Delta Notes 3: Module 2 – My LSA1 Reading and Feedback

Title/Focus

There are 4 systems (Grammar, Pronunciation, Discourse, Lexis) and 4 skills (Reading, Listening, Speaking Writing), of which you must choose two systems and two skills to focus on over the course of your 4 LSAs (Language Systems/Skills Assignments).

My LSA 1 focused on raising awareness of medium-strength verb-noun and adjective-noun collocations for lower level learners. This falls squarely into systems: lexis.

Reference list

Here is the reference list from my final submission. As you can see, at this point I hadn’t learnt how to correctly format a reference list, something that was picked up on in the feedback…

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Feedback 

Essay

I got a pass for this essay. (Yay!)

Strengths

  • using sub-headings and sign-posts to make the structure clear
  • narrowing the scope (by collocation type, strength and student level)
  • consulted key texts for my focus and used them well
  • my analysis, issues and solutions followed on well from each other.
  • including both learning and teaching problems and referring to a range of learners was another plus, as was using terminology accurately and defining key terminology. My teaching suggestions included activities for raising awareness and activation, and were based on a range of resources, so there was good variety.

Weaknesses:

  • as already mentioned, my reference list formatting was a little odd and also missing places of publication.
  • in my writing, I used too many quotations, where paraphrasing would have been better. Paraphrase/summary is a much more efficient use of words than direct quotation, generally, something which is key when word limits are tight, and also allows much more ‘writer voice’/criticality to come through.

(This was an issue in my Module 3 essay too, initially, as it happens. It’s something I carried over from my B.A. days of yore so had to modify/work on it to succeed in the written components of the Delta. Having done so was a great help when it came to doing the M.A. modules the following semester.)

  • Not enough reference to my own experience and interest in the area, make my analysis more in-depth by including examples, and try to target one issue per solution rather than having solutions that target various issues, as it became a bit too generic.
  • Lack of my own voice/criticality (linking of course to the over-reliance on quotations and not drawing enough on my own experience…)

(It’s funny, these issues – voice, criticality, in-text citation/quotation/paraphrasing and referencing etc – that I had to work on are things that I am now helping my own students to develop and work on in their pre-M.A. studies! I must remember to mention to them that it was something that I initially struggled with too, as I am sure they think I was born knowing how to do it all!)

Lesson Plan/Lesson/Reflection

I got a pass for this lesson – just!

Strengths:

  • The pronunciation analysis and use of phonemes in the language analysis section of the plan  (though conversely my attention to meaning and form were identified as being in need of more work in terms of clarity!)
  • I gave detailed information about the learners in my group (but it would have been better if I had included more information about their ability in the target language point)
  • Good level of detail about how my lesson integrated with other lessons (timetable fit)
  • Comprehensive and varied assumptions
  • A nice clear main aim, which I managed to meet! (Having clear, appropriate aims and meeting them is a Good Thing.)
  • My classroom management was generally effective and I listened/responded well to the students.
  • I gave students some opportunity to correct themselves when they made errors, through use of techniques like gesture use (and was encouraged to do more of this!)
  • My reflection generally identified strengths and weaknesses well

Weaknesses:

  • My subsidiary aim was too vague, with the evidence I gave for meeting it being rather sketchy, and my stage aims also needed more work.
  • The lesson suffered from there being a long teacher-fronted presentation stage, which ended up taking up the first half of the lesson, so the students didn’t have any opportunity for pair-work or group-work until then.
  • I underestimated how long the presentation stage would take (links to above point but is a planning issue, while the above is a lack of student interaction issue that arose as a result of the underestimation)
  • Explaining rather than using students as a resource to check form/meaning/pronunciation.
  • Using unnatural intonation when speaking to the learners – apparently at times it seemed as though I was addressing a group of children. Oops.
  • I also missed opportunities to use questions to check students’ understanding of language items.
  • In my reflection, I underestimated one of the weaknesses I identified – the interaction issue that arose as a result of the overlong presentation stage
  • my suggestions for how I would build on this lesson in future classes were a bit lacking in substance.

I suppose the question is, for a pass, are you doing enough right to balance out all the issues?! I wonder if anyone ever gets a distinction in LSA1 (if you did, hats off to you!!)? I suspect it is almost impossible… Happy to be proved wrong though!

