Hello

New for 2018/19, this will be the space where PD North members and some special guest Bloggers will share ideas and experiences. Watch this space and, if you would like to write a Blog for us, on the topic of further / adult community education and skills, please contact us:

Writer Guidelines:

WORD: 300 – 1,000 words. Keep it short and engaging. Something folks can read in their break, on the bus or in the staffroom when they have a spare moment.

STYLE: Flexible. We’re interested in: Voices from the classroom/staffroom. Resource explorations. Reviews of books, blogs and events. Think pieces. Descriptions of PDNorth exchange activity. Critical thoughts.

REFERENCES: If you choose to reference other people’s work, events, videos, resources etc please reference them and give them the kudos they deserve.

Teaching Basic Literacy – Quick and easy strategies for the toolkit

Teaching basic literacy

by Chloe Hynes 

In recent years we have become increasingly more concerned with social practice approaches to ELT (English Language Teaching) pedagogy as opposed to a focus on skills (a bottom up approach encouraged by Skills for Life strategy). In her workshop: ‘Teaching Basic Literacy Skills’, Anne-Margaret Smith (ELT Well) suggested we shouldn’t necessarily favour either of these attitudes but instead combine the top down and bottom up models to form a complimentary teaching and learning experience.

Begin with the spoken word

Anne-Margaret explained that once we become competent in literacy, it’s hard to remember what the difficulties may be. Particularly for learners who are building upon the foundation of another language. These foundations may be solid but they may also be rather rocky, if existent at all. Anyone who has learned a foreign language (or attended the foreign language lesson in a CELTA course) may remember some of these difficulties: A new script, new sounds, discovering patterns, needing to break habits, forgetting,  lack of confidence…

It’s ideal if we can begin with the spoken word because “nobody is born with a pen in their hand” but also – and more specifically for our adults – because this will give learners the confidence and empowerment to use language, play with it and make mistakes.

Next, lay the foundations

The social practice point of view suggests we should begin by asking our learners what motivates them and what interactions are most important to them. From here you can build something to work towards. Anne-Margaret suggests asking your learners to bring in a text that they want to be able to read and keep it in their file or book. This then acts as a physical reminder of their goal and something to work towards. It also helps you to make your planning more personalised.

To combine with skills practice: it’s integral we start at the beginning and that means starting with the alphabet. Teach both names and sounds (all of them!) and focus on 1 (or a handful) each lesson, preferably vowels first and progressing to variations a little later e.g. teach f first then later teach the ph blend.


Then, move on

Smith implored that recognition should come before production. This recognition can help with decoding skills. To illustrate, we were tasked with decoding a little Korean!

Flashcards are a staple in the ESOL classroom but Anne-Margaret suggested asking your students to make their own so they can choose words that are most relevant to them and their lives (with some suggestion from yourself, ofcourse!).

At this point the learners may start to notice patterns, but due to the complexity of the English language these patterns and rules are rarely steadfast. In fact, the top 100 most used words are mostly irregular!

Anne-Margaret finished with a particularly interesting activity for teaching context. Using the Jabberworky as a colourful lead in, use nonesense words within a piece of text and invite learners to guess their meaning from reading the rest of the sentence (or paragraph). Most importantly – follow up by asking questions so they can share why they came to their conclusions.

Considerations

  1. In your first lesson explore what learners are comfortable with: different pens, pencils and paper (or whiteboards). Bear in mind that some learners may have never held a pen before or have negative associations attached to writing materials from school experiences.
  2. Be considerate of fonts used in printed materials. Some letters look different in font form than written which can cause confusion eg. many fonts use the hooded ‘a’ and circular ‘g’. A Sans Serif font is always recommended as the rounded letters are easier to read for many learners. Sassoon, Tahoma and Century Gothic are good options.
  3. Some languages are pictorial, communicating through concepts and ideas which ‘build’ visually rather than individual written words e.g. Chinese.
  4. Don’t make assumptions on prior knowledge of script. Not every language which uses the Roman alphabet uses all the letters we use in English. Additionally – some languages use more letters than the 26 letters used in English!

Anne-Margaret’s workshops are always an absolute pleasure to attend. She does so much more for inclusion, SpLD support and ELT via her company, ELTWell. For more information on all the work ELTWell does go to: http://eltwell.com/

ELT Acronyms FYI (For Your Information):

ELT – English Language Teaching

ESOL – English for Speakers of Other Languages

EAL – English as an Additional Language

EfL – English as a Foreign Language

EAP – English for Academic Purposes.

