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

December 2, 2010

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

Studying over a cup of coffee!

Having students come and live and study in your home is no mean undertaking for either the student or the teacher but with some careful planning and a lot of give and take, the experience can be very rewarding for both.

As total immersion language learning experiences go living with your teacher has to be one of the best. Not only are you dropped into a full language experience, you are also surrounded by the culture, social life and even the petty goings-on of an English, Scottish, US etc. household – you become part of the life in that house for the period that you are there. You need to be prepared for this – you will have to share your teacher’s life for the duration of your stay.

The great advantage of doing this is that you have, on tap, your own ‘language expert’, not only to teach you, but also as a resource for all your questions and uncertainties.

Far from being mundane, you can find yourself  involved in some interesting events that give you extra chances to practise and learn! A student of mine recently joined us at the family celebration of a 90th birthday! It was a formal, private party in a restaurant in Tunbridge Wells (she was staying with me in Yorkshire) and it gave her the chance to speak with a lot of native speakers (there were over 60 people) and see another part of England. These kinds of occasions provide authentic opportunities for you to use the skills you are developing in your course. They can be challenging but they are also very valuable.

Attending a large function

Not all students can expect to be entertained in such a way but your teacher will make sure that you are included in their daily activities and you must make the most of these chances to use your English in a real and yet unthreatening way. You may think that it would be impossible to manage in such situations but in fact the very fact of it being a real situation and not a classroom exercise helps you to function. The people who are asking you questions about your country, job, family etc.. really do want to know, they are not just role-playing – this is it for real!!
Whatever time of year you choose to come there are interesting places and activities for you to enjoy in addition to the high quality language lessons you will do with your teacher. Teachers want to share their local area, customs, and celebrations with you.
 
 
So how do we manage time on these courses?
Let me give you a run-down of a typical day with my students. Other teachers may do this differently but you can expect a mix of formal lessons, social time and planned activities on most immersion courses done in a teacher’s home.
  1. The day begins with breakfast – which for my students is cereal, bread, sometimes eggs We have this around 8.30
  2. Lessons start at 9.30 and go through to 12.45 with a coffee break in the middle
  3. Lunch at 1.00 soup, sandwiches, salad – sometimes students ask to prepare something – I love this!
  4. Some afternoons we go out, others are spent studying tasks I have assigned or students have chosen. Some of my students need to connect with their offices in the afternoons (it breaks the immersion – but if it’s necessary this can be the time to do it)
  5. We meet again around 4.30 for another hour’s lesson or to chat over a cup of tea and maybe some homemade cake or biscuits!
  6. Most students then like to have some personal time to watch TV or relax – I can prepare dinner.
  7. After dinner (8 – 9 ish) some students want to retire to their rooms, others want to watch TV – we usually have a couple of movie nights together!
  8. Then we start again!

Shopping in Harrogate!

Weekends are a mix of organised trips or free time where students are welcome to hang around the house, go out for walks or catch the bus to the local town.

Who do these courses suit?

Of course this is not for everybody. Some people would run a mile at the thought of living in someone else’s home! That is fine. If you are looking for somewhere to learn a lot of English in a short time, want to find out a bit about the culture in the UK, don’t mind joining in family life, don’t necessarily need an en suite bathroom and are happy to be flexible and adaptable, then this should suit you well. If you are none of these then you may want to consider carefully whether this type of course would work for you.

If you decide to go for it then you should have a really good experience!

Watchwords.

  You need to remember that this is your teacher’s home.
  • Respect their privacy and that of the other members of the family. They must also respect yours.
  • They are your personal English resource for the duration of your stay but if you wear them out they won’t be any good to you so be sensitive to the teacher’s need for personal time.
  • Most teachers want you to be involved with all the activities of the family while you stay with them. Embrace this chance as it gives you real situations in which to use and develop your English but don’t be shy about refusing if you really don’t want to be involved in something.
  • Don’t hide in your room! If you are not sure what to do in-between lessons ask your teacher if you can help with anything – most of my students end up in the kitchen with me! Remember these are the times when you are using English spontaneously and learning language that you will probably never find in a course book!

For the teacher it is a little like ‘going underground’ – the focus is on the student for the duration of the course as they want to give you the best experience they can.

Sharing your teacher’s life is a great way to learn a language and the hidden benefits in terms of culture, meeting new people and really experiencing life in another country are even more valuable!

Some other posts on  immersion courses:

 Total immersion English courses – fast, furious and fun!

Language immersion

Creating a teacher workshop

Fleetham Life

Find out more about my Immersion courses

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: