Hi. I hope you’re all safe and well.
From a personal pont of view, I’