Monday, 9 January 2017

The Importance of Visuals in ESL Classroom ..and beyond

As an introduction to my post, below is a link with a summary of a thesis
by Maria Ramirez Garcia
The Usage of Multimedia Visual Aids in the English Language Classroom
Well worth a read, thank you  Maria for sharing it..

  CLIL Biology lesson homework..copying a photo with labels by drawing it..a passè idea in a digital age..some students love doing it
Visual inspiration from visits to Museums ..endless..animals and faces are favourites
Response to artifacts in British Museum


Beards through the vocabulary-rich  topic for the lads,
includes idiomatics eg. five-o-clock shadow!
 Infographics..the way to go in ESL teaching..and visuals have been around for millenium

The imaginative power of students' and visual response to
their world is mind-boggling and nice to see pen-and-paper
expression still holds sway...Norbert's response to snowstorm

Friday, 25 September 2015

Beautiful quotes for teachers to inspire reading...the power of the pen!

"As readers, as writers, as citizens...[we] have an obligation to use the language. To push ourselves: to find out what words mean and how to deploy them, to communicate clearly, to say what we mean. We must not to attempt to freeze language, or to pretend it is a dead thing that must be revered, but we should use it as a living thing, that flows, that borrows words, that allows meanings and pronunciations to change with time."  - Neil Gaiman (The Guardian, Oct. 15, 2013)
H.G. Wells The Time Machine at Greeenwich Observatory-One of the Book Bench series ,London 2014

"When I cannot see words curling like rings of smoke round me I am in darkness -- I am nothing."   - Virginia Woolf (The Waves)

Jackie Wilson,-my favourite illustrator interprets the Scandinavian fairy tale -East of the sun,west of the Moon

Photo-Leonardo Salerno, young learners class at
 St Josephs Foundation School in Oak Wood,London-
 August 2015-this age is the best as they naturally gravitate towards imaginative Grade 2 teacher,Marija Marek was a great story teller and I was mesmerized by her folk tales..I honour  her every time I read..
"The natural, proper, fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag. A book holds words. Words hold things. They bear meanings. A novel is a medicine bundle, holding things in a particular, powerful relation to one another and to us."  - Ursula K. Le Guin (Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places)

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Language Learning Hands-On –Balancing the Hemispheres

  In my recent teaching practice with PON students in Chalfont, London ,I have been advocating the inclusion of “creative” hands-on English lessons through hands-on projects. Not only do these lessons provide an opportunity for the English language to be practised on a very practical level ,often sidelined in favour of prescriptive official exams, but the cognitive processes that are involved in learning languages and creative tasks with a strong visual and tactile content,actually reinforce each other. This redresses the balance between the two types of students that fall into these categories as well as a more-student centred environment where students make aesthetic and planning choices themselves.This pedagogical approach that seems to be the latest catch-cry of classroom practices at present –in reality this approach is not new it was around in the seventies..and as me- from  “dippy hippy”era is all reinventing the wheel!

Most classroom teaching styles use left-brain strategies. This tends to favour left-brain dominant students, and can make learning difficult for right-brain dominant students. Left-brain students are good at linear and sequential processing, such as involved in language.Left-brain students can easily express themselves in words. A left-brain student tends to be good with symbolic language…. A right brain student needs to see, feel, or touch the real object. Right brain students prefer hands-on activities,…. Right brain students tend to be more creative, but have more trouble than left.-brain students with the mechanics of writing and communicating.Right brain students learn visually, not by listening to a lecture-style class. They must take extensive notes, and use diagrams and drawings to make information more visual, to facilitate learning the information. They also need to make a mental images of things they hear or read in order to remember information.”

THE photos show the students utilizing paper,paint,fabric and recycled materials at their disposal choosing art as a leisure alternative,as well as the gender mix with the guys showing just as much engagement as the females..the students were Italian and I find that in an inherently artistic cultures like Italian, visual arts are in the blood -expressing confidence in their aesthetic choices.

