Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

April 3, 2012

What has Design got to do with EFL?

I’ve just got back from this year’s IATEFL conference in Glasgow and as with everyone else I’m sure, my head is spinning with new ideas and new things to think about.

One of the sessions that struck a real chord with me was the Plenary on Wednesday morning given by Diana Laurillard. In this plenary she explored ideas of teacher communities and also course design, but a course design that was adaptable to many situations and which could be shared across these communities to create a bank of both flexible lesson plans and examples of good practice that had been tried and tested and found to be very effective.

I am sure that my explanation of this is highly simplistic and that in reality it is much more complex than I am sharing here but it was the idea of programme models that struck me most about her talk. It seems that we all to an extent go around inventing the wheel over and over and that by creating, testing, measuring and sharing we could perhaps cut down on our work-load and have a more predictable outcome to our programmes and courses. It’s worth considering I feel.

I am currently working with a young product design student and as we explore elements of design and ideas of design it has become apparent to me that everything is really about design and that by looking at anything we do from a design perspective makes it look very different and also allows us to be far more creative in our ideas and approaches. I am very excited by this idea as I have been exploring course designs and models for my own programmes both online and face to face for the past two years and through a great deal of trial and error I do belive that I have finally created a model for my programmes which is highly adaptable and also flexible enough to fit any student and any area of study that they need be it ESP, general English, exam work or professional development.

“Design is that area of human experience, skill and knowledge which is concerned with man’s ability to mould his environment to suit his material and spiritual needs.”  Archer

Design is essentially about solving problems and improving things. I think this idea is a very good fit for EFL. We, as teachers, need our skills to evolve and grow and this, in turn, will help us to give our learners a better outcome and solve the problems that we face day-to-day with students in the classroom. Rather than re-inventing the wheel each time we can work with frameworks and models that allow us to create courses and programmes which will suit our learners. Then by sharing these frameworks and the way in which we have adapted them we can build a repository of working models that will both help and be further enhanced by other teachers.

One of the programme models I have been working on is for the short  immersion courses I run here in the UK. These programmes consist of several elements which I feel must be present for the programme to be truly beneficial to participants but also to meet and hopefully exceed their expectations.

I want to share the model here – it is simple but can be adapted to any learner or group of learners who take the course (including EFL teachers).

  

 

The model shows all the elements that I need to include in an immersion programme. As you can see this goes beyond the actual lessons. Key to the success of  these programmes, I feel, is making sure that all elements interconnect in some way to add value to the language development and also to the experience for the client.

This model translates into a timetable for the programme where everything is tied in. It goes, however, beyond a mere timetable into all areas of the stay which creates the immersion and feeds back into the technical language taught in the formal sessions.

Everything is crafted to produce a programme which provides pure language practice, specialised language practice, experience of local culture, exposure to native speakers and venues that are relevant to the client’s work (or interests) and an enjoyable and comfortable stay in what is a very lovely part of the UK. I have tried to show in the diagram where these elements are two-way (as in the formal lessons) and where they are provided for the client and expected as part of the programme (e.g. with accommodation). Another level on the model shows where things are deliberately structured (ie: lessons or set work, prepared visits, meals etc..) and where they are more random (such as what happens on actual visits or when meeting people locally).

The programme begins at the airport or station and from then on every aspect of the day is to a greater or lesser extent a learning experience. Most of  the learners require a mix of general English and some technical ESP language. They are also learning within British culture which translates into the food I prepare, some of the activities we engage in (for example a visit to our village pub) and the general way in which we live day-to-day. Visits are arranged to suit their ESP needs where possible. This not only allows them to use specialist language but also to use this language with English-speaking members of their own profession which, I find, is one of the most valuable aspects of the programme.

The final piece of the jigsaw is the setting or ambience in which the learning takes place and this must also be considered as it needs to fit with all the other elements to ensure a successful outcome.

I am happy to share this model as it has been tested and works well. Please use and adapt it. In the final analysis it is not a model for an English language course particularly but for an immersion programme and can be used for any subject delivered in that format.

In my next post I will show how this works ‘on the ground’ by describing one of the programmes I have run based on this model.

 

To find out more about immersion programmes at Fleetham Lodge in Yorkshire follow the link.

See our learner evaluations of their programmes and their stay.

 

Other posts on this topic you might enjoy:

Total immersion English courses – fast, furious and fun!

Sharing your teacher’s life – courses in a teacher’s home

Creating a teacher workshop

Learning together – the value of sharing

March 14, 2012

My four Ps for polished performance in English language.

The idea for this post came out of a text chat discussion we had on Gapfillers a little while ago when, we came up with a formula for improving  performance and skills in English.

The title of the discussion was ‘How to get my English to a high level’ and the first three Ps to emerge (they all just happened to start with P) were:

Patience, Perseverance and Performance

and then the fourth and equally important Practice.

With this Posse of  Ps it’s hard not to reach your English goal (and hard to keep away from P-words too :-)! )

So let’s expand on them and see how they can help you to achieve your dream in English.

Patience.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will your English. If things take time to sink in, make sense or execute don’t worry. If you keep on at a steady pace then you will, almost without realising it, achieve the milestone that you are aiming for. One day you will suddenly realise that you know something, really know it in your muscles, that you have been struggling to master for a while. Remember that language learning goes in a series of plateaux and is not a straight, onwards and upwards, line. You may feel that you are not making any progress for what seems like a long time and then suddenly, almost overnight, you get it! With patience these steps will happen and you will see and feel them. This will give you even more confidence to keep going!

