H S I L G EN
paul drve r The British Council magazine for teachers of English in Lusophone countries
Welcome to our first edition!
In this edition you can read articles as wide-ranging as using picture books with younger children to a cry to rethink the purpose of education. You will also find practical ideas to enhance your classroom activities as well as the first of what will be regular features, including interviews with hard working English teachers.
In English Digital has a mission to bring you the voices of teachers, cutting edge ideas and practical suggestions for the classroom. We hope that this initiative will become a focus for renewed exchanges of ideas, advice and help between teachers of English across continents. In this first edition we are ex p e r i m e n t i n g w i t h f o r m a t a n d capability, and we would appreciate your feedback on this. In future editions we plan to introduce more interactive elements and, again, your involvement will be vital.
Above all, we look forward to receiving your own articles. These can range from ' t h i n k ' p i e c e s t o ex p l a i n i n g s o m e successful classroom activities, from reviews books or other resources to personal experiences you want to share. We want you to let us know your ideas.
You are invited to become a subscriber to In English Digital. This is free, and simply re q u i re s yo u t o s e n d a n e m a i l t o In.English@pt.britishcouncil.org confirming that you wish to continue to receive the e-zine. If you do not reply, we will not send you future editions.
I hope you enjoy this first edition, and look forward to receiving your comments and subscription requests.
Fitch O'Connell Editor In English Digital Portugal
Welcome to the first edition of In English Digital. This new format replaces the old In English printed magazine, which last appeared in 2008. We are taking advantage of digital media to make a connection between teachers of English in Lusophone countries in particular, and this edition contains contributions from Brazil, Angola, Mozambique and Portugal.
INENGLISHDIGITAL March 2011
Graphic Design: Paul Driver Cover Photo (adapted) Richard Eriksson 2
INENGLISHDIGITAL March 2011
In This Issue 4
The Readerâ€™s Corner
Books, readers and local radio in Mozambique
How Can Alice Succeed?
Gaining confidence through oral skills practice and trial & error in Portugal
Fancy a Challenge?
Challenging teachers & students in creative ways, from Brazil
Unwrapping the potential of what picturebooks hold for children and teenagers
First in a series where teachers of English get cross examined about their work. Portugal this issue
My Experience of NLP
How a personal approach affected one teacher in Portugal
A gaggle of games
A series of games for younger learners to use and practice language
Planning it Write
How to break the block of teaching different styles of writing for intermediate students
Day in the Life
First in a series where ELT professionals go about their daily routines. A view from Angola.
Does the curriculum help or hinder education? And what is the purpose of knowledge? A view from the UK.
Learning English in
An examination of how virtual world's can create
learning opportunities for a variety of language learners
Useful internet links for teachers, suggested by teachers
The Reader’s Corner together as a group. We met authors like Roger Robinson and, as a group, we even visited “Cadeia Central” with the intention of sharing some reading with inmates and set up a reading group there. The idea of reading together for sharing that allows learning from other reader’s experience took shape. It was part of our lives as members.
Connecting Schools By Tanguene & Mon Ami
The Reader’s Corner is a reading group that connects readers from secondary schools through radio reading sessions every Friday, 2pm on Maputo Corridor Radio (105.9 FM), the English Channel of Radio Mozambique in Maputo city, Mozambique. The group has a story to tell about its existence. It did not just start with radio sessions. There was a reading group at the British Council resource centre, the Book Club, comprised mainly of students and teachers who shared the same habit – Reading. They were passionate about reading for pleasure. The idea of meeting for reading and sharing was exciting to all as we all needed to share the stories, poems and novels that each member was reading alone. It was a common thing to see happen, before the advent of the Book Club, to see someone waiting until someone else, who was returning a book, just to be able to steal the title of the book being returned so that he/she could borrow it the on next opportunity. The Book Club was a platform that changed members’ behaviour towards reading and became an open space for sharing the experiences of reading literary stories, which had sounded like a taboo. Every Saturday readers, young and adults, gathered around the British Council garden were talking about African Writing (Chinue Achebe, Mariam Ba, Okey Ndibe, Mongane Serote) and from other cultures, short stories and poems from the New Writing anthologies, read about great short stories writers that explore relationships, identities, cultures (like Romesh Gunesekera and others),
New challenges came, we dreamt about reading our own stories and poems during the sessions. It was when I wrote my first short story, the grave nr. 256802, out of an event that happened in a graveyard, but motivated by the group’s new
The Book Club was a platform that changed members’ behaviour towards reading and became an open space for sharing the experiences of reading literary stories, which had sounded like a taboo.
objectives: We all dreamt about the day we would be reading and sharing Mozambican poems and stories and the first stories should come from the members of the group. That was a big challenge, and it paved the way to the Reader’s Corner. The Reader’s Corner is a space for meeting for enjoying stories and poems together. It’s also a publication outlet that allows us to read and share poems and stories with the public. Today it has become a space for debate, but the key for debate remains within the reading and writing for pleasure. We say reading for starting conversations in English can improve our possibilities for learning.
The Reader’s Corner, based on the experience with the Book Club started with meetings at AEMO (the association of Mozambican Writers rooms) and moved to Radio with intention of reaching and benefiting more people. The idea of one reading room that can connect with other reading small groups in secondary schools was exciting. The radio room was the way that seemed to open this possibility of taking us towards this goal, of joining together as many readers as we could in the time the radio session is on air. But we were also aware of the need of having a specific target focus group – the reason why we created reading groups in secondary schools. The Reader’s Corner is now a big reading group with members at Francisco Manyanga and Josina Machel secondary schools as well as students from other schools. Members from schools where the Reader’s Corner has set up reading groups have enjoyed joining radio sessions, they are invited to share their experiences live. Incidentally, with the radio sessions any radio listener has become a potential member of the Reader’s Corner – reading and sharing together. Radio listeners have been expressing their desire to become members of Reader’s Corner group, but as the idea evolves plans are ahead for running the Reader’s Corner in other radio channels. Literature and radio is a positive space that enables us to learn outside the classroom. The Reader’s Corner has focused on opening learning possibilities outside the classroom. We read Aesop’s fables and African stories, as it has happened, with the Book Club, when we set the goal of reading our own stories. We found a lot of poems and short stories written by young talent, and we even had the chance of reading poems from primary schools children in Portugal. We were encouraged by a reader to examine the BBC/British Council Teaching English website, which has allowed us to read and share with Reader’s Corner radio group new stories and poems. It is not a small population, the population of readers, and reading together is better than reading alone. Read wherever you are, and if you read, look for ways of finding friends who
you can share together with your reading experience: any corner where you’re reading from is the Reader’s Corner.
Tanguene (Francisco Langa), 31, was born in Maputo, Mozambique. He is studying Auditing and Accounting at ISCAM College, he is passionate about creative reading and writing, co-founder and facilitator of the Reader’s Corner reading group and presenter of radio reading sessions. He writes poems and stories in English and has won the 3rd position in a poetry contest on the BBC website. His poem (At the Bus Stops) was published in the grade 10 English coursebook 2011, edited by the plural editors in Mozambique. Mon Ami (Marcos Nhapulo), was born in 1982 in Gaza Mozambique. He has been a Psycholinguistic Assistant at the Linguistics and Literature Department at the University Eduardo Mondlane since 2006. In 2009 he finished his Master in TESOL at The University of Newcastle, in Australia. Now he is a PhD Student at Ghent University, in Belgium.
Tanguene & Mon Ami, Mozambique
How can Alice succeed in speaking English, after learning how to ride her bicycle? By Cl谩udia de Sousa
Reading the title of this article, you may wonder what learning how to ride a bicycle has in common with learning any language, and in this particular case, learning English as a foreign language. You may altogether question to what extent the first learning process, once acquired, will help Alice, as a student, succeed in learning to speak English. My questions are: Do we remember how difficult it was when we first tried to ride a bicycle? Do we recall how it all started? Could we evoke the fears we felt or even the number of times we fell before succeeding? Was it something we learnt by ourselves or do we still cherish the person who stood there beside us, encouraging us not to give up?
As teachers, we assume this role every day of our lives but, we始re undoubtedly still glued to the idea of preparing our students to read and write texts, to learn and use grammar structures correctly as if these were the sole skills to develop when learning a foreign language. We defend this idea based on the fact that national examinations require these abilities, but it始s time to recognise that national curricula are completely outdated and not preparing our youth for real life, for what really lies ahead of them. Our students are being brought up in a world of never-ending changes. The concepts they have of family, communication, friendship, religion, happiness, and of their future, to mention only a few, are no longer static and unquestionable. Therefore, as teachers, we have many challenges to face.
According to Harold Foster, these learning processes are very similar for both learning how to ride a bicycle and learning a language require many complex skills and it is best to learn them holistically, by trial and error. Alice, the name I chose to represent our students, is just as afraid of speaking English as she was when she first sat on the saddle, held her handlebars tight and peddled for the first time. She needs someone with experience to assume the part and the responsibility of walking behind or beside her, showing her the way, and guaranteeing her that even if she does fall, she shouldn始t give up because mistakes are a positive sign of growth.
When learning a foreign language, and specifically when learning to speak that language, students need to be prepared for meaningful language experiences in class. This, besides other concerns, means preparing our students for authentic speaking experiences or real communication. I once challenged my 10th year students, who were studying German for the first time, to interview tourists on the street and at a nearby campsite in Alcobaça. During classes, the students gathered important language structures and vocabulary for the interview and they were given the opportunity to roleplay parts of it in the classroom. These phases of automatization and interaction were extremely important for the real and final interview. The more they practised, the more engaged they became. All students participated according to their level, and in the end it was rewarding to see how they achieved a sense of accomplishment with this real-life communication opportunity. So, our greatest challenge is to provide our students with a meaningful purpose to speak English, to help them start doing so, and once they do, to help them keep on speaking, unafraid of making mistakes. Depending on how meaningful learning experiences are, students will realise that they will somehow affect their lives, be it in the present or in the future. Students should be encouraged to practise their English a little every day, in every class so that they never become insecure or even forget how to do it. Our aim is for them to learn, develop and maintain their speaking skills. At a first learning stage, imitating and memorizing are fundamental, just as they are for a baby that learns to speak through the natural process of listening and repeating. Children will repeat words/expressions without even having understood their meaning and through maturation, they will gradually identify the wordʼs meaning and use it in an appropriate or acceptable context. In my classes I have taken advantage of this natural ability every time I have some minutes left at the end of the lesson. I like testing studentsʼ ability to learn tongue twisters, nursery rhymes or short poems off by heart. Besides being an amusing titbit at the end of the lesson for everyone, for those who think they will never speak English it helps them believe that it is possible. Would we dare to say that a three-year old who imitates an adult isnʼt learning how to speak? Or could we say that Alice wasn´t learning how to ride his bicycle, when he first rode it with the help of training wheels? By having students learning tongue twisters or nursery rhymes off by heart, it improves pronunciation and reduces speech defects. This method also helps students learn vocabulary in a specific, cultural context. My experience tells me that students donʼt focus their attention on the meaning of the tongue at first. Only
They appreciate being recognised as individuals who think and feel, individuals whose previous knowledge/experience, whose personal opinions, fears, dreams and hopes are taken into account.
later does that become important to them. Like a baby, what seems important is repeating the piece of language as correctly and quickly as possible. If this seems at all appealing to you, try it and I guarantee you that years later, youʼll find former students of yours saying they still remember “Georgy Porgy Pudding and Pie”, “Hey Diddle Diddle”, “Little Miss Muffet” and others. It is therefore important to ask ourselves to what extent we create classroom situations for students to learn, practise and use the English language meaningfully. We donʼt need many years of teaching experience to acknowledge what students consider meaningful to talk about. They appreciate being recognised as individuals who think and feel, individuals whose previous knowledge/experience, whose personal opinions, fears, dreams and hopes are taken into account. Preparing activities which are as student-centred as possible is never a fait accompli and can be exhausting, but it motivates students to come out of their shell, and bring their world into the English class. Once this happens, students become sure of their importance and this gives us, teachers, a sense of accomplishment as much as it gives them. They will surely take the English language back to their world. It will prepare them for social acceptance, social adaptability, inner growth and self-contentment. Thus, language ability is a powerful tool that aids in the complex but necessary process of social identity.
