HIST SENIOR SCHOOL Years 10 & 11 ESL BULLETIN No. 6
Dear Senior School Parents and Families,
The task-based approach to learning and teaching has attracted a lot of attention over the past twenty-five years, where the focus of classroom activities is on the task, and ultimately on meaning. At Haileybury, as we focus on the ‘I do, We do, You do’,there are times when students need a freer experience to learn the target grammar point.
For year 11 students, teachers been creatively covering ground rigorously in the ESL and Vocabulary and Grammar classes with the conditional tenses, the focus areas being the first and the second using different methods to achieve the purpose of understanding and use. For one class, two different types have been introduced via two popular songs, one from mainstream pop,Count On Meby Bruno Mars, and the other,Time In A Bottleby Jim Croce, which was tied to an extremely popular scene from a recent X-Men movie.
Students listened to the songs at first to acclimatize to the theme and flow, and then the teacher noted basic grammatical differences between the two on the whiteboard. The next step was for students to pay greater attention to detail with a gap-fill handout of the song lyrics where the conditional use of the verbs had been removed. Another session in listening carefully to the lyrics allowed them to zone in on the differences and start to differentiate between the appropriate usage of each; either in real or unreal situations.
Following that, board work and ppt presentations covered the structures and the students had opportunities in review, correcting and following.
In another example, a classic activity was used where students had to imagine they were stranded on a deserted island and had to choose 4 items from a list which they would need in order to survive.
Below are some examples written by the students using the second conditional form:
This tied in with the week’s focus on the conditional tense, specifically the second conditional tense, which students have difficulty in understanding because conditionals do not exist in the Chinese language. In general students do not recognize the difference between sentence 1 and 2 below:
1.If I get rich, I will buy a house (a real possibility).
2.If I got rich, I would buy a house (not likely to happen).
In these example, by using authentic situations (or highly improbably situations, in this case) in teaching, students are able to apply textbook knowledge in reality.
The advantage of the task-based approach, is that during the task the students are allowed to use their first language (Chinese), freeing them to focus entirely on the meaning of their message. To summarise, students begin by carrying out a communicative task, without specific focus on form. After they have done the task, they report and discuss how they accomplished this and at the end, there is a specific focus on features of language form. This makes it closer to a real-life communicative situation.
Focus on learning in Vocabulary recent themes have been Education, Animals, Insects and School Life which is supporting students in building their foundation for B1 progression.
In other year 11 ESL classes, the topics covered in the Eyes Open 4B Book, were Cultural Celebrations and The Weird and The Wonderful. Recently, a class was engaged in all types of old myths and legends through brainstorming as a class and individual students choosing their own creature to do a brief write up and using phrases as a new unit of learning. This is important.
In a year 11 Speaking and Writing class, the focus these past weeks has been on narrative writing, as in writing a story structure with specific phrases used to space out the story and give it sequence and order. Students have experimented with the use of questions, onomatopoeia, setting descriptions, and dialogue to draw the reader’s attention to the introduction using hooks, grabbers or lead ins, the middle and the end. Structure is very important to a student’s life and when lessons and learning are structured, they can achieve greater success in their academic life.
For year 11 students who are progressing to an upper-intermediate level of English, B2 on the Common European Framework, (IELTS 6.5 for university entry level), they have been practicing speaking part two, where they speak alone for two minutes on a topic given by the teacher. They have only one minute to prepare so they are learning and practising note-taking, finding key words, details and ideas, using their notes to guide their talk and using phrases to maintain continuous speaking. To achieve more authentic situations, students are engaged in different class activities, for example role play competitions, where they practise and perform in front of the class. Short speeches practiced in public where eye contact and using body gestures is a useful way to help students improve their speaking skills.
Some teachers give awards which help students build confidence and improve their skills.
Other notable features of students practicing for the IELTS exam is understanding the importance of the cultural aspects of reading and listening. As students will be exposed to many different cultural experiences for study, travel and work, exposure to life situations in foreign countries is considered in their learning as well as for achieving IELTS scores for university entry level. For example, words such as dormice, voles, woodmice may not be important in Maths or Art, but this type of vocabulary will occur in listening and reading exercises and in IELTS exams. Our student’s ability to work around and gain the skills to figure out complicated questions with this ‘odd’ vocabulary continuously surprises us. Many students take this in stride and never give up.
Ms Wang, Ms Yin and Ms. McKenna
Vigorous learning continues with year 10 students and they are divided into different teaching systems Depending on their level, students have between 5 and 13 classes of English per week along with 5 classes of intensive EAL (in the EAL programme) per week. Some students have been working with the themes of ‘Young Achievers and Fabulous Food from the Eyes Open book, 4A. Grammar-wise, future tenses versus present tenses, predictive language, and then 1st and 2nd conditionals with ‘if’, ‘when’ and ‘unless are the focus. Students have been involved in different cultural practices and traditions around the world through very nicely delineated practices in the Discover Culture section with very well put-together videos, which give good relief to extensive grammar practice and exercises. This supports our system of international education where students are exposed to different aspects of culture from around the world. This is an important connection to studying, travelling and working in other countries.
In order for students to have consistency in their learning, teachers work collaboratively with students following a programme on a unit by unit basis. For example, in the 5+5+3 programme, students focus on vocabulary at the beginning of each unit using Quizlet, a very useful teaching tool, to make it ‘alive’. For this current unit, technology is the focus and vocabulary and grammar are tied into what students will produce for the speaking and writing projects. Intensive focus on students embedding new information through repetition, practice and real production ensures students are retaining information and using it in situations which could be real. This focus prepares students for higher level learning as it the basis and foundation of critical thinking, analysis and creativity. By linking vocabulary and grammar to an output allows students to experience connections between the language and output. It may take 6 weeks for a student to progress from writing 50 words to 150 words but without this structure, consistency and explicit learning, students are confused and lost. This also ensures the students are receiving the same standards in teaching and assessment.
We hope these brief updates give you a view into our resources, style and philosophy of teaching. Our biggest resource is of course our students. Without their enthusiasm, motivation and drive, teachers would not be creative and able to work with such dedication and commitment t them.
We continue to put the academic needs of the students first.
At Haileybury, every child matters, every day.
Cheryl Ann McKenna
Head of English as a Second Language Programme
Haileybury Tianjin International School