Perseverance

This attribute helps you to pick yourself up, even after you have had a setback, and push forwards. It is easy to give up. It is easy to say I’ll never do this. Let’s say you took an exam and didn’t get the result you wanted you can shrug your shoulders and say that you’re not ever going to get the grade you need or you can learn from the experience and get back on track. Sometimes when you have this experience you need someone to support you and help you to keep going and find out where you went wrong.  A mentor, however, can only show you the way and encourage you. At the end of the day YOU are the one who needs to draw on your inner strength and focus on your dream again and take action to move closer to it.

Performance

By performance here I mean actually using your language. Speaking and writing as much as you can and making sure that you have an audience to receive this performance and sometimes even rate you on it! I speak to English learners every day and many of them tell me how they don’t have opportunities to speak or they can’t find anybody to look at their writing. Then I speak to others who have found themselves language buddies online and they speak every day and assess each other’s writing! You have to try to create opportunities for yourself and it’s so much easier today with the internet.

Be brave if you can’t find a group then why not start one yourself!

The fact of the matter is that languages improve with use and so if you need to improve, then you have to use them. You cannot rely on your books alone you MUST get out there and speak and write.

The more you perform the better (especially if you have good feedback) your performance will get.

Practice

The difference between practice and performance is that one is ‘real’ and the other is preparation for real. If you speak then your purpose is often other than the words and sentences  – it is to communicate something to someone. When you write it is to convey and message, or information, or get an assessment in an exam. On the other hand when you practise you are trying to perfect your skills for the performance. It’s rather like training in sport or rehearsing in music. It is in the practice where you can experiment with new words and phrases or a new style or new ideas. Practice is the focused way in which you get your skills to performance level. It is here that you can try things out, experiment with new words and phrases or new approaches to writing. You can ask people if you are right or gauge someone’s reaction to your new style or new vocabulary. Try and test, test and try, and you will broaden your language for the ‘real’ times.

But both practice and performance work together to get you those high level skills that you desire.

So, here you are; the 4P approach to getting your language skills to shine and achieving your goals in language whatever they may be.

And in case you are interested, here is the ‘warts and all’ transcript from that PPPP chat!!

GapChat

9/02/2011

How can I get my English to a really high level?

Welcome to live chat.
09:02 Berni: Don’t forget GapChat at 13.00 GMT today! See you then :-)

12:51 Berni: Hello and welcome to today’s GapChat. How can I get my English to a really high level? I’m very excited about this topic as I think Gapfillers is a perfect way to start!

12:59 Berni: Add your comments in the box and press send. Don’t worry about just watching what others

are doing. Add your comments when you feel ready.

13:00 Berni: Hi Blanca I hope you manage to stay with us today!

13:00 Blanca Morales: Hi Berni, I´m sure you have the clue to get my English to a really high level?

13:01 Berni: I was hoping you would give us your advice as your English is at a very high level already!

13:01 Blanca Morales: It seems to be working at the moment.

13:02 Berni: I think one point about you Blanca is that you keep going and always look for areas of your English to work on – this is very important!

13:03 Berni: Three words that I think are very important (and they all begin with P) are Patience, Perseverance and Performance

13:04 Berni: HI Cee welcome – any nuggets for today’s chat?

13:04 Cee: Hi. Just getting my brain into gear!!

13:05 Blanca Morales: It is but it´s true my commitment to keep it going is high, that´s part of my life but when you´re just a learner is more difficult.

13:05 Cee: Would you add a further p – practise

13:05 Berni: Great idiom Cee! It means to get ready for action.

13:06 jay: Hi Friends..

13:06 Blanca Morales: I agree with these 4 P principles you two have just mentioned.

13:07 Berni: I agree Cee practice and performance go hand in hand you need to take opportunities to perform and then depending on the outcome go back and practise (note 2 spellings pof practice/practise noun/verb).

13:07 Berni: pof obviously? = of Lol!

13:08 rosamund: Hi, everyone! I’ll butt in when I have an idea – you seem to have got off to a flying start!

13:09 Berni: HI Jay welcome we are exploring what you should do to get your English to a high level and have come up the the 4P process! Pretty cool!

13:09 rosamund: butt in = interrupt, cut in. i suppose it’s a bit informal

13:09 Berni: Wow we’re producing great idioms today! Hello Ros welcome.

13:10 Berni: By the way cut in was our word of the day earlier in the week.

13:11 jay: This is first time chattting with you guys am new..Could you tell me about this use of chat..

13:11 Berni: So, how can we really use this process of patience, perseverence, practice and performance to push our skills?

13:12 Cee: Do you think getting your English to a high level is a staged process? – read, listen, speak. So that, in stages your confidence builds along with your ability?

13:12 rosamund: Hello, Jay – nice to meet you! What are your ideas about getting your English up to a high level? I think it’s important not to overlook the little opportunities that crop up (= occur) in your everyday routine. A friend of mine learned Polish while he was travelling to work on the metro eveyr day. It was the only free time he had, but he made use of it with a notebook, a list of vocabulary and sometimes headphones!

13:13 Berni: Jay we meet and chat each Wednesday about a topic on online English language learning

13:13 rosamund: Oops! typoe = I meant every

13:13 rosamund: typo – oh dear

13:14 Berni: The topic is voted for by Gapfillers members and then we discuss and look at ways we can use Gapfillers (and other things) to improve English skills

13:14 Cee: Great idea Ros. I have heard of people learning a language by listening to the radio – song lyrics as well as conversation.

13:15 Berni: We are looking at how to really make a difference to English language skills. I think to do something every day (even 5 or 10 minutes) will help.

13:16 Berni: The important things you have in thes example Cee is that this is authentic, real English and so is a good model.

