Speak for IH... Shawn Severson, in Lisboa, Portugal

Shawn Severson from IH Porto spoke for IH at the APPI conference in Portugal.

Can we get into our students’ hearts?

This is precisely the topic I delved into on May 13th in my talk “To the Heart through Eyes and Ears with Authentic Materials” in Lisbon Portugal at the 36th Annual Associação Portuguesa de Professores de Inglês (APPI) conference, which this year had some 800 attending.

APPI is the Portuguese English teachers’ association, hosting this annual event where state school and language school teachers alike come together. This year’s conference was entitled “The (He)Art of Teaching” and so it focused on teaching development, as usual, along with the importance of empathy in the ESL classroom.

The short blurb for the talk tries to encapsulate in roughly 50 words what the talk aimed at:

Learning English requires eyes and ears, of course, but are we taking maximum benefit of making connections? And heart? Learning blossoms from classroom involvement, so bring in just a little “wow” to lessons, making it contagious. We’ll look at engaging activities to get through to your students’ hearts.

In the talk, we (some 150 teachers and I) explored several types of materials that can generate student engagement, working with affect to intersect with learning outcomes. During the talk, besides exploring the meaning of empathy and why it was important, we viewed how we could use Project Zero’s “See, Think, Wonder” framework when viewing videos, using as an example the video Watermelon: A Cautionary Tale.

Along with this, we explored another video and a book, both with emotional aspects and how they could be used in the classroom. To wrap up, we finished off with a project that we’ve done at IH Porto, called “Small Kindnesses”, based on a NY Times poem, which is a student-generated poem, appearing in the NY Times after having been shaped by the poet, Danusha Laméris.

Essentially, this project of emotional engagement, empathy and metaphorical thinking starts off with an Iranian short film entitled Hesitation. After viewing, students could state what kind gestures were shown in the video, using the idea “Kindness is….”. Then later, after having their sentences together, students would remove the phrase “Kindness is” to make verses similar to the NY Times poem. Looking at the poem, students could see how they could create something meaningful and inspiring. Only after creating original ideas would students read part of the poem. After going through the steps, examples from IH Porto were shared, encouraging other schools to take up the project for themselves. To finish off the talk, a bit of fun was had with a short music trivia game, where teachers were to name the titles of the songs and later find out what all had in common, which was “Heart”.

One second of my 15 minutes of fame can be seen in the conference video at 1:59.