Archive | April, 2012

#APPI 2012: Claudia Ferradas – The certainty of uncertainty: meeting the challenge of change

28 Apr

A late session choice after I realising I was in the wrong room and the one I’d planned to see was full…

Claudia Ferradas – The certainty of uncertainty: meeting the challenge of change

Apparently we’re going to start with a song…  “The times they are a’changin” – the Bob Dylan classic, to which I would link to via you tube, but apparently the content has been removed at the request of the copyright holder…  so if you don’t know the song, rush out and buy a best of Bob Dylan CD – it’ll be on there somewhere.

While the song progresses, the lyrics are being flashed up on screen: you can check them out on lyricsfreak.  And we’re being asked who Bob Dylan was asking to pay attention and it’s being pointed out that “teachers” are not being asked to change!  Why Not?

So this leads into the following Ken Robinson video – Changing Education Paradigms:

(If anyone’s interested, there’s a lesson plan on teflgeek for exploiting this).

Key Words from the video:

  • unpredictability of the future
  • cultural identity – globalisation
  • ADHD
  • standardisation
  • artistic education
  • divergent thinking
  • creativity
  • non-linearity
  • collaboration

Just because we don’t feel comfortable in their world, doesn’t mean we should impose our world on them.


  • how to contribute to the change within the system that holds onto the old model
  • how to control stress and demotivation
  • how to be encouraging … (lost the rest of that)

Quotes Umberto Eco on life-long learning and the anguish of upgrading – the fact that everything keeps changing:  we are not longer living calmly in the present and are constantly preparing ourselves for the future.

Liquid Modernity – Zygmunt Bauman:  (pages 10 & 11)

The only certainty (says Bauman) is change:

Learn- unlearn – relearn  /  the anguish of upgrading  /  new habits  /  new thinking skills

The unholy trinity: uncertainty, insecurity, unsafety.  Why not bring these ideas into the classroom to show learners that we consider these things as well?

Michael Rosen poem:  In our playground.

(editor’s note:  the audio keeps cutting in and out and I keep missing bits – apologies)

Stability is now out of favour – variety is in.

we’re now nomadic – we travel light.

Clifford: travelling cultures:  not so much where are you from, as where are you between.  Human becomings rather than human beings.  Moving from the nation, to imagined communities (Salman Rushdie) to “postulated communities” – what aspects of your identity do you carry with you online?

We’re always wired, we’re always connected – yet we’re always alone.  Because we’re so dependent on connections we don’t know what to do without it.  We exist in a “screen state” – not our bodies.  Physical interaction is often an intrusion on virtual interaction, not the other way round.

Ubiquitous / mobile learning:

What we are used to, we too often become used by and so we must begin to see ourselves in where we are…  increasingly where we are is on the web.  (Michael Joyce 1998)

Intermediality – the blurring of media boundaries.  The use of video in a text on a web page….

“you cannot, with the web, go where no one has gone before” (Tchudi 2000)

Critical Technological Literacy:



Conflict derived from the contact with the difference

Construction of multiple fluid identities

definition of  the intercultural learner:  Corbett 2007: 41

World englishes

Conclusion – again, I think this one is going to need some thinking about, some working through and some rewriting.  stay tuned.



#APPI 2012: Anna Uhl Chamot – Teaching Learning Strategies in the English Classroom

28 Apr

I’m hoping this will be a follow up to the talk Anna Chamot gave yesterday at #APPI, which was more about the why of learning strategies, why they are important and how they can help.  This I’m hoping will be more about the what and the how, what learning strategies are useful and how to teach them.  She did say yesterday that “explicit instruction” is  often necessary, so that might feature.

This is another “live blog” – so apologies for any typos or missing bits, I’m going as fast as I can – I promise to come back later and try and clean things up a bit!

A brief biography of Anna Chamot and her academic background from George Washington University.

Anna Uhl Chamot – Teaching Learning Strategies in the English Classroom

Asking teachers what are your students doing to learn often comes back with and answer relating to what the teachers are asking their learners to do – which is not the same thing!

What are learning Strategies?

  • what learners do to complete a task
  • how learners understand, remember and recall information
  • how learners practice skills to achieve mastery of those skills

Why teach learning strategies?

