jon hird

 

teacher       trainer       materials writer

A miscellany  of thoughts, observations, experiences and other snippets concerning the English language, teaching and learning

By jonhird, Nov 4 2017 03:33PM

A recent Facebook memory reminded me that it's a year since the grammar-devouring Awarewolf first appeared (see post below). It also alerted me to the fact that it's a year since I last wrote anything here. I truly admire those who blog frequently and have blogging as part of their output and profile, but with me I just never manage to find the time or maybe, and perhaps more to the point, the inspiration. I really should, but life is busy and days turn into weeks, into months and, like now, into a whole year. So, here are a few words about the recent (busy) life of this ELTer.


Since the end of Trinity term back in June and the end of my regular teaching for the 2016-2017 academic year, the past few months have been pretty well non-stop. First, there were a number of teacher training and teaching courses as well as a few one-off sessions for the University of Oxford. This included a course for a group of Finnish teachers on teaching teenagers, a brand new course of five workshops on dyslexia and teaching English, both held at Worcester College, the wonderful two-week English Language Teachers' Summer Seminar held each year at Exeter College, which is always one of the highlights of my year, and then it was back to Worcester for a four-week academic English course for students from Kyoto University. Over these courses, it was, as always, a great privilege and learning experience to meet so many wonderful teachers and students, who came from around 30 different countries. By the end of all this, the University was feeling very much like a second home.


Since the summer in Oxford, I have had a very busy time on the road, which has so far seen me conferencing in Italy twice, Poland and for my first ever visits to these countries, in Peru and Cyprus. I'll shortly be back in Italy for the TESOL conference in Rome, then an EAP conference in Moscow, where I'm very much looking forward to visiting for the first time in a few years, and then I'll be back in Italy, this time in Reggio Calabria in the south. My talk and workshop topics have included dyslexia and learning English, the features of and the assessment of spoken English, extended speaking (which draws on my own MA TESOL research), grammar games and contemporary English. Partcipants have included teachers, school managers and directors of study and in one of the talks, around 200 education and pedagogy students.


During my travels, I have been very fortunate to be able to take time out to visit some amazing places, highlights of which include the incredible city of Cusco and Machu Picchu in Peru, Etruscan tombs near Tarquinia in Italy and the fascinating city of Nicosia in Cyprus. It has also been really great to meet many old friends and colleagues, some of whom I haven't seen since we first met on courses I was teaching here in Oxford and also to meet some wonderful colleagues and teachers for the first time.


Alongside all this, I have co-written the B1 level of a new course book series, to be published in 2019, and I have just started writing some grammar material for another. A new editon of my grammar book for Italian students with dyslexia is also soon to be published. And in terms of teaching, we are now five weeks into the 2017-18 academic year at the University, where in Michaelmas term I have classes and tutorials three mornings a week.


So, with that in mind, it's time to prep tomorrow's classes. But before I do so, here are a few images from this very busy and very enjoyable and rewarding past few months.



My-eye-view of one of my talks at IATEFL Poland
My-eye-view of one of my talks at IATEFL Poland
Student presentation, Kyoto University academic English course
Student presentation, Kyoto University academic English course
An old word given a new lease of life, Britanico conference, Lima
An old word given a new lease of life, Britanico conference, Lima
Conference venue at the Eastern Mediterranean University in Cyprus
Conference venue at the Eastern Mediterranean University in Cyprus
Some of the wonderful team at International House in Milan
Some of the wonderful team at International House in Milan
Panel discussion on Formative Assessment, Warsaw
Panel discussion on Formative Assessment, Warsaw
Dinner at Exeter College
Dinner at Exeter College
A bit of class time in the quad, Worcester College
A bit of class time in the quad, Worcester College
Participants and tutors, Exeter College
Participants and tutors, Exeter College

By jonhird, Jun 28 2016 07:05AM

My talk on dyslexia at the 2016 IATEFL conference in Birmingham has been reviewed in the IATEFL Voices magazine. Thank you to Alexia Piaggio for the review, which you can read below.

By jonhird, Jan 5 2016 11:16AM


The conference, held annually in Greenwich in London, is for International House managers, DOSs and trainers from IH schools across the globe. I'm not sure how many different countries were represented, but it seems that there was at least one representative from most of the countries in which IH has a school. The conference was for me a great experience from the perspective of both being a speaker and a participant.


My talk was 'Reaching Every Student in the Classroom: Dyslexia and Learning English'. Dyslexia is a very complex issue; there is no single or simple cause and it may manifest itself quite differently from one person to another. Similarly, the views of experts in the field regarding causes and issues can often also differ considerably. However, two things on which many will agree is that issues with Executive Function (eg working memory, effort, focus, time awareness) is very likely a cause and that literacy is often just one of a number of resultant and related cognitive and behavioural issues. My talk first provided an overview of the possible underlying causes of dyslexia, then looked at how dyslexia can affect an individual and finally offered some tips and suggestions for the classroom and for selecting and adapting material.


As a participant, I thoroughly enjoyed the conference environment and attended some interesting talks on subjects such as teacher and learner psychology, motivation and managing and revitalizing teaching staff. As always at such events, it was wonderful to meet friends and colleagues old and new. This was a great first conference of the year and an energizing way to start 2016.


The handout for my conference talk 'Reaching Every Student in the Classroom: Dyslexia and Learning English' is available on the Downloads page.

