ELT Traveller box

about teaching English to young learners, web tools and iPad teaching

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Reflections on classroom management

If you teach young learners and teenagers, you’ve probably considered to attend a classroom management workshop at least once in you career. So, a few weeks ago I had mine :-).  I think many practical aspects of this workshop will be very useful.

I really appreciated the overview on the wide range of meanings of “Classroom management” and I loved the “deal with people” approach, being a teacher means manage things and manage people at the same time.

But overall there are two main topics that particularly captured my attention and that I will always bring with me in the future.

One is the focus on the different learning styles. I like the idea that we deal with them in our everyday classes and we should be able to give our students proper activities. Creating the conditions to make pupils able to express themselves is interesting and motivating.

The second topic is the idea that there will always be good and bad moments and that we should always continue to learn from each situation. The balance of uptime and downtime and the learning-to-learn message helps me to do this job with the right approach. I am now looking at it with both enthusiasm and criticism, fully aware I am a long-life learner.

I have also made myself a summary of the six key points I should consider in managing a class:

  1. My role: knowing myself and my students; always be ready and aware of my abilities; do not stop self-development.
  2. My class: remember the main rules on grouping and seating; create a positive and purposeful atmosphere.
  3. My activities: setting up, giving instructions, managing time and space, how to end an activity.
  4. My authority: gathering and holding attention, decide who does what, getting someone to do something.
  5. Deal with critical moments: starting and finishing the lesson, dealing with unexpected problems, deal with difficult students, managing difficult behaviour in the classroom.
  6. Tools and techniques: using the board and  classroom equipment.

…and why do I teach?

Today I have many reasons that commit me to this job. Teaching is facing a new challenge everyday; it means being part of students’ development, acting as crucial and significant support.

When I think about me in a classroom, I have clear ideas about the climate I am seeking to set up. I always try to work hard to have a purposeful, positive and cooperative atmosphere in class. I think it is crucial for a teacher to be able to create a positive relationship and a positive learning atmosphere. After all, the way I will relate to my learners will have a significant impact in the lesson. At any classroom moment, I know there will be a range of possible situations to handle.

Respect – In any kind of environment showing respect to people is a building block for a cooperative and purposeful relationship. Especially in a teaching environment I find respect is a positive and non-judgmental regard for the student. My personal way to show students that I really trust them goes through responsibilities. At first, I focus on the more difficult pupils in the class and I give them small responsibilities to work on (i.e. small organizational work for the following lesson). The idea is to make them aware of their own possibilities; I would like them to develop self-confidence. I believe that a class where students feel that the teacher trust them is a more collaborative class.

Students’ opinions should be always taken into consideration; they should be an active part of the class. A teacher should never forget that her/his role is to make pupils able to work in a cooperative environment; to think that their personal contributions will help to reach the entire class goal. This is why I love role plays and group works: students have the chance to develop both personal and teamwork skills.

At the end of the day, I like being authentic and finding my personal approach to create empathy with the students. Probably having a good ability in setting a purposeful and happy climate is not everything, but it is a positive start.

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My favorite web tools for teens

I’ve recently given a presentation on integrating technology in the language classroom. I teach large YL classes and in the last year I’ve been trying different web tools to motivate and involve students in learning English through different activities. The presentation shows a selection of my favorite web tools to get students speaking, listening, writing and creating short video stories.

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Teaching younger teenage learners to express likes and wants

This is an article from one of my first DELTA assignments:

At the beginning of each school year teaching to younger teenage learners inevitably requires me to understand and follow up their immediate needs. In the last three years learning how to express likes and wants has been one of these. I would say this is the most popular topic among my learners. Being aware of it provides them with motivation to speak and express their own ideas about free-time, sports, foods etc.

I have recently realised that teaching  to express likes and desires at A1-A2 levels is not so simple and immediate. Often learners get confused by the choice of the correct verb and form. Therefore I think the topic should be addresses with a more selective and systematic approach that could solve the issue of how and what to teach to younger teenage elementary learners to help them to express likes and wants. 

Language Analysis

a) Expressing likes and dislikes: gerund and infinitive constructions  

In English the idea of expressing likes and dislikes is strictly linked to the choice between gerund and infinitive constructions.

Carter and McCarthy (2006) list a number of common verbs normally only followed by the -ing form as opposed to the infinitive.

I fancy doing some evening classes. (not > I fancy to do some evening classes)

Some of those verbs are used to express likes (adore, appreciate and enjoy) and some others to express dislike (loathe, dislike, can’t stand, mind)

I enjoy living alone

Cats dislike getting their fur wet (MacMillan Dictionary for Advanced Learners, 2007:422)

According to the KET (Key English Test) Vocabulary List (Cambridge ESOL, 2009), the verbs adore, appreciate and loathe are not usually taught at A2 level. Therefore they will not be considered further here.

These verbs can also be followed by a noun phrase object.

I dislike people telling me what to think (Swan, 2005)

Hate, like, love and prefer can be followed either by -ing or infinitive, as well as by a noun phrase object . Carter and McCarthy (2006) provide a clear general distinction between the two uses, arguing that -ing “emphasizes the action or event in itself, while the infinitive places the emphasis more on the results of the action or event. The -ing form often implies enjoyment (or lack of it), and the infinitive is often used for expressing preferences” (Carter and McCarthy, 2006:515):

I really like my teacher and I like my class. I like being in year five. (emphasis on the process itself and enjoyment of it)

I like home-made soup. I like to make a panful and then it lasts me a couple of days. (emphasis more on result and the habit or preference)

Similarly, Swan (2005) thinks that both infinitives and -ing forms can often be used without a great difference of meaning.

I hate working/to work at weekends.

but Like + infinitive is used to talk about choices and habits.

I like climbing/to climb mountains (= I enjoy climbing)

When I pour tea I like to pour the milk in first (= I choose to, it’s my habit)

Can this idea be simplified for elementary learners?

Svartvik and Leech (2002) point to a more general approach arguing that the infinitive clause expresses an “idea”, while the -ing clause expresses a “fact”. Interestingly they also add that in some contexts, the infinitive clause may have neutral (non factual or hypothetical) meaning:

He likes me to work late ( “…and that’s why I do it” ; …”but I never do it”)

He likes me working late (“…and that’s why I do it”)

As noticed above the choice between infinitive and gerund does not generally change the meaning. Continue reading