Claúdia de Sousa was born and raised in Africa, teaching degree in English and German at the Faculdade de Letras of the University of Lisbon, English teacher for the last 14 years in public schools, certified as a teacher trainer and worked with APPI at 10th Seminar in Madeira in 2010. She currently teaches at Escola Básica e Secundária de Ourém
References: Harold (1994). Crossing Over: Whole Language for Secondary English Teachers. Forth Worth: Harcourt Brace.
Fancy a little challenge?
In our world of rapid changes the ability to learn and re-learn new things on a continual basis is certainly a great asset to every learner. Teacher and student alike should aim to develop, but how can we go about developing? I believe that having on-going challenges in your personal and professional life is a nice way to become a better learner and therefore a better teacher. A challenge can be defined as a ʻdifficulty in a job or undertaking that is stimulating to one engaged in itʼ. As a student at a language school many years ago I used to have a teacher who taught us quotations – we had to memorise and recite them in every class. I remember being in real agony minutes before I had to deliver ʻmyʼ quotes but walking on air afterwards, when I heard ʻwell done, Ana!ʼ With time the quotes proved very beneficial, they taught me lots of new words and expressions, literature and culture references, and life tips. My memory improved, and my mental life became far richer and more enjoyable. You are never alone if you have ʻyourʼ quotes in your head.
By Ana dʼAlmeida
Brazil Ana lives in sunny Recife, NE Brazil, where she works online as an educational technology consultant for The Consultants-E and British Council, and part-time at Colégio DAMAS where she co-ordinates a high school programme in partnership with Texas Tech University. If you would like to get in touch, write to Ana at email@example.com
Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always to be Blest. Alexander Pope Brevity is the soul of wit. William Shakespeare The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship. William Blake
The Williams (left) Portrait of William Blake By Thomas Phillips 1807
(right) Portrait of William Shakespeare Believed to be by John Taylor 1610
The 52-book Challenge Years later I started teaching quotes to my students too and with a similar response – they were afraid at first and then thankful for the experience. In Brazil language schools work mostly on a semester basis, from February to June and from August to December, which excluding national holidays and tests leaves us about sixteen teaching weeks each semester. My students learned a quote a week and about sixteen quotes by the end of the semester. I told them that they needed to see it as a project (beginning, middle and end) and as a challenge. Students absolutely loved their little challenge! I coined the term ʻquote-learningʼ and gave workshops on how to use quotes as a project within your set curriculum. If you would like to have a go at ʻquote-learningʼ, you can visit ʻA quote a weekʼ (embed link http:// aquoteaweek.pbworks.com/ ) to learn more details of the project and download free resources. The 52-book challenge At the end of 2009 I heard about the 52book challenge on twitter. The aim was to read a book a week during the whole year so that by 31 December you would have read fifty-two books. I decided to join the challenge because I started to feel that my reading was suffering after years of rather bitty internet reading. I wanted to go back to extensive reading and experiment with various genres. I have collected all the books on a private
“I have learned several new words and expressions, discovered lots of new things I had never imagined before, experimented with reading on the Kindle…” wiki – which I may open for visits in future. I have learned several new words and expressions, discovered lots of new things I had never imagined before, experimented with reading on the Kindle (and having the Kindle read to me), and of course sharpened my time management skills, there was never an idle moment for me in 2010! I cried, I laughed, I had fun, I learned. The 52-book challenge is enriching, exciting and utterly fun! I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading but has never attempted such a challenge, or to you who would like to read more and read better. However, ʻA quote a weekʼ and ʻThe 52book challengeʼ are just a couple of ideas you may want to explore as a learner and with your own learners. You will find a few more wonderful ideas on the next page.
The 30-Goals Challenge
Project 365 take a photo a day
Illustration: Paul Driver
We all like photos. They are a wonderful way to hold on to special moments of our fleeting lives. In 2004 Taylor McKnight, co-founder of Podbop, a music lover, and a fanatical concert goer, decided that he would record a photo a day for a whole year. At the end of the year, Taylor had built a wonderful visual history of his life – his relationships, career, fashion sense, etc. The project has since generated a legion of followers, especially after flickr and similar websites have taken amateur photography into a new level. Check out ʻProject 365: How to take a photo a day and see your life in a whole new wayʼ (embed link http://content.photojojo.com/ tutorials/project-365-take-a-photo-a-day/) for tips and ideas to get you started. An idea it generated for me was to record the first year of the high school programme at our school.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about these ideas and are now ready to pick your 2011 challenge or challenges!
ʻThe 30-Goals Challengeʼ was created by Shelly Terrell, an educator and technology enthusiast in Germany. The aim is to accomplish 30 short-term goals to help you develop as an educator, exploring alternative paths for professional development with colleagues across the world. A wonderful collaborative project based on challenges which has received worldwide support. You can visit ʻThe 30 Goals Challengeʼ website (embed link http://www.facebook.com/ 30Goals) to download a free copy of ʻThe 30 Goals Challengeʼ e-book, where you can find out about the thirty goals – and get started yourself!
A Drawing a Day This project was developed by David Gauntlett, a professor of Media and Communications at University of Westminster, who set out to draw a picture a day as an exercise because he wanted to get better at drawing. Whether David thinks he succeeded is unclear, but he has generated several hundreds of sketches which provide lots of insights and inspiration for anyone who visits ʻA drawing a dayʼ website (embed link http://artlab.org.uk/drawing/) – and you can also use it for educational purposes. I imagine the sketches make for excellent prompts for discussion in the language classroom, and an idea that could work well with very young learners.
Demystifying the picturebook By Sandie Mourão
When I was asked to contribute to the new online version of In English my work with picturebooks was alluded to as suitable content for an article. It was with this blessing that I launched my thoughts and musings into what to write, but it was while reflecting on comments made by colleagues that the actual direction my thoughts should take congealed into the title you read above: DEMYSTIFYING THE PICTUREBOOK. The picturebook is definitely misunderstood. In this article I aim to define it, disentangling its components in an attempt to explain how they can support our students’ language learning. I hope to persuade readers that picturebooks are for all learners, not just the younger ones, by discussing one title in particular and suggesting how it could be used with a class of teenagers.
Picturebooks in ELT: a muddle of terms Picturebooks have been present in primary ELT for the last two decades. If I pull Brumfit et al (1991), from my shelf, Machura describes her journey through a number of different books for children, finally using real books which she describes as "original texts … using them for sheer enjoyment rather than linguistic gains." (1991:72) In the same publication Parker & Parker also write a chapter about using a "real book approach" to reading in a second language classroom, again emphasizing authentic, original texts. Next to Brumfit et al I have both editions of Ellis & Brewster (1992 / 2002), who describe using a storybased approach, most of the stories come from "authentic storybooks". In a folder nearby I have my treasured collection of original 'REAL BOOK NEWS', edited and published by Dunn from 1997 till 2004. Here she describes “story picture books” and “real picture books”. “Real books” appear subsequently in Cameron (2001) and Mourão (2003). Finally
in Enever & Schmid-Schönbein (2006), an edited a collection resulting from a conference in Munich in 2004, we see the term “picture book”. All the authentic literature I have named here - real books, storybooks, story picture books and real picture books - are picturebooks and if we want to take these books seriously I propose we use their proper name, “picturebooks”, a recognised genre of children’s literature.
So, what is a picturebook? For language learning purposes it is the authenticity that is key in the d e f i n i t i o n o f a p i c t u re b o o k , focussing in particular on the w o rd s f o u n d a l o n g s i d e t h e pictures. But defining them merely as authentic materials does them a huge injustice, as does an over emphasis on the words. The definition I like most and which is used widely in the field of children's literature comes from Bader: “A picturebook is text, illustrations, total design; an item of manufacture and a commercial product; a social, cultural, historic document; and foremost, an experience for a child. As an art form it hinges on the interdependence of pictures and words, on the simultaneous display of two facing pages, and on the drama of the turning page. On its own terms its possibilities are limitless” (Bader 1976:1)
it is the “interdependence” of what the pictures show and the words tell that makes picturebooks so special. This “interdependence” creates a picture-word dynamic ranging from a simple showing and telling of the same information to a more complex showing and telling of different, even contradicting information. This variation can be seen in single picturebooks, demonstrating how flexible they are in nature.
Generally in English Language Teaching we select and use picturebooks that contain a simple picture-word relationship, with illustrations that synchronize with with the text providing a secure, supportive learning context. We focus more on the words, often working with concept books that contain predictable and repetitive, sometimes cumulative refrains, and pictures that please the eye This is a definition to contend with but give little extra information. and I shall unravel it in a moment, but first I would like to note that Bader uses the compound noun, ‘ p i c t u re b o o k ’ , re f l e c t i n g t h e "compound nature of the artefact itself" (Lewis 2001:xiv). In fact, p i c t u re b o o k h a s b e c o m e a legitimate neologism over the last decade, and this is the spelling I have chosen to use in this article. Now, let’s unravel the definition.
Unravelling the definition The pictures and the words Picturebooks are “compound” in M o re c o m p l ex p i c t u re - w o rd n a t u r e b e c a u s e t h e y a r e d y n a m i c s re s u l t i n g i n m o re often multi-layered, ! dependent upon pictures and sophisticated, words together to create meaning: 11
picturebooks are less likely to be selected for our classrooms. However these titles are just as appropriate for they challenge our students to infer characters’ motivations and thoughts and relate cause with effect, as well as piece puzzles together and discover meaning. These picturebooks, which also contain a richer repertoire of vocabulary, expand our students’ lexical knowledge as well as enhance oral comprehension. The fact that these kinds of picturebooks provide multiple opportunities for interpretation promoting discussion and language use, makes them very suitable for older students who will have a little more language baggage and a better understanding of the world around them.
visual literacy and learning to look, is told. That is good: it helps our an often forgotten skill. learners, especially the younger ones, giving them confidence to A social, cultural, historic listen to an English picturebook document they get that all-important “I can!” Picturebooks cover a variety of feeling at the end. socially, culturally, and historically appropriate material for the However there are titles that, in language classroom dealing with a showing us more through the myriad of themes, and of course pictures than the words, leave us bringing the cultures of many gaps for personal interpretations. Englishes to our classrooms These kinds of picturebooks often through the words and pictures leave us with more questions than they contain. This makes them an answers and can involve our excellent springboard for students in a critical and expanding s t u d e n t s ’ questioning approach to learning. understanding of a topic as well as These picturebooks cover such motivating and supporting them to topics as chauvinism, bullying, look beyond their own worlds and equality, and disability, to mention positively experience others. For but a few, and it is usually through the younger learner however, the pictures that children can m a n y c u l t u r a l n u a n c e s g o access other interpretations of unnoticed. Instead the common what we take for granted. By using And the design? themes covering animals, body these types of picturebooks we Bader’s definition includes design alongside pictures and words. The parts, clothes, transports, farms are providing our students with design of a picturebook, that is the tools to begin challenging social parts of the book considered These picturebooks, constructs. peripheral in most literature, is which also contain a deliberately put to use, so that a Picturebooks for older picturebook becomes an richer repertoire of learners integrated whole. Publishers bring vocabulary, expand our In published literature supporting together the skills of the illustrator, the use of picturebooks, there are author, editor and designer to studentsʼ lexical make use of the format, front and an increasing number of titles knowledge as well as back covers, endpapers, title which contain more complex pages, copyright and dedication picture-word dynamics, providing enhance oral pages, so that they all articulate multi-layered readings, covering comprehension. with the pictures and the words to more demanding topics suitable produce a unified end product. for the upper primary age groups: Princess Smartypants (Cole) and and zoos, make picturebooks both By skipping over these parts of a picturebook in our classes, we may appropriate and suitable as part of Something Else (Cave & Riddell) b e o m i t t i n g i n f o r m a t i o n a learning curriculum, but they are are included in Ellis & Brewster contributing to the meaning often used exclusively to reinforce (2002) and provide important making process we engage in topics children may already be early steps in being critical about while reading and sharing a studying. The titles you are more the world, looking at gender roles picturebook. In neglecting the familiar with are probably, Brown and tolerance respectively. peritextual features we also omit bear, brown bear what do you see? the use of meta-language for (Martin Jr. and Carle), The very More recently a set of resources talking about and discussing these hungry caterpillar (Carle), The on the British Council Teach parts. If we as teachers naturally Gruffalo (Donaldson & Scheffler), English website also features titles comment and model noticing as Ke t c h u p o n y o u r c o r n f l a ke s which demand a more critical and we go through these parts of a questioning approach, these picturebook, we can instil a (Sharratt), Where's Spot? (Hill), and curiosity in our students which will Meg and Mog (Nicoll & Pienkowski) include Tusk Tusk (McGee), a result in discovery and enjoyment amongst others. These are all well puzzling book about hatred and in using these features to make loved picturebooks, and used war and respecting differences, meaning. They’ll naturally put the again and again in our classrooms. and Susan Laughs (Willis & Ross), meta-language to use and also They cover the themes we feel about a child in a wheel chair. improve their understanding of safe with. They contain repetitive how picturebooks work, which in refrains and the pictures support I n a d d i t i o n t o t h e s e o n l i n e turn will promote development of the words in such a way that there materials, I have begun a blog, is little more to see than that which 12
which does not provide activities as such, but focuses on different picturebook titles emphasising the pictures and what they can bring to the learning equation. I discuss many titles including those suitable for older children and several are for teenagers. Examples are Yo! Yes (Raschka) dealing with friendship and diversity; The Red Tree (Tan), which can look at teenage emotions and Piggybook (Browne) touching on male chauvinism.
