a teacher, a parent or a potential student, it pays to do your homework in the form of research. Which methods best fit you? Differentiation in learning is also about knowing when a system of study will or will not suit your learning style or method. Cost, demand, class size, location, and a plethora of other factors need to be taken into account. If a student or parent aspires to have holistic, rounded, international minds after primary, middle years and diploma years, then IB is the way to go. A range of skills as opposed to the ability to answer exams may help.

Native and foreign languages are encouraged with IB formats. Whereas, a language must be chosen separately in the AS- or A-Level formats. Students usually opt for 3 to 4 A-levels, but can take more. Obviously more subjects will equate to more homework and class time. That could also create more clashes in a timetable. The base AS-Level can serve as a foundation, paving the way for the A-2 Level which give the final result and grade. Their grading ranges from A* down to E.

The IB system is comprised of six subjects. There are academic cores (TOK: Theory of Knowledge), Extended Essay (EE) and Creativity, Action & Service (CAS). Optional subjects are plentiful and the opportunity to attempt Higher Level study is available. Points win prizes and diplomas are issued based on overall points gained. University entry, e.g. UCAS (The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) in the U.K. requires a number of points earned. Overall, feedback via independent websites and student reviews indicates that students feel they’re better equipped at university. One student’s experience of course differs to another student’s feel. Perspective is key.

Close language analysis: what’s the point?

Words matter. Phrases matter. How you teach it and convey the comprehension of all text matters. Writers convey and highlight messages in their text. How your comprehension interprets this message matters. Figures of speech, idioms, sentence structures, tone of voice, choice of words and other techniques need to be clear. Literacy and language need good communication to avoid messages losing meaning or creating problems! We, as analytical thinkers, must decode and reconstruct the meaning. We must be able to say what it is about and the possible effects of the text.

Optional challenge: Further analysis

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Further textual analysis of two I.B. documents

IB Theory of Knowledge Guide Module 1Parent Pack FAQs About The PYP
purpose of textTo make all students and teachers aware that interpretation of knowledge is important. It is fundamental to ideological thinking. It is key to understanding bias, valid or not. It offers the chance to retain, revise or reject bias. Critical reflection is encouraged. Knowledge and knowing are there to be questioned and explored. With knowledge and exploration, it allows students a chance to apply it to real-world scenarios. The whole subject must be passed. Without it, then no certificate of diploma can be awarded.An introduction to the curriculum/framework of primary (those 3-12 years old) years programmes within the I.B. schooling systems.
dominant vs oppositional readingmostly dominanthighly dominant first page spread; second page is dominant also, with a slightly toned-down aggression
tone created/reasoningTOK (Theory of Knowledge) is assessed through an essay (1600 words) & by an oral presentation. It’s a broad spectrum reflection on what knowledge is, how it happens and why we know is what we know. It must argue how we know what we state to know. It’s a mandatory test within the I.B. Diploma Programme (D.P.) central core. As a student, you will need a broader mind. Arguments are presented to teachers. Question and answer style format. Adopted the role of interviewer and interviewee. Some bullet points and linked sources included to break down the monotony of paragraphed answers. Highlights I.B.’s interweaving style of teaching and emphasis
words or phrases have a highly charged connotation/ the effect on the reader“Theory of knowledge guide
intended to guide the planning, teaching and assessment of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) Theory of knowledge (TOK) course.”
curiosity, creativity, ability to reflect, stimulating, challenging, nurture, foster a lifelong love of learning (also smooth alliteration), transdisciplinary, investigating big ideas, gifted, special,
words or phrases demonstrate the ideological perspective of this text“Theory of knowledge guide
TOK teachers are the primary audience, although it is expected that teachers will also use the information in this guide to inform students and parents about the subject.”
Aimed at parents and guardians.
Other notesBertrand Russell (1926) invented the term Theory of Knowledge. The 8 areas of knowledge are mathematics, natural sciences, human sciences, arts, history, ethics, religious knowledge systems, and indigenous knowledge systems.N/A

Close textual analysis of the I.B.

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Close textual analysis of the I.B.

I.B. Mission Statement:

“The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect. To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment. These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.” (Source: https://ibo.org/ accessed June 2021)

#1 What ideological biases exist in the IB mission statement and how do you know this as a reader?

Is education equally accessible to all? Do the elite get independent and private teaching with more ease? How many governments support IB teaching? Do regional governments back the IB system and methods? Is the IB system open to all, or to the few?

The notion that the target market is those classified as young. There is an assumption that people want to make peace. Some cultures and societies do not want other teaching methods placed to their population. The statement refers to international organisations, notably governments and schools. It implies that other systems of assessment and international education are less challenging, however, it acknowledges that other ways of life and education may also be right. These other methods of learning are other ways and means to continue life-long learning. The statement that it ‘encourages students across the world…’ is bold and clearly implies the IB backs its words up with statistical analysis. Social, intellectual and cultural bias could be implied from the first and third sentences of the statement. Similar to some countries not wanting an external influence on domestic education, it could be said that tolerance or understanding may also be subject to different perspectives. Marginalised and threatened social groups may not be treated equally within one kingdom. The paragraph on the whole highlights that nations and continents are connected, and more than ever, we as a race of people need to communicate and get along. Yes, there are many ideals, but aspiring to be better for everyone is a very human trait.

Cognitive verbs form the first half before the latter becomes less preachy, more clinical. The persuasion blends into intrigue and overlooks nationalism in favour of internationalism. The standing of populism, separatism and divide from internationalism shows this debate has plenty of room for the IB system. Isn’t together as a species for the preservation of the planet a better way to be than selfish ways?

Preferred (or Dominant) ReadingNegotiated ReadingOppositional Reading
An audience follows the direction of the media or writing in a way that was pre-calculated by the writer.The viewer or reader must make their own decision, be it in whole or partial agreement to the message of the writer. It is quite often a partial agreement.The audience are not expected to swing their views in favour of the writer or the message of the produced text/material.
Complete disagreement is expected.
e.g. An advertisement in a magazine triggers the reader to use a discount voucher or follow social media channelsA documentary, TV programme or show, or a movie.A political broadcast aimed at one party’s members but not the opposition following.

#2 What is the dominant reading of this text and what might be an oppositional reading of the IB learner profile?

Looking objectively through eyes that imagine that I have never encountered the IB system, I can see a few cases against IB learning. An oppositional reading may be one whereby a student or parent has been sold A.P., IGCSE, Cambridge Pre-U, or the BTEC National Schemes. The traditional AS- and A-Levels of the U.K. may be favoured due to their longevity and global usage. Advanced Apprenticeships, NVQs and T-Levels are other such alternatives. The world is fluid and these days, more than ever, with global uncertainty in the shadow of COVID-19 and political disagreements, mean that IB faces a challenge, like all education methods. Online teaching, isolation, illness and worry are barriers that prevent smooth collaboration and transition without dedication and focus. Education attitudes change and idealising every problem is far from, erm, ideal. And, as the semester crack on, there are stories of IB students weighed down by too many essays, from too many subjects. Are students reflecting too often and in too much detail on too many common sense matters? Should students and parents ultimately share their perspective of the IB system and its benefits, rather than the IB itself?

Dominant wording such as ‘integrity’, ‘honesty’, ’empathy’, and ‘compassion’ are qualities that many people aspire towards. These hard-selling words sit alongside people’s curiosity. We’re a species that asks questions, over and over again. And when we get answers, we seek more questions. For many questions start to fade, but there’s always a group of people asking more and more questions, continuing through their lives. We develop. We grow. We exercise our minds. We expand our knowledge. We express ourselves. We think about how the world works. We explore who we are and where we are in space and time. Consciousness gives us appreciation and we use it in empathic ways. The IB school appears to be a garden and source of higher learning. It shows a student who is an ideal: the champion of learning. A student who is hungry to excel, has drive and uses resilience to battle through studies. The IB method can’t create a ‘Super Student’ in a red cape with a blue suit, but it can stand students in the right position to know which tools to use, and when. Each will then be capable to use their best qualities and maintain their learning efforts throughout life.

#3 “What is the tone created in the aims and assessment objectives, how does the author create it, and why?”

Aims are presented clearly. They’re fed to the reader as a list. The assessment objectives are clear and again placed in a bullet-point list to allow clarity when reading. It has a dynamic shift using active words. Engage. Develop. Communicate. Foster. Collaborate. It screams of hands-on learning. Key skills are set out, and with that the scaffolding of the student’s eventual endgame assessments. Target acquired? Lock on and engage.

For a young learner it allows imagination and gives meaningful descriptive words to appeal to those who likely have at least one of the 10 IB learner profiles, even before they’ve encountered such things. There’s an emphasis on motivating a keen student, that shows at some stage they must ‘analyse and evaluate’ their own studies. Great responsibility awaits the learner seeking independence. A student can develop their own journey of learning.

#4 What words or phrases have a highly charged connotation and what is the effect on the reader?

All throughout you can celebrate learning. Who doesn’t like a celebration?! Did somebody mention learning? This key word appears in phrases throughout the text. Learning celebrates meaning. Learning means an open and inclusive classroom. Learning is for life. Learning processes are cyclic. Learning is a doctrine to develop purpose, culture and the environment of the classroom. These paraphrases give various simultaneous overtones and undertones, e.g. that of lifelong learning/It brings people together/be part of it.

The word democratic empowers people and perhaps those in more closed systems may be sold on the idea of governing themselves or bringing revolution to learning. It also implies that the teacher is not the be all, end all autocrat of traditional classroom environments. It says to the reader that they can command their own seas, and a voyage is possible (on the way to a pre-guided syllabus assessment). The student, however, will feel empowered.

#5 What words or phrases demonstrate the ideological perspective of this text?

The phrases allow creative minds to wander and focus. There’s an emphasis on connecting whilst taking responsibility. They allow outside the box thinking to dream of situations beyond the walls of a learner’s classroom or school. They encourage community, caring and service to others in active ways. It is an open invitation to think bigger than a page in a writing book. Inevitably there will often be students who carry causes or concerns to the classroom. The word empowers returns again. It gives them a chance to think of a way to rectify or influence change, even if it’s simply drawing attention to a concern that is lesser talked about. The examples serve to inspire and tap into the emotional level of a reader. It introduces projects as being possible and plausible. Contextualising opportunities gives ample opportunity for educational analysis, in a way that students participate. How can the learner create a more superior world? Can they start that process in their early days of the IB?

ATL (Approaches to Teaching & Learning)

Parent page: IB Learner Profile

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): ATL (Approaches to Teaching)

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it…” Find pages 60-66. Read them, digest them and share them in a way that has meaning. “What is your criterion behind some having a higher or lower priority?

The below positions can be interchangeable dependent on a student’s needs. It’s important to differentiate and tailor tasks to a student’s needs. A student will be better equipped for inquiry work, if supported by peers and collaboration. This will iron out any doubt in a student’s mind. Inquiry can lead to putting those questions into a context (locally, regionally and globally) through real examples and exemplars. From that a conceptual understanding can form. Finally assessment should follow, whether formative or summative. All areas of approaches to teaching and learning are essential but to knock down any barriers to learning is a sounder starting point. Remove the barrier and forward progress can be made. Leave the barrier and growth will not come.

1Teaching designed to remove barriers to learning.
2 Teaching based on effective teamwork and collaboration.
3Teaching based on inquiry.
4Teaching developed in local and global contexts.
5Teaching focused on conceptual understanding.
6Teaching informed by assessment.

Further thoughts: The weight of importance in all six aspects are near equal, but in reality little is equal. So, I believe they are better thought of the form of a mode continuum (Gibbons 2003). This popular profiling can help us to show the understanding and needs of students, with respect to their development and targeted progression.

Additional thoughts: Following my own look and thoughts of this challenge, I found that other students on the course had similar ideas but also preferences on their own take of the ATL positioning. Perhaps a central title with arms spread equally and outwardly like a starfish is more appropriate. There’s a bigger picture at play in context, conceptual understanding and assessment. However, the removal of barriers, creation of teamwork and direction of assessment need to be in place for the latter three aspects.

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): ATL (Approaches to Learning)

1Communication skills
2 Social skills
3Self-management skills
4Thinking skills
5Research Skills

What is your order of importance for the approaches to learning?

From the beginning of any course, students may or may not be new to one another. Communication is key to a smooth study. They must be able to talk with, e-mail or write to one another, or their teachers. Ineffective communication may lack social skills. The two are very closely related. Likewise, self-management links to thinking and research. Can all truly be prioritised over others? Not really, due to the fact they’re interactive and they’re dynamic. Essential agreements between students mean that they set their boundaries and regulations for study. Without that there would be an unclear pathway of communication. Social skills allow good communication, but good communication takes social skills. Holistic learning systems are like a dessert jelly. They shift and wobble to the needs of the learner. Self-management requires prior learning and knowledge. Not every student comes from the same background. The social and communication skills of a class allow self-management to filter through. With this skill in place, then thinking and research has a firm base to take part. Basic thinking is a natural skill, to take it further it needs inquiry and research. Research, like in real world scenarios (e.g. vaccine makers and pandemic preventers) takes the thinking of others and combination of all of the above skills.

On reading other student’s works and their ideas, I really liked Amy Bosnich’s Adobe Spark presentation.
Feedback“Thanks, Acton. As we proceed in the workshop, you’ll come to appreciate how fundamental visual literacy is to our course. Your choice to incorporate a visual interpretation when you respond is a good model for others — and will be a valuable practice in your teaching. Students are invariably familiar with the maxim “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but that’s a very superficial starting point to the broader examination of the interplay of image and text, how one can complement the other, or offer a nuanced interpretation of a single point etc. The authorial / creative choices behind the creation of an image is something we’ll explore often with our students (in photos, ads, documentaries, films, tv shows etc).” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma Teacher

Learner Portfolio.

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Portfolio task

Module One (2/6-8/6)
The Learner Profile
Notes
Analytical writing
Formative Approaches to teaching and learning (ATL)

Close textual analysis of the I.B.
Five questions:
I.B. Mission Statement; I.B. Learner Profile; Course Aims and Assessment Objectives; Standards & Practices; Creativity, activity and service.
Summative

Populating as we go.

C
r
e
a
t
i
v
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writing
HERE IT WILL BE, WHEN IT IS HERE

Talk to me.

Feedback“Thanks John. I like the idea of using this as an icebreaker early on … something you might share with students at the end of Week 1 or 2, after you’ve gone over various components of the course. It’s a good way for students to focus in on areas where there still may be uncertainty, questions outstanding, etc. Also a good prompt to have students consider ‘why did Mr Acton use this (or that) particular symbol or icon here?’ (discussions pertaining to authorial choices are always fundamental to our study of any text).” – Marie Baird

You need to be yourself.

