Saturday, December 29, 2012

Transition from Primary to Secondary Schools for Young Learners of English

How often do you realized that there is a big gap between Primary and Secondary ESL curriculum? 

This so called "transition" is not easy for both students and teachers, and frequently depend on the goodwill of all.

It is important to institutionally address transition between stages of primary and secondary education in order to provide continuity and consistency to ESl curriculum. In addition, there are many difficulties at the primary and secondary schools to coordinate and host transition programs, and lots of problems appear in students and families. Finally, it summarizes the set of objectives and actions should include preventive programs such as the experience gained by the authors in their respective institutes.

The School of Languages and Social Sciences, Aston University, UK, in conjunction with the British Council is carrying out survey of teachers’ experiences of teaching English to children between the ages of approximately 9 and 14 as they move from their initial level of compulsory schooling (usually primary/elementary school, Level 1) to the next level of the school curriculum (Level 2).

If you teach English to "transition" students at Level 1 or Level 2, may you interested in participating in this 20 minutes survey, with the aim develop a preventive program and to make recommendations for improving the experience of this transition period for children and teachers and to offer practical suggestions for making the transition easier.

Link to the survey Transition in ELT.

The survey is anonymous. However, if you are willing to be contacted by a follow-up discussion or would like to receive a copy of the outcomes, you can give your contact details at the end of the survey.

The study is lead by Professor Anne Burns ( and Dr Muna Morris-Adams ( This study will take a first step towards addressing key factors in transition by looking at international policy and practices, in order to answer the following questions:

  • How do ELT curriculum/policy documents inform transition from primary to secondary levels? 
  • What are the main teaching and learning issues that primary and secondary teachers perceive about transition? 
  • What are ELT teachers’ perceptions of their roles and responsibilities in relation to transition and what challenges do they face? 
  • What similarities and differences in transition issues can be identified across different international contexts?

The answer to these questions will contribute towards answering two further questions:

  • What local solutions to transition issues have the potential for international relevance? 
  • How can these solutions be used to inform teacher education and training for transition?
This is a "tough cookie" and any help will be very appreciated!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Pretend Play in Teaching ESL to VYL

Pretend play (or symbolic play) is a vital experience of childhood that allows transform and create other worlds, other lives to live, play at being other, learn to think and to feel as others and, ultimately, know that there are ways of thinking and feeling different from their own.

It is a free and autonomous play, with few conditions, but it is enriched if the space, objects and dedication are propitious. It does not need the intervention of adults, although sometimes a little help may push children into play. It does not need to be taught (the true experts in symbolic play are children themselves).

Pretend play can be played solo and in non-school contexts, but as social play is essential do with other children and their educational purpose is so interesting that it should not be relegated or excluded by other educational proposals, currently more valued. So, it would be important to have more presence in educational planning stage 0-6-8.

  • Pretend play affects positively the development of language, because it involves the representation of an object, person or animal by other: a toy, doll or a teddy. So, it is great to develop vocabulary.
  • It is encouraging and prepares to learning. The child dominates reality, recreating, and distorting it to fit their desires
  • It empowers imagination and creativity. It is the way children use to internalize their learning and exercise them. It increases their knowledge of the world, expands vocabulary and creates semantic categories that enrich their expressive language.
  • It promotes inner speech. Pretend play enhances the babbling, improves the prerequisites of language (attention, imitation and following instructions) and awakens the need to communicate.
  • Children learn to understand and absorb the surroundings.
  • It develops roles and it explores relationships between children and between child/adult.
  • Pretend play makes social and personal experiences of the child external and visible.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Here there are few examples:

1. One short project my friend Imma Piquer (an excellent English language teacher to very young learners - Year 6) proposes from a real and a everyday life activity: going shopping with real money (dollars). Children will practice some vocabulary, as well as useful expressions. The role-play activity proposed will provide every child with the opportunity to play both roles, costumer and shop assistant, and improve communicative skills. In order to give more realism, as well as cultural awareness to our proposal, we encourage English teachers to use American toy money to go shopping.

