While in Adelaide, I had the opportunity to share my experiences of five years of teaching in New Arrivals Program in Sweden on a teacher day, arranged by ALEA in South Australia (SA). Teachers i SA have to do 20 hours of professional development (PA) each year and every third year it has to be registered. The costs for the activities are normally payed for within the faculty and days like this seems to be quite common. The overall theme for this specific day was ”Developing writing across the curriculum”, and I will share my reflections on the very interesting presentations I listened to in another post. This one will be to share the presentation I gave.
Since this post is aimed for colleagues in Australia as well as Sweden, I’ll try to write it in English. Doing so, I use the same outlook as I encourage my students to have: try to say what you want, complexity, rather than make sure you get the language correct and in that way not be able to tell the content you want. Of course, it would be good to cover the both, but that is still to be developed …
I will simply show my slides, and comment on them. Most was said in the presentation, but I’ve added a comment (in bold) that was not mentioned.
Teaching is a creative work. When you are thinking of using ideas from colleges, you have to make sure you adopt them to yourself, so that you do it in the way you want, and feel confident with it.
The same goes for adopting to students. A main idea or a method might be good to use with your students but materials and texts has to suit them, could be about topics and language features.
When you read about genre based pedagogy, you’ll meet these perspectives. I want to link between the practice and how it is informed by the theory.
The teaching and learning cycle is well known in Australia, and used for writing, here in a Swedish version from Kuyumcu (2013). The digits indicate the phases you are familiar with. I want to make two comments:
First, I use the teaching and learning cycle in almost every teaching: do the students know what we are talking about (the field)? Have I modelled the way a text, oral, visual or written, is composed (may it be a short presentation for a visitor, or just a sentence in some specific area)? And have I guided the students in a joint construction, which gives me the possibility to see if the area and language needed has been understood?
Secondly, its not a model that tights me up and has to be followed 1-2-3-4, rather I shift between the phases, and make small circles within the big one, on the way towards the main, individual writing.
Three items that I use all the time. The Register continuum, showing how the metafunctions all shifts from everyday language to language of schooling. The four square-model that shows how you turn from high support, cognitiv not so challenging to a more challenging work, still with high support. This is where we should spend the most time. The goal is to be able to keep the cognitive level high when the scaffolds are taken down. And the last line, my help to plan talk in the classroom (both mine and the students): People, place, time, media: closer, fewer = more likely to stay in the left side of the register. Include more people, expand the distance in place, talk about something that is not happening right now, use media = shifts to the right side of the register.
The way student desks are placed are related to the patterns of interaction that I want to encourage: interaction, easy to make small groups of 4 by just using the extra chairs in the middle, a free floor to make a circle in the middle for reading and discussion. If possible, I like to have a small table in a corner for me and students to work at, if needed.
Students can see their names and find their places when they enter. They don’t have to choose a place, Im responsible for the placement. We can see each others names. We do not start to talk to much about us and who we are. Its enough just to be there and see everyone. And since all students normally don’t show up the first day, we wait with presentations.
The material on each bench is the content the first lessons, the lexis: pen, book, writing, register to put in the cover, and then put papers in front or behind the register page.
Students needed more training in using words för clothes and colours. They got a picture of themselfs and we did a small cycle of teaching and learning:
- Some new words, striped and checked, to go with the old ones for colours and clothes – students worked together and went to the recourses they already had.
- We looked on the model sentence, using the questions from transativity (We look for the process: what is going on? Someone has … Then the participants: Who has what? Rahma has a yellow dress, a black shawl, and blue shoes. Bronwyn Custance made a good note on a walk on the beach in the week after the presentation: could we develop better promt questions to each cathegory of processes? Easy for action processes: what is going on?, but for the sensing, saying, relational and existing ones?)
- We make a joint construction. Abel has …
- Students start to do their individual ones, encuraged to help each other, to make sure they all feel secure. Then the work is brought home, to be done so that it can be used the next day.
Homework should be used, not examined. And teachers could happily talk less and students more during lessons. At this stage, 3-4 weeks into the course, the need of scaffold is big, students need to know what to say. I find that the more planning I have done, the more space I can leave for students talking during lessons.
So next day, the students form small groups and reads their texts for each other. Some finds out to leave the name out and have the others to guess who is mentioned with a description of clothers. They help each other will spellning, the also finds out that the have different information and discusses that, with the quite limited language the have so far. In this way, I work on the patterns of interaction in the classroom.
I can chose the size of groups accordning to time (fewer groupes (3–4 students in each = quicker for me to oversee them all, more groups (eg. pairs) = quicker to finish the task)
This way to work means I don’t have control – what happens if someone get it wrong? That is a risk, but I think the benefits are bigger, for instance it makes the task real – the students really wants to get it right so I will be asked. After the work I collect the sheets, copy them directly and give them back. If I then, when I read through it, finds things that make us missunderstand anything, that will be the topic of a new activity – it has to be taught.
At this level, I have to write model texts. They have to include the language we worked on. It was hard to write them in the beginning, but I learned by practicing (surprise?)
When this one was written I adressed it to the students in the groupe who had accessed the most of language, but the topic sentence in each paragraph was to be understod by all the students. The work has to be within the ZPD. So some, not all, students understand the whole text and the ones that don’t sometimes pick up the connection between repetition at home and a better understanding when they see that others understand more of it. That is more effective than me telling them that repetition is important.