Projects &/or alternative assessmentsAlso important.
A bullseye activity is a great way to explore a global issue. Imagine an ear bud. To you, it may be of use to clean your ear (individual) but then how do you dispose of it? Are there family rules about ear bus uses? How does the community see an ear bud? What are the city regulations on ear bud disposal? How has ear bud use been affected by regional hotel environmental laws? What problems do ear buds prevent to global pollution levels?

Voices.

ReflectionIt’s important.
1.     Begin by writing a bit about yourself: where do you teach? What’s unique about your IB situation? Let others get to know you. Write whatever you want others to know about you.I joined the I.B. candidacy school of TWIS in Dongguan, against the run of traffic. As I sat in quarantine, having returned to China (on the last possible day before a border closure in March 2020), I figured my job interview was not going to happen. It was due three weeks prior and there had been no response, because everyone had bigger things to worry about. So, I dropped one last e-mail & WeChat message to the principal of TWIS. Video interviews followed. The ball was rolling again. I was excited because the opportunity allowed for holistic teaching methods.

After transfer from my previous school, I realised that I was in a school facing the candidacy process and with many teachers stranded in other countries. Immediately, online meetings and collaborations allowed us as a team to perform effectively and deliver a clear near-uninterrupted school year of teaching. We’re less worried by a nearby outbreak in the city of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, because we know we can adapt and perform during this new norm.
2.     What is the most pressing question you have about the Language A: language and literature course?Actually, two matters arise that I wish to address:

How has this course managed to remain in touch with technology and changing social attitudes to literature and language?

How can the course better support those who require an English intervention programme to better enrich their comprehension and vocabulary skills?
3.     How can you develop positive online professional relationships for the workshop and beyond?We’re each more linked than ever through LinkedIn/Facebook/Weibo/Twitter and so on. Many channels like Xoom allows video calls. E-mails are simple enough. They’re the hassle-free electronic pen pal of the world right now. Meeting teachers at seminars face-to-face and via online courses can be invaluable. I remain in contact with university friends, first aid class companions, teaching colleagues and my door is firmly open. I read somewhere that teachers teach teachers. I couldn’t agree more.
4.     What does a successful outcome look like for you after this workshop? List three things you want to achieve.Diverse literature syllabus.
Balanced literature and language course formation (creative v analytical.
Enhanced teaching method strategies, specific to this course.

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): Portfolio worksheets

Introduction worksheet for student learner portfolio. Features spaces with prompts and areas to trigger investigation or prior knowledge mind-maps of different text types; Electronic information space (as the portfolio will be analogue); gently stresses that learning is a journey and the portfolio is a pathway to the outcome. Can be used as a classroom ice-breaker early on. Customisable.
Feedback“Thanks John. There’s lots going on here, and at first it felt a little confusing, but when viewed in tandem with your “learner portfolio template” it all makes good sense. I’ve not seen a blog suggested before as an LP format, and I’m not sure if it would be the most appropriate of platforms for the demands of the Learner Portfolio (given the need to offer substantial organisational capabilities for 2 years). But in other respects the blog format accomplishes a great deal, particularly in terms of introducing students to their teacher as an individual, and as a means to demonstrate how organic our thinking and learning can be.” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma teacher

“By encouraging teachers to explore the widest possible array of text types, authors/creators, issues. You’ll see in Module 2 as we take our first look at the syllabus, that no (or very few) restrictions are placed on us in terms of course design — rather we are invited to design a course that takes into account our context, our students’ capabilities and interests, and invites and welcomes multiple interpretations and perspectives.” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma teacher (6/6/2021)

“Thanks John. I like the idea of using this as an icebreaker early on … something you might share with students at the end of Week 1 or 2, after you’ve gone over various components of the course. It’s a good way for students to focus in on areas where there still may be uncertainty, questions outstanding, etc. Also a good prompt to have students consider ‘why did Mr Acton use this (or that) particular symbol or icon here?’ (discussions pertaining to authorial choices are always fundamental to our study of any text).” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma teacher (5/6/2021)

“Thanks Acton. All good here. Just one query to note — in your IO you used The Levellers as a non-literary text (if I’ve understood correctly) – ie their music video. Here though you seem to be including them as a literary work (ie as lyricists – with a study of their lyrics only). Either of these options is possible (as they are not PRL and therefore designated as ‘literary’). However, you would need to make the choice clear to students. If they are studied as multi-modal texts, then they are non-lit (a BOW). If they are studied only as lyrics (a sub group of poetry) then they are a literary choice.
And with that, you’ve completed the requirements for our Cat 1 workshop. All the best as you implement your course — I hope the candidacy phase is nearing completion and you can put your plans into action soon!” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma teacher (29/6/2021)

“I too like your concept questions, Acton. I have been considering for a while this ideas of teaching texts as part of an inquiry. The questions you have included give me a better idea on how to do this. Thank you!” – Amy Climpson, teacher (15/6/2021)

“Hi Acton, When I think about the questions you will focus on, I saw once again how well the works you chose fit the criteria. Thank you” – Banu ÇELİKEL Yildiz, teacher (15/6/2021)

“Hi John, I found your text choices really interesting – so many are unknown to me but it seems a versatile choice offering a lot of unique perspectives which is great! I also like the idea of a unit that explores language change, especially through Shakespeare. This really could open students’ eyes to how we as humans create meaning and are in control of language: a great foundation for all kinds of analysis. I think it would be interesting to see an overall topic for each unit (perhaps this is something you have in mind already!) to better understand the links between texts and also the types of GI your students might consider for the IO.” – Erica Inman, teacher (29/6/2021)

“I’m really impressed by the amount of thought and energy you have put into coming up with a meaningful topic. The detail, especially regarding the press reviews and further reading are useful springboards to encourage students to flesh out their knowledge and this approach could very well make a positive difference to the final mark. However the non-literary text, although chosen from a BOW still has to focus on a single piece i.e. one video, picture, set of lyrics. You are referencing the whole Levellers BOW and from what I understand, I don’t think that’s possible. I wish you would hone down that aspect and focus one just one, then I think it would make an excellent IO. In the 10 points, it might be useful to make a few explicit references to the GI too. cheers Neville” – Neville Attree, teacher (29/6/2021)

“Thanks, Acton. As you’ll have noted I try to focus on one or two elements in each person’s contribution here (different elements, as much as I can) — so that there’s maximum learning from others’ work. Your post is quite comprehensive but I’ll limit my comments.
 
GI is clear – perhaps a further focus – representations of displaced persons – artists using their art as a vehicle for protest
 
Extracts — you’ve provided the non-lit (music video) perfectly — lyrics and screen grabs. (The lyrics run to 43 lines, and we have a 40-line limit, but here’s an example where discretion tells us it’s wise to run to 43. Remember to tell students to add line numbers: SO much value in terms of time saved in the presentation and follow-up discussion.)” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma teacher (30/6/2021)

“The intention of having the extracts is so that students don’t have to memorize quotes — they have the text right before them (and before the teacher, too). Thus, it’s not necessary for the student to use valuable bullets in quoting from extracts (which are there in hand). Perhaps you did this so that we here in the workshop could follow your thinking? if so, thank you. But tell your students to use their bullets for content, key vocab, shifts / way points. 
 
You’ve provided a wealth of other resources you’d use for contextualization etc. We can make double use of this kind of resource if we use the review (for example) as well to study it as a non-literary text type (a text type students might well encounter on their Paper 1). Have students look at 2 or 3 reviews of the same subject (eg The Levellers new album) and consider how bias, voice, intended audience etc shape meaning. (This all has relevance for Paper 1 success.) You’ve included another possible music video (by a different group / performer?). Why not use this for trial IO practice (giving students the chance to work with the form — multi modal text / music video — and thus ‘protecting’ your Levellers BOW for the authentic IO).
 
Thanks for a good pairing and all your thinking — this BOW seems ready to go!” – Marie Baird, IB Diploma teacher (30/6/2021)

Anything else goes below here:

English A: Language and literature (Cat.1): General notes

The course is available for students at both standard and higher levels. The higher level is a study of 6 works and lasts about 240 class hours. The standard is 90 hours and two works less in length. The material works must be broad in spectrum, representing literary forms, time periods and places.

What are your key expectations for this workshop?” Language changes. Literature evolves in meaning and interpretation. It keeps us on our toes, thinking and learning. I expect to enhance my personal critical thinking; collaborate and develop my personal appreciation of literature (and the surrounding language). I expect to encounter a variety of aesthetic or stylistic forms. I expect to find ways to unlock cultural differences to help deliver a deeper appreciation to young learners in the near future.

To support study on this course, students will encounter non-literary text. These bodies of work will include a wide variation in format. Students are to be enabled to deep think, use higher order thinking skills to give an analysis that is critical, shows understanding of culture and context. They must determine a meaning. What is the purpose of the text to the audience? The students will take their assessments through formal examinations, oral and written coursework and other spoken activities. Two essay papers will be taken: A comparative response to two previously studied texts; and then one analysis of a previously unseen, and unto that point, unknown text. Transferring those study techniques will come into action at that stage. Practice to performance. The inevitable coursework for higher level students features a 1200-1500 word essay on a previously studied text.

“How familiar are you with the subject of this workshop?” Language covers all forms of expression that allow communication. It can be written or verbal. Literature is the written form of language. It’s the words to painting in an art gallery. If a song has lyrics and they’re written down, then it sits alongside poetry. Unlike language, literature is always written.

Students are attending this online course from as far afield as Russia, Canada, the U.K., the U.S.A. and China. That’s one heck of a lot of land surface, and a fair old electronic journey. All connected students. Each together on a journey. The COVID-19 pandemic allows opportunity. We can’t stand still. We each must remain engaged, involved and collaborate from offices, school and apartments. At this moment I’m typing in a tent. A Friday night wander into Dalingshan Forest Park (Dongguan, China) seemed like a wise move.

How would you describe yourself as a learner? What helps you to learn best? I like to read, survey varied sources, research using a selection of articles and books before hitting the interweb for accountable sources and also gap-fillers.

To allow storage and to manage this I.B. exploration via a home page, I have a link for Announcements and one for the Resource Library. There’s an interactive forum too. Tomorrow, I’ll print off the Language A: Language and Literature Guide, first exams 2021. Blue, purple and yellow highlighters at the ready. Then, I’ll swing by the downloadable samples and have a gander at them. I am just reading THE ROADMAP for a more clear pathway to complete and collaborate my way to the end of June. Any questions, I can drop here at Burning Questions. Where else?!

I watched a video by Tim Pruzinsky and followed his designed workshop first steps. The take home being that I am a student and I need to create exemplars. Time to test my approaches to teaching and learning (ATL).

the key study chapters are as per below:

Module One (2/6-8/6)
The Learner Profile
Notesapproaches to teaching and learning (ATL)

Greater sense of confidence in class?

Module Two (9/6-15/6)

Learner Portfolio Educator

“Space of development”

“Formative”

“Autonomy”

“Authentic journey”
Exploration (make connections between texts?; reflect on their own responses; practice; preparation area; early introduction; increases in importance; evidence – think academic integrity; reports; experimentation; with creative writing; form, media and technology; insights; record of responses; create guiding questions)

Notepads, art books, post-it notes on a small board, reading logs, web based e.g. Padlet (2), OneNote 2, Moodle, PowerSchool Digital, Adobe Spark, blogs, other such ways.

Non-Literary Unit of Study
Transdisciplinary learning (beyond the classroom investigation); diverse; monitored; created independently; students can use digital or old-fashioned paper (choice); orally: link global issues, representation of different or similar perspectives;


Syllabus construction
Portfolio allows self-assessment of skills that lack confidence; keeps a running record; which text types will be a challenge? Monitor progression of Paper One/Two attempts. Reflect on challenges posed by essay writing.

Grouping of common themes; explore similarities and/or differences (build an awareness of the multiplicity); any significance; record references and quotations. Which works match the questions they may face?

How to tackle a beast

Module Three (16/6-22/6)
Assessing student work
Assessing student work: Paper 2 marking.

Looking closer

Module Four (23/6-30/6)
Close textual analysis of the IB
Notes

Greater sense of confidence in class?

AssessmentPaper OnePaper TwoProjects
Higher Level (6 works/240 hours) paper reviewAssessing the examiner’s marking.Assessment under review.Individual Oral Assessment example exploration (Close textual analysis of the IB)

Feedback

ReflectionSelf-assessment (self checking your own progress)

Module one reflection.

Module two reflection.

Module three reflection.
Peer (suitable audio recordings)

Pool and identify ideas.
Teacher (personal valued feedback; challenges overcome; challenges to overcome)Feedback & Evaluation (critical analysis – exploring possible meanings)

A little extra:

Optional ChallengeModule One challengeAlternative
<object class="wp-block-file__embed" data="https://acton28.files.wordpress.com/2021/06/ib-guide_language-and-literature_may2021update.pdf&quot; type="application/pdf" style="width:100%;height:600px" aria-label="Embed of Language A: language and literature guide
Language A: language and literature guide
Download

Jargon:

AOE = Areas of Exploration (there are 3)

ATL = Approaches to Teaching and Learning

BoW = Body of Work

IBDP = IB Diploma Program

IBEN / MyIB = IB Educators Network (accessible once you are employed in an IB school)

IO = Individual Oral

LE = Learning Engagement

LP = Learner Portfolio

PRL = Prescribed Reading List

TOK = Theory of Knowledge

TSM = Teacher Support Material

Differentiation: the draft.

Good evening from China to your morning, afternoon or evening, or night or day…

The topic task is differentiation. Twenty words (at a font size of 28, my favourite number) per slide is a target. I need 8-10 slides. The presentation will take twenty minutes or so, alongside my translator Junny or Nicole. I’m nervous about making this stand, but my duties at Tungwah Wenzel International School (TWIS) are varies and help me develop. Next week sees two days at a seminar in Shenzhen and from June I’m studying online again… until then here’s my draft copy of text to accompany the presentation.

Good parents want children to grow. You’re all eager to see your kids go from strength to strength. Your kids need to feel, to learn, grow and taste success. We can all share a journey together. That journey is getting the most out of your kids, both now and in the future. We can help develop a clear and positive pathway for beneficial and tailored learning.

As a modern and international school, with all the latest methods, we know that students come from various backgrounds and exposures to language. Our task is to provide different routes to gain further understanding. We can do this in the same classroom, through homework or via specialist areas within the school facilities.

Differentiation is a means to tailor learning instructions to meet the needs of individuals. The contents, the processes and the products can be differentiated. These can be coupled with changes to the learning environment. Flexible grouping and ongoing assessments make this approach an overall success.

