Teaching pronunciation is worth - Using Pronunciation Teaching Techniques To Clarify Regular -ED Endings







After a year or more, I'm back to blogging.  This time I have decided to study and write a little about a subject that is not really comfortable for me to teach and I guess that for lots of my colleagues, it is not easy as well.

Let's then talk about pronunciation  regarding the regular  -ED Endings , a particular area of difficulty for Brazilian students, and for students in general.

Some years ago I was conducting a workshop for the state sector teachers in Recife, Brazil  (where I live) when one of the participants asked me what I thought was the most important in teaching or tutoring EFL to adult learners - grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation? By the way, the teacher who asked me the question told me that he considered pronunciation to be the most important because, for him, it was vital for successful communication.


I acknowledged that, of course, because pronunciation problems often do lead to conversation breakdowns, but that I considered all three to be important. He playfully accused me of dodging the question. I suggested, however, that what was even more critical, in my opinion, was teaching adult learners the communication skills and strategies to negotiate conversation breakdowns when they occur.

Being  a teacher of some teen and adult monolingual groups in Brazil for years,  I have noticed a lot of difficulties they have , regarding pronunciation ,  begin at the start and pre- intermediate levels.

So I have chosen to write upon this area because I believe that teachers should always be working on students pronunciation to help them communicate successfully. The goal should ideally be communicative efficiency with work on individual phonemes,  word  stress and sentence stress and intonation. Kelly(2004) states that "pronunciation can, and should,  be planned for too.  Any analysis of language that disregards of sidelines factors of pronunciation is incomplete",

Specifically, my choice to work on pronunciation teaching techniques to clarify regular -ed endings in the past tense of regular verbs is due some aspects I have noticed of teaching and learning.

There are two key problems in pronunciation teaching:  Firstly it tends to be neglected  not because of teachers' lack of interest in the subject , but rather  to a feeling of doubts as to how to teach it. Many experienced teachers would admit to lack of theory of pronunciation and they may therefore feel the need to improve their practical skills in pronunciation teaching. Secondly, when its not neglected, it tends to be reactive to a particular problem that has arisen in the classroom rather than being strategically planned. In addition, through my experience as a teacher as well as a teacher trainer who observed several lessons, I've noticed learners' difficulty in the pronunciation of -ed sounds.

I suspect that , sometimes, we teachers do not realise how important pronunciation is for good spoken English . Learners' needs and difficulties in this area are the main purpose for me to work upon this theme and the main aim  is to find a way to help my English language learners (especially the adult ones) to overcome some of the pronunciation problems I have noticed along the years and to which I am especially concerned.  It seems to me as if my pronunciation teaching has made little or no difference in my learners' speech. So I wanted to know what research and literature has to say about this issue.


Why teach pronunciation?

Communication breakdowns can result from a variety and/or combination of factors and are , by no means, limited to pronunciation problems alone. I believe that teaching strategies for successfully repairing breakdowns can play a role in improving not only learners' communication skills but even pronunciation

Over the last thirty years interest in the patterns and causes of error in second language pronunciation has grown rapidly , especially in English due to the unstoppable rise of this language as a lingua franca around the globe. Generally speaking, isolated errors do not seriously affect communication, but an accumulation of such errors . often combined with grammatical errors and lexical inappropriacy makes it harder for hearers , especially native speakers.

According to Kelly (2004), a consideration of learners' pronunciation errors and how this can inhibit successful communication  is a useful basis on which to assess why it is important to deal with pronunciation in the classroom. When a learner says, for example, soap in a situation such as restaurant where he should have said soup, the inaccurate production of a phoneme can lead to misunderstanding;  This can be very frustrating for the learner who may have a good command of grammar and lexis but have difficulty in understanding and being understood by a native speaker.