 The festivities offered an opportunity to do theme-based activities.The photos show students doing Halloween cloth banners,headresses,masks,etc and face paint.There was some interesting, carefully excecuted detailed face painting ..pointing to the fact that specific projects with a clear outcome are a good motivational factor with teenagers-dressing up and!
Digressing for a moment,I was fascinated to learn about Madame Tussard at her world-renowned Wax Museum -the favourite haunt of the students during their month of London excursions and tours .Below the photo depicts her waxeffigy,in her studio,initiating her career fashioning death masks of fallen aristocrats during the French Revolution.Her staying power- as well as her strong stomach inspires nothing but admiration for this gritty,determined woman who made the best of bad work situation-the severed heads were delivered in a bag and she learned a living this way, perfecting her waxy moulding skills to produce 300 life size figures that she transported over to London .The exhibit in greeted by the British public with huge acclaim…hence the legend was born…long before the likes the latest museum additions of pseudo-heroes..I would have liked to have to sculpting faces in the classes as a prep. or follow-up but the time factor mitigates against it,as the students have a fast and furious schedule and relax through their phones, there is an urgent need for students currently lost in the techno “Shallows”cf.Footnote,to experience-on hands-on experiences that stimulate deeper creative thought processes at the top of the learning pyramid. I will be advocating 3D art projects this year,not using a 3D printer!!!!

Footnote-This refers to  “Shallows” by Nicolas Carr, examining the way the internet changes the way we process cognitively..It is compelling and disturbing!

Friday, 4 September 2015

Shakespeare 400 and Material Culture

Shakespeare 400 and Material culture

“Through tattered clothes great vices do appear; Robes and furred gowns hide all. Plate sin with gold and the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks. Arm it in rags, a pigmy's straw does pierce it.”
King Lear
 What better way to celebrate Shakespeare's 400th anniversary than a trip to Stratford or the Globe exhibition with prep. lessons relating to clothing/textiles.
It continually surprises me how little  ESL (English as a Second Language ) students at Embassy Summer School in London know about fabrics/clothing- and how poor their vocabulary is regarding fabrics which impinge on everyday existence, apart from fashion terms such as grunge couture and eco-chic . Material culture, relating to textiles in particular, in this day and age ,is something ignored , taken for granted and diminished.Take this example- Zaha Hadid,the iconic architect of-the-moment declared that she aims to eliminate all soft surfaces in her home environment in favour of clean ,crisp lines.This trend toward the shining hard surfaces of a future world is totally flawed as t doesn't take into account soft textiles that we surrounds our bodies with,everyday in clothing,in bed and in our environment.
It is ironic that ,in our “brave new world “ where retail clothing is dominated by absurdly low-priced clothing, robbing the value of the garment and its sartorial labour, students lack the skill of describing what someone is wearing and identifying clothing-related terms.The Italian students do have a well-developed overview and opinion about  ,as their culture is suffused with fashion and “La bella figura”-making a good impression through appearance being a social imperative.They know “tatty” and “faded” from jeans but not  to sew,or the professions of dressmaker or tailor. Of course we had fun doing a lesson about measurement - getting the students to measure each other. Hands-on and TPR activities are meant to set vocabulary permanently into their hard-drives-(I tested them the next day to check!)-waist,to measure,height, but width was too difficult as it is a totally word for Italians  to pronounce-the"Th" 
 To redress this imbalance ,I did a series of CLIL lessons , incorporating textiles/ clothing, expanding vocabulary as well as working towards a student-led debate ,using the above quote , as to whether we judge others on their clothing alone.using shekspeare's quote from King lear above as a starter...and if so, is it a reliable indicator?
Through our day trips ,there was an opportunity to combine English history,in the museums that London and its surrounds offer, where immersive experiences abound...the London Museum being a prime example of an under-utilized resource.