  • understand how your students learn
  • share the strategies of good language learners – learners may have strategies to share – peer teaching
  • increase students’ self-efficacy (feeling of competence towards a task)
  • create a climate of thinking and reflection
  • use creativity to make learning strategies concrete (move from the abstract to the real)
  • motivate your students and yourself!

Tips on Teaching Learning Strategies:

  • build on students’ current learning strategies – all learners have learning strategies, but not all the strategies are successful ones.  Often it’s possible to transfer strategies from one environment to another – learners may feel that what they learn in one situation doesn’t apply to what they learn in another.  Think about what they are already bringing to the classroom.
  • model how to use the learning strategy – language can be a barrier to communicating successful learning strategies, so when learners don’t have the linguistic ability to understand learning strategy instruction, they need to see it modelled, teachers need to communicate the process, not just the task.
  • name the strategy in English (see bibliography at the end of this piece for strategies and their “names”
  • give examples of how to use the strategy (this is similar to the modelling)
  • let the students choose their own strategies – people are different.  If it doesn’t work for a learner, don’t force it on them.

Metacognitive strategies:  (these are applicable to any task in life, not just language learning)

  • Planning:  understand the task / set goals / organise materials  / find resources / is it working? – revise the plan if necessary.
  • Monitoring:  while you work on the task – check your progress on the task / check your comprehension (do you understand?) / check your production (are you making sense?).
  • Evaluation:  (post-task) – assess how well they accomplished it, teach students to self-assess and self-evaluate / assess how well the learning strategies they used worked – if not, try a new one?  / Identify changes you’ll make the next time you have a similar task to do.
  • Self-management:  manage your own learning – determine how you learn best / arrange conditions that help you learn / seek opportunities for practice / focus your attention on the task.

Social Learning Strategies:

Cooperation (working with others):  complete tasks / build confidence / give and receive feedback / learn from each other.


PREPARATION – ways to discover students’ learning strategies:  students describe how they figured something out / discussion (how do you do this, how do you learn new words, how do you know you’re right?) / class survey of learning strategies (find someone who)  / learning strategy diaries

PRESENTATION – model the strategy by acting it out (pretend difficulty and go through the thought process by “thinking aloud”)  /  ask the students if they use the strategy / give the strategy a name / tell the students WHEN  and HOW to use it / make it concrete with visuals and realia (see also icons given in the websites in the bibliography).

PRACTICE – choose a challengeing task / name the strategy to practice / remind students to use a strategy / ask student to identify the strategy / encourage students to use them independently

SELF-EVALUATION – discuss how they used the strategy / keep learning stratgy logs / identify and defned preferred strategies / relfect on themselves as strategic thinkes

EXPANSION  find new uses / contexts for thr strategy /  survey strategies used by others / teach a stragey to a friend or sibling / collect tips on using strategies / make a learning strategy book for other students (e.g. from this years class to next years class)

Developing Metacognition:

  • model your own thinking
  • students explain their thoughts about learning
  • students describe their plan for completing a language task
  • students explain how they monitor a task
  • students evaluate their own performance on a task

Websites / Bibliography:

Resource guides for teaching language learning strategies in primary, secondary and hihger education:

List of Learning strategies and research references:

#APPI 2012: Nik Peachy: Developing materials and practices for the digital generation

28 Apr

This blog post reports from the APPI 2012 conference in Coimbra, Portugal.  The theme of the conference is “Motivated Teachers make a difference” – I’m updating as I go, so apologies for any typos, I’ll try and clear those up later.  Owing to coffee breaks and fresh air requirements, no time to do the abstract.  I think the title’s fairly self explanatory.

Nik Peachy;  Developing materials and practices for the digital generation

This should tie in quit neatly with Nicky hockly’s talk from yesterday.

Handouts and materials from the session c/o:

In this session:

  • Some research
  • Some tools
  • Some ideas

(Everything is free)

Digital natives / digital immigrants (Marc Prensky) – levels of digital comfort vary, even amongst teenagers ….  some stats:

  • 75% of teens own cell phones
  • 73% use social networking
  • 38% share content online
  • Teens average 3,339 sent and received texts a month

Marc Prensky – “the app gap” the gap between students that have smart phones with app capability and those that don’t. What about the gap between teachers and students?