Kelly (2004) also claims that language learners often show considerable enthusiasm for pronunciation because they feel it's something that would help them communicate better. There are some issues we teachers should take into consideration so that include pronunciation as part of their systematic lesson plans throughout the course.
  • If students' pronunciation is adequate for their level and for the tasks the need to perform.
  • Non- native speakers need to now where individual words are stressed . 
  • Some words are spelt identically but have two pronunciations which give different meanings
  • If teachers and learners should be aware of phonemic transcriptions of words, at least the main vowels and consonant sounds
  • The tone of the message is often as important as the message itself. So it's important for the students to recognise intonation patterns and therefore, the meaning of the message. 
  • To consider on how a student convey doubt, boredom, and uncertainty, of the students "sound" like an English speaker and if  they want to. 
Analysis:

Through my reading  I discovered that most experts such as Lightbown & Spada (2004), Jones (1995: in Richards & Renandya 2005) and Kelly (2004) seemed to agree that there exists a critical period that males learning a language as a child easier and  learning a language after puberty more difficult.

This conclusion about acquiring  one`s native language seems to have relevance for all language learning. In fact, the critical period  theory was offered as an explanation  for why many adults trying to learn a second language seem to have a hard time achieving native-like pronunciation  and grammar. Indeed, , some researchers indicated that as few as 5%, or fewer, adult learners could ever achieve anything like native-like fluency in a second language. Although this wasn't the most positive news for us a language teachers,  it offered a plausible reason for the difficulty mine and other students have had with English pronunciation.

Having exposed all above arguments, I believe that the teaching of pronunciation in EFL / ESL should not be ignored at all , but teaching methods  should more fully address the issues of motivation and exposure by creating an awareness of the importance of pronunciation and providing more exposure to input from authentic spoken language.



The -ed sounds:
According to Batista & Watkins (1997: (pp. 26 - 34) by the process of assimilation, the morpheme ed is pronounced as /t/ in words that end in voiceless obstruents, and as /d/ in words that end in voiced obstruents, sonorants or vowels. In words that end in /t/ and /d/, the morpheme ed is pronounced with the addition of a syllable. However, Brazilian EFL learners have a strong tendency to add an extra or epenthetic vowel between all the final consonant clusters created by adding –ed, giving my words an extra syllable they should not have (as in looked, watched).


The English language indicates that the action of the verb is in the past by having some form of the "d" or "t" sound end the word. We say some kind of "d" or "t" sound although the word is almost always written with a "d".
Many people who learn English are so confused by the irregular forms of the verbs that they give up and invent their own ways of referring to the past. Some say: "Yesterday I walk to work" or other ways to avoid using the past tense that they have never learned.

Most English verbs are regular. To indicate the past, they put some kind of a sound made with the tongue touching the back of the upper teeth. Almost always it is the sound of a "d" or of a "t".

The ending of the verb “love” in the past: “I loved write the phonemic transcription  the movie” is very different from the ending of the verb “walk”: "I walked to work write the phonemic transcription.” When it sounds like the letter “d”, it is a voiced sound, that is the vocal cords vibrate. When it sounds like a “t”, it is a voiceless or an unvoiced sound.

But how do you know when it should end with a voiced "d" sound and when with a voiceless "t" sound? Although you may not believe it, there is a "rule" that will help you to form the past of most English verbs. You may still make some mistakes but little by little you will feel the mistakes and will correct them. The structure of your mouth will force you to make the right sound.

The "rule" for the formation of the past is similar to the "rule" for the "s" at the end of plural nouns and verbs in the third person singular of the present tense.

The rule of the "d" in three parts:

There is a one simple "rule" that covers the pronunciation of the "d" and "t" sounds.

The sound that indicates the past of the verb is the voiceless "t" sound when the verb ends in a voiceless consonant. On the other hand, the indication of the past is the voiced "d" sound when the verb ends in a voiced consonant.

The three parts of the rule are:

1. the voiceless "t" sound,
2. the voiced "d" sound,
3. the added syllable “id”.

1. The voiceless (unvoiced) "t":

The "rule" tells us when the last sound of a verb is like that of the words talk, cap, mess, etc (that is, a voiceless sound), the past of the verb ends with a voiceless (or unvoiced) sound like that of the word walked. The past of these verbs is talked, capped, messed and the "d" is unvoiced.

For example the letter "d" that represents the past in the written word is pronounced like the "t" of Tom (a voiceless sound) when the verb ends in a voiceless sound. So when the verb ends in voiceless sounds such as the letters k in the word looked, p in the word stopped, f in the word cuffed (or gh in the word laughed) the past is indicated by the voiceless "t" sound. This always happens so don't be fooled by the written letter "d".