It’s a framework and philosophy that allows provision of diverse teaching within or across multiple grades of teaching. It gives scope for students to progress at various speeds, with suitable framework to bring them up to and beyond the target speeds of their learning.

CONTENT – British music band Public Service Broadcasting have an album titled InformEducateEntertain. This is a mantra we can take to students to acquire content, enrich with processing, deconstruct, reconstruct and construct ideas. It must make sense. We develop teaching materials alongside assessment methods that match students and their individual abilities.

PROCESS – Plants need a variety of conditions to grow. Flowers only blossom at certain times. Culture, grasp of language, reading comprehension, gender, motivation, ability or inability, lack of interest or actual interest, awareness or preconceptions, style of learning, bias, the weather, the heat, the endless heat, etc can be barriers or they can be tools for teachers to latch onto and adapt their learning styles. Variety is the spice of life. Let’s act with it, and not against it!

PRODUCT – The classroom is our mission room. The launchpad of learning needs to be ready for lift-off. Students need to feel included. Different expectations may be needed for each class, with each student set realistic tasks that must be completed to a satisfactory effect.

LEARNING ENVIRONMENT – Classrooms need to be accommodating. They’re a proactive place to use varied learning methods. Optimal growth as a learner is essential. The days of ‘one size fits all’ are gone. The classroom environment can be turned to an advantage. Students may support each other in. paired-reading, comprehension or competitive tasks alike. Behaviour can be managed to give a safe and supportive surrounding.

Through pre-assessment, continued formative assessment and final summative assessment, the essential feedback dialogue between student, parent and teacher becomes a tool for improving the student’s overall study needs. We will focus on a student-centred instruction that is fair, challenging and champions an engaged student.

Differentiated instruction gives a lift up steps in the staircase of life that is education. It helps students move towards independent learning from various starting points. Growth is key. Skills and knowledge must be in tandem with widening a student’s range of interest, monitoring their progress and always drawing effective ways to learn. Students and their classes will better reflect a teacher’s understanding. You as parents will see that students gain solid roots, strong trunks and start to bloom in their development.

New benchmarks and targets can be set time and time again. Parents share their perspectives and teachers deepen the all-round feelings of a students. Interests can be aligned to tasks and changes over time can be discussed openly. A full and final picture can be seen of an end product that all wish to see: progress.

Thank you kindly for your time.

From the official TWIS WeChat communication (and my words):

成长中的树木成为参天大树之前,

往往需要不同的土壤才能生长。

对于不同的光照条件、空气质量和

土壤类型都有一定的要求,

同时也会受到周围环境的影响。

Many plants and trees

need different soil to grow.

They develop under differing conditions of

light, air quality and soil types.

They are specific to microclimates and subject

to influence from all around them.

学生亦如同许多成长中的树木,

需要用适合他们全面发展的多种方式来培养。

在差异化的课堂上,

教师认识到所有学生都是不同的,

需要不同的教学方法才能取得成功。

Students are the same.

They must be nurtured in varied ways

that suit their overall development.

When conducting differentiated learning,

teachers recognize that all students are

different and unique

and require different teaching approaches to

help students succeed.

如果您也对此教学方法感兴趣,

欢迎来5月22日的学校开放日,

倾听PYP四年级班主任的分享!

Come and join our G4 Homeroom Teacher

as he shares the importance of

differentiated learning

on May 22.

Talk Proper English.

Useful things/tips to learn:

#1 Audio books. See below. Books read by people, for people. Surprisingly good ways to read on the go. Well Remembered Days, written by Arthur Matthews, but read by Frank Kelly (Father Jack from Father Ted) is a great exposure to Irish (Ireland, where they often speak English) culture and accents.

well

#2 Books. These are the best things ever. They’re diverse and they’re almost everywhere. Read one, pass it on. Read another, share it. Read a great one, keep it on your shelf to read again. Recommended authors include Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park/Timeline), Roald Dahl (The BFG/Matilda), JK Rowling (Harry Potter series), Janet and Allan Ahlberg (Funnybones), Eric Carle (The Very Hungry Caterpillar). Comic books, graphic novels, audiobooks, and even short stories in newspaper serials can all add up to the book experience. What are you reading next? Feel free to ask me for suggestions.

CoverRoaldDahlTop10-1200x675

“I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.” – Roald Dahl, writer, former pilot of a Hurricane fighter, and conjuror of dreams.

#3 Music. See Blog post about music, mostly.  Or BBC 6 Music.

(#1 added 29/8/2020; #2 added 29/8/2020; #3 kind of added 1/10/2020)

TESMC #10: Ben’s feedback.

How do / Hello,

Well below are some comments passed on from Mr Ben. They may include quotes or the like.

Thank you kindly for your time. Take care!


LOVE this rubric. Good work. I agree that it will prove very valuable especially as a repeated tool or maybe a classroom environment resource (on the wall).


Hiraeth [hiːrai̯θ] is real.  I absolutely empathize. Its one of the reason why reading the Hobbit this past year hit me so hard and moved me so deeply. 

Our students undergo a similar experience; imagine hitting your limit for foreign, non-homestyle etiquette or expectations or communication or food or cultural normalities… and you just sink into a state of longing or maybe homesickness; at the very least a sense of bitterness about things here not being the way you know/feel they are back home; this frequently happens multiple times a day in the life of an ELL in the international school. you and i may now have developed and matured enough skillsets for living and maintaining sustained life abroad to only feel this way occasionally and usually only when we confront certain nostalgic memory-inducing reminders. But for the ELL, young, immature, undeveloped, and almost always ill-equipped to deal well with the difficulties that you and I confronted on our first abroad experiences, or maybe in university when we had to get used to the big city or the lack of family, whatever the case may be. It is these difficulties that we strive to remove from their day-to-day academic life; after all, study in our own mother tongue can be strenuous to the max, let alone in another language. This sensitivity, and the toolset to deal with it effectively, makes us English-language-in-addition-to-mainstream-subject teachers.


“For many of us, we may be able to pre-read and digest a news article, magazine piece or a book blurb just from experience. Our pre-formed ideas and exposure to templates could settle our mind on a track to read with ease. The imagination and interpretation of a seasoned-mind will draw out bold titles, enhance key points, find text captions, and articulate the who, when, what, why and how etc.”

You’ve successfully articulated the objectives of the language-in-addition-to-subject teacher’s instructional planning when re consider granting out students access to written/visual texts. With a bit-o-revision you could change this quote into a succinct set of reading objectives that you should now be better equipped than ever to address explicitly as a teacher.


Polias, Nominalisation, meaning making in the written realm by Brian Dare, and How accessible are the texts we use by John Polias made for riveting reading. They kept me up into the wee hours and on my toes. Why? They made me question my teaching and my selection of textbooks. Hugely.” I’ll be sure to pass this on to the two writers of TESMC (now called TEMC) though i’ll be careful to leave out the ‘fellow hair challenged Brian Dare’ bit; in the meantime, remind me to pass on some other works sure to ‘rivet’ and further call into question instructional practices. 

” Our job is much more proactive though. We’re targeting an end product.” Your use of ‘targeting’ here carries such a nuanced depth of meaning, it is hard to ignore or avoid commenting on; everything we do should be focused on how to grant access to the end product on behalf of our students. 

I’ll also admit to opening the test your vocab link you shared….thanks for that time-murdering resource. Appreciate it.


“I never teach my pupils. I can only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” – Albert Einstein

This of all your quotes most closely aligns with my educator sensibilities. And it is upon this mentality that I think the TEMC course is based;  assessment should not be a method  of judging student efforts and progress, but of success of failure of our attempts to create the necessary conditions for learning to occur; teacher who take their responsibility seriously immediately embrace this, while those who’ve been slighted or taken advantage of by schools/districts/governing forces using assessment result as the rationale tend to knee-jerk push back against this, citing student lack of effort. I understand both responses intimately. We must be aware that in practice and in theory it is the student at the forefront of our motives and to forget, when necessary, and to embrace when available, the inclinations and perspectives of administrations be them top-down or adjunctory (there’s wordplay for you).  Teachers must draw a line and say within themselves “if it is in the best interest of my students, I’ll do it without grumbling and even with determination. If I cannot see how it even benefits my students or that it in fact takes away from the learning environment, I reject it, all personal repercussions aside.” Thus you sleep well at night and must choose employers very selectively.

TESMC: The end of the beginning.

Jiǔ (九) is nine in Chinese. It sounds like jiǔ (久) which means long-lasting. Nine is considered a lucky number. So, with the ninth class of Mr Ben’s TESMC course, our journey into the English as a Second Language (ESL) course will hopefully last forever. Failing that, until retirement to the R.Y.P. (Retirement Years Programme) at the nearby care home that is under construction (by the Tungwah Group). With our nine bows we took aim at the challenge of teaching a foreign language in a foreign land.

In some ways the ninth module was like a Best of… TV show. It was a compilation of all that was before it, applied to our very own school situation and discussed in part, to remind us and drill home the finer details. The module title of Programming and whole-school models of support for ESL students summed up the content. That is what chapter titles do after all. It gave an increased awareness of the importance of collaboration throughout the school, with respect to ESL students’ and their delicate needs. It gave us a chance to reflect and evaluate the course before clarifying the next steps (after the course).  It reassessed person programmes and combined them with understanding gained throughout the TESMC course.

“Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me.” – The Reverend Fred McFeely Rogers, Children’s television presenter, actor, puppeteer.

As we zipped through an overview of the course, Mr Ben outlined how far we had come on the TESMC journey. Whilst much wasn’t too new, much of it was refreshing and cohesive – something to take away and re-digest before using actively. It was the beginning of the end, of the start of something. The sun was on the rise with the sky brightening.

“The important thing is not so much that every child should be taught, as every child should be given the wish to learn.” The Right Honourable The Lord Avebury John Lubbock, author and X-Club founder.

Possession is nine tenths of the law, apparently. After nine great classes, we’re in control of more than we entered the classroom with. The teachers were the students. We went the whole nine yards to get where we were – and didn’t need the nine circles of Hell. With the conclusion of our class, I should have been on cloud 9. Instead, my head drifted to the question, “So, what now?”

Notes from the final class:

Programming and whole school models of support for ESL students.

What is our the school’s ESL policy? Can we describe our student group? How much time has been allocated to our students? What are the roles of our ESL students, classroom and specialists within our school? What are the anticipated learning outcome throughout an appropriate state of the ESL continuum? What themes, topics and topic objectives are covered by our International Baccalaureate programme? Is there a specific language goal and objective list? Are any grammatical structures focused upon? Will there be a final series of Money Heist (La casa de papel) in 2021/02? What’s our methodological approach? Have we got an appropriate assessment and reporting plan in place? Together with guidelines for programme evaluation and resources available, we looked deeper into how our school functions for the benefit of the ESL students within it.

The conditions of the International Baccalaureate methods satisfy the below key points:

1. The long-term programme

2. Units of work

3. Daily diary or work program

4. Assessment program.

The course finale gave me chance to think about my own planning and collaboration. I must look at the below more closely:

include / delete / modify / elaborate upon

I’d written ‘involving and working in partnership with families and the community’ and underlined it with two lines. My reasoning being that like the whole course, we must consider ways to set up a successful whole-school framework that is achievable over a manageable time-frame and is completely sustainable. As an early years teacher, I must adhere to four principles: every child is unique; positive relationships are essential; the classroom must have an enabling environment; we’re all here for learning and development. To that end, I wish to thank Mr Ben for enabling us throughout the TESMC class. There’s plenty to take away. Be that practical suggestions and language clubs, or birdwatching groups, or revision centres or cultural exploration… the world of teaching is diverse and open to sharing through collaboration.

So, what now?

Essential TESMC reading titles:

  • “ESL Students:  some factors influencing their school experiences and learning outcomes.”
  • “ESL Students:  changing and re-shaping identities (identities under construction).”
  • “What ESL students may bring to the learning context.”
  • “From speaking to writing in the content classroom”
  • “Using small group work”
  • “Talk about literacy in the content areas”
  • “Supporting ESL students with written and visual texts across the curriculum”
  • “Multiliteracies in literate futures”
  • “Reading for meaning across the text”
  • “Perspectives on vocabulary”
  • “Nominalisation:  meaning making in the written realm”
  • “How accessible are the texts we use?”
  • “Making assessment supportive”
  • “Reviewing ESL provision within a culturally inclusive curriculum”
  • “Models of ESL program organisation”

TESMC: Pitt & Freeman vs. Spacey

Good (insert time here) / Hello / How do,

“Ben told the class that nouns are sexy.  I couldn’t agree more.” – Mr Lee, 2020/21 cohort, TESMC, TWIS

Noun groups are everywhere. ESL (English as a Second Language) learners may find ordering tough, whereas a professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, may find that their description of the fictional Scottish public and private boarding school of magic for students aged eleven to eighteen child’s play. The British magical community’s Ministry of Magic may not be an ideal place to start an exploration of noun groups, that most specific to English topic, but we can begin here with a dabble into the magical realm of TESMC class with Mr Ben. It’s our seventh class, hence the title.

“Many a man has a treasure in his hoard that he knows not the worth of. (Sellic Spell)” – Beowulf, J.R.R. Tolkien

Perspectives on Vocabulary by John Polias, Nominalisation, meaning making in the written realm by Brian Dare, and How accessible are the texts we use by John Polias made for riveting reading. They kept me up into the wee hours and on my toes. Why? They made me question my teaching and my selection of textbooks. Hugely. I’ve always been a fan of a DK Board game called Very Silly Sentences. This game helps to expand the vocabulary and manipulates verbs, adjectives and nouns. The idea of manipulating the nominal group needs base knowledge. That is to know the density of meaning slapped together inside a written text by giving numbers to nominalization per clause. Heavy stuff. Really heavy packed stuff. As a teacher we want to see the evolution of a student’s writing. It must go from: ‘It is a cat.’ We’re aiming to add weight to the sentence. Students, like adults, should be spouting Shakespearian cat descriptive pieces.

“foul night-waking cat” – The Rape of Lucrece, Sir William Shakespeare

If we sit our student’s first grade work alongside the same student’s work as they enter their early teenage years, you will see progress. The same can be done if we take week two work, week ten and week 17 work. Analysis is easy because it is reactive. Our job is much more proactive though. We’re targeting an end product. The factory assembly line of our classes must be targeted to show our desired outcomes of language learning. The crux of the matter is vocabulary extension: It’s a pretty cat. John Polias makes some strong cases for playing detective and taking visuals aside for as good old interrogation.

