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How might Covid-19 impact the world of education?

using hand sanitiser in the classroomAfter sinking or swimming in the virtual world of remote education, many teachers will probably look back at 2020 as when they learnt how to use most of the digital tools in the shortest of time. Some may look back and remember it as a time when they first recognised the English language ability of certain students that had previously gone unnoticed. Others might have concluded that completing the curriculum should not be their one and only goal and that their students also needed them for maintaining a level of wellbeing.

In fact, wellbeing has taken centre-stage for many people in 2020. Suddenly having to spend hours in front of their laptops; learning new tools; dealing with technical issues alone; working while sharing their home space; not wanting their students to see what their home looked like; experiencing lockdown, all heightened the need for wellbeing. An ELT friend of mine described it as being like “camping in a call centre”. Camping because he sat down with a flask of hot coffee (knowing he would not have time to prepare himself fresh cups), and a call centre because of the hours spent in front of his laptop talking via his headset.

There are clearly many lessons to be learnt and changes that educators and educational institutes can make to move forward in a positive way since remote learning is here to stay. We must ensure that our students’ and teachers’ emotional needs are met while considering the role our communities play in the future of education.

Building on lessons learnt

It has become clear that face-to-face education cannot simply be transferred online. If you used to teach 21 hours of English a week at your institution, it is important to analyse how much of that needs to be online. Do 100% of classes need to be face-to-face (physically or virtually)? How much can be blended, so that some things can be done by the learner after having received and understood instructions? Below are some suggestions on what can be done differently.

The educators:

  • How can we convey language virtually? The teacher is essential for the warm-up, lead-in activity to introduce the theme, topic or language, but s/he can support students to achieve the rest asynchronously.
  • Activities involving interaction can be done asynchronously with students working together online (recorded) or using a chat function which can be kept as a screenshot. This evidence of collaborative work can be sent to the teacher and used towards a portfolio of work. Tasks should incorporate creative skills, rather than only focus on knowledge or accuracy of language.
  • Later stages of the lesson can be recorded by the teacher for students to view at another time, to check answers or summarise what the learning points were. Monitoring could be done when students send in their group ideas – using audio or video from a Zoom, Microsoft Teams or a Google Doc that they have all contributed to.
  • Students who do not have the equipment or reliable connectivity to ‘meet’ their peers remotely still need the opportunity to learn collaboratively. When possible, provide opportunities for groups to come together at school in a safe manner (hand-washing, wearing masks, physically distant, etc). This would help those who have difficulty with remote education while allowing them to collaborate with the rest of their classmates online. This is becoming known as a ‘hybrid class’.
  • Last, but not least, don’t forget the textbook! If you are working with a set textbook your students should have it, so make use of it instead of recreating the wheel. But make sure that you provide open extension activities they can move forward with remotely so they can use some creativity while at home. Learning is not about simply learning knowledge and facts, there are other skills that students must develop, have fun with and discover they have.

 

The educational institutes and communities:

  • Physical teaching materials can be printed off by the school or institution and made available for the parents/students with connectivity issues that week (for whatever reason). The adults should then be able to visit the school reception and collect the relevant education materials for themselves / their child. These could be packaged in envelopes labelled with the name of the student and parent(s).
  • Smooth and regular communication between the institution, students, and parents is vital. A digital platform is the best and most reliable way of achieving this. Institutions should consult their teachers, students and parents when selecting a platform that will suit everybody’s needs. An unsuitable platform adds unjust pressures and additional workload to already time-deficient teachers!
  • Parents should be invited to practical demonstrations of how to access the platform so that they do not struggle alone with it – online demonstrations would save time and resources.
  • An institute needs to be mindful of the increased burden for the teacher in maintaining good communication with students/parents. – The time, electricity, mobile data, reliable internet are essential for remote teachers. Institutes are in a good position to negotiate packages with internet providers for their schools and teachers.
  • If teachers are expected to offer blended or remote learning, the institute should make sure they have the correct hardware/software to do so.
  • Partnering with a local radio or TV station, to transmit live classes to their students without digital connectivity would help institutions avoid the cost of platforms or dependence on unreliable internet connections.

 

Respecting and valuing wellbeing:

  • Local restrictions allowing, the teacher can use the connectivity and resources available in their institution, by delivering education online from the school classroom. – Students with connectivity issues are invited to join the teacher in a hybrid class (as described above). This can also solve some teachers’ problems with delivering remote classes from home.
  • Ask teachers if they prefer online or face-to-face education. There may be some who learnt to teach in a non-digital age and may struggle to deal with remote teaching. Thus delivering face-to-face classes could help to maintain their wellbeing. Those who particularly enjoy digital teaching could be assigned to teach purely remotely. Those who are somewhere in between the two could split their teaching hours between school and home. The most technically advanced teachers could provide professional development training for their colleagues on how to use certain educational digital tools efficiently, or suggest online professional courses to participate in. This also gives the teachers an opportunity to (physically distantly) meet and compare their experiences and thoughts on students’ progress.