The past tense of the verb is also indicated by a voiceless sound when the verb ends in any "hissing" sound such as the words: face, wash, crunch. All these sounds are voiceless so the verbs that end with them will always have the "d" of their past form sounded voicelessly and therefore become the forms faced, washed, crunched.

It is important to note that although the voiceless "d" is written "ed", you do NOT add a syllable to the original word.

2. The voiced "d": The "d" is voiced in two situations:

a. when the word ends in a vowel sound such as, played, teed, owed, cued. The "strange" vowels are also followed by a voiced "d" such as in the words: furred, papered, pawed. The past of verbs ending in a diphthong sound also end in a voiced "d" sound, for example in the words: plowed, paid, toyed .

b. when the word ends in a voiced consonant. Some examples of the second case are: b as in the word robbed, n in the word drowned, l in the word mailed, g in the word logged, v in the word heaved, m n the word farmed, n as in the word panned, the sound of the letters ng as in the word ring, r as in the word cars, v as in the word stoves, and thin the word bathed.

Remember that that the voiced "d" sound forms the past of verbs that end in a voiced consonant, for example, burned is the past of the verb burn and loved is the past of love.

It is important to note that although the voiced "d" in these words is written with "ed", you do NOT add an extra syllable.

3. The added syllable

In both cases, when the verb ends in either the sound of the voiced "d" or the sound of the voiceless "t", the English language adds a syllable /ed/ to the verb. However, the pronunciation is /id/.

For example, the verbs in the present tense visit, vote, side, need, plant, adopt, add "ed" to make the past tense and become visited, voted, sided, needed, planted, adopted.

The "ed" is pronounced with a special vowel followed by a voiced "d". The special vowel is the "short i" which has the IPA symbol of the small capital “i”. When pronouncing such words, we have to be able to hear the difference to be able to use this vowel in the added syllable.

It is only in this special case that you pronounce the second syllable of the past of a verb. Not all verbs have two syllables in the past. It is important to realize that most common English verbs have only one syllable. We do not pronounce the "ed" of the words such as walked, talked, played, tuned, tooled.

Although many verbs have "ed" in their past, it is just a strange note of English spelling. You often only pronounce one syllable with the past indicated by a voiced "d" or an unvoiced "t" according to which sound preceded the ending.

You only pronounce the "ed" when the root form of the verb ends with your tongue touching the back of your teeth, either with a voiced "d" sound or with an unvoiced "t" sound. For example, "Today, I heat the coffee but yesterday I heated it" (2 syllables because the last consonant is a "t"). But, "Today I talk to my friend but yesterday I talked on the phone." (one syllable because the last consonant is not a "t" or a "d")

The extra syllable: Listen to this as often as necessary for you to be able to distinguish the unvoiced "t" from the voiced "d".


A problem faced by learners is in recognition of spelling and pronunciation. Influenced by L1 , learners tend to pronounce words as they were written in their mother tongue. This is what happens to the past tense of regular verbs. As they all end in –ed , learners usually stress the ed.  Having said that, how could we help learners with this area?

There are, for sure , many ways to help learners and to make them feel comfortable, rather than threatened , with pronunciation.  I would say that, pronunciation-focussed lessons should not be aimed at accent elimination, but at accent reduction. Rather, students should work on reducing areas of their pronunciation that affect comprehensibility, that is, those aspects of their accents that make it difficult for native speakers to understand them.

The most important thing, as I see it, is the hands-on stage, because above all students need to practice these features in different situations, from very structured exercises to spontaneous speech. I am focusing on the past tense -ed endings (e.g., worked, played, constructed, learned, etc.). The first step would be to expose students to these words in order to enable them to recognise and produce the correct pronunciation of the endings of each word in isolation by repeating them; however, this does not guarantee that students will be able to use them in natural conversation. Thus, the teacher can record students talking about the past weekend and what they did-again, using past tenses. This strategy will provide students with material to take home and listen to the recording so that they can check to see how well they formed the verbs and if they pronounced them correctly. However, I also believe that awareness-raising plays a crucial part in pronunciation improvement, because just drills don’t seem to be enough. The students need to know how the language works, and how the sounds and the syllables are different from students´ L1.