Voices in the park a picturebook for teenagers For the purpose of this article I’d like to discuss another book by Anthony Browne. It’s called Voices in the park and shows and tells four different versions of the same story. This in itself denotes an unusual book, the four stories are by four different narrators, but together they contribute to the whole narrative. As in many of Browne’s books the characters are human-like gorillas, and the illustrations are detailed and often surrealist-like with lots of intriguing visual jokes and ambiguities. Each ‘voice’ is shown in a different font, which adds to the visual dimension of this particular mode of communication. Four dif ferent seasons represent e a c h c h a r a c t e r, making us question the time span within the narrative, and though each narrative is linear and sequential, within each narrative the illustrations create bridges linking the characters and events and forcing the reader to fill gaps and find the pieces to complete the puzzle to get the whole story. If I were to give you a summary of the story itself, I could say it was about two families: Charles and his upper class mum with their pedigree
Labrador, Victoria and Smudge and her out-of-work Dad and their mongrel dog, Albert. The children and dogs play together; the adults keep to themselves. You may already have noticed the pun in the dogs’ names, for Victoria and Albert is a London park near Westminster! My description of the characters also gives clues to themes found within the narratives: these i n c l u d e a d u l t s n o b b e r y, loneliness and friendship. Browne’s illustrations and his s u r re a l v i s u a l c o n t e n t a re fabulous. Gorillas appear as statues, (comically as a cupid on one page), there are trees that look like apples and pears, lamp posts with crowns, a dancing Santa Claus and a triumphant King Kong. There are repeated images of the grumpy mother’s hat seen in lampposts, trees, clouds and shadows. There are pages with visual divides, associating dark skies with a solitary Charles and sunny sides and flowering plants with an outgoing Smudge.Victoria and Albert are seen constantly in the
background, enjoying being dogs, running and playing oblivious to class differences. There are many connections to
other tex ts (films, ar t and literature): Edvard Munch's The Scream is in the ads in Smudge’s Dad’s newspaper; a burning tree is in the background when Charles and his mother leave the park. Could that be a vision of her anger? There are happy, moral boosting images too. Two portraits leaning on the park wall change from a gloomy Rembrandt self-portrait and a weeping Mona Lisa, to a dancing couple, as Smudge and her Dad leave the park. The street lamp looks like a snowdrop, a flower associated with the rebirth of spring. Is it possible that the unemployed father is feeling better after his walk in the park? This picturebook provides numerous opportunities for developing aesthetic understanding and the all-important ability to connect with, and recognise, references to other texts. It also provides an alternative support for students to think about using voice in their own writing and of no less importance, it helps them develop an understanding of multiple points of view. Finally B row n e ’s c re a t i v i t y i n v i t e s readers / lookers to add their own ideas to the four interconnected tales, providing a legitimate route to authentic talk.
Illustration: Paul Driver
Booktalk and the “Tell me” approach There are many directions to be t a ke n f ro m s h a r i n g s u c h a picturebook with a group of teenagers, but the direction I’d like to pursue is discussion: we shall take that route to authentic talk. How do you get your students to talk about what they have read and seen?
6. Students list their thoughts in groups; 7. Conduct a whole class feedback, starting with question a); 8. Students give their ideas in shor t, one word if possible, statements; 9. Write their ideas in four columns on the board, use their words, if you aren't sure use, “Do you mean … or do you mean …?”; 10. Once the lists are completed, together identif y any topics included in more than one column; 11. Join these topics using lines (drawn to and from); 12. Together decide which topic has most lines; 13 . U s e t h i s a s a t o p i c f o r discussion.
When setting up a discussion around a picturebook, it's important to let your students decide what they want to talk about, and to do this successfully I’d like to suggest that the “Tell me” approach (Chambers, 1983) be of use as a guide. By helping students decide together on what can and should be talked about, Stage 3: their participation should be more Discussing authentic and natural. The discussion: • Ask each student who suggested Try following this sequence of a linked entry to say a little more; possible events: • Begin with likes and dislikes, move to puzzles and only look at Stage 1: patterns last;
reading and re-reading 1. Before reading the picturebook, ask the students to predict what the book is about. This can be done individually or in groups. It can be done orally or in written notes - the latter is often a good suppor t for post-reading discussion. 2. Read the book to the group. 3. Ask the students in pairs to talk a b o u t t h e i r p re d i c t i o n s a n d whether they were correct or not. 4. Read the book again, all the way through.
Chambers (1983) reminds us that, “it is the discovery of patterns and the reasons for them that leads to th e interpretive understanding of a story / text, or a particular aspect of it”. By organizing the students’ thoughts in such a way, we are helping them make meaning and showing how this meaning is found. As teachers and mediators we can ask questions, but they need to be open-ended questions. There is no right answer. Questions should come naturally, and many will be Stage 2: generated from the questions the Thinking and re-thinking students pose. Chambers (p. What's important about the ideas in 83-92) divides questions into two the “Tell me” approach is that the types: general questions and topics chosen for discussion come special questions. from the readers as a group rather than from the teacher or another Tell me: general questions dominant person. •What caught your attention? 5. To decide what to highlight ask •Did anything bore / interest / the students to think about four surprise you? questions: •Was there anything you thought a) Was there anything you liked strange? about this book? •Have you read any other stories b) Was there anything you disliked like this? How is it different? How is about this book? it the same? c) Was there anything that puzzled •Were you surprised by anything you? your friends said? d) Did you notice any patterns or •What would you tell your friends connections? about the book? •What is the most important thing about this book for you?
Tell me: special questions These are book specific, and help students move towards discovering features they hadn't noticed before. Examples are: •How long do you think it took the story to happen? - this helps students understand how time •e f f e c t e d t h e e v e n t s a n d characters in •the story, which in turn provides clues to the underlying meaning of the text. •Whose story is it? - this helps students consider the social relationships in a story •Which character interested you most? / least? - this helps highlight differing views among the readers about people and how they behave. •Where did the story happen? this question highlights the importance of place, and you could also discuss whether place mattered in the story. •When did it happen? - by asking whether it was is it in the here and now, or in the past, we can help students focus on whether it is realistic or imaginary.
The teacher's role: •Bring the readers back to the original text by asking “How do you know that?”; •Be ready to ask general questions which will help develop talk; •Be ready to ask book specific questions; •Now and then, sum up what seems to have been said so that everyone has a chance to remember - help the discussion find a destination. Done properly the “Tell me” approach provides opportunities for discussion and challenges the students to think for real, speak for real and write for real. They are also learning to look, and in focussing on the visual all students are being given an equal opportunity to interpret and talk about what they see. This approach does not focus on language but on interpretation through language. It may therefore be necessary to help students with language in a CLIL-like manner, so that they can feel confident about talking. Phrases like the following may be useful: 14
•Predicting • I think it will be a [funny] book. • It is about [a boy and a girl]. • The [boy and girl] are going to … •Verifying • I was right / wrong. • I guessed some of the book / 50%. •Comparing • It's like a [mystery story]. • It reminds me of [a painting I saw]. • Something similar happened to me. • I saw a film like that.
Concluding thoughts I have mentioned a number of picturebooks in this article, and possibly titles you are either unfamiliar with or which you have not considered using in your classrooms. I hope I have convinced you to expand the list of picturebook titles you use in class. I also hope I have given you a better understanding of what a picturebook is and how it can be used. Finally, I hope I have convinced you that picturebooks contribute to developing positive attitudes towards language learning, literature and the world around us. I also hope I have persuaded you that they provide appropriate, authentic learning affordances, resulting in authentic responses and language use for all our students, young and old.
• I read a book like that. •Extending • If I was [the boy] I would … • Perhaps he [was lonely]. •Appreciating • I like the [colours] because … • I like the way [the writing is different] •Wondering • Why did the illustrator [include that image]? • I wonder why [the seasons change]?
Notes This article is an adapted version of “Picturebooks are for children and teenagers” in C&Ts the YLT SIG publication Spring 2011, Canterbury: IATEFL which talks about using the picturebook “The Lost Thing” (Tan) A practical article by Evans (2006) describes how a group of L1 children responded to Chamber’s “Tell me approach” with picturebooks - it can be downloaded from my website. http://sandiemourao.eu/ All the titles mentioned in this article are available through online bookstores: http://www.amazon.co.uk/
http://www.amazon.com/ http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/ - provides free worldwide delivery
Picturebook references Browne, Anthony (1999) Voices in the park London: Picture Corgi Books Browne, Anthony (2008) Piggybook London: Walker Books Carle, Eric (2002) The very hungry caterpillar London: Picture Puffin Cave, Kathryn & Riddell, Chris (1995) Something Else London: Puffin Books Cole, Babette (2004) Princess Smartypants London: Puffin Books Donaldson, Julie & Scheffler, Axel (1999) The gruffalo Oxford: Macmillan Children's Books Hill, Eric (2010) Where's Spot? London: Warne Martin Jr, Bill & Carle, Eric 1995 Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? London: Puffin Books McGee, David (2006) Tusk Tusk London: Andersen Press Nicoll, Helen & Pienkowski, Jan (2007) Meg and Mog London: Puffin Books Raschka, Chris (2007) Yo! Yes! New York: Scholastic Sharratt, Nick (1996) Ketchup on your cornflakes London: Scholastic Hippo Tan, Shaun (2000) The red tree Melbourne: Lothian Books Tan, Shaun (2000) The lost thing Melbourne: Lothian Books Willis, Jeanne & Ross, Tony (2001) Susan Laughs London: Red Fox Picture Books
Sandie Mourão has lived and worked in Portugal since 1987. She is a freelance teacher, trainer, consultant and materials writer specialising in ELT in early years' education and is about to finish her PhD, investigating picturebooks and language development. For more information take a look at her website: http://sandiemourao.eu and blog: http://picturebooksinelt.blogspot.com Other references Bader, Barbara (1976) American Picturebooks from Noah's Ark to The Beast Within New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. Brumfit, Christopher; Moon, Jayne & Tongue, Ray (Eds) Teaching English to children London: Harpercolins Publishers Machura, Ludmilla (1991) Using literature in language teaching. In Brumfit, Christopher, Moon, Jayne Tongue, Ray (Eds) Teaching English to children London: Harpercolins Publishers pp 67 - 80 Cameron, Lynne (2001) Teaching Languages to Young Learners Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Chambers, Aiden (1983) Tell me Gloucester: Thimble Press Dunn, Opal (1997-2004) REAL BOOK News http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/ try/teaching-kids/real-books Ellis, Gail & Brewster, Jean (1992) The storytelling handbook for primary teachers. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited Ellis, Gail & Brewster, Jean (2002) Tell it again! The new storytelling handbook for primary teachers. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited Enever, Janet. & Schmid-Schönbein, Gisela (Eds) Picturebooks and primary EFL learners Munich: Langenscheidt Evans, Janet (2006) War and conflict? Books can help In The Primary English Magazine December 2006 pp 26 - 28 Lewis, David (2001) Reading contemporary picturebooks: picturing text. Abingdon: RoutledgeFalmer Mourão, Sandie (2003) Realbooks in the Primary Classroom. Southam: Mary Glasgow Scholastic Parker, Richard & Parker, Rona (1991) In Brumfit, Christopher, Moon, Jayne Tongue, Ray (Eds) Teaching English to children London: Harpercolins Publishers pp 178 - 190 Website / blog references British Council Teach English website: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/try/lesson-plans/tusk-tusk Sandie Mourão's blog: http://picturebooksinelt.blogspot.com/
Teacher Profile Luísa Lima, Bragança, Portugal
L u í s a e p i t o m i s e s t h e h a rd working, dedicated teacher in a state secondary school. In English Digital asked her some questions. IED How long have you worked as a teacher? LL I’ve been working as a teacher since 1986, so for almost 25 years. Time to celebrate! IED What age range are the students? LL I teach 7th to 12th grade, so I get kids who are 11-12 years old and young adults 17-18 years of age. This asks for a continuous change of personality, speech, attitude ... no wonder some teachers develop multiple personalities! IED What kind of area is the school situated geographically? LL The school is situated in the north-eastern part of the country, just 30 Km away from Spain in a small, but lovely city if you enjoy a calm life – Bragança (what I mean is there’s not much going on...) IED What kind of backgrounds do the students come from? LL Most of my students live in the city but I also get some from the villages nearby. There are all types of people: we get a wide spread of the social strata represented, from working class families to some pretty posh types! It's important to recognise that there are interesting students from all kinds of backgrounds, and sometimes it’s the ones from the most humble backgrounds that surprise you the most and that really appreciate what you’re doing there.