 

The new normal for education:

We should therefore not be returning to business as usual, but taking the opportunity to innovate and allow our students to learn in different ways; at different paces; in a more autonomous manner. This can be done while respecting their social and emotional needs, harnessing the responsibilities of parents and communities, and ensuring the wellbeing of our teachers. Covid-19 has highlighted some inequalities, but it is up to us whether we now make the changes to even them out.

 

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

 

 


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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Rigor, Routines and the Real (Global) Skills

The five Global SkillsAdvanced-level English language instruction focuses on helping adults achieve the language proficiency they need to transition out of their English language lessons onto their educational or career paths, engage with their communities, and advocate successfully for themselves and their families. One of the gifts of teaching at this level is the ability to communicate the adult education principles at the heart of our instructional design.

We can overtly demonstrate respect for learners’ prior knowledge and build upon that knowledge to address essential questions that transcend basic skills. We can provide the tasks and projects that support self-directed and rigorous inquiry alongside the development of language strategies that are critical to learners’ successful language skill development.[i]  We can also share evidence of the direct connection between learners’ future goals, 21st-century adult life, and essential language strategies along with an array of global skills (i.e., communication and collaboration, creativity and critical thinking, intercultural competence and citizenship, emotional self-regulation and well-being, and digital literacies.)

Routines and Rigor

Of course, even with all the opportunities and advantages of the advanced-level class, instructors have the universal challenge of finding the time to plan for—and teach—units of instruction with rigorous, relevant, high-interest, skill- and strategy-building lessons. One workaround is to look at task-types and routines that naturally incorporate a number of the language strategies and global skills advanced learners need. Routines that accompany task types help learners be intentional in their use of skills and strategies and, with a few tweaks, a routine can also provide additional rigor.

Consider a lecture and note-taking task. This type of task typically includes a wealth of language strategies, e.g., focusing on the speaker’s opening and closing statements to identify the gist of the lecture, using clues in the oral text to identify key ideas for note-taking, paraphrasing information in notes, summarizing the speaker’s ideas, and using the content of the lecture to address a question or problem. This task process is rigorous in its own right. However, if we add the routine of comparing and clarifying the lecture notes with a classmate through a Turn and Talk, we can increase the rigor of that routine by requiring that learners:

  1. use academic language during the exchange,
  2. reach consensus on the most important points in the lecture, and
  3. cite evidence to support their view,

and now we’ve incorporated opportunities to use English to demonstrate collaboration, clarification, consensus building, and critical thinking skills—real skills for the world outside the classroom.

A research-and-report task is another example that incorporates numerous language strategies, e.g., previewing complex text to determine if it meets the reader’s needs, scanning text for necessary information, note-taking to record sources, outlining or organizing ideas for an oral report, using intonation to help the listener identify important information, etc.  Not surprisingly, this task requires critical thinking to select, analyze, and evaluate information. Some routines that would increase learners’ use of other global skills and heighten the rigor of the task include having learners:

  1. take on roles requiring decision making,  team management, and resource management,
  2. use a checklist as they research to confirm the validity of their sources and build information literacy skills, or
  3. use a mobile device to record, rehearse, and upload team reports to increase digital skills.students in class asking questions

Rigor and Scaffolds

Of course, all classes have learners at different levels of proficiency. Even if the class level is fairly homogeneous, learners experiencing a task or routine for the first time will need support to be successful. The following scaffolds are just some of the ways to support learners as they engage with the rigorous requirements of a task:

  • provide graphic organizers with prompts and/or some sections filled in to help learners organize their thinking,
  • post charts with academic language stems and frames for use in discussions and writing tasks,
  • create checklists with the task instructions for learners to reference as they work,
  • reveal the steps of a task in stages rather than all at once, and
  • show examples of the task product created in previous classes.

Routines and Novelty

Using a repertoire of routines and task-types can streamline planning and allows advanced learners to regularly cycle through the skills and strategies they need, rather than approaching global skill development as a “one and done” process.  When we add rigor to our routines and tasks, we ensure a connection between the academic, civic, and work-place routines and tasks our advanced learners will perform outside the classroom. The rigor in the routines and tasks gives learners a global skills “work out.”