To sum up, teachers should focus on exercises that help students understand that language variation is quite normal––something that every English speaker participates in.They see that there is more than one way to pronounce <-ed>, and the choice follows a pattern: If the root word ends in /t/ or /d/, the <-ed>ending is pronounced /Id/. If the root word ends in a voiced sound other than /d/, the <-ed> ending is pronounced /d/; if the root ends in a voiceless sound other than /t/, the ending is pronounced /t/.

I think that this hard work is worthwhile. The way I find to justify my decision to teach pronunciation and familiarise learners with the phonemic symbols is by making them aware of the following aspects:

  • Students can use dictionaries more effectively;
  • Students can become more confident and more independent learners;
  • The phonemic symbols are a visual aid;
  • Although speaking a language is a performance skill, knowledge of how thlanguage works is of great value. 


However, I would have to question devoting precious class or tutoring time to this one aspect of language at the expense of all others, including reading, writing, listening, speaking, vocabulary development, and grammar — not to mention the sociocultural aspects of language that are so critical.

Additionally, learning the skills and strategies to negotiate meaning and to repair conversation
breakdowns will empower learners in every interaction that takes place outside the classroom, giving them the tools they need for independence. Learning to correctly articulate the “ed” sounds is not so important if one has learned to compensate and strategize when breakdowns occur. Moreover, if learners engage in conversations with confidence, they may very well identify the specific aspects of their speech that are causing the most trouble — making it possible to target these
for practice and remediation. Effective communication — not perfect pronunciation , should always be the ultimate goal.




 Bibliography:
  1.  AITKEN, Rosemary Teaching Tenses Longman 1992
  2.  Baptista, B. O. & WATKINS , Michael Alan The influence of markedness and syllable contact on the production of English final consonant by EFL learners. In James, A. &Leather, J. (Eds), New Sounds 97. Proceedings of the Third International Symposiumon the Acquisition of Second-Language Speech. Universidade Federal do Paraná 1997
  3.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv85.shtml  December 2006
  4. GAIRNS, Ruth & REDMAN, Stuart Natural English Intermediate, teachers’ book, OUP 2002
  5. GERACE, Frank. Reading & Writing English: Words Ending In "D" in http://www.GoodAccent.com December 2006
  6. Graddol, D. 2006. English  Next: Why Global English May Mean the End of 'English as a Foreign Language'. Retrived May 27, 2006, from http://www.britishcouncil.org/files/documents/learning-research-english-next.pdf
  7. KELLY, Gerald How To Teach Pronunciation Longman 2004
  8. LEWIS, Michael The English Verb Thomson Heinle 2002
  9. LIGHTBROWN & SPADA – How Languages are Learned OUP 2004
  10.  http://www.onestopenglish.com/section.asp?catid=59427&docid=146360 December 2006
  11. OXENDEN, Clive ,  LATHAM–KOENING, Christina  &  Selingson, PAUL New English File elementary  , workbook OUP 2005
  12. OXENDEN, Clive ,  LATHAM–KOENING, Christina  & Selingson, PAUL New English File elementary  , teachers’ guide OUP 2005
  13. OXENDEN, Clive & Selingson, PAUL English File 1 , teachers’ guide OUP 1998
  14. PENNINGTON, M. C. Phonology in English Language Teaching  Longman 1996
  15. http://perso.wanadoo.es/autoenglish/gr.edpron.p.htm December 2006
  16. RICHARDS, Jack , PLATT, John & PLATT Heidi Longman Dictionary of Applied Linguistics Longman 1997
  17. RICHARDS, Jack &   RENANDYA. Willy A.  Methodology in Language Teaching – An  Anthology of Current Practice  CUP 2005
  18. SCRIVENER, Jim Learning Teaching Macmillan 2006
  19. SEYNOUR, David & POPOVA, Maria 700 Classroom Activities Macmillan 2003
  20. SWAM, Michael Practical English Usage OUP 1995
  21. SWAM, Michael & SMITH Bernard Learner English CUP 2001
  22. SWAM, Michael & WALTER Catherine How English Works – A Grammar Practice Book OUP
  23. THORNBURY, Scott How To Teach Grammar Longman 1999
  24. THORNBURY, Scott How To Teach Speaking Longman 2006
  25. THORNBURY, Scott About Language CUP 2004













Never 'Only' an English Teacher




My brand new blog post for iTDi  is on  http://itdi.pro/blog/2015/05/31/from-the-teachers-family-ii/

Thank you  Kevin Stein and Ayat Tawel for the invitaion. I fell really honoured.