Thinking about the classroom…  what’s preferable?  NOT rows of computers, but wi-fi enabled, internet enabled devices, data projector, good broadband, with air, light, colour and comfort.  The model of the traditional computer room is outmoded already…. – creating a back channel with your students, another means of communication with and amongst students.  The teacher can “lurk” and see what’s going on, intervening where necessary!  Sharing links, so making classrooms more paperless.

Why use it?  Information sharing / Audience response / democratising the classroom / brainstorming / working without paper / provides a record of the interaction.

Some nice examples of literature via textspeak – including Robert Frost’s Fire and Ice and Shakespeare’s “what’s in a name”.  You can translate stuff into text speak via  Text speak is quite phonetic and can help work on pronunciation.

Why use it?  Increase enagement with short texts / understanding the genre /

Shared Work Space:  ( works on the emailing principle – just email the blog and it’ll post.  Or text the blog.  Why:  publishing and peer editing learner work / collaboration / personal reflection / blended learning.  Also works well with audioboo, recording audio which you can then upload to the blog.

What do you use when you study?  How do you take notes?  try “” – an online text annotator, highlighter and virtual stickynote generator, plus library or article collation system.

How has computer based information changed the nature of receptive skills?  The kinds of texts we access in our daily lives has changed and the way we access texts has changed.  So instead of referrring to a single source, learners need to access multiple sources and we can help learners by providing mixed media tasks.  An online tool to help with this: Storify – here’s Nik’s example:  Can help avoid the cut and paste problem of learner research, as it means learners evaluate and assess and make an original contribution, while also including links to the original source.

Generic Tasks for digital comprehension. (see handout) – good for learners to practice speaking and getting feedback.

Nik’s running out of time and I think the last part of the seminar will need some investigation via his handout, which are full of the links!

Conclusion – this is going to need a certain amount of time to process and re-organise!

#APPI 2012: Scott Thornbury – It’s getting better all the time: Motivating teachers

28 Apr

This blog post reports from the APPI 2012 conference in Coimbra, Portugal.  The theme of the conference is “Motivated Teachers make a difference” – I’m updating as I go, so apologies for any typos, I’ll try and clear those up later.

Scott Thornbury – It’s getting better all the time: Motivating Teachers

Quotes from the abstract: “Teachers typically start out full of illusions, but faced with the reality of their day-to-day work, this intial enthusiasm can soon turn sour.”  Oh how we all recognise that feeling I’m sure!  I’m looking at the title of the session and wondering whether the next line of the Beatles song has some part to play in all this:  “It can’t get much worse…”!  Abstract continues:  “It’s possible to retrieve some of that initial motivation by taking some easy steps towards personal, professional development.”

Looks like we’re about to get underway…

Scott’s managed to find a 1935 English language textbook in a Coimbra bookshop – an interesting insight into the teacher student relationship.  Also, the way the lesson was presented, to me harks back to direct method pedagogy.  An interesting vignette!

A nice video of a pre-service teacher talking about the reasons why he wants to be a teacher.  Some cynicism in the audience….

Lots of reasons why teachers are stressed out:  quoting Mike J Harrison’s blog post on teaching conditions.

The marketisation of education – terms such as outsomces, value added, knowledge transfer

Life cycle of teachers (generally):

  1. Novice – surviving, feeling out of depth and incompetent / stressed out about the additional paperwork.
  2. Mid-career – stabilisation, experiementation, taking stock
  3. Late career – serenity, disengagement
And within ELT:
  1. starting out
  2. becoming experienced
  3. new horizons: professional development
  4. passing on knowledge

Beliefs and attitudes that people hold about themselves are the most important drivers.  Teachers who possessed positive attitudes about themselves

Question to the PLN: What motivates you as a teacher?  Do a quick twitter hashtag search for #motivatingteachers for the PLN responses.

Quotes:  Atul Gawande “Better” and the struggle for

Ask an unscripted question – ask a question about themselves and their learning:  needs analysis techniques that move beyond the prosaic needs and think about ‘living’ in English.

Don’t complain – complaining never solves anything just depresses you.  Be prepared with something else to discuss (fallback topics).  Keep the conversation going.  Now plugging #eltchat as a means of having that conversation woth likeminded individuals and a

Count something.  Be a scientist – If you count something you find interesting, you’ll learn something.  This is the action research cycle, and arguing for peer observation / self observation / videoing your own classes.  (things we might want to look into….?)