Day Trip -  Destination..Stratford-upon-Avon,Shakespeare's Birthplace-with an demonstrating glove maker-straight out of a Shakespear's play , explained the glove-making art  - a hands-on experience (that’s my pun for the day) but where were the students?Outside Wifi-ing? Only the ladies were interested, granted that our glove-maker did have a very strong Oxfordshire  accent and became positively growly when the students started to touch and try on the gloves en-masse(do not blame him).This immersive experience needed to be reviewed…but later outside a more engaging experience -the actress who recited Shakespeare's sonnets,wearing authentic commoner’s garb .Her acting skills with lots of gesticulating, audience attention by flirting and the sheer power of her voice captured the students' interest ,even though they understood only  a few words..a lot of parallels with teaching essentially thespian art ,using all the tricks gathered through all those years of observing adolescent psychology!

 The interior of Shakespeare’s birthplace provided students with an insight into the decoration of Tudor homes which was bold and ornate –something that the students could respond and relate to, judging by the profusion of Baroque churches in Italy, not to mention the Versace look …so I felt a new lesson plan coming on-comparing Tudor style and Italian Renaissance and they would most probably soon discover a lot of the inspiration originated in Italy..another notch in the Italians’ belt as they soon realize the Renaissance masterpieces in the National Gallery , London  are 99% Italian and get huffy about it. 

 Finishing on a abstract note,on the right is a fresco, spotted in Bologna , depicting a weaver in action –both Britain and Italy have such a fine history of textiles and this quote from The Bard sums up the importance of cloth,fabric then and now ,being a  compelling metaphor for our existence  as well as a chance for students to connect their culture to others by recognising familiar themes related to everyday human existence.

        “The web of our life is a tangled yarn, good and ill together.

 from...  All’s Well that Ends Well

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

A picture tell a thousand words.....

   Having already completed a module with  the Linguistic department of Ca Foscari University in Venice  with Dr. Michele Daloiso,who specialises in writing texts books on second language learning for dyslexics .He has such insightful and practical reflections on language teaching and ways to understand how students perceive and respond to resource ESL material that can be applied to all students in my

English ESL practice.....he  writes for OUP and Loescher and his material is fascinating-a lot free and informative and he writes in English!!

There is such useful and research -backed ESL resource material using visual material nowadays....not only the photos that graced my classroom many moons ago......

Today there is a wealth of more techy offerings but the favourites are videos eg.Sciweek

I do include an element of CLIL  in my lessons and this science series with "Hank" -a funny science geek from SCI Week about various interesting topics such as sleep ...I find the students respond well to science -oriented stuff that is relevant to them and the presenter is important-this one here being a wise-cracker but maybe a little fast-paced as he is firing a lot of scientific terms ......

All the same, the best visual simulation is real -life and no-one can deny the immediate reality of museums-and the not so traditional ones as well- being the Hard Rock cafe in London .Pictured is the harpsichord used by the Beatles song ""Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"
-The guitar used by Jimi Hendrix was the students' favourite- mine was Stings' but the students did not know him..times like this when you ,as a teacher ,feel the generational shift..
. This quote sums up the reality of the teaching experience with visual tools enhancing learning-
 Nowadays, one thing that cannot be denied is that our students live in a media world, in which most of the information is provided by visual input, through different technological devices. As scholars have always argued, in order to make the acquisition of the language more meaningful for the students, teachers must bring the real world into the classroom. Visual materials work as a powerful tool in this aspect, as far as they give teachers the opportunity to show the culture of the target language, the habits and the body language that lie behind the language transactions. All this makes students understand that the use of the target language has a purpose: the real purpose of real communication.
Anglin, G. J., Vaez, H. and Cunningham, K.L., (2004) ‘Visual Representations and Learning: The role of Static and Animated Graphics’, in D.H. Jonassen (ed.) Handbook of Research for Educational Communications and Technology (pp. 865-913). New York: Simon and Schuster.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Shaping the future with Oxford in Padova

