A few thoughts about Pre-sessional EAP courses

I have been teaching English as a foreign language for about 20 years now and English for academic purposes for the past six summers. My EAP teaching experience amounts to 56 weeks of approximately 20 contact hours per week. I enjoy spending my summers in the UK and teaching EAP. My learners are mostly Asian post graduate students who have conditional offers from their departments.

What I like about these courses

They are in the UK which means it’s a working holiday for me. The money is good and you meet teachers and students from all around the world.

The induction weeks/ days are very informative and you have a chance to share/ exchange views about the best practices.

The material used, the classrooms and teaching resources are up to date. Really good stuff. Wouldn’t expect less as I do teach in a university  building.

The lessons challenge me.. I learn and I think that is very important.If you have been teaching for 100 years like me, you do need something new and EAP is that for me.

What I don’t like

Some courses are over ambitious and a lot of EAP stuff is crammed in ten/ six weeks. I understand this, but it doesn’t mean I like it. Pre-sessional EAP courses give the term intense/intensive a whole new meaning.

When I go home, I am beat. No energy for nada. It’s like my brain is on snooze. There have actually been cases where I felt my brain hurt. Literally. So much that I needed paracetamol and coffee to keep going, especially during tutorials.

EAP course designers design courses assuming that students know basic English sentence structures, which they do…. and don’t. We expect students to be able to write an academic essay/ research paper/ long essay and some of them don’t even know how to write a simple Subject Verb Object sentence. I have read loads of gibberish over the years as students attempt to write complex sentences. They ain’t complex folks. They do make my life complicated though. That’s a fact. Again.  I understand that my students probably have a 5.5-6.5 writing score in Ielts

but that means nothing cause every coin has two sides and the whole Ielts as part of a uni entrance requirement is a hot topic (do the words in bold remind you of anything?)

I really really struggle with the stripping of anything EFL during EAP courses. I definitely think that going back to basics for a few sessions will benefit and not harm students even if this is an EAP course and we gotta be EAP-ish.Luckily, I do have opportunities during sessions to go back to basics (but not as much as I’d like to).

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Picture credits to Marina D.

 

Having said that though, I love seeing the progress students make, especially when you go from the first draft of something to the final draft. How students do this blows my mind!! Hard workers these EAP kids.

No teaching context is perfect and there is always something that needs improving. Sixth EAP course done, moving on to course number seven.

What do you think? What do you love and what do you dislike about these courses? Feel free to share your thoughts in the section below.

Talk soon.

Jo

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Using Google docs for pronunciation practice

 Hi everyone,
I am back. Kinda. I started writing this post but never managed to finish it. Today I did. So………….
Once again, good ideas shared in the staff room. This time the ideas had to do with pronunciation. The other day, Vicky was talking about pronunciation and Steve mentioned a few ideas on activities that would help our learners (99% Asian) improve their pronunciation. So, that’s what we are going to talk abouttoday. This post is probably going to be short and sweet.
Music Department

Sheffield University ( Department of Music)

Using Google Docs

Yeap. You read correctly. Why not use the microphone feature on Google dos to get your learners to become aware of any problems they have with pronunciation. How? Tell them to read a sentence in front of their pc and use the microphone feature. The feature will type what they are saying and if they are not saying something correctly, it will not show the word.
My Asian students had difficulty with the sounds (v) and (w), so I wrote words on the white board and told them to practice saying them and use the moicrophone feature. They did and my students told me that they realised that what they were saying was not recognised by the Google doc thingy, which made them want to practice more!
Do you use Google docs to teach/ practice pronunciation? What else do you use it for? Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section below. That’s all for now and don’t forget to connect with me somehow, somewhere.

Speed Citations

The great thing about staff rooms is that they are excellent place to hear about a task and then use it in your class, so that’s what I am going to share with you today. A cool task on citations/ referencing.You can do this with your learners if you teach EAP or writing classes that require research and referencing. My colleague John, who works at the ELTC at Sheffield University, told me about this one, so shout out to him. I did change it a bit though.