At LSA1 stage, I think the key thing is to really get to grips with all the feedback you are given in all its forms. At Leeds (was Met) Beckett, we had draft feedback on LSA essay and lesson plans, and then we received the Delta 5a report after the LSA observation within an individual tutorial which gave us the opportunity to discuss the lesson and the feedback with the tutor who had observed us. That’s a lot of feedback/opportunities for learning. What all this feedback presents you with the main thing that sticks in my mind when I think of LSA 1: an almost vertical learning curve. It’s where you are tasked with getting your head around understanding exactly what an LSA is, involves and requires from start to finish. The challenge is then to take everything you learn from LSA1 and feed it directly into making the LSA2 process more successful and hopefully less painful. In other words, to develop the various skills  – researching (including reading very selectively and efficiently, which is probably a skill in itself!), planning, teaching, reflecting – being checked on each time you do an LSA. So, rather than spending time thinking that the feedback isn’t fair, or that you should have got a pass/merit/distinction (delete as appropriate), focus on using it to be better next time. It’s hard having your teaching process pulled to pieces and dissected, but you can learn a lot from it too.

I hope this post is helpful to my readers who are doing their Delta Module 2 now or anybody who is planning to do Module 2 at some point.

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TD Sig Web Carnival: “Time is of the Essence!”

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Yesterday, I delivered a session as part of the TD (Teacher Development) SIG (Special Interest Group)’s Web Carnival. I was one of four speakers and the opening speaker for the event, both of which scenarios were new to me! My session, as you can see, was called Time is of the Essence (the reason for which will become clear in due course…)

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This is the outline of the session I delivered. ‘Backwards time-travel’ may sound a little ambitious but in metaphorical terms it actually worked really well. I made sure to tell the attendees that their active participation would be required, and they delivered 110%! Before starting on our journey back in time, we established the definition of “turning point”:

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Then it was time to kick off!

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This is me now. An amazing likeness, don’t you agree? I’m currently working at Sheffield Uni, teaching on a General English evening course as well as delivering a workshop for my colleagues every so often. Alongside this, I am working on some materials with Onestopenglish/Macmillan, will be doing a couple of workshops for the M.A. in ELT multimedia and independent learning module at Leeds Beckett uni. Finally, I have got a book chapter coming out in a forthcoming IATEFL LT SIG book and recently had an article published in a peer review journal for the first time.

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At this point, it was the attendees’ turn to tell me about where they are now, and I can tell you, it was a real eye-opener! Such a diverse crowd all doing really exciting things! And this continued throughout the session as at each development point on MY map, I asked them to share theirs. I think I overused the word “awesome” in response, because their responses really were!

Anyway, I suppose you could say I am “Freelance”, ish. I suppose it all sounds pretty cool. *But*, I am just a normal human bean. Mmm beans. So how did I reach this point? And what about this magic turning point?

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International House, Palermo. (IHPA)

Most recently prior to Sheffield Uni, IHPA. It was a good place to develop. I did a couple of certificates (IHCYLT, IHTIT) , delivered some workshops (at work, online for IH World Organisation, online for IH Teachers online conference), was allowed to attend/speak at IATEFL each year, did a LOT of teaching. And, of course, I worked on my own little projects. You see, when I arrived at IHPA I had recently become an LA geek. Nothing to do with Los Angeles, everything to do with learner autonomy and all things related, especially metacognition and motivation. I did some classroom based research on it, trying to use all the theory I had absorbed and put it into practice with students. Thus, the following were born:

I collected feedback at the end of each term to find out what the students made of it all as a whole and it was positive by and large, making it all worthwhile.

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All this would feed into my book chapter for LT SIG. So was this my turning point? But wait…what about the materials stuff? And the journal article? So, what came before IHPA?

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My M.A. ELT/Delta!