Write something:  writing is a reflective process and by writing for an audience (i.e. blogging?)  you can get feedback on your ideas and problems.  Also discussion boards are a good source of feedback (cites the Dogme discussion groups)

Change – look for the opportunity to change, you don’t have to follow every new trend, but recognise what doesn’t work in your current practice and seek ways to improve.

You are not alone.  nvolve the school management, involve the students, publish it, seek feedback and

“Find something new to try!”

Handouts and Powerpoints –

#APPI 2012: Nicky Hockly – Digital Literacies

27 Apr

This blog post reports from the APPI 2012 conference in Coimbra, Portugal.  The theme of the conference is “Motivated Teachers make a difference” – I’m updating as I go, so apologies for any typos, I’ll try and clear those up later.

Plenary Session:  Nicky Hockly – Digital Literacies

Again – some quotes from the abstract:  “Digital Literacies are key 21st century skills … we look at some of the theory underpinning them and some practical classroom activities that can make a difference to students”.

(Editor’s note: I’ve spotted the telltale “prezi” navigation buttons in the bottom right hand corner of the screen, so I’m expecting lots of looping and whirling!  Fair play to Nicky who’s still hobbling around on crutches after breaking her leg some weeks ago!)

So here we go:

With a completely straight face,  Nicky Hockly’s trying to get the entire audience to dress up in a lumberjack outfits and march in support of the Pacific North West tree octopus.  She’s almost got everyone convinced…. and has now come clean!

Essentially, we’ve just had a fairly typical reading lesson: prediction, schema raising, etc – but with the spoof website (as above).  The point being that one of the skills learners need is to be able to assess the veracity of websites on the internet, in particular by examining the different features of websites and analysing them:  e.g.  news / blog / hyperlinks / links to official orgs / other research / content tabs / url / layout, font, colours / images & maps / style of language / quotes.  The website is a parody, so it does contain most of these features, but as it is a parody, they don’t match our expectations of authenticity.  Learners need to think about these things and use them to approach websites critically – in other words we need to develop learners’ digital literacies.

Digital Literacies (after Mark Pegrum):

  • Focus on Language:  texting / hypertext / multi-media / mobile / gaming / tech & coding / print
  • Focus on Connections: personal / network / cultural & inter-cultural / participatory
  • Focus on Information: search / tagging / info
  • Focus on (re) design:  remix

See: for more information.

Focus on remix literacy:

Taking original information, re-presenting it and adding something new and original.  Similar to the idea of remixing music, but extended into an approach to accessing and processing information, possibly with the idea of provoking thought or subverting convention.

An example of remix literacy:  literal videos:  videos that de-construct original content and re-describe the action from a literal, and occasionally subversive point of view.  Exploiting them: or – get learners to redub / subtitle their own videos, using videos from You Tube.  Great examples of this include the parodies of Hitler’s tantrum from the film “The Downfall”.  Apparently copyright laws permit original material to be used for the purposes of parody.

Be careful with the distinction between copyright & fair use.

Implications of Digital Literacies:

  • integration into syllabus, using a web text instead of a paper text.
  • Digital divide – find out who in your classes have the access to the technology.  Technology use does NOT equate to digital literacy.
  • Student learning – use of technology needs to be principled, make sure you aren’t using the tech for the tech’s sake, but that there are clear learning goals involved.
  • Develop and keep up with development via a PLN
Nicky has links to all the talk resources and videos, plus further reading here:

And I’ve just found her Prezi for this session online:

#APPI 2012: Anna Uhl Chamot – How language learning strategies instruction motivates teachers.

27 Apr

This blog post reports from the APPI 2012 conference in Coimbra, Portugal.  The theme of the conference is “Motivated Teachers make a difference” – I’m updating as I go, so apologies for any typos, I’ll try and clear those up later.

Plenary Session: Anna Uhl Chamot – How language learning strategies instruction motivates teachers.

The abstract for this session says “Teachers’ motivation increases through understanding how their students’ learn and how to help them achieve success” – which I’ll admit to a certain amount of cynicism regarding.  Not that I don’t want to better understand how my students learn, but I’m not sure it increases my motivation per se.

Still, it’ll be interesting to see the strategies for making learners more effective learners!

