Thursday 10 March 2011

Master Classes at Arthur Terry School

I’ve just spent a couple of rewarding days at Arthur Terry School, Sutton Coldfield. I worked on some of my Creative Language Learning routines with able students – those taking GCSE German on Monday and those taking GCSE French on Wednesday. Some students were in both groups, and fortunately the activities turned out a little differently in the two languages.
The students were willing and able, and worked well, even though at their age, 15-16, it must be quite difficult being in the same classroom all day with the same teacher. The students were a credit to their school and their teachers.
The workshops I deliver in Creative Language Learning emphasize seeing the bigger picture and that students must be responsible for their own learning. I encouraged them to acquire some language learning habits, so that they would be working on their languages without even noticing. All of this works much better if students know why they are learning a language.
What was the most successful activity? In German, possibly reducing the problem of there being 16 different ways of saying “the” to a ten-minute understanding of the likes of subjects, objects and indirect objects. There is an irony here: this school was admired by my PGCE tutor back in 1974/75. We students preferred to teach using grammar – that was the way we learnt. Our tutor had other ideas. The actual truth is that all methods of teaching languages that have been adopted are useful but alone not capable of delivering. The teacher’s job is to find the most suitable mix for the particular students in front of them.
In French, the student made the most progress in distinguishing between the tenses.
What was the most fun? In German, it was writing haikus and acrostics. These activities involve working proactively with dictionaries. In French, it was the cloning exercise. This involves adapting texts that the student read to make their own texts.
I was delighted that one student told me he thought the first years should be introduced to some of these ideas. My feelings exactly.
I must remember to send evaluation forms, though, to confirm this and to give me ideas for other workshops.

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