An amazing, grueling, challenging, rewarding, exhilarating year. In the Delta portion, probably the key thing I learnt was how to reflect effectively and constructively on my practice. As well as a whole bunch of other stuff a lot of which you can see on this blog! In the M.A. portion, you would think I learnt a bunch of theory. Well, yes. But I learnt a load of practical stuff too, through the assessment. I did a research project in the research module (with the assessment being the presentation and write up of the research), created materials for the materials development material, wrote a journal article (criteria styled on the ELTJ) for the methodology in context module, and made a website for the multimedia and independent learning module. The assessment was able to be linked with the materials development, so the website linked to the materials I made for that assessment. As it happens, I used the skills developed in building that website using WordPress to completely overhaul my blog, and also developed my voice (hence now I never shut up, where before I didn’t think I had anything to say!)

So I was basically able to develop the skills that would enable me to pursue a variety of opportunities. But that isn’t all… for my dissertation project, I wrote some task-based learning materials (which I talked about at IATEFL the year before last – that long already!) which on a whim I submitted for the ELTon Macmillan new talent in writing award. Then I got shortlisted, which in itself amazed me. Then I won! Hence the earlier-mentioned materials writing…I am editing those materials to make them suitable for publication on Onestopenglish, and we are about half way there. Will miss it when it’s over!

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So that MUST be the turning point, right? Well, I would absolutely say it was. If you ask me what the turning point was, that would come to mind. But…let’s go back a bit further…

Why did I do that M.A. at that university?

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IATEFL 2012!

I went to IATEFL in 2012, my first ever IATEFL! Oh the excitement… And you know how you get a goody bag at the beginning? Who doesn’t love a good goody bag?! So, the first night back at the hotel room, I’m going through my goody bag and find a leaflet for this M.A. ELT/Delta at Leeds Met. So, 2012. Lizzie, at nearly 29 years old is feeling very old and under-qualified! I got into this ELT malarkey late, 26 and a bit years old. (Is/was it late? Lizzie thought so at the time…) Lizzie had to make up time…(hence the session title!) Lizzie had also just been rejected from a PGCE primary programme at Warwick University (thank the good Lord!) and was all “now what?” and so my guardian angel sent me the leaflet. After IATEFL finished, I applied, got accepted and the rest was, as they say… history!

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So THAT MUST HAVE BEEN THE TURNING POINT!!!! Again, absolutely yes. Except… ooops back up a bit… How did I come to attend IATEFL 2012?

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Cactus to conference scholarship! I remain indebted to them. But….how? Where was I? How did it happen?

Indonesia…

I worked in a couple of private language schools in Indonesia after graduating from my CELTA, as one does. I was feeling quite isolated so was on the internet a lot. I found a forum called I think Dave’s ESL forum or something (does anyone remember this? some of my attendees did and apparently it is still going!) and started a post on there. I can’t even remember about what, maybe about how to develop or something. Anyway, one of the respondents pointed me towards Twitter. And ELTchat. (Or did I find ELTchat after I found Twitter? I can’t really remember!) Anyway, the important thing is, I got on Twitter. Did ELTchats, summarized them (The dark beginnings of my blogging!) AND…one day…saw a link to IATEFL scholarships. Didn’t really know much about IATEFL other than it’s an ELT conference, but it seemed to be a big deal, so I applied for several and won the Cactus one, much to my amazement.

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So was THAT the turning point? Getting on Twitter? Again, there is a valid argument for it!

But… why was I bothering with looking for ways to develop, in my isolation? I could done other things than looking for ELT forums etc!!

We had better rewind some more…

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My CELTA course!!!

The beginning of everything… But in particular the professional development session towards the end of the course, where we were made aware that you could make a career out of ELT and shown some possibilities, through our tutors’ stories and suggestions of what we could do to develop in future. (For example, that there exists this thing called the Delta that you can do after you have some more experience!) Honestly, I don’t actually remember many of the details of that session, but the important thing is it awakened in me a desire to develop and make a career out of ELT, it gave me that sense of possibility. And perhaps the awakening of that desire and sense of possibility was the biggest turning point of all?

