Monthly Archives: May 2013

Real Beauty? Free downloadable lesson

Real Beauty? Free downloadable lesson.

Nowadays, Dove’s advertisement – Dove Really Beauty Sketches– is very popular. The video shows  differences between how women view themselves and how others see them. Every time I check my facebook account,  this recent advertisement appears  on my newsfeed shared by my students and friends.

Having realized its popularity, I started to think how this video could be used in the classroom. As videos are meta materials -empty’ pedagogical procedures, teachers can decide on different activities depending on the level of the students.  This video  could be used while describing people or  teaching adjectives related to physical appearance. For low-level students, more simple words and adjectives like thin,fat, long,short ,blonde/straight/curly hair can be taught. On the other hand, the video is a valuable source to teach more upper level classes as there are a lot of advanced vocabulary in it. For example, When describing people collocations like prominent jaw/cheekbones, spiky hair, a heart-shaped face were used.

Rachael Roberts, a teacher, teacher trainer and materials writer, created an amazing lesson regarding this video. Her lesson starts  by focusing on collocations to describe facial features, such as thick hair, full lips and so on. Students then watch the video and discuss some of the issues raised, including self -esteem, the role of the media,and differences between men and women. More language to describe physical appearance is ‘pulled out’ of the video, and the lesson ends with students writing detailed descriptions of themselves. (http://elt-resourceful.com/2013/04/26/real-beauty-free-downloadable-lesson/)

Brilliant lesson Rachael Roberts created – elt-resourceful-real-beauty

I think  we don’t need to stick to a coursebook during the lesson. We can have  effective lessons with videos  if we apply appropriate activities to them.  At the university where I worked, we had to use coursebooks to standardize the education and  the duration of each lesson was 90 minutes which  could be considered as quite long.  In such cases, if we keep teaching  through the same material, it can be a coursebook or video, learners  will probably lose their attention. That’s why,  mixing things up can be a  good way to engage the  learners.

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Reflective Statement

This blog is part of an assessed portfolio for the module on materials design. With this blog, I tried to share my reflections and insights about materials used in English Language Teaching (ELT) and some aspects of their development and evaluation. I wrote my opinions about ELT materials, their design and evaluation process commenting on the class discussions, academic readings, webinars and talks I attended.

In the first few weeks, I wasn’t quite sure of the language and didn’t know how to write my posts in a formal or informal way and reference things. I think having written my third post, I found my own voice. My posts were tentative at first but then I realized that the more I wrote, the more my voice developed and the more confident I became.

This module helped me gain a different perspective on materials used in ELT.  Before taking the module, I always thought coursebooks were the primary source of teaching. Class discussions and readings I did made me aware of the importance of teacher-produced materials.  When I start teaching again, the first thing that I will probably consider is my learners’s needs. After analyzing them, I will decide whether to use  a coursebook or my own materials if I have a choice. Sometimes not using a coursebook cannot be an option to standardize the education in the institution. However, I am much more confident now and I can create my own materials or make some adaptations where necessary.

Thanks to fruitful discussions we had in the classroom, I now have an idea how to select,evaluate materials and which steps to follow while creating our own materials. Considering the Jolly and Bolitho’s materials writing framework, my friend and I created our worksheet. As I mentioned in my earlier post, this framework incorporates five stages. We first identified Turkish students’ needs and then explored them and decided to focus on grammar.  Third, as we  know the context well, we prepared the exercises considering their level. Exercises in our worksheet may seem easy for pre-intermediate learners but they aren’t actually (pedagogical realization). Finally, we took the last step – physical production- into consideration and added some cartoons, boxes and designed our layout.  When I looked back and considered the worksheets I had prepared and compared them with our worksheet , I could see that there is a huge difference. Jason Renshaw’s videos (http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=pd4TUrcc2y4) helped us a lot to design our worksheet. I learnt the importance of  headers and  footers, colours and visuals to make the materials we created more appealing and look professional.

