Saturday, 22 February 2014

Project 52 Week 8

Well, here we are- week 8

The weather seemed a bit tamer this week, which was a relief. I taught in the morning- and then spent some time preparing for the next CertTESOL which starts any day now :-)


Today dawned nice and clear with bright blue skies.  M and I dropped Cairis up to the Fort for her skating session, and went for a walk. Le Hocq was the chosen route today and we walked as far as the old round tower, which has been there since the threat of Napoleon Bonaparte. Le Hocq is on the south coast and is one of only a handful of places with the Viking spelling of its name. Just round the coast a bit is La Rocque, with a typical French spelling.


Driving to work today the tide was still out, which always makes the beach look like the surface of the moon. This is the coast road just before Green Island, which you can see in the distance. Green island is a Neolithic site, which has been very well documented by archaeologists over the years.


Getting ready to move some of the staffroom today. We took all the books upstairs and put them in the room where we now have a locker each. The room next door is being painted, and then we will be able to find a proper home for everything. It is surprising how much daylight there is a top of the building. We were in the Black hole before! The office staff are just waiting for the workers to finish our space, and then they are going to move too. I think next week will be slightly chaotic:-) This room will have the wall knocked through to maximise the space and light. It isn't a problem at the moment, but soon we will have many more teachers around, and the extra space will be welcomed.


I left at lunchtime today, and got snarled up in the roadworks at the bottom of the hill. As I had my ipad beside me on the seat, it gave me a rare opportunity to take a picture while waiting. The first picture shows the little bank at the bottom of the hill, and the other shows the edge of the harbour, with the boathouse restaurant straight ahead.


Yippee. We can move bits into the new staffroom, although the electrician can't come until Monday to connect the computers and photocopier etc. They have just been left where there are sockets for now!  Rudi has been varnishing our desk spaces and they are still a bit tacky, so that will have to wait until Friday.


Where am I going to put all this?
Finally, the Ferry Company has resolved its dispute/strike. Just in time for half-term. There must have been a great deal of pressure on them for the French crew to fold. Today was a bit damper than the rest of the week, and when I got home I had to go shopping. I should have remembered that taking Cairis with me would cost me a fortune. Isn't it surprising when you find things that you hadn't put in your basket!
It took a while to unpack everything when I got home. That's my least favourite part of the whole experience. 


wedding day photo 1989
don't often see both girls together
Today was very lazy. I went wandering around town in the morning, trying to choose a gift for M for our anniversary. In the afternoon, Cairis and I had a look through my old wedding photos to organise the best ones into a montage. We then say down to watch Scotland beat Italy at Rugby- by only 1 point! and then a bit of winter olympics. The cats were curled up nearby, happy that the day had calmed down. In the morning we had Bill the carpenter round to help with the front door, which was sticking, and they aren't very keen on him.Also, we had to restrict their movements as the door was off its hinges- and access to the road was open.

So next week will bring  friends and parties and reasonably settled weather- should be fun :-)

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

#ELTchat Summary for 12th February 2014 Use of students’ mother tongue in the EFL classroom: taboo or just good sense?

Use of students’ mother tongue in the EFL classroom: taboo or just good sense?” It seems there’s some revival of acceptance of using students’ own language in teaching a foreign language, of integrating translation into L2 acquisition, and of questioning the ‘all English, all the time’ direct method. How can we help teachers integrate students’ L1 into L2 learning in a principled way? 

A long title, and a very popular one as far as the many participants were concerned.
I was doing my first stint as a new moderator, and the discussion was fast and furious.

Was the topic tonight more about teachers using their students' L1 or about
students using it, or about both?
This was a good question and we tried to answer it from both points of view.

PetsNet suggested that teachers actually feel positive about L1 use in class, but this was disputed by HanaTicha who wasn't in favour of it, mitchefl, who was against it in theory, and David__Boughton who was completely against it.
Agreement  from the others seemed to depend on the purpose to which it was put.                  

My question wasWhat are the benefits for students if they use L1 in class?’

