Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Using students' drawings to develop their language skills

Comparatives and superlatives through pictures - a Dogmatic approach?

I've finally got a chance to come up for air. The end of term has been very busy what with Trinity ESOL exams and planning the end of term party. (More to follow on the party.) Mike Harrison who's blog and tweets are always interesting to read has recently made a request for teacher's to share ideas for using drawing in the classroom. I've already told him about my Domino Story to practise the past simple

A short but fun way to revise comparatives and superlatives is to give students a blank piece of A3 paper and ask them to draw a number of easy to draw objects, such as a star, a tree, a flower, a happy face, a cresent moon, a heart or a house. You can even quickly sketch it on the white board and then wipe it off and encourage students to try and replicate it.

·         Once students have finished drawing their pictures ask the students either as a class, or in small groups if the class is very large, to line up according to the size of the object that they drew. If you think this is too childish for the group you can encourage them to compare their pictures in smaller groups. The interest generated is key to the activity working. (I think this could be dogme in action?)

·         The student with the biggest star stands on the right and the student with the smallest star stands on the left. Once the students are lined up according to the size of their picture you can then ask them questions such as:
o    Who has got the biggest star?
o    Who has got the smallest star?
o    Is student X's star bigger or smaller than student Y's star?
o    etc. This works on smaller tables too. Encourage students to make notes of questions and positive and negative answers.

Variations on the same activity
If you get the students to line up in small groups, you can then get them to regroup, with all the students with the smallest stars on one side of the classroom and all the students with the biggest stars on another side of the classroom and all the students with the second smallest stars on another side of the classroom etc.
If you ask students to draw a house you can ask them to draw a house with a front door, two windows, a roof, a chimney etc, and after students have lined up according to who has the biggest / smallest house, you can then get students to work in pairs and compare their pictures to see who has the biggest or smallest front doors etc.
With young learners you can get them to colour their stars and then pin them on the wall according to the size of the stars and then get students to write sentences on a piece of paper about their stars which they will pin on the wall under their picture.
·         My star is the biggest star.
·         My star is bigger than John's star but smaller than Mary's star
·     Complex sentences can be elicited.

This creates a nice display for all the class to read.
A nice activity to follow up with is some broken sentences formed from the students notes. I did this in a consecutive lesson. I printed the sentences out colour coding different words. The students then matched the parts of the sentences together to make correct sentences. I could then analyse the word order of the sentences with them.
I've used this activity with 16-18 year olds and even with a mixed class where the oldest student is 74 and most students have found it to be very useful. Once the structures for expressing the comparative and superlative forms are establish you can turn to other subjects like transport, housing, weather etc.
From the recent discussions on Twitter about Dogme I think this class would fit into those theories. One of the things I love about teaching theory is the way that you discover someone has written books and theories about something you've been doing in the classroom for years. 
It's comforting to know that Dogme is there to back up student centred approaches. 
I'm sure that when I'm working with my 27 students from 14 countries using student centred approaches saves large quantities of paper and allows students to discover and explore rather than receive learning. The fact that they create the materials gives ownership, interest and ultimately a memorable session!!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The importance of Sangha - 365 days of Blogging

In my first ever post I put my fingers to the keyboard with a feeling that I was entering into a new world. I knew that blogging was going to change the way I work, teach, think, share and reflect on my work. I was intimidated by the void of the internet.

Was anyone going to read my writing?

Did it matter?

I've found the comments and the network I have joined to be the most nuturing and supportive group of people. Inspiring and willingly to share their jewels of wisdom.

I'm my own worst critic - yes the Sergeant Major is still inspecting - and I have found that there are many teachers who are like me in that respect. I've taken comfort from that.

My role within my ESOL team is evolving: the 16-18 age group has grown over the last 5 years and I have specialised in this area. This has brought a need to develop every aspect of my classes; from disciplinary policies to making bridges out of newspaper.

As a result my blog is evolving.

Even as I write this post I find my mind reflecting upon the previous posts I've made. Are they too diverse? Should I be more focussed on specific areas? How does this mirror my job and the many roles that I have?

I compared teaching to  Buddhism, in my first post. Meditation and self awareness are keys to realising one's own potential. This is very hard to achieve. Even more so when you are alone in your mission,. Buddhists talk about belonging to a Sangha and how that will give support to a novice in their quest for enlightenment.

I've found my Sangha and I'm enjoying my journey!
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