I recently started a job which for two days of each week calls for me to ‘teach’ EAL 3 (Access) – in which there are three groups of students who started at different times, EAL 3 (Employment) and EAL 4 (Access) – in which there seem to be ridiculously irrelevant assessments.
I have never worked so hard for so little pay, and have never before seen looks on the faces of my dear students which tell me they have seen it all before –I am the third trainer to take over ‘teaching’ this class.
Back in 2013 when life was a lot easier, I was asked to teach two certificated courses within the one classroom. I likened it then to spinning plates. Little did I know …
They are delightful students in their own rights. They each have their strengths and they seem to be very aware of their current limitations. Two of these students have severe lower back pain and so their attendance is not always above 80 per cent. I feel for them having had bad sciatica back in the mid-1990s. I do wonder why job search networks continue to thrust these students forth into English classes.
I put the word ‘teach’ in speech marks because teaching and almost any pre-teaching has gone out the window. And facilitating? Forget it. Every day is assessing because we are playing catch up. There were the holidays, then the different teachers, then one teacher had to fly back to her country for a family emergency. So we are playing catch up. And these students only come two days a week. I liken it to trying to force an uncut loaf of bread in through the neck of a Coke bottle.
But because it has been ten years since I launched myself as an English language trainer, and am now of the opinion that students to need to constantly listen to the language they want to improve, and then practice it, I make sure listening and speaking take front and centre, accompanied by the grammar that explains the semantic errors my students make in their speaking. I have even got out my old CSWE 3 Student book and am going to copy pages from the complex conversations unit.
I want to do well by these students. I want to impress upon them that they can be anything they want to be. But at the moment, we have assessments to get through, but – I’m still going to fit in listening and speaking.
Types of student? Or types of programmes?
ELICOS students generally attend an RTO (Registered Training Organisation) for a set program which lasts a certain number of weeks. Course books used include such British texts as Speak Out. In my experience, the main reason why a student signs up for an ELICOS course is to be able to extend their time in this country. Occasionally, you will get an RTO whose teaching program for their international students is an accredited course. In those cases students will sign on to study from the EAL Framework at levels such as EAL 1, EAL 2, 3 or 4 or from the CSWE Curriculum – Certificate 1 in Spoken and Written English, or Certificate Two, Three or Four but this is becoming rarer. Generally ELICOS students use a British course book and have regular tests.
The other type of student is the migrant who is a person in the community who has, at least, PR, (Permanent Residency). This means they will have a Medicare Card, and often a Health Care Card. These sorts of students are usually heavily subsidised by the government when they study English, so it costs them very little to go to English class. A lot of RTOs who have a heavy migrant intake teach courses from the EAL Framework. But some still teach from the CSWE Curriculum, and I would agree that at least Units 1 to 7 in Cert 1 in Spoken and Written English book are excellent for low level speakers of English. Among other things, these units address pronunciation, which is something the EAL Framework is lagging behind in, although with the introduction of Course in Initial EAL and Course in EAL there is evidence to suggest that this is beginning to change…
I’ve been teaching from the EAL Framework for a number of years and have recognised that it is made up of units which contain a number of elements. Of these elements come performance criteria, in which many of the words are bolded. Next, there’s the Required Knowledge & Skills section which is basically all the grammar that s to be covered for that unit. Then there is the Range Statement which gives further explanation of what those bolded words are referring to. And finally there is Evidence Guide which lists the least aspects of knowledge the student should have in order to pass this unit.
Occasionally, when I have been at a loss as what to do to fill a slot in my lesson planning, I go to the Required Knowledge and Skills section of the unit we are studying and look what grammar we need to cover while doing that unit and create a worksheet. For instance, just recently we have been doing a unit on transport, so I went to the R K & S part of VU22608 and decided we’d look at ”colloquial language related to transport.” From this, I created a matching exercise, did some vocabulary teaching, a concept check, a scanning exercise, a reading for detail exercise, and a spelling quiz,
The framework can be a bit of a goldmine.
If students hear something again and again chances are what they are hearing will eventually stick.
I ask my students to remember the time they learned to ride a bike. At first they will fall off or be unsteady, but the next time they get on the bike they will have a bit more confidence, and be a bit steadier. And if they try each day to get better and better, they will develop muscle memory. So to get good at something you need to repeat, repeat, repeat, which is known as practise, practise, practise.
Not all students are visual learners, not all are kinaesthetic learners and so on.
So you need to be thinking that if you tell students something you should also show them, and then get them to practise that thing.
Don’t praise but encourage your students.
Many students strive to be 100 % correct. But remind them learning is about making mistakes and learning from them. I still get students, after an exercise, admit to me rather sheepishly that they got 2 wrong, and the feel guilty about admitting that. I tell them over and over that that is OK and that making mistakes is a good thing. But many of my students are often from difficult backgrounds and simply want strokes which, you know, is also understandable.