Month: July 2015

#ELT Things I like right now: July 2015

Here’s a list of things related to ELT that are making me happy right now, in no particular order. Just because.

(Well, actually because I’m drowing in end-of-term marking and need to #staypositive !)

 – Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner’s Dictionary

It’s availavle to buy here and the free online version is here. I got an inspection copy recently and am enjoying using it to plan my lessons, to check students’ use of words, and just in general looking through all the information, info-graphics, etc. it includes.  I’m not plugging it as better than any others on the market, but now I’m excited because I have a new dictionary, and I’m the kind of person who gets excited about things like having a new dictionary!

– Free online courses by Future Learn

A list of all the courses on offer can be found here.  These courses are really interesting, on a huge range of topics – so perfect for professional development when I don’t have the time (or money!) to travel to conferences or other training courses. And also because some of the topics not related to teaching English are just really interesting! I just started my first course a few weeks ago, my first ever MOOC! And so far I’m really enjoying it; especially the flexibility to fit it in around all my other commitments… and marking…!

 – The ERASMUS+ Staff Mobility Programme

I’m a big advocator of academic and professional exchange on all levels, am always encouraging more students and colleagues to take advantage of the ERASMUS+ Programme, and constantly on the look our for new exchange partners for our Dept. of English Studies (especially British unis, so if you work at one and are interested, let me know!! *shameless plug for Trier University*). This term, though, my students and I have been especially able to benefit from guest lecturers who’ve come over as part of the ERASMUS+ programme. I’m teaching a class on a topic that’s pretty new to me. I’ve been having a great time researching and learning all about it so that I can share this knowledge and understanding with my students, but just in case I’ve missed something, I’ve been able to invite three guest lecturers to run workshops for us, who are all experts in an aspect of the topic! Brilliant! Thanks ERASMUS+!

 – The Office Mix Plug-In for PPT

This free plug-in is available here. It allows you to do lots of cool things to create your own videos, for example recording an audio commentary to accompany a PPT presentation. This has been a god-send for me this term, since there are so many bank holidays in May in Germany and we lose a few lessons of various courses – this tool allowed me to send my students video versions of my PPTs so that we didn’t lose too much time. [I’m not advocating this as better than actual teaching, but it’s deinitely better than nothing! And might be particularly useful for MOOCs, blended learning, or online teaching.]

 – IATEFL Annual Conference 2016 in Birmingham

Info here. I’m working on my speaker proposal, and wondering whether I’ll be able to meet the scholarship application deadline…?! I’m already looking forward to the buzz I know I’ll get from presenting (If I’m accepted!) and from being immersed in such a productive, creative, supportive and energising atmosphere together with fellow teachers from all around the world. Will I see you there?

#BridgingtheGapChallenge – Coping with Academic Reading

**GUEST POST**

As part of the #BridgingtheGapChallenge, here is a summary of: Hirano, Biana. ‘I read, I don’t understand’: refugees coping with academic reading. ELT Journal, Vol. 69/2, April 2015: 178-187. written by my dear colleague Carol Ebbert!

This study collected data over two semesters via interviews, class observations and written documents on seven refugee students who despite not being ‘college ready’ were attending a small liberal arts college in the USA in order to identify coping strategies they developed to deal with academic reading.

Findings
Overall, the students found many aspects of academic reading at the college level challenging. They were expected to read independently and to be able to apply what they had read, not just recite facts from the readings. The amount of reading was also challenging, as well as the language issues they had, often relating to vocabulary and older texts (such as Shakespeare or texts from the 18th and 19th century). Finally, many felt that they had insufficient background knowledge to understand the texts fully.

The students developed several strategies to cope with the readings, which included relying on the lectures and PowerPoint slides in lieu of completing the reading either because they did not see the readings as important, it was too complex, or they lacked time. They also employed selective reading strategies such as skimming, reading according to the PowerPoint slides, or reading according to the study guides (i.e. using either the PowerPoint slides or study guides to help them identify which sections of the readings were most important). Finally, they also worked on finding places that were conducive to reading, read with peers, used a dictionary while reading, reread texts after lectures, sought tutor support and asked professors when they had specific questions after reading.

These strategies had different levels of usefulness. After the first exams, the strategy of relying on the lectures and slides was found to have resulted in poor grades. Rereading texts and reading with dictionaries were considered to be too time-consuming and were therefore rarely done. Other strategies seemed to have helped the students succeed in their courses.

Conclusion
While this research was carried out with refugee students, it can be applied to all students who start higher education while still in the process of learning English. In a broader sense, EAP instructors can use these findings to encourage students to try out various reading strategies and to discuss with their students strategies that may be more effective than others at helping students master the course material and successfully pass assessments.

My Own Thoughts
Reading strategies are perhaps a skill often ignored in EAP teaching, as we perhaps assume that having finished secondary school, students will know strategies for reading (e.g. from reading in their native language) that they can apply to reading in English. This does not always seem to be the case. Students should be made aware of the role of reading in higher education, that they will not be able to rely solely on lecture content, and what strategies exist to help them master the complex texts they are being assigned.

Summary by C. Ebbert, Trier University.

Little Rant: How to Write a Rubbish Essay

So, it’s that time of the year when people are going to be writing final essays and term papers. So here’s my helpful list of How To Write A Really Rubbish Essay:

[And, yes, it is based on my frustration at the delightful essays I have just spent my weekend (free time!?!) marking!!]

– Write about a topic that you do not understand and can’t be bothered to research properly.
– Try not to make too much sense.
– Don’t worry about referencing – if you feel like it, maybe stick in a couple of hyperlinks.
– Throw in a few fancy-sounding words to create a ‘formal register’.
– Make the same kind of grammar mistakes you would have done in school, no matter how far along your are in your studies.
– Don’t get anyone to read through your essay before submitting. Or, if you do, don’t listen to anything they say which might improve your work!
– And, just to make sure that the lecturer really understands how little effort you have put in; ignore all of their instructions for how to format and submit your essay!

Et voila – it is ready: the Really Rubbish Essay !!!

How many other ELT or EAP teachers out there are feeling this??? 😀