 CotterHue suggested that if lower-level students use L1, they have the language to analyse and advise in a collaborative environment.
theteacherjames mentioned that @willycard suggested putting people together by language groups: Latin, E. Asia etc., which he thought was an interesting idea.
(Occasionally I do something similar, but I do find that mixing the language groups up serves to maximise the use of L2.)
MichaelaCarey noted that Very Young Learners need to know that they can communicate with you in their L1.

ShaunWilden pointed out that there seemed to be an immediate assumption of monolingual classes. This was indeed the case for some of the participants, yet others amongst us taught predominantly multilingual groups. jo_sayers held that the monolingual classroom was where using L1 was most beneficial, but Shaun felt that there was a place for its use in both types of classroom. Lisabrennan4B also queried the distinction.

I don’t really mind the collaboration in small groups or pairs done in L1, as long as the production takes place in the target language. This was echoed by others, notably teacherphili who felt that it was unnatural to expect them not to use their L1 in these situations.
The general consensus was that it was fine as long as the students weren't being lazy and using the L1 as a crutch.

This gave rise to a discussion about how unnatural it was to expect students to not use their mother tongue. Pjgallantry’s point was that restricting use of L1 can be a reductio ad absurdem – as it makes the entire environment feel very 'artificial', especially in monolingual groups. He had a lot of support:
Pigletruth said that she had rebelled against the whole ‘language bath’ idea as it felt like make-believe.
HanaTicha thought that the pressure of the artificial atmosphere could prevent students from giving of their best.
MrChrisJWilson: Let’s be honest, it’s pretty weird to talk to someone from your own country in another language. theteacherjames pointed out that the whole classroom is, in fact, an artificial construct, but that didn't necessarily mean inauthentic. Hana agreed that the question of authenticity was a big issue. pjgallantry suggested that it was probably counter-productive to be too tough on off-task conversation in the L1, as it increases the sense of artificiality.

ChristineMulla asked whether we allowed students to help each other in class in L1. There was a moment where we thought about situations where this happened in our classes. Sometimes we might pull up students for chatting, and find they were explaining something. Of course, other times we found that they were just chatting! In these circumstances it is useful for your students to think you speak enough of their L1 to know if they are off topic. A few of us admitted to having smatterings of other languages- just enough to unnerve the studentsJ

In a Multilingual class there could be management issues if one group of students insisted on using their L1 to the detriment of the others in the class. MrChrisJWilson worried that acceptance of L1 could lead to a slide in areas where it shouldn’t. Others expected that their students would be disciplined enough, in a multilingual group, to communicate in the L2.

Would prohibition of L1 maximize the effectiveness of learning the target language?

This question came from PetsNet, and quickly elicited answers from the group.
ShaunWilden felt sure that it wouldn't. Pigletruth thought that weaker students would be frustrated. Jo_sayers pointed out that students tend to use the L1 in their heads anyway.
PetsNet: Banning the use of L1, this underlies an ideological conception of L1 culture as being inferior. pjgallantry: should remember that a classroom is a community,  and this means that all languages have equality. Restricting L1 use has risks for learning.    Pigletruth:  the idea of banning in class is a turn-off for me if it doesn't hurt or endanger.                                         
While not necessarily recommended, do you think it actually does real harm?
Naomishema told us that her students would have bolted without the  use of some L1                 

Could the perceived wisdom be at odds with reality in the classroom?