13:17 Berni: The negative side of just listening to songs or radio is that in some way you need to convert this into an active skill – speaking or writing

13:17 Blanca Morales: Once you have reached an advanced level if you want to overcome that plateau level you feel at, you really need a professional to make your English progress. There I come to sth o learnt from Berni, which is brilliant: language auditing -is the spelling right?-

13:18 Berni: Yes, Blanca I agree you have to have someone chack that you are correct and that you don’t keep making the same mistakes – language auditing is a way of assessing your own language for the mistakes you make over and over

13:19 rosamund: Yes, Berni, i agree – what’s ideal is to be able to make the most of the time you have – the word of the day doesn’t take long for people to absorb – and the grammar exercises here on Gapfillers are also short. Some people like to make their own notes on reading or listening exercises to reinforce what they’ve covered – it depends on how your brain works, really. This can be a way of making the learning more active, to take your point, Berni. it’s not active active, but it’s not just passive – you’re taking sth and doing sth with it.

13:19 rosamund: did you mean ‘check’ Berni? My dictionary doesn’t have ‘chack’. (ho, ho!)

13:19 Berni: Jay what is your opinion on getting your English to a really good level?

13:20 Berni: Oh Ros Lol!

13:20 Blanca Morales: Can you see what I´m saying?

13:21 Berni: Yes Blanca – have you faded again?

13:23 jay: Berni..Actually i have a habit to improve my english skills.i used to find new word from dictonary and write it a pice of paper..i will read number of times whenever getting time on whole day…like traving ,roaming and somtimes while do bathing..!!!!

13:23 Berni: If you really want to improve your skills then you have to kep an eye on what ‘real’ speakers do – I find some students get to a reasonable level and then just go round in circles.

13:24 Blanca Morales: In fact, practice and awareness are important to boost the learning process.

13:24 jay: ‘real’ speakers means….native speakers?

13:24 Berni: This is a great idea Jay if you keep looking at the word and using it you will remember it! Make sure you look, listen, speak or write even a little every day.

13:25 Berni: Yes that’s right or very good speakers (they may not be native) I think having a good model is important that way you don’t ‘learn’ mistakes

13:25 rosamund: Yes, Jay – that’s a good idea. Do you ever put the word on a post-it? They’re little bits of sticky paper that you can stick on the fridge, or the bathroom mirror, so you look at them regularly. I have different colours, as i find even that can help words to stick (= sink in = become absorbed / learned).

13:26 jay: but whenever iam trying to speak in english ..iam always used to form sentence in my monther lang..then iam transalate it…some times i cant trsnalate what am thinking..

13:27 Berni: So to summmarise – we need to be patient and persevere, we need to practise and perform as much as possible, we need to have good language models and finally we need to expose ourselves to some English every day

13:27 Cee: Ha ha – some of the English used in the media is really quite poor!

13:28 Berni: Aha Jay now this is important – try not to do this as it rarely comes out right – use what you already know in English and start with simple sentences – what do you think Blanca?

13:28 Berni: I agree Cee it can be awful but there is still enough that is good to use I feel.

13:28 jay: Yes…Rosamund..used to stick papers on my walls,TV and bike!!!

13:29 Berni: Jay, you sound as though you are already doing everything you need to do to improve your English! Now try and ‘think’ in English!

13:30 Berni: Right so how can Gapfillers help?

13:30 Cee: Jay , my friend had a rule when learning French – If I wish to speak in French I must think it French too! She said it was very useful.

13:31 Cee: Whoops, ‘Think IN French’, not it -another typo

13:31 rosamund: It’s a much better idea to simplify what you’re thinking in your own language and base what you say on sth you know is right. It’s always interesting wondering how you would actually say sth in your own language – often it would be really difficult, so better not to translate too much of the time, just occasionally. It’s essential to vary your different types of learning, too. You can get bored and stop taking things in.

13:32 jay: sth means?

13:33 Berni: it means something (an abbreviation often used by teachers!)

13:33 Cee: Sth is an abbreviation of the word- something

13:33 jay: Fine

13:33 rosamund: sth = something – sorry, Jay. sb = somebody so = someone. You’re talking to someone who has spent too much of her life in different dictionaries.

13:34 rosamund: That’s why i know how much time you save doing work on this site and not having to look things up! I’ve been there and done that! (= That has been my own experience.)

13:34 Berni: I love the picture of you living in a dictionary Ros! I am sure this would improve language skills a lot!!

13:35 Berni: Jay, where are you joining us from today?

13:35 jay: From India

13:36 Berni: I’m in cold wet UK!

13:36 Berni: How often do you use English actively?

13:36 rosamund: Wow! Do your friends and family all call you Jay – or is that short for another name?

13:37 jay: Actually we used to speak in english in office hours..

13:37 Berni: Is that a rule or just your habit in your office?

13:37 rosamund: Was that for fun, or because you had to, for work purposes?

13:38 jay: because in india more than 500 native language is there..so English is gobal language for Indians.

13:38 rosamund: The idea of 500 native languages makes my head spin!

13:39 Berni: I think English has been a common language in India for a very long time – how do you feel it compares with English in the UK?

13:39 Cee: Wow, 500 native languages!

13:40 rosamund: In a typical secondary school in the UK we might have 12 – 15 different native languages – only in some would there be more than that – but I can’t imagine there being 500!Top of Form

13:41 jay: Berni..We used to follow UK English only

13:41 Cee: Jay, do you have to speak some English before you start employment, or do you learn it whilst you are working?

13:43 rosamund: What sort of English do you usually need – presumably social English, and also some sort of work-type English, vocabulary and phrases to do with meetings, correspondence, pay and conditions?

13:43 jay: from working environment only…Actually here lot of pepole good in English…

13:44 Berni: Good question Ros – it does depend also on what you need/want to learn – you can plan your programme to reach this goal.

13:45 rosamund: We have a lot of material on the site which should be useful in a work context, Jay.