Check it out!



TEACHING CHILDREN HOW TO LEARN - IATEFL Manchester 2015

TEACHING CHILDREN HOW TO LEARN - IATEFL Manchester  2015


Gail Ellis and Nayr Ibrahim
Session date and time:  2015-04-13 10:30


Summary : Gail Ellis & Nayr Ibrahim (British Council, France)
This talk will discuss the theoretical and methodological concepts of learning to learn in the primary English language teaching classroom. It will show how teachers can apply the 'Plan, Do, Review' routine systematically and explicitly to activities and to whole lessons, in order to help children learn how to learn and to gradually become aware of their own learning preferences and differences. (http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2015/session/teaching-children-how-learn)

I have very good memories when I have first met Gail Ellis in person in in Brazil. Her book Learn to learn English is an awesome and handful timeless source for teachers and leaners.  I have used it for years with my students (regarding learner training) as well as with teachers, when I am delivering teacher training sessions. She has worked together with Nayr Ibrahim at the BC in France for many years.

The book is divided into three parts:
1.        Rational and theory
2.       Activties for learners
3.       Teachers’ development activities

The theoretical background of learn to learn:

The presenters claim that the theory of learning to learn is based on the philosophy of constructivism which is a view of learning and teaching and has the concept that learning  at school happens inside the heads of leaners.  In other words, the teacher cannot learn from the learner.  So there’s a gap between teaching and learning and learners have to negotiate in order to construct new knowledge, skills and attitudes.  

It’s also based on the theory of social interactionism where teachers can help the process of learning by creating optimal conditions for teaching, learning and interaction in the classroom.
So what’s learning to learn? Basically it’s an umbrella term that comes with a wide variety of activities which is concerned with the processes of learning.



It aims to focus people’s attention on how they learn as well as what they learn.  It aims to lead them gradually to a constructive development and how to become more independent.

As for instructions, in the slide below they cite Bruner (1966).



Learning to learn is dependent on all learning in all areas of curriculum and life. Mostly, it’s linked to learner autonomy, one of the most important areas in a child’s educational development and it’s something that they start learning at very early age. It values diversity and take into account that children learn in different ways at different grades, and have different preferences regarding their activities and materials.  

Learning to learn is not a new concept



However, teachers tend to remain at abstract levels and official documents because they have very strong views about learning to learn:   
·         They didn’t learn like this - Teachers feel uncomfortable to implement an approach they themselves have not experienced.
·         They think children are too young for this aspect of learning
·         They don’t have time
·         They have to use the mother tongue
·         It takes a long time
·         Our materials don’t show us how to do it

Probably one of the greatest constraints is the lack of training and practical guidelines on how to implement learning to learn.



Different types of learning strategies:




The literature on learning strategies generally refers to four main categories:
1.       Metacognitive
2.       Cognitive
3.       Social- affective
4.       Communication


In the session they focused on the cognitive and metacognitive strategies.
Metacognitive strategies are those that involve learners in thinking about their learning.  It includes planning, monitoring and evaluating learning.




Cognitive strategies are task specific and involve children doing things with the language and their learning materials and relates to skill areas.
Leaners have a lot of implicit practice in developing cognitive strategies. They are usually embedded in the tasks they do such as sorting or classifying, listening for specific information, predicting, sequencing, and so on.  Unfortunately most classroom situations or materials rarely explicitly inform leaners about the strategies they are using and why, and they are not encouraged to reflect on their learning. In other words, the metacognitive dimension is missing as we can see from the quote below: 





So the teachers need to take an expanded world and incorporate this missing metacognitive dimension.
Suggested activities are designed to implement learning to learn which obey on the following pedagogical principles:

1.       Provide different modes of input by using  multimodal resources to present language and convey meaning and  with a large different types of responses such as physical, spoken, written, creative analytical and personal. It helps to create an inclusive learning environment which accommodates children’s learning preferences and differences.

