Friday, December 6, 2013

What just happened?

I believe that reflection is integral to successful teaching.  One of my pet peeves is when I have to teach a class at the end of the work day.  Why? I hate it when I'm scrambling to pack up my things for fear the security guards will be smiling on the outside but glaring at me on the inside because they simply want to lock up and leave. The few minutes after my lesson are an important time for me to think about what went well, what didn't and why.  I am also likely think about it later that night or the next morning. (To date I haven't let my work invade my dreams).

What does research say about written reflection?

Dear Diary, Guess what happened at work today?!

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It’s Not Just a Game

Research shows that the organization of information into categories aids memorization.We tend to teach categorized vocabulary and Stop the Bus is an example of an activity I often use to revise such vocabulary.

What methods do you use to encourage students to categorise vocabulary?

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cultural Competence Check

How culturally competent are you? I suppose that my competence is limited to the cultures I’ve come into contact with teaching in KL. I found a quiz that excludes most of those cultures and is perhaps geared towards the current immigrant cultures found in the US. Think you’re competent? Click here to try the quiz then download the answers and check yours.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Teacher, what's GENOCIDE?

You know how to spell it, and I'm going to tell you the meaning, but I want you to know how to use it.

pronunciation: geno•cide (jen′ə sīd′)

part of speech: noun

definition: the systematic killing of, or a program of action intended to destroy, a whole national or ethnic group

etymology: Gr genos, race, kind (see genus) + -cide: first applied to the attempted extermination of the Jews by Nazi Germany

related forms: genocidal gen′o•ci′•dal (-sīd′'l) adjective

Usage Examples
Converse of object
• commit: Whether we go to war or commit genocide is a choice, too.

• perpetrate: The media's claim that the Srebrenica massacre was an act of genocide perpetrated by the Serbs is not a lie.

• halt: Can organized military force halt genocide and other violence against civilians?

• constitute: Some would say that 7000 casualties on one side and a dozen on the other constitutes genocide.

• prevent: But we are the future; we can prevent genocide if we choose to take a stand.

• stop: Our sole purpose is to try to save lives by helping stop the genocide in Palestine.

Preposition: against
• Palestinian: They face charges relating to genocide against the Palestinians.

Adjective modifier
• Palestinian: The film tells the true story of a woman who went to Israel to protest against the ongoing Palestinian genocide.

• Palestinian: The weakness of the UN and silence of world leaders enables the perpetrators of the Palestinian Genocide to get away with murder.

• Nazi: The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution.

• Palestinian: There is also a dearth of creative talent in the wake of the Palestinian genocide.

• attempted: The writer argues that there is a strong case to be made for charging Israel's prime minister with genocide or at least attempted genocide.

• committed: George Galloway's analogy compared the historic crimes of the Warsaw ghetto to the genocide committed against the Palestinians.

Modifies a noun
• survivor: He should seek asylum, he is a genocide survivor.

• memorial: The victims and survivors: haunting images of the dead laid out at the genocide memorial along the Gaza beach, beside the Mediterranean Sea.

• convention: His campaign came to an end when the genocide convention was accepted in 1986.

• trial: Former Prime Minister Menachem Begin goes on trial at The Hague, facing genocide charges over the 33 massacres which took place during the 1947-1949 War.

• charge: There is no statue of limitations on genocide charges.

Noun used with modifier
• Palestinian: The Palestinian genocide has not been accurately reported in the American media.

Preposition: of
• century: If it must continue, let it be the most well-documented genocide of the 21st century. History must not repeat itself, for we risk the destruction of the entire human race.

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Teacher, How do you spell genocide?

Teacher, How do you spell genocide?


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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Niqabi Needs Analysis – Private Lessons

I met them for the first time beside the pool of their condo. There was a group of niqabis sipping Saudi coffee, eating sweets dripping with honey and chatting about the things that all women chat about. ‘Oh look, there’s Umm Abdullah’s American English teacher. She teaches Umm Abdullah’s boys for only two hours a day. Surely she’s got time for us to. She’s Muslim so we can have her come to our house and give us private lessons.’