Even with these benefits, some instructors might equate routine with a lack of novelty—knowing that novelty is an important factor in learning.[iii] The trick is to employ tasks and routines to help learners engage with an array of essential questions, complex and high-interest texts and media, and thought-provoking prompts. This juxtaposition of rigorous routines and complex content encourages learners to make novel connections between ideas: the learners and content provide the source of the novelty essential to motivation and retention.[iv]

Advanced level learners have a wide variety of transition goals. When they have the opportunity to demonstrate and refine global skills such as strategic thinking, planning, problem-solving, creativity, and collaboration, alongside their language skill development, they are more likely to see the connection between their classwork and their future goals. When they engage with rigorous routines and tasks, they are better prepared to apply their global and language skills in the complex world outside their classroom’s walls.

In her webinar “Picture This: Promoting English Language Learners’ Access to Online Language Teaching” on April 1, Jayme will discuss tools to teach your students online and how to incorporate global skills.

Register for the webinar

 



Jayme Adelson-Goldstein is a teacher educator and curriculum consultant. Her work focuses on supporting adult English language instructors with rigorous and contextualized task-based, problem-based, and/or project-based instruction. She is currently working with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) on The Skills That Matter project. Jayme’s publications include The Oxford Picture Dictionary and Step Forward. She also hosts the podcast Oxford Adult ESL Conversations. 


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Teacher Wellbeing: A SMART Approach | Sarah Mercer

teacher wellbeing

Teacher wellbeing is an essential ingredient for effective, creative, and motivating teaching. Yet, so many teachers neglect their own self-care, focusing their time and energy on other aspects of their professional practice. In this blog, I outline how we can all become a little ‘smarter’ about our wellbeing.  A ‘SMART’ teacher attends to their Self, Motivation, Activity, Relationships, and use of Time, in order to teach to the best of their abilities so that they can truly flourish as professionals. Let’s look at each facet of a ‘SMART’ approach to teacher wellbeing.

Self

SMART teachers understand the value of self-care, self-compassion, and placing the self in the centre of their agenda. Many educators are naturally orientated towards caring for others as is the nature of the profession. However, this focus outwards often means that their own ‘self’ needs can be overlooked and neglected. Yet, the saying, ‘you cannot pour from an empty cup’, serves as a warning of the perils of not attending to the self. If teachers want to teach to the best of their abilities, they need to ensure they are looking after themselves too so that they have energy and resources to draw on in their professional roles. Self-care is not an indulgent luxury; rather it is the foundation of good practice.

Motivation

SMART teachers are aware of their own motivation. Everybody’s motivation experiences peaks and troughs. The key is to recognise the dips and know what you need to do to help you regain your drive. Humans also have a natural tendency towards a negativity bias meaning we tend to focus on the negatives and sometimes lose sight of the positives. Our wellbeing and motivation can benefit when we deliberately take stock of the positives in our jobs on a daily basis.

At the end of the day, make a note of things you enjoyed, found rewarding, or are grateful for about your job. Looking at the positives is not about denying the negatives which you may still need to address; it is about maintaining a balanced focus. It can be motivating to remind ourselves of what we love about our jobs and perhaps, for some, reconnect with our original motivations for choosing this profession.

Active

SMART teachers appreciate the tight connections between physical and mental wellbeing and the benefits of being active in this regard. Our physical wellbeing centres around what is known as the ‘health triangle’, which involves sleep, nutrition, and exercise. Attending to these aspects of self is a prerequisite for being able to flourish at work. Everyone’s needs and capacities in this regard vary, and each person needs to find their own balance. However, the key is to consciously attend to our health triangle ensuring that quality sleep, healthy nutrition, and time for exercise are not pushed off our agendas by other seemingly more pressing demands. Nothing is more important than your health and recognising this is a critical first step. Human bodies are incredible machines but they also need good maintenance – make sure you look after your body as well as you look after your car, plants, or pets!

Relationships

SMART teachers know just how important relationships are for wellbeing. John Donne famously said, ‘no man is an island’. We are all embedded in a web of social relationships. In the workplace, our wellbeing is boosted through positive relationships with colleagues as well as with our learners. Among colleagues, a special friend at work to connect with and share work ideas with is particularly valuable. In our personal lives, family and friends represent a key source of strength and support. Investing in our social relationships means setting quality time aside to meet, and then savouring the time together without distractions. Making ‘date nights’ with partners and friends remains a great strategy to keep relationships healthy.