L1 in EFL classes is “a door that has been firmly shut in language teaching for over a hundred years.” (Cook 2001)
Predominant attitude in L2 teaching has been anti-L1 and discouraging of the use of students' L1 in language teaching (Cook, 2001)                                                
I think that the Direct method was very strict about not having L1 in class, but it benefits collaboration, especially in weaker students.
The use of the mother tongue in the learning process should be minimized (Krashen 1981)  Krashen: "learners acquire foreign languages following basically the same path they acquire their mother tongue."                                                                                   
Jeremy Harmer suggested that the idea of supremacy of L2 led to the Nest/NNest problems
MrChrisJWilson: Is all the focus on direct method (and lack of evidence) just to support NEST domination?                                                                                   
ebefl: The excellent Phillip Kerr, big advocate for L1 in the classroom.                                          
HadaLitim: I started being aware of not using L1 during my CELTA but with time realised that, if used judiciously, it could promote better learning.           
jo_sayers: Translation and L1 in general is used in many SLA settings, it's only really in CELTA/DELTA areas it has such bad press                                                                 
CotterHUE: I suspect that over-use of L1 in class reduces language learning to a problem solving task rather than language learning per se.                                                                                 
MrChrisJWilson: I think we've come back to a “it isn't a firm rule” stance but often when we talk about the specifics it is *usually* avoidable                                                                  
Higher-level students should always try L2 first, but can still benefit from clarity of difficult language.

There's a difference between the Teacher using it and the Students using it  according to HadaLitim

ChristineMulla: How difficult is it to find a balance: over-reliance vs tool?                                         

Why do teachers use the students L1?

·         Sometimes using L1 is just a time saver when you need to explain something. Nothing wrong with it on occasion , especially when giving directions for how to do something- it  cuts down time wasted
·         Instead of long explanations in L2 , it is more efficient to give a translation of a vocabulary item or grammar explanation                                                            
·         Classroom management or admin
·         Translation - a great way of checking understanding
·         Using L1 can be helpful in learning new vocabulary items and explaining complex idea and grammar rules
·         I sometimes use it when the need for metalanguage is necessary, for example with forms
·         To comfort students who are overwhelmed
·         Translation to L1 is arguably the quickest way of acquiring vocabulary
·         When working with very young learners
·         To establish rapport
·         Discipline for VYLs and YLs. Making sure they know what they have done wrong
·         Also to offer comfort to YLs
·         I've used it occasionally to show students that I'm learning too. It helps them to trust the teacher
·         To scaffold new language
·         In an emergency
·         After a traumatic event
·         Contrastive analysis
·         Don't you sometimes use L1 when a student addresses you in L1 out of context?
·         I honestly admit that I sometimes use L1 when I'm tired.
·         In a monolingual classroom it seems that there might be more scope for T to integrate L1
·         In a monolingual class it’s practically unavoidable                           
·         Higher-level students should always try L2 first, but can still benefit from clarity of difficult language.
·         Sometimes the use of L1 after a long stretch of L2 on the T's side may be refreshing. Can bring students down to earth, let them pause                                                                                            

Is it beneficial for teachers to be able to speak the students’ L1?

Teachers who master the students’ L1 have far more advantages over the ones who don’t know it….. although it isn't necessary to master the L1 to use it in class….
Whenever I say anything in Chinese the students just fall about laughing so it is a good gambit.
Yeah my Chinese is very limited makes my students laugh.
Not being able to pronounce words in Vietnamese made my students more confident about pronouncing English words                         
Yes, my rubbish Polish was useful in (only) that respect
I sometimes use my bad German to make them feel comfortable and think "eh, she makes mistakes too. It's ok!"
Haha I do that too - with my bad Arabic!
Good point.  I do this too. “You see, even though your L1 is fiendishly difficult, I am not afraid to try”.
 It builds rapport too: “I'm also a learner trying to learn your language.”
It could also be motivating to watch the teacher’s learning strategies, and sympathise.
Also, students sometimes respect you more if you have some of their L1                                                  
Some teachers don't have the luxury/inconvenience of sharing the students’ L1, of course, though that can be used to the teacher’s advantage too. Also, teachers with large multinational classes would be unlikely to speak all the students’ languages. Cioccas pointed out that she might easily have 12 different languages in a class of 18 students.
There are also groups of students who should use L2, perhaps because they need to make the most of every opportunity for speaking the target language.          

Of course- using L1 and using Translation in class are not exactly the same thing.

