Literacy

Making the Most of Classroom Libraries

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Being an English as a Second Language Learner myself, I have experienced the importance of promoting extensive reading in the classroom. This belief was later reinforced with my teaching experiences at all levels, and with my PhD work. Extensive reading should be a ‘must’ in any SL classroom, and it may be developed in many ways (see Day, 2002, to know his suggested top ten principles). In this article, I am dealing with one of my favourite resources: s, and how we can make the most of them in our classrooms. Let’s go!

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This is my map! Bilingual experience at the II Foro Nebrija (27th June 2012)

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CLIL teachers should find their ways (maps) into CLIL
CLIL teachers should find their ways (maps) into CLIL

It’s summer! This is a good time to have a rest, ‘reset the system’ and start thinking about what we would like to do in the new course. One of my summer resolutions is to devote more time to this blog, and to try to share resources, ideas and experiences I’ve used or had during the academic year which has just finished.

To start with, let me just make a quick comment one of the last Bilingual Events I have attended: the II Foro de Enseñanza Bilingüe at the Universidad Nebrija (Madrid). This is a yearly event which takes place during one day, and offers plenary sessions as well as parallel workshops for anyone interested in the field of Bilingual Education. This year I had the pleasure to contribute to this event on bilingual education as one of the plenary speakers. I would like to thank the Organisation Team (M. Teresa Martín, Marta Genís and their colleagues) for their kind invitation to contribute with my experience to this Foro.

My session focused was on the need to rethink Teacher Training University Degrees to fit the reality education is shaping right now, that is, we should work to train our students (future teachers) to be ready to meet the requirements of a highly-demanding professional profile. Obviously, I mentioned my experience as Coordinator of the Bilingual Project at the Escuela Universitaria Cardenal Cisneros, and the steps we have made in relation to three aspects: the training of University lecturers, Curriculum design and Research. I highlighted the importance of considering this situation both as a Challenge and as an Opportunity to improve the quality of education provided by Higher Education. You can find the powerpoint I used here.

From this II Foro I gathered that teachers are still trying to find out a magic recipe, some of them still demand for a single definition of CLIL that can fit any educational context. I’m afraid that this is not possible and, what is more, it can be dangerous. If CLIL is defined as an unique equation, we run the risk of discriminating those who try hard to innovate and be flexible with their students, provided they fulfill some basic quality standards. Even now, I see that there is a tendency to label teaching practices as CLIL and NON-CLIL at ease, highlighting the second one as non-professional. We should be aware of the dangers of this behaviour. If a teacher is honestly wondering if he’s CLIL-ing his classroom, we cannot react with horror. Asking ourselves about what we do and what we pursue with our teaching practices is part of our professional development, and it is precisely what leads us to change and to improve education. Wouldn’t it be better to say “This is what I do and how it works. Let’s share!”?

The second conclusion I drew from the Foro was the difficulties teachers are finding when a) assessing language and content in an integrated one, b) considering the role of literacy in their subject. Although I’ll try to give some clues in future posts to this blog, I’d like to advance that there is a need to increase collaborative work between content and language teachers. This hasn’t been articulated yet, but it is essential. The EFL subjects we know should be modified, as they cannot work as such in a bilingual context (they may work, but not as efficiently as they could). The role of the English subject has to be rethought and reshaped urgently if we want our bilingual projects to succeed.

To sum up, I found the Foro a good opportunity to exchange ideas and find out what teachers demand most. I really think we should shape in-service teacher training to make it closer to teachers’ reality, answering their questions and helping them find their way to CLIL. There isn’t only one “yellow brick road” to reach it, don’t feel afraid to say: This is my map!

Image taken from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

Towards a literacy-friendly CLIL classroom

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This is the title of the session I’ll be in charge of at the TESOL-Spain Convention to be celebrated in Bilbao. I’m really thankful to University of Dayton Publishing for sponsoring my talk and support my work in many ways. The materials UDP is introducing to the Spanish market through S.M. are really interesting, well-designed and suitable for CLIL contexts. I’ll be using some of them in my talk, and we’ll explore and discuss how literacy is being developed in early years (infant and first cycle education).

As always, I hope to share my experience with participants, get them involved in thinking and exploring ideas and resources, and learn from them ways to keep on helping them face the challenging CLIL classrooms.