Fellow hair-challenged Brian Dare points out the pros and cons of refined writing. The high end of the mode continuum gets a fair treatment. He points out that suddenly students are less likely to be thinking on their toes. Students should be encouraged to both rewrite spoken text and speak in different ways about written text. It has to be bidirectional and the transpositions should become the tools of meaning-making in language. Going back and forwards, inverting, flipping it a bit, and relocating words here and there will provide the necessitous scaffolding. Do you remember the joys of messing with words and creating something clean and trim? The mode continuum gives our students something to blend and bend as a way to develop knowledge about language.

Explain these terms to a student without using the terms: common noun, proper noun, abstract noun, concrete noun, countable noun, uncountable noun, compound noun, collective noun, singular noun and plural noun. Respective examples could include window, Manchester, love, house, bike and bikes, rice, textbook, crowd, monkey, and babies. Easy enough, right? Now explain the function and use of a noun group. A noun group is a group of words relating to, or building on, a noun. There may be a pointer (a, an, this, that, these, those, my, your, his, her, its, our, dad’s, Mr Ben’s), one or more adverbs and adjectives. Before and after the main noun. The pre-modifier and the post-modifier offer ample opportunity for exploration. Referring back and forwards, within a sentence is a highly useful skill and tool for an up-and-coming writer. Adding weight and detail to the noun expands the information about the noun itself. It offers a clearer mental image. With these skills, our students can tell us much more about a cat. It’s a pretty fluffy cat with a wonderful temperament. The students are now armed with magic wands to cast spells on their noun structures. Effective writers need detail. Expanding the nominal group should be a weapon of choice.

Note: Nominal means as planned, or as named, or as written (in the mission plan). It does not mean normal.

Synonyms and antonyms are keys and tools to create colourful and abstract language. They’re also ideal for adding dimension to concrete dialogue and reports. One of my earliest English class memories was at Clayton Brook Primary School in Manchester. I, under ten years of age, and my peers were tasked with finding as many synonym words for the words good and bad. Many students talked about it. Some sought books. The tall loner in the corner dived like goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel and grabbed something useful. The dictionary fell into my lap. I was hooked. My personal vocabulary grew from word hunts, games, and reading. Mr Jones, class 5AJ, at Chapel Street Primary School, where I later attended, had me constantly finding words, or even searching for made up words, which made me look up similar words. These strange games certainly gave me reasons to live amongst the pages of discovery.

Here on vocabulary played a part. Even to this day, I enjoy expressions, terminologies, and styles of writing because the words within are shouting at me like conversations and whisperings that I must hear. According to TestYourVocab.com, most adult native test-takers range from 20,000-35,000. The average 8-year-old native speaker already knows about 10,000 words. Foreign test-takers tend to hit 2,500-9,000 words – and even by living overseas that only tends to hit 10,000 words. As I slotted my answers into tick-boxes and scored an estimated 32,700 words for my vocabulary size, I realized how few of the 300,000 entries into the Oxford English Dictionary that I probably know. In reality knowing one word from the 20,000 printed pages of the Oxford English Dictionary isn’t all that bad (and in truth, just 35,000 are useful). Are the website’s findings accurate? Well, entering your data is based on honesty and over two million surveys doesn’t accurately reflect a global population of umpteen billion people. Also, who uses the internet?! Their website’s methodology, the nitty-gritty argues that their accuracy is around ±10%, so in my instance, I could be closer to 35,970 or 29,430 words. Either way, it’s a curious little tool of play. I’m not showing off. Not at all. It gives me a good reflection on how many words I have yet to experience or learn. The bad news, however, is that their findings say middle age is where vocabulary retention tends to end. The best reading I found on their website related to reading habits. They found that reading habits directly increases vocabulary growth. It may sound like, as my Dad would put it, “stating the bleeding obvious” but it goes a long way to reinforcing the habit of reading at an early age. This website is part of an independent American-Brazilian research project. The decade-old findings of China show that the average vocabulary size here for English as a Second Language users was 6,636 words. Now, considering the education boom in China, that could be higher now. The website is an indication but not a science. It made me think about how many base words we need to learn a language. But, then how often do we use the words and do we lose the words? Who do we talk with that make us use new words? Are some words specific to some scenarios? Oh, the endless questions! Where on Earth is Anglesey?

“One forgets words as one forgets names. One’s vocabulary needs constant fertilising or it will die.”- Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh, writer (28 October 1903 – 10 April 1966)

Textbooks need selection. Most of us read reviews and even more of us get handed a reading list and stack of books tall enough to paralyse a student’s passion for reading. Trying not to overwhelm a young kids with a stack of books is a good start. As John Polias points out we need to support the students. If I throw the Welsh town of Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch at you and say read it. With that name of the Welsh village just over the Menai Bridge, you can unlock the language of Welsh, possibly. Possibly not. That’s where teachers must support every textbook handed to a student. A book without support may scare away passion for reading.

“Our song escapes, on little silver discs; Our love is plastic, we’ll break it to bits” – Reflektor – Arcade Fire

Too long, didn’t read? Well, that’s half the problem. If reading isn’t for you, how can reading be for someone else? And if reading isn’t a habit, how can writing be a skill? I haven’t read any of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Am I a sinner? Maybe. It just never grasped my attention. So, now, I believe that I must read it. I won’t read it alone though. I’ll make it my personal mission to read it with each and every student of my grade four class. Maybe they have read it in Chinese. Maybe in English. But, how did they enjoy it? I’m sure we can enjoy the magical journey as one. If you don’t have one of the Harry Potter books to hand and you want to dig on into the wider world of English, check out the below sites:

The Economist (Johnson blog: named after Samuel Johnson, who made dictionaries. This blog is all about the use and misuse of language, with its ripple effects)

FreeRice.com teaches and tests vocabulary whilst donating 5 grains of rice to the U.N. World Food Programme.

Language Log. Simply put, Mark Liberman, at the University of Pennsylvania, is a linguist with love of words. His Language Log website is a ticker-tape of blogs, posts and news all relating to language. Expect popular culture, controversy and history.

Dictogloss: a language learning technique. Used to teach grammatical structures. The teacher prepares text examples that need to be studied. The teacher reads it. The students just listen. No pens allowed. Next the students lift up their pens. Notes must be taken. By forming small groups, students can work together to reconstruct the text example using their knowledge, notes and teamwork. Afterwards reflection comes as students compare their various versions. With respect to my Grade 4 class, they tried this task twice and each time, they sailed the rough seas. Grade 4 are very capable sailors when the going gets tough. For extra experience, add a Powerpoint presentation whereby the words (and phrases) that you feel need noting pop up as you read it. It can reinforce student ability. After students become familiar with the dictogloss methods, take away the option of teamwork. First try paired working and then ask the students to work solo. This can also promote confidence.

“Fate goes ever as fate must.” – Beowulf, Seamus Heaney

As students move through schooling they will encounter different registers with full expectation to engage them accordingly. The use of nominal groups to enhance and even make complex text can be explained and shown to be more than useful. The dictogloss is there to be used as a tool, but not for exactitude. How many things change through new interpretation and retelling? Language and writing, like speaking can all be about exploration. As teachers we are captains of ships and we must wake our hypnopompic students with a sparge of word play. Our fuliginous fluffy funambulist of a feline with a wonderful temperament must exercise its vibrissae to avoid any pother as it balances on the tenebrous tightrope of life. With that, I end my braggadocio writing.

“Fate will unwind as it must!” – Beowulf, Burton Raffel

Goodbye, for now.

TESMC 六: Hexa-Sense

How do!

Writers use language resources as a key to organize texts, very much as I am doing now, albeit very amateurish in style, so that you, like the students as readers have a sense of what shall follow. When reading, a reader must orientate to a subject. For most who have experience reading in their native tongue, experience plays an advantage in determining the subject. For English as a Second Language (ESL) students, that experience may be lacking. For many of us, we may be able to pre-read and digest a news article, magazine piece or a book blurb just from experience. Our pre-formed ideas and exposure to templates could settle our mind on a track to read with ease. The imagination and interpretation of a seasoned-mind will draw out bold titles, enhance key points, find text captions, and articulate the who, when, what, why and how etc.

Achieving a proper semantic level via syntax isn’t a bad starting point. How many of us can clearly and quickly distinguish a cohesive conjunction from a rhetorical conjunction? How do we view phrases rather than look at individual words? Do we see the Lego castle or the loose blocks? Do those phrases serve as roles in conjunctions? Students face multiple texts, in differing formats, in varied lengths across countless textbooks, journals, magazines, booklets, instruction books, and so on. Students must use a range of complex resources and processes to make sense of the materials.

foreground/ˈfɔːɡraʊnd/ verbgerund or present participle: foregrounding

  1. make (something) the most prominent or important feature.

Knowing that a strap-line sits over or under a title, elaborating briefly on a subject is useful. The headline or title will grab the attention of a reader. There may be a byline with a writer and their expertise. So, before, even reading a sentence or paragraph, the reader could be parachuted into the story beyond, just by a few simple well-positioned words. From the introduction, a piece of writing will be elaborated on. There will be interpretation within the text and then quotes. Just to make things interesting, some publications make their ordering flexible, bullet-pointed, short and sharp, whereas others pad the hell out of the article. Rather like the teaching cycle, a reader must learn that things can be flexible. This learning cycle is subject to change, like all else in life. Orders change.

Some aspects can be skipped if students demonstrate they can satisfy the earlier stage of the cycle. It is advisable to set a clear context, to create a model, deconstruct it all, make a joint construction and then set independent construction.

Teachers must be sensitive when we go through books or texts. We read for meaning across the text. We read for context. The use of five different skills to comprehend the meaning will be decisive in thorough interpretation of text.

  • Pronouns refer back (and sometimes forwards) to content within the text.
  • Vocabulary is part of grammatical English. Grammar teaching requires cohesive conjunctions. Words like when, while, although, in other words, in the case of this, and so on are often new to students. Creating a list or glossary to assist will be useful.
  • Rhetorical conjunctions
  • Foregrounding at the whole text level.

By unravelling these pieces, peace in reading should follow. The purpose, schematic structures and language choice are all connected. Foregrounding is essential when it comes to almost all forms of texts. If a student is expected to look at and understand an article, then giving them the bigger picture and idea about reading the whole article is a must. Students from ESL backgrounds may be unfamiliar with conjunction forms and how linking words are used to tie together unknown vocabularies into their related sentences. Conjunctions should be provided to students, whether by heading, indexing or other means. Examples must be given for each and every one whether provided steadily or as a block. Familiarity takes time, and with gentle nurturing a student can be supported in focusing on reading text to know exactly which keywords of an introduction paragraph to look for. How do those words lead into the following paragraph and so on…

Cohesive conjunctions:

Conjunctions and connectives are cohesive devices that work to improve the flow of the writing.

Conjunctions operate within sentences and connectives relate to meaning between sentences.

Different types of conjunctions are used to express different types of relationships between ideas.

Ta’ra!

TESMC IV: The Quest for Peas

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace was a British-American superhero fantasy released in 1987. Lead actor Christopher Reeve penned it alongside Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal. It was bobbins. Proper crap. It was perhaps the reason the Superman franchise fell silent for 19 years. That and the unfortunate paralysis of handsome Christopher Reeve. The fifth movie followed Supergirl but slotted into the storyline arc after Superman III. The first four movies are good. Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut, remains one of my favourite pieces of cinema. Superman: the Movie has been regular viewing since I was a kid.

“We were also hampered by budget constraints and cutbacks in all departments. Cannon Films had nearly thirty projects in the works at the time, and Superman IV received no special consideration. For example, Konner and Rosenthal wrote a scene in which Superman lands on 42nd Street and walks down the double yellow lines to the United Nations, where he gives a speech. If that had been a scene in Superman I, we would actually have shot it on 42nd Street Richard Donner would have choreographed hundreds of pedestrians and vehicles and cut to people gawking out of office windows at the sight of Superman walking down the street like the Pied Piper. Instead, we had to shoot at an industrial park in England in the rain with about a hundred extras, not a car in sight, and a dozen pigeons thrown in for atmosphere. Even if the story had been brilliant, I don’t think that we could ever have lived up to the audience’s expectations with this approach.” – Christopher Reeve, Still Me

The final appearance of Christopher Reeve was ill-received by fans. Movie critics washed their hands of it. Plot holes gaped as large as life and special effects looked very much out of place. That’s exactly how my fourth instalment of TESMC will be. Read on to be convinced that I am right to state this early on. I make no apology. It is, what it is.

Literacy and learning must be multi-dimensional. A topic can be talked about, in terms of content and theme. Talk serves as a bridge to writing. Talking about those written and supporting texts will only support the learning further. Our primary school years are crucial to allow us to develop literacy skills across the curriculum. A range and repertoire of skills can be born here. The key role of spoken language can furnish a student’s developmental progress. This is the path to critical literacy skills. New topics, new subjects, new teachers, new methods and the all round goodness of new experiences facilitate, under guidance, can bring meaning to it all. Talk is a tool for thinking and communicating. We’re helping students to make sense of the bigger (possibly daunting or exciting) world around them. In one blink of an eye we are seen as a facilitator, or in another flutter of the eyelids, we become the tour guide. Likewise we are an expert or a caregiver. We’re the U.N. Peacekeeper. We’re the negotiator. We’re a nurse. We’re an advisor. Then we’re a play figure. We shape our role in the classroom to the need of each or all students. Our interaction is important. We must be flexible and varied in our approach.

The four stages of the teaching learning cycle (negotiating the field; deconstruction; joint construction; independent construction) are part of our arsenal to allow us to bridge the gap between oral and written language. We work tirelessly to integrate spoken and written language. We add clarity to muddy waters, interweaving the teaching learning cycle to give students a balanced understanding of concepts. We engage. We inform. We educate. We give opportunity. We task students to predict. We task students to evaluate. We check their prior knowledge. The students own their lessons. This becomes their own learning. It should shape their methods. Metalanguage builds up over time. These shared understandings about language and text allow students to look back on Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and agree it was crap.

I can interact with classmates confidently. [I’m not afraid to try.]
I can interact with my teachers confidently. [I’m Superman or Supergirl.]
I can try to volunteer relevant information about the topic in class. [I can raise my hands.]
I can express my personal opinion regarding a topic, when asked. [I have a view.]
I can give feedback about the ongoing topic. [I can talk about something, over a few days.]
I can talk and give relevant inputs in a group discussion. [I like teamwork.]
I can try to use meaningful vocabulary / terminology for answering questions. [I can find big words that are useful.]
Listening
I can listen with sustained concentration and retell things. [You say it. I say it again.]
I can listen to and follow teacher’s instructions/explanations attentively. [I know what you said I should do.]
I can understand the different kinds of questions asked by the teacher. [I am clever.]
I can respond appropriately to my peers and adults. [I am respectful.]
I can listen and respond to audio tapes appropriately. [I understand more than music.]
Useful rubric? From the fourth module of TESMC, I believe the above rubric to be of great value to my student’s self-assessment. I shall edit it further until it is of more use.