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But all the other turning points were just as important for me! How to choose only one…! As the attendees mapped backwards through their careers to date, sharing their stories as we went along, it was clear that they had plenty of turning points too…

I concluded the session with a bit of take-away…

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…warning the attendees that it might be a bit of a cheesy takeaway (but if from this drive thru it would be vegan cheese 😉 )

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Well, everything that has happened to me so far stems from this, so…

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Most of the attendees mentioned that discovering the online teaching world as key in their development. Of course, for me, if I hadn’t discovered Twitter, I wouldn’t have seen the Tweet advertising IATEFL scholarships, so wouldn’t have made it to Glasgow 2012, wouldn’t have found that leaflet…etc!

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Because they are Good Things. And if I hadn’t…well you know the story already! Be warned: they are addictive!

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If I had acted according to my confidence in my ability to succeed, then a lot of what I have done I wouldn’t have dared to embark on in the first place! (I never in a million years thought I would win an ELTon, for example!) We (attendees and I) agreed that people often fail because they don’t try in the first place. And often that not trying in the first place stems from thinking “I’m not good enough, that’s for people who are better than I am”. But if there is one thing I have learnt, it’s that you only get “good enough” by jumping in in the first place.

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Turning points may not advertise themselves to you as such. It’s often only looking backwards that we realise that such or such an event or situation was a turning point for us. Hence the importance of saying yes! (Even if saying yes all the time can make you awfully busy! 😉 Seriously, who knew the start of 2016 would be so jam-packed!!)

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What you learn needs to be part and parcel of your professional life, weaving it’s way through, not something separate, on the side. For example, if I hadn’t tried to put the theories that struck me on the M.A. into action, my projects wouldn’t have happened and thus neither would my LT SIG book chapter. Not only that, but learner autonomy/metacognition/motivation etc wouldn’t have become part of my teaching, which would have been a shame from the students’ point of view!

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Life is short. Be where you want to be. If you aren’t, then keep udging towards where you want to be. Right now, I am very happy. I am where I want to be and I can highly recommend it! 🙂

Thanks to the TD Sig for this opportunity and to all the attendees for making it such a fun, interactive session to deliver.

 

 

Leeds Metropolitan University has become Leeds Beckett University!

For reasons unbeknownst to us mere mortals, Leeds Metropolitan University changed its name to Leeds Beckett University, with effect from September 2014. I spent a happy year at Leeds Met doing my M.A. in ELT and Delta, between 2012 and 2013, and for me it will always be Leeds Met.

However, nostalgia aside, usefully enough, I have now finally updated all the links in my blog that used to lead to Leeds Metropolitan’s M.A ELT/Delta page so that they now point in the brand new direction of Leeds Beckett University’s M.A. ELT/Delta page. I can assure you, it was a very dull labour of love. Worth it though, as the good news is, the only thing that’s changed is the name: the M.A. ELT department is still kept going by the same lovely team of tutors who were at the helm while I was there.

I’m not, though, going to change all mentions of Leeds Met, in various blog posts and pages, to Leeds Beckett, as it was Leeds Met when I was there, but at least now, should you be so inclined, you can follow links to more information about the course I did without reaching a dead end!

Enjoy! 🙂

Delta Notes 3: Issues in teaching lexis

This Delta Notes series came about because I was packing up all my stuff to move out of my flat and found my Delta notebooks. I didn’t want to put them in a box (got plenty to store as it is plus it’s pointless…) and let them gather dust, so thought I’d write up the notes I was interested in keeping and get rid of the notebooks instead! The project is on-going, the notebooks didn’t get stored or binned but I am getting tired of carrying them round the world…  

Feel free to share opinions, add ideas, argue against any ideas you disagree with etc by commenting using the comment box beneath the posts. (These are just some of my notes from Delta input sessions – I may have misunderstood or missed something: there was a lot of information flying around that semester!)

[NB: The sessions during which I took these note were delivered by Dr Ivor Timmis of Leeds Metropolitan University, so all credit to him for the insightful input.]

Lexis

 

Lexis! Image taken from en.wikipedia.org via Google search for images licensed for commercial use with modification

Lexis! Image taken from en.wikipedia.org via Google search for images licensed for commercial use with modification

Why do we need to plan how we teach lexis?

  • It doesn’t happen automatically: 

Focus on lexis is needed for learners to remember and be able to use lexis effectively. When acquiring L1, exposure – massive exposure – may suffice but in a classroom context, the exposure available is not sufficient for lexis to be acquired efficiently without focus and careful planning.