IED Can you generalise students’ attitude to learning English? LL Most students find English important for the future although they also say it’s a bit difficult. The problem English teachers are facing now, particularly in areas like Bragança, is the competition between Spanish and English. Many students opt for Spanish because it’s easier, they get better marks and they may even go to Spain to study Medicine, for example.
IED What innovative things in the school are you proud of? LL There’s nothing really innovative in my school, so I’m proud of some people who fight to make learning great.
IED How flexible can you be in designing lesson plans? LL I’m all for flexibility. I do have an outline for each and every one of my lessons, but the way a lesson develops will depend a lot on the mood of the class and mine. If students come up with a good idea or a good line of thought, you can’t simply ignore it, can you? Besides I’m always looking for new ideas and if I find something I like I may change a whole lesson overnight. I’m that kind of weird, nerdy teacher who is watching a film and imagining some kind of activity for classes, who re a d s a b o o k with a pencil ready to underline or mark anything that can be of use, who looks at the Internet and everything related to technology as a means to improve and make my teaching and students’ learning more interesting. Maybe there’s something wrong with me!
The school is about to undergo major changes and we have been a bit left behind in all these technological plans. There’s only one IWB, four or five data-shows, so it’s not really easy to i n n ova t e . S o m e p e o p l e a re a l s o t o o conservative (which in my opinion is just another word for lazy, because changing, learning new things and developing new skills is too much like hard work for those few who take the job for granted and are just waiting to retire) IED What are the most frustrating things that occur in your professional life as an English teacher? LL Firstly, being unable to help a student progress - as there are factors outside school that you cannot control. Then, of course, there's so much red tape that it prevents you from doing what’s really important, or at least it slows you down, like a dead weight being dragged along. Thirdly, there is no real, fair assessment of your performance. This current Avaliação de Desempenho Docente instigated by the Ministry of Education is just a load of rubbish - there's another word for it but I won't use it! There’s very little encouragement and praise (and it’s not only students who need that, teachers do too!) IED Are there any particularly funny or embarrassing moments that you remember? LL Well, I remember a lesson, a long time ago when a student insisted he had to know how to say “salsa” in English and for about half an hour I couldn’t remember. It was not really serious but I couldn’t help getting redder than any beetroot you may have ever seen. I wasn't expecting to be caught out by the word 'parsley'! IED Which highly satisfying events or moments do you recall (in the English language classroom). LL There are a number of moments that occur like this: watching kids enjoying themselves in my classes is the best thing that can happen (while learning, of course!); suddenly realising that someone can do something they couldn’t do before; watching students trying to reach perfection in their work. Then there was the moment when I was called “The Special One”! Unfortunately I do not make as much money as Mourinho, the real Special One. In fact, there have been so many happy moments it is hard to pick just one. I guess I’m lucky! One thing I still wish for is having my students get onto their desks saying “Oh captain, my captain” at the end of a school year. But I guess that would be a bit contrived!
technology, you had to be a good teacher beforehand. I'd also love to see more cooperation and sharing among teachers, and more opportunities for teachers to innovate. IED What do you want to see less of? LL Less competition among teachers, and fewer bureaucrats in education. I'd also like to see less of the so-called reforms that never seem to achieve anything or get anywhere. What I call for is a revolution, to quote Sir Ken Robinson. And I wish I didn’t have to run, every Monday morning, to be the first to fill in a request for the projection room or one of the few data shows in school. IED Is there anything else you wish to add? LL Teaching is all about passion – for the job, for your students, for yourself. If my classes are interesting, it’s out of selfishness, really. I don’t do it for the students only, I do it mostly for me, because I’d be bored to death if I just lectured from the book.
“Youʼre not a better teacher just because you use technology, you had to be a good teacher beforehand.”
IED What do you want to see more of? LL More technology in the classroom, but teachers and students have to learn how to use it properly – it’s just a means to an end. You’re not a better teacher just because you use
A gaggle of games
for YLS Raymond Kerr Turkey
When the music's over Summary The children must perform some command action when the music stops. This game is a good way to practise classroom instructions such as: 'open your books page ...', 'stand up', 'sit down', 'close your books' etc. Setup You need a tape or CD with some lively music on it, and a tape/CD player for the classroom. Put the command flashcards that you want to teach on the board: stand up. sit down, make a circle, etc.. Use these pictures as a reference. Play You will need to demonstrate this activity first before the students can follow you. Use a coteacher if you have one, or ask two children to come up. Play some music and walk around the classroom. Encourage the two students to follow you. Stop the music. Point to one of the command pictures and shout out the command. "Sit down! Sit down!" Sit down and encourage the two students to sit with you. Repeat the above steps a few more times with another small group of students. Now ask the entire class to stand up. Play the music. The students walk or dance around the classroom. Stop the music suddenly. Point to a command picture and shout out the command, line up, sit down, make a circle, etc. Help the students to follow the command by setting the example.
Raymond Kerr is the Teacher Development Manager for British Council Turkey based in Istanbul. Raymond is a teacher, teacher educator and materials writer with 30 years' experience in English language teaching. His special area of expertise is in primary and secondary EFL education. Currently he is working on the development and delivery of online teacher development courses for the British Council and materials writer for the new British Council Global Products for delivery across 122 countries. Raymond has presented at international EFL conferences in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. His previous experience includes teaching, teacher training and academic management posts in Portugal, Spain, Germany, Malaysia, Thailand, China, the UAE, Romania and Turkey.
Blindfold Summary Students feel an object and guess what it is. Useful for reviewing classroom vocabulary.
Setup You need to bring into the classroom two of each object you wish to teach. Things like pencils, pens, books, desks, eraser etc. Place all the objects in the front of the classroom and identify them with your students before playing the game. Note: your students should already know the objects you are going to use well.
Play Divide the class into teams. Call a student from each team up to the front. Wrap blindfolds around their heads Now give each student an object to feel. Ask the students "What is it?" For the first student to guess, their team gets a point. Repeat with other students and other objects. For fun. give the students a flashcard to feel. Of course flashcards feel the same, but the idea is to get your students to speak English. Give a big reward to those students who guess the name of a flashcard correctly
Big Wind Blows Summary
A Chinese version of musical chairs. A great way to practice clothing vocabulary. For stronger groups, you language to 'Change chairs if ...' And complete phrase e.g.' change chairs if you went to the cinema last weekend'.
Setup The children make a circle with their chairs. Take away one chair so that there is one less chair than students.
Play To start, the child without a chair says. "Big wind blows' The other students reply "Blows what?" The first answers. "Blows ...â€Ś people wearing shoes (or any other piece of clothing).' All the children who are wearing shoes stand up and change seats quickly; they must go sit in a new chair. One child will be left without a chair to sit on. This child now repeats the incantation. "Big wind blows" and is answered by the others. "Blows what?" Once more, the student chooses some article of clothing. "Blows â€Ś people wearing t-shirts." Everyone wearing a t-shirt stands and switches chairs quickly. Repeat the above steps with the new student left without a chair. Play as long as the children keep up their interest.
Whisper Summary Two teams whisper a word, or phrase, all the way down their lines. The student at the front of the line draws a picture of the word they heard. For stronger groups, sentences can be whispered to make it more challenging..
Setup Divide the class into two teams. Make the two teams line up in front of you.
Play When the students are lined up in front of you. whisper the name of an object in the ear of the first person in each team line. On "Go!" these students whisper the word in the ear of the person behind or beside them. These students then whisper the word in the student's ear behind them, and so on, all the way down the line. When the last person in each line has heard the word he or she must run to the board and draw a picture of the object they heard. To play the next round, make the winner and loser of the first round come to the front of the line (in other words, be the first student to whisper the new word).
Adaptation If the students are young, instead of drawing a picture, they can touch a flashcard if you lay them out in preparation.
Line Up Summary Two lines of students stand before you. You fire off questions or show flashcards to the first student in each line. The winner sits down while the loser goes to the back of the line (to play again)
Setup Get the class to form two parallel lines. Stand at the head of the two lines.
Play Ask a question, or show a flashcard to the first two students. The winner of this round gets to sit down. The loser goes to the back of the line. He or she will then have another go answering a question when they get to the front of the line again. When one team's players are all sitting down they have won the game. Note: this game is quite competitive. Play at your discretion.
This article first appeared in 'In English' 21 2008
u taught a mes have yo ti y an m w o H rmal a report, fo te ri w to w o student h ne il you have go nt u ew vi re r letter o ese We teach th e? ac f e th blue in d year out, ng year in an ti ri w f o s form nts do the stude h c u m w o h but ey write ber when th em m re ly al actu I have omposition? c t x ne r ei th olleagues it and seen c ed nc ie er p ex fact spair by the de to en iv dr who are aching a that after te dents go t of the stu s o m k s ta f type o s that exact mistake e th e ak m on to id! n told to avo they had bee
Turning the Tables
“We teach these forms of writing year in and year out, but how much do the students actually remember when they write their next composition?”
Lucy Bravo Portugal
After years of teaching advanced classes who one form of writing type to the rest of the class. In continued to make mistakes I finally saw the light and their presentation they would have to cover the stopped spoon feeding students who were obviously following: not hungry for the knowledge that I wanted to share! I had to take action and I did just that. I started by asking myself how I could make them understand the Target reader importance of being able to communicate using the written word according to acceptable norms. Then it the aim of writing dawned on me: I would make them realise how much work it took to plan the presentation of a writing lesson. the layout/format At the end of a lesson a few weeks before their midyear test I asked them how confident they felt about being asked to do a compulsory type of writing. The look of confusion on their faces, as I rattled off the different types of writing tasks possible, told me everything I needed to know and that the measure I was about to implement would be the only solution. I proceeded to pair them, whilst they asked me why they were being paired just before the end of the lesson. Then I dropped the bombshell. Each pair would be planning the last five to ten minutes of the next few lessons. They would be expected to present
• • • •the register/style •the different types (if applicable) •vocabulary and grammar necessary •examples •other features
You would never have thought that these students, who had already had at least two yearsâ€™ experience of these types of writing, had ever done any form of writing. They recognised register, the aim (though vaguely) and the layout but they had never stopped to give the target reader, vocabulary and language necessary, etc. much thought.