HanaTicha thought that there was an important distinction to be made, and that translation had its place in the classroom. Problems could arise when there was no direct translation available, which would necessitate dealing in near synonyms, even if just in minutia. There was also the possibility of errors occurring, due to the L1 transfer or cultural nuances. ChristineMulla suggested that students needed to learn to stop being reliant on the L1. This started a little side discussion about the use of dictionaries: should they be bilingual or monolingual? No clear preference was shown. One idea put forward was for Exam students to analyse passages in L1 and use for error correction etc. Or for the teacher to check concepts by allowing students to explain new vocabulary in the L1.
 Conclusion:   A little judicious use doesn't do any harm, as and when deemed necessary, but over-reliance on L1 as a tool in the classroom is counter-productive, and may harm the chances of students making good progress in the L2.                                                                 
Links :
jo_sayers: Recent post I did here on use of translation and L1 in online learning  

mmgrinberg: Using the Mother Tongue:   
I use an activity called Mother tongue scribes from the above mentioned Rinvolucri + Deller book

jo_sayers: And this is a great book on Translation in Language Teaching 

Similar topic to this discussed 20.03.13.  #ELTchat summary                              

Philip Kerr :                                                                

Taking part in the discussion were, in order of appearance,: SueAnnan, Shaunwilden, HadaLitim, joannacre, naomishema, teacherphili, jo_sayers, HanaTicha, MrChrisJWilson, natibrandi, MarjorieRosenbe, perikleis, theteacherjames, Cotter Hue, Pigletruth, PETsNet, mitchefl, MicaelaCarey, ChristineMulla, joannacre, pjgallantry, mitchefl, hannahpinkham, Lisabrennan4B, Mo_Americanoid, mmgrinberg, VictorHugo,  ebefl,  David__Boughton, cioccas, evab2001, NewbieCELTA

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Project 52 Week 7

Where has the time gone- week seven already! Unfortunately the weather has again been the biggest feature of the week. I also managed to complete the two EVO courses I was doing, and am just waiting for the wrapping up sessions today and tomorrow.


Today started fine, and after I dropped Cairis at her Roller Derby meeting, I drove down the coast for some fresh air. I was amazed to see a car on the slip, as the high tide was coming and it would be washed away, but there is no legislating for stupidity. The seagulls were having a fine time, and the sky was beautiful. I love the textures of the photo on the right.

I ruined the day by biting into an apple and leaving most of a tooth behind. I think this week could be a very expensive one- roll on pay day:-)


This will give you an idea of the wind. The tide wasn't a high one, and the rain stayed away for most of the day, but the wind blew sand and seaweed right across the roads, pavements etc. When I got to work I found that one of my Adult students had flown home, but the younger ones were offered the option of going to England by ferry ( in this wind!) and then by another carrier to France, and then a train home. This meant more than 20 hours of travelling. Some of them took the option, but one of them waited in the hope that she could get home more easily later in the week. We started emptying the staffroom properly today. It looks very strange without the usual clutter. I hope the new one is everything we wish for :-)


The shelves are bare now, and we are waiting for the engineers to move the photocopier upstairs. It is a little awkward finding things, as nothing is where you expect it to be, but that is a temporary setback . When I finally got home, it was very wet and windy. Our glass bin had blown away, but there was no sign of it anywhere near. My husband had written to the Roads Committee about the wall, so we had a visit from one of their representatives to discuss changes to the road layout.


Not the day I had been looking forward to. I had to visit the dentist, which is not my favourite pastime! In fact is was relatively painless, apart from the cost to my bank account. The time allocated wasn't sufficient to replace my tooth, so he packed it and organised a longer session for later. The Dental Studio is new, and very swish, so he must be busy these days. I was surprised and delighted to have my application to be  a moderator for ELTchat approved. Tonight was my first session- and it was a lively one. I volunteered to write the summary, as everyone else was busy. 


I went for a lovely walk by the marina today. The two pictures show the state of the day. Over my left shoulder was overcast, with a grey sky and wintry sunshine. On my right was bright blue sky! Two seconds was all that separated the pictures. But then a squally shower of hail arrived and I ran back to the car. The ferry strike is continuing- the French crew have now taken over the vessel for a sit in- and the company has suspended sailings for at least the next six days- not good for people going skiing at half-term.