13:45 jay: I want both !!!! Social as well as Work-type

13:45 Berni: Jay, this is the best answer – everything! can I ask you how you use the Gapfillers site to help youo improve your English skills

13:45 rosamund: Yes, we always laught when people who haven’t learned a language say they want ‘telephone English’. i mean, what do you want to say on the telephone?!!

13:46 jay: Because its makes bore if you speaks only work-type english with friends..Am i right?

13:46 rosamund: laugh – sorry!

13:46 rosamund: I agree, it is boring – and you can be a bit of a bore, too.

13:47 Berni: I think you are right Jay the more widely you use English the better it will become – is there a P word for this?

13:47 Berni: Also, doing things that are not work-related will keep you interested and often you learn more because you are enjoying the topic!

13:48 Berni: Lol Ros, especially if people can only talk about their jobs!!

13:49 rosamund: Shall we invent a term for using Englihs as widely as you can, over as many areas and fields as possible – what about calling it ‘parachuting’?! Jay, Blanca, I’m being silly here, just ignore me.

13:50 rosamund: English – I meant to type

13:50 Berni: Actually parachuting could just work!

13:50 Berni: So, Jay how did you find out about Gapfillers?

13:50 Cee: I can see Potential for some typing lessons here, people!! We are all making lots of typos!

13:51 rosamund: Folks, I’m sorry, but I have to go. Good to chat – thanks for your ideas – I’m going to go and have another think about some of this. have a good week, everyone.

13:52 Cee: I like the term ‘parachuting’, Ros.

13:52 Berni: Bye Ros and thank you for your ideas and thoughts – see you next time!

13:52 Cee: Bye Ros.

13:53 jay: Its really good!

13:53 jay: Got some new word from here

13:54 Berni: I think you are doing the right thing with your practice Jay – maybe you can formalise it a bit more so that you have an idea about the progress you are making. Do you get the word of the day?

13:55 Cee: That’s the good thing about coming onto Gapchat – you see people using everyday, ‘real’ English including idioms, slang and abbraviations. It’s all very useful!

13:55 jay: yes..

13:55 Berni: Which area of your language do you think you need to improve the most?

13:55 Cee: AAghh, abbrEviations! Sorry

13:56 Berni: Lol Cee!

13:57 jay: Simple sentence format and vacabulary

13:57 Berni: In speaking or writing?

13:58 jay: both

13:59 Cee: I have to leave, now. Nice to ‘see’ here today Jay. Thanks again Berni. See you all next week.

13:59 Berni: I see – how much listening practice do you do?

13:59 jay: Bye Cee….

13:59 Berni: Bye Cee thank you for all your input it was very helpful. See you soon :-)

14:00 jay: i have no extra listening proctice! just i will intract with my co-workers and friends ..nothing else

14:02 Berni: I think this is something you can do to improve – try to find some listening exercises on Gapfillers (or another site you use) make sure there are some exercises so you can test yourself but this will help you to get exposed to good English models in different topics.

14:03 Berni: As you hear more of these examples you can use them in your own speaking and writing and this shoudl help you with your word order and grammar – but be patient it won’t happen overnight.
14:13 jay: Thank you so much for your support..

14:14 jay: Have a great time..Bye

14:16 Berni: It is my pleasure – see you soon! Bye :-)

Do you need help with your IELTS exam?

As a former IELTS examiner and with over 15 years of experience preparing and coaching people for the exam especially at Bands 7 and 8 I know what it takes to achieve these scores.

I work a lot with professionals (especially doctors) who need high band scores to move on with their careers.

Using my own Advanced English training site, Gapfillers and my own expertise in IELTS I can help you to get the score you are looking for.

Join my IELTS Group in Gapfillers and get regular updates about preparing for the exam and also the chance to join in my teleseminars and seminars and all the other IELTS training opportunities I offer.

Joining is easy;  follow this link, register (it’s absolutely free), (don’t forget to tick the IELTS group button) and that’s it!

As soon as you register you will have access to my free 1-hour presentation THE TROUBLE WITH IELTS – the link is on the welcome page. Watch or download it, it’s your choice.

I hope to see you there :-)

Sincerely,

Berni

Gapfillers

March 2, 2012

Recent #Edchat Discussions January and February

 

I have got a little behind with the edchat posts so here is a digest of all the most recent.

These are hosted now on @TestSoup’s blog. I’ll add in some of the shared links here and you can get the flavour of the discussion  from John’s blog summaries.

 

cybraryman1:  @mikevigilant How about more Cross Curricular? : http://t.co/Ee94Y2si  #edchat

mathfour: @mikevigilant I’m inciting change (or a riot) with this: http://t.co/TcK3HI5n  #edchat

davidwees: Time isn’t just about daily schedules => Create a brick and mortar university where every course is open http://t.co/GNmZ6qGj  #edchat

DGalpert: Very interesting! Sweden debuts first classroom-less school http://t.co/5IjBxswk  via @NMHS_Principal #edchat #cpchat #edtech #jed21

davidwees: School Bells Interfere with learning: http://t.co/AsZUKNXJ  #edchat

eduk8andlead: Blended learning approaches that mix f2f & online can help tackle time & calendar issues. #edchat Carpe Diem schools http://t.co/2FhNH0zB

 

cybraryman1: My Parent-Teacher Communication page: http://t.co/zvwQ21nJ  #edchat 

InspiredICTeach: Neat tool to reward positive behaviour in class http://t.co/RDzTBcOb  #eLearning #ictcurric #edchat

pernilleripp: Is the report card obsolete? http://t.co/SC0DZki6   #edchat

davidwees: What mattered in 1825 on your report card was how many lines of scripture you had memorized. http://t.co/0C9yGqZY  #edchat

pernilleripp: Students define letter grades http://t.co/HFau3RqK  #edchat

pernilleripp: Why the report card should be getting an F http://t.co/p2bbZ8ES  #edchat