Involving the students I sat down with my evaluation sheet, which included all the criteria mentioned above, and sat back not knowing what to expect. The work presented by most of the students was of excellent quality. They did a great deal of research, more than we had time for, and created elaborate presentations (this however was not part of the criteria being judged) which teachers can now use to introduce these types of writing. They certainly became more aware of just how difficult it is to write an exceptionally good composition. They realised that they needed to worry about more than the layout and accuracy. Did it work? Each student was asked to concentrate on the type of task they had to work on and present a piece of written work for the following week. For the first time in a long time I felt that the learning process had been really effective and they also realised this when they saw their marks!
Yours sincerely Lucy Bravo
Lucy Bravo is the Examinations Marketing Manager at the British Council, Porto 23
A Day in the Life… Ronnie Micallef in Angola
4:30 am Incessant thudding and the sound of strange voices from somewhere in my room. Another dodgy night? Thud thud thud and the sound of two hundred voices waft into my sub-conscious. Where am I ? ‘Attention!’. Who, me ? No. Can’t be bothered. Too early. Back to sleep. Till 05.00. 05.00. I’m wide awake in Luanda in a bedroom in the British Embassy compound overlooking the rather small parade ground where the President’s men and women start their day at this unearthly hour. Why, oh why can’t they start at a more tourist friendly time - say 10.00 am. You know, like the Queen’s Guards ?
someone needs to answer educational enquiries today. It’s not all just glamour, y’know? Being in Luanda isn’t really a great excuse not to respond. The British Council doesn’t have an office in Angola, but that doesn’t mean we don’t work there. So we run a virtual office from Windhoek, Namibia. The purpose of my three day visit is to set up our English by radio projects and to reel in an FCR project. All in one day. 08.00 Off to Radio Angola. 1 hour to drive through the gridlock. Less than a km’s distance from the Embassy. I’d walk, but there are no maps. And we’re advised not to. Death by a thousand traffic jams is obviously a better option. The purpose of the meeting is to ensure that our English by radio programmes are released on air to an audience of 16 million. Once I’ve signed the contract (today?), we can start planning a launch and a publicity campaign. It’s a good meeting - i.e. we agree we’re going t o m e e t a g a i n . Ve r y s o o n . Meanwhile, we have a c o m m i t m e n t . A G e n t l e m a n ’s Agreement. We can live with this for the moment.
This is my second day in Luanda, Angola. I’m sharing a flat in the British Embassy. Hotels aren’t an option in this, the most expensive city in the world. $650 a night to stay at the unimpressive Hotel Tropico? $250 on top of that for an evening meal ? $30 for a Coca Cola ? You must be kidding me. This flat is free - but I have to share. I haven’t shared for twenty years. Wasn’t the British Council meant to be all about swish hotels ? 10.00 I’m whisked of f for a meeting with an Admiral, no less. 06.00. Well, to discuss English Language I’m up now. training needs for the Angolan Might as well Defence forces. I’m the only one c h e c k m y not wearing a uniform. I look at my office email unpolished shoes in despair. I We’re a staff of outline the British Council’s t h r e e i n B C experience in this area. We’re well N a m i b i a received and an hour later we’re a n d off on an unscheduled visit to a Military barracks 9 kms from town. 12.00 It’s a long, long way from there to here. We’re stuck in the traffic. It’s just rained and the waters are knee high. Anyone with a Toyota Starlet is in despair. Kids are playing ‘float the fridge’ i.e. floating, on a fridge, on the rapids. It’s all very literal here.
13.00. I wish I’d gone to the bathroom. Still stuck in this horrendous traffic. It took 3 hours to get here. The Angolan Military Technical School. Again I talk through our ELT offer. English is a vitally important subject. Or so I am told. The lecturing staff are Vietnamese, Cuban, Angolan and Russian - so I’m not convinced that English has a role here. But then someone explains to me that they’ve just returned from a Military training programme in Beijing and their course was delivered in English. I’m now a believer. Check out the classrooms, teacher accommodation and catering. If we send a teacher here, S/he will be spending six weeks in this place. No TV and no hint of a Facebook account. It’ll take a hardy teacher to survive here without Facebook. Smiles all round as we line up for a farewell photo. Everyone’s wearing their medals and shining buttons on uniforms. I look down again in despair at my shoes. Rush back. Donate books to a Teachers training college and close up the day. I plan to be off to sleep by 20.00. It’s been a long day. And I’ll probably be woken up again at 04.30 tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, where can I get a decent pizza and coca cola for less than one hundred US dollars?
Ronnie Micallef is British Council Director, Namibia. As there is no British Council Angola at present, Ronnie is responsible for ELT issues for the Council in Angola.
By Robert Hull UK
'You don't know, do you?' 'Un cattivo scolaro', Stefano Benni's comic short story from 1994 - translated as 'A Naughty Schoolboy' by Nick Roberts in the New Penguin parallel text edition - portrays with dry sympathy the plight of Zeffirini, a hapless, untidy and acneous boy of 12 confronted and generally defeated by school life. On the morning of the story his antagonist is an implacable teacher, whose mission for the lesson is to interrogate and humiliate Zeffirini on a crucial moment in his Italian curriculum. He must relate for her and the class, in old-style oral fashion, the story of 'the evolution of the TV presenter in the history of Italian culture...' Despite having been watching television scrupulously, Zeffirini stumbles. He manages something about TV presenters having at first no cultural r e s p o n s i b i l i t y, b u t l a t e r educating the audience, for
instance with questions in quiz Of course there are sadder, shows. sprucer souls eager to supply this wonderfully pointless His tormentor zooms in. When information. was this? She wants facts, details, dates. The year the talk- 'It's not on the syllabus, s h o w s t a r t e d ? Z e f f i r i n i Zeffirini' speculates earnestly. '75? '73? What is beautifully 'You don't know, do you? It was demonstrated in this short, 16 January, 1976, with the first richly comic fantasy is the episode of Say it on the Sofa.' creation of ignorance. Zeffirini She can't stop. 'What was the can't even recite the stretch of presenter's name?' TV news by heart he was supposed to learn. He couldn't Curiously, Zef firini knows: 'study' - i.e. watch television Constantini. But he doesn't last night because his eyes know that Constantini's 'great were hurting. invention' wasn't the finger-onthe-buzzer round, but the And his 'ignorance' is ironic instant replay. Nor can he because he reads, and knows supply the next line of a stuff. He has been entranced by f a m o u s , t a c k y T V d r a m a a book about living creatures, and wants to talk about them. 'If speech, though he tries: you like I can list the different '"Because I can't forget"?' genera and species of fish for you, and tell you about dolphins 'No.' a n d g re a t o c e a n o g r a p h i c '"Because you're the only true expeditions.' love of my life"?' 'No.'
'It's not on the syllabus, Zeffirini. When school, students designed Burger King you have done your homework you ads to hang in their school buses; and can read all the books you like.' in a Vancouver school, Grade 3 and 4 students designed 'two new product A 'murmur of outrage' is heard in the lines for the BC restaurant chain White room when Zeffirini reveals he has not Spot. watched TV news for six days. It's not surprising that industrial and commercial sponsors see great Very funny though 'Un cattivo scolaro' oppor tunities in schools, where is, it is not, essentially, light. To put it teenagers spend so much of their rather solemnly, Zeffirini is the victim time; and it's not surprising that of a committed frivolousness that sponsors should want students to be denies his knowledge in the attempt to aware of, and even focus on their, the inflict useless - though in this bizarre sponsors' concerns. Even in lessons. c o n t ex t c u l t u r a l l y n e c e s s a r y - Just as entrepreneur chefs don't open information on him. His 'ignorance' is restaurants without wanting control c r e a t e d b y a c o n c e p t i o n o f over menus, educational sponsors 'knowledge' that lends significance to want influence over the young, via the the pointless. Whether in this satiric fantasy Benni really foresees emerging on the wilder shores of cultural and media studies some such bizarre topics as Zeffirini has to cope with is perhaps less the point than that he sees something threatening to sanity in the contemporary (1994) realities of schooling; and that the problem is with what is studied, and how it is defined, and who defines it.
A recent, Kremlinapproved 'positive history' devotes 83 pages to Stalin's programme of industrialization.
curriculum. His assault, therefore, on the real ignorance that creates Zeffirini's 'ignorance' is an attack both on curriculum sliding in directions worrying to him, and on the out-ofsight powers who decide what curriculum shall be.
We're familiar in this country with the influence of religious sponsorship on aspects of curriculum. 'Intelligent design' is apparently taught 'as a theory' -alongside evolutionary 'theory' - in Emmanuel College, Gateshead, and in the other academies that were set up with Deciding what knowledge is moneys from Sir Peter Vardy, a Even reading 'Un Cattivo Scolaro' as Christian fundamentalist. fantasy, the reader wonders, 'Who might decide this was 'knowledge'?' In The Emmanuel head of science rather my reading of the story, the answer to gives the game away: 'When an that is linked to another puzzle or two. evolutionary/old-ear th paradigm Why is the school bell 'interrupted by (millions or billions of years) is an advert for a well-known brand of explicitly mentioned or implied by a snack broadcast on every floor over t e x t b o o k . . . w e m u s t g i v e t h e the school's tannoy'? And why is there alternative (always better) biblical a small supermarket in the school? explanation of the same data.' And And why does the presidential portrait another science staff member gravely in the school foyer have to be 6 avers: 'The feasibility of maintaining an metres by 6? Is this some sort of ark full of representative creatures for sponsored school, with the sponsor a year until the waters had sufficiently making sure everyone knows who receded has been well documented.' sponsors it? A kind of middle-school We're less familiar with controversies academy? created by more widespread attempts So much needn't be fantasy, of course. to recast curriculum in the direction of In No Logo, Naomi Klein documents intellectual denial. This year and last in the colonizing intrusiveness of Texas, the socially conservative school sponsors in many North American board has been working to vote into schools. In one Colorado Springs high existence new curricular guidelines
which not only privilege 'intelligent design' and deal sceptically with evolution; they also attempt serious revisions of aspects of American history: 'imperialism' is euphemized to 'expansion', the 'slave trade' to 'the triangular trade'; the confederate leader Jefferson Davis's speeches are to be studied alongside Abraham Lincoln's; MacCarthy's 1950's show trials may have been justified. The Texas school board seems to be in retreat, however, because the volume of protest has been strong on all these issues. Not so in Russia, where parallel shifts have been occurring. A recent, Kremlin-approved 'positive history' devotes 83 pages to Stalin's programme of industrialization. By contrast it has one paragraph only on the millions of deaths (4 million in the Ukraine and southern Russia by one estimate, 10 million by another) in the newly deniable 'Great Famine' - a famine produced by forced collectivization, grain seizures and mass peasant deportations. Fascinatingly, too, a senior official in the Russian Orthodox Church wants to end the "monopoly of Darwinism" in Russian schools. 'Darwin's theory remains a theory,' Hilarion Alfeyev said recently in a speech to officials from Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 'This means it should be taught to children as one of several theories, but children should know of other theories too.' His talk was 'dedicated to fighting "fanatical secularism".
Distortive curricula and intellectual child abuse In this country (the UK) a national curriculum ought at least, by virtue of our cherished liberal inclusiveness, to protect against kind the intellectual abuse of young people enacted through the imposition of curricula deriving from irrational belief systems, anti-historical revisions and distortions of history, and prescriptive narrowness generally. If only that were the case. There are examples enough from the last few years of distortions inflicted on children's learning by curricula imposed by 'the state' (and one isn't quite sure what personages devise curriculum for 'the state'; civil servants given a job to do, who co-opt perhaps, others, some of them teachers,
I'd argue that, in junior schools, not just the absurd SATs but the whole Literacy project, with its insistent cerebrations, have been an abuse of children's intellectual freedoms. In its poetry curriculum, children of 8 or 9 have had to understand a writer's 'intentions'; 'read a number of poems by significant poets and identify what is distinctive about the style or content of their poems'; and 'respond to shades of meaning; explain and justify personal tastes; consider the impact rhymes, half rhymes, internal rhymes and other sound patterns' In history too, the myopic focus on two World Wars, the Tudors and Victorians has been equally distortive. As it seems to be frequently forgotten that for children of 7 and 8, history begins with the immediate and local. Remarks by schools minister Nick Gibb to the Reform Conference (2010) on the importance of foregrounding 'knowledge' as against the unfortunate 'processes of learning' influences deriving from the 'ideology' of Plowden, seem to prepare us for governmental endorsements of all kinds of different curricular emphases in the new junior academies emphases which of course would not be ideological. Examples of necessary 'knowledge' Gibb gives are: knowing who Miss Havisham was, and who led the British at the battle of Waterloo, and knowing the '44 sounds of the alphabetic code'. Because 'I believe very strongly that education is about the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next.' No ideology there, then, either. Many aspiring revisionists and parttime education philosophers must be lurking in the wings of these dramatic times, waiting to get a slice of the new curricular 'freedoms', eager for the day when junior schools become junior academies, with some degree of freedom to fix salaries, and even more, it seems, to devise curricula.