Writing a Great Blog for PDNorth

If you’re even reading this, somewhere in your head is the thought that you might write a blog here, for PDNorth. Kudos to you!

The very best blogs are those you write in your own voice – and that’s the point of the PDNorth blog, to hear voices from across the North of England. We know that the diversity of what you know, think and write is going to blow us away.

What you will get out of blog-writing is the chance to find your own voice as a writer educator, in a supportive and supported environment – and of course to share your practice with fellow travellers. Public writing is a very different kind of reflexion to that which you probably do all the time. In a way, it’s a form of teaching…you are wanting to communicate your ideas to others, hopefully to benefit in turn from their freshest thinking too.

What’s the story?

All the best writing has a story to tell, even if it’s professional/technical writing like the PDNorth blog. So – what’s your story? Who are the human and non-human actors? What do they get up to and why might we be interested to read about it? Stories could be fictional or factual and maybe the most compelling of them are FicFactual (not totally a thing, I admit) – a true story fictionalised to show the golden narrative thread at its best.

How do I get started?

Firstly, think about where you want to write. You may have a nice corner of your kitchen, or an allotment shed, or a local café. Maybe you fancy exploring co-working spaces such as my favourite Ziferblat in Manchester (also in Liverpool and Salford at Media City) and, closer to home for me, Doncaster’s lovely Helm. There’s usually a charge which includes drinks and snacks or there may be free offer sessions…overall it’s cheaper than sitting in Costa for a day, unless you can make an Americano last a really long time.

Where you write doesn’t matter, as long as you feel comfortable in the space. Some people like silence, others a little background noise – or high-volume techno – it’s completely up to you. Try to give yourself a clear space and plenty of breaks, walk round the block if you can. Sometimes the thinking needs to catch up with the typing…

The blank page can be scary, so before you do anything else open up a word document (or a clean page in a gorgeous notebook), name it to save it, and throw some words down. You can write FISH twenty times if that will get you started; the words don’t need to survive the editing process so it doesn’t matter if they are clumsy. All that matters is making a start.

Keep on Keeping On

I’m probably not the only person to have a desktop littered with pieces I’ve begun and not completed. Keeping on keeping on is definitely a problem for me. I try to address it with ‘tomato writing’ (strictly speaking, the Pomodoro Technique). I use an app on my phone to break down the time I’ve got into work chunks and breaks, which I’ll usually use to have a brisk walk down the block. Tomato Writing helps you switch off that internal editor, the one who tells you that you’re an impostor. You’re not!

We’ve got a few, hopefully helpful, guidelines to support you:

WORD: 300 – 1,000 words. Keep it short and engaging. Something folks can read in their break, on the bus or in the staffroom when they have a spare moment.

STYLE: Flexible. We’re interested in: Voices from the classroom/staffroom. Resource explorations. Reviews of books, blogs and events. Think pieces. Descriptions of PDNorth exchange activity. Critical thoughts.

REFERENCES: If you choose to reference other people’s work, events, videos, resources etc please reference them and give them the kudos they deserve.

What to write?

Cardinal rule – it’s got to be something you’re bothered about, otherwise your words won’t sound sincere…in fact, they probably won’t flow. So think of an area of work that makes you buzz, even if it’s not without its complications. We’d love you to write about your successes, but sometimes stuff you haven’t quite pulled off is even more interesting – if you explore why.

As you’re writing, keep accessibility in mind. Chloë takes care of all that stuff on the web design side of things but it’s worth having a look at the Plain English Campaign guides, to try and avoid the gobbledygook and jargonese (technical terms) we all fall prey to in education!

You might want Chloë to include images, to break up the text and make it more readable. Just be mindful of copyright; images you’ve taken are fine (if you have obtained the active consent of anyone photographed), or you might like to search a Creative Commons database for freely available images.

How can we help?

We’d love to help you get started as a blogger/writer. Both me and Chloë would be happy to have an initial conversation about what you might write and then I’d be privileged to help you edit your early drafts. There’s something lovely about seeing the shape of a piece emerge, it’s like sculpture.

OK, what next?

The next step is to let Chloë know you’re up for it. You can either email her or, complete the contact form to the left <—

So, don’t be shy! We really hope you’ll go for it 🙂

Lou Mycroft

InTuition columnist Pedagogue