In Padova, Spring had sprung.. Oxford Teachers Seminar, featuring John Hird- writer of publications including Oxford EAP B1 (2015),Grammar and Vocabulary for the Real World (2015), Oxford Learner’s Pocket Verbs and Tenses (2013) and The Complete English Grammar (2010), all published by OUP..he explained the changes in the texts used in the high schools that addressed natural ways of expressing idiomatic discourse.In addition,he explained the new 
  Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary 9 which contains new functions and tech tools which I am dying to try..available shortly

I find the OUP publications always the best -researched and always look forward to the seminars they present which are informative ,the speakers are very approachable and each presentation nourishes every teacher's CPD..much appreciated..
Thank you Oxford..and the Agrian Institute for an unforgettable venue...

At left John Hird,enjoying the wonderful hospitality of the Duca Degli Abruzzi  Agrian Institute 
The Agrarian school has a collection of antique farm implements..
The seminar included a tour of the vinicultue laboratory

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

LITERARTI from DOWN UNDER- Bologna Childrens' Book Fair 2015

THE AUSTRALIAN AMBASSADOR TO ITALY above ,far right,-Mike Rann,from South Australia ,as "literary" man as we South Australians are, spoke about importance of keeping children interested in reading and of course promoting Australian writers.He is working with Mem Fox ,a wonderful childrens' writer,hailing from the UK ..I couldn't help thinking it is a small world as she happened to be my drama Teacher at Cabra Ladies College,South Australia :she is a larger than-life, and so witty..still going strong .. she was the first teacher I ever heard who swore in class...she was talking about her acting experience  and she advised us and I quote "..Watch out...there are always bastards who upstage you!!"Goes to show you never forget your favourite teachers in your formative years...
The Australian Exhibit at the Bologna Childrens' Book Fair had a strong presence of printmakers and indigineous culture and I was very fortunate to be part of it....

Australian's own poet Laureate-Julie French whose passionate speech about tolerance and understanding through literature was applauded  and let's face it Australia has had some great poetesses-Judith Wright to name one...

Iranian illustration-an ancient culture offering a visually splendid story-telling tradition- by Mommardi Narges                                                                                              

 Contemporary Korean work- delicate,with a stark socio-environmental resonance-Lee Myeong Ae gets my award for 2015... a visual counterpart to that arresting account of urban slums,in particular Asia-  PLANET SLUM by Mike Davis

Fold-up books from Iran- a modern take on the Persian miniature

A pop-up new age fairy tale from Nar Jon

Golden oldies from previous years

Winners for 2015-

Taiwanese  Li Lian-En -dinosaurs hit town

Yue Shuai gives a retake of Chinese Opera in glorious painterly style-
.... a nod to predigital with masterful illustrative technique 

  The Unlikely Story of Bennelong and Phillip (Michael Sedunary, illustrated by Bern Emmerichs, Berbay Publishing)..up there with the best print makers anyway..

Greg Dreisse teaching everyone the emu dance with a didg...


 A reminder about my upcoming workshop at Lisio Foundation in Florence on April 27-28 where I combine creative textile work with in CLIL teaching format.I am officially accredited with the Tuscany Ongoing Education Office so here is a opportunity to brush up on English and learn to colour silk in a heritage textile foundation complex ,nestled in the Tuscan hills,complete with a rose distillery, a collection of working punch-card 18th Century jacquard looms and a chapel on the grounds..
For subscription please contact www.fondazione . Cecilia, our hospitable and ever-patient secretary knows all and is bilingual..
One of my special students -Nikita at a previous workshop in the Blue Mountains,Australia
The silk flowers you will create in the 2 -day LISIO workshop in timeless Florence...with Piazza Michelangelo just over the hill..the villa on the hilltop belongs to Roberto Cavalli
The dynasty Lisio's Chapel..among the cypresses and the rose garden..  che bello!