Curricular 'freedom' in new academies In this brave new world, who will decide what curriculum a school will follow? And, indeed, who will decide who will decide? Just as puzzling is the question, how much freedom will in fact be released? Charles Moore, writing in The Daily Telegraph with the kind of ingenuous dinner-table-ish contempt for presentday 'state' schooling one finds rather often in its columns, thinks that junior academies 'will be free to set their curriculum' ('set' is interesting), whereas one also reads that they will
Photograph: Paul Driver
be bound in fact to 'follow' the national most keen to run academies have curriculum in the 'core' subjects of been religious groups (Vardy, Harris, English, Maths, and Science. Woodward et al) and business groups ( G re e n ' s R e t a i l A c a d e m i e s f o r Interestingly, the academies already instance). Corporate Watch Magazine set up seem to use their curricular suggests that 'academies open the f re e d o m p r i m a r i l y t o p r i v i l e g e door for wealthy individuals and technology over books. One senior corporations to pursue dual agendas editor says: Our experience with of ideology and profit, enforced Academies so far has been an abysmal through curricular and disciplinary lack of interest in buying books. They measures'. What can be in it for them? channel much of their 'resources Power and influence presumably, budget' for technological gains and exercised through ethos, curricular many academies have opened with no emphasis (or distortion), staff selection functionable libraries at all. Our reps ( a n d c u l l i n g ) a n d l e s s - t h a n going into schools rarely get the same c o m p r e h e n s i v e o r l o c a l sales they do with as normal, even neighbourhood admissions policies. poor comprehensives. And of these tools of control, curricular infiltration in particular The TES magazine (29 July 2010) also threatens the integrity of teaching. suggests a link between neglect of books and exam results: Books are Curricular emphasis in business and usually the area that misses out. The enterprise schools may be hard to study by academics at the Open and develop without privileging and Staffordshire universities (British promoting particular companies. Educational Research Journal, 2005) Students working on Sheffield Springs f o u n d ev i d e n c e t h a t w h i l e I C T Academy's 'Mercedes Benz Challenge', expenditure had little effect on exam for instance, will be spending many results, spending on books had a days in the ambit of the company's significant positive impact. "Our interests, and at company sites. findings are consistent with the According to the school's web-site, the argument that schools may be students 'will experience exactly why allocating too few resources to books Mercedes are so famous. They will get and too many to ICT," the researchers to explore Mercedes' world, involve concluded. Since the study was t h e m s e l v e s i n t h e i n t e r a c t i v e published, spending on ICT in schools exhibition on how the car was created, has increased by almost 10%, while and even experience driving on the 20% fewer pupils had access to a famous Brooklands track!' library between 1997 and 2007, according to the School Library I n s u c h - l i ke b u s i n e s s - o r i e n t e d Association. contexts, what scepticisms might lie in wait to portray climate change as an But schools are likely to continue to exaggerated concern, peak oil as privilege ICT if, as the TES report further off than many argue, economic suggests, 'provision for the subject is growth as normal? Will it be businessrelated to inspection success.' As the s c h o o l e t h o s t o f e e l a c u t e l y r e s e a r c h e r s t h e m s e l v e s s a y : concerned about deforestation, 'Education is biased in favour of ICT.' habitat loss and species depletion, and about issues like open-cast mining, It is also of course interesting - that is, exploitation of tar-sands, and so on? worrying - that so far the sponsors
Welcome to our new football intuitively... Children who study Latin be at any table where the issues are outperform their peers when it comes hammered out. Because what one academy That curricular trespass may be satirizable, at times comic - in Benni's fantasy, in Creationist battiness, even in Naomi Klein's examples - makes it no less sinister. So it's necessary, however apparently humourless, to ask, for instance, how much the 'ethos' of football will in fact penetrate the curriculum of those free schools the Premier League is interested in setting up (Guardian, 2 A u g u s t 2 010 ) ? W i l l p o e t r y b e anthologies of football poems? Will the small ones chant 'A for Arsenal, B for Bolton..' the way Afghani children at one time chanted 'J for Jihad, K for Kalashnikov' and so on? Will maths problems be about the size of football pitches, the capacity of stadia? (Though not the size of players' salaries.) 'Of course not! How silly!' Nonetheless, one waits to see what a 'broad and balanced' football school curriculum looks like. Like an oxymoron, maybe.
to reading, reading comprehension, and vocabulary, as well as higher order thinking.' Which of course may be b e c a u s e t h ey ' re i n p r i v i l e g e d
doesn't hear in discussions about curricular revision (the 'free-schoolfrom-government-control.com' website is an interesting exception) is an intelligent plea for even a secondary, much less the primary role in designing and defining curricula to be seen as a matter for classroom teachers. Nor does one read that some purely professional oversight of curriculum innovation might be particularly needed in a time of change.
â€Śthe professional role and value - of teachers has been hugely undermined over the last three decades. Armed at one Curriculum and teaching time with a degree of Why not? I can think of two reasons. freedom and autonomy, First, the professional role - and value they have learned to do as - of teachers has been hugely undermined over the last three they are bid, by those who decades. Armed at one time with a degree of freedom and autonomy, know better.
independent schools where children do well, not because the Latin they study there makes them do well. We're And in general, one will look to see back in the 60s. And yes, they're what 'broad and balanced' means in looking for sponsors. this new ferment - a ferment less of new ideas than of new presumptions. Newspaper letters pages reveal the One looks to see what new childconcerns of many who feel their unfriendly adjustments will surface. subject needs resurrecting or brought Take the primary head who into the full light of new curricular encourages gardening because it is privilege. More carpentry, more creative, helps maths and sewing, more art. And why not? measurement, and encourages 'green' One reads that this and that historical thought and an interest in fresh, association, this and that historian, healthy food - the kind which has. would like a voice in the devising of when it's become the stuff of school history curricula. Again, why not ? dinners, demonstrably improved academic performance. That They need to be heard. But now, the enlightened emphasis is at risk from historian Niall Ferguson - described as the kind of denigration that Andrew 'right-wing' by the Guardian - has been Lansley visited on Jamie Oliver's 'good asked in public by Education Secretary food' initiatives. Lansley is against Michael Gove, off-the-cuff at the Hay 'nannying' (the eloquence of it!) and in festival it seems, 'to help us design a favour of pupils' 'freedom of choice': more exciting and engaging history that is, in favour not of Oliver's agenda curriculum.' (Note the 'us'; and that for change but of food offered by excitingness and engagement derive current industrial suppliers. from inert curricula, not live teaching.) Professional football is only one Ferguson argues that the 'big story' of interest group, and many interest the last 500 years is 'the rise of groups will want their say. The biggest Western domination of the world' such group is that of middle class which would no doubt be the narrative parents restive at the idea of 'state' backbone of his curriculum. He would education. The West London Free also like to see more TV and videoSchool is an interesting example of games used in teaching history middle class curriculum pressure. Its (teaching method, note, not blog announces that 'Setting in English curriculum). * and Maths will begin in Year 7 and Latin will be compulsory.' In their FAQs So might - or so might not - some answer to 'Why the emphasis on teachers, but normally they don't get classics?' they say: 'A classical asked. They might well point out that education forms the bedrock of this 'big idea' looks a bit ideological, or Britain's most successful independent that there are other big ideas they schools... Latin, in particular, trains could think of, but they aren't likely to people to think logically and
they have learned to do as they are bid, by those who know better. Margaret Thatcher developed the shady habit of calling professional groups or bodies 'establishments'. Teachers were 'the educational establishment', whose prejudices as incumbents made them unable to think straight. The second reason is that the idea of 'curriculum' has been, over the same period, massively reified - as the sociologist would say - turned into a complete 'thing-in-itself, severed from the teaching activity that alone brings it (speaking in reified terms again) to life. There can be teaching without curriculum, as anyone reading Plato knows, but there can't be curriculum without teaching - even though curriculum theorists and politicians seem to think of curriculum as being able to animate itself.
In this context it's revealing in a sort of Freudian way that in public discourse about schools, the word 'teach' is often used without the idea of the teacher as agent being grammatically present. Thus, Michael Gove says that academy 'schools' will have 'greater independence over what they teach pupils', and that 'schools' will not teach 'bogus science' (Guardian May 2010). This grammatical effacement of the teacher, as education talk coheres round the terms 'curriculum' and 'school', signals both some loss of awareness of the agent of 'teaching', and some need to keep the teacher on a leash, confined in the reified prescriptive curriculum, but extruded from the language in which these things are discussed.
The great Christian Schiller remarked that 'Curriculum is not an attractive w o r d . .' I t i s ' a R o m a n w o r d . . . unassimilated by our native tongue', revealing our difficulty 'in finding a native word which says, simply and with feeling, 'What we do in school'.' ' A c o u r s e o f a c t i o n ' , m y La t i n dictionary says - and perhaps more pertinently, 'a race-track'. To ask 'What will be our course of action, what are we going to do in school next week?' is for me a teacher's question, and what we do in school next week should be a teacher's decision, ultimately. The essential reason for that is that the 'action' that takes place in schooling is the action of teaching. 'Curriculum' is inert. It doesn't perform, doesn't do anything. Teaching does. Teaching's relation to curriculum is legitimately expressible by means of some such verb as 'animate', or 'create'. And when teachers deplore curricular requirements as overly 'prescriptive', the inference is that they do not confine themselves to laconic or general, legitimately curricular statements, but carry injunctions to teach in a particular way, or teach something at a particular time: so, to do poetry in (i.e. confine it to) 'Term 5' or 'Week 7'. Such curriculum documents trespass; they attempt a denial of teaching. More modest documents, on the other hand, can work to elicit the teacher's creativity. I was recently handed a four or five-line brief for a series of writing workshops, the key 'topic' words of which were 'towards a greener, fairer, more sustainable world'. Defined and definite enough, this briefest of curricular briefs enjoined me - that is, left me free - to devise the workshops in detail. The construction of curricular materials for a hundred-odd boys and girls to work from was the basis of my teaching, of my talking with them. That slice of 'curriculum' that I was given to build on was the liberal, open opposite of curricular materials that efface teaching by constraining and directing it. The interpretations that as teacher I gave that brief amounted, what's more, to curriculum in creative action. Which to me means that the de-reifying of curriculum is a matter of freeing the teacher to interpret, construct, create - in a word, teach. One doesn't hear much about all that. And there is a related issue that one hears nothing of, and which presents itself as a question, in these times, of
some urgency. Ultimately, how will children be protected from those who, in seeing crucial socializing power in the devising of curricula, have no p r i m a r y p ro f e s s i o n a l e t h i c o f responsibility towards children's learning to guide, restrain or illuminate them?