Multiple activities can be effective in the process of learning. Students can use interests as a scope of discussion. They can use discussion as a scope of their interests. They can find common ground and talk openly. There will always be moments of excitement and times when familiar objects or foods generate a real buzz. One or two sentences by students beats no input and it is important to allow students a voice. Some may tend to hide. A teacher’s job is to encourage. Encourage. Stand tall. Perform. That’s the key to effectiveness. Tasks, however, must be relayed clearly, always based on the English as a Second Language (ESL) learner’s needs.

I’m going to go away and find a downloadable copy of the Superman IV: The Quest for Peace script. Perhaps my grade four students can rewrite the script, and use a cast of garden peas. It can’t be any worse. Mark Pillow, A.K.A. Nuclear Man came from Leeds, Yorkshire (U.K.). Best forgotten.

I guess the writing just says that the movie is bobbins.

TESMC III: Colonel Bogey March

In the morning, the familiar tune of the Colonel Bogey March blazed out from tannoys filling the air. The nearby high school were performing their morning exercise. Lieutenant F. J. Ricketts had penned this tune way back in 1914. It has been rather odd to hear a pre-Great War marching song, based on a golf term, penned in the Highlands of Scotland. The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare is more apt, but no, here I find myself in Dongguan, Guangdong, the P.R. of China, humming Hitler Has Only Got One Ball”. I doubt very much I can teach this song over here. Well, just in case you were wondering…

“Hitler has only got one ball; The other is in the Albert Hall; His mother, the dirty bugger; Cut off the other, when he was only small; She threw it into the apple tree; It fell in to the deep blue sea; The fishes got out their dishes; And had scallops and bollocks for tea.”

The above discrediting tactic [Trump move] first appeared in August of 1939 in the U.K., yet I found myself learning it from classmates in Chapel Street Primary school as early as year 5/grade 5. Between the Jurassic Park novel and goals from Niall Quinn’s disco pants, Mike Sheron and Garry Flitcroft against Q.P.R. on September the 11, 1993, I was picking up the habit of reading at school. I am sure this is when I penned a story called Sam The Wonder Dog. Think Lassie meets Superman.

Using vivid and colourful games or activities like jigsaws can be advantageous to many students. It can be fun, creative and allow for thinking within teams. Group work solidifies strengths in teamwork by allowing discussion, and giving everyone roles to perform. It lessens worries and burdens. Everyone is valuable. It encourages relevant and meaningful communication with an emphasis on thoughtful questioning skills. The learning pace is dictated by the students and their needs. Collaborative working skills can be transferred to other activities later on. Afterwards it allows for a joint analysis of their work. This was evident in my grade 4 class when practising the Anna Kendrick song When I’m Gone [Cup Song] actions and lyrics. Two groups of four students, and two solo students seemed disjointed. However, with gentle persuasion and leading, eventually one student, Jimmy, encouraged a group of 6 to work together. Later he led both the group of 4 and his group of 6 to join forces.

Through sequencing the information in a classroom, it allows clear communication. With that collaborative working has a good chance of being followed through. The aim has to be visualised and that end goal can then be met. Some thinks can appear easy or simple, but maybe some of the scaffolding is lacking in the instructions. That’s why sequencing is so much more important to the learning environment. A huge advantage of team and group work allows for students to work through problems.

Deconstruction, however, allows for a clear context to be set. Modelling and construction can follow. With joint construction it can allow a group of students to work together. Independent construction can happen equally well but holds less advantage in terms of enhancing classroom dynamics and group work. Some students need to work alone. It may be in their character to feel better when acting solo, or feel more confident. Support and guidance from classmates may not make a student feel confident. They might already have the spark of self-belief to go it alone. Within my classroom, I’ve seen Amir demonstrate practical exploration, review and evaluation before then joining Terrance and Harry to show their final workings as one team. It allowed Amir to work efficiently and show his ability before joining others. The model of language they used throughout their interactions and participation differed according to their audience. With myself present, it was much more formal and well thought. With other students, they played and joked more, between little instances of shy behaviour. In front of a camera and no audience they started off shy and unsure, before gaining a rhythm and moved away from the tension of a camera being present.

Macro-scaffolding is the bigger picture. It’s the pandemic that grips the world right now. To the world of football this is like the great Sir Alex Ferguson speaking to his squad in the Old Trafford Theatre Of Dreams Swamp scaffolding stadium using encouraging words through growls, “Don’t be afraid to go down in the box on the 96th minute and get us that draw.”

Meso-scaffolding corresponds to the goals and activities required of a specific class. It’s the middle of a pandemic and the world are searching for vaccinations or a cure.

Micro-scaffolding zooms in up and close like a microscope on a COVID-19 virus strand. In football coaching some managers go in up close and personal. They take players aside and put an arm around the shoulder and talk about how to improve that player.

Without building on a student’s current knowledge and understanding, teaching would be like going up a creek without a paddle. Through the use of concrete experiences we can further understanding which will enhance their concept of English. Learning language allows the learner to have the tool to use it. The more contexts they can experience or talk about, the easier it is for them to understand it. Expecting a student to understand language without a proper concept means that student is now knee-deep up the. creek without the paddle or a suitable kayak. Language needs context. Let me write that again: language must have context. Without context, language is near useless. Think about the last time you were in foreign lands and used a handful of limited phrases. You wouldn’t say ‘Namaste’ or ‘danke schoen’ as ways to request directions in Greenland. Or maybe you would. I’ve never been there. I may head there after hearing of a catastrophic asteroid heading to Earth.

A clear plan of action when working with groups is important because it can give each student the opportunity to assume different roles, have enclosed experiences and learn using a different context. With every group work activity we need to evaluate it. This gives us an idea on how to improve the learning experience for future instances. Clear guidance gives a clear pathway for learning.

Oral language teaching is central to supporting the learning of a secondary language. The teacher has a crucial role of interaction that supports and scaffolds students during their development. Through a range of classroom tasks we can provide opportunities to use and develop oral language. This is an integral and essential part of teaching each and every subject effectively. The task shapes the talk. The talk shapes the talent. Now we can move on to the use of oral language. How should it be interpreted and how can it produce oral texts? This will allow us to scaffold students to become more effective in their listening and speaking.

Sometimes we must be reminded constantly of the best or better teaching practices to better serve our students. Waiting for a student to respond for over three or four seconds would significantly allow students time to use better language than the quick and easy answers by the first hands up. Students need to take a few more moments. Think time is essential. Give encouragement to think and then respond after rethinking. As an adult we need time and a conscience effort to think sometimes. So, why not give extra thinking time for students?

Having read about and watched students performing experiments before being introduced to key vocabulary, I find it clear that with experience those same students can relate and build on the knowledge they had prior. After some time and reflection, students can use new vocabulary more simply to describe what will happen. Having examples to relate to vocabulary matters. Practising vocabulary becomes more about directions and learning how to describe and use new concepts than the weight of new words (often without context).

Chaos can be avoided, in favour of a more comprehensible class, simply by instructions appropriate to the level of the students. The descent of chaos bobs up and down like an angry turkey’s head, knowing that Christmas is close by, but with an Ikea booklet to hand, the turkey can face up to some vegans for this year. Speaking, of course, leads into the development of proper critical literacy skills.

“Don’t worry about a thing; ‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.” – Bob Marley & The Wailers, Three Little Birds

Negotiate the field. The farm is tricky without navigation aids.

Deconstruction. Why not break the farm map and layout down?

Joint construction. This has nothing to do with Bob Marley. The farm is a mess now. It has been ripped to shreds. The tatters and remains need piecing together carefully, and with thought. Sit down and chill to Three Little Birds, as the students perform their tasks.

Independent Construction (of text). Well now the farm is running smoothly enough to advertise and run an article in the local Farmer’s Weekly magazine. E-I-E-I-O.

After the between module readings and module activities, many thoughts, as broad as as wide, popped into my noggin. Time constraints can inhibit development using these techniques. How can we ensure something isn’t rushed for all the individual students? Do those higher up the grade and year levels need further ESL support? How about giving extra support to incoming students that arrive midway through an academic year? What if fewer lessons were given to higher level students, would it allow more time to develop their English skills by way of concrete experiences, scaffolding and to find a range of appropriate contexts? Are all learning cycles considered in a proper integrated approach?

MATE MASIE – “what I hear, I keep” – wisdom, knowledge, prudence [from Adinkra, the language of west Africa]

Understanding Thursdays.

Bonfire night in England has been marked by an explosion of COVID-19. As Guy Fawkes Night comes and goes, Britain goes back into lockdown for an entire month.

“And then mother took me to Grammar School; But I stopped all in the vestibule; Every time that bell would ring; Catched me playin’ with my ding a ling” – the song My Ding A Ling by Chuck Berry

Meanwhile on a murky Thursday night in a warm Dongguan, at Tungwah Wenzel International School, I found myself taking notes on Teaching ESL in the Mainstream Classroom [TESMC]. There are several modules which start from a zoomed-out overview to a much more-closer and specific look at our teaching area. Quality of teaching matters, especially for English as a Second Language learners. Collaboration is key withing all teaching environments, so here I was surrounded by technology, Chinese, English, science and other specialist teachers.

Interrelatedness of culture is important. ESL (English as a Second Language) students bring culture capital and funds of knowledge that can be tapped and used in the weapon against Minecraft and all other manner of distraction. Sat with Mr Jason, Miss Keats, Miss Cindy, and others in groups around, we all observed teachers Mr Ben and Mr Cherlito in leading a great classroom workshop.

Classrooms should set high expectations and resource in their mainstream classes. There should be a bar to jump up to, rather than a bar to meet level. Expectations should increase to allow students to learn the language through the language and learn about that language. There is a plethora of learning theories, many tried, tested and tired, but a good teacher should know that there’s always more out there to bring about a good learning context.

Oral and written language must be treated separately. In our youth we make sounds before we scribble words. Those sounds and phonetics become words, sentences and eventually conversation. We crawl, walk and then run – until we get old enough to walk, drink beer and crawl again. Writing needs codes. We start with a few letters, then we pair a few more, and we build words. Following that a few simple sentences, and then they expand bit by bit, until we’re banging out sonnets like Shakespeare was our teacher. Some of the braver kids that write carry on writing and move on to be Dan Brown or Anne Tyler. They all started with the ABC though. Patterns and a need to make technical and abstract meanings fit educational contexts a little before we hit our double-figure years. Why do we do it? The world is demanding and so are parents. Teachers backed by educational curriculum standards encourage students. Students push themselves – or not. Accountability is something learned or not within teenage and early years. For some it takes a little longer than others. Some will never learn it.

Teachers and the school community adapt and evolve support language, not just to improve students, but to find strategies relevant and achievable for the classroom, and in this instance the ESL classroom. Improve our teaching, improve our target students. With that we must recognize that not all students have the name needs or motivations. There are many variables that need to be taken into account to ensure students participate in schooling and beyond.

What do I hope to gain from the course? Self-enhancement, bettering one’s self, being more invaluable and experienced in order to help and work closer with my colleagues. Yes, all that and some. Actually, I really want to understand my students better.

Students cross a broad range of identities. We all have multiple identities. I act differently around colleagues, friends, family, football friends, near strangers, and other groups. This is life. We are social butterflies and act accordingly to comfort surroundings and situations. What identities do we have?

Think about diets. Do we eat differently or behave in varied ways? Perhaps around vegans, vegetarians, American Embassy-eaters (that’s McDonald’s) and so on. How much respect can you give a total fructivore? Does a sister command a special response that is distinctive to that of an aunty or a mother? What’s the atypical reaction to dad? Relations matter. The position within the family, the runt of the litter is that kid that gets the passed down Manchester City F.C. shirt, according to their big bad bold brother.

If you want division, look no further than religion, it’s an age-old area of conflict. Don’t trust me? Google it. Even your choice of search engine can separate you. Sorry Baidu, you just won’t do for me! Age category, maturity, sexuality (LGTGB+ etc), members of book clubs, groups, communities (C’mon CITY!), neighbours (noisy or other), sports, language-speakers, ethnicities, creeds, hobbiesprejudices, Marvel or DC comics Star Wars or Star Trek; Trekker or Trekee… The list goes on. And on. And on, and on, and on and on. With all that in mind it is clearly difficult to understand your colleagues, let alone your students. We still must push on (gently, softly or otherwise) and probe ways to understand any potential barriers to learning and find range and depth suitable for extraction. Some negatives can be turned into positives. Some cannot. Here as good teacher is digging for positivity and the factory in each student that manufactures optimism. What do students struggle with? Locating a pencil case? Someone looked at them with a squint? An ant walked into the classroom doing ballet?

Some of the roles or aspects of having multiple identities will cause internal conflicts, doubts, and worries. One place that I feel tensions are my political views and belief in human rights. So, to be in America or China, I must respect the head gaffer and the regime that rules the joint. As a guest, I can only say or do so much. Imagine being a Chinese kid flung into international education. Will that kid’s neighbours or young relations also be in that same international school setting? They’ll be strengthening and weaking on one and the other. You can’t follow two systems perfectly. ESL students, a widely used terms for many nationalities, at a school that uses English as a primary target language are privileged to expand their cultural window, but they may find their own cultures closing from them. As they develop language for an increasing range of purpose of contexts, their world is changing in ways that they may or may not notice.

For an Irish kid learning at an ESL school in Wales, who studies only in English, they may not be exposed to much Gaelic language other than that at home, infrequently. The Welsh kid at school may be using English at home, attending Welsh classes online and immersed in a bilingual environment at home. The Chinese student on exchange from Dongguan to Aberystwyth may get to speak English, Welsh and a spot of Chinese with fellow students. They will all face improvements in their English language, but which students will improve their native tongue? What range of langue will they be exposed to? For the ESL teacher, this, like many other factors sits outside the scope of control. Awareness of these facts is important. Which students enjoy the same access to range of language as their peers? Is immersion in English to the detriment of other tongues? Do some students slip, trip and flip-flop from one school to the next? I know of at least a handful of students that I’ve taught that are in their third primary school in as many years. I shouldn’t judge because I also attended three primary schools as a kid. However, I didn’t have the pressure of a second language… unless North versus South Mancunian dialect was it. Barmcake or muffin?

The evening featured acronyms galore. EMI wasn’t Electrical and Musical Industries records; it was English as a Medium of Instruction. When CALD was mentioned, I expected to hear the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats, but it turned out to mean Culturally and Linguistically Diverse.

Other notes (not typed up in any depth yet):

WHAT FUNDS OF KNOWLEDGE MIGHT AN ESL STUDENT BRING TO THE CLASSROOM?