  • It’s a big task!

To understand an unknown item in a text, one needs to be able to understand 95% of the co-text. Fortunately, 2000 words accounts for about 80% of what you hear or read. Unfortunately, there is a law of diminishing returns at work thereafter: 3000 words would that figure up to about 82%, and so on. Calculating vocabulary size is complex because it depends on whether we count lexemes only or each word of a family. (NB: Lexeme = a basic root word with no inflections)

  • It’s a vital task!

Without grammar, little can be conveyed, without vocabulary, nothing can be conveyed.” – Wilkins, 1972.

How do we choose what lexis to teach? What criteria can we use for selection?

There are several criteria we can choose to apply to selection of lexis:

  • frequency
  • coverage
  • learners’ needs and interests
  • learnability
  • opportunism

Frequency

We could teach learners the most frequently used words. We have frequency lists that would enable us to do this. However, there are limitations to this approach.

  • The top 50 most frequent words are mostly grammar words e.g. “and”.
  • Frequency can clash with “teaching convenience” e.g. days of the week have different frequencies.
  • Words may have great interactional value but little referential value. E.g. “just” is very commonly used as a softener but has little meaning on its own.
  • Written vs. spoken: “though” is in the top 300 but it is used very differently in spoken discourse from how it is used in written discourse. Compare “Though it wasn’t a very good film, it was quite funny.” and S1: “It wasn’t a very good film.” S2: “It was quite funny though.”
  • Frequency lists include single words rather than collocations whereas many collocations would feature more than individual words if lists allowed it.
  • It raises the questions of whose frequency. British English frequency? American English frequency? Frequency in language used by pilots?

Coverage

We could teach learners words with broader coverage first. E.g. Teaching “go” before “walk” or “drive”; “book” before “notebook” or “textbook”, in terms of word specificity, and teaching words that appear in a greater number of different kinds of texts before those that are very specific to a particular text type. As with frequency, there are limitations to this approach:

  • Context and learner needs may mean that more specific vocabulary is required from the outset.

Learners’ needs and interests

These may be more apparent in an ESP or EAP class than in a general English class. If you are teaching in a very specific context, then this will influence your vocabulary selection more than other criteria will.

Learnability

There are a lot of factors that influence the learnability of a piece of lexis.

  • Tangibility. Is it abstract or concrete? Concrete lexis is easier to learn and remember. e.g. apple vs. distraction
  • Grammatical behaviour. How does it behave grammatically? E.g. accuse -> accuse somebody of doing something; suggest -> suggest that; depend -> depend on; responsible -> responsible for.
  • L1 aid/interference: Is it a cognate or a false friend? False friends mean meaning is easily confused.
  • Confusability: similarity of words e.g. raise (transitive) /rise (intransitive), similarity of root word e.g. take over/take after.
  • Cultural distance: How familiar is the concept? E.g. “moor” or “sleet” in North Africa…

Opportunism

What about language that emerges in class? Do we ignore “Dogme moments” because it is a low frequency item or an item with low coverage etc.? Or do we take advantage of learners’ desire to know something?

Going beyond words

There are many collocations that we use frequently: many would feature more than individual words if they were allowed in frequency lists.

Language is grammaticalised lexis, not lexicalised grammar.” – Michael Lewis (1993)

When we produce language, we go to lexis first and then use grammar to control it.

  • Delexical verbs and their collocations: e.g. have a bath; make a cake; have a word; do a runner; get lost; get drunk. These verbs are meaning-light (light lexical content) but commonly used in combination. Some combinations are more common than others.They are a common source of error. E.g. doing a Masters (“native”) vs. studying a Masters (“learner”)
  • Verb and adjective collocations of content nouns: e.g. teach “set the table” rather than just “table”. In order to be able to use nouns, we need to know the verb and adjective collocations that we can use them with.
  • Exploit metaphorical links: e.g. money commonly collocates with spend; make; waste; save; invest; spare – and so does time!”Bet” – the metaphorical meaning is more common than the literal meaning – “I bet you’re right.”
    “See” – used more commonly to mean “understand” than for its literal meaning.