2.       The English Language Portfolio: Each activity is linked to an English Language Portfolio – The use of portfolio is an integral part of the learning to learn methodology. A portfolio helps children organise their work, monitor their progress, take pride on their work and help them to talk about and account for their learning. They are supposed to teak their portfolios home to encourage family involvement and maximise their time. It lays an important role and fosters home involvement.
3.       Assessment:  Assessment for learning is incorporated and it is based on the principle that children progress best when learn aims to make explicit and share them and they know what to do to succeed in that activity by negotiating success criteria. Assessment for children also involves children in peer and self-assessment.
4.       Value the children’s voices.  Children are encouraged to talk about their experiences.

5.       All activities are informed so that there’s a spirit of transparency. This means teachers share information. For example, they tell the aim of a lesson and the activities, they explain the purpose of an activity so that children understand what they are doing and why, they negotiate success criteria together, and they explain strategies use.

6.       ROUTINES: All activities are structured around routines as routines are a central part of a primary classroom.  They help children feel secure, they help children value a sense of time, develop what’s going to come next ,  and provide exposure to repeated language and familiar situations.

7.       Home involvemvent : Which includes children and parents awareness of the possibilities of conserve English outside the classroom in order to maximise earning.

8.       Beliefs: Learning should promote a philosophy based on valuing self, others and the environment and 5 values on the pillar of activities: Accountability, caring, flexibility , resilience and tolerance.

9.       Cross- curricular activities : Activities can and should be linked to other areas of the primary curriculum to provide a broader view of learning English and of the world . It moves away from the traditional and sequential view of English as a subject approach to a holistic approach.

10.   Each activity has a main outcome :  Children are informed at the beginning of each activity where they work is leading  in order to make this more purposeful, meaningful and motivating.

ROUTINE:

These three stages provide a framework in which children can be systematically and explicitly helped to learn how to learn by combining cognitive and metacognitive strategies training through reflection, experimentation and further reflection.

The plan stage: Children are involved in the learning aims of the activity and they are encouraged to reflect on what they are going to know and how best to plan for the activity. They then identify and negotiate the success criteria with their teachers.

The do stage involves children with experimenting and doing things with the language and the language materials.

The review stage involves children in reflecting on their learning by responding to five reflection questions* and participating in a variety of  familiar activities such as Simon says.





1.       *What did you do?
2.       *What did you learn?
3.       *How did you learn?
4.       *How well did you do?
5.       * What do you need to do best and why?


As for the DO stage, it gives opportunity to further extend and consolidate learning. Gives children opportunity to work independently and personalise learning.
   







The share stage takes place when children take their portfolio home to share with their families and are also given an activity to do together,. They aim is to maximise time and get families involved.





The presenters believe learn to learn is best developed in the classroom context as learning is considered to be affective, emotional and a social process which requires a face to face interaction.


As a teaching learning aid, they’ve chosen a mascot which plays 4 roles:


1.       A procedural role
2.       An affective role
3.       A behavioural role

4.       An interactive role 

The presenters then demonstrate some activities with worm the puppet that aim to :
·         Integrate learners
·         Develop awareness
·         Express the experience of learning English through the five senses
·         A variety of presentations and representations by classmates


Children are always informed about the aims of the activities
Example:  Learning English looks like, sounds like, tastes like, etc… (all represented by students’ drawings)

At the end of the activity or the lesson, children are involved in reflection  through reflective activities or the completion of a “my activity record page “ which they organise in their portfolios and share with their families.


They conclude the session giving the teachers a rest at their mind regarding the use of mother tongue and shared classroom language: 


As stated at the beggining of this post ,  the presenters say that teachers also concern they haven't experinced or been trained to learning to learn. So it's important to have teachers' development activities designed around the plan-do-review routine.  This is to enable them to also experince this approach as related to their own personal and professional development. The share stage encougaes teachers  support t, exchange and collaborate with their colleagues, their key source of information , inspiration and ideas. 

The TD activities should :

Involve the learning to lean Pedaggical principles
Be a long term and ongoing project
Include action research, peer observaton, self assessesment and the development of an action plan. 

Teacher development activities help the  teacher: 




Their new book will be available soon but can be seen on DELTA website  , including the download of sample pages. 










