We will already be into March when this comes out so we can start to look forward to warmer and longer days here in the UK whereas at the moment it is freezing cold – but with the bluest of skies. This issue had the theme of ‘young adults and secondary teaching’ but, to be honest, so many of the articles come from that context that I have decided to give them more specific sub-themes to make it easier for you to find your way around. Yesterday I did the page plan for the issue and it is only at that point that I start to see all of the connections – not only within this issue but also to previous issues and the outside world.
On Saturday, for example, I attended a conference in London for the Academic Managers of International House Schools. To put that in context, I used to attend the same conference in the eighties when I was the Director of Studies of an IH school in Paris. It was a great day and one of the speakers, Jason Anderson, talked about research he has recently completed into teacher expertise. Jason and his colleagues based their research on over a hundred studies of master teaching in order to try and see what the key attributes were. All of the features you intuitively would name appear high up the rankings: knowledge of subject; awareness of what is happening in class; rapport; passion; and continuous reflection. Some of them got higher ranking in secondary as opposed to primary teaching but when it came to pedagogic practice the number one was the same for both: flexibility and the ability to improvise and adapt. If anything sums up the life of a teacher it is that. What he added, though, was that the expert teacher is not only able to improvise but also covers what is on the syllabus as well – a great art.
Now, talking of art, another great session was by Emily Bryson who showed us all how to draw, not only for teaching vocabulary and grammar points but also in order to take notes, plan courses and even get feedback! For more information simply Google Feedback Fairy. As someone who only took up painting on his last birthday, I have to say that we can often do things we didn’t think we could! Coincidentally I then got an article I was expecting from a contributor in Russia, Anka Zapart. She has just run a course for six year olds incorporating art into English classes – a great read.
Jason has written an article for this issue on a completely different theme: translanguaging. This might be a new term for some of you, but it is basically using both or all languages at your disposal in a classroom or even non-classroom setting. Many of you will know that we often learn certain concepts in a different language to our own and then use them in another language. I, for example, spent a lot of time working in France and learned nearly all my banking vocabulary in French. My wife had three children in France and her medical vocabulary has a similar bias towards French. So when a child or any learner uses another language to complete an utterance, or you use their language to help them learn, these are all examples of translanguaging.
Interestingly, that article is followed by one from Bruno Sousa in Brazil who revisits the whole area of using mother tongue in class. If you are teaching in a monolingual class, you probably already use the learners’ first language at certain stages, but if you are in a multilingual class, it is more difficult. I do enjoy the way articles from different sides of the world relate so well to each other.
Two other articles which link well come from teachers in the UK and New Zealand, both looking at ideas which have been around for a while but with new eyes. George Murdoch talks about the importance and usefulness of short stories as a way of improving your English and Liwei Deng considers the value of reading aloud, something which I remember used to be frowned on. All of the above will be of interest whatever age you are teaching and I really hope you get time to read through them all, choose your favourites and, above all, try some of the ideas out. You will never know what you can do until you try. Enjoy your spring or whatever season you are going into.