Why are you afraid of teaching English through art?


As most of you know, we have launched a series of supplementary eBooks,  TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART,  based on the works of famous artists, to help the students practice their English (for further info on the series, please click here http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS).

We have received an overwhelming response in terms of feedback. Sales fortunately are doing well too. However, we realized that some teachers are hesitating to use the materials for a number of reasons. Having gone through all the feedback we have been getting, we decided to write this post to answer some of the most frequently asked questions by teachers (or even students) about the materials.

I can't teach English through art!

I can’t teach English through art!

1. Do I need to be an art specialist to teach from these books? Of course not. The idea of these books is to extend vocabulary,  speaking and writing practice, providing more interesting and customizable topics that resonate better with the students and foster more engaging and genuine participation in the classroom. You are a language teacher, no one expects you to be an art connoisseur. Treat the topic as you would any other topic you find in more traditional course books. All the info you need  about the particular artist featured in the eBook (so far, we have Matisse, Picasso, Caravaggio, Monet and Norman Rockwell) can be found in the introduction to the book.

2. What should I teach the students about the artist? As I said before, you will find a quiz and a brief summary on the artist’s life and times in the introduction to the book and  some texts on more specific topics related to a certain painting after or before some exercises. Basically we should give the students some idea on why this artist gained so much popularity, what are the main characteristics of his/her style and the historical context he/she lived in. If possible, add an interesting anecdote about his/her life to lend  some color to your lesson: such as the fact the Caravaggio is allegedly the only great artist who committed murder; or that Monet dedicated his time to art as much as he did to gardening in his old age; or that Picasso did most of his work in a dark and damp studio at night using the feeble light of candles. A quick watch on a couple of videos on YouTube will give you a lot more info than you can possibly need, if you wish to expand your understanding of the artist. Alternatively, you can assign this pre-research to the students themselves, as part of the lesson: “get all the info you can on (artist’s name) and be prepared to talk about him/her at the beginning of the next class”

Artist's life and times. Guernica by Picasso.

Artist’s life and times. Guernica by Picasso.

3. I don’t know anything about topic/task based speaking activities or process writing. As these are the main methodological points used in the series you should familiarize yourself with them. These are important areas any language teacher should master. You need to study them. A good start with be to read the following posts in this blog: Topic-Based versus Task-Based Speaking Activities (http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1nJ) and Writing: Focus on the Process not on the Product (http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1ot).

4. I can’t deal with technology. These are eBooks, so I completely understand the resistance some teachers may feel towards them. Not many people read eBooks yet. However, believe me, this is the future and there’s no way back. You can check all the practicalities of ebooks in the following post 7 Reasons I prefer eBooks to Print ones: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-yC. As for our series, all you and your students need to do is download the KINDLE app for free and install it on any device you can possibly have. It works in all systems, mobile or desktop. Get help from your students, they will know how to do it. And they will feel pleased to show the teacher how tech savvy they are. Then go to the KINDLE STORE on Amazon.com and download the eBook of your choice.

Print books versus eBooks

Print books versus eBooks

5. Which book shall I pick? At this point, we have 5 eBooks featuring a different artist each (Matisse, Picasso, Caravaggio, Monet and Norman Rockwell). They are all very popular and liked all over the world. But of course, you and your students will have your preferences. Each book has exercises at different levels (from beginner to advanced), so my recommendation would be for you to conduct a needs analysis with your class before choosing the first book. Show them the covers, show paintings (loads of pictures available on the Internet) by each artist and get them to vote for the first artist they wish to work with. I’m sure your lessons will become so succsessful you will cover the whole set of eBooks we have on offer eventually though :).

TeachingEnglish with Art: 5 artists to pick from. Matisse, Picasso, Caravaggio, Monet and Norman Rockwell.

TeachingEnglish with Art: 5 artists to pick from. Matisse, Picasso, Caravaggio, Monet and Norman Rockwell.

