I am Naomi , the teacher who has been at it for 27years, with three degrees, none of which is a P.H.D* Being born on the same day as Helen Keller (thoughnot quite the same year!) led to a B.A in Education ofthe Deaf and hard of hearing* Being the “American Student Teacher” got me hiredas an English teacher BEFORE beginning (andcompleting!) my B.E.D in EFL.* Finally, not only do I look like Ms Frizzle from theMagic School Bus but I share her passion to get thekids learning in an active way so much that I just hadto have an M.A in Curriculum Development.
All teachers are familiar with the kind of students wewill be referring to today – the struggling students whoseem to do everything in their power to remain thatway, because they believe that they can’t possiblysucceed. These are the ones who have given up onthemselves. “English and I don’t get along” or “English isnot for me” they say.This is true for both children and adult students.Obviously, what these learners need is to be in asituation where they can experience success, one whichwill afford them “a Eureka Moment”. We all know thesaying that success breeds success, right?
Having struggling learners experience success conjuresup images of hours of work spent creating specialworksheets, giving up lunch breaks or good oldfashioned tearing your hair out.What about the curriculum? The course book? Theexam schedule? What about the other students?Aren’t their needs just as important as those of thestruggling learner?The point of this talk today is to point out thatcommonly used techniques used for teaching EFL to allstudents, which are suitable for the whole class, canALSO provide the struggling learners with A EurekaMoment, if one looks at the techniques from adifferent angle. Let’s look at some examples.
The FriendlyEraserScott ThornburyMike HarrisonJason Renshaw“DisappearingDialogues”“ReverseReading”“Live ReadingPassageComposition”
The Friendly EraserThis wonderful technique has many names, (see previousslide) and sooo many different ways in which it can beutilized. I am grateful to the blog posts of those threewho set me on the path to exploring the options ofutilizing this method (all links in blog post).I personally favor the name The Friendly Eraser as one ofits many appealing aspects is that you can use it whenunexpected things happen in the classroom and youroriginal lesson plan sails out the window. Picture thefollowing:
5 minutes before the first morning bell there is astrong downpour. The teenagers in my first lessondon’t believe in umbrellas and (and to be honesteven I got wet WITH an umbrella). All they wereinterested in was comparing notes regarding howwet they were. So I looked at Sara, who wascomplaining loudly about the state of her pants.Sara entered high-school with a dismal level ofEnglish. She did not apply herself to her schoolworkas she was sure it wouldn’t make any differenceanyway. She couldn’t do it and that was that. So Iwrote the following on the board:
What Happened to Sara ThisMorning?• I wrote the title and didn’t say a word. Someoneshouted out – why did you write that Sara ishappy? Can’t you see that she is wet? I pointedout the difference between happy and happenedand began asking Sara questions about themorning’s events. The class quieted down to hearSara’s tale of woe. Whenever she reverted tomother tongue I either elicited the word from theclass or supplied the word myself. I didn’tpressure her not to use mother tongue andexpressed interest in the events told. This is whatwe came up with: (see next slide)
What Happened to Sara ThisMorning?• Sara got up at 06:15.• She left the house at 07:15.• Sara didn’t take an umbrella.• When Sara arrived in Yehud it was raininghard.• Sara got wet.• Sara wants to call her Dad.
We read the story straight through. Then I beganerasing. First round – one very easy word from eachsentence. I called students to the board to fill in themissing words. For this round I purposely erased the“times” mentioned and the word “Dad” so that thestudents would check with Sara.If the student at the board needed help, the classassisted with the spelling. Each round I erased morewords, more challenging ones but did not call on Sarato fill them in at this stage.As the students were filling in the words, I quicklycopied the story onto a piece of paper. Then I erasedthe entire story and said:
“Ok class, lets see how well you remember Sara’sstory. I want you to answer the following questionsabout the story. Sara, you come here and stand byme. Class, if you can’t remember a detail orspelling, ask Sara”.
NO TEXT ON WHITEBOARD!• What time did Sara leave the house?• Who does Sara want to call?• What didn’t Sara take?• When did Sara get up?• Where was it raining hard?• Why did Sara get wet?• Is this a true story?