So here we go:

Session aims:

  • Describe a model of motivation
  • Share examples of teacher motivations
  • Idenify importance of learner attributions
  • Define language learning strategies
  • Review research on effects of language learning strategies.
Model of Motivation:


Value is the value that you attach ot the thing you’re doing.  Expectancy is whether you think you’ll achieve your goals – we don’t like appearing weak or unsuccessful, so expectancy of success is important.  Attribution is – to what do you attribute your success?  What are ther easons for your success, are they internal, i.e. your own work or external – work done byothers.  Internal attribution is more motivating.

What motivates teachers:

  • Value – I love my subject
  • Expectancy – I want and expect my students to learn
  • Attribution – I know what I can do to help my learners become effective learners

Examples of value:  helping learners achieve goals  /  sharing knowledge  /  investigating and sharing passion for the subject.

Examples of Expectancy:  seeing learsner make progress  /  seeing learners get engaged in the subject  /  inspiring learners  /  helping learners make more of an impact on the world  /  seeingn learners apply the knowledge successfully

Examples of Attribution:  knowing learners have the skills and ability to succeed  / knowing that you know what you’re talking about / personal confidence

Student Motivation:

  • Value: Is English interesting and enjoyable?
  • Expectancy: Can I really learn English?
  • Attribution:  Why am I a good (or not) English learner?

Learner attributions types:  luck / ability / own effort.  Luck, belief that the grade on the test was a fluke – not really a valid thought process.  Ability – belief that “I just can’t learn language”, or that language learning is genetic… Own Effort – this is the one that we as teachers can actually influence and does actually impact learning.

Learning strategies:

  • thoughts and actions that learners use to help them complete a task
  • ways of understanding, remembering and recalling information
  • ways of practicing skills so that they are mastered more easily

Many learning strategies are invisible because they occur within the mind, but by talking to learners about these strategies we can help our learners be more aware of their own thinking and their own learning processes.

(Editors note:  this seems to correspond to the movements from Unconscious incompetence to Conscious Incompetence to Conscious Competence to Unconscious competence.  I forget where that comes from.)

Learning strategies are not:

  • fixed or permanent – they can be changed or evolve over time
  • teaching strategies
  • learning styles
  • used only by “good” learners
  • always good strategies – the same strategy can work in one situation, but not in another.

(Ed:  I conclude from this that learning strategies are context and learner dependent)

What the research says:

  • Using a variety of appropriate learning strategies is correlated to higher self-efficacy.  It’s important for learners to feel as though they can succeed at the task.
  • Successful strategy use correlates to motivation.  If learners believe they have the abilities or skills, they believe they can succeed, they are motivated.
  • Using and reflecting on strategies develops meta-cognition and self-regulation.  Better understanding of what helps you learn, helps you to control your learning process, thus making you a more efficient learner.
  • Strategy instruction improves academic performance
  • Instruction needs to be explicit, not implicit.
  • Learners need to develop meta-cognition.
  • Transferring strategies to new tasks is difficult, so needs to be taught.  Learners tend to think they need to start again from scratch and need to be made aware that skills are transferrable.
  • Learning strategy instruction may need some L1 instruction.  Some concepts require a certain language ability in order to be expressed and understood.

For more information on learning strategies for language teachers the following website: has handouts and more information.


PHRAS.IN – Say this or say that?

22 Apr

This is a quite a neat tool for learners who are trying to find the right way to express something – PHRAS.IN – Say this or say that?.

You type in two choices and it comes back and tells you which of the two is more common:

I wouldn’t recommend it as a grammar checker as it would just take far too long – but it might be useful for learners struggling with phrasal verbs or idiomatic expressions.

Also – it could be a fun research tool to use in class as a way of raising learners awareness of common errors – give the learners a list of pairs of expressions, some of which could be unfortunate utterances taken from past classes or written work, and the learners discuss and choose which they think is more common / correct, before checking on the website.

Getting learners writing: FoldBooks!

19 Apr

It can be difficult to get learners writing, especially young learners who often see writing as an imposition on classroom fun and games – so fun ways to encourage learner writing are always welcome.

At the FoldPlay website, they’ve come up with FoldBooks.  As the name suggests, these are mini-booklets made out of A4 paper, which have been pre-printed with images and text.

If you go to the FoldBooks page you’ll find input boxes there to work with, once you’ve filled everything in, click the “make your book” button, then print and follow the folding and cutting instructions precisely.

