Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

Posts tagged ‘methodology’

Classroom Dynamics by Jill Hadfield (review)

I’ve been meaning to read this for a very long time, and finally got round to it in 2020 after being really pushed towards the importance of group dynamics during my MA Trainer Development module in 2019.

KEY DETAILS

TitleClassroom Dynamics

Author: Jill Hadfield

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Year: 1992 (note, there are two versions – the purple one above which I read, and an orange one with a photo on it, though I believe only the cover changed and not the contents)

Place of publication: Oxford

Affiliate links: Amazon

Other links: BEBC (You’re supporting a great bookshop if you use this link)

WHAT’S IN IT?

The book starts with a clear introduction and guide to how to use the book, including why Jill felt that a book like this is necessary for teachers. The rest of the book is a series of recipe-style activities divided into three sections and twenty chapters, covering every aspect of building, developing, and maintaining group dynamics, as well as how to deal with the inevitable problems which sometimes occur. These are the chapters:

  • Section A: Forming the group
    1 Breaking the ice: warm-up activities for the first week of term
    2 Thinking about language: individual learning styles and group strategies
    3 Thinking about groups: group strengths, individual contributions
  • Section B: Maintaining the group
    4 Bridging gaps: opinion- and value-bridging activities
    5 Maintaining fluidity: reseating and melee games
    6 Getting to know each other; humanistic exercises and personalized grammar
    7 I did it your way: empathy activities
    8 A sense of belonging: whole group identity activities
    9 Establishing trust: trust- and confidence-building activities
    10 Staying positive: encouraging positive feelings
    11 Group achievements: product-orientated activities
    12 Bringing it together: pyramid discussions, feedback techniques, and summaries
    13 That patriotic class feeling: inter-class activities and competitions
    14 Ensuring participation
    15 Learning to listen
    16 A sense of direction: setting, assessing, and resetting goals
    17 Coexistence and compromise: individual wants and frustrations; group solutions
    18 Coping with crisis: some group problems
  • Section C: Ending the group experience
    19 Ending with positive feelings
    20 Evaluating the group experience

The book ends with a self-reflection questionnaire to help you consider your own experience with a group.

Good points

The book is based on a clearly-defined need which Jill identified in response to ‘moaning and groaning’ from a questionnaire she conducted with Angi Malderez to invite teachers to share common staffroom moans. They were surprised to discover that the main issues seemed to be connected to the atmosphere in the class and the chemistry of the group, regardless of the level of experience of the teachers concerned. Along with replies from the questionnaire, Jill shares her own experiences of both good and bad groups to inform ideas of what makes successful and unsuccessful groups. She has written a highly practical book to address these problems, but in a very down-to-earth way, with clear caveats that the book is not a panacea, not will it solve all the problems teachers might have. She also shares her own experiences of trying out the activities, for example on page 85. Throughout the book, I felt like Jill was talking to me directly in a very accessible style, as if she was in the staffroom with me.

The list of characteristics of an unsuccessful group on page 11 and a successful group on page 12 would make an excellent starting point for a workshop I think, and definitely reflect experiences I’ve had in the past with both good and bad groups.

‘How to use this book’ suggests a range of ways of exploiting the activities, including the key point that “this book is not an emergency handbook” (p17) and that activities should be used throughout the course, not only when there are problems. There is lots of guidance about what kind of activities might suit different types of group, and clear information about how to integrate activities into the syllabus. Jill acknowledges that you may not have time to squeeze in extra activities to an already crowded syllabus. This is supported by a comprehensive index of topics and structures, showing that group dynamics activities can be tweaks on activities already present in your lessons, rather than add-ons. Most activities have information about which other activities could follow or precede them, so that you could build up a linked programme fairly easily.

For activities such as 2.2 What kind of language learner are you? there are guidelines about how to handle the discussion after a questionnaire to ensure the teacher helps to build a supportive environment between students, rather than rejecting difference.

The bulk of activities are about maintaining group dynamics, and this made me realise just how much I’ve neglected this – I think many of us believe our job is done if we’ve completed a few getting-to-know-you activities in the first lesson or two, but many of my worst experiences with groups have come from allowing groups to settle into negative patterns which are very difficult to escape from.

There are activities for situations related to group dynamics which hadn’t crossed my mind before, for example the group that knows each other too well (chapter 7).