Understand classroom exposure (Chinese vs Int’l); different opinions about the future (environment; conservation; search engine exposure) …

LANGUAGE/COMMUNICATION – visual artifacts / bilingualism / translation /

/ EXPERIENCE/WORLD KNOWLEDGE – A.I. / surveillance / icons / cultural exposure /

/ ATTITUDES OF FUTURE

/ WAYS OF THINKING – Wikipedia/media literacy / transfer of knowledge / attitudes in academic context / curiosity

/ MULTIPLE IDENTITIES cultural norms / family backgrounds / expectations / regional knowledge / local

Possible consequences of failure to acknowledge the above include neglect of diversity and cultures. Value it. Ignoring the valuable resource will limit their world view. Disenfranchising and discouraging, devaluing, disempowering – don’t handicap

Attitude of a teacher: transition / support / how do students feel in terms of students who finish first or take longer? /

My homework (A.K.A. the between module activity) is as follows. Select one class student. Understand their life, experiences, impacts on their ability to learn, hobbies, favourite biscuits, and so on. I can use any strategy to do so. Perhaps an untargeted questionnaire, a survey of the class, discussions with other teachers, an insight from their family, a photo of their favourite thing at home and so on… What do they miss when they’re at school? The old who, when, what, why, how, do, etc scenario is with me until next Thursday’s class. That student’s funds of knowledge will be valuable to teaching them.

And with that, I’m sat listening to Chuck Berry live and reading about things other than books that students can read to enhance their reading skills. Books are the gateway to knowledge, but in these modern times books are not the only medium for reading. In the age of information, words are all around us. Students should be encouraged to read (digital or hard copies):

books written by each other

dictionaries and thesaurus

play scripts

road signs

maps and atlases

song lyrics

poetry

travel brochures and leaflets

blogs

websites

encyclopedias

newspapers

magazines

social media and micro posts

catalogues and listings

programmes of events/sports meetings/games

manuals and ingredients on food labels

recipes

Anyway, that’s all for Thursday night. Let’s hope this COVID-19 scatters away soon. Keep busy. Eat a toffee apple for me and some Parkin Cake. I had to make do with McVities Hobnobs (the ones without chocolate). Stay strong. Peace and love x

John

Setting Sails

Good day/Namaste/S’mae/How do/Hello/Nihao,

“Here we go”… “all aboard”… “the packet steamer is ready for departure”… “the flight is ready to depart”… “my God, it’s full of stars”…

BLAST OFF!

I’m not going to lie. It has been an eventful and busy few weeks. Today is the final day of the first teaching week. This marks the third week within Tungwah Wenzel International School. It’s been emotionally charged, eye-opening (in a refreshing kind of way) and wonderfully welcoming. This school is modern and dedicated to the International Baccalaureate methods and standards of practice. It aims to develop rounded young people that enquire, have broad knowledge and use their skills with care. The idea is to create peace and harmony whilst ‘promoting intercultural understanding and respect.’

The school is very well organised with clear hierarchy and methodology. There’s much to learn and many places to look for the knowledge. Resource is plentiful and accessible. Each classroom is equipped with a Smart Board (digital white board/multimedia unit) and at least four white boards. The room started out as a blank canvas. With the aid of desks that can fit a variety of teamwork positions or solo working spaces, and great chairs, the students can work at a breakfast bar-style workspace overlooking the green sporting facilities or slot in and out of double, treble, quadruple or quintuple team areas. I think up to decuple is possible, but I have yet to try that configuration. Differentiated instruction at its best.

The first few weeks involved introductions, meetings and workshops. Between brainstorms, buzz groups, bug lists, stepladder techniques and synectics, I discovered mind maps, which I have seen and can interpret but have never attempted to create one. My mind map virginity was lost to the theme of transdisciplinary learning.

I like the I.B. mindset. Classrooms encourage open celebration of diversity through their displays and their activities. The reading corner it Chinese and English, but Spanish and French should and will be included to facilitate the students from those backgrounds. Their mother tongue is just as important as the primary medium we teach in: English. Multi-lingual exposure will widen everyone’s minds. The displays will mostly be at the eye-level of our students. At the end of the day, they’re learning more than we are. So, parents should expect to come and crouch down to see their kids’ best efforts. We have a corner set aside for curiosity and special objects. Things are great examples of realia and generate wonderful questions. Our classroom is there to stimulate and be inviting. Whilst the framework may have been organized by myself and my assistant Miss Sheryl, the bulk of the display work will be a showcase for our students.

Learning stations are proving to be a challenge. Some students must get used to not playing with everything placed in one area. The literacy, numeracy and U.O.I. (Unit of Inquiry) class regions seem to be mixed up on a daily basis. House-keeping is something we’re encouraging the students to do, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. We have a couch, a proper sofa, beanbags, stools and chairs of various heights. Our common room and classroom are separated by a wall, but hopefully a doorway or a crawl space will bring the two spaces together. Different activities are blessed by different zones.

Resources are important. The students have an iPad each, books, things to use such as stationery and so on. The facilities are spacious and numerous with dedicated areas and ample room for multi-purpose functions. Of course, there’s a Godzilla-sized amount of responsibility, but few rules are seen. Instead students are asked to create essential agreements. They choose positive sentences and then pledge to abide by them. They even set them for their teachers. My grade four students elected the following essential agreements for me:

Make our school day special and fun.

Understand our students and their needs. [They even mentioned that this applies to the whole school, rather than just our one classroom]

Bring a smile to the classroom.

Make our classes interesting.

Be equal and fair.

Try to play more games in the classroom.

Help us to learn.

As for the students, there are the standard hints at keeping the noise down as well as about respect and politeness. Their collective of ten agreements are easily said, and I’m sure in time, they’ll also be habit. I will let them choose their content, but shuffle in some Roald Dahl and my own interests as and when fit and proper to do so.

The students could have even added, ‘Mr John must share his cakes’ because based on today’s lunch, they cleaned my dessert plate of fruits and three small slices of cake swiftly. I didn’t even have any watermelon left. I’ve two students in my class from three previous years at St Lorraine Anglo-Chinese Primary School. Kitty and Marline are now like best friends. They’ve linked up well with two other girls yet still seem to hate working with boys. So, as girls hit around 9 or 10 years of age, that’s when boys are ‘disgusting’ as they say. Maturity comes at different ages of course but the age-old battle of boys versus girls roars on.

These last few days have involved plenty of studying for myself, but with online resources and three libraries (teachers’ / primary / middle years) to select from, I haven’t had any huge problems. I know that smooth seas don’t make good sailors and the challenges ahead will present themselves in time, but I feel I’m in the right place surrounded by the right people, all with the right attitudes for the road ahead. There are trials ahead. Nothing easy is ever worth doing, right?

Thank you kindly for your time.

The Last Broadcast

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

“So here we are; At the last broadcast; Here we are; Our last broadcast” – The Last BroadcastDoves

To the students, parents, colleagues, the principal, the parent/teacher association, the board of directors, and those concerned:

I write to say the deepest thank you to all of the above. I thank you for a sincere and wonderful experience at St Lorraine Anglo-Chinese Primary School. The experience was an excellent one and one that has helped our class take many more steps forwards than sideways. The classroom life may be drawn to a close this week, but we all leave here with unforgettable memories, a new port of calling for everlasting friendships and a sincere view of both Western and Chinese cultures. This will only serve to inspire and give us ample opportunity to gather smiles from our warm memories.

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Each year has seen new challenges and requirements. The advantages of enjoying such festivals of Children’s Day or Mid-Autumn Festival helps bring balance to the routine of the teacher’s daily life. We must be open and honest by evaluating our progress. What could we have done better? What could I have worked harder on? How can teamwork improve each and every single one of us? Take some time to review the matters that matter and invest energy and time into conquering obstacles.

Three school years is a long time to a child. It hasn’t felt so long to me. I haven’t met a single foreign teacher who has stayed with students for longer than two years. And at times, it has seemed like madness. Many students develop a familiarity that can mean that they now, what they can get away with. They know the limits of a teacher very soon. They know your blind spots of vision. Thankfully, 3F have been mostly wonderful. The days of Billy climbing me like a tree come to an end. There will be no Tony calling me “disgusting” at every opportunity. Marline’s daydreams and assortment of wonderful questions have come to an end. The quiet star Kitty can take her big voice to the next teacher. Marcus can talk about Lego and Aaron about travels with their next teachers. Roselle’s great artwork; Candy’s enthusiasm; Angela’s endless questions; Jimmy’s brilliant curiosity; Tyler’s reading passion; Leon’s sporting skills; Allen’s desire to lead every team; Alice’s requests for a new pet hamster; Evan’s lack of fear to pick up challenging reading materials; Kim’s conversations about her mammoth sleeping habits; Kristy’s great descriptive capabilities; Natalie’s cheerful drive for dancing; and Sabrina’s sense of humour. They will all be missed. These three years have been a privilege.

In the beginning there were lots of students, and through various reasons (change of location, new school choices), we’ve been reduced from 27 students to presently just 19 (although 2 have been unable to return this semester due to COVID-19). We had three fixed classrooms with temporary residence in one other classroom whilst mosquito guards were fitted. Everywhere we have been, we have tried as a class to decorate and leave a touch of our own warmth and creation there. From the original white walls, we made colossal suns, song words, signs, and warnings. There has been a blend of east and west, with lanterns, vases and hexagonal bee collages. Idioms have been learnt through curiosity and stacks of books lifted-up and put back down again.

When I first stepped into room 110 of St Lorraine Primary School, I was faced by a group of parents and colleagues. It was quite a friendly atmosphere and any nerves subsided soon enough. I was introduced to everyone by the principal, Mr Lam, and my co-worker Miss Zeng. Miss Zeng, or Cici as she is sometimes called would go on to be my co-worker for two years. Cici’s hobbies are sleeping and eating. Cake pillows are her dream. Throughout the initial year Cici really helped me communicate my ideas with the parents and create a pleasant feel for the class. Those foundation months were critical to where we are at now. Parents have been receptive and encouraging throughout my time with our class, our team and our journey. Many parents would be familiar faces throughout my three years with class 1F, 2F and ultimately 3F. I hope we all remain in contact. Miss Li has accompanied us throughout this third year of school. I wish them all the very best in the future.

Footballs have been humped around the field, kicked with passion and passed to friends. Rugby balls have looped over heads and basketballs dribbled through legs. There have been hours of games, laughter and creativity in action. Students have become teachers to me. English, like Chinese, is a wonderful and beautifully crafted language – and foreign teachers usually feel most welcome in learning your native tongue, whilst giving our all to give the students our command of English. The students enjoyed laughing at or teaching me one or two words throughout our time together.

Like I tell students, I advise them, “Don’t believe everything you hear and see.” In fact, believe nothing of what you hear, for until you see or hear, how do you absolutely know it to be true? A good environment needs a positive feel and respect, whether through reward or simple acknowledgment. All classes need classmates to be balanced in their manners and respectful. Don’t accept everything as it is. Look for ways to enhance and improve the working practices, without wasting time and passions. Encouragement is a valuable tool for students and teachers alike. Teachers such as Miss Huang (Minna), and Miss Cheng (Paris), amongst many can take their energy and give it to those they teach and work with. Over the years I have been lucky enough to meet many great people.

Life doesn’t get better by chance. It gets better by change. We adapt and we are flexible. Proper planning prevents poor performances, but that doesn’t always mean circumstances can be suited each time. Planning just makes us better prepared. Free time to do the things we love helps us come into school refreshed and ready to be effective. Holidays give us time to see family and planning such trips can be irritating and difficult. Uncertainty and discomfort can be avoided. That should be what a good teacher should always do. Avoid overworking and stay fresh for school. After all, that is something which we encourage our students.

Now, nobody’s saying the international class at St. Lorraine is the Garden of Eden, but it’s been a good home to us, to me, John Acton – and my students, who I’m proud of! Because every single one of them reminds me a little of… me. They can all think for themselves! Which they’ve their parents to thank for. Allen, who’s a bit loud! Aaron who is a lot like his sister, which is handy because she’s quiet and polite. Alice who bounces around like a ballet dancer. Our Billy, the little bucket of questions. Angela and her big smile. Candy, a model student until you take her pen away. Evan! The biggest trip hazard for a hundred kilogram plus-size teacher. Jimmy, a face of innocence with a head full of wit and humour. Kim and Marcus, fantastic neighbours for other students – until they open their mouths… and never close them! Kristy, who seems hellbent on making me bench press her bodyweight with, “Pick me up!” every other day. Marline, she’s gonna be a star, when she focuses. Natalie, skipping and hopping around with a big smile day after day. Roselle, she’s the student every teacher wants but only ever gets one of them. Sabrina, so curious and such a total angle. You’ve to check your desk but she’ll go miles out of her way to do you a favour. Tony and Tyler, full of energy, smiles and oddity. All of them, to a man, know first and foremost the most vital necessity in the classroom, is they know how to be part of a team. Let’s party! SCATTER!

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Turn off the subtitles, finetune your hearing and pick up those English newspapers, magazines and books. It’s always time to challenge yourself and push on for the next day of hard work. We can, little by little, make improvements. That’s why I’m saying thank you. You’ve improved me. Don’t stop learning. Don’t stop teaching. Look for those brighter and better days. The world’s future is calling you – and you must be ready for it. Anything is possible. A simple thank you is not enough. From the bottom of my heart to each and every one of you.

So, what now?

Yours in teaching; yours is passion for learning; yours truly and faithfully,

Mr John

The Mancunian Way, Dongguan

How do! / 你好 (nĭ hăo) / Namaste / Welcome!

“I feel so extraordinary; Something’s got a hold on me; I get this feeling I’m in motion; A sudden sense of liberty.” – New Order’s song True Faith.

I’m patriotic towards the U.K. in a way. I sing praise and fly the flag for great people, wonderful history and fantastic places. I know that the story of the U.K.’s history has often been brutal, cruel and deserves little love. Even within the 21st century the U.K., as it moves away from a colonial and European past, and becomes less connected, yet more dependent on overseas trading and manufacture is and always will be a wonderful country. It’s my home. I was born in Manchester, England. I don’t call myself English. I’m British, when I choose to be. I’m Mancunian always. I have Celtic blood in me from my Irish and Welsh great grandparents. My roots are clear and free. But this tree doesn’t cling to the past and history. This tree wants to expand and be watered by different skies. For me tradition and culture are important but understanding and freedom to choose your own pathway are far more intrinsic to living. This tree is currently sat on its arse in Changping, Dongguan. Today’s and yesterday’s rugby and football have been washed out by Dragon Boat rains. I have some free time.