Do you really think that niqabi women have different language needs from any other learner? Could a piece of cloth really be as powerful as that? When it comes to teaching them a language, from the perspective of the Muslim female teacher, the niqab is just that, a piece of cloth. In fact it is removed during the lesson so it is no longer a factor. From the perspective of male and non-Muslim female teachers, the veil can pose as an impediment since it can affect one’s ability to analyse pronunciation fully. However in terms of needs analysis, the niqabi student’s socioeconomic status is much more significant than her attire. Does she work, study, have kids, or have a maid? What does she need to use English for?

From my experience, needs analysis for a woman who wears a face veil will yield the same results as that of any other woman who dresses modestly. The veil does not necessarily signify a particular language need as far as I can see. Even under the veil you find a myriad of personalities, levels of faith, and educational goals. What determines the language need is her lifestyle, and language proficiency. Her previous language learning experiences come into play as do her current study habits, but in determining her needs, one needs to look beyond the veil.

Needs analysis is described by one dictionary of language teaching as “the process of determining the needs for which a learner or group of learners requires a language and arranging the needs according to priorities.” In addition, it states that needs analysis involves the examination of objective and subjective information. This assessment can be achieved through various means such as placement tests, surveys, interviews and observations.

My action plan:

  • Ask them what they need to use English for now. (Listen to how she uses the present tense)
  • Ask them how they would like to use it in the future (note how she uses future forms)
  • Show them the table of contents of a course book and ask them to tell me which items would be most useful and of most interest (Is she able to use conditional forms)
  • All along, I sit taking notes, but not just about what they say they want to do.
I am big brother. I am the fly on the wall. I am listening to see what types of errors they make, because at the end of the day, regardless of what people say they want, it’s my job to determine what they need. No matter how much they say they want to cover in a short period, it’s my job to give them a realistic picture of themselves. They need to have a real awareness of their current language abilities and it’s in their best interest to have just as realistic an awareness of what goals they should set for themselves. From there we can proceed on a mission that is possible and enjoy ourselves along the way, inshallah (God willing).

Want to know what’s under the veil?
In the case of those two ladies it was :

  • An aspiring professor of Arabic Language and Poetry, whose husband is very supportive of her efforts to improve her English.
  • A mother who wants to study Human Science, then become a social worker that helps to improve the lives of the women in her country.
  • Two women who want to
  • make conversations with non-Arabic speaking people
  • order food in a restaurant
  • make sure their hairdresser doesn’t cut to much off
  • buy a book in a bookstore or borrow one from a library
  • tell the doctor what’s ailing her
  • get good service in the airport
  • and very importantly, communicate with the maid

Another thing I might add: One of the niqabi women I once taught said that some (Saudi) people don’t want to learn English because they fear it will force them to lose their culture and be unduly influenced by western culture. I think that this issue deserves a separate blogpost, but I bring it up here to make the point that her concern should have an effect on what materials are chosen for the course. As with all types of students, an effort must be made to be culturally sensitive, thus making her feel that English is for everyone and she can express her complete self through the language of English.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Headwords – not just for dictionaries

Have you ever wondered what headwords were? Not the ones you find in a dictionary, but in the context of graded readers…

How is the proficiency level determined for graded readers?

“Graded readers are partly graded through vocabulary, and vocabulary level is identified by the use of headwords. Following the carefully designed grading guidelines, headwords are words within a level-appropriate list available to authors or adapters to use freely. Students at the appropriate level can be expected to be familiar with these words.” (from Oxford University Press FAQ)

There is a computer program called RANGE that categorises all the words in the text in order to determine the distribution of their frequency at given levels of English.
“The RANGE programme was developed by Paul Nation and Alex Heatley of Victoria University, Wellington. It can apply three distinct word lists, called Base Lists, to any text, and can sort the text vocabulary into three categories of headwords from each list, and a category of words outside all three lists, making four categories altogether. Headwords are defined here as the chief words in each word family, or group of words, coming from the same root, through not necessarily the same part of speech. RANGE can do this either by range across several texts, or by frequency within a text. It can also mark each word according to the category in which it falls. The Base Lists can be altered depending on requirements. The ones which come with the programme are the first and second thousand words from West's General Service List (West, 1953), referred to from now on as the GSL, and Averil Coxhead's Academic Word List, referred to as the AWL. “ (an excerpt from a paper which discusses the authenticity of graded readers)

You can find advice and suggestions on using readers in the classroom from OneStopEnglish here:

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