The activities are very student-centred, and get them involved in reflection on what makes a successful group, as well as creating the conditions to build empathy and trust between the group members. They really feel like they could add a whole extra layer to what happens in the classroom.

The examples of conflicts and reassuring words in chapter 18 were particularly useful:

Finally, not all group problems are resolvable. While I do believe that most potential problems can be solved, or better, pre-empted by the use of techniques such as those in this book, the belief that the teacher is responsible for every group problem can lead to much unnecessary guilt and soul-searching. (page 148)

It may happen, though, that your best attempts to resolve the crisis fail and the group cannot be reconciled. […] you may feel guilty, inadequate, or demoralized: somehow as teachers we have the feeling that ought to be able to resolve all human conflict, and if we meet a problem that defies our best efforts to solve it we have failed in our job. Whatever gave us this idea? (page 157)

(reply to a questionnaire) This group at least helped me to realize that it is a kind of arrogance for me to think that I am able to handle every classroom situation that comes my way – or even understand it. (page 158)

Those three quotes really made me think and I’ve come back to them again and again since I read the book. There were other sections that made me think too: the discussion on pairwork on p110, the potential reasons for tensions in intermediate and above groups on p94.

Hmmm…

Most of the activities would be very easy to adapt to a classroom nearly 30 years since the book was written, but I think it’s possibly time for an updated edition. There’s a lot of scope for modern technology to be exploited to build on the ideas in this book, and I believe this is something that Jill has written about elsewhere. An updated edition might also make teachers more likely to pick the book up, as sometimes we neglect valuable classics (of which this is definitely one!)

Other suggestions/ideas for tweaks/improvements include:

  • how to work with groups with continuous enrolment (most activities seem focussed on a groups which have the same make-up throughout the course) or integrating students joining a group which has already formed
  • a balance of ideas for full-time courses and part-time courses (many activities seem to be aimed at groups which have lessons every day intensively, rather than than once or twice a week over a year, and some have the timing listed as e.g. 2 lessons on consecutive days)
  • removing the reference to learning styles and left- and right-brain thinking in activity 2.1
  • more guidance on the processes of compromise for activity 17.4 (timetabling priorities)
  • a mention somewhere of how long a lesson is (many lessons are described as taking 1 lesson/up to 1 lesson)
  • an acknowledgement of the amount of preparation some of the activities require, for example 10.4 (medals)

General comment

This book is practical and supportive, and really made me think. I’ve started reading more about and presenting on group dynamics as a result of reading this and a few other tings, and I’ve realised just how much of a keystone they are in successful language learning. Jill’s book has allowed me to recommend various ideas to teachers at our school. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to try many out myself yet, but I definitely intend to in the future. Watch this space for more related ideas on my blog in the future! It’s a must-read, and every staffroom should have a copy.

Special Educational Needs by Marie Delaney (a review)

Special Educational Needs cover

I picked up Special Educational Needs [affiliate link] at IATEFL just before Marie Delaney’s talk on the challenges and opportunities of teaching students with SEN, which I summarised here. It is part of an OUP series called ‘Into the classroom’:

Into the Classroom explains new developments in teaching, and how to introduce them into your classroom. Short, easy to read and practical, this series helps you make sense of new developments that you need to bring into your classroom.

Short: yes, definitely. It’s an A4 book, with just 101 pages from start to finish, including three appendices, two of which contain key terms with clear jargon-free definitions.

Easy-to-read: it took me about four or five hours over the course of two days. It’s laid out in logical sections, starting with a general overview of SEN, then general tips for teachers, then individual chapters focussing on the main SEN that an English language teacher may have to deal with, including dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and autism. Suggestions and tips are all signposted and easy to find. The pages are well-spaced out and easy to navigate.

Practical: all of the tips seem like they should be easy to implement, although as Marie says in the introduction, it’s better not to try and do it all at once, especially if you have little previous experience with SEN. Throughout the book, tips on how to communicate with parents/carers and the students to find out what works for them are given. There are key sections on building self-esteem, and on helping other students in the group to work with those with SEN to reduce the feeling of isolation and increase empathy. The fact that one size most definitely does not fit all is emphasised, and there are many ideas for how to differentiate your lessons to ensure everyone is getting what they need.