Today, I want to show a gallery and write a little about the culture of Dongguan and China. I’ve been here for the vast majority of the 2308 days now (11th February 2014). I believe many great days have passed and many more will follow. That’s why I am right here, right now. I arrived and didn’t feel too much way of culture shock. Around me a reasonably established cultured expat community threaded amongst the fabric of the local workforces and people of Guangdong.

“Because we need each other; We believe in one another; And I know we’re going to uncover; What’s sleepin’ in our soul” – Acquiesce by Oasis.

Since, I arrived I have seen Dongguan grow and grow. It is now classed as a Megacity. It seemingly will never stop growing. There are skyscrapers and apartment blocks skimming the sky in every single district of Dongguan. Whereas in 2014, I’d notice dozens of these mammoth constructions and many more sprouting buildings, now I am seeing hundreds and hundreds of established communities and hubs here, there and everywhere. I used to consider Nancheng and Dongcheng as the central axis of Dongguan. Now the townships of Chang’an (home of Oppo), Changping and the ever-growing former fields of Songshan Lake (home of Huawei), and the sprawls of Liaobu town could easily be seen as central areas. The arrival of the Huizhou to now West Dongguan Railway Station (soon to be Guangzhou East) or 莞惠城际轨道交通  /莞惠线 Guanhui intercity railway has added to rapid growth. As it joins the short-named Pearl River Delta Metropolitan Region Intercity Railway System (珠江三角洲地区城际轨道交通). That’s more than 65 railway stations in close proximity to Dongguan. Like all of the Pearl River Delta, this city is growing fast – and going places.

 

When not hopping on 200 km/h (124 mph) railway systems, I have ample opportunity to meet great people. Dongguan‘s community is largely migrant with people coming from all over China and the world beyond. International jet-setters with lives here, include Serbians, Kiwis, and even Scousers. They can be found in some of the office places, factories, bars and restaurants throughout the city. Playing football with Brazilians or Russians, or cycling with Dongbei people is possible or a spot of chess at Murray’s Irish Pub with Ukranian opposition. Anything goes here. Drinking homebrew at Liberty Brewing Company (曼哈顿餐吧) in Dongcheng after playing tag rugby with Tongans, South Africans, Germans and Malaysians makes me realise how lucky I am. This is a city that is tidying up and beautifying itself at an alarming rate.

Throughout the 6.5 years of life in and around Dongguan, I’ve slipped up and down ginnels, seeking out the new and old. There have been trips to pizza joints in obscure areas, Dragon Boat races watched, Cosplay events attended and English competitions observed. Dongguan, like Manchester, has a heartbeat that shows anything is possible and if it isn’t here, you make it. You can make something new, or your bring something to the party. You can sit and complain about people taking your photo or saying, “wàiguórén” (foreigner/外国人) or you can show the people around you, your worth.

This week I was asked by the Dongguan Foreign Bureau to teach them. Sadly, I cannot fit their demands into my day. I’ve bene lucky to narrate advertisements, wear watches for model shoots, test-drive new bicycles and play with new robotics before they reached their target audience or global factory floors. Daily life has been far from mundane here with oddities and pleasures as varied as can be. What’s around the next corner? Well, visas are quicker and easier to get, despite more rules and demands. It seems far quicker than when I first arrived. Sometimes, I doubt that I have done everything right, yet it seems clear and simple. Just a checklist. This week I received my medical report back. Now, I need just a few other items for the 2020/21 visa… That’s progress.

Bridges have been made and links that could prove lifelong. The west and east have collided in bizarre ways often forming a touch of the unique. There has been colour, rainbows and diversity amongst the traditional and the common. There have been flashes of light and inspiration. There have been days when solitude has been sought and there will be more, no doubt, but one thing I find, and have found throughout my time here, people are just that. Just simple down to earth, regular people going about their days, looking for peace and good opportunities to survive or better themselves. There are more cars and less bicycles, which shows that some people’s bank accounts and credit-ratings have improved. Quality of life needs balance, and with that the subway/underground system of Dongguan is projected to change from one line to seven lines.

Words can say how thankful I am for my time here. I am enjoying life in different ways to others, and being who I want to be, when I want to be. I’m selfish or I’m sharing. I’m open or I am closed. I read or I watch. I write or I dictate. There are times to slip unseen, and times to lead an audience. It is good for the mind to be bored or alone. I truly believe that’s where creativity lies. It sits there waiting to be tapped and delivered to paper, computers or other outputs. I can wander from craft beer breweries to model car clubs to fusion and western food restaurants with ease and all of the time remain connected to modern and old China.

There is plenty of ugly in Dongguan, just like the rest of the world. To quote the 18th century French phrase, “ne saurait faire d’omelette sans casser des œufs“:  You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. Humans must learn from the stains and damage we have caused to our planet globally, whether disease or pollution. We can’t give in. Our cultures, our pride and our people need to fight on and find solutions. Just as #BlackLivesMatter, all lives matter – whether human or worm or bug or panda. Life must find a way. Dongguan is radically changing its energy consumptions, factory practices and the way its environment is being respected. This is good for all. Maybe, I should really put my words into action and finish studying towards the HSK (汉语水平考试 Hànyǔ Shuǐpíng Kǎoshì) course for the Chinese Proficiency Test.

 

Dongguan has gone from a place with a handful of limited cinemas, to those with the IMAX, vibrating seats, private screens and many of the latest releases from the west. KTV bars make way for baseball batting cages, ten-pin bowling, archery cafes and all the latest crazes. The great thing is that with Wechat (born 2011), Alipay etc, you can leave your wallet behind and pay swiftly with ease using these simple electronic methods. Gone are the days of using equations and haggling to get a taxi a short distance. Piles of services are available via your phone, including electrical bills, water bills and Didi (driver and carshare service) is one such saving grace.

During these COVID-19 pandemic times, your phone provides your health code, advice in travel, guidance on health services and help. Dongguan’s local services for healthcare, private insurance and banking are on your fingertips, rather than a a few hours out of work. Life can be as fast or as slow as you wish. In 2010, Dongguan was named a National Model City for Environmental Protection and greenways, green belts and other greenery followed. There are hundreds of parks now, over 1200… it is easier than ever to stay healthy.

There is culture around us, old temples, modern pagodas, relics of time and shells of history. Dongguan’s landmarks are a tad tough to visit now. The Cwa humid subtropical climate here is far above the reported average annual temperature of 22.7 °C (72.9 °F). The rainfall is typical of the land below the Tropic of Cancer now. It is raining cats, dogs and occasionally elephants. Wellingtons and umbrellas are common sights these days, rather than the Dongguan Yulan Theatre, GuanYinShan (Budda mountain), Hǎizhàn bówùguǎn (海战博物馆 Opium War Museum) or Jin’aozhou Pagoda. Even a trip to my local coffee shop, Her Coffee, is like a swim in a river. It is blooming wet lately. As a Mancunian, I feel at home.

I’m here for education – to both teach and to learn. This city has hundreds of educational institutions, even Cumbria’s St. Bees are opening a school here. I’ve heard there are around 550 primary schools, 480 kindergartens and several universities now. To bump into a teacher amongst the 21,000 plus teachers is not unusual. Although it seems every second teacher works for one of the many Eaton House schools here. I’ve heard Tungwah Wenzel International School (TWIS) in Songshan Lake is one school to really watch. Like its neighbouring Huawei school, it is massive with around 1,000,000 square metres of surface area. I’ve seen the modern sports gyms, performance space and technology labs. It uses the latest gadgets and networking. It really is 21st century over there at Songshan Lake. Although Huawei have a German-style train-tram zipping around, piping back to older days. Dongguan University of Technology(DGUT; 东莞理工学院) is one of universities in the area meaning that you can educate beyond your teenage years here. It really is a place to learn. Watch out Oxford and Cambridge! Maybe that’s why Trump is always bad-mouthing China’s growth?

From eating chicken anus, to two weeks of quarantine in XiHu Hotel, Dongguan has given me more time to turn the contents of my head to words. Now that I am ready to publish a novel, I need a publisher, but how to do this during a pandemic? I haven’t a clue, but I know one thing, the challenge will be tough and worth it. Nobody ever climbed a mountain to sit at the top and look down without seeing another mountain, right? At the end of the day, the sun sets only to rise again. Dongguan faced lockdown impeccably and other challenges, just as the world did and does. Chin up, keep going and let’s crack on.

Last night, I ate Korean barbecue with great people to celebrate a treble-birthday, followed by proof that I am terrible at ten-pin bowling and awoke today feeling optimistic. The world is often reported to be going through a pandemic-sized recession. As the world sailed a wave in 2008 and Dongguan grew from that recession, I will everyone to go on. Manufacture a bucket of optimism. Just like the strings of New Dawn Fades by Joy Division, there is darkness but remember these famous lines: It was me, waiting for me; Hoping for something more; Me, seeing me this time; Hoping for something else. In 2008, low-tech industry switched to the high-tech. Boomtime arrived. Chances are that one in five phones around the globe were made in Dongguan. Is your phone Vivo, Oppo, Honor or Huawei? It was probably made down the road from me. So, Dongguan is closer than you think.


Manchester isn’t any place I will visiting in person for some time, so it has to come to me via playbacks of Oasis gigs at Maine Road and the written word. Over the next few months, I plan to read the following Mancunian-connected books:

Hell is a City – Maurice Proctor; The Manchester ManIsabella Varley Banks; Passing Time – Michel Butor; Magnolia Street – Louis Golding; Fame is the Spur – Howard Spring; Lord Horror – David Britton; The Emigrants – WG Sebald; Cold Water – Gwendolyne Riley; The Mighty Walzer Howard Jacobson; Manchester Slingback – Nicolas Blincoe; Vurt – Jeff Noon; A Man’s Game: The Origins of Manchester City Football ClubAndrew Keenan; Mary Barton – Elizabeth Gaskell; Cranford – Elizabeth Gaskell; North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell.

“I was thinking about what you said; I was thinking about shame; The funny thing how you said; Cause it’s better not to stay” – The Last Broadcast – Doves

Teaching with Chopsticks CONTINUED

RECOVERED FROM THE DEMISE OF HUBHAO.COM

Some things are essential to leaving the classroom, feeling not only like you did a good job but that you made a difference is key for me.  You have to be a realist and know that best laid plans will come unstuck every now and then.  To be prepared is to be ready, and ready for action you must be.

In full focus.  Some days are hot, some days are stickier than a bun factory’s spillage of extra-gummy jam, some days it don’t come easy… some days it doesn’t come at all.  Meat Loaf lyrics aside, you need focus.  Buckets of concentration melted together with motivation to perform.  You cannot walk into any class half-heartedly.  Finding the on switch is relatively easy.  A smile, a blast of some good music, a stroll around the school grounds, anything to clear you mind and feel fresh.  In the domain of teaching, insufficient time is afforded to that best buddy of the educator:  relaxation.  Daydreaming and doodling have been linked with high intelligence levels and creativity.  I like to think all my best ideas have stemmed from drawing fictitious maps and brainstorms resembling that of a biro-inscribed cyclone.  Move around the classroom, get many eyes following you!

Made from concentrate.  I hate being ignored.  I detest it when I lose one or two students to boredom, tiredness or the pressures of stacked homework lay before them.  I despise concentration being sapped by distractions.  That said, I can understand.  Empathy and sympathy are your allies.  Your movements and actions will deliver your crowd.  Think slapstick or stand-up comedy over standing up straight.

Realistic goals.  This goes for both students and teachers, because ultimately why aim to high and totally miss your targets?  The level of English in various schools or even within one grade can differ drastically.  You can’t leave behind any stragglers and similarly you cannot abandon the child geniuses.  The fine balance between testing and arduous should sit just above competence and challenging.  With experience you can find that titrated line.  If 80% of the class is at a level higher than the balance, you can over one semester encourage the inexperienced students onwards with more one-on-one assistance and praise.  Their confidence might just need your backing and reassurance.

Lesson planning.  I love to do something.  I hate to plan.  That said, a great plan gives fantastic guidance and helps you avoid stumbling into a ravine without a paddle for the creek below.  Finding a lesson plan is easy.  Then it must be tailored.  The end product needs to suit you, and you alone.  For my lesson plans I slice them into ten key components.  (1)  Do you have a clear and outlined method?  (2)  The lesson should be segmented into presentation, practice and production areas.  (3)  How big will activities be?  Teamwork versus pair work or smaller groups of four?  (4) Push for student talking time, over teacher talking time – where oral English is key.  (5)  Plainly outline the target phraseology and vocabulary.  Avoid clutter.  (6)  Handouts, activities and supporting materials need to be noted clearly.  (7)  Is an example of board work necessary?  (8)  Minimise non-essential skills such as reading or writing when pushing for oral English practice.  (9)  Ensure the students practice what you have taught them and define how you can check this.  (10)  Ensure the task pours, surges and flows as required by bringing the matter to life with a great review…

Reviews.  Perhaps, the only way you’ll ever develop as a teacher is by assessing the level of response from students in a review.  If the games or activities are dull, a poker-face laden class will stare emptily until the class bell.  If the final undertaking is too difficult, confusion and ignorance will call by for a bite to eat:  you’re on the menu!  Engaging review games can catch attention.  They will reveal how much has been learnt or bolstered.  Using characters from popular culture like those of Super Mario Brothers, the latest boybands, or famous sport stars will engage your crowd.  If it is obscure, you’ll lose the crowd.  That said, a personal touch reflecting you and your life can fascinate the gazing eyes.  Add life, add personality and add some spirit.  I have a class that have nicknamed me Tofu.  Since then an entire Powerpoint presentation was based around a dialogue revolving around the food, a fictional superhero called Fantastic Tofu and the new game Super Tofu Brothers.  If a particular class embraces something, you can play off it – it may be tedious to you, but dive in with full passion and join me in a method I like to call Teaching with Tofu!

And with those words of wisdom, I end on a quote by The Hold Steady, “We gotta stay positive”.

For further reading:

Lesson plan maker – Retrieved 2015/04/19.

Lesson plan guidance – Retrieved 2015/04/19.


RECOVERED FROM THE DEMISE OF HUBHAO.COM

Introductions are meant to be swift and to the point.  That’s my introduction over with.

Try to know your students and their knowledge.  In a more technical way I could call this heading, “Acquire relevant knowledge about students”.  Students will have their own cultural and generational backgrounds.  They will have been influenced by their parenting; their friendships; mass media and so on and so on… If you mention Japan in many classes, some closed responses shall follow, but increasingly you may find good arguments or great positivity to Japanese culture.  The beauty of using a controversial or current affairs topic is that it can help develop descriptive terminology.  Similarly, a student with a history of poor discipline can be enticed by different approaches.  What they have learned, whether correct or totally erroneous can shape how they learn new topics.  There isn’t a simple way to note how much every student or a group of students know, but having an idea is a fine way to start your preparations!  Your course design for pacing, examples and format – even the objective depends entirely on knowing your students and their ability.  With this you can flush away misconceptions and draw up clear guidance routes.