Speed citations

I had already introduced citations and students were familiar with what they need to do when citing a source in their texts, but there was still a bit of uncertainty.  How does this task work? Students need to find the author and date of a publication as quickly as possible and write it down as they would do in in-text citations.

Procedure

  • Give your students one publication/source each. If you have 12 students, you need 12 sources. I used books, journal articles, and a newspaper (I told them that one of the sources could not be used in their academic writing projects and that’s why the newspaper was in it. My students are not journalists and the newspaper was the Metro paper which is a free paper).
  • Put students in a circle and tell them that they only need a piece of paper and a pen.
  • Each student has about 30 seconds to find the author and the date of the source and write it down as they would as part of their in-text citation.
  • After the 30 seconds, students give their source to the person next to them and move on to the next source. This is done clockwise.
  • At the end, give them a couple of minutes to check what they have written on their paper and make necessary corrections.
  • In order to check their answers, each student comes to the board and writes what they have written. One source per student.
Music Department

Sheffield University ( Department of Music)

My thoughts

Why is this a good task?
This was a follow up task, something like a revision which brought the element of ‘fun’ into my ‘dry’ academic writing classes. Students, especially Asian learners, struggle when it comes to identifying the difference between a first name and a family name. They also don’t know where to look for the date or which date they should put in their texts. Learners had a bit more fun cause this was like a game.
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So, there you have it folks. Speed citations. If you are looking for more fun ideas, you may want to have a look at the calling all EAP tutors post and specifically the comments section.

Getting adult learners involved in peer- feedback for writing

So, today’s post is about using peer- feedback in the classroom. This post was originally written for the TESOL Greece Newsletter (issue 127) and since I will be doing peer feedback with my learners on Monday as part of my academic writing class, I thought it would be a  good idea to share that article here as well. So, let’s talk about peer feedback.

Feedback is a way for teachers to make suggestions on students’ written work and help their learners improve (Harmer, 2013). An alternative way to give feedback for writing is to get the students to peer-review and offer feedback. Peer-assessment does not replace traditional assessment but it does enhance the learning process (Topping 1998, cited in Peng).  But before moving on, what exactly is peer-assessment? It is:

an arrangement in which individuals consider the amount, level, value, worth, quality, or success of the products or outcomes of learning of peers of similar status.

                                          (Topping, 1998, cited in Peng 2010)

This feedback method works well with all learners, but especially adults. Therefore, getting learners to provide peer-feedback in an EAP, Business or any other type of English lesson aimed at adults is very beneficial. This article discusses why peer-feedback for writing can play an integral part in the everyday classroom routine and makes suggestions regarding different tasks a teacher ca use in class in order to encourage peer-feedback.

Why Peer-feedback?

There are many reasons why a teacher should encourage adult learners to give peer-feedback. Firstly, it promotes active learning as learners have to think about another student’s work. It helps build trust among students and is also a way to get students to co-operate and collaborate.

Why not peer-feedback?

It may affect the ‘balance’ between the teacher and the learner                                    (Gardner, 2000) as traditionally it is the teacher who provides the feedback and not the learner. The learners may not feel comfortable or may even feel unwilling to mark other students’ work. They might also be too generous and do ‘friendly marking’ which means that they are more interested in the fact that they are marking their friends’ work and not so much in the actual feedback.

While all these are quite ‘valid’ reasons why a teacher might avoid peer-feedback in the classroom, surely with lots of training, good monitoring on behalf of the teacher, and a constant reminder of why peer-feedback is necessary and how helpful it can be, both the learners and the teacher can benefit a lot from using the alternative feedback method.

Tasks that promote peer-feedback

There are lots of tasks that can be used in the language classroom in order to get the students to peer-assess. As the purpose of the article is to promote peer-feedback among adults, the activities chosen, are more appropriate for mature learners.

