Part of a series of summaries of the talks I’m attending at IATEFL Liverpool 2013. Please feel free to add things or correct me if I’ve misinterpreted anything!
These are the main points from Jenifer Martin, Christine Palmer and Rosie Quin’s talk. They are curriculum leaders in ESOL at City of Glasgow college. There was no wifi access, so this is what I wrote during the talk.
Glasgow is home to largest asylum and refugee community in Scotland. There are over 1000 students at the college. They are trying to encourage learners to become more engaged in their own learning.
ESOL language cafe
Set up to help students – they didn’t see anyone at the weekend, and felt very isolated. This was designed to help them. The idea came from the students themselves.
They gave different students jobs to get them involved. Students asked for funding, looked for a location and got support from the college.
They have monthly Saturday afternoon sessions in a local museum. They can practise English in a real situation. They can bring family, and they can do what they want to there. They take ownership.
Strong support networks are being formed through the cafe. Students become more involved in the local community because they have to work with the museum. For the students organising it, it’s valuable work experience. For example, they organise events. They try to integrate other sections of the college too, like inviting the hairdressers to demonstrate henna.
Students are responsible for marketing, budgeting, planning, all of which are transferrable skills.
A walking club, yoga classes, a gardening club and a film club have all grown out of the language cafe.
Students gain communication skills, organisational skills and social skills in an English-language environment. The college is teaching holistically, which has led to awards too. The whole student is being taught, not just language.
Reading the world waves
This involves upper intermediate and advanced learners working with another class.
Students performed their own writing, done with a professional writing class, in public places around the city. It’s great for their confidence.
They had creative writing workshops where students produced short poems or short stories, with help from students from the creative writing classes. Volunteers then attended a performance workshop to help them with pausing and intonation, for example.
The performance took place a few days later. Students really enjoyed it, and the applause at the end really boosted their confidence.
Glasgow to NYC
Jenifer visited a community college in NYC, and subsequently set up a blog exchange. Students exchanged ideas about their experiences in the two cities: how they fitted in, what the cities are like and more. It started in class, and students have continued it outside. The blog was ‘closed’ so only students could see it.
Higher-level students assist in lower-level classes. The higher-level students wanted to gain volunteering experience. A lot of them had been teachers in their own countries.
It offers a positive language-learning role model, especially for students who have never been in education before.
It built on support higher-level students were already giving. The mentoring scheme was a way of formalising this.
Members of staff recommend potential volunteers. These are interviewed by a mentor coordinator, who then matches them to an appropriate class.
When a mentor is assigned, they observe the class before they start helping, This gives students the chance to get used to the idea of a mentor.
The college runs workshops for the mentor, including some basics of classroom management, like giving instructions and correction techniques.
Before the class, the mentor meets the teacher to discuss what the aims are, and what the mentor’s role will be in that session. For example, the mentor might work with a small group of students or be more like a classroom assistant. After the lesson, there is a discussion with the teacher about what happened, and the mentor can learn more about the methodology. Mentors are encouraged to keep a diary to reflect on their experiences in the classroom. Diaries also feed back into workshops.
One of their mentors has just been accepted to train as a PE teacher in the UK. It’s great for lower-level students too, as they have an extra point of reference in the college.
Overall, these ideas help students to break out of the classroom, and not be restricted just to the lessons.