In my first post about the Global SIG’s Food Issues Month, I described the background to my materials, some reflections on using them in the classroom with two groups of low level teenaged learners and the links to the materials themselves. In the two lessons I described, I had not managed to complete all of the activities in the materials. In fact, with each group, we completed two out of the three pages of activities. I also mentioned that I would be very interested to see how much each group had taken in during their lesson.
This post is the next instalment in the story and some reflection on the concept of the Global SIG Food Issues Month:
So, in the next lesson, we started off with a review of what we *had* done, before proceeding to complete the final activities. I did this review phase in a different way with each group:
Class 1: I put learners into groups to make a mind-map of what they remembered (modelling with an example on the board first), and then each group contributed to a central mind-map on the board. Unfortunately, I mismanaged this somewhat, so learners referred to their papers from the previous lesson part way through the process and gathering the ideas centrally was a bit laborious.
Class 2: I elicited what they remembered orally, giving them time to discuss in groups before they responded to each elicitation. This worked really well, there was lots of discussion at each point when this was required, and learners demonstrated that they had retained a very substantial portion, the majority, of what we had looked at in the previous lesson, both in terms of content and language (e.g. the vocabulary learnt). I was/am so proud of them! 🙂
The remaining activities involved considering the meaning of the Fair Trade symbol (none of the learners had come across it, but it does appear on some chocolate in the supermarkets here e.g. the Carrefour supermarket own brand dark chocolate, and I had an example packet to show them), how this could help children like Aly (the boy whose experiences are depicted in the reading text that learners had looked at in the previous lesson) and then brainstorming other ways that the children could be helped. This all culminated in learners writing a letter to Nestle, to express anger at the situation of children working on the cocoa farms and asking Nestle to become a Fair Trade company so that their chocolate would no longer be produced by child slaves.
Learners had plenty of ideas for how people in general could help the children (raising awareness of the issue through television/internet/radio, education etc.) and what they, themselves, could do (buy Fair Trade products, talk to their friends at school about it, encourage their families to buy Fair Trade products etc.)
When it came to writing the letter, I scaffolded it with some chunks of language that they were able to use to frame their thoughts/ideas and they managed to produce some good pieces of writing. (Again, very proud of them!! 🙂 )
My reflections on the Global SIG Food Issues Month concept:
Firstly, I enjoyed the challenge of creating a lesson plan and materials that fit within the parameters of the Food Issues Month and weaving this in to the syllabus my learners are following, to increase the benefits for them. I think ‘events’ like this are perfect for stirring a teacher’s creative juices, which can only be a good thing.
I also thought it was a very interesting idea, to have a month where teachers all contribute ideas/materials/sources etc. on a central theme, taking something that is very bog standard in EFL materials (e.g. food) to a different level; looking at a common EFL theme from an uncommon perspective.
It encouraged me to look for unusual sources to turn into resources, and in the process I, myself, learnt things that I wasn’t previously aware of. In this case, that child workers on cocoa farms are still, today, far from uncommon and do live in terrible circumstances. I think twice before buying chocolate now, and do look for the Fair Trade symbol. So, I think such events also enable teachers to learn, which, much like the challenges and the stirring creative juices, keeps things interesting and fresh for us.
Such an event also provides a good opportunity for experimentation, reflection and evaluation (so, experimental/reflective practice), even if you don’t create the materials yourself: Using materials and resources you wouldn’t usually use, to teach something in a way you wouldn’t normally teach it helps you to break out of any rut you might be in. Even if you are not in a rut, it provides the perfect excuse to try out something new and see how well it works. You can then reflect and evaluate, to decide what you would do differently next time around, as well as what was effective enough that you would do it that way again. Of course, if you did create the materials, the reflection/evaluation could/would be applied to the effectiveness of these too.
In conclusion, then, I think the Global SIG Food Issues Month concept offers both learners and teachers a valuable opportunity: Learners, to break away from the run of the mill treatment of typical EFL themes that they usually meet in class, and teachers a chance for some extra in-work professional development.
I hope there will be another such themed month again before too long! Thank you, Global SIG, for a most enjoyable challenge! 🙂