 

cybraryman1: Can infusing some Self-Directed Learning http://t.co/I5nudKaG  in a large class help teachers? #edchat 

cybraryman1: How about more student-centered learning http://t.co/uOkLzkdi  #edchat

politicalteach: What the class size research REALLY says. http://t.co/UxstT5dq  #edchat

vanroet: A blog about 1:1 schools! http://t.co/nBWxYq9b  #edchat #edfuture

@ncte: @MaryAnnReilly @CTuckerEnglish @cybraryman1 “More than a Number: Why Class Size Matters” http://t.co/JMCYuvFi  #edchat

politicalteach: Looks interesting re class size effects on achievement http://t.co/mcR0T1R1  #edchat

 

Mr_Brett_Clark: I can’t participate fully in today’s #edchat. Here are some things we do in our district: EVSC ICATS Website http://t.co/uHYnrAmB  

DrThomasHo: @MertonTech teachers have got to TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for THEIR own learning http://t.co/KvcUjJ69  #edchat

Mr_Brett_Clark: Do any other schools/districts put together coach’s menus to differentiate PD? http://t.co/qMbDxlqX  I would like to see others. #edchat

daveandcori: Professional Development for Teachers needs to change – http://t.co/ET2VIMZd  #edchat

daveandcori: I hate when teachers will only go to learning event if it is for CEUs. Need to be always learning! #edchat http://t.co/H7HXoyfb

RobertBorgersen: I know I love and take advantage of our University Teaching Services every chance I get! http://t.co/ASN0BYw0  #edchat

NETC_Travel: Never stop learning! 12 Ways to Learn in 2012 http://t.co/aQgNTFLD  #edchat

 

 

There are no links available for this chat – but check out @TestSoup’s summary!

 

 kevin_corbett:  Digital Learning Futures [SLIDESHARE] http://t.co/4gq9jQP3  NEW & Awesome! Thanks @timbuckteeth #elearning #mlearning #gamification #edchat

studysync: Teachers talk tech use in the classroom at recent Portland conference: http://t.co/qKPZIPGE  #edtech #edchat

web20classroom: From @edutopia and @teachingwthsoul-20 Tidbits For New Teachers: http://t.co/NTK2I1rz #ntchat #edchat

lookforsun: I believe the #Educon principles lay positive foundation for tech use: http://t.co/6VcbkruZ #edchat

bhsprincipal: Students and teachers who are not comfortable using appropriate technology can no longer be considered literate http://t.co/rav0jyQd  #edchat

principal_kelly: Article on the digital divide http://t.co/hLUzjDZ7  #edchat

 drdouggreen: @davidwees SM has made it easier to curate the Internet for my readers at http://t.co/DMYqOAZP  #edchat

ShellTerrell: Why do we connect? Lots of educators, students, parents answer that in this video http://t.co/TTAkFIIf   #edchat

daveandcori: Social Media in Education – connect, share, learn, communicate and more http://t.co/DPe4q4vC #edchat

MertonTech: http://t.co/KcYdOT5A  SM’s value was predicted in 1973. #edchat

TeachersHelp01: SM granted me the ability & honor of helping teachers avoid the predatory 403b about 80% of teachers are in http://t.co/IOUZaLIB  #edchat

DrThomasHo: @ShellTerrell for students, digital footprint should be about their LEARNING is what I’ll say at http://t.co/3xn9LT61  #edchat

ShellTerrell: @cybraryman1: Great Why do we connect video from many of my wonderful PLN members: http://t.co/4fKwWVfF  #edchat

For the complete transcripts and more links go to the #Edchat wiki.

February 15, 2012

My IELTS Speaking Test is tomorrow – Can you help me TODAY?

This is a cry that I get often.  I really don’t understand why people leave it so late. Going over the exam procedure, making sure that you know what to do and when things are happening, checking the times etc.. is one thing you should do the night before, but trying to address the whole speaking test the night before or even in the days before the exam begs the question – should you even be doing the exam?

In actual fact my advice to students the night before their exam is (when they have checked the points mentioned above) to relax, watch a movie, read a book or magazine (in English) and go to bed early!

Frankly I would not be prepared to give this kind of last-minute coaching for two reasons. Firstly it wouldn’t be helpful and I don’t want anybody investing their time and money in something that isn’t going to help them to succeed and secondly, I have a feeling that if the result wasn’t the one wanted then I’d probably get the blame! So, my BIG message to all IELTS students in this post is please, please don’t leave things to the last-minute.

If you take a driving test do you get into the car the day before for the first time? Language is a skill the more you practice the better you get generally. Speaking is the most fundamental part of a language and you just need to find opportunities to practice. If you can’t speak well how on earth will you manage in your new country, your new job, or your new study? That’s what the IELTS is testing! Do you have the right level of English to succeed in the venture that you are embarking upon?

Your approach to preparation in the IELTS tells me a lot about how you will succeed. I meet students who are organised, who have a plan and who create a process for their learning and their preparation. They balance their general English practice with their IELTS test practice and know that it is impossible to get a good band without both. They are usually successful. I also meet students who keep on just ‘having a go’. This approach to the IELTS exam is VERY EXPENSIVE and will not guarantee you success. If you do not get exposure to English except via the Cambridge practice tests then getting a high band score is going to take a VERY long time and in some cases where a student’s English is not of a high level it will be impossible.

There are no short cuts. Either you have the language or not and no amount of IELTS practice can make up for a lack of good English language skills just as really great language may still not get you your score if you don’t prepare well for the exam itself.

So, particularly in the speaking, make sure you give yourself the best chance and start to practice as soon as you can and way before you go into the exam.

When it comes to speaking there is no substitute for actually doing it, getting out into the world and creating opportunities to use English with other people. These don’t have to be English native speakers – you can practice with other people who speak well or with other IELTS candidates who are looking for the same band score as you.