There are eight boxes that need text adding to them, and consequently eight pictures that need to be included.  In order to maximise the amount of text that can be put on the page, it’s best to reduce the font size to about 12 and the text margin to about 18, which is roughly the same as the image margins.  Pictures though, can only be uploaded from the computer, so if learners want to use pictures from the internet, they’ll need to download those to the computer, before uploading them again, which is a bit of a hassle, but there you go.

I think with learners, particularly younger learners, I’d ask them to write a first draft in the classroom before adding the excitement of the computers.  All that’s needed is eight smallish – say two or three sentence – paragraphs.  It might fit nicely with some of the circle writing tasks along the lines of “describe a man  / describe a woman  /  the place they met  /  what did they say to each other / what were their dreams  /  what was the problem  /  what did they do  /  how did it end”  (for example).

Once learners have got a set of  accurate texts they’re happy with, they can think about pictures they want to illustrate their books.

That, I think, is the point to take them into the computer room and let them have a go at making their  FoldBooks.

TBPPP: A fusion methodology?

17 Apr

I was trying to plan a lesson the other day, by which I mean I was sitting there with a course book, a biro and the back of a discarded handout (which I find is the most efficient way of planning – the more elements you add to a process, the longer it takes!), staring at the book and thinking “Well what on earth am I supposed to do with this?”.  This at least is usually the starting point for my planning process…

As is often the case with course book materials, they need a little tweaking here, a little twisting there and occasionally the outright replacement of one or two components – and in any case I thought it might be nice to reframe the lesson in a task based cycle.  So that’s what I sketched out on the back of my bit of paper.  And then I looked at it again and I realised that it wasn’t a task based cycle, it was more of a “TBPPP”…

The typical diagram of an ideal PPP lesson is something like the pyramid type structure on the right:  at the top, a relatively small amount of language presentation, followed by a larger amount of time dedicated to (controlled) practice of the target language and finally a productive stage, which is probably also basically a “freer” practice stage.

I also suspect that the reality of most PPP lessons is slightly different, certainly there are any number of course books where the PPP paradigm is represented as an inverted version of the pyramid – the presentation and practice of the target language taking up the lion’s share of the course book page, and consequently the lesson, with very little time left over for actual use (in however limited a fashion) of the language, which is a shame.

The thing is, that when you look at the famous task based cycle hexagon, the PPP process actually fits in quite well to that bottom section – which would make it a ‘hexagamid’?  Personally, I’ve never really liked the way the task based cycle was diagrammed in Jane Willis’s “A Framework for Task-Based Learning” (1996) as for me at least the hexagon doesn’t reflect the cyclical nature of the process, and also because the big hexagon on page 38 omits (at least in the version of the book I have) the phrase “Review and repeat task”.

So here’s what I think TBPPP looks like:

In this model, PPP and TBL are not defined by their opposition to each other, they are not contrasted to highlight each other’s faults, rather they work together in a complementary helix.    Thus the focus on language which follows the task in the Willis hexagon, and which is essentially PPP anyway (see Willis 1996:138), is made more integral and given more focus, but without losing the spontaneity of language input and output that the task based cycle promises.

Caveat:  I’m not suggesting that anybody else take this one up particularly, it came about simply because I planned what I initially thought was a task-based lesson but then realised it wan’t quite.  But I don’t see why TBPPP can’t move on from here….  Of course, when you’ve spotted the glaring errors in the theory that I’ve missed, do please let me know what they are!

Lesson Plan | Data Visualized: More on Teaching With Infographics –

14 Apr

Infographics are everywhere at the moment, which personally speaking I’m quite glad of as it makes looking at statistics a lot easier and a lot more fun, though there is always the mantra to remember when looking at these things:  “Consider the source”.

In any event, about a year ago the New York Times published this article:  Lesson Plan | Data Visualized: More on Teaching With Infographics.  It is aimed more at the native speaker education system, but has a lot in it for us humble ELT practitioners as well, especially the cross-curricular crowd!

There’s lots of links to further articles and resources in there as well, divided up by subject area and ways in which to approach the teaching of infographics – plus some ideas for learners on how to create them….  (Sounds like a project area to me!)

Here’s one of my favourites, and a good example of something simple that learners might be able to reproduce…

Though I think the cost of an i-Pad might have come down since this was made…