Time

SMART teachers have strategies for managing their time effectively. Good time management is not about being efficient so you work even more and even harder! Good time management is about finding ways to work effectively, so you can create more time in your schedule to engage in self-care, do exercise, be with family and friends, and spend time on hobbies and other aspects of life which refresh and motivate you. Being able to manage your time means knowing what needs to be done, keeping an overview of deadlines (long- and short-term), and understanding when you work best on what kinds of tasks. Check your priorities and organise your time accordingly – that includes making yourself and your relationships a priority fixed in your schedule like any other important appointment.

Teaching is a wonderful profession, which can be extremely rewarding and meaningful. However, the passion and dedication that many teachers exhibit often means that they neglect their own wellbeing. ‘SMART’ teachers know that making their wellbeing a priority is not selfish or something to feel guilty about. Instead, it is a recognition of personal worth and the fact that everyone – teachers and learners – benefit if teachers look after themselves and are wellbeing-SMART: Self, Motivation, Activity, Relationships, and Time.

 


 

Do you want to discover more great strategies for nurturing and promoting your wellbeing? Read Teacher Wellbeing, by Sarah Mercer and Tammy Gregersen – a practical guide for language teachers!

 


 

Sarah Mercer is Professor of Foreign Language Teaching at the University of Graz, Austria, where she is Head of ELT Methodology. She is co-author, with Tammy Gregersen, of Teacher Wellbeing, published by Oxford University Press. Her research interests include all aspects of the psychology surrounding the foreign language learning experience, and she has written and edited prize-winning books in this area. She is currently vice-president of the International Association for the Psychology of Language Learning (IAPLL) and serves as a consultant on several international projects. In 2018, she was awarded the Robert C. Gardner Award for excellence in second language research by the International Association of Language and Social Psychology (IALSP).


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Assessment activities that help students show what they know | ELTOC 2020

Assessment Activities Most teachers include informal, ongoing assessment as an integral part of their lessons. Noticing what students know and don’t yet know helps us adapt our lessons and teaching strategies. Sometimes teachers hesitate to tell students when they are being assessed because they don’t want students to become anxious. However, if we present these assessment activities as a chance for students to see (and show us) how much they can do in English, they can be something that students look forward to.

Colin Finnerty writes about the importance of providing students with the ‘right level of challenge’ in formal assessment. This is equally important in informal assessment activities, especially in young learner classrooms where teachers are juggling students’ cognitive and physical development, language levels and global skills objectives. Matching assessment activities to student levels can make the difference between a student feeling like a success (and working enthusiastically toward even more success) and feeling like a failure (and giving up on English in frustration).

The simplest way to make sure that your assessments are at an appropriate challenge level is to repurpose activities students are already familiar with. Students can focus on the language or skill you are assessing rather than figuring out what it is that they are supposed to do.

In my ELTOC webinar, we’ll look at different types of activities to assess both language and global skills, but in this blog post, let’s look at how these activities might work for assessing writing. First language writing development commonly categorizes children as emergent, transitional, or fluent writers (Culham, 2005). In foreign language writing development, these levels are determined more by literacy level than by age, because children begin studying English at different ages, some are already literate in their first language, and some are coming from a first language that has a writing system very different English. While writing skills may develop a bit differently in a second or foreign language, the categories are still useful for describing stages of growth.

Assessment activities for pre-literate learners

At this stage, students don’t really write. They are typically developing phonemic awareness of English sounds, and perhaps developing awareness of how the English writing system differs from their own. While you can’t assess a skill they haven’t yet developed, you can give them a picture or photograph and ask them to tell you what they would write if they could. If you want something to add to a portfolio to document growth, you can also record them talking about their pictures.

My name is Max English Assessment

Watch the video on YouTube. Created using Chatterpix.

What is Ririko showing us that she can do? She uses the English she knows in a creative way to talk about the dog, including using a relatively low-frequency word from a phonics lesson (bone). It’s easy to identify areas I might want to focus on in class, I also want Ririko to see what she is able to do so that she can learn to notice her own growth.

Assessment activities for emergent writers

Emergent writers can write with a model that provides a lot of structure, for example personalizing sentences from lessons, like I can _____ in the following example. In writing, they still convey most of their meaning through drawings. To assess their progress, you can ask them to draw a picture and then write using the model to bring the writing challenge to an appropriate level.

Emergent Writers Assessment

Kanna clearly understands that I can ___ is prompting her to talk about abilities. She was able to correctly spell two relatively challenging words (swim and jump) because those were important to her. They helped her communicate something meaningful about her own abilities.

Assessment activities for transitional writers

Students at this level can write somewhat independently when using familiar patterns and words, but often use invented spelling. They may still need illustrations to support what they’re trying to communicate in writing. An appropriate assessment activity is to ask them to draw a simple picture and write what they can about it.

