At the beginning of June I was invited to ELephanT Summer School 2o19, the place full of awesome enthusiasts who are eager to share their creative ideas and learn from each other. I was really happy to contribute a little bit with my presentation on how to deal with chunks, which went well because of the active participation and great involvement in the activities that I set up for the participants. We revised some terminology related to lexis, analysed a lesson with a task to present and practice some useful expressions with one of the most recognisable delexicalised verbs and talked about some useful activities and techniques such as using visuals, creating mind maps, developing note-taking skills and other learning strategies.
I didn’t have time to attend other presentations but the open mic was inspiring and I’m planning to write a few articles about using various visual aids, authentic texts and storytelling. Here I’d like to summarise what the speakers reminded me of.Using visualisation
- Using visualisation
It is worth considering whether to print out, laminate and show pictures or ask our students to use their imagination. This reminds me of a book that I used to refer to when I gave lessons on a regular basis. Neurologists say that our mind is made of images and when we think we make connections between our ideas and mental imagery. Learning may well be more efficient if we help our learners create such associations. I believe we need to keep in mind the importance of teaching how to visualise, develop positive attitude to learning, helping them concentrate, work on cognitive skill development and memory.
- Using poetry
We can meet our learners’ emotional needs if we expose them to poems. To my mind, using literary genres for teaching is something natural. We often share our personal anecdotes with our learners, we show them extracts from films and ask them to tell stories too. Apart from creating a special atmosphere, which will help us motivate our learners in general, they will learn how to express grief or happiness, how to make use of descriptive language and they will be exposed to culture via authentic texts.
- Signposting and sharing our lesson plan with the learners
It seems obvious that we want to help our learners develop different strategies and set short-term and long-term goals. If we regularly discuss the stage aims with them and explain them why we are focusing on certain things, they are likely to understand what can help them learn better. I’m not suggesting showing our students our procedure and discuss technical things. However, we can create a mind map with the activities or useful language and explain what they are going to be doing and what language they will need for that.
- Turning boring activities into games
This idea has been in ELT for a while because our learners are keen on playing games even if they pretend they are not. By adding an element of fun, creating a competition, offering them choice or just awarding points for something that they managed to do successfully we can maintain a high level of motivation and help the learners feel the sense of achievement. I’m sure that teachers use games with young learners as that’s a natural way of learning for them. Adult learners are also likely to respond well to multi-sensory activities and competitions as they add variety, help build confidence, focus on meaning and fluency instead of accuracy. However, as David Dodgson says in his blogpost about gamification, we need to create a variety of meaningful activities to help our learners learn by playing, not for the sake of just having fun or doing something pointless.
- Work-life balance
I think those who choose to be teachers and stay in this area for a long period are generally very hard-working and responsible people. They keep diaries not to forget what to do, they are always there to help their learners, they are keen on professional development, etc. However, we need to take some time to be just someone who has a not-job-related hobby like drawing or be a theatregoer to avoid burnout and illnesses. I recently discovered a blogger who inspires people to take action and lead a happy life.
Useful links and ideas for further research: