On Saturday 26th February 2022 I took part in the LAMSIG event, The Four Pillars of Teacher Support. LAMSIG is the Leadership and Management Special Interest Group of IATEFL.
Here is the blurb:
Communication is the keystone of management, with the quality of your communication making the difference between a team that resents every change you make and one that will follow where you lead. Clear, supportive communication is something I feel very passionate about, and have worked on a lot over the past few years. In this talk, I can offer various tried and tested tips to improve the effectiveness of online and offline communication with your team, hopefully leading to a more positive, supportive environment for all of you.
This was a variation of a presentation I originally did for ACEIA in October 2020. You can see the presentation written out in full in this post.
Here are the slides:
I’ll update the video when the link becomes available.
Since November 2021, I’ve been mentoring a teacher in Niger as part of the Female Leadership programme organised by AfricaELTA and EVE, coordinated by Amira Salama and Fiona Mauchline. 10 mentees from all over Africa worked with mentors from around the world, and 8 managed to complete the programme. These ladies were already leaders in their local areas, but the aim was to help them make their voices heard on an international stage, with the project working towards them doing their first presentation for Africa ELTA. They have worked so hard over the last 3 months to put together their presentations.
It’s been a privilege to work with Hadiza on her presentation, and to see how much all of the women involved in the project (both mentors and mentees) have learnt over the last few months. I look forward to seeing what our mentees go on to do in the future as their impact grows in ELT, and hope to be involved in future iterations of the project.
Here are the videos of the two sets of presentations. Each presentation was about 15 minutes long, with a question and answer session afterwards.
Part 1 (presentations 1-4):
Part 2 (presentations 5-8):
These are brief summaries of the presentations, which took place on 5th and 12th February 2022.
Raising Awareness of Global Issues through Reading and Listening Comprehension – Marie-Clemence Bance, Burkina-Faso
Marie-Clemence shared examples of lessons she has taught with students which brought global issues into her classroom.
The Tragedy of Migrants was one lesson she put together to combine different skills in a lesson which was motivating and engaging for her students as they knew it was about an issue which was relevant to people they knew. The history and geography teacher mentioned that the students had were able to use ideas from their English classes in their humanities lesson.
Due to a lesson about plastic waste her students asked her if they could collect plastic from the schoolyard afterwards, and told Marie-Clemence that they would encourage their peers not to throw away plastic.
Other lesson topics included a lesson about education for girls, which is a major issue in Burkina Faso, especially in areas controlled by terrorists. For the first lesson when students returned to class after the pandemic, her students were already prepared to talk about the pandemic because they knew that’s what the lesson would be about!
Iyabo talked about how she uses poems in her classroom to develop critical thinking. She shared a thought-provoking poem called ‘Not my business’ by Niyi Osundare. She starts by telling students about the poet, the setting and why the poet wrote this work. She then reads the poem aloud, and encourages students to do the same. Then she encourages students to notice patterns in the poem, and look for literary devices like similes, metaphors and personification.
Challenges for girls attaining early literacy: the role of teachers – Claudia Duedu, Ghana
Claudia chose this topic because of watching her single mum bring up her and her sister. These are some of the statistics from Ghana:
She talked about many different causes for these issues: late enrolment, unqualified teachers, high illiteracy level, teenage pregnancy, sexual violence in school, overburdening girls with household chores, foster parenting (girls being sent from rural homes to relatives in towns, but who are then not sent to school or supported with their education) and menstruation. These causes were from Worldbank and UNESCO reports in 2021.
Due to all of these issues, there are many knock-on effects: comprehension difficulties, problems with oral expression, poor academic performance, low self-esteem, absenteeism, dropping out of school, social vices, and girls being forced to repeat years and ending up out of grade.
Claudia mentioned recommendations which teachers could follow to support children to build their literacy:
Improvise materials based on what you have – for example, writing letters on bottle tops which the children can manipulate.
Ask people to donate newspapers they have finished with, or publishing companies to donate materials they don’t need.
Get simple grade-specific internet materials and print them on small cards which students can use.
Play-based methodology – integrating play into your lesson to achieve your lesson objectives.
Use age-appropriate materials. For example, books based on their reading abilities.
Continue your own Professional Development, and join Communities of Practice. As Claudia said, “The 21st century teacher is the one who is willing to keep learning.”