The tides were high again, and the wind speed was scary. Another Code Red warning meant that the musicians again decided to stay home and stay safe. My family went to the Yacht Club for dinner. The wind was strong and we were diverted by the Honorary Police as the roads were closed. Even as I drove home- two hours before the High tide- the sea was crashing over the wall. On the way out, two hours later, Cairis tried to make a little video to show how fast the tide was running, but she was nearly blown over. We went back home and I did a bit of preparation for the ELTchat summary I volunteered to write, and read some of the articles from the Liverpool IATEFL selections.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

project 52 Week 6

Week 6, and the living is easy...NOT!

Ebony waits at the top of the stairs for me every morning. She will then put her head through the bars to have it scratched- funny cat :-) I want to come back as a cat as cute and as spoiled as her!

Monday started with another Code RED warning. The tides, rain and storm force winds combined to make the coasts dangerous, and the low lying areas prone to flooding.
The community spirit was alive and well, with people out sweeping the seaweed away from the drains to let the water disperse. I left for work early, which was lucky, as I was diverted half-way round the island to get to work. I caught up with some of my colleagues who had been on holiday, and we had a meeting to plan our CPD sessions for the winter. We also started to empty out our old staffroom. It had always been too small and cramped in the summer, but we were at the bottom of the capital spending list. Now, however, it's our turn and next week will see us starting to move.

Tuesday was not much better. My students came from France at the weekend, and are already worried about getting back at the end of the week. It rained all day, and the big Victorians over the road were seen through a mist of rain :-( This is the view from my office window, where I was doing some work on my e-book. I went down to watch Death in Paradise at some point, or I could almost have gone the whole week without seeing family. M came home from his trip to Scotland, bringing some lovely music which he had found on his trip to a big music store in Edinburgh.

Wednesday was dry for a change- but still very windy. The shops are beginning to have empty shelves as they run out of freight. The sea is too rough for the ferries or container ships to dock. The 300-year-old slip near the college has been badly damaged overnight- and the island is looking at a massive clean-up operation. My students are working as normal, and trying not to think about the return journey. One good thing- I paid my share of the flat for IATEFL. It can sleep six, although we are only three- so if anyone needs accommodation...... let me know.

Thursday  was the worst day of the week. First- the French ferry workers decided to go on strike! My students were really stressed, and it was difficult teaching them. The weather was still horrible, and I got home to find that someone had crashed into our front wall, seconds before Cairis left for work. She was shaken, but had the presence of mind to retain the young man, and call her father and the Police. You can image my horror when I got home. They had been dealing with the insurance etc, all day- and I didn't have a clue :-)

Friday dawned clear, cold, but not so windy- although that was only a short-term thing. I received a lovely email- which I can explain about next week. The watery winter sun was doing its best to shine through, so I stopped en route to work to take these pictures.
We decided not to join the others in the pub in the evening, as they were thinking about going to one on the North Coast- and I'd heard the weather forecast!

On Saturday, I decided to have a computer day. I sat down at my desk and finished all the work for the BE course I'm doing. I then decided to redo my e-book completely, using a website which I have an account with.
My problem now is- if it's on a website- is it still an e-book? Anyway- people seem to be giving it the thumbs up, and I can see the value it will have for my students, so I didn't waste my time. In the afternoon I had 2 online sessions one after the other.
Both my family members were out for meals, so I sat down with the cats for a bit and read my book, before going  back up and adding to my website. It was a very relaxing day after the stresses of the last few. I do feel sorry for my students, though, who are now resigned to spending some more time on our lovely? island.

Here is an artistic photo to finish on. I was viewing the mess outside through the bay window and caught the reflection of good and bad together :-) The weather forecast for next week doesn't look much better, but the tides should be at least a couple of metres lower than they have been.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Project 52 Week 5

So here we go for week 5. 