Yesterday I was speaking to Zakir from Pakistan. He is taking his test this week and he told me how in the last test he only scored a low score but wanted to get a 6 or 6.5 this time. His strategy for improving his score is to speak every day with a friend who is about the same level and they go through the test pretending one of them is the examiner and the other the IELTS candidate. They choose lots of topics and ask and answer the questions as if it were the real exam. They also take some time to chat as well. I was amazed at his level of fluency and confidence through using this simple technique to improve his speaking.  If you don’t have the chance to speak to a teacher, join a class or converse with English speakers then a simple arrangement like this will really help you to get some fluency and use your English.

On my Gapfillers site I encourage members to find speaking buddies – other members who are on the same IELTS journey who they can connect with on Skype in order to practise the speaking. I also run speaking workshops where we practise the test and talk about how to approach the speaking using practice exercises to improve performance. The speaking may only be a short part of the test but I really feel that it is one in which you can have a lot of influence over your score so it’s really worth making that extra effort to make it good!

So, here are some tips to improve your speaking:

  • Find speaking buddies to practise with
  • Record yourself – it’s good to hear how you sound and this will help you to hear where you hesitate or where your speaking might not be clear
  • Take any opportunity you can to speak – join a local English club or start one yourself! Look for an online one or start one yourself
  • Choose some topics write them on bits of paper, fold these up, put them in a container – everyday choose one at random and speak about it non-stop for 1 minute (then extend to 2 minutes) Choose some ‘silly’ topics like oranges or purple shoes etc.. if you can manage 2 minutes on this then the IELTS Part Two will not be a problem
  • Don’t stick to IELTS books go beyond this and just get out into the world to found opportunities if you have a wider experience then you will have much more to say in the IELTS exam
  • For pronunciation find recordings of poems or other short pieces and try to imitate the speakers – record yourself and compare

Finally, look at the video at the top of this post. There is a question at the very end. Make sure that YOUR answer is YES!

Do you need help with your IELTS exam?

As a former IELTS examiner and with over 15 years of experience preparing and coaching people for the exam especially at Bands 7 and 8 I know what it takes to achieve these scores.

I work a lot with professionals (especially doctors) who need high band scores to move on with their careers.

Using my own Advanced English training site, Gapfillers and my own expertise in IELTS I can help you to get the score you are looking for.

Join my free IELTS Group in Gapfillers and get regular updates about preparing for the exam and also the chance to join in my teleseminars and seminars and all the other IELTS training opportunities I offer.

Joining is easy;  follow this link, register (it’s absolutely free), (don’t forget to tick the IELTS group button) and that’s it!

As soon as you register you will have access to my free 1-hour presentation THE TROUBLE WITH IELTS – the link is on the welcome page. Watch or download it, it’s your choice.

I hope to see you there :-)

Sincerely,

Berni

Gapfillers

January 17, 2012

Which should we support first for the best result? A reform in student learning (teaching methods) or a reform in teacher learning (professional development, or PD)?

#Edchat 01 – 10 – 2012 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST

 

Happy New Year 2012!

Here is the first #edchat session of 2012 and again we are very grateful to @TestSoup for providing the bones of this summary. It seems that everybody had a good holiday and were able to re-charge batteries as this was a fast and furious chat with ideas flying around the twittersphere and we all enjoyed the first chat as a feisty encounter.

So, follow the link to John’s blog post  and find out what happened.

Don’t forget to check out the links below. These were shared by participants in the chat and give just a flavour. For more details visit the edchat wiki and the archive

 

Some links shared by #edchat participants:

 cybraryman1: @tsocko Should be shoutout to all edcamps and TeachMeets #edcamp Wiki http://t.co/A22HQPps  #edchat

@pernilleripp: Thoughts on PD http://t.co/PJpQceox  #edchat

@cybraryman1: @John_DAdamo My PD page might help: http://t.co/TMtMGpx8  #edchat

jonbergmann: do teachers need to relearn how to learn? http://t.co/P8j72Cen  gr8 blog post relevant to #edchat topic today

@tweetmeme Technology Does Not Make the Classroom Successful- the Teacher Does http://t.co/yystG5UR  Invested teachers are first. #EdChat

DrThomasHo: PD under fire: http://t.co/S0yfLlM9  #edchat

December 20, 2011

What changes could be made to the present management structure of ed to make it more effective for educators?

#Edchat 12 – 06 – 2011 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST

Here is the link to the latest #edchat summary.  Thanks again to John @TestSoup.

Check out the links on this topic below.

http://blog.testsoup.com/blended-learning-edchat-summary-11-29-11/

Some great links were shared – here’s a selection:

@coreydahlevent: Gotta Share… Watch this video. It speaks to “powering down” & how we don’t want to! http://t.co/2cm2MKd7  #edchat

  @weisburghm:  Sclechtly has interesting ideas in Leading for Learning on school reform: http://t.co/E2QOvpVo  #edchat 

@NetSupportGroup: How to Rescue Education Reform – http://t.co/jsaHxoIN http://t.co/J0A7dOzO  #globaled

@weisburghm: McKinnsey had some great suggestions for how to improve the ed system: http://t.co/xZGfIrgA   #edchat

@coreydahlevent: Gotta Share… Watch this video. It speaks to “powering down” & how we don’t want to! http://t.co/2cm2MKd7  #edchat

@ShiftParadigm: @weisburghm @apospirit @MertonTech @DrThomasHo Hattie’s book Visible Learning provides valuable insights #edchat http://t.co/CR5GSYBO

December 16, 2011

Case Study 6 – Another IELTS Doctor

This is my sixth case-study in the series. Like the others it illustrates a journey we both took to reach a particular language goal. Like the others the benefit gained was mutual. In this case I had a very reluctant student but it was a strange situation as he did seek me out but then felt he could go it alone.