“far more general utility in the recombination of known elements than in the addition of less easily useable items” (Sinclair and Renauf, 1988)

– do we need to rethink our priorities? It could be better to teach learners to use what they already know in a wider range of uses.

e.g. instead of just “enjoy” – enjoy, enjoyable, enjoyment, enjoy a reputation (different word types and different combinations)

Processes in lexis building

Here are a range of processes we can engage learners in, as we help them to learn lexis:

  • recognise – do they know it when they see it?
  • identify – do they know it when they see it within a text?
  • match – can they put it together with its definition? with common collocates? with synonyms? with antonyms?
  • categorise – can they link it with the correct word type? topic? metaphorical v literal? etc.
  • retrieve – can they remember it without a visual or aural stimulus?
  • contextualise – can they use it in a sentence or as part of discourse?
  • activate – can they use it without prompting?
  • extend – can they use it in a variety of ways?
  • manipulate – can they convert it into a different word type? can they use it in combination with other words?
  • rank – can they compare it with other lexis?
  • deduce – can they guess what it means when in an unfamiliar combination?

Depth of processing

This refers to the number of times the brain touches the word: identify and rank = two processes. The more processes used, the greater the depth of processing becomes. The greater the depth of processing used, the greater the chances of retention. It is important for learners to use a variety of processes when learning lexis.

Teaching lexis

There are two main approaches to vocabulary teaching: “Front door” and “Back door”

“Front door” teaching means identifying a group of words and teaching them. This can be done in two ways.

  • “verbal”: by eliciting, explaining or defining, using a matching activity (NB: this must be carefully graded to be of any use!), translating, getting learners to deduce the meaning from context (NB: learners must be able to understand a lot of the co-text)
  • “non-verbal” : using pictures/images (e.g. photos, from the internet, flashcards), symbols, actions (mime, gesture, facial expression), realia, drawings, sound effects.

“Back door” teaching means using a text-based approach, in which you highlight/draw attention to words/chunks within a text.

Elicitation

Elicitation is a commonly used technique in the language classroom. It is when we get learners to provide information rather than simply telling them something. Like many techniques, it has benefits and limitations. This means we need to keep certain things in mind when we want to use elicitation.

Benefits: 

  • It can be engaging for learners.

Limitations:

  • You can’t elicit what learners don’t know.
  • Can be time-consuming

To remember:

  • You must be precise.
  • You must ensure that the language you use to elicit is well graded.
  • You cannot use terms that are more difficult than the concept itself when defining/explaining it.
  • Once you have explained or elicited something, you must check that a learner has understood. (Concept checking questions are a common way of doing this – for more on this see Jonny Ingham’s detailed post on it.)

Review

How often should we review vocabulary? Very frequently, otherwise vocabulary books become “word cemeteries” – long lists buried and forgotten!

  • Students are very tolerant of recycling and revisiting, more so than we tend to assume.
  • It is useful to use the concept of expanding rehearsal: increase the gap between recycling each time. E.g. review after a week, then after two weeks, then after a month etc.

There are many ways of reviewing vocabulary, but that’s for another post!

References:

Lewis, M. (1993). The lexical approach: The state of ELT and the way forward. Hove, England: Language Teaching Publications.

Sinclair, J. M., & Renouf, A. (Eds.). (1988). A lexical syllabus for language learning. In R. Carter & M. McCarthy (Eds.), Vocabulary and language teaching (pp. 140-158). Harlow: Longman.

Wilkins, David A. (1972) Linguistics and Language Teaching. London: Edward Arnold.

 

At the British Council ELTons, 2014!

At the risk of sounding unbearably smug and like I’m blowing my own trumpet at full volume etc. (which, let’s face it, would be most un-British!), I’m going to allow myself one more post about the ELTons 2014 and my very unexpected win. Why? After all, yesterdays news, today’s fish and chip papers and all that…

Well, I’ve been given permission to upload my “winner’s interview” (recorded after the awards ceremony, when I was still completely stunned!) onto my blog – and being as realistically I’m never going to win an ELTon again, and, even if blue moons were to happen, will definitely never win the Macmillan New Talent in Writing award again (for obvious reasons…) So I’ve decided to go ahead and have my interview on my blog – it’s the first time I’ve ever been interviewed, and probably the last, so why not!