Now I had my class doing what it didn’t seem like I couldget them to do when the bell rang - working onanswering reading comprehension questions correctly.Meanwhile, Sara had the text in her hand. Her firstreaction was - I can’t read all of this! But I reminded herthat she knew what was written there. After all, it wasHER tale. So, every time a student asked her forvocabulary help (“what’s the thing you didn’t take calledin English?”) she went back to the beginning, whispered itto herself and then knew which word to answer. Shespelled out the words for those who needed that - shewas “the teacher”.
Now here’s a brief shout out for giving homeworkonline. The rest of the class had had enough of Sara’stale. Sara needed more.Since the students don’t know I’m giving extra supportor occasionally, a different h.w task to certain students,no one feels embarrassed or gets ridiculed (orcomplains that the level of the class is too low forhim/her).I sent Sara the word cloud of the story and thequestions she didn’t answer herself in class, but wasinvolved in helping others do. She could do it! Over thenext week, in class, whenever students were workingindividually I had Sara read her story again.SHE COULD DO IT!
When you see how well students remember thingsfrom texts they created, from things they are personallyinvested in, there is a temptation to venture too far andtread on very thin ice. When THEY share it, it is fine tomilk it for all its worth. But don’t try to mine personaldetails out of a student. Particularly beware of that withteenagers.In addition, DO NOT plan your EurekaMoment based on the student’scooperation.
When I was a first year teacher I had a fifth graderobsessed with magic tricks. I wanted to use those tricksas a tool to get him more involved in class. So I sat withhim during several breaks over the course of the week, toplan a certain trick he would show the class on Friday,which I would fit into a lesson complete with relatedworksheets. On Friday he showed up with a completelydifferent (and unsuitable!) magic trick. He wasn’tinterested in that trick anymore, was all he said.Another student simply didn’t show up (note the emptybench) in class on the day which we had designated it tobe her “special day”. I remember those lessons well.
The Choral Power of CHARTS1110987654321Oct.1Oct.3Oct.5Oct.8Oct.10Oct.12YES! “Choral” as in “chorus”.
Now for a completely different kind of example. Charts are avery powerful motivational tool and there is a great dealthat can be said about them. But for now we’ll focus on the“Eureka Moment” aspect. Let me show you how its done.As people here speak many different languages, I thoughtone language that for sure you wouldn’t know is Israeli SignLanguage. Here’s what we’ll do:Please write today’s date under the first column. I’m goingto show you seven words, one by one. If you think you knowthe answer, say it out loud. Then I’ll flip the flashcard andshow you the answer. If you were right, fill in the first box,then the second box, in today’s column. If you didn’t know,don’t. etc.
(Two of the Signs I used during the talkwere easily guessed by all).
(The Sign for this word was guessed bysome of the people present.)You can see the word being signed (by a former student!) here:http://www.signpedia.org/sign.php?id=179&r=1274045989
(The Signs for these words were notguessed by anyone.)
Now we’ll pretend to have a time machine. It istwo days later. Please write the date under thenext column. I will shuffle the cards and we’ll trythem again.(The waymanypeople’schartlooked aftersecondtime.)
So what happened here?True, kids will say they knew some words when theydidn’t. Many exaggerate, but to a limited degree. Ihaven’t met a single student who said they knew all thewords when they didn’t.It is also so true that some kids are shouting theiranswers out in delay so as to hear others answer first.But that’s O.K.It’s not a test. In this manner they have to be on the ball,focused and catch the word quickly so as to look good.Repeating the answer in real delay would stand out.And then the thing that never ceases to amaze mehappens (even though I’ve seen it countless times):
STUDENTS ASK TO BORROW THE FLASCHCARDSSO THEY CAN STUDY AT HOME!The rising column on the charts is SUCH asatisfying feeling that they are prepared towork to get it.(People at the talk also used the words“satisfying” “feels good” “encouraging” afterthe second column).
I owe a huge debt of thanksto this program, YALP (andthe counselor Judy Yaron)which was designed forindividual work. Itintroduced me to the powerof charts. I adapted it to“choral group work” and amdelighted with the results.