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English Language Teaching Global Blog


Webinar: Leading a horse to water and making it drink!

Olha Madylus, a teacher and teacher trainer specialising in both primary and secondary education, introduces her upcoming webinar entitled ‘Leading a horse to water and making it drink‘ on 5th and 7th March, where she will explore ways to motivate students to read and enjoy doing so.

How do we motivate our students to read long texts in course books and how do we ensure that students understand and enjoy what they read?

To our students a long text in a course book can be very off-putting. Not only does the length put them off but it may contain a lot of vocabulary they are not acquainted with and the tasks they need to do, e.g. answer comprehension questions, may seem too difficult.

Using examples from the Insight series, my webinar on reading aims to address these issues by answering the following questions:

  1. What is reading?
  2. What makes a text difficult and off-putting for students?
  3. What can we do before looking at the text to increase motivation to read and to prepare students for potential difficulties like a lot of new vocabulary
  4. What strategies can students employ to get a ‘feel’ of the text when they first meet it, putting into to context, to make reading easier
  5. How can skimming a text effectively help students understand text organisation in order to better navigate it
  6. What do students need to know about syntax, discourse markers and cohesive devices that will make reading easier
  7. How can students deal with new vocabulary within a text?
  8. How can students be encouraged to ‘read between the lines’, identifying implications in order to make inferences
  9. How can we personalise response to texts, to ensure that students do really think about its meaning, rather than just try to get to the end of the activity.
  10.  How can reading be more rewarding and more fun?

So, if you teach reading skills and want some ideas on how to make your teaching more effective and reading lessons more motivating for students, do join me in this webinar.


Involving Parents in the Learning Process

Parents helping with homeworkAhead of her talk at IATEFL Liverpool, Olha Madylus takes a look at best ways to involve parents in the learning of languages.

Beginning foreign language learning at a young age is generally agreed to be a good idea. Younger children’s brains are more sensitive to linguistic changes pre-adolescence, teachers have more freedom to teach the ‘whole’ child, so learners can learn holistically without getting bogged down and put off by a ‘grammar’ approach. As well as this, children can develop very positive feeling towards English having been introduced to it through meaningful stories, catchy kinesthetic songs and fun activities. And, very importantly, this motivation can underpin many years of further study.

But the reality is younger learners usually study English for a limited time per week, quite often just an hour or two. Their parents take them along to English lessons, believing quite rightly that an early start is a good idea. Alas the children themselves have no extrinsic motivation to learn English and this lack of the kind of motivation which spurs older students to continue their studies outside the classroom autonomously – in addition to the fact that, although they can pick things up very quickly, they also tend to forget quickly, too – can lead to little perceived progress in learning English.

Parents getting involved in their children’s learning of English can help to fill these gaps.

Let’s just consider the advantage of parents reading English story books with their children at home. (Even parents who themselves have little or no English can use audio CDs to support such reading. They can even take advantage of learning with their children).  By reading together even for 30 minutes a week, the learners’ contact with English is increased and crucially children’s perceptions of the value of English is heightened – if mummy and daddy want to read these English stories too, it’s not just something for the classroom, but it has relevance in my wider life, too!

Bringing parents into the equation has other benefits. Getting involved and understanding what, and how, their children are learning in English, makes it not only a shared, and therefore very special, experience but also encourages parents to take a greater interest in what their children are doing in their English lessons and support that learning-teaching dynamic.

Renee Sawazaki, writing in IATEFL CATS Spring newsletter describes a Japanese scheme where parents got involved in reading with English their children and the marvellous successes it had.

My presentation at IATEFL Liverpool will look at very practical approaches to encouraging parental involvement and how a website like Oxford Parents can give invaluable aid in this process.

Olha Madylus will be talking about Involving Parents in the Learning Process at IATEFL Liverpool on Wednesday 10th April in Hall 1A at 5:10pm

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Projects should be creative, collaborative, challenging and fun!

Teacher and students at computerOlha Madylus, a teacher and teacher trainer specialising in both primary and secondary education, shares her thoughts on what makes a great class project.

I visit a lot of classrooms around the world and teachers proudly point out posters on the walls and say “look at my students’ projects.”

Although the work looks very nice, I would argue that it isn’t a project. This work is usually a piece of writing with a picture. What worries me is that the text often seems to be directly copied, or merely cut and pasted, from the internet.

Such work may have some merits (encouraging students to look things up on the internet and designing the final product) but I have two main worries about it. One is that students should be discouraged from what is, in fact, plagiarism and, for me most importantly, that students aren’t getting involved in the challenges and satisfaction of what a full-blown project consists of – it’s not very interesting for them!

The important characteristics of a project are:

They are collaborative – a group of students work together to produce a final product.

By working together students share ideas, divide up responsibilities (depending on what they like to do or are good at), and learn crucial lessons about respecting each others’ opinions and finding a good compromise. They also discover talents in themselves and in their friends.

The final product is important and can be extremely varied, ranging from interviews, to songs, to magazines, to drama.

Choosing how they will present their ideas in the final product is a major part of the project. If it is a PowerPoint presentation or a video drama, these need different types of organisation, materials, and perhaps help from their teacher.

Because the final product can be so varied, the language skills involved are not limited.

Ideally students will have lots of opportunities to use the English language in different ways that are meaningful to them. At lower levels they may not use English to discuss the projects, but they will still be discussing what English they need to get the job done.

Other skills like design, acting, directing, negotiation are involved

And this is where a lot of the challenge (and fun) lies – in putting it all together.

Take a look at this example of a project a class in Serbia created, with the help of their teacher. Notice, although the project is based on one piece of grammar – the conditional – how:

  • it obviously needed lots of planning and collaboration
  • all the students are involved
  • language is used to make meaning in a fun way
  • all the students are enjoying themselves
  • the final product – the video – can be shared and enjoyed by the class and others

Take part in our Engage 2nd edition Project Competition using these tips and you could win a video camera for your school. Competition closes 11th November 2011.

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