Here it is:

As I said in the interview, you can’t get hold of the materials yet – they are still just my dissertation project, so there is only one printed copy (first edition!) gathering dust in my tutor’s basement somewhere and a .pdf or two on my hard drive – but here is some information about them if you are interested!

And here are a smattering of the wonderful tweets I received following my win:

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And, yes, yes I did “favourite” them all! 🙂 I also attempted to respond:

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Thank you, again, to all who sent me such lovely messages. I couldn’t put them all on here, or this post would be endless! But it was very enjoyable to receive them all, they were much appreciated. 🙂

I will be very interested to see how it all unfolds – when I will hear from Macmillan, what they will say… I haven’t heard anything from them yet, however, which I’m actually quite surprised about: I suppose I had expected some kind of acknowledgement from them, that I have won their award this year! But then, these are not circles in which I’m accustomed to moving, so I can’t say I have anything solid on which to base my expectations! The good news is that the B.C. ELTons team are taking care of the prize money aspect and arrangements regarding this are under way. Yay!

Interesting times, especially having read this post by Nicola Prentis. All I can say is, watch this space! Meanwhile, there is no shortage of “things to do” on my never-ending list! 🙂

British Council ELTons 2014: the speech I *didn’t* make

As everybody who follows this blog (and one or two others who don’t) know, I was nominated/shortlisted for an ELTon this year. I was delighted when I made the long-list back in November – would have been quite satisfied just to have got that far – then thoroughly wowed when I made the short-list in March.

Tonight, thanks to my lovely Dos and my school director, I was able to attend the awards ceremony, along with my M.A. ELT tutor/”product team”, Heather. Prior to the ceremony, all nominees had been emailed to request that we prepare a speech for just in case we should win the award. Well, suffice to say speech-writing didn’t happen, end-of-term report writing (and a million other things) did – but that’s ok, it wasn’t like I was going to actually win or anything… Except, I did. Miraculously enough, I am now an ELTon winner in the category of Macmillan award for new talent in writing. (Thank you, Macmillan and thank you British Council!)

Apparently I won!

Apparently I won!

I was so stunned when they announced me as the winner, that I had to be shown the way to get onto the stage. And then, of course, I was presented with the award (which I can vouch is very solid glass, going by the weight – wouldn’t like to drop it on my toes by mistake…) and asked to say a few words. Rabbit in the headlights comes to mind, but nevertheless I duly made a speech of sorts. Which could be summed up in the following sentence: “I was super lucky because I went to IATEFL a couple of years ago, found a flyer in my conference pack and as a result wound up at Leeds Met, where my materials were born” I clean forgot that one is supposed to thank every man and his dog on such occasions – and it’s not like I’m without people to thank. Fortunately, I have a blog, so now I’m going to write the speech I should have said! (Though I think what I said was a good start…)

“I’m standing here (now a figurative here!) tonight because of a flyer. Two years ago, I went to the IATEFL conference in Glasgow and I found a flyer in my bag. It was the flyer for Leeds Metropolitan Uni, where I would go on to do my M.A. in ELT. It wasn’t a decision taken lightly – it was a risk. But sometimes, taking risks pays huge dividends. I didn’t know Leeds Met. I didn’t know that I would find the best tutors (thank you all!) and course-mates (thank you too!) I could ever have hoped to have there. I stepped into the unknown – and got super-lucky. I’m mostly here tonight because I’m lucky…

My biggest thanks has to go to Heather Buchanan, course leader of the M.A. ELT/Delta at Leeds Met, from whom I learnt so much during the materials development module, and who gave me so many hours of her time and so much support throughout the course and especially while I was creating these dissertation materials (and trying to decide how to answer the awkward questions she asked me about them on a regular basis!). Also, for not letting me bin them halfway through the summer when I had decided they were rubbish and I’d be better off starting again! Thank you for everything, Heather. 🙂

Secondly, I must thank Sandy Millin, who I met thanks to Twitter and #ELTchat and who has been a massive source of inspiration to me ever since. If it weren’t for her, my materials would be twice as long as they currently are, as the instructions would all be epically long, rambling nightmares. One weekend, Sandy eventually managed to just about beat the habit of using ten words where three would do out of me, as well showing me a wonderful world of computer shortcuts that made my life (well, using Indesign and MS Word) a lot easier, during a rather trying several months! Thank you so much, Sandy! 🙂