A 'Hippocratic oath' for teachers? Given there's to be more such upheaval - 'radical shake-up', as the absurd phrase has it - how are teachers to cope? How will they survive? Too many teachers know already about the struggle to cope under loads of initiatives and paper, in impossible buildings, in classrooms with many languages, amongst deprived and sometime damaged children. But another question arises which is implicit in the idea of children's intellectual rights; and that question is simply: how can the teacher respond in situations where illiberal elements of curricula, closed systems of thought, or overly prescriptive curricula work, in the teacher's view, towards denying pupils their intellectual freedoms (and in doing so of course, trespass on teachers' ethical responsibilities to children)? How do teachers face up to the stifling of that part of the professional self which wants to do things in ways that a re n o l o n g e r a c c e p t a b l e , o r permitted? In perhaps more creative, or open ways, the advantages of which for children they can clearly see? One might argue - ineffectually, given teaching's slender current influence that the destructiveness of allowing teaching to become less confident or less creative will inevitably extend its denials to children. But is no stronger professional response possible? Perhaps it is time for teachers, and writers who work with teachers, to work towards the devising of some kind of pedagogic equivalent of the Hippocratic oath in medicine, comprising essentially an ethical undertaking not to be involved in forms of educational socializing that are perceived (i.e. that they perceive) to perform denials of intellectual freedom on children. Teachers faced by a curricular coercion they believe tends to do that should be legally free to say so, to conscientiously object, and be heard. Not only might that professional repositioning tend towards the restoration of the creative freedoms that teachers have lost to political
colonization, and begin the foregrounding of them as the true basis of good schooling, but also, and equally, such freedom of creative effort would need to be accepted as ex tending to the devising of curriculum.
How about the Etruscans next week? If I were teaching 8 to 11 year-olds history again next week, I'd want to have a go at the Etruscans. By what warrant? Several reasons, some theoretical, some personal. I've just spent a week near Volterra, the fine Etruscan city about 40 miles south of Pisa. In Volterra, I went twice to the Etruscan museum and was entranced, and took dozens of pictures of Etruscan artefacts and sculptures: I have the illustrated catalogue in front of me now. Around the city, I saw remains of Etruscan gate and wall and tomb. I bought there and have since read a new edition of Lawrence's Etruscan Places, with photographs from the twenties, and his visit there. Even if I were an indifferent teacher most of the time, I think I'd be a good teacher of the Etruscans next week, because I'd be fresh and tired up, and would so much want the youngsters I teach to be enthused too. Which they would be. The head, a new government appointment on ÂŁ136,799 a year, plus bonuses, demurs. 'Hold on. Teachers can't just teach what they want, just because they're fired up and know a bit for a change. No. The Etruscans are not on the curriculum. In fact I don't think they're on any curriculum my headteacher colleagues and I know of. So no Etruscans, sorry. You should be m o r e o f a t e a m p l a y e r, m o r e collegiate, less of a party of one. And stick to what you're paid to teach - the ancient Greeks and Romans. Victorians, and Tudors. Henry VIII goes down well. Especially the wives. Saxons and Vikings are ok. And world wars. Not Aztecs and Maya. No Inca. Anyway it'll all change next year when we go on to Alternative Curriculum and you have to fit your stuff into the five competencies.' Of course, a very good case could be made for not missing out the Etruscans. Greek and other nations' schools teach them as an integral part of the story of Roman, Italian, European history, that 'big story'.
And if one gets carried away by possibilities, and has to pull back a bit, and shape one's notions more economically, that's part of the creative process of fashioning a few weeks' work. Just as there's a good case for not missing out any one of Olmec, Maya, Aztec, or Inca. Or Native North America in general. Or the big story of the rise of Islam. Not to mention... I'd like to sprinkle in a little Italian too, maybe in the second week. Menus and food wrappers and tickets would be a start. Photographs of shop-fronts. And we could read 'The Ailing Fountain', an amusing little poem I found by Aldo Palazzeschi, in Italian and English, which we could all chant. I know no Italian worth speaking, but that needn't deter one. A 'green' issue might surface too, from pictures of central Volterra's medieval streets - streets with no lines and markings underfoot, and an absolute minimum of street signing. And in Pisa, how interesting in one long arcaded street the way pedestrians, cyclists and motorized traf fic negotiated shared space without appearance of conflict or danger. Cars and buses eased round slowly, bikes didn't race, pedestrians wandered. No lines and marking in that beautiful street either. And of course, there's this impressive square and that impressive square - one can hardly not be struck in Italy by the power of the square as a public shared space.
And three or four children could look up Inca, Olmec, Aztecs and Maya on the Internet and see what kind of squares and streets they all had, and give us a talk. And if one gets carried away by possibilities, and has to pull back a bit, and shape one's notions more economically, that's part of the creative process of fashioning a few weeks' work. It's like shaping a poem. But I would look forward to this teaching. It would be fun, and exciting. And no doubt characterizable as an irresponsible piece of self-indulgence. It probably wouldn't count as even remotely 'necessary knowledge'; it wouldn't pass Nick Gibb's Miss Havisham test of what needs to be known, and handed on, like a piece of cultural cold pie, to the next generation. Which makes me wonder if he - or Mr Gove for that matter - knows the name of any Etruscan deity, or what bucchero is, or what the Etruscans' stunning urn cases looked like. Or why Lawrence was so entranced by the Etruscans. Or why they're not on the history curriculum. Or why later that morning Zeffirini bolted out of school for good. Perhaps they do know - Mr Gove and Mr Gibb appear pretty knowledgeable about things educational. They evidently know what schools should do and be, and who should control them, and what knowledge is, and who to ask to decide what it is, and what learning is for - and so on. For men who've never worked in schools or with children (so far as I know) it's bold and impressive. It's on foundations of such assurance that imposing edifices of ignorance can be built.
Maybe the boys and girls in my class would like to design a street? A square? I could share with them some of the photographs of streets and squares in Spiro Kostas' seminal book, Assembling Cities. Historical maths and art.
This is an edited version of the article which first appeared in 'Writing in Education', Autumn 2010, published by the National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE). It appears by kind permission of the author and the editor of 'Writing in Education' Robert Hull has published five books of verse; of the three for children, two were short-listed for national prizes. He has written extensively for children, both fiction and non-fiction, and published three books for teachers, one described in Books for Keeps as â€˜one of the best books about children, teaching and writing to appear for a long timeâ€™ Some of Robert's books can be found here: www.saltpublishing.com.
Learning English through authentic communication, gaming and virtual instruction in Second Life
“Hiro is approaching the street. It is the Broadway, the Champs Elysees of the Metaverse ... It does not really exist. But right now, millions of people are walking up and down it.” By Joe PereirA, PORTUGAL
The 'Metaverse' depicted in Neil Stephenson's seminal cyberpunk thriller 'Snow Crash' is today not an element of science-fiction, but a technology that is being used daily as a social, commercial and educational tool by millions of users, all over the world. 3D Vir tual Worlds (VWs), also known as multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs), such as Second Life are real-time online virtual spaces where avatars – virtual representations of their users - navigate and interact with the environment, it's objects and other avatars. These environments have the capability of allowing for thousands of geographically dispersed users to be online at any one time, thus allowing for unprecedented possibilities for social interaction. This social
interaction, which is at the heart of most VWs, is facilitated through communication tools such as text and voice chat, Instant Messaging and the ability to create and join groups – much like traditional social networks. However, one of the main differences between 3D VWs and 2D social networks is the ability in SL, for example, to build and own objects and structures. Furthermore, the characteristic of persistence in V Ws m e a n s t h a t c re a t e d objects remain where they are left, even when there creator is offline – in turn, this usercreated content makes up the shared social space and can be admired and used by the virtual community. There are currently hundreds of VWs, with new ones continually being launched. Many of them are
t h e m e d a n d t a rg e t e d t o specific age groups and are created for use as social spaces, game worlds, and educational or training spaces. Second Life The largest and most popular social VW is Second Life (SL), and despite its appearance, it is not a game – for the simple fact that it does not have a stated goal. Then why do people 'play' it? Being a social VW, users do what they do in real life – socialise, make, sell and buy things. SL gives the ability to change one's appearance and g e n d e r, t a ke o n a n e w p e r s o n a l i t y o r s i m p l y re imagine an old one, while discovering new (and perhaps surreal) and well-known locations. Barriers to communication that exist in
real life due to these personal traits no longer exist. It is not uncommon to hear of people with severe mental and physical disabilities who have found freedom from these bonds in SL and are actually able to live as others do while they are there. The capacity to create sophisticated simulations of places and events can now be done with complete safety and without risk, a n d s i m u l a t i o n s t h a t wo u l d b e impossible or impractical to do in real life - such as a medical rescue after an earthquake - are now possible within SL due to its ability to be sculpted to take on the characteristics of any environment, limited only by the designer's imagination and building skill. Learning in virtual worlds The theory of learning that underpins online learning environments and which is inherent to 3D VWs is socioconstructivism. Constructivism is based on the belief that “learners are active constructors of knowledge who bring their own needs, strategies and styles to learning, and that skills and knowledge are best acquired within realistic contexts and authentic settings, where students are engaged in experiential learning tasks” (Felix, 2002). Socio-constructivism builds on this notion by emphasising that for learning to take place, there must be social interaction between the learner and others. De Freitas (2008) believes that if virtual worlds are used in education, “Structure for learning is no longer posited through knowledge acquisition. Instead we have the real capability to offer very practical engagement and social interactions with realistic contexts, to offer conceptual experimentation and to create roleplays” and that “ learners, through greater empowerment, may play a different and enriched role in the process of forming collaborative learning experiences and engaging in activities which may support their own learning and meta-reflection.”
I have found three distinct ways in learning. Vickers (2009) suggests that which English can be practised in because SL naturally allows for Second Life. situated, or "just in time" learning, it allows for "language emergence", 1) Social Interaction where "students create their 2) Game-based learning opportunities for language use and 3) Virtual instruction language learning". The possibilities for authentic social 1) Learning English through Social communication in SL are endless – Interaction in Second Life discovering islands linked to personal interests, joining groups, going In SL, avatars are capable of producing shopping, learning how to navigate non-verbal cues such as gestures, the environment and even just posture and facial features that give standing around will in many cases insight into their users’ state of mind, p r o v i d e a n o p e n i n g f o r a thereby adding an extra level of communicative situation. Unlike realrealism and approximating the virtual life, there is no problem with just e x p e r i e n c e t o a f a c e - t o - f a c e walking (or flying) up to an avatar and experience. In time, this can lead to a striking up a conversation. If they don't stronger sense of belonging to the want to talk with you, they will virtual community, known as “social probably tell you so or teleport away. presence” and is defined by Garrison, However, in most cases, other users Anderson & Archer (2000) as, will be happy to talk to you and help you out if needed. “the ability of participants in a community to project themselves socially and emotionally, as ‘real’ people, through the medium of communication being used”. Much of the initial communication with other users in SL revolves around learning to use the environment and its tools. This is what is known as a 'community of practice”, which according to Bielacyzyc and Collins, (1999) is “where a culture of learning is promoted, which requires a community goal of learning, stressing ways of learning how to learn, and developing ways of sharing this knowledge”.