The only slight problem I have with the book is frequent mentions of visual, auditory and kinaesthetic learners, rather than focussing on varied activities. This is a minor point though and does get in the way of the general usefulness of the book.

You can find sample pages from the book, along with supplementary materials to extend some of the chapters, in the OUP Teacher’s Club. It requires free registration, but there’s a lot of useful stuff in there, and I’d recommend it! I only seem to be able to find links to the e-book at the moment, which is about £11. I suspect that means the paperback version is still very new, and perhaps at IATEFL they had some of the first copies.

This book would be very useful for anybody who would like a beginner’s guide to SEN and practical tips for how to support students who have them. Special Educational Needs [affiliate link] is one of the quickest and easiest to read methodology books I have ever come across, and it would definitely tempt me to read others in the series. Highly recommended!

Working with Images by Ben Goldstein (a review)

I was given Working with Images [affiliate link] when I was doing a CELTA at IH Palma, as they had a couple of extra copies left over after a conference. As one of the curators of the amazing resource that is ELTpics, I am very interested in how images can be used in the classroom, although I have to say that in the past I have tended to stick to tasks involving describing the story behind an image or using modals of deduction (because they’re easy, not because I don’t know about many other ways to use images!)

Working with Images by Ben Goldstein (cover)

This is a useful resource book full of ideas for different types of images, not restricted only to photos as is often the case. It includes ideas for analysing adverts, icons, and works of art. There are activities for every level and age group, and it is accompanied by a CD-ROM with all of the relevant images. Every activity is explained step-by-step, and often includes many variations to adapt it to other age groups or images, or to extend the core activity.

A lot of the activities could also be used in conjunction with ELTpics sets:

Having read all of the activities, I certainly have a much better idea of how versatile images are and the range of different ways that you could exploit them in the classroom, moving beyond storytelling and grammar activities.

There are activities that will prompt critical thinking and visual literacy, particularly those in the section about advertising, such as 6.6 Adverts everywhere, which encourages students to consider how the positioning of an advert can effect their response to it. 2.19 Coursebook Images challenges students to say what kind of images should appear in a coursebook, and think about how representative the images in their coursebook are.

For those of you who want to incorporate PARSNIPs (a variety of potentially taboo subjects, covering politics, alcohol, religion, sex, narcotics, -isms, pork) into their lessons, activities like 6.8 Subvertising look at how advertising messages we are familiar with can be subverted to make us think about a company or an issue in a different way. 5.7 Culture Shock uses signs to prompt students to consider differences in attitude and exposure to different situations in different cultures, such as the sign ‘no ice cream or guns’.

Working with Images [affiliate link] would be useful to have in a school library as a reference for teachers who would like to push themselves, although I suspect that as with many resource books like this, teachers would also need to be prompted to use it or it will just sit on the shelf gathering dust. That’s not to say that it isn’t full of great activities, just that it can sometimes be difficult to know where to incorporate them if you are working from a syllabus.

My challenge now is to start trying out some of the activities I keep reading about in resource books more actively in the classroom, slightly hindered by the fact that I now only teach for three hours a week! I’ll take it into school for our teachers to use, and hopefully it will be just one of the books which I use next year as I try and make our professional development for second years at the school more research driven. Watch this space to find out if I manage it…

How to demand high – Jim Scrivener (IATEFL 2013)

Part of a planned series of summaries of the talks I’m attending at IATEFL Liverpool 2013. Please feel free to add or correct me if I’ve misinterpreted anything!
These are the main points from Jim Scrivener’s talk, taken from my tweets.

Here’s the Demand High blog in case you don’t know it http://demandhighelt.wordpress.com/

What do your students complain about in your lessons?
For example: it’s easy/slow/boring/difficult, we waste time talking, the teacher never corrects me/always says ‘good’

What is Demand High?
Am I engaging the full human learning potential of the students in my class? Have we lost our edge in favour of fun?
Aremy learners capable of more? Am I underchallenging them? Would my students learn more if I demanded more of them?
How can we move away from just ‘covering’? @jimscriv says it’s OK to teach! Explicit teaching is not bad.
We need to focus on where the learning is. What will move learners forward? Classroom management techniques beyond pair and groupwork are necessary.
Demand high wants to help us teach at everyone’s pace, not just the fastest high.