Interview with Nicky Hockley - Manchester ONLINE IATEFL 2015




In  this interview Nicky talks about the evolution of technology within IATEFL, the most significant emerging technologies and the role of women in educational technology.

Acoording to Nicky, in terms of technology the biggest changes are based on the fact that technology is becoming more and more mainstreamed, totally different from what happened 10, 15 years ago.
Now people have finally realised that technology is everywhere and relevant to all areas.


(Nicky Hockley is the joint coordinator of the IATEFL  LT SIG )

As for the LT SIG ( Learning technology Special Interest Group )  this year they tried to focus more on unusual technology and emerging technology as well as new areas such as the wearable reality. Google glasses and digital watches, for example are wearable tools and how those might be incorporated in the language classroom, The LT SIG has also reviewed apps and other (new) web tools they have been talking about for a few years now.



Wearable technology seems to be the biggest growth area and there has schools and educators are still find ways how to deal with those new technologies.  Wearable technology is becoming mainstreamed too. Nicky states that google glasses are not going to be developed anymore because they were considered intrusive. So due to privacy issues,   they have been substituted for small watches and / or smartphones.  It’s noticed that students have taken those mobile devices  with them more and more frequently, specially the smartphones 9 the smart watches are not mainstreamed yet but they’ll become soon ) .


The big challenge is how to support students to make good use of those tools in order to learn languages.   It’s a fact that technology is totally relevant in any topic area from  Busniess English and EAP to young learners or whatever we are doing as language teachers.  It is an undeniable reality. Opportunities should be created so that Technology could   be integrated in all those area. It’ doesn’t mean you have to, but technology should be an option. Those teachers should be confident enough whether to do or not to do. This seems to be a lack in our profession as teachers don’t feel confident enough to use new technologies and / or what technology to use with particular groups of students.  Most of them have not received any training on technology either for reasons such as age, interest, etc. or because they don’t have CPD (continuous professional development) structured in their schools. 

Actually it is not about technology but about the teaching as you can teach perfectly well without technology.  Interestingly   when schools decide to implement technology such as IWB (interactive white board), they think it’s enough, that things will be then fantastic and students are going to learn better, which might not be true.

When asked if classes without a classroom (100% online learning) are the future, Nicky claims that schools are not about the spaces where you are and the school has an important social role and for this main reason it will not disappear.  Nicky doesn’t think about schools as institutions but they will need to reconfigure learning.  Flipped and blended learning (part face to face part online) are real good effective models. Nik points out that as for adults who have   a certain level of motivation and developed study skills, it’s easy to think about those models. As for kids, it’s different. We cannot think about this structured learning. If kids are to use this massive technology, there has to be a lot of motivation behind that work.  There’s a movement in some education courses to push primary and secondary school learning more and more online. However, Nik claims that she’s not quite sure how much it’s going to be effective.


As for her talk , Nik will be speaking about mobile learning this year at the IATEFL conference, exactly about the fact that students have use mobile devices more and more frequently each day, and how teachers can integrate this fact within the approach in there schools and in the classroom in terms of pedagogical plan.  In other words, she’ll examine how the school can plan for the teachers to use mobile devices with their students if they want to. If so, it’s necessary to have a kind of structured approach for this to work. It’s not only about asking students to bring their mobile devices or buying a set of tablets for all the students to use in class and simply expect some sort of learning to happen.
The will main focus will be on the challenges we will need to address as teachers and institutions: pedagogical challenges, technology challenges, and management challenges in the classroom. 
Finally she will provide the audience with a ten-step plan to deal with each of the mentioned items at work.



Being a “ big name “ and known  as one of the most recognised women in the world of LT, Nik concludes the interview stating that there are a lot of women working with technology in the classroom doing  a fantastic job . Not to mention that the number of female bloggers who have blogged about technology  has grown for years.  

Reflective practice : Happy Teachers' Day!