Transitional Writers Assessment

Interestingly, Natsuru can spell ‘like’ correctly on a spelling test and uses plurals with the verb in practice activities but loses that accuracy when she’s writing to communicate. But I am impressed that she created a conversation for her drawing, especially since she hasn’t been explicitly taught any of the conventions that go with writing dialogue.

Assessment activities for fluent writers

Fluent writers can do a lot. They can organize their thoughts in a logical order and their writing usually has a beginning, middle, and end. They are willing to take risks with structures and words they aren’t confident with. Give them a specific topic, and a time limit, and ask them to write as much as they can during that time. Satoshi’s class was asked to write about something that happened during their summer vacation.

Fluent Writers Assessment

Errors like Satoshi’s with prepositions and verbs show his developing understanding of the English language system. These types of errors are sometimes called ‘developmental’ errors “because they are similar to those made by children acquiring English as their first language” (Lightbown and Spada, 2013). I can also see that Satoshi is ready to learn how to use transitions like on the fifth day in his writing. He hasn’t explicitly learned how to use ordinals for telling a story in chronological order so I’m happy to see him include them. I’m thrilled that he was willing to write about something that was meaningful to him, even though he knew he wouldn’t be able to do it perfectly.

If we create a learning environment where assessment activities are opportunities for students to see their own growth, we can also help them learn how to become reflective learners.


Barbara spoke further on this topic at ELTOC 2020. Stay tuned to our Facebook and Twitter pages for more information about upcoming professional development events from Oxford University Press.

You can catch-up on past Professional Development events using our webinar library.

These resources are available via the Oxford Teacher’s Club.

Not a member? Registering is quick and easy to do, and it gives you access to a wealth of teaching resources.


Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto is co-author of the bestselling Let’s Go series, and director of the International Teacher Development Institute (iTDi.pro). She is an English Language Specialist with the U.S. State Department and has conducted teacher training workshops in Asia, Europe, the Americas, and online.


References

Culham, R. (2005). The 6+1 Traits of Writing: The Complete Guide for the Primary Grades. New York: Scholastic.

Lightbown, P. and Spada, N. (2013). How Languages are Learned. Fourth edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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On being a Mother and a Teacher | Barbara’s story

I have been a teacher for the better part of my life, and it has been both a rewarding, and at times, frustrating experience. In that sense, it is very similar to being a mother. In both cases, you feel responsible for the child’s development (on different scales) and you rejoice in their successes as well as feeling disappointed with them when they fail. I have always thought that being a professional woman – working outside the home – with all the responsibilities and demands that this involves, has been important for my role as a mother.

It has given me insight into other people’s child-rearing ideas, has given me more opportunities to grow and mature as an individual (not that a stay-at-home mom doesn’t) and has allowed my children to develop as independent individuals because I haven’t hovered over them or given them 100% of my time and attention. It has made me cherish the time we do have together and use it to the best advantage.

The biggest difference I see is probably on the level of emotional attachment. Although you come to care deeply about your students, it is nothing like the all-encompassing love that a mother has for her child. You know that the relationship with your students is temporary, while you hope that the one with your children will last your lifetime.

I think that being a mother has allowed me in my role as a teacher to understand some of the conflicts that arise in the classroom – between students and between the students and me as the teacher. As my own children grew older, it has given me the reassurance that no one stays a teenager forever, that kids will eventually grow up and mature, and appreciate what is around them.

All women face challenges in their careers, being a mother simply adds another dimension to this. There were times when I could not attend my own children’s school or activity performances because there was something equally demanding of my time at work.

I went back to school to finish my formal education when my children were in their teens and still living at home, and this meant that I wasn’t always available for them. But I always felt that they (and my husband of 46 years now) were very supportive of all my endeavors, and they never expressed any resentment towards my working or studying.  I think, sometimes, my kids were even proud to point out their mother as a teacher.

To the teachers who are about to become a mother – congratulations! There is nothing in the world that compares to the love you give your child, and the love they give to you (but be prepared to never have a good night’s sleep ever again! The concern for a child’s welfare never ends, no matter how old they get). Feel proud of your work as a teacher, so you can instill in your own children the value of an education, and respect for the people that devote their time providing it.


Barbara Bangle is originally from the United States, but has lived and worked in Mexico for the past 35 years. She holds a Masters of Arts in Education from Universidad de las Americas and a B.A. in English Language Teaching from Thames Valley University. Barbara has a long, successful career in ELT having taught English at all levels and in different contexts, including Teacher Training at the highest levels. She works for Oxford University Press as a freelance academic consultant.