About reading texts in the classroom: I try to use all opportunities for students to read text aloud. A common sequence would be this one: I read small parts, often one clause at the time, all the students follow in a choir (I use both hands, open, palm up, a movement from me to the students, like ”giving”) After a paragraph we stop, students read the same paragraph in pairs, taking turns with one sentence at the time, before we go on. When the whole text has been read, students read it once again, preferably still in pairs and listening to each other since I’ve noticed that they can correct each other even if they would find the same sounds difficult to pronounce. All texts are prepared, so there is an understaning before and keywords has in one or another way being focused. During reading they can be notices, but all the other words that has to be explained will have to wait until we have ”said” the text. Quite often students find out they have hard a new word, even if they perhaps has not seen it before.
To read, use and re-use texts: On the slide you can see the fourth model text about the same content that were worked on in different ways:
first: about Anna, written, close to the novel we had read
second: about her friend Nimo (first oral, then mindmap, then written),
third: her brother Adam (sort out pictures, oral),
forth: her sister Karin.
= variation/repetition in different forms
Instruction was to first read only the topic sentence to understand the over all idea of the paragraph and then decide in what order the paragraphs should/could be placed: some fixed, some possible to have in different order, and then have to argue for that.
More works can be done with the same content and texts:
- Texts with the processes to fill in.
- Dictoglosses with different focus (for ex pronouns, connectors).
- Sitting down drama: in pairs, form questions you would like to ask the persons if they came into the classroom. Then, the students (in par) take on the role and answer, from their understanding of the text. This is a good starting point to discuss ”read between the lines”
Students have written their first, individual text without any support. I read them through and pair up the students so that I think they can benefit from hearing and reading each others texts. The pairs also have to be safe, to have a calm classroom where all students feel confident.
This is also the first evaluation of a text, and patterns of the work is introduced. Student 1 reads her text aloud, student 2 listen. Student 1 ”owns” the text and the worksheet to fill in. Student 2 can suggest, but not decide. Its not about judging (was the text good? did I like it?) but about what is in the text and what is not. Space is left to write new words that can be found during the work. Either from the other students text or from looking it up, because the student needed it.
This first text uses everyday language, but in the developed curriculum at Adelaide Secondary School of English I noticed that they quite quickly leave that kind of personal writing and move rightwards on the register continuum. The everday language is important, and it will be present in our speaking anyway.
On the worksheets, student see the nominalisations + a question: Origin. Where do you come from? This is not kommented on yet, but used when that language feature is introduced in the next period of work.
I can not see all the work in the classroom when the students work with the evaluations, since I use the time to talk to one a time (see next slide). I make copys of the students evaluations afterwards, hand them back and then read them: what can the students see by themselfs at this stage?
This is about transitivity, the system to look on the ideational metafunction, the field in a text: what is the text about? Im mowing towards only having to highlight the green (processes) and yellow (connectors), and only sometimes the others: participant, circumstance, if needed (the text tells you)
Oh, the analysis was hard to do in the beginning. I’ve trained, now its easier and its not so often ”am I right in the analysis?” but more ”what are the student trying to say?”
Student read aloud from her/his copy for me, l listen and show that I am following in min copy. I listen: selfcorrection? understanding?
Usually I find someting interesting in the content to discuss, comment, ask about. AND students thoughts about next step + my ideas, both text and grammar level gives ideas to the next period. Building the vocabulary is basic, of course.
To get acceptance from students not to get corrected texts back has to be built, its not ok from start. The students write the second text six weeks later and we look at the first text again while evaluate the second one. At that stage, the students can usually see what has developed – and some then do the reflection: if these things were ”wrong” in the first one (that we have worked on in the following period), might there be misstakes in this one as well, that will be worked on in the next period …?
The presentation ended with a unit of work where the last stage in the teaching an learning cycle did not work out the way it was ment to do.
On this slide you can see and read (in Swedish) the different actitivites that was planned but also added during the work, when we found out there were a need for them.
As you can see, the workorder (numered) does not follow the cycle. This shows how small circles are done within the bigger cycle.
A first modeltext, a discriptive report, written by me. It was worked on in several ways: only the headlines – combine the nominalisations and the questions; work on the classification stage; combine the headlines and the paragraphs (using the topic sentences); find the subjecspecific words; loo on whats forgrounded etc.
Reading of a textbook and extract what is interesting. The goal is a joint construction.
Reading of a textbook in groups with the same strategies that has ben modelled.
From all groups, each one with one topic, I got a topic sentece from each of the five paragraphs, without correction to make sure students would recognise their texts. Having composed a grid, i printed it and then cut all the texts in pieces. In tree big groups, with one student from each of the former groups that written about their topic, students read and tried to place the texts in the write place. I thought we would need to lessons to that, and to do other acitivites in between, but the students went on. The language in some of the texts got corrected and/or discussed during the work.
These oral presentations also went well: instead of having a group at the time present, or make groups like the one in the previous slide, the students presented to one other student at the time. This means they all got five opportunities to repeat themselfs.
After the oral presentatins, the students went back to write their own text. But this did not work out very well. The texts were not well crafted and student felt they failed.
Because of the failure they did not want to continu with the last, individual writing that was planned. I could not do anyting else but listen to them, accept their attitude and make an evaluation to collect evidence and material for analysis and further planning.
So we, both teachers and students, have to get into the area, get our skates on, try them and perhaps fall a few times, but with some help from those who know how to do it, and those who just learned, we can learn. First in a safe environment, like in a rink, before you get to explore the big ice on the sea.
At last, I shared the links to this blog and to a lecture with John Polias, given in Stockholm in august 2016. Note that ”arbetsblad” (worksheet, handouts in mainly english) can be downloaded from the site.
Kuyumcu, Eija (2013). Genrepedagogik som verktyg i språk- och kunskapsutvecklande undervisning och lärande. I Hyltenstam, K. & Lindberg, I. (red.) (2013). Svenska som andraspråk: i forskning, undervisning och samhälle (s. 605–631). (2. uppl.) Lund: Studentlitteratur.