I am a Head of Modern Languages, leading a large department. I use technology in my everyday teaching and I am an MIEExpert. That said, I do not claim to be some kind of guru who knows all the answers on how we can thoroughly prepare our students in 21st Century Learning Skills. And I’m not about to overload you with research. What follows is an opinion piece backed up only with evidence from my own experience.
I know what you are thinking, yet another “expert” is taking to the internet to talk about the latest method of language learning. In all honesty, for me, the only way to truly become fluent in the language you are learning is to immerse yourself in it, go to the country, speak to and befriend native speakers, learn about what they watch and read. This will do you more good than 10 years of classes at home. My personal experience with this was heading off to Argentina for a year, where I lived with native speakers and worked in Spanish, I returned home fluent and I have been looking for a reason to go back out there ever since!
When you are outside, choose and use your language wisely!
In the beginning, human beings were not designed to spend hours each day surrounded by brick walls. They were naturally programmed for survival, for the great outdoors with its unpredictability, and each day provided naturally occurring learning opportunities which were a necessity if our ancient ancestors were to survive.
As you would imagine, all English language lessons focus on the English language as the syllabus. Meanwhile, almost all English language lessons focus exclusively on the English language, without taking into account the learner’s first language, which we call ‘L1’. There is a pedagogical reason for this: the long-standing and ubiquitous idea that it is better to focus exclusively on L1 when learning a language.
There seems to be, at the moment, a glut of superheroes on our TVs and in our films. If it isn’t Batman fighting Superman, it is a group of different heroes getting together to fight an evil alien. It might seem that the works of one playwright hundreds of years ago bares no relations to our current obsession with people wearing Lycra, swishing about with their capes and saving the world. Most, if not all children, can tell you who Iron Man, Superman or Spider-Man is. But, little do they know, that the comic book heroes owe Shakespeare a huge nod, if not a cape. So when exploring or teaching a Shakespeare play to students it is helpful to have these ideas in mind.
What are the biggest obstacles that people face when it comes to studying Shakespeare? If you ask a group of students most of them are likely to come up with the same answer – the language. It’s old. Archaic, even. They don’t understand it. A group of teachers are likely to give a different response – teaching rhythm is no fun. They’re bored of teaching iambic pentameter. Students don’t see the point. However, neither of these problems needs to be a barrier and both can be approached using interesting and engaging techniques.
2016 marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death and a celebration of 400 years of his creative and cultural legacy. For some, Shakespeare can be seen as inaccessible - many of us have memories of reading plays such as Hamlet or Henry V around the classroom, possibly with little effort being made to untangle the meaning behind the words or the context in which the plays were written. For many teenagers today, Shakespeare is a playwright you are taught only to be examined on.
International edu-advisors David Andrews and Chris Williams will soon be undertaking an official Guinness World Record attempt. The Hull-based consultants will be attempting the teach the world’s largest language lesson on 13th November 2015, the day of Children in Need’s Appeal Show. At least 10,000 participants are required, and the lesson will harness the power of audio-visual technology to help accelerate progress in spoken language, for all pupils in all subjects. Every pupil joining in receives a certificate and raises £1 for Children in Need.
15 / 07 / 2015, Diana’s diary entry (EAL student, arrived two years ago from Latvia):
“In period 1 today we do History and Mr Smith asked us to write happen on the day when World War 2 start in 1939. That was quite easy, actually. It was fun looking at the pictures and writing little sentences about what went on. After tutor, in period 2, it is Maths, and we do something named word problems. They are small stories and we answer with numbers. But Miss Brooke said they are like stories – so why do her problems say, “Molly buys 6 CDs” and not “Molly bought”? I don’t get it! And then in Science we did about metals, but I don’t understand. Mr Hutchinson talked about “is done” and “is made” and “are formed”, but why is he using two verbs? – this is nonsense!”
In the not-so-distant past I found myself sitting sleepily in 9th grade Spanish class; my head on my hand, staring out the window wishing for a fire drill, a tornado or perhaps the zombie apocalypse - though a quick glance around the room might have confirmed that the latter had already come to pass.