Monday, April 02, 2012

Language World 2012: Developing life long learners

I was totally energized and inspired by Liz Black’s session where she shared practical tips on how best to develop life-long learners. Liz, advanced skills teacher at Stokesley School North Yorkshire, emphasized: “There is nothing more important than you as teacher. You are the most important asset in a child’s life. Share your enthusiasm with them”. These are just some of the fantastic and extremely useful practical tips that Liz shared:

· Collaborative planning: plan, trial, reflect, evaluate then refine. If we want to ‘mine for gold’, then this takes time and effort”. Through years of watching the responses of children to inform her planning, Liz has changed her style of teaching in order to create a high level of interaction in the classroom and to make language teaching more meaningful for students. “Children feel treasured if they see that you have planned a session for them - taking their own needs into account”.

· “Spend time with colleagues at key transition stages”: How much time do we give to receiving our pupils? Understanding how children have been taught in previous years, and their attitudes to learning, before they come to your class is very important. The terminologies used by teachers in different key stages vary. For example, in KS1 the imperative may often be called the ‘bossy language’, in KS2 the ‘command language’, in KS3/4 it is called the ‘imperative’. Look at the core blocks: as a receiving teacher, what do you hope they are going to come to you with? What will you do to ensure the learning journey is improved?

· “Motivate students to think, express opinions and debate at a young age”: create spontaneous talk by asking them to say whether they think certain situations are fair or unfair; create a comfortable space where there are not rights or wrongs; show videos (e.g. The Star Thrower) or sequence of photos; use poetry; “learning is at its best when material used is exotic and unusual”; use engaging context and material that provoke meaningful conversation, that make students laugh or moves them emotionally; exploit their chatter “you can still teach traditional themes, but in their real world”.

· “Use models of famous people that inspire students in the classroom”: such as Paul McCartney singing in German; Joanna Zimmer; use the local context by identifying ‘local heroes’, positive role models or people that students admire and invite them into your classroom.

· “Consider some more radical approaches”: e.g. cross-phase teaching, older students teaching younger ones in family groupings. Cascading learning is powerful. Research ‘Storyline’ and how effective this could be for MFL teaching.

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