Although I promised to describe my online work with IELTS students in subsequent posts I felt that this was an interesting case and wanted to share it with you. Now I promise the next case will deal with an online student!

See the other posts:

Case Study one – Mehmet (project manager)

Case Study two – Stepan (IELTS – doctor)

Case Study three – Maria (company relocation to UK )

Case Study four – Takeshi  (IELTS – doctor)

Case Study five – Ayesha (IELTS – doctor)

 

Case Study Six – Salim

My sixth student in the series was also an IELTS student and a doctor. Salim was from Syria. He had been living in the UK for some time and was very fluent in spoken English.  He had spent some time at school in the UK so his English skills were quite polished.

When I first met Salim he was about to take the test for the second time. He was worried about his reading and just wanted a lesson to go over some techniques. He was very confident about the exam and was certain that only the reading would be a problem.  This was unusual as mostly it is the writing that people want to have checked. I asked him about writing but he hadn’t brought any to the lesson and said that he was fine. He was looking for an overall band of 7. Working on just one part of the exam is not something I normally like to do, I like to make sure that all parts of the exam are on track as none of them work in isolation and the reading and listening impact on the writing and speaking. By integrating the study the outcome in all parts is more assured. I was a little concerned that he was concentrating so much on this one part.

He told me that he would be able to get a high score in speaking and listening and that if he managed to improve his reading then the writing would not be a problem.  This seemed logical but in my opinion as an IELTS coach I felt that in order to be safe in the result ‘all balls needed to be in the air’ at all times. We agreed to disagree and spent the lesson on the reading. I got the impression he was there reluctantly and felt deep down that he didn’t really feel that he needed help but his friends, some of whom had worked with me, had urged him to come.

After the lesson I wished him luck and asked him to let me know his result. I heard nothing more from Salim.

A few months later he called me and asked if he could come to see me. It transpired that he had not got the score he required and the thing that had let him down badly was his writing. He told me that he thought he had been a little over-confident (even arrogant – his words) and now realised that he needed to work more systematically and not try and get the score he needed ‘by numbers’.  This tendency to rely on one or two papers to get the desired result is a high risk strategy and also flies in the face of the whole point in preparing for IELTS in the first place – which is to make sure that you have the required language level for the job that you are going to do (or the course of study you are going to undertake). There is little point in getting the required IELTS result by the skin of your teeth and then struggling through your course or putting your new job in jeopardy because your English is not the best it can be.

I have also worked with several doctors after they have secured their job because they were having problems with English actually in the hospital. Passing the IELTS in only the beginning and in the medical field there is a lot of colloquial language that you will meet which can cause a lot of mis-understanding!

The second meeting

When we met for second time we decided to take a holistic approach and look at all parts of the exam and also language level. As I mentioned before Salim’s English was very fluent and he was a confident speaker, he didn’t, however, have a lot of control over register and tended to speak in a very colloquial manner which is not always appropriate for every type of communication. This was affecting both his speaking performance and his writing.

The study plan

This is a pattern I use with IELTS students both face to face and online.

The week’s work would consist of exercises both IELTS and general English (to improve vocabulary, fluency, structure etc..) that I would give Salim to do at home. Salim would produce, at his best band 7  level, a Task 1 and Task 2 every week. We would meet face to face for two hours (online is usually 1 hour) once a week to go over the writing, do speaking practice and try out some listening and reading.

This approach worked well. We covered all aspects of the exam so everything was up at band 7 level. We improved Salim’s flexibility in his choice of formal and informal language and he became comfortable with this. His reading got better and better and his writing was not just left to chance any more. He was able to used more formal language in his speaking and felt more confident about tackling even the most unusual topics.

After a month he  took the IELTS again and got 7s across the board. Not only had he managed to pass the IELTS exam with flying colours, but he had also improved his English to such a standard that he knew when he started to work at the hospital he would not have any problems at all and would be able to deal with any situation!

I met Salim almost a year later in the street. He was working at the hospital and he was really enjoying his job and his life. He was with a group of friends some of whom were also preparing for IELTS. He greeted me and again thanked me for my guidance and said to his friends.

“Don’t be arrogant, do as your teacher tells you – that is the best way to get a good IELTS score!”

Do you need help with your IELTS exam?

As a former IELTS examiner and with over 15 years of experience preparing and coaching people for the exam especially at Bands 7 and 8 I know what it takes to achieve these scores.

I work a lot with professionals (especially doctors) who need high band scores to move on with their careers.

Using my own Advanced English training site, Gapfillers and my own expertise in IELTS I can help you to get the score you are looking for.

Join my free IELTS Group in Gapfillers and get regular updates about preparing for the exam and also the chance to join in my teleseminars and seminars and all the other IELTS training opportunities I offer.

Joining is easy;  follow this link, register (it’s absolutely free), (don’t forget to tick the IELTS group button) and that’s it!

As soon as you register you will have access to my free 1-hour presentation THE TROUBLE WITH IELTS – the link is on the welcome page. Watch or download it, it’s your choice.

I hope to see you there :-)

Sincerely,

Berni

Gapfillers

December 15, 2011

Is blended coursework, a combination of face-to face class time and online study, a viable option for secondary education?

#Edchat 11 – 29 – 2011 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST

Thank you again to John @TestSoup for the current summaries

This one on Blended learning  caused a bit of a debate over terminology blended or hybrid? Hopefully the summary will give some answers!

There is no archive for this chat so unfortunately there are no links. If you have any to share on this topic then please add them in the comments.

 Follow the link to see the summary.

http://blog.testsoup.com/blended-learning-edchat-summary-11-29-11/

December 9, 2011

Will the idea of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) help or hinder education?

