Monthly Archives: March 2012

-Meetings pt2-

Meeting 4

After having looked at some online resources such as Bubbler and Voicethread, experimentation and initial attempts to create materials, we felt that a change of direction was needed. Instead of taking a structural form based approach, working with grammar points in mind for levels A2-B1, where in a sense we were aiming to re-create materials already present within many coursebooks; we directed our efforts towards a learner need  driven approach as opposed to a conceptual approach.

The outcome of this was that subsequent ideas already felt much more rooted. However, new concepts can certainly emerge as a matter of course, and perhaps it is better to acknowledge them as ‘potential’ materials further down the line in tandem with developing primarily from a learner need approach.

Meeting 5

We both agreed that the work of Gaynor Ramsey and her book ‘Images’ (1987) is a highly effective way of engaging intermediate or even advanced learners, and for developing their overall competence of speaking, grammar, vocabulary and writing skills. Using this as a starting point in terms of an approach, we then thought about business learners who need to develop the ability to speak effectively about marketing or advertising. One idea that we had for advertising, is that pictures of advertisements connected with contentious issues  (such as Benetton’s use of a dying aids dying aids patient), could serve as a starting point for how such controversial pictures are used in advertising campaigns and why. This approach could be used for delivering taboo topics as discussion drivers for general English classes, and we decided that it would be good to explore this area further.

  • Proposed idea to David. Suggested that we could also aim questions at interviewees to talk about topics that come up in the last part of Cambridge CAE speaking exam.
  •  Discussed uploading to YouTube and possibly creating a resource for teachers at David’s school for teachers and students.
  •  Future meetings might be recorded and an audio file uploaded to the blog to capture better the collaborative process.

Meeting 6

Below is a summary of areas of discussion:

  • How to upload videos to YouTube
  • The managing of a YouTube account and linking different channels together
  • Implications of students having access to upload to teacher created YouTube accounts with potential problems, such as students commenting on or annotating videos of interviewed people in an inappropriate fashion

We decided that we it would be a good idea to create a number of YouTube channels in order to cover different areas which are:

  • ‘Parking Lot’ – A place for any interesting videos and ideas
  • ‘Inspired Speaking’ – FCE and CAE speaking
  • ‘Culture Vulture’ – A resource for culturally related topics
  • ‘Shades of Life’ – Interviews with people from all walks of life and contentious issues

We also discussed using software such as ivideo and windows movie maker as well as duplicating the YouTube channels and content onto Vimeo.

Having written this post I’ve just had the thought that uploads to video sharing sites don’t necessarily have to be moving video, they can instead be an image, or series of images with or without an audio track.



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-Video material: Outlooks on Life-

I have been thinking about how to help students at more advanced levels and those studying for CAE speaking exams, communicate more effectively and about their outlooks on life. Paul kindly lent me a Zoom Q3 recorder, and I thought that I could start by interviewing people and their views on life. Talking about life is a huge topic, so I thought that it might be better to conduct the interviews using a set of pro forma questions that are not too personal, but should produce interesting and importantly authentic responses. Real people with real answers.

To begin with, tomorrow morning I will be filming hopefully up to three interviews with different people in different roles at the language school that I work at in Hastings. I should be able to interview the Director of Studies, a teacher and a receptionist, and hopefully get three snapshots of people’s outlooks on life.

The videos could then be shown to students and then a question and answer session about the opinions of the speakers and language used. Then they could create some of their own questions and video interview each other, which could be compared and contrasted. The videos might also be uploaded to YouTube, where annotations and comments can easily be left.

The initial pro forma of questions for tomorrow’s interviews is as follows:

If you could choose to do anything, what would you like to do tomorrow?

Is it better to see the glass half empty or half full. Why?

What makes you happy in life?

What are you afraid of in life?

What do you value in life?

Do you have a motto in life? If not, why not, and if so, what is it and what does it mean?

Do you have any advice for anybody in life?


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-Recent meetings-

David and I have recently started to meet twice a week, usually for about 30-45 minutes and we have found that just the act of speaking face to face has really benefitted us.

I am going to summarise our first few meetings below. In future we are considering recording our discussions and posting the audio online.

Meeting 1

After having looked at some online resources such as Bubblr and Voicethread, experimenting and some initial attempts to create materials, we felt that a change of direction was needed. We had been taking a structural approach working with grammar points for CEFR levels A2 – B1, where in a sense we were attempting to align “concepts” and ideas with materials already present within many coursebooks, but using online applications. Instead, we decided to move towards a context and learner driven approach and for higher levels, B2-A1. The outcome of this during the meeting was that subsequent ideas felt much more rooted.

That said, new concepts can emerge as a matter of course and perhaps it is better to acknowledge and then park them as “potential” materials / activities further down the line in tandem with developing materials from a context / learner need approach.

Meeting 2

We talked previously and agreed that Gaynor Ramsey’s Images – Intermediate Speaking Skills (1987) where grammar is treated in a lexical fashion, really helps students to use and practice more authentic English. We then thought about business learners who need to develop the ability to speak about marketing and advertising effectively. We had the idea of using pictures used in advertising connected with contentious issues such as used by Benetton, might well serve as a starting point for how such controversial and provocative images are used in ad campaigns and why. Are they effective? Why / Why not? This then lead to the topic of taboos that are used as discussion drivers within adult general English classes. David and I have at times both used Taboos and Issues (Richard MacAndrew & Ron Martinez) and it is an interesting area that students are motivated to discuss and sometimes connected with advertising.

Meeting 3

This meeting was very productive and we discussed our initial ideas for using video for creating materials. The context and learner need was CAE students from mixed nationalities and CAE speaking exam practice. One idea suggested by David was that he could video record student reactions to a photo of a person along with an initial question such as “what do think about this person” that might provoke reactions and even prejudices, and certainly some presumptuous language. Then following a video clip shown to the students of the person shown in the photo, which might well overturn their previous assumptions and capturing this “before” and “after” discussion on video, which is played back to the learners.

We then agreed that any video recordings used for CAE or even FCE, could be uploaded to YouTube to form part of a growing recourse for teachers and students.


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