I hope we could answer some of your questions here. Good luck with the lessons and do not hesitate to contact me if you have more questions. We will be launching more eBooks of the series TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART soon.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette

 

 

Getting your students to speak in the language class


Despite  Steven Krashen’s famous methodology of language acquisition, in which he claims students must go through a silent period before they can speak, we know how anxious our students are to start producing the target language from day 1.  This silent period is the time learners need to be exposed to enough comprehensible input so they can absorb the language and be able to speak it. It emulates what happens when kids acquire their first language. Having said that, it’s a fact that motivation also plays a key part in language learning, and setting up speaking activities from the very beginning of the language course will not, in my opinion, have any negative effect on the students’ development: they will not be able to do much, though, but that is OK. Motivation will work wonders. The elementary level, which is usually known as A2 in the Common European Framework benchmark, would be the ideal moment to start with speaking activities, but don’t worry too much if you have to do it earlier to please your students.

Teachers usually complain about the same problems when they set up speaking activities: students might not know what to say, they are shy to speak in public, they don’t know enough about the topic, they are not that interested in the topic.

Students don't know what to say.

Your students don’t know what to say.

So, as a teacher and teacher trainer, with many years of experience, and with the help of a number of methodology books I have read throughout my career, I would humbly suggest a few tips to get your speaking activities going smoothly in the language class. See the main points below:

1. Decide whether the activity will be task or topic-based: a task-based activity typically  involves the use of language as a means to an end. The students, for example, are given a problem (e.g. give each pair of students a list of 10 objects and ask them to discuss and negotiate the following problem: you are stranded on a desert island, if you could pick 5 of these 10 objects to have with you on the island, which ones would you both pick?). To pick the objects, they will have to justify their choices.  On the other hand, a topic-based activity requires the students to discuss or talk about a specific subject (e.g. what’s your country’s situation concerning racism?) The more they are able to personalize the topic, contributing their own opinions and experiences, the more they will have to say about it. If you wish to read more on this, please refer to my previous post “Topic-Based versus Task-Based Speaking Activities”: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1nJ

2. Give them context (input):  Before setting up an activity, expose the students to some linguistic or visual context, so they can rely on some form of scaffold to help them structure their output. The stimulus can be established through a text, a picture, a video clip or a listening passage, for example. But it’s important that the teacher introduce the topic, or brainstorm some vocabulary and ideas about it before having the students talk about it.

3. Brainstorm: depending on the input the teacher chooses to use in the step above, the brainstorm will be more or less controlled. If the students have been given a written text, for example, the teacher should work on it and exploit some ideas and related vocabulary and grammar. If the teacher starts by showing a painting by a famous artist,  the brainstorming will have to be longer and less controlled. The students will probably have to learn some new vocabulary as well, get to know something about the artist and his times, or even his style and technique. Always elicit info from the students before spoon-feeding them with ready-made answers: you might be surprised about the vocabulary they already have or their knowledge about the topic.

4. Get them to work in pairs and/or small groups as often as possible: do not put the students in the awkward position of speaking in front of the whole class right at the beginning of the exercise. Give them time to prepare their answers. The best way to do that is, of course, to put them in pairs or little groups, so they can participate more and not feel intimidated by a big audience. Many times they won’t even have to speak to the whole class at the end, or you could ask only for volunteers to share their work. During the activity, however, make sure you go around not only monitoring the different groups but also lending them a hand.

5. Focus on fluency: the aim of the speaking activities we are discussing in this post is not to drill grammar points or practice vocabulary,  or even pronunciation, in a controlled way. As the students produce their utterances, make a mental note or write down discreetly some of the most common mistakes made, especially the ones that involve grammar or vocabulary already taught in previous lessons. Do not interrupt the students for correction, unless you don’t understand what is being said. Decide on what you are going to focus on for correction in each activity, then, at the end, or in a future lesson, list the mistakes on a handout and pass them to the learners, so they can correct the mistakes in pairs, without  necessarily naming the perpetrators.

6. Personalize the activity:  people like to talk about their own experiences. Design questions that allow them to talk about their own tastes, aspirations, experiences and life in general.

7. Make the questions as opened-ended as possible: to make this personalization possible, try to design questions that allow for open-ended answers, do not look for right/wrong answers, but for opinions and suggestions.