#Edchat 11 – 22 – 2011 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST

We have two great blog posts to link on this topic this week. The first is from Peri Nelson @apospirit on her blog.  This is a really amazing new way of getting technology into the classroom and the edchat group explored all options during this chat. Peris’ post captures the essence of this. Thank you Peri for your insights. You can find out more about the work Peri and her colleagues do on the blog.

Follow the link below to the post:

http://ocbblog.oswegoboces.org/ocbt2d/2011/11/30/edchat/

 

John (@Test Soup) has now made the #edchat  midday session summary a feature on his blog too.

Here is the link for his summary of this chat:

http://blog.testsoup.com/edchat-summary-11-22-11/

Here are some of the great links that were shared:

kathycook1:  7 Myths About BYOD Debunked http://t.co/OlKBdBCq  #edchat

ProjectAdvance: Are Silicon Valley execs making the right choice to send their kids to school with NO technology devices? http://t.co/vjKPwdkc  #edchat

andycinek: My digital lit students created a digital citizenship site. Would love some feedback http://t.co/6zE4dXiB  Thanks #edchat #bhschat

andycinek: Curious what #edchat thinks about focusing students on learning rather than an array of technology http://t.co/bPAv136B

cybraryman1: My BYOD (Bring Your Own Device page) http://t.co/b4tjHPou  #edchat

cybraryman1: My sites to get free/inexpensive equipment/supplies for the classroom (Digital Wish, Donors Choose…) http://t.co/vVLYogI4  #edchat

 

November 29, 2011

What should you do if you don’t get the IELTS score you need?

 Sometimes it happens, you study hard, you know you have ”all your ducks in a row’, you are really prepared, motivated and ready for the exam but somehow, for some reason you don’t get the result you need and it’s a BIG BLOW.

Some of my own students have experienced this and I shared the disappointment with them, especially as I really knew that they had everything they needed at their fingertips to pass with the band they wanted. Something had gone wrong on the day and the task in hand now would be to do a post-mortem and then decide on a way forward.

So here’s my plan of action that you can put in place when your exam doesn’t give you the score you want.

1. Firstly, be assured that you HAVE NOT FAILED, you haven’t quite got your target score but if you have scored 6.5 instead of 7 then that is a VERY good score! Allow yourself to feel disappointed, angry, despairing, whatever emotion you feel – go through this – you have to get over the disappointment before you can move on. Talk to whoever you feel you need to talk to or hide in your room for 3 days if that’s what you need to do – get it out of your system!

2.  After the initial hurt has passed you should feel more inclined to think about the exam – what happened? I think this stage is important as unless you address where you made the mistakes it’s very difficult to move on in a positive way. Ask yourself these questions:

  • was I really ready for the exam (did my teacher advise me against taking it, for example?), be honest
  • what happened in each paper; did you finish, did you say enough in the speaking, did you do something new or different, how much guessing did you do, were you too anxious, or even too confident – try to get an overview of the day
  • how did you feel about the questions were they straightforward, were they difficult,
  • how were you on the day – did you feel rushed, were you confident, too nervous, petrified etc..
  • try to get a picture

3. Now it’s time to ‘get back on your bike’ and try again – but with the knowledge and experience you have gained from this last experience.

4. From your analysis of your exam you should have an idea where you might have performed less than your best and this is what you must address while not allowing the other areas to drop.

  • work on these ‘problem’ areas in more detail
  • put a study plan in place
  • if you need only revise one area and the score was close, set a provisional (or actual) date for your next exam
  • if you had more than one lower score then you may need to go back to the drawing board and find out what is going wrong – perhaps get some professional help
  • if this keeps happening then you will have to change the way you are approaching your preparation – it could be that you are becoming an expert at a particular score and you need to ‘up your game’ to move away from this

5. Maybe you can’t work out what went wrong and you came away from the exam feeling very confident that it had all gone really well. It can be dangerous to be over-confident and it might be worth checking with a teacher that you really have the skills at the level you want. If this is confirmed then it was probably a fluke and you should keep up the practise but go back and take it as soon as possible (this is especially the case if all scores were very high except one e.g. if you got 3x band 8 and a 6.5 which was unexpected). If, on the other hand, your teacher thinks that your English level is below your desired band score then you need to get more English language practice and you MUST address this first.

6. Finally ‘don’t give up’. This is a setback and if you are on-track for the score you need you WILL get it. Keep focused, keep improving your skills and keep motivated. Every day you will be improving and IELTS is only the starting point for your future so none of the preparation you do will be wasted, it will all help you when you need to use the language day in, day out on your course or in your job.

Here are some other posts that might help you when you are feeling fed up and want to give up your IELTS dream:

 How to keep motivated in language learning

 Setting SMART goals for your English language learning

 Is learning English becoming overwhelming?

Check out the IELTS category (on right of this page) for more posts on IELTS 

Do you need help with your IELTS exam?

As a former IELTS examiner and with over 15 years of experience preparing and coaching people for the exam especially at Bands 7 and 8 I know what it takes to achieve these scores.

I work a lot with professionals (especially doctors) who need high band scores to move on with their careers.

Using my own Advanced English training site, Gapfillers and my own expertise in IELTS I can help you to get the score you are looking for.

Join my free IELTS Group in Gapfillers and get regular updates about preparing for the exam and also the chance to join in my teleseminars and seminars and all the other IELTS training opportunities I offer.

Joining is easy;  follow this link, register (it’s absolutely free), (don’t forget to tick the IELTS group button) and that’s it!

As soon as you register you will have access to my free 1-hour presentation THE TROUBLE WITH IELTS – the link is on the welcome page. Watch or download it, it’s your choice.

I hope to see you there :-)

Sincerely,

Berni

Gapfillers

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