Thirdly, a big thank you is also due to Jane Templeton, one of my course mates at Leeds Met. She had the unenviable task of putting up with my regular whinging about the D-beast. (On the plus side, she got to moan about her assignments to me too, though!) Seriously, though, things are made so much easier by the support of others who know what you’re going through, so you can cuss together over a glass of wine! Thank you, Jane! 🙂

Finally, though they only came into my life after the big project was complete, I want to thank my current employers and colleagues. I work in a fantastic school, with really supportive people around me and that is invaluable. Currently, it is the busiest time of the year at IH Palermo, but my DoS let me attend the ceremony tonight nevertheless and has been so very supportive of me in every way, while my colleagues have, between them, covered the classes I will be missing as a result. Thank you Jonny, Pat and Silvio, and everybody else at IH Palermo. I’m very glad to be going back for another contract after the summer!

I’m also here because my Grandad left me some money when he died, and it was that money that I used to pay for my course at Leeds Met. He was an amazing man, who lived an amazing life and I wish he were able to see what a difference he’s made to my life. My M.A. ELT/Delta year was life-changing in so many ways. And this ELTon award is one of the wonderful outcomes of it.

I’m delighted to accept the award (yep, still delighted!) and (still pretty much as) stunned (as I was when I stumbled onto the stage this evening). Thank you everybody.”  Fortunately I hadn’t prepared a speech so the audience didn’t have to sit through this when I was unleashed on the microphone. 😉

It’s been a crazy journey getting to this point, and I look forward with interest to the next stage. Meanwhile, it was a brilliant experience being at the ELTons ceremony tonight, albeit rather surreal for a little nobody like me! 🙂 My warmest congratulations to all the other winners in all the other categories!

And now, 20hrs after I woke up in Palermo this morning, goodnight world! 🙂

British Council ELTon/”Macmillan Education award for new talent in writing” shortlisted!

Not long before the British Council ELTon application deadline last year, I submitted some of my materials for “The Macmillan Education Award for new talent in writing” (previously called the Award for Innovative Writing), deciding I had nothing to lose by doing so.

To quote from the British Council website,

“The ELTons, sponsored by Cambridge English, are the only international awards that recognise and celebrate innovation in English language teaching (ELT). They reward educational resources that help English language learners and teachers to achieve their goals.”

The Macmillan award is in its sixth year of running, while the ELTons as a whole are in their twelfth year.

I was delighted when I learnt I’d been long-listed, but didn’t dream I’d get any further than that; but, somehow or another, I have! I have now been shortlisted for the award, which means I’ve made the top five out of all the applications submitted. What an honour!

D646 Eltons 2014 Nominated MacmillanInnovative rgb FINAL OL

Shortlisted!

The materials I submitted are not on my blog, but once the competition is over and I haven’t won (I can’t even begin to imagine that I will win, which is fine: I’m just jubilant to have got this far!), I’ll upload some samples. I made them while at Leeds Met : they, alongside a 5000 word rationale, were my dissertation project and represent hours upon hours upon hours of work. Not only the time spent on the project itself, but all the reading done and hours of classes attended for the Materials Development module, too. I won’t go into details about the content of the materials here and now, as my talk at IATEFL Harrogate in two weeks’ time, which will be written up here in due course, is based on them: I don’t want to steal my own thunder! 😉 But it was all those hours spent that nudged me to enter: having devoted all that time to working on something, the last thing you want to do is consign it to a dusty cupboard forever!

Anyway, for now, suffice to say, I feel extremely lucky to have got as far as the shortlist. And grateful that I had a dissertation supervisor who, having given me a solid foundation of knowledge from which to start (as my Materials Development tutor),  pushed me to do my absolute best with my dissertation materials, by asking hundreds of awkward questions (! 🙂 ) and giving unstinting time and support throughout the process. It was a very valuable experience for me.

Congratulations to all the other nominees – in my own and all the other categories! Let’s see what happens in May!