 

Teamwork.  Let’s be fair, teamwork is something we all love when it goes well.  When it doesn’t it is hard, but then you find how to develop the strengths within the ranks of a team.  Weaknesses become stronger through assistance and collaboration.  All major road cycling races have a winner, but the team that gets the winner there, does most of the work.  Be they mechanics, support staff or the cycling squad.  In a team, all are accountable.  Responsibility and pride force the hand of those trying to shirk away.  The teamwork is far more social and can heighten understanding.  Essentially students have a jigsaw and through their own methods, they can assist each other.  I’m a massive believer in questions and answers.  For every question a student asks you, try to reply clearly – before launching your own questions.  The beauty of the modern world is you’re never more than one metre from a gameshow.  Turn “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” into a classroom activity.

 

Varied learning techniques.  Variety is the spice of life.  Fact.  Monotony creates boredom.  Monotony creates boredom.  If students are forced to sit and listen, expect a disaster of biblical proportions.  What I mean is Old Testament, real wrath of God type stuff.  Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!  Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!  The students must talk.  Through talking they can connect.  They can apply the words by relating it to their experience.  Their learning will become their life and through each oral English lesson they will gain further invaluable experience.  I often devise undertakings to promote the key language skills in naturalised forms, e.g. if we’re discussing transport, why not perform a role-play based on travelling to the Sudirman Cup final (or something topical).

 

Timekeeping skills.  Class begins at 11am.  You have 40 minutes.  Remember to segment the class structure.  Tailor all to the students’ needs.  From experience energy will be highest early on.  Throw in a warm up activity then go straight into an introduction.  Now stop and review.  Slide in some more content, stop, practice and deliver.   Time for a final review?  Class is over.  Be realistic with timeframes.  Nothing great comes from too much review time, and likewise, nothing fantastic can emerge from too much introductory timing.  Only yawns.  Use timers on Powerpoint presentations, stopwatches, clocks and set clear limits for tasks.

 

Excellent!  Well done!  I recommend that you do your homework before the students even receive any homework from you.  Grab yourself a thesaurus.  Try to introduce new vocabulary, be it single words like fantastic or tremendous – or simple sentences of praise and encouragement.  “Try harder next time” can flip to “An admirable effort, but I know you can do better.”  Whether the work or task was first-rate, outstanding, exceptional, superb or poor, words are powerful tools to motivate and provide curiosity.  The students mind may ignore the praise, they may investigate it further, or they may learn an expression and fire it off at peers in the future.  That seed can fast become a network of positivity branching out in the tree of life.  Feedback should be seen as a chance to reflect on what you have asked – and not a motivator for incorrect learning.  Wisely must the force you use be.  Liam, a teacher, I know uses fist bumps, high fives and many other praising moves learnt from the ghettos of Weymouth (U.K.).  Try to vary your praising methods.  Introduce more internationally noted cultural nods of approval.


RECOVERED FROM THE DEMISE OF HUBHAO.COM

Teachers are hugely important in a community.  Education and development of youth pushes the next generation onwards.  During these impressionable years children will be imparted with facts, figures and fart jokes.  These will stay with them forever.  With their new knowledge the student can go on and be responsible, productive and a valuable member of society.  And they’ll probably still tell fart jokes.

 

Diversify.  Theory and practice are two different things.  Flitting between each method is a good way to engage all.  In the novel Jurassic Park, penned by Michael Crichton, a character Dr. Grant talks about two kinds of people, “There are those that want to be astronomers, and those that want to be astronauts.”  The former studies from a point of absolute safety, the other is more like the explorer.  To make a class as hands-on as possible, sometimes lessons need to be outside the box.  For beyond the territories of old-fashioned teaching gives students ways to learn and develop their talents in ways more fitting to showing it off.  Varying assignments, exercises and even the location of teaching can certainly arouse the senses.

 

Build rapport.  So many times I have seen new teachers come and expect instant enthusiasm.  It is insulting to think you’ll be respected and learnt from within the first few classes.  There will always be curiosity but once that wanes, what remains?  Beyond the classroom, keep your office door open; tell students they are welcome to talk more outside of classes; join in with activities beyond your paid time; help the quieter students feel included; take on the tough kids and distractors, find out more about them; and always be approachable.  Wear a smile.  Be professional.  If it is for a moment raining in your heart, bring sunshine to those indoors.  Students will embrace you not just as a teacher, but someone to look up to and learn from as a community member.  Teaching isn’t about being a friend or popular, it is about commanding a respect to encourage your students to learn.

 

Aim higher than the stars.  Previously I penned the importance of realistic goals.  That’s for the students.  For you, as a teacher, should be looking at something far greater: the unreachable wall of perfection.  Don’t just copy and paste last year’s work.  Think how it can be improved.  Is there a different method of review you can use?  Could I modernise or make the images more relevant to the student audience?  How can I encourage more oral English opportunities?  Your expectations can always be heightened.  To quote Nelson Mandela, “after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”  Do this, and you’ll feel more satisfied.  Depend on older material and you’ll soon become fatigued.

 

There is no Plan B?  Of course there is a plan B.  I personally opt for plans C, D, E and F.  We’re in a subtropical region, with high humidity and build ups of saline detritus on projectors or even power-cuts may ruin a well-prepared powerpoint.  What’s more is that the humidity has rendered a box of chalk into a useless pulp of mush.  The dry wipe white board is not to be used as a previous teacher used a permanent marker and the word comparative has remained on that board for two years.  Unlike the other classrooms the board isn’t magnetised and sticky backed plastic can’t be utilised due to an invasive mouse population in your stationery draw.  Your computer has gave up the ghost too.  Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.  Games and flashcards sat in folders, pre-printed materials, pairwork activities, turning the classroom into an arena… every possibility; nothing’s left to chance.  Think on your toes.

 

Clear boundaries.  If there are two pathways, one is shorter than the other and involves little effort.  You’ll feel happy but relaxed afterwards.  The other pathway is steep, challenging and you will learn as much about yourself as the matter.  You will feel like you have worked hard on this latter path.  Which pathway do you take?  You must articulate to your students, what is acceptable in the learning process.  Recently in Wuhan, drones were used to curb cheating for the National College Entrance Exam.  Of course you want collaboration in teamwork, but in testing an individual, you need their purest response.  You don’t want answers from Professor Google and Dr. Baidu.  I’ve seen hand-written answers copied from Wikipedia complete with coloured hyperlinks and lines beneath them.  Even the red spellchecker error lines appeared.  I tend to highlight my rules early on, and address any breaches as and when with a three strikes and you’re out warning.  Plagiarism and replication of other student’s complete work can turn into a detective job at times.

 

 

 

For further reading:

“Implementing the Seven Principles: Technology as Lever” by Chickering and Ehrmann – Retrieved 2015/06/15.

Clear Learning Objectives” – Retrieved 2015/06/15.


RECOVERED FROM THE DEMISE OF HUBHAO.COM

Making money.  I dislike money, I never seem to have enough or more appropriately, I’m totally irresponsible with my hard-earned dosh.  I earn my bread and then redistribute it on a combination of soft drink addictions and the need to add bits to my bicycle having shredded one part or the other.  I’m told you can save money easier by taking on extra jobs.  “Where can I find more work?”  I’m glad you have asked.  There’s the internet with forums like Dave’s ESL Café (www.eslcafe.com), there’s more regional classified adverts (like on Hubhao), social media like QQ, Facebook and WeChat groups.  Placing an advert in a bar or public place generally gets you spotted quickly.  Beyond the school gates in amongst the masses of parents is a good place to hand out your number and simple advertisement [Disclaimer:  check with your school first, and your teaching contract if this is okay].  Asking senior teachers if they know of anybody looking for private tuition will find you work.  In sunny Houjie, I have had a dozen requests each month and I usually delegate them to my immediate colleagues or friends.  Some of us like free time too much!

 

Forward thinking.  Ever had an idea during a class?  A bright spark followed by that lightbulb moment?  Yes, we all do.  Note it down for later.  During my summer vacation I plan to tailor images, bring props, bring some real things from home, kidnap my parents and force them to move to China… and so on.  There are gaps that can be brought to life in every topic.  I just need to get a life size replica of the Eiffel Tower into China… oh, wait, that’s already been done!!!  I plan this summer to collect magnetic board games including a giant Jenga; some English story books; more things to do with Manchester and the U.K. in general; prizes for games and competitions; seashells from the U.K. and many, many new holiday photos with friends and family.  I am a guest in China, and I want my students to be guests in my life and happenings.

 

Notes.  Notes, not of the musical variety, although that does help occasionally…  “Old MacDonald had a farm… A-E-I-O-U.”  I mean notes, as in minutes, records, transcripts or observations are important.  I average an A4 sized notepad every quarter of a year for a reason.  I rarely write anything beyond words, short sentences and abbreviated squiggles.  This is my idea factory.  Some ideas never bear fruit or even blossom.  Others get filling, direction and fill Powerpoints, games, review tasks, ideas to brighten the school walls up, become performances, songs, poems etc.  Notes, to me, are the foundation blocks of teaching.  Plus, every now and then, I look back at my notes from years gone by and find a piece of gold dust that gives rise to something big and wonderful (like posters about European nations and their culture etc).  Creativity can be born from one note.  La, la, la, laaaaaa.

 

Instructions and examples.  Before travelling somewhere unfamiliar for an interview or appointment, I look at the mode of transport, costs, timings, practicalities, possible weather and climate, etc.  The same applies to teaching instructions.  My sets of instructions have to be clear, broken down into steps, with the relevant introduction and content.  Without this, I am asking for anarchy and pandemonium to visit our classroom.  Alongside the clear instructions, support must be provided and clear examples given.  From knowing my classes I select the best students (and not always the same ones each time, to keep it fair overall) to assist me with demonstrating what we must do.  On the projection wall will sit a further example too.  I will enter the arena and probe around the classroom looking to see demonstrations being practiced before calling forward students to review their collective effort.

 

Don’t jump to conclusions.  Guess what?  As a teacher, you’re not a student.  You’re a teaching expert.  Reading between the lines, filling in gaps, and applying our own comprehension is instinctive.  Sometimes we must switch from autopilot mode into something more appropriate.  We can’t cycle from Chengdu to Paris, without the adequate preparation.  Students need to avoid confusion.  We must prevent them connecting two dots to form a line that is so wonky, one dot may fall off and land in a pile of previously failed dots.  Breaking up duties ensures that each instruction is followed step-by-step along the floor, then up some stairs and high above into the mountains before flight is encouraged.  Take nothing for granted, share how you think as an expert.  The parrot copies human voices for a reason and then applies the skill with precise action.  Your students can do anything with clear, concise instructions.

 


RECOVERED FROM THE DEMISE OF HUBHAO.COM

Don’t flood the market.  Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Nor was a complete understanding of the English language or uses of said philological skills.  There are professors and scholars always trying to further this language of ours.  Don’t worry about everything.  Narrow it down to just a little by little approach.  If you blanket a subject, you’ll swamp it into a boggy, murky, twisted mess and scare the students away!  Don’t do too much in a short space of time.  We must know what to include and what to eject.  Your favourite subjects of contents, e.g. football and cycling may not be apt for the syllabus.  The semester or year needs clear division into units.  Each unit must have a focus and target language.  The students’ experiences, background and class numbers need to be accounted into the material.  I have often split a* unit* into multiple classes to get a sounder understanding of more difficult subjects.  Simply prioritising and setting purposes helps.

 

Questions and answers.  I find that just a simple question with a simple answer isn’t enough to keep a conversation flowing.  Closed questions, the kind where, yes, no and maybe arise can kill a conversation.  More open questions can lead a conversation to more questions and details.  I try to encourage my students to work in pairs and have one student as the question master and the other as questioned.  This is a great technique for reviewing a subject and also makes the students think harder about the level of detail in their answer.  If the task is limited to one minute then the student can respond strongly to prevent further questions.  If the questioned student is too simplistic with their answers the question master can launch many questions.  This makes for a good spectator competition, but use it sparingly – as too many rounds will make you question using this challenge again.

 

Are you the challenger?  Don’t agree with everything.  You can be much more than someone who nods their head and says, “Yes” or “Okay.”  We can be a commentator like of Match of the Day; we can be a challenger like in a public debate; we can be more moderate like a news presenter; or we orchestrate an argument to develop deeper conversation.  Through these characters we can guide students, change behaviours, and promote thinking critically.  It goes without saying about avoiding religious and political debate but subjects such as wildlife conservation and attitudes to animal care make for interesting discussion.  Perhaps give students roles, like a hunter, a conservation worker, a wildlife guard, the family of the hunter, the medicine maker, the police and anyone else connected directly to illegal rhino horn poaching.  You’ll maybe see and hear defences, objectiveness and bias.  Flip the roles between students and see if they can understand one another’s arguments.  Challenge each student with simple questions.  Who?  When?  What?  Why?  How?  Which?  Where?

 

Handouts.  “Save the world”, “save trees”, “recycle”, are a few cried heard all over the world.  If you pass the photocopying room at my school, close to exam time, you’ll hear a different kind of whimper.  As the photocopiers go all lifeless and silent or they spew out worthless misprints the copy staff go postal.  Handouts in classes are essential for homework.  For a class task, it is worth asking two to six students to share one sheet of A4 or A3 paper.  A shared task and prompt sheet is more likely to drive the behaviours needed for good team etiquette.  And you’ve just saved the Amazon rainforest!

 

Evaluate and evolve.  Teachers have basic principles but over the years our methods have become more and more chameleonic.  The successful teacher adapts to new technologies and new methods.  They seek new ideas and embrace them.  They also refine the tried and tested methods to a finite degree of near perfection.  There’s no resting on their laurels (or Sweet Bay leaves).  If something that did work, no longer works, changes must be made.  A variety of incidents may change your teaching methods.  A class size change from 16 to 60 certainly will make you uneasy.  The old rules may be redundant.  There may be a drive for more advanced media orientated or business connected vocabularies.  You must know what to do, usually by understanding your previous workings, exams, evaluations and student knowledge.  You may need to prepare extra base work or go off subject to bring about further knowledge teaching.  You may need a library, online resource, ask somebody for help or forum to seek new ideas or guidance.  From here we can construct content with objectives, structure, adjust and format a new range of materials.  Not everything comes from experience.  Keeping it as simple as possible will make it much more management.

 

For further reading:

*Is it an unit or a unit?  See this debate.