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Developing Intercultural Competence In Your Classes

group of friends socialisingAs a Spanish learner, I once faced the awkward situation of thinking I was having a conversation about new potatoes being on the menu, when in fact the hotel manager had diverged from the conversation to give me the news that there was a new Pope! Being in a Catholic Latin American country at the time, I should have been more aware of the context and cultural importance of the vote going on in the Vatican that week. However, my focus was simply on the words. Hence intercultural competence is so important and should not be ignored in the language classroom. It is especially so with English because it facilitates communication between so many people from diverse backgrounds (ELT Position Paper on Global Skills, 2019).

If we are to successfully communicate with people, we need to appreciate different perspectives to be able to understand how someone on the other side of the planet might view things. Open, respectful, and tolerant communication enables interaction with diverse cultures effectively, enabling us to connect with people. From researchers to taxi drivers, gaining intercultural competence alongside language skills can help smooth out communications and help reduce the stress of communicating in another language.

Intercultural competence in the ELT classroom

As an English language teacher, you may wonder if your students will be interested in such a thing as intercultural competence. A useful exercise to help students understand its importance is to ask them to write down what different interests, groups of people, clubs/societies, communities (local/national/international) they belong to. As an English language teacher, perhaps you listen to music in English and are part of a fan group of certain music artists; belong to an association of English teachers; run a book club. You might enjoy super-hero films; be a fan of Liverpool Football Club and watch every press conference Jurgen Klopp makes. – Incidentally, as a German manager of players of 17 different nationalities, living in England, he is an excellent example of what intercultural competence means.

  • The activity helps us understand how we belong to different communities and are multi-faceted in terms of our cultures. In other words, multicultural is the norm, not the exception.
  • For the teacher, it becomes a multi-purpose activity, because students are using English to discuss and write down the communities they belong to, whilst the teacher simultaneously discovers students’ interests and online communities they belong to.

Many students are keen to learn about Korean culture to understand their K-Pop idols better and so might combine Korean words with their English in their chats on fandom pages. Greta Thunberg is a climate activist that has captured the interest of many teenagers and young people. The sports fans may prefer Naomi Osaka – a Japanese tennis star born to a Japanese mother and Haitian father, brought up in the US. Whatever the interest of your students, the chances are high that they visit and possibly engage with other fans, in English, on pages/websites, so they are probably already reading in English to find out about the people/topics they are interested in.

English language and citizenship

As our students are online much of the time, it is essential that we can help them to be aware of their responsibilities as fair-minded and respectful participants. Bullying is a topic that we can investigate and learn about its effects together so that those who may have thought being anonymous removes responsibility realise that there are consequences of actions.

We can weave citizenship into example sentences while helping the understanding/practice of language items. E.g. because, because of, that is why, as a result of, consequently:

“I know a few words of Korean because I love Rain’s music.”

“Lewis Hamilton is one of the best F1 drivers and he is not afraid to promote Black Lives Matter. That is why I like him the best.”

“Billie Eilish is vegan, believes in sustainable fashion, and consequently signed a contract with H&M for their sustainable fashion line.”

“As a result of Greta Thunberg’s activism, more young people understand the need for replacing petroleum as an energy source.”

“Because of bullying, I refuse to have an Instagram account.”

Encouraging learner autonomy

After using the above kind of examples to illustrate how we use these connectives, we can ask students to do an internet search on a person/topic of interest and note down 5 sentences that use a variety of the same connectives. A follow-up to this could be they write out the sentences they found with a blank for the connective and provide it as an example for their peers to complete.

Another meaningful way to get students to further practise connectives would be to ask students to reflect on what issues/cultural aspects they feel strongly about in their communities and if there are any that have influenced their behaviour/habits. This would lead to them creating their own sentences using the connectives to describe why or how these issues have influenced how they live. Hence while they are using and practising English, students are also becoming more conscious about reasons for good citizenship and opinions on cultural values.

Download the position paper

 


Zarina Subhan is an experienced teacher and teacher trainer. She has taught and delivered teacher training at all levels and in both private and government institutions in over fifteen different countries as well as in the UK. Early on in her career, Zarina specialised in EAP combining her scientific and educational qualifications. From this developed an interest in providing tailor-made materials, which later led to materials writing that was used in health training and governance projects in developing countries. Since 2000 she has been involved in Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), materials writing, training trainers and teachers in facilitation techniques and teaching methodology. Zarina is published and has delivered training courses, presentations, spoken at conferences worldwide, and continues to be a freelance consultant teacher educator.


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Festive Resources and Activities for your Class | ELT

festiveIt’s that time of year!

To help you celebrate, we’re sharing a collection of Festive ELT activities to get you and your class in the holiday spirit!

