Wow! 3 months! Really? I haven’t written for that long? Well, today seems to be the perfect day to reflect on how much I’ve experienced, learned and grown since then. 🙂 The first 15 days of July, at Bell Teacher Campus (Cambridge), I was one of the six lucky people to be part of the From Sounds to Storytelling course by Adrian Underhill. One of the things we discussed as a group is how the title makes no justice to the real experience of this course. Yes, we did study the phonemic chart, progressively working with individual sounds, words and connected speech as well as using all that knowledge to work on our storytelling skills, but in fact that was just the tip of the iceberg.
Here is a list of all that went on:) :
- A pleasant and highly motivating atmosphere in the classroom from day 1 and tons of wonderful moments when the room was filled with laughter.
- The phonemic chart: countless tips, ideas and discussions related to our own pronunciation difficulties, our students’ most common mistakes, discovering the logical and physical sense of the chart and how to introduce it and use it in our lessons.
- Adrian’s natural way of finding the balance between group work and 1:1 work without every loosing our attention as learners.
- All the great games, activities and chats were we had the opportunity to loosen up and connect as a group. Strong bonds and friendships remain 🙂
- All the poems and stories we had the chance to listen to and work with.
- I never had the sense of rushing. Everything went so smoothly.
- Lots of scaffolding and coaching to build our knowledge and confidence working on all the different elements that must be taken into account when performing/telling a story.
- Discussions on ELT matters and our own experiences.
- Live, first hand demonstrations of Demand High techniques.
- Workshops and plenaries on various topics.
- Reflecting on our teaching and learning style(s).
- Other socially-enaging activities organised by Bell Teacher Campus.
What might you do differently?????
This course and this question in particularly, have made this experience a turning point in my teaching career. Whenever we openly discussed teaching methodology and techniques, Adrian would ask this question, and it still swirls in my phonological loop with his own personal voice 🙂 There are various things I have tried to keep in mind since then whenever I am in a classroom or planning a lesson. Many of them were pointed out to us (the trainees) to analyse and reflect as teachers. Others are those personal and unique traits of a teacher in particular which I had the luxury to observe for two whole weeks in full action. They are:
- Mistakes are the syllabus : This one definitely flips what most teachers do, including me (until now 🙂 ). Building up from students’ previous knowledge as a starting point is good but not enough. Mistakes gives us so much information as teachers and most of the time we focus on correcting them rather than working with them.
- Time is precious – hand it to your students: Yes we plan but like Adrian explained we mustn’t stick to it if something better and more meaningful in taking place in the classroom.
- Teach less – Guide more : Many ELT methodology books look into the facilitator role of a teacher and I can now say I have seen it live and rollin’. There is a great deal that students already know, kind of know, can be intuitive about and are definitely capable of achieving without the teacher providing the direct answer, correction or alternative. This also has a lot to do with the element of time. Teachers sometimes feel like they have to jump in and save the student from “drowning” in a pool of confusion but in fact all they need better equipment, that is their own resources and awareness to help them dive in and explore consciously. Ask yourself “How helpful is my help?”
- Manage the energy in the room: Like I’ve said before, we did loads of different things and I never had the sense of rushing. The teacher is responsible for this one and I think it is a skill worth developing. Projecting calmness, genuine interest and openness as well as deciding what, how, when and why to reach of the objectives we have planned in a realistic and smooth manner makes a great difference.
- Listen, don’t just hear: This is a good one for life itself. We tend to be thinking about other things while someone is talking to us. Be mindful 🙂 Listen. Really listen and see what happens.
- Brainstorming, discussion, reflection and cooperation
As you can see… it was much more than just another developing course 🙂