On Monday I returned to work. I had two classes of students from an Ecole Hotelier in France. They were very well-behaved for 16-year-olds, and a pleasure to teach.
 We had just settled down to work when the lights went off. Our electricity comes from France via an underwater cable, and something had outed the power at their end, causing an all island power cut, which we later found out had affected Guernsey too. The power wasn't restored until almost lunchtime, and by this time we were all starting to feel cold, as well as working in a half-light. The weather wasn't too bad on Monday, and after a quick staff meeting, I was able to go home and get on with my third week of EVO courses. I had an interesting live session for the BE group and wanted to get to grips with the third week tasks for both courses.

 Tuesday was my first full day of work, and I was happy to have some adults to teach in the afternoon. The only problem was that the power cut had messed with the clock on the wall, and I had no idea what time it was. It is lucky that teachers have an inbuilt sense of timing for tasks :-) My students wanted to practise for the TOEIC test, so it was a fairly easy ride. I gave them a lift into town afterwards and we stopped to have a coffee. It rained solidly all day. This can't be good for the island, which should be planting the royal potatoes about now, but the fields are waterlogged.

On Wednesday the man came to empty our recycling bins. I was so fed up with the waste of duff photocopies and newspapers that I agreed with the company to have their bins in each classroom, and the staffroom and office. We fill them up reasonably slowly, but it's nice to feel that we are doing something positive for the environment. Oh, for a paper-free existence! We are getting better, though. A lot of material has been uploaded to drop box and we have access to computers in the classrooms.
 When the summer school starts we will have IWBs as well.
I had to stay behind after work to interview a few people who had been enquiring about the CertTESOL in March. I managed to group three of them together for interview, but the rest couldn't make it until Thursday.

So Thursday arrived, accompanied by a Code Orange weather warning of flooding in low lying areas. I managed to get to work, although the roads were covered in seaweed, which made driving conditions a bit dicey. I stayed late to finish my interviews and the weather was actually reasonable when I left to drive home. The high tide was heading towards the highest one of the year and everyone had sandbags outside to try to protect their properties. When I got home I lit the fire and decided to stay home. I have been playing around with websites all week, trying to find the right platform for my e-book. This was a golden opportunity to test some of my ideas against what was actually possible.

 My Husband left for Scotland this morning. He has gone up to visit his mum, who is in her nineties. We always go out on Friday night. We choose a pub and then gather the musicians by email. Fortunately the weather was foul- and we all decided not to go down to the pub on the East of the island that we had picked as our meeting place. What a good call! The Code had changed to RED, the sea was sloshing over the wall everywhere and there was some localised flooding. However, on the East coast, where the pub was, they had a landslide. We would have been in a pickle had we gone out and not been able to get back up the hill. I decided to clean all my little cat statuettes and return them to their shelves.

Quick sound check
Saturday was the date chosen by the Scottish Society of Jersey for their Burns' ceilidh. The Yacht club had booked the band for the correct night, so they chose a week later, and a five-star hotel. We had to go down in the afternoon to set up, and were treated like second-class citizens. No going through the hotel, we had to use the tradesmen's entrance at the back, through the kitchen area :-). We set up and had a quick sound check. This was at 5 pm. We didn't have to go back until 10.30, but in actual fact it was closer to 11.45 pm when we started to play.(something to do with the slow service). The room was very colourful, but the lights made their raffle difficult as they couldn't make out the real colour of the tickets.

On Sunday I dropped my daughter up to the old Napoleonic Fort which overlooks the town. It is a sports and leisure centre these days, and she was going skating. She has joined a roller derby team and is training to be a referee. I then popped down to pick up my flowers, and did a bit of housework while it was quiet. I forgot to check whether Miles was coming to dinner, with M being away, so we waited until late to eat, until he turned up, or not. This gave me time to join the EBook group for a Hangout on Google. In the end he must have decided that it was better to come when we were all together en-famille.

I wonder what next week will have in store. I hope that I don't have to spend too long doing interviews. I'd like to try to make it to the gym at some point, and I'm really looking forward to laying with my E-book a bit more:-)