Group discussions during my 'Reaching Every Student in the Classroom' talk
Group discussions during my 'Reaching Every Student in the Classroom' talk
A drizzly evening stroll around Greenwich and the Cutty Sark
A drizzly evening stroll around Greenwich and the Cutty Sark

By jonhird, Nov 10 2015 09:44PM


I recently attended the Italy TESOL 2015 conference in Rome, at which I gave two workshops. The conference, celebrating '40 years and Moving On' was well attended with teachers from all over Italy and had a nicely positive and interactive atmosphere. The only plenary I managed to attend was given by Henry Widdowson, whose name I've long been familar with but have never seen give a talk before. Speaking from notes from behind a chair placed on a table, and to a packed room, he talked about ENL and ELF. Other plenaries were given by Diane Larsen-Freeman, Russell Stannard and Paul Braddock. I particularly enjoyed Luke Prodromou's workshop on using the performance skills of voice, facial expression and body posture in teaching.


Both my workshops were well attended by enthusiastic and active participants and for me were very enjoyable and rewarding. My first workshop was on ideas for Extended Speaking in the Classroom. As well as proposing a simple tried-and-tested speaking activity, the workshop included a look at the usefulness and importance of planning prior to undertaking the actual speaking task. A simple planning stage allows the learner to begin to formulate both propositional content and lingusitic content, which can result in increased fluency, complexity and accuracy. The workshop drew on a range of research by the likes of Pauline Foster, Peter Skehan, Rod Ellis and Gillian Wigglesworth as well as my own MA research, which investigated the effects of pre-task planning on grammatical accuracy in classroom speaking tasks.


My second workshop, on the Saturday, was on Aspects of Contemporary English. We started off considering David Crystal's notion of non-standard grammar and looked at a few examples of this. This led us into the use of 'innit', the myriad of uses of 'like' and the very recent trend among younger speakers of dropping 'to' and the article after the verb 'go', as in 'I'm going gym'. Along the way we also looked at aspects of teen-speak and discussed its typical transiency. We then moved on to look at verbing, which seems to be being used with increasing abandon and creativity. The session was illustrated by a range of images and other examples of contemporary language use, largely photographed and collected by me.


It was also great to catch up with some of my Italian teacher friends, fellow presenters and colleagues from OUP. And I of course managed to make the most of my time and spend a day or two exploring wonderful Rome, which was enjoying a glorious November summer.


The handouts for my conference talks 'Extended Speaking in the Classroom' and 'Aspects of Contemporary English' are available on the Downloads page.

Extended Speaking in the Classroom workshop
Extended Speaking in the Classroom workshop
Beautiful blue November sky over the Trevi fountain
Beautiful blue November sky over the Trevi fountain
Rooftop view from my hotel room
Rooftop view from my hotel room

By jonhird, Aug 20 2015 07:35PM


It has been a busy summer. Busier than usual.


First, I was once again one of the tutors on the University of Oxford’s two-week Summer Seminar for English Language Teachers, which is held at Exeter College every year at the end of July. Exeter is one of Oxford's oldest colleges, situated right in the very heart of the city. It is a lovely, compact college, making it the perfect location for the seminar and great for everyone on the course to get to know each other. The teachers live in college and we have our meals together in Hall. There are also a number of informal afternoon and evening actvities such as Shakespeare in Wadham College garden, a pub evening or two and a stroll along the Thames. As for the course, the teachers choose four five-session workshops over the two weeks and have a plenary lecture most mornings. The workshops this year covered such topics as Promoting Speaking Skills, Exploring Grammar (my ones), Integrating Pronunciation and Blending Technology into the Classroom. The plenary lectures included topics such as CLIL, Contemporary English, Using Literature and Critical Thinking. A key aspect of the course is that we have a truly international learning community in which the teachers have the rare opportunity to meet, share experiences with and learn from colleagues from a wide range of teaching contexts, countries and cultures. This year, the 60 or so teachers came from over 30 countries, a record for the course. As always, this was for me a thoroughly enjoyable and inspiring two weeks and a great learning experience too. I must also mention my fellow tutors Adrian Underhill, Ed Dudley, Hania Kryszewska, Julie Moore and John Hughes - a great team. As well as my 'Exploring Grammar' workshops I also gave two lectures: ‘Aspects of Contemporary English’ and ‘Reaching Every Student in the Classroom: Dyslexia and Learning English’.


After a week away from Oxford and a short rest, I then started teaching a four-week EAP course at the University’s Worcester College. Each of Oxford's colleges has its own unique character and atmosphere and Worcester's is to me rather sedate and elegant. This is my first time teaching there. The course participants are all students from Kyoto University in Japan, who are here to get a taste of an academic environment outside their own, brush up their English and in particular develop their academic English skills. The students are a mix of undergraduates and post-graduates from a range of disciplines and in the afternoons they have lectures on an academic subject related to their studies and interests. The course is very usefully giving me the opportunity to try out for the first time the brand new Oxford EAP B1 level coursebook that I co-wrote and which was published just a few months ago. We are now one week in and so far so good.


The teaching at Worcester College is in quite some contrast to the teacher training at Exeter, but it's great to have the variety. And as my year-round teaching at the university is with mixed nationality classes, it's very useful to be able to keep my hand in at teaching a mono-lingual and mono-cultural group.


I’ll be taking a few days break from the course in a couple of weeks for a short visit to Romania to talk about grammar. But more about that later.


And here are a few of my favourite images from the summer so far.


Exeter College quad through the window of my teaching room
Exeter College quad through the window of my teaching room
The Inspector Morse prequel 'Endeavour' was being filmed around us
The Inspector Morse prequel 'Endeavour' was being filmed around us
Fellows' Garden, Exeter College
Fellows' Garden, Exeter College
The village green-esque quad at Worcester College
The village green-esque quad at Worcester College
The other side of the Worcester quad
The other side of the Worcester quad