We’ve prepared some multi-level ELT activities for you to use online or in the classroom. We’ve got something here for all.

All activities are photocopiable and shareable online using the below-sharing links.

Beginner 

  • Decorate your tree
  • Festive Wordsearch

beginner

Shareable link -> https://oxelt.gl/2JTJjrf

Intermediate and above

  • Gapped-text exercises
  • Extensive reading resources
  • Festive sing-along

intermediate

Shareable link -> https://oxelt.gl/37glVgr

Happy Holidays from all of us here at Oxford University Press! ❤️

 


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Contributing to this blog!

guest blog
Our blogs help and support thousands of teachers and learners each year. It’s an important part of our mission to help the world to learn English. So far, we have featured ELT experts the world over across a huge range of topics, far too many to mention here!

Now we want to share this platform with you, giving you the chance to contribute your thoughts, perspectives, ideas, stories, and expertise.

Have something to share with this community? This is your opportunity. We’re open to all ELT related ideas that offer something unique and useful for our teaching community. Fill in the form below with as much detail as you can to register your interest.

 

Please do leave a comment below if you have any questions, we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.


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Top Tips To Keep Your Students Motivated During Online Learning

bored student in an online lesson

Who would have known, this time last year, that online learning and teaching would become such a huge part of our professional lives? If only I’d bought some shares in Zoom…

Everything has moved onto online communication; family catch-ups, work meetings, lessons, lectures, theatre plays, even criminal trials. Whether this is a temporary replacement during the days of COVID, or the reality of the future in the age of COVID, a huge number of education professionals and students will be delivering and accessing learning online for a while yet.

As a teacher, many of us have used technology as part of our courses. But for the majority of us, physical teaching in a classroom has been the heart of our offer. It’s what we trained for, what our students love, and we know how to do it well.

One of the biggest issues teachers have faced is keeping students interested in and motivated by their online courses and lessons. Under 50% of all students regularly attended online lessons, and while the reasons for this might include technological issues, connectivity, family issues or other factors, it’s clear that we can all benefit from thinking about how we can get our students motivated to learn online, and how we can keep them motivated. I’ve spoken to many teachers over the past few months about this, and I’ll share with you a few “top tips” which have come up.

1. Understand your students

Just like in a “normal” classroom, we want to know what our students react well to, what they enjoy doing and what they find interesting. We can ask them to vote on the activities they have done in online lessons. One teacher had primary students make and decorate large emoji-style paper cutouts (a smiley, 😊, a thumbs up, a thumbs down and a question mark) and use them for collecting feedback on the activities. This way, the teacher gave students an opportunity to understand the students’ perceptions of the lessons and activities.

Another teacher encouraged teenage students to choose the topics they wanted to study during the online lessons, to make sure that topics were engaging and interesting for students. Online lessons can be great for encouraging students to prepare presentations to deliver for the whole class on a topic of their choice.

2. Think about communication

One of the great features of tools we use for online teaching is the ability to easily communicate to individual students and the whole group. We can send individual messages to students (Well done! / Concentrate more / Is everything OK?), and we can also break groups up into rooms for group work. Many teachers have successfully used communication tools the students are already comfortable with, such as WhatsApp and Facebook groups, while some teachers are using a platform which has similar functionality. Whatever communication tool works best for you and the students is the right one to use. Primary teachers have also used Whatsapp groups to communicate with parents, usually in their language, to report on what has been studied in classes on a weekly basis.

3. Patience…

WiFi issues? Your computer suddenly decides it’s time for a software upgrade? Someone doesn’t know how to mute? Whatever the reason, we need to be prepared for the unexpected. Many teachers have told me that they recorded their lessons with the content they wanted students to focus on, and then used their synchronous lessons for communicative activities. The ability to communicate well in a video call setting is a skill in itself – and one that our students are practising in their online lessons. We, the teachers, are also learning, and we need to remember that, sometimes, things can be tricky.

Don’t beat yourself up about it! If your son or daughter decides that they would like to interrupt the lesson, let them come in and have the students ask them a question. If poor connectivity is preventing your teenage students from understanding each other, have them communicate in chatboxes. We all need to be patient and try different possibilities to find the best solutions.

4. Progress

Recording, demonstrating and celebrating progress is a key factor in motivating students. Online learning fits beautifully with video and audio recording. Some primary teachers have made video recordings of their students practising a song, and then made a final video of a well-rehearsed song. Children don’t instinctively know that “practice makes perfect” – they need to learn this. By seeing, hearing and then sharing the result of their hard work students felt a sense of pride, having learnt that this is the result of hard work. Online platforms allow teachers to easily track students’ progress, allowing intervention where necessary. Teaching online can be used for assessment extremely successfully.

