Welcome to Issue 45!
Welcome to the 45th edition of the International House Journal. We’ve been busy in IHJ Towers putting this latest edition together for you and I’d like to start with a big thank you to all out writers. We have a highly practical, yet thoughtful, collection of articles from committed teachers keen to experiment and share their ideas. There will be something for everyone in the following pages and I hope you enjoy reading.
We start with three articles about younger learners (YLs). Regular columnist Xana de Nagy pulls some rabbits out of hats by sharing some tried and tested favourite activities, as well as some sources for new ideas. New to the Journal, Amy Gower follows up with her tips for new YL teachers, something Claire Elliot picks up by moving the focus to VYLs. All three pieces are good to read for new and experienced practitioners alike and would make good additions to set reading on training courses such as CELTA or your in-house IHCYLT.
Moving on from younger learners to adults, we have a bumper and varied Classroom Ideas section this time. New writers Beci Green and Luisa Cecchinato share their ideas for what to do if teaching in a particularly large space, reporting on their experiences at IH Torres Vedras. Though discussing teen classes, their ideas are germane to younger learners or adults alike. Dana Taylor takes things from the classroom to the computer and back to the classroom again with a well-researched yet accessible look at using electronic concordancers in class. There are good ideas to try here but, as I mentioned to Dana in private correspondence, my one lament about concordancers is that the websites for researching them, such as the excellent LexTutor, often have dated or difficult to navigate interfaces (with notable exceptions, e.g. www.just-the-word.com). This will certainly put off younger teachers brought up with web 2.0 and smart phones, as well as those of a more mature vintage unused to working with computers, and is something developers aiming at teachers would do well to consider.
Continuing in the classroom, returning writer Maria Conca reports on her experience of using storytelling in class, having a devised a storytelling syllabus herself, and shares a number of ideas to take into your classroom tomorrow. Tatsiana Khudayerka, another writer making her Journal bow, writes about a related topic: communicative competence. These two articles pair well and Tatsiana’s piece would certainly be a good starting point for candidates exploring speaking as part of their preparations for Delta Module 1 or 2. I have already added it and Maria’s to my Delta reading list to help candidates understand some theory and spark some ideas for speaking lessons.
From the classroom to the Director of Studies’ office, Sandy Millin follows up her last piece with part two of her series on working with new teachers. Sandy takes the approach of noting the types of things that novice teachers say and then providing her advice to them. Such advice could be very useful post-CELTA or as part of induction of less experienced teachers in your school.
Our Modern Languages article this time is on receptive skills lesson shapes and is written in Russian by Andriy Ruzhynskiy. Andriy is an experienced teacher and trainer, and his contributions are always welcome in the Journal, be they in English or Russian. Russian-speaking teachers of English should also find some food for thought here, so do share with any you know.
In our Teacher’s Voices section, Helen Rountree’s first article for the Journal is a fascinating, practical and compassionate piece about working with a Visually Impaired Person (VIP) for the first time. Helen talks us through the challenges, the learner’s desire to be treated no differently to anyone else, and the classroom activities she tried as she did her best to incorporate the VIP with as little disruption for her (the VIP) as possible. This is not a topic much written about and so I am delighted Helen took the time to write up her experiences for us all to learn from. We also have James Egerton returning with his take on the importance of teacher cultural competence for those peripatetic teachers amongst us, and first-time writer Anna Golc rounds off the section with her views on the importance of English as Lingua Franca (ELF). Anna looks back to her own experience as an English language learner, something many readers might relate to, and fast-forwards to her life as an English language teacher. In so doing, she provides an interesting personal reflection on her developing ideas.
Our final classroom section is exams and regular columnist David Petrie, who offers a more personal take on exam teaching this time. David’s articles are always thought-provoking and this one is no different, as he muses on his own development as an exam teacher. Taking some key points in exam teaching, David looks at how he’s come to understand these over the years and the implications for teaching.
Last but not least, Will Greenwood reviews How Languages Are Learned (Nation and Webb), a new book in the OUP Handbooks for Language Teachers series. Will’s review is thoughtful and accessible, and he writes from the point of view of a teacher who found the book useful. If you’re considering developing your teaching of lexis, you could do much worse than start with Will’s review here.