How can we put it into practice?
Looking at how we can implement Demand High in the feedback/checking stage.
This is the sample task from @jimscriv’s Visual Grammar:

20130409-105957.jpg
How can you extend simple feedback to that one exercise to an hour? Our suggestions: remember the answers/questions, put into longer context, mini roleplay
Jim Scrivener’s suggestions:

20130409-111032.jpg
Pronunciation:

20130409-111247.jpg
Practice, memory, mistakes and being playful:

20130409-111342.jpg

20130409-111403.jpg
How about: What sort of face would you make when you say that? By doing that, students change their voices too. Replay the sentence in your head. See the person saying it in your ‘mind’s ear’. Change it to someone else you know. Adds processing time. Once you’ve processed it mentally, move it down to your mouth and say the intonation but not the words. Teacher imitates intonation pattern, students say whether that’s correct or not. Then add words gradually. By having part words/part mumble, it helps students become more aware of unstressed words.
The things @jimscriv has demonstrated are variations on drilling. Practise is what makes students remember, not presentation. Practise through repetition and processing are what make students remember and internalise language.

Update:
Here is Dave Dodgson’s response to the same talk.
Here is the summary by Chia Suan Chong.
Neil McMahon includes some comments on Jim’s talk in his post about day 1 of the conference.
Barry Jameson’s take on the talk.

Observe-Hypothesize-Experiment

For the International House Certificate in Advanced Methodology which I’m studying at the moment I need to plan and teach a series of lessons using a different lesson planning descriptor to ones which I’ve applied before.

I’ve been trying to find out about the “Observe-Hypothesize-Experiment” descriptor used by Michael Lewis in The Lexical Approach (1993) as an alternative to PPP (Present-Practice-Produce) and seem to have come up against a brick wall. Most of what I’ve read consists of the same quote from page vii of the book with no extra information:

The Present-Practise-Produce paradigm is rejected, in favour of a paradigm based on the Observe-Hypothesize-Experiment cycle.

This is what our notes have to say about OHE:

First of all they [learners] observe language in use, for example through listening to or reading a text. Then they make hypotheses about the way that language works and experiment with creating it themselves in their own contexts.

Observation isn’t just a case of receiving language input but also submitting it to critical examination.  Otherwise,  it  will  be  impossible  to  make  hypotheses  about  language behaviour. The  hypothesising and experimenting stages involve activities such as identifying, sorting and matching and their aim is to encourage curiosity about language and among learners. We as teachers need to take a longer term view of learning and cannot expect to limit language to a single structure and presume this has been learnt by the end of the class (as PPP advocates) because language learning simply doesn’t work like that.

I’ve found a couple of other explanations:

From ‘Alan DELTA

The “OHE” or “III” model (Lewis & McCarthy)

1. Lewis and McCarthy’s view on PPP;

2. Observe, Hypothesize, Experiment;

3. Ss get an “Illustration” followed by “Interaction” with the lgg, which will hopefully lead to an “Induction”

From this presentation on Methods and Approaches:

Michael Lewis claims that students should be allowed to Observe (read or listen to language) which will then provoke them to Hypothesise about how the language works before going on to the Experiment on the basis of that hypothesis.

This quote sums up my problem:

In his own teaching design, Lewis proposes a model that comprises the steps, Observe-Hypothesize-Experiment, as opposed to the traditional Present-Practice-Produce paradigm. Unfortunately, Lewis does not lay out any instructional sequences exemplifying how he thinks this procedure might operate in actual language classrooms.

I seem to understand all of the words, but can’t make the leap from that to an actual lesson plan where I can clearly apply the descriptors. So these are my questions:

  • What would an ‘Observe-Hypothesize-Experiment’ lesson actually look like? i.e. Does anyone have an example they could share with me?
  • How much does ‘observation’ involve? What should be done to fulfil this stage?
  • Can it only be used for lexical chunks since it came out of the Lexical Approach? Or could it be used for grammar / skills work too? This is a lesson I planned to practise writing an article which I think fits the OHE descriptor but I’m not sure – what do you think?
  • I have to plan a series of four lessons applying the same descriptor. Does that mean each lesson should contain the full set of OHE with stages being repeated if necessary (I think this is the case) or should it be more of an over-arcing thing?

Apologies if this is not very coherent, but I’m really confused at the moment!

Thank you for your help!

Tag Cloud