Mentorship – this enthuses both adults and children. Each teacher could mentor one girl at a time – this is something Claudia has been doing for a while. If girls realise that somebody cares about their development, they benefit a lot. They also get support and sponsorship from local organisations.
Supplemental learning – giving extra teaching to girls who need it.
Community engagement – get the community involved. Talk to parents, chiefs, community leaders to talk about the development of their communities.
This was the quote Claudia finished with:
Using Technology to Teach Creative Writing: Creating a Storyboard – Lzuchukwu Light Chime, Nigeria
Light talked about making storyboards using Google Slides as a tool for creative writing. She starts by changing the format of the slide too 11 x 8″ (like a portrait piece of paper). She adds squares and arrows to indicate the possible structure of a story, which can then be used by students to think up a story. They can add text, pictures, or a combination to help them plan their story. Here’s one example:
Light recommends using Google Slides because it is easy to create and share frameworks with students, and they can edit them themselves. These are her steps:
Think of ideas
Write first draft
She says you can also use Zoom, Canva or WhatsApp for similar storyboarding. This is an example from Zoom:
Excerpts from a WhatsApp storyboard:
If you have no technology, Light says that you can also create storyboards with post-it notes, as a template on A4 paper, as circles in the sand outdoors, and as group work.
Creative writing stimulates the imagination, brings the real world into the classroom, engages and encourages critical thinking, allows active learning, helps students to see possibilities, and lets them see progress. It involves students not just as writers, but as editors, and giving them the chance to give feedback to each other.
ICT usage in EFL teaching in Niamey secondary schools – Amou Ali Hadizatou, Niger
I’ve worked with Hadiza since November to help her to run some small-scale research using Google Forms, then summarise it in a presentation. Due to internet problems, I was sharing her slides during the presentation so wasn’t able to write about it as she was presenting, but here’s my summary.
Niamey is the capital of Niger, where Hadiza lives. When the COVID pandemic started, teachers were forced online, but many of them were very reluctant. Hadiza wanted to find out about Niamey EFL teachers’ general attitudes to ICT and some of the reasons for this reluctance. She got 26 responses to her survey. Some of her interesting findings:
65% of respondents had access to a smartphone, and 50% had access to a computer.
85% use ICT in their teaching, but only 30% do so frequently.
Many teachers were reluctant to use ICT because of a lack of availability, poor network connections, and student attitudes, as some of them try to cheat.
Teachers are also concerned about their own lack of digital literacy compared to the students.
Despite this, teachers recognise how useful ICT can be in teaching, making lessons engaging, helping with time management and giving access to tools like online dictionaries.
In the Q&A, Hadiza talked about including parents and the community in making ICT available to the students, for example by lending students their smartphones.
Hadiza uses mp3s to introduce other accents to the classroom via videos. She doesn’t have internet access in the classroom, so she downloads materials before the lesson to be able to use them.
In her school, students aren’t supposed to bring phones into lessons. Hadiza spoke to the headmaster, told him what she wanted to use phones for in the lessons and was given permission, as long as she asks students to switch their phones off before they go to other teachers’ lessons.
Creative Writing: An important spice in the classroom dish – Joan Kumako, Ghana
Why is it that so many educational systems develop such unimaginative approaches to teaching?
A paraphrase of a quote Joan shared
Creative writing is an art, producing texts with an aesthetic purpose expressing the author’s voice uniquely. It can be poetry, drama, prose (short stories, fiction, novellas), movies and songs.
Small groups / whole class activities
Story / poem-writing activities
Creative writing is important to help students develop many skills: creativity, imagination, critical thinking and problem-solving. It’s also important for cultural preservation, development and transformation. It allows learners’ self-discovery and self-expression.
As an example activity: What impression does this image suggest to you?
This is what Joan did:
Brainstorm words the picture suggests in whole class
Write words on the board
Put students into small groups (which helps to encourage those who might be more reluctant)
Students select a few of the words that interest them the most
Allow students to create a poem with their words
Let students share poems with the rest of the class
Paste the poems on the classroom wall or notice board as a form of motivation for students
Here’s an example of their poems:
There were more great poems in the presentation – to see them, you can watch the video (link at the top – about 35 minutes in).
