In the week that will culminate in the ISTEK conference in Istanbul, I’m going to post four new guest blogs. The first and last of these will be by people who are presenting at the conference. On Thursday, my guest will be Nik Peachey, and first up to get the ball rolling is Mike Harrison.
Mike is an ESOL teacher based in South London. I met Mike and some other ESOL types – Amanda Wilson, Caroline Wilkinson and Phil Bird – at the British Council, where they’ve been working on a project to find ESOL uses for the BC website material.
Using drawing, images and sounds
At times in teaching, as in any pursuit really, it can be useful to reflect on how we’re doing what we’re doing. Especially so if we notice that something fundamental may have changed in comparison with our previous practice.
That’s what happened to me in my journey towards using drawing, images and sound in the classroom.
Let me take you back.
I am about 8 years old. My dad works as a media resources officer at a secondary school in south east London. He also has a fairly small-time artwork business with my uncle, aunt and a couple of friends. And he also fronts a rockabilly band with my uncle and two friends, sometimes singing rock numbers at open mic nights on Fridays.
I grow up surrounded by odd-looking drawings, and photos of my dad as an Elvis Presley-a-like, thinking this is totally uncool.
A few years go by. I start listening to my dad’s band, Vern Vain and the Blue Vains (unfortunately not available on iTunes), playing at birthdays and other family gatherings.
At some point, I know my dad does some work with Makers (his art business) for McDonalds or Burger King in Piccadilly; I also see a caricature of Tommy Cooper and this one below that he does for The Idler.
Fast forward a few years. I borrow my dad’s Vern Vain jacket, a blazer painted with a tiger stripe pattern, to wear for the last day of sixth form. I ask my dad to play for my 21st birthday.
Two days after the London underground is bombed (July 7th 2005), I turn 21. As I’m a little drunk (ok – quite drunk), the party is a great occasion, and I think everyone has a good time. I cock up the little speech I find myself delivering, forgetting to thank all those people I should have (to any of them who are reading this, I apologise).
Sometime between these two periods, my dad teaches me a party game where you draw a character in four parts, with different people drawing different parts of the character.
2010: I have qualified as a teacher, spent a year working at a pretty difficult place in Spain – not through any major malpractice, but rather as the conditions that sadly seem the norm for many newly qualified EFL teachers – and come back to teach in my hometown, London.
I find myself turning back in time for inspiration. I am more interested in using songs and music in the classroom; not rockabilly – well, I haven’t used rockabilly in the language classroom YET.
Whenever I can, I try to use drawing and pictures, or drawing games, to improve my teaching. Not all the time, but whenever I feel it can enhance an activity, or hopefully motivate my students, or provide them with something useful in the classroom.
These tools and tricks might have been sparked by the engaged bunch of TEFLers I find myself surrounded by in this crazy online connected world, but I like to think that they were already there somewhere. I didn’t become a great artist or singer, I became a teacher with what I think are a few useful tricks up my sleeves.
What if you want to do some drawing?
Always, always, always take a good supply of coloured pencils and paper (blank preferably, but if it has to be lined, so be it). I think this is useful whether you are teaching students aged 15 or 50. A pencil sharpener and eraser are also recommended.
What activities can you do or make better with drawing?
Simply drawing new vocabulary and making student-generated flash cards is a really good practice to get into. Simply tear or cut an A4 piece of paper into quarters, write the vocab you are looking at on one side of the cards. Check the vocab or teach it to your students, then ask them to draw a picture to represent the word or phrase on the other side. This idea is one of a number of fab suggestions by Jamie Keddie [www.jamiekeddie.com] in his book Images [http://elt.oup.com/catalogue/items/global/teacher_development/resource_books_for_teachers/9780194425797?cc=global&selLanguage=en].
An activity I have done could be called something like ‘sentence to picture and back again’. It goes like this:
Give each student a piece of paper and ask them to write a simple sentence (I have done this by asking them to write one activity they did at the weekend). They should keep this simple – something like ‘I played football.’
They then hand their piece of paper to the student on their left. Make sure that each student now has a different piece of paper to the one they had before. They should now draw a small picture below the sentence to illustrate the activity. They should leave a gap between the sentence and their drawing.
They then fold over the paper so the sentence can’t be seen and you only see the picture. The paper is then passed on to another student who has to try and make the sentence from the picture.
Then they unfold the paper to see if they got the correct sentence.
Mike Harrison blogs at www.mikejharrison.com