The principles of teaching don’t change with different settings. Take time to understand your students, make lessons engaging, show students the value of what they’re learning…These are all factors which help to get and keep students motivated. There’s no magic formula, but one thing for certain is that by sharing our experiences as teachers (and learners!) we can all learn something.

 

Are you ready to explore digital tools for teaching and learning?

Do you need help getting started with the digital tools in your Oxford course?

Or are you looking for tips and ideas for using digital in your teaching? Move forward together

 


Nick Cherkas is an experienced educator with a background in teacher training, academic management, project management and materials writing. Educated in the UK, he has been based in North Africa since 2011. He is DELTA and MA qualified, and passionate about helping teachers and learners achieve their goals. He enjoys training teachers on working with limited resources and mixed ability groups, and making the classroom a more enjoyable place.


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Tips and Free Lesson Plans For Using Photographs In Class

photography day link imageIn a world where images are present all around us all the time, teachers can easily use photographs to motivate students and make the classroom experience so much more rewarding. We know that students learn more when new language is accompanied by memorable and engaging photographs.

To help you make better use of photos in class we’ve enlisted the help of 2019 Wide Angle Photography Competition winner Mehtap Özer Isović to build a series of easy-to-use lesson plans. They’re all segment-based, click the buttons below to access the lesson plans!

Young learner button

Teenage learner button

Adult learner button


Found these useful? We’d love to know how you got on with these resources, please do leave a comment!

Also, feel free to share these with a colleague. Just send them this link, and it’ll direct them here -> https://oupeltglobalblog.com/2020/08/17/using-photographs-elt


Five Tips for using Photography in your Classes.

OUP Publisher Marc Goozée has put together a really helpful list of photography lesson ideas, applicable for any classroom.

1) Take advantage of students’ own photographs and experiences

photographs: of a young girl making a pose and looking at her shadow on the wall

Now that every smartphone has a camera we can take photos easily. Ask students to bring their own photographs into the class and tell it’s ‘story’ using the prompts below. Alternatively, this can be an instant activity for pairs of students who show images from their smartphones to each other.

  • What was the photographer thinking as they took the photograph?
  • Who or what is the subject?
  • What was happening during the shot or before?

Good photos to use could be of something your students have done over the holiday, a recent celebration they attended, or a new place they have discovered. You can use this photograph from the Wide Angle Photography Contest 2019, to model the activity for your students.

2) Run a photography competition

Following on from the activity in tip one, you can prepare a slide show of photos from a recent competition (you can download the photos and stories from the Wide Angle Photography Contest here) and ask students to be the competition judges. If you choose a different competition, try and find the judging criteria to give students a framework for justifying their decisions. You may want to simplify the criteria if they are complicated.

As an alternative, choose a theme and organise a photography competition in which students submit their own photographs anonymously to be judged by a panel of teachers or students from another class.

3) Film stills from popular releases

Talk with students about their favourite films and then bring a selection of film stills, using your phone or computer to take screen-grabs. Ask students in pairs to answer such questions as:

  • What is the name of this film?
  • What is it about?
  • What are the characters talking about in the scene?
  • What sort of relationship do the characters have?
  • What happened before this scene/what happens next?
  • Talk about other films have the actors been in.
  • Tell us about them?
  • Talk about other films the director has made.

This could also be set as homework. Students source photos from their favourite film/a series they are currently watching and as a paired starter activity they can share and discuss them as above. To make it more challenging, get students to start with the image half-covered if it is easy to guess what film it is from!

4) Use photographs of famous personalities

From students’ own culture, find a selection of photographs of pop stars, politicians, actors, presenters, sports’ personalities, etc. Use the internet to find images or cut them out from magazines or newspapers. Bring them into the classroom and lay them out on the table/stick them on the wall and ask students in pairs or groups to choose two or three and then share their opinions about them.

5) Be creative with grammar

photographs: cat avoiding the feet of pedestrians, black and white

Either with students’ own photos or ones you can find on the internet, choose an area of language you want to practise and approach it in a creative, imaginative way. In this example, using one of the Wide Angle runner-up photographs, students imagine themselves as the cat and complete thought bubbles coming from the cat’s head. They can complete these sentence stems to practise using ‘wish’ and ‘wonder’.

  • I wish I could………
  • I wish I was …..
  • I wonder ……..

References: Images by Jamie Keddie


Marc Goozee taught English in Spain, the UK, and Japan. Since the 1990s as editor and publisher, he has enjoyed producing materials for secondary and adult students from a variety of regions including the Gulf and Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and Europe.

Mehtap Özer Isović is an English teacher with an MA degree in English Language and Literature. She grew up in Istanbul, Turkey. She has been teaching English for twelve years in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the International University of Sarajevo. Since 2015, she has also been teaching very young learners in several kindergartens.