After this, students came to hear and told her they wanted to write more poems: ‘Madam, I want to write a poem about love’ 🙂
Impromptu Meeting that Revealed Girls’ Untapped Potentials: Creating Unlikely Leaders – Oliver Kimathi, Tanzania
When observing her students, Oliver noticed the girls seemed shy, seemed to lack confidence and had no confidence to lead (both in the classroom and beyond). There was also higher truancy among girls. All of these factors led to poor performance.
As a result, Oliver conducted an impromptu meeting to bring girls together to think about how to address some of the challenges they faced: education, leadership, early pregnancy, and menstruation (a highly sensitive topic). This meeting led to the idea of creating a Girls Empowerment Club, involved both girls and boys.
She conducted a needs analysis to find out from the girls:
what challenges the girls faced
the role of their parents and traditions in their life
what they know
what they want to know
Information is powerful.
The children read stories about female leaders. Girls and boys work as a team to think about how to uplift girls in the community. They learn new skills like cooking, making detergents, and how to conserve the environment. They learnt how to make cakes (not common in their area), and more about how to create employment opportunities.
Public speaking is also worked on – the girls feel more confident about talking in public, improve their speaking and listening skills, and improve their English skills. English is introduced at secondary schools.
Students are also able to talk about menstruation freely and have learnt about reusable sanitary pads. They are working on breaking the taboo against menstruation. Everything in their reusable sanitary pad kit is locally available, and can last for 2-3 years. Reusable sanitary pads was an idea brought to the club by a student who took part in a project outside the country and then shared it with the group.
The clubs improve the students’ team work skills, helping them to identify challenges, find solutions, be creative and improve their English language skills. It has promoted freedom of expression, increased their confidence and boldness, improved attendance, encouraged girls to participate in school leadership, shared resources, and raised girls’ academic performance.
Members of the club had a booth at a wider event at a university with attendees from six different countries, sharing the books they read, the menstrual pads, and the success of the club. This helped them with networking, and motivated girls to want to go to university. Most of the club members from the first group are now at university, and have started girls empowerment clubs of their own.
Empowering girls at schools makes sense because they fight for their education.
Tanya Lee Stone, 2017
This is an amazing project, and I recommend you watch the full video to learn more about it and see the photos. There was also a long Q&A (around 65 minutes in) covering many interesting areas, like parents’ responses to the clubs and how Oliver got boys involved.
The value of pre-reading activities in teaching reading – Patricia Keageletse Sechogela, South Africa
Why is it important for learners to read?
We can communicate through reading, we can enjoy reading, and we can extend reading beyond the classroom, encouraging learners to read at home too. This will help them to become more critical and fluent readers.
Through reading we can learn about what happens around us and around the world. Reading doesn’t stop – it continues throughout our lives.
We use reading to learn the content of other subjects.
Why use pre-reading activities?
We can pre-teach new vocabulary.
It gives learners a purpose for reading.
It can motivate and engage them, preparing them to read.
Examples of pre-reading activities
Discussing the title
Discussing new words
Looking at pictures
Pre-teaching vocab games (like Pictionary)
How can we motivate learners to read?
Teach reading strategies, including peer reading and silent reading.
Model positive reading habits.
Create a book club.
Let learners choose their own books.
If learners aren’t motivated, try to identify why they are reluctant. For example, they might lack phonological awareness. Give them books which are easy for their level to improve their confidence, so that they feel willing to try by themselves.
A writer only begins a book.
A reader finishes it.
What a great quote to finish these Africa ELTA and EVE Female Leadership presentations on!
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending over an hour chatting to Jim Fuller, who writes the blog Sponge ELT. I really enjoyed the conversation, and I hope you do too. You can find the YouTube link and Spotify audio on Jim’s blog.
We covered a whole range of topics connected to teacher training and academic management. This was the list of bookmarks Jim made:
01:50 Introduction and purpose of Sponge Chats 04:30 Who is Sandy Millin? 06:00 Sandy’s view on freelancing 09:10 Some benefits of blogging 18:21 Why the move into teacher training and management? 26:00 Why have teacher training and development programmes? 34:00 Managing expectations 36:00 Challenging aspects of teacher training and management 44:00 Getting feedback on your feedback 48:30 Managing time as an academic manager 54:00 Advice for teachers looking to move into teacher training or management 56:30 Diploma-level courses and teacher training 1:01:30 Sandy’s Delta Module 1 preparation course Take Your Time 1:09:00 How does Sandy develop? 1:11:30 Sandy’s book recommendations