With this module,  I have explored the importance of media, functionality and technology choice when selecting and evaluating materials. In my post ‘Graphic Novels’, I have suggested various activities with different tools as graphic novels can incorporate technology via online comic builders, webquests, and digital comics. Besides, I have looked at other tools like Bookr  to improve the worksheet I created by adding visuals (http://www.pimpampum.net/bookr/). I have also shot four videos and considered how they could be used as an ELT material. I will probably use them as ‘warmers’ or ‘coolers’ when I start teaching again. With this experience, I realized how simple shooting a video and uploading it to YouTube are (http://www.youtube.com/).  Having looked at the media and different tools, I could say that they are visually appealing but most importantly, they have important affective features that will  increase the learners’ engagement in the language learning experience.

What this blog has done most of all is served to remind me the importance of teacher-produced materials, media and other tools that can be used in the classroom and how important affective factors are.  As a result of taking this module, I become  more confident and I  now have an idea how to select and evaluate materials.

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One-size-fits all?

As I mentioned in my earlier post, we need to produce our own materials to offer students more up-to-date data , reinforce their learning and most importantly, meet  their needs. There seems to be a mismatch between what coursebooks include and learners need. This probably results from globally designed coursebooks trying to cater for different needs in one book.  If we regard learners as customers and continue to publish books for market purposes , how can we expect them to be satisfied  with a ‘one size-fits all’  product?

one size fits all

This cartoon shows a man holding a tee-shirt with the slogan “One size fits all”. The man asks his three colleagues, “Will this do for you”. One colleague replies, “No-that won’t fit Me”. Another says, “We are ALL unique with individual needs and requirements”. Similarly, one coursebook doesn’t fit all as every class is unique and has a different cultural background, needs, interests and abilities.

Using teacher-produced materials makes a number of valid points because they are relevant to students’ needs that reflect local content, issues and concerns. I have observed in my classrooms that students don’t only struggle  to learn English but also to understand the culture.  Most of them even don’t know famous singers,actors and actresses in the world.  At this point, teachers can make some adaptations, modify the content according to the learners’ needs or bring their own materials to the classroom. Students will probably be more interested in talking  about the people they know. I am also aware of the fact that learning a language requires gaining its culture but sometimes these adaptations are necessary to engage the learners.

On the other hand, I am not against of using coursebooks as they also offer many advantages both teachers and learners. Some advantages Richards (2001:255) notes are as follows. They help standardize instruction which is very important to ensure that the students in different classes receive similar content. I worked at a university where 200 teachers were working and there were nearly 50 classes. In such a big institution, not using a coursebook cannot be an option as students are tested in the same way. Another advantage is that they maintain quality because if a well-developed textbook is used, students are exposed to materials that have been tried and tested.  However, they can be supplemented by teacher-produced materials. Coursebooks can also train teachers who have limited teaching experience.  For example,if they are new in the profession, a coursebook together with the teacher’s manual can serve as a medium of initial teacher training.

This argument may raise the question whether to use coursebooks or teacher-produced materials in the EFL classroom. The point is surely rather that using materials that can cater the needs of learners. These needs can be met by coursebooks or teacher-produced materials depending on the unique nature of the classroom. Sometimes you can use both to reinforce the learning. For example, the teacher can create his/her worksheet to supplement the coursebook when it lacks appropriate exercises At this point, the teacher should be a good observer to analyze  the needs of the learners. If a coursebook is designed for market purposes, isn’t culturally appropriate and  has bland topics then it would be much more appropriate to use teacher-produced materials. On the contrary; if teachers are in the early stages of their careers and students are tested in the same way, coursebooks should be the primary source for teaching and could be supplemented by teacher-produced materials. Last but not least, teachers should be aware of the fact that ‘one size doesn’t fit all’ that’s why they should produce their own materials or make some adaptations where necessary regarding their learners’ needs.

References

Richards , J .C. (2001) Curriculum Development in Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Picture taken from  http://wiki.cetis.ac.uk/Web_2.0_Applications_and_Accessibility

 

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