2. Another Imma’s Piquer activity: going to a restaurant, a performing role-play to practice vocabulary, as well as useful expressions.  It will provide every child with the opportunity to play three roles: costumer, waiter and cook and improve communicative skills. In order to give more realism, as well as cultural awareness to our proposal, we encourage English teachers to use: toy food, toy drinks, dinner sets, menus and so on to perform the role-play in English.

3.  I told the story " The Lion is coming" (Bugs 1 by Heinemann)  to my pupils of Year 1, and we did different activities around it. One was to make a diorama. I recorded children voices and I took some photos. You can see the video in one of my previous posts: The Lion is coming!
But the think that surprised me was when two girls where playing freely with the photocopied animals of the story. Just have a look!

To learn more about symbolic play and symbolic thought: 

This is a link to chapter 12 of the book: Early Childhood Development: A Multicultural Perspective . Pearson publishing. (Very interesting!)

Nature of Child's Play. This digest discusses children's pretend play and its relationship to developmental growth from infancy to middle childhood. The digest also suggests ways in which educators and other adults can support children's play.

As children develop the ability to represent experience symbolically, pretend play becomes a prominent activity. In this complex type of play, children carry out action plans, take on roles, and transform objects as they express their ideas and feelings about the social world” (Garvey, 1984).

Thursday, December 20, 2012

IGGY, for gifted young people

Site of the week

IGGY is a social network designed to help gifted young people realise their full potential, exchange ideas, debate, learn and explore, in a safe environement.

It was created and launched by the University of Warwick in October 2012.  It is addressed to teachers, parents and students from around the world.

It provides stretching, interactive content in core subjects of Maths, English, Science, History and Politics in the form of debates, real world challenges, tasks and articles aiming to encourage independent learning and critical thinking as well as getting students to work collaboratively.

IGGY members can create their own profiles, make friends and collaborate with other gifted students around the world and encourages them to have an international perspective and understand the impact of globalization, utilizing social media and tools to advance their education.

"As a teacher you want students to think for themselves and widen their horizons.  IGGY  is providing great resources and a website that encourages students to collaborate and explore the wider world."
Sam Tarling, Head of History at Southam College in Leamington Spa (an IGGY pilot school)

IGGY explained by some of their members...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Resources for High School ESL teaching

Site of the week!

George Chilton and Neil McMillan, both English teachers and teachers trainers based in Barcelona, are the authors of this inspiring ELT resources web. 

The site is addressed to high school English teachers at the levels of Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, FCE (Cambridge First Certificate in English), Upper-Intermediate, Advanced and CAE (Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English)

You can find very interesting proposals aimed "to engage and promote conversation in a semi-controlled way" and "to elicit natural language in order to create a dialogic relationship between the teacher and the learner"

The resources and lesson plans are really well structured in stages, timing and follow up activities. You can also find examples that illustrate the process. 

Do not miss one of the newest proposals: DJs Complaining. It is an introduction to authentic complaint language in context, providing practice using it.

Designer Lessons give ideas to create a "decent-enough framework and help to create an energetic, spontaneous environment in which to teach".

Just an example: 

The Time Traveller’s Class
adults, intermediate, teens, upper-intermediate
BBC, opinion, past modals, second conditional, Tribe, Video lesson

Banksy’s Caveman by Lord Jim (Flickr)
It is worth to have a look at this lesson plan!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Foldables and Notebooking

I’ve been using foldables almost for everything in my English language classes. I work with them vocabulary, grammar, sentences, the four skills, fine motor skills... But the most important thing is that it brings lots of interaction to the class, that it is probably the core of the language skills in Primary ESL education.

“Foldables” are basically 3 D graphic organizers or 3 D mind maps. They are great tools to help English Language Learners (and all students) categorize content in a way to make it more visible and accessible to them.  ”One-dimensional” graphic organizers are equally useful, but foldables generally provide space for more content and are better mind organizers.

There is one very easy foldable that I use in Year 4 classes to work the topic “House” and the instructional language. Once students know how to fold and cut the paper, they work in pairs and explain how to do a paper house. They can take photos or make drawings to illustrate the clear instructions they have written. At the end some make a little booklet, some others make a display or a poster and, the “techy” ones make a PowerPoint.

There are lots of resources pages in the net about foldables and you can find the one that exactly fits to your needs. I would like to suggest you some.