8. Make the activity as relevant as possible:  choose topics or direct the discussion towards a path that is relevant to the group of students you have. The same speaking activity can be slightly changed to reflect the reality and interests of a different group of students. The closer they feel to the topic being discussed or the task being proposed the more productive the result will be.

Some speaking activities will go better than others, as you know. Don’t give up on a well-prepared exercise if it does not work well with a particular group of students. Try it a number of times with other students: it might work better. The important thing to remember is the more the students are exposed to linguistic input, by either reading or listening, the more fluent and accurate their delivery will be eventually. So make sure you focus on receptive skills especially at the earlier levels of the course your are teaching before worrying too much about the success of the speaking activities.

If you need help with materials, we have an excellent series of eBooks with ready-made vocabulary, speaking and writing activities to make your life easier. It’s called TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART, with 8 books so far. It features f works by famous artists, such as Matisse, Picasso, Caravaggio, Monet, Norman Rockwell, van Gogh and Winslow Homer which will function as a springboard  to contextualize topic and task-based activities, as well a process writing practice. For further info, please click here http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS

Au revoir

Jorge Sette

OUR BLOG “LINGUAGEM” HAS HAD A GREAT FIRST YEAR!


HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE.

Please find below some official stats sent by wordpress.com on the blog LINGUAGEM. We’ve had a great first year. Thanks for the support and we will back stronger than ever in 2015.

BLOG LINGUAGEM: 2014 official stats

BLOG LINGUAGEM: 2014 official stats

 

 

Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 8.48.34 PM Screen Shot 2014-12-30 at 8.52.35 PM

 

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

Five Reasons to Teach English Using Art


I have always been very interested in the association between Art and Learning. Teaching with art. In my workshops and presentations as a teacher and sales trainer, I usually try to illustrate my sessions with slides containing pictures of famous paintings or sculptures to make a point. The reaction of the audience is invariably positive. I started then to think about the power of the pedagogy or andragogy (training adults) that incorporates art works as some form of context in the specific field of English language teaching. These are some of the reasons to expose learners to art I came up with. The list is by no means exhaustive, and I would appreciate your help in adding your ideas to this blog in the comments section at the bottom.

Apollo in the forge of Vulcan, 1630. Velázquez.

Apollo in the Forge of Vulcan, 1630. Velázquez.

1. Fun: art is fun. Fun makes learning easier. We all know that whenever leaners are enjoying an activity their level of engagement rises and, therefore, they spend longer stretches of time focusing on the topic. Considering the goldfish-like attention span of most people today, due to the overwhelming amount of information they are bombarded with from all sides, this is already a victory in and of itself.

2. CLIL: most teachers are familiar with this acronym that means Content and Language Integrated Learning. It’s been around for some time now. It only means that language should be taught within a specific context, as a means to an end, rather than as a metalinguistic process. Learners acquire a second language more effectively if they come across real or contextualized uses of it: in a text, a listening passage or a video clip, for example, so they can concentrate on the message as much as on the medium. The length of exposure to the topic may vary: the longer the better. This means that if you teach, for example, history or math in English for a whole term, the learners might develop a better grasp of the language than if you had used fragments or decontextualized sentences to focus only on the language itself. Art, therefore, lends itself perfectly to the job, as it provides a wonderful canvas (pun intended) to design innumerable language activities on.

3. Emotions: Krashen, the linguist, warned us against psychological barriers that, when up, prevent the linguistic input from reaching our innate language acquisition device. The classroom environment must be as free as possible of pressures and inhibiting factors to be more conducive to learning. Art can be a great help in creating this atmosphere of calm and relaxation learners need to internalize input. But it also keeps them alert, due to its positively emotional impact, which is also a necessary condition for language acquisition. Besides, beauty makes the language more memorable.

4. Flexibility: teaching English based on paintings and sculptures lends itself to all kinds of activities across language levels, catering for different kinds of learning styles. Of course the impact is huge for the more visually oriented learners. But if you add a listening comprehension task about the piece of art or aesthetic movement you are discussing, or have, for example, learners work on some kind of hands-on activity as a follow-up – such as putting the pieces of a puzzle together, producing their own art work, or making a collage on the theme – you will be equally catering for the auditory and kinesthetic learners.

