Author: Pulkit Vasudha

Ambitious Teaching and Learning in ESL

 

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” – William Shakespeare

My main takeaway from this lovely quote is that there is a potential for greatness in each one of us. And for the purposes of our context, we can tweak this quote to read…

Some are born great teachers, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.

I know for a fact that I delivered some shockingly abysmal teaching in the first few months after completing the CELTA. But then, most of us did. Did. Not anymore. 😉

I think the watershed moment in any teachers’ career is when they stop thinking about the quality of their teaching and assess lessons based on the quality of their students’ learning. All those utterly boring lesson aims (should) have one goal: students should come out the other end having learned something.

If we push this idea a bit further… (more…)

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Lesson aims and how they affect learning

Does the language teachers use in their lesson plans really affect teaching practice? Perhaps a broader question to ask would be does language affect our thought? A great TED talk to watch on the subject is How the words we use affect the way we think by Mary Page Wilson. And if you’re not into videos, here’s an overview of Keith Chen’s TED talk on the same lines.

When I first started teaching, lesson planning was a monumentally daunting task. It would take many hours to plan an hour-long lesson for a bunch of six-year-olds who only really wanted to play games and burn off some weekend steam. But lesson planning took on a whole new aura of fear when it was time to get observed.

In my first three years of teaching, I worked in a school where teachers were observed every three months. The academic managers were lovely and very supportive but that did little to assuage my fears of writing an assessed lesson plan and getting observed. And then, the part of the observed lesson plan template that I really dreaded was the first page – the bit with lesson aims, subsidiary lesson aims and other such mundaneries. (more…)

Teaching ambitiously

For the last three years, I worked at British Council Riyadh. For various reasons other than that we were in Saudi Arabia, those three years were fairly painful. The Council in Riyadh had a pitifully poorly trained management which made working for them like walking through sludge!

So when we decided to leave BC Riyadh, despite having fabulous offers in hand (and in Saigon – which we both absolutely love), my husband and I decided to take a break and recoup. We wanted to spend time with our baby as a family and watch her grow, and we wanted to grow as a couple. We wanted to write – both of us love to write beyond blogs and emails – those stories that were screaming to be told but are hard to put down into words while working full-time jobs. We wanted to spend time with family and friends in India and reconnect with them (me) and grow new bonds (the husband).

For years, I have regularly scouted EdX and Coursera for great courses I would love to take. (more…)

Educational Leadership

Skilled leaders and managers develop the knack of reading situations with various scenarios in mind and of forging actions that seem appropriate to the understandings thus obtained. They have a capacity to remain open and flexible, suspending immediate judgments whenever possible, until a more comprehensive view of the situation emerges.

– from Images of Organization by Gareth Morgan

Delta Assignment 3 -Teaching Conditionals

From the title above, it would seem like I chose a rather easy topic for my second systems LSA. Well, the actual title of the LSA was Teaching Past Counterfactual Conditionals to High-Level Learners. What the..?

‘What the..?’ is exactly what I said and felt when I heard the more technical term for conditionals.

More often than not, ESL books divide conditionals into four categories – zero, one, two, three. Easy peasy. This is also probably the terminology you are familiar with from when you studied grammar in school (or at least when I did, in the 90s in India). But of course, it is very likely that you were taught traditional grammar in a boring, non-communicative manner. However, as has been well-proven in my own experience and that of learners all over the world, a traditional approach to grammar teaching does not increase communicative competence.  (more…)

Delta Assignment 2 – Multiword Verbs

..or phrasal verbs?

My second LSA was a systems one, and I chose vocabulary. Chunky, piecemeal, lots of fun activities to keep learners engaged and quantifiable ways to demonstrate learning towards the end – this was going to be fun!

And it was – fun. But it wasn’t easy. Multiword verbs are such a vast field of language that it took me a lot of reading to wrap my head around their semantics and systems. Not only that, I had to understand what the Lexical Approach is and then, how to teach vocabulary using this approach – because hey, we’re in 2012 (and now in 2016!) and you can’t not be using the lexical approach in teaching vocabulary. (more…)

Delta Assignment 1 – Developing Storytelling Skills

I started my Delta in early 2012 and did a face-to-face intensive Module 2 over eight weeks. There are four assignments, or LSAs, one needs to pass in order to pass Module 2, two of which need to be skills-based and two systems-based.

I thought I’ll start easy and chose to focus on skills for my first LSA. I thought I could teach speaking but I was quite surprised that I was expected to plan a whole 60-minute lesson focusing on speaking skills.

Until this point, I had only taught speaking as an incidental part of teaching reading, listening, writing, grammar, or vocabulary lessons. But speaking to our amazing Delta tutor, Beth Grant (if you get a chance to work with her, jump at it), I thought I could take this on as a challenge and learn to teach speaking not just in the brainstormingactivating schemata, or post-reading/listening discussions, but as a rightful skill in itself that deserved focused teaching of its various nuances. Come to think of it, this is why most students go to language centers or freelance teachers – to learn how to speak – and yet, most ESL teachers do not know or realize the value of teaching speaking as a skill in itself.  (more…)