Using rubrics/checklists

When a teacher first introduces the idea of peer-feedback, it is essential that this is done in a more controlled manner. The teacher can make a checklist or provide rubrics according to which the student gives feedback to his/her classmate’s work. If the group is quite weak, instead of providing feedback on grammar, learners could be asked to check if their classmate has a thesis statement or if there is a main idea in each paragraph and so on. Another good idea is to get learners in groups of four and form a feedback reading circle where each student gets feedback from the three other members of the group.

Reformulation

Reformulation is when the student hands in a piece of writing and the teacher reformulates the original with a better version. Instead of the teacher providing a better version, it can be the learners who are providing the improved version of their classmate’s work.

To conclude….

Peer-feedback involves ‘’students in their own destiny’’ and encourages autonomy as well as motivates them even more (Brown 2004, cited in Peng 2010). It can be a very useful feedback method for every teacher as long as it is monitored and planned well. It will probably never replace teacher feedback but it is a method that can be used to get adult learners more involved in their work.

How often do you use peer feedback in your adult classes? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

References

Gardner, D. (2000). ‘’Self–assessment for autonomous learners.’’ Links and letters: Hong Kong p.40-60.

Harmer, J. (2013). The Practice of English Language Teaching. China: Pearson.

Peng, J (2010). Selected Proceedings of the 2008 Second Language Research Forum, ed. Matthew T. Prior et al., 89-107. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Proceedings Project.

Calling all EAP techers

So, today I am feeling inspired cause well, I have been feeling a bit uninspired lately especially when it comes to EAP writing. So, today you, my readers/fellow teachers are going to share with me your top tips. How on earth do you make your academic writing classes interesting and fun when teaching in an EAP context and especially if it is an intense pre- sessional EAP class?cam building

My context: a group of post grad Asian students who are having sessions in order to be ready for their master’s degree in September. I have loads of academic ‘stuff’ to go through and not that much time. Sure I do my pair writing, my peer feedback, I try to integrate more skills and introduce a summary writing task based on a speaking task. I say a few jokes, I may even offer a chocolate or something for the best writing but that’s about it. I bore my students to death and I get bored myself ( there. I said it).

So, how do you do it? So, take off your fun EFL teacher hat and put on your EAP cap and tell me what you do. How do you make academic writing less boring? The comments section is all yours..

Thanks!!

Drawings in the EAP classroom (my Iatefl presentation)

Hi everyone,

Today’s post is a video. It is my Iatefl (Birmingham) presentation.Un fortunately, I was unable to go to Iatefl, so I thought I’d make a voiceover video.  My talk is about using drawings when teaching academic writing.

Before watching please keep in mind:

  • My presentaion was part of the forum on academic writing and it needed to be 15 mnutes long.
  • My abstract stated that I was going to also talk a bit about presentations and how to use drawings there, but I decided to only briefly touch upon that as this forum was about academic writing.
  • Even if you do not teach academic writing, you can still use some of these drawings in your classroom.
  • I was nervous!

So, I hope enjoy the video and feel free to leave a question, comment in the comments section below.

Thanks for watching.

Joanna

Iatefl here I come!

Hi everyone!

I just though I’d pop in and write a quick post about my Iatefl talk and maybe entice you to come by. So,

What’s my talk about?

The main focus is on academic writing, as my talk is part of the forum on academic writing (but my drawings can be adapted for any writing class).

I will talk about using drawings in the EAP classroom. In my classrooms both the teacher and the learner draw. There will be a bit of ‘research talk’ but most of the talk will be about practical  classroom stuff.

I will tell you why I draw and what I draw during my presessional EAP sessions.

I will ask you (yeap, you) to draw too.

When is my talk?

Thursday the 14th at 10:25  Session 2.1. Hall 10b

I hope I see you there or anywhere at the conference!! By the way, I will be blogging about Iatefl hopefully from Birmingahma as well, so stay tuned!!

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Nope, this is not my presentation, just a random pic 🙂

 

 

Thanks for stopping by.

Joanna