5. Personalization: learning is all about personalization. People have individual learning paces, varied kinds of intelligences, diverse learning styles and interests. Art and its many manifestations allow for different meanings and interpretations. The same work of art fosters different reactions and emotions in different people. Teachers can tap into this. Allowing open-ended responses to a speaking or writing activity based on a painting makes for solid and effective methodology.

The Nude Maja, 1799-1800, Goya.

The Nude Maja, 1799-1800, Goya.

Both teachers and students profit enormously from the inclusion of art in their English lessons. Most people are not really exposed to fine art, despite all the technological means to reach it we have at out disposal today. So, in addition to all the reasons listed before, we, as teachers and educators, will be refining the learners’ aesthetic taste, opening up a whole world of discovery and instilling a wish for self-improvement in them.

Cupid and Psyche, 1786-1793, Antonio Canova

Cupid and Psyche, 1786-1793, Antonio Canova

If you want to see some practical examples of English lessons using art, we have some ready-made plans on Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/jorgesetteelt

For those of you who are English Teachers and love art in general, we offer a wonderful collection of supplementary eBooks for the students to practice vocabulary, speaking and writing, based on the works of famous painters: TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART. The series is comprised of 8 books so far, and features works by Matisse, Picasso, Caravaggio, Monet, Norman Rockwell, Vincent van Gogh and Winslow Homer. For further information on how to download the materials, please click here: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS

Check out this brief video on the material on TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART: MONET:

Au revoir

Jorge Sette

How to Train Adults Effectively


You may have heard the term ANDRAGOGY. No, it’s not something you need to treat and there’s no need to be scary if you find out your husband is into it. It’s simply the word we use for “pedagogy” when the learners are not children.

Although there are many overlaps between the processes of teaching adults and children – they both love learning through playing, for example – there are some differences too. And those differences must be taken into consideration, if you are designing a course or training session for your employees, or other adult participants.

Some of the differences, established by Malcolm Knowles, an American Adult Educator of the XX century, are, for example, adults need to know why they are learning; adults wish to take responsibility for their learning, so they should contribute and take active part in the process; they have already a wealth of experience to build on and the new items to be learned (knowledge, skills, or attitude) will add to their baggage; the purpose of learning must be objective and perceived as relevant, which is, to help them with their lives or give them pleasure; they are more willing to learn things that meet a specific need or desire; they are more likely to be moved by intrinsic motivation (self-steem, for example) than extrinsic (rise in salary, promotion, relocation, etc).

Having established these basic differences, we must also add that both kids and adults have, individually, different learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic), and some are more likely to use either the more analytical (left) or the more creative (right) side of the brain. These individual differences must also be taken into account when you design and develop a training course. I know, you must be thinking by now that, unless you are a teaching on a one-to-one basis, you can’t possibly cater for all these needs and idiosyncrasies. The good news is yes, you can. Let’s list here the basic steps you should take in putting together an effective training course for a group of adults. I will be using examples from a very successful course I created while I ran a consultancy service called Tutor in the mid-nineties, The course Pronunciation for Brazilian Teachers of English attracted hundreds of teachers every time it was offered at different venues and times all over the country. Sometimes these were open events, for which any teacher could sign up. Other times, these were tailor-made or adapted modules for specific schools as a service for their teachers.

Training adults effectively

Training adults effectively

Obviously, it’s not possible to cover all the details of a well-designed and implemented training course in the space of a blog post. This is not my intention. But I promise to come back to the topic periodically as you ask questions and comments on this overview of the mains steps I give you below:

1. Needs analysis: being a Brazilian teacher myself, I identified very early on that most teachers in the country had a huge gap in the knowledge and practice of pronunciation. They spoke English – some better than others – but very few had actually learned or knew explicitly about the different phonemes of the language or the mechanics of pronunciation. Many were not familiar with concepts such as stress and intonation either. Therefore, most of them, in their classes, tended to skip teaching the coursebook sections that dealt with these areas of the language. The famous English phonemic chart you can find on a number of websites, DVDs, or apps today was not so easy to access back then. So this was a big opportunity for me to start a business and help the teachers. On the other hand, when I gave tailor-made courses at specific schools, I had to unearth the real needs of the teachers and how much they already knew about the subject, so I could adapt the off-the-shelf course I’d already put together. In these cases, you do your research through oral interviews with prospective participants and supervisors, through written questionnaires, through focus groups or by watching some of the teachers at work.