Support is often asked for and given in English (being the lingua-franca in SL as it is in real-life), which may to lead to users forgetting their realworld shyness or lack of English skills and communicating as best as they can. This authentic use of communication mirrors the theory of learning underpinning the communicative language teaching approach. Boellstorf f (2008) comments on the lingua-franca status The socio-constructivist learning of English in Second Life: approach and the creation of social communities, which allow for authentic “Some non-native speakers of English social interaction and knowledge enjoyed its ubiquity because it allowed sharing, in addition to the infinite them to practice English in an variety of learning scenarios are environment where grammatical and strong factors for why VWs may be environmental errors were the norm”. used for multi-disciplinary learning, and language learning in particular. This illustrates how SL can be used for authentic communication without the Learning English in Second Life self-conscious fear of error, which is In my research and experience of found in real life social situations and being a part of the British Council's in the language classroom, and works LearnEnglish Second Life project team, as a barrier towards foreign language
2) Game-based learning – Learning through fun with the Language Learning Quests Educators and researchers have long been aware that learners are more motivated and learn better when they d o t h i n g s t h ey e n j oy a n d f i n d engaging. Video games are able to captivate players for many hours on end in a state of deep concentration known as "the flow experience" (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990), where players' engagement allows them to completely focus on accomplishing their goals, often while unaware of the passing of time. Research (see Pereira, 2009) has shown that video games are intrinsically educational due to their having, amongst many others, the
following characteristics: • they allow players to see things from different perspectives; • players learn as they play; • critical and lateral thinking skills are activated through problem solving; • they present a conflict that must be overcome, providing unexpected and stressful situations which must be resolved, paralleling real life; • they provide immediate feedback; • they encourage players to take risks and evaluate their actions; • they allow players to make mistakes and learn from them; • they interact with nearly all of our senses; • they give practice in multi-tasking; • they provide an environment for collaborative and social learning; • they are fun! Video games allow for the transfer of content knowledge to learners without them even knowing. This concept is known as "stealth learning", which according to Gee (2007a) occurs when "learners are not overly aware of the fact that they are learning, how much they are learning, or how difficult it is". This interaction with the game is a form of "learning by doing" and demonstrates the effectiveness that the engagement of video games has on learning and memory retention. The multi-modal use of language in games also gives practice in the receptive skills of reading and listening, as the vast majority of complex games require that the player process information to progress further in the game. Off-the-shelf video games also enhance cognitive skills through learning principles that are inherent to their design. One of the cognitive skills enhanced by digital game-base learning, and which is known for facilitating language learning, is that of applying metacognitive strategies, which enable learners to plan for learning and to monitor progress (see Oxford, 2003). The implementation of meta-cognitive strategies is integral to playing video games, as the repetition of actions necessary to succeed in them requires constant reflection and reanalysis of the game
situation and of the player's skill level. This constant cycle of trial and error and re-evaluation of game strategy can only exist if there is strong motivation to progress in the game. This fact that digital games are motivating, is also unchallenged. In education, numerous studies have shown that motivation is directly related to student success (Dornyei, 2000; Hurd, 2006) and Ushioda (1996) goes so far as to say "autonomous language learners are by definition motivated learners”. Because games are played voluntarily, they can be considered to be tools for autonomous learning, as their successful completion naturally requires the implementation of the c yc l i c a l ' re f l e c t i o n , m o t i va t i o n , interaction' process as described by Reinders (2010). Autonomous learners who engage with video games have the potential, through enhanced motivation, to create opportunities for the acquisition of language and many other cognitive skills, inherent to digital game-based learning (see Gee, 2007; Prensky, 2007). In order to take advantage of the fun and engagement found in digital games and the communicative tools and immersive 3D environments of VWs, Graham Stanley and Kyle Mawer, teachers at the British Council in Barcelona developed a project plan, which would become the British Council’s LearnEnglish Second Life for Teens Island. In 2007, the British Council launched an estate composed of three islands in Teen Second Life (the teenonly version of Second Life, which has since merged with original main grid) with the purpose of allowing users from all over the world to
autonomously practice English and to promote British culture. The islands contain replicas of iconic British landmarks and tributes to historical personalities, which are integrated into the main language learning activities found on the island - the Language Learning Quests (LLQs). Graham Stanley, the SL project manager for the British Council explains the island's possible appeal to learners: The space is principally a very attractive place to spend time, and then there's the quests. The idea is for learning to take a back seat but to be present, but the main drive would be to attract students through the use of story or through game learning. If we can intrigue them enough then they'll do what they can to understand, and with language learning this is the key.
Rufer-Bach (2009) The LLQs were developed following the structure found in modern adventure games, such as Myst (Ubisoft, 2 0 01 ) , w h e r e t h e player needs to interact with a 3D virtual space and the objects and characters found within it to find clues and solve puzzles in order to reach the goal - usually while taking part in a complex narrative that twists and turns along the way. This type of
game builds upon the narrativefocused, completely text-based, interactive fiction games of the 80's such as Zork (Infocom, 1980), by adding beautifully rendered 3D graphics and a totally immersive game world. The design of the LLQs aims to give practice in using English skills through the multi-modal clues and puzzles which need to be found and
solved. These clues and puzzles require the decoding of texts found in the environment and its objects. Visual and audio input is also used to provide clues and inform the player of the quest's objectives. Furthermore, language input is provided as needed to solve puzzles - the input is situated and is given meaning in the context where it is found. The quests are contained within eras - the past, present and future, and the respective verb tenses are used in the content of each quest to reflect this. As an example, The Shakespeare Quest, being related to the past, has a focus on the past tenses, while the Contemporary Britain quest, being related to the present, has a focus on the present tenses. The quests also differ in difficulty, either by having a more advanced level of textual language or by having more difficult puzzles, requiring ex tensive exploration of the environment and more use of lateral and critical thinking. Instructions and help exists in the form of comic book pages, which contain textual and visual clues that point the player in the right direction. Learners are also given access to information on related language points and to supplementary activities via web-links so they can autonomously practice these as needed.
A case study done on learner's attitudes and opinions towards learning English by playing the Shakespeare Quest yielded positive results, showing that they were motivated and engaged and had fun while playing the quest and that there are conditions for the four English skills to be practiced. Moreover, playing the quest in a group allowed for authentic speaking practice in addition to the content language designed into the game. One student went as far as to state that she practiced more English while playing the quest than when in school. For an in-depth account of the case study,
with classes as diverse as Italian, German and North-Sami being run and the teacher-training course in particular was extremely well-received with over 80 applicants (all EU based language teachers) interested in participating in the 6-week long course. One of the results of the AVALON project has been the creation of a community of teachers who are interested in teaching in virtual environments, which continues to promote language teaching in Second Life through weekly meetings and various practical events. More information about the AVALON project can be found at: http://www.avalonlearning.eu and http://avalon-project.ning.com. The British Council isle is also currently involved in the design and
please download my Master's dissertation (Pereira, 2009), which also covers the learning principles of VWs and digital game-based learning. The British council isle and all its Language Learning Quests can accessed through this link: http://maps.secondlife.com/ secondlife/BritishCouncil%20Isle/ implementation of a new Business English course to be given to Masters 230/123/40 students from various universities in or by searching for British Council in Tunisia. Plans for developing new courses such as IT English and the Second Life search engine. general conversation classes are also Virtual instruction â€“ the AVALON underway in addition to a revised teacher-training course, aimed at project and the British Council Isle The underlying pedagogic principles training teachers to be able to design of Second Life, coupled with its and implement their own English communication tools has made it a learning courses for their institutions.
v i a b l e e n v i ro n m e n t f o r v i r t u a l language instruction (see Pereira, 2010). A practical research project entitled Access to Virtual and Action Learning T h e a re c u r re n t l y 9 La n g u a g e live Online (AVALON) was funded in Learning Quests available on the 2009 by the European Commission as a part of the Education and Culture DG British Council Isle in SL: Lifelong Learning Programme with the goal of creating and testing exemplar The Shakespeare Quest tasks and activities and creating and The Contemporary Britain Quest piloting a training course for teachers The Merlin Quest who would like to extend their eThe Robin Hood Quest learning skills to include virtual teaching worlds. As a member of the The Archeological Quest project, I was involved as a designer The Finn McCool Quest and tutor of the Business English The Mystery Mansion course (which was run on two separate occasions) and also as a The Stonehenge Quest teacher-trainer on the training course The Time Travel Quest pilot. The project was very successful
Conclusion Although Second Life's time in the media spotlight has long since passed, its educational community is stronger than ever. The new viewer software has streamlined the interface and major changes in how it handles media have made it easier to use by newcomers and allowed educators to more quickly and easily present materials. Best of all, it continues to be free to use. Through the means of social communication, digital gamebased learning and virtual instruction presented in this article, I hope I have shown that SL has a lot to offer every English learner and every English teacher. See you in-world! Joe Pereira's avatar in Second Life is Creed Juran.
ARTICLE How to access Second Life Creating an account and an avatar in Second Life is a painless 5 minute process. All you need to do is go to http://www.secondlife.com and click on 'Join Now' and follow the prompts. Learning to navigate the 3D environment and use the interface and tools will take substantially longer, but as has been mentioned in this article, it is all part of the community building process!
Hurd, S. (2006) Towards a better understanding of the dynamic role of the distance language learner: learner perceptions of personality, motivation, roles, and approaches. Distance Education 27 (3), 303-329. Infocom (1980) Zork I: The Great Underground Empire. Oxford, R.L. (2003) Language learning styles and strategies: an overview. GALA (10).
Pereira J. (2009) Language Learning Quests in Second Life: A Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1991) Flow: The Psychology of Optimal framework for blending digital game-based learning and virtual worlds. Unpublished Master's dissertation, University of Experience. Manchester - Online document: Bielaczyc, K. & Collins, A. (1999). Learning communities in classrooms: a reconceptualization of educational practice. In C. http://www.theswanstation.com/MA_Dissertation.html. Reigeluth (ed.), Instructional-design theories and models. A new paradigm of instructional theory. (2):269-292. Mahwah, NJ: Pereira 2010 http://avalon.humanities.manchester.ac.uk/wpcontent/uploads/2010/11/AVALON_Second_Life_Report.pdf Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Boellstorff, T. (2008) Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Prensky, M. (2007) Digital Game-based Learning: Practical Ideas for the Application of Digital Game-based Learning. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1991) Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Reinders, H. (2010) Towards a classroom pedagogy for learner autonomy: A framework of independent language learning skills. Experience. Australian Journal of Educational Technology 35 (5), 40-55. Online Felix, U. (2002) The web as a vehicle for constructivist approaches document: http://ajte.education.ecu.edu.au/issues/PDF/355/Reinders.pdf. in language teaching. ReCALL 14 (1), 2-15. De Freitas, S. (2008a) Serious virtual worlds: a scoping study. Joint Information Systems Committee - Online document:
Rufer-Bach, K. (2009) The Second Life Grid: The Official Guide to Communication, Collaboration, and Community Engagement. Indianapolis, Ind: Wiley.
h t t p : / / w w w. j i s c . a c . u k / m e d i a / d o c u m e n t s / p u b l i c a t i o n s / Stephenson, N. (1992). Snow Crash. New York: Bantam Books. seriousvirtualworldsv1.pdf. Dรถrnyei, Z. (2001) Teaching and Researching Motivation. Harlow, UK: Pearson Education. Gee, J.P. (2007a) What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Garrison, D.R., Anderson, T. and Archer, W. (2000) Critical inquiry in a text-based environment: Computer conferencing in higher education. The Internet and Higher Education 2 (2-3), 87-105.
Vickers, H. (2009) Dogme ELT as a pedagogy for language education in virtual worlds. Paper Presented at SLanguages 2009 Conference May 6. Ubisoft. (2000) Myst. Ushioda, E. (1996) Learner Autonomy 5: The Role of Motivation. Dublin: Authentik.
Get Linked! Some internet resources recommended by teachers The first one is called LoudLit and is great for students who like to read and listen at the same time:
A very thorough resource for teachers - from practical tips and lesson plans to think pieces and discussion - can be found on the British Council's Teaching English website.
http://www.teachertrainingvideos.com/10jan/index.html http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/ ESL Printables has an enormous and varied resource bank, ranging from beginners to advanced. However, in order to download stuff one has to contribute too, but well worth it!
Using short stories, short films or poetry - or a combination of all three - in your language classrooms? This site offers extensive classroom materials free, and encourages teachers to share their own creative output:
www.eslprintables.com www.wordpowered.org Learn English Kids is suitable not just for children but also for teenagers and exam levels. It features many varied and interactive activities such as the stories, songs and language games are a very useful learning resource and teaching tool. http://learnenglishkids.britishcouncil.org/en/
The ultimate look at word relationships can be found in this intriguing site from Visual Thesaurus. This is the best interactive Thesaurus on the market - watch as words jostle for position around the key word. Also has a magazine section with a host of articles looking at words, their origins, uses and peculiarities.
Every Monday, with the full permission of the BBC, specialist ELT author Sheila Thorn records a 10-minute WORLD BUSINESS NEWS programme from the BBC World Service, and creates comprehensive listening training and comprehension exercises at Intermediate+ level, together with a transcript, comprehensive answer sheets and a page of useful website links expanding on the stories featured in each edition. The materials are emailed direct to subscribers within 24 hours of the live broadcast! More information from North Star ELT
A great website with practical ideas and resources for teaching very young learners is http://www.teachitprimary.co.uk/ While its excellent companion website with practical ideas and handy resources for teens and adult students is
In both cases you need to register to gain access to the free resources, but it's pretty straightforward.