                                                         
This post is dedicated to all teachers and educators all over the world , mainly to my PLN (professional learning network) , teachers and educators who I honour , respect,learn from and care and share. A special mention to Malala Yousafazai, the  young brave girl who bravely fights for education and has just won the Nobel Peace Prize 2014


Image created by Roseli Serra 

October is the month when we celebrate Teacher’s Day: On 5th, The World Teacher’s Day and on 15th we celebrate Teacher’s Day in Brazil.
Regarding this celebration, I’d like to share some ideas with you based on what I’ve read, talked and shared with lots of teachers around the world.
No matter how long you are in the market, education is and will always be crucial for the human being character formation. Being a teacher and an educator is much more than just simply know the theories and techniques. It has a philosophical side, considering our responsibility upon our learners and what role(s) we play in our students’ lives.


Image by Ugur Dinçer -from eltpics 


It reminds me of Paulo Freire , a Brazilian educator, who said: 

“The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.”
(Paulo Freire, We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change)

Image by @sandymillin -from eltpics

When I recently read it again, I started to think about how much we teachers have been able to do in order to make the difference and shape our students’ lives in some way.  After all,  the world has changed, it’s in permanent change and we and our students are part of this brave new world. I have changed. I'm older, more impatient, more critical, and sometimes I feel weak and tired to face students’ lack of interest and parents’ lack of care about their children.  Recently I've found myself complaining about a particular group of 10-11 year old students and I realised that for the first time in my life I have such a difficult group to deal with regarding everything: impoliteness, lack of interest and responsibility and very few parents concerned about their children behaviour and learning process. What’s important is the final result, the final grade: pass or fail, no matter if they have learned or not.  This conversation was like group therapy in the teacher’s room where other brilliant and experienced teachers were having the same kind of complaints.  We had the need to talk and share. A teacher was almost crying. She was so disappointed and feeling deeply sad. 

In Brazil we teachers are underpaid.  Yes, we are, even if you work in the richest  school which pays the best salary, still you are underpaid. It’s the Brazilian educational system and the society that not value teachers as they should be valued.  I've heard from lots of colleagues they are looking for another alternative to survive apart from teaching. And to tell you the truth, I've thought about it many times as well.


Image by @ceririannon -from eltpics


Being a very optimistic person you must be surprised I'm writing these words.  Well, I've never said teaching is a bed of roses or that it’s only darkness and pain. No! Not at all!

And yes, we have to study to teach, to teach and learn, go to conferences,  prepare lessons, correct workbooks and students’ compositions, deal with discipline, contact parents, prepare and correct tests, face endless meetings, find nice activities to engage students, write comments on report cards and an endless list of duties. Not to mention the fact that most of us around the world have to deal with low salaries to survive.

Image by Hana Tichá - from eltpics


Well, I have said too much already about how hard being a teacher is.  I want to talk about the joy of being a teacher, because the suffering of being a teacher is similar to suffering the pains of childbirth: The joy of giving birth to a child does not compare to the pain we suffered before, which it’s quickly forgotten. And then you'l have the hard and delightful job to raise your child with love and care. What a job! 

Being a teacher is indeed one of the most rewarding jobs ever. How can we forget students who hug you, bring you flowers, a bar of chocolate or simply smile sweetly? What about when you meet former students, and years later and they recognise you, come to you and say: ‘She was one of the best teachers I've had”.  Not to mention those very few students who became  teachers because of you? I have some who are now my colleagues working at the same school.  It’s priceless and I'm one of those cases. I became a teacher inspired by my second grade teacher (see the photo below) who passed away less than two years ago and who I had the pleasure to meet after 38 years.   How wonderful!

Image from Roseli Serra personal files


Teaching is a treat for the soul, isn't it? If it is not, we should not teach.  And if it is, then it is necessary that, ideally, our learners feel the same pleasure from our teaching. If not, perhaps we have failed our mission in some way, as the cook who intended to offer pleasure, but the food was too salty or burnt.  Perhaps it’s time to stop and reflect our mission as educators and teachers. Perhaps it's time for another change. 

But if you were born to be a teacher and if you love what to do, you will not give up. Like me, you’ll insist on teaching and educating people.

Someone once said:  “A master is born from the exuberance of happiness”. So when asked about their profession, teachers should be brave enough to say "I am a pastor of joy ..."
But, of course, only your students can attest the truth of this statement.
Last but not least: “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.”  (Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed).

Image by Hana Tichá - from eltpics



Enjoy your teaching! 
Happy teacher’s Day!