2. Design: now that you know the participants’ needs, you must define how the course is going to be delivered: is it going to be presential, done via a webinar or blended? In addition to that, you need to determine and write down the learning objectives of the course. What is expected from the participants in terms of performance as they finish the training session? What is going to change?  Of course, the clearer you state these objectives, the more effectively you will create and apply the materials you are planning for the course. A typical objective would be, for example, by the time the teachers finish this first module of the course they should be able to recognize and reproduce (orally and in writing) all the individual symbols that represent the phonemes of the English language and use them in clear contexts (as in specific words). You will notice that the objective follows the popular formula S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound).

3.  Development: this is the hands-on phase of the process, when you are going to create all the different materials that will compose the course and help you impart the content of the sessions (deductive approach: lectures), or lead the students to discover parts of it by themselves (inductive approach, discovery), and finally practice and discuss the learning points. Remember you are creating a course for a number of individuals with different types of learning styles, tastes and ways to use the brain. So variety is the key. Always start with a relevant icebreaker or energizer to create an atmosphere conducive to learning and give the participants a chance to get to know each other from the beginning. Believe me: these warm-ups will make your job a lot easier later on. Especially if they are thematically linked to the topic of the course. Keep the pace fast (that’s the rhythm most participants are used to in today’s hectic world and keep alternating and using diversified activities: short lectures with the help of visuals such as slides (note: even during these lectures, make the process learner-centered by getting them to participate actively, through questions, for example, or comments); games;  guided note-taking (students fill in the gaps of sentences previously written in the handouts;  physical activities (involving movement), pair work, group work, debates, etc. I know, it can sound a bit overwhelming. But it’s doable. Remember: the longer the course the more variety it requires and you will have more time to apply different activities to suit as many different learning styles as possible. If the course is short, or broken down into modules, you will have to prioritize.

4. Implementation: this is the great moment you and your trainees have been expecting. You are putting all your preparation in practice. if you have the chance to run a small pilot with a group of volunteers before that, fine, but most trainers cannot afford the time to do that. Try and include during the ice-breaker, or before that,  a moment when the participants will be able to express their expectations regarding the training. Of course if you did the needs analysis well, there will be no surprises here. But maybe you’ll have to make small adjustments to fit their unexpected hopes. Flexibility is an important characteristic of good trainers. Try to exercise it. As the session progresses and you get more comfortable with he group, allow for more participation,  become more of a facilitator to the process, call them by their names (name tags or desk tents with their names written on them are a must), and carry on making adjustments whenever needed, especially regarding the time each activity lasts. You may have to shorten an upcoming task if the current one drags for too long. Create a detailed schedule for yourself so you can keep track of how much time each activity should take. In long courses, things may get out of hand if you don’t stick to this timetable. Do not forget to have breaks throughout the course. Most people are fueled by caffeine these days or they need to stretch their legs  and walk around after long hours sitting down.

5.  Closing: at the end, allow time for feedback and final questions. You can devise interesting activities for that too. Ask questions about what they think should be done as a follow-up to the session. Or explain the follow-up plan you have already designed: job aids, individual couching, accompanied visits to clients, lesson-monitoring for feedback, etc.

You will not have to start from scratch every time you design a course. I used some of the materials and activities I created for my initial course for years, with small adaptations now and then, to suit different contexts or to update them. But it’s good to understand and go through the whole creation process a few times to make it fresh.

Training is a field that is growing and more professionals will be needed. If you are interested in it, start educating yourself: read as much as you can on the topic, follow blogs, enroll in training sessions as a learner, and participate in conferences. It’s a very hard and demanding job, yet very exciting and varied. Good luck.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.