These are my favourites:

  • ELL Classroom has several blog posts describing their use of foldables with English Language Learners.
  • Making by Susan Kapusinsky. It has some great foldable instructions  

Suggestions and feedback, as always, are welcome.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Language shouldn't be negotiable

I'm not used to talking about politics in this blog, but I'm fed up with this game.

If there is a matter with which politicians should not play is education: from it depends the future of a country.

Catalans have no problem with two languages​​,
 nor the people who have come to live in Catalonia from abroad. 
Reform announced by Spanish Minister Jose Ignacio Wert does not contain elements to hope for a substantial improvement in the quality of teaching, but the germ of an unnecessary conflict whose only motivation is to protect party interests. The text includes an unprecedented attack on the current language immersion system in Catalonia since regaining self-government and important concessions to retrograde approaches of the Catholic Church in education.

Starting from the premise that we must ensure compliance with the last June Supreme Court judgment in which it states  that Castilian is also common language, the future Reform stipulates that "in all stages of compulsory education co-official languages ​​should be offered in different subjects in balanced proportions”.This violates autonomous competences and it is a torpedo to the Catalan linguistic immersion educational system, in which the common language is Catalan. Different evaluation tests demonstrate that at the end of compulsory education, pupils know both Catalan and Castilian and, in any case, his command of Castilian is not lower than other students schooled in that language.

The minister spoke one day of “espaƱolizar Catalan children”, and it is hard to believe that he is acting with no other motivation than to create problems where none exist and feed the sense of grievance in Catalonia to get political revenues in the rest of Spain.

Equally serious are the religious concessions. The reform entails ideological regression designed to meet demands of the most vehement of the ecclesial dome: the subject of Education for Citizenship disappears, while religion, currently optional, become an evaluable subject.

This is what the school minister Wert wants to recover 
With the new system we go back to a dark past, in which it is given the privilege to only one confession, of offering moral and civic education under their particular ideological prism.

This plan is an assault on Catalan cultural identity: language is non-negotiable. Partido Popular party is totally ignorant of Catalonia, it is acting from bad faith, and it demonstrating that the EU is not as united as it seems, as it is letting one of their members to goes back in time and returns to ideologies pre-Second World War.

I hope it will backfire!

Friday, December 07, 2012

Minimally Invasive Education

Site of the week

Hole in the wall is a site that point from the idea that "children need not only basic education, but also the ability to deal with an increasingly complex and connected world. The school need to create inclusive educational solutions that address all sections of society and help transform them". 

"Minimally Invasive Education™ is one such solution – a solution that uses the power of collaboration and the natural curiosity of children to catalyze learning".

Minimally Invasive Education is defined as a pedagogic method that uses the learning environment to generate an adequate level of motivation to induce learning in groups of children, with minimal, or no, intervention by a teacher.

The idea is not completely new, but it has been crystallized over a period of time based on observations and educational experiments conducted at NIIT.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Writing Prompts

Learning English as a Second Language benefit greatly from interactive writing activities. Writing provides ESL students a way to combine their speaking, listening and reading experiences into a creative expression of learning English. Beginner students, especially elementary students, need constant encouragement and guidance to improve their writing.

The problem is, where to find good prompts and ideas to encourage children to write.

Here you are some links may help you.

124 Free Creative Writing Prompts Worksheets like this one about The Gruffalo's child.

 Some good proposals for guided composition, writing practice and reading. 

 Story starter worksheets that can can be used both in class or as weekly homework assignments. Funny proposals like this one...

I also love the following Ten ideas for to keep children writing. They come from an old paper originally published as a booklet for the 2002 NWP (National Writing Project) Annual Meeting. They helped me a lot to confront the challenge of motivating my students to want to write.

  • Writing need not begin and end at the classroom door
  • Writing can connect children to their communities.
  • Children like to write to other children.
  • Students write best about what concerns them most.
  • Students are motivated to write when good writing is recognized.
  • Young writers need to do real writing.
  • Children benefit when parents are part of the literacy loop.
  • If a school recognizes the importance of writing, so will the students.
  • A published student writer is a motivated student writer.
  • With student writing, to celebrate is to motivate.

And just one more thing: Use short, incremental daily writing lessons to help ESL students learn English through writing activities.