The New Year’s blog

This is the plan then for the blog for this year, or at least for the first term. I will be teaching five different classes across the year: a full level 1 group three mornings a week, a beginner-Entry 1 group in a community centre twice a week, a Level 1 group once a week as a second teacher, a CELTA group as personal tutor, including TP and some input, plus a handful of input sessions and possibly observations on a Literacy additional diploma teacher training course.

After last term’s experiences of blogging about a class a week, the plan for this year is to follow a similar model, but rather than a fixed class, I want to choose one session a week to reflect on. The criteria for selection will be that the lesson is outstanding. Outstanding, that is, in the
Iiteral sense that it stands out or is in some way notable. This may be because it was awful. It may be because the lesson was awesome. (You can enjoy the same word play there with the words “terrible” and “terrific”). I’m aiming for more awesome than awful, ideally, in fact, as few awfuls as possible, but it would be either naive or arrogant to claim they won’t happen!

It’s a kind of action research project I suppose, sometimes looking at experimentation on a lesson by lesson basis, sometimes more of a general reflection. There are some big themes I want to explore in my teaching this year, and these will shape the posts as they arise.

The first theme is learner-centredness. After my blog posts at the end of last year, I want to carry on looking at how I can make lessons more learner centred, less teacher driven, less reliant on pre-prepared material, more reliant on what learners bring to the classroom. I want to explore how we can exploit affordances and learning opportunities more in class. I also want to see how I can translate some of this into teacher training, for example developing grammar awareness in teachers.

The second theme is around e-learning (i prefer that to ILT for some reason). There will be two strands to this: firstly the use of social networking as a tool for ESOL learners. I’ve been using it to an extent with trainee teachers, and certainly will continue to do so. I want to look at how I can best use things like Facebook and class blogs to experiment with learners and their IT usage. The second strand is to see how I can make better use of a VLE with the groups, perhaps rejecting the topic based stuff and making more of it as a social tool. We’ve just upgraded to Moodle 2, so I’ll have to see what it can do. I’m going to try to be open-minded about the VLE, and I would love it if it became just one of several sets of online activity that the learners engaged with.

My third theme is squaring the circle. To what extent do these themes and my practice sit comfortably inside official good practice definitions? And where my opinions and indeed practice may exist outside these definitions, how can I be sure to be seen to conform to these principles? One of the things I have realised in the last couple of years is that there is no such thing as off the shelf, one size fits all standard of practice, but rather there are certain practices which are seen as the right thing. In an inspection year, being seen to be doing the right thing is important, whether or not you think that the “right” thing is in fact right. How can I align my practices in compliance with standard practices, to ensure that the more punitive elements of quality assurance are kept satisfied?

So the first two themes will be the more practically addressed ones, and probably inform the majority of the posts, and I think the third theme will probably run through all of the posts in some way or another, much as it already does, I suspect.



  1. Nice plans, Sam! Hopefully we’ll both investigate the e-learning side of things to some extent with the shared blog (I’ve still to get on with ITNS here and hopefully get Posterous unblock’d). Wish all the best with these endeavours and look forward to reading about your lessons =)

    Side note – I think that awful and awesome started out with similar meanings, i.e. ‘full of awe’ in that something awful or awesome inspired awe. Odd how one word developed to gain negative connotations and the other more positive ones.

    1. The “awe” thing sounds about right. I was looking at false friends recently for a workshop I was running and found that “gift” in both Dutch and German means “poison” but stems from the same rooted the English: the idea presumably being that people “gave” poison to one another.

      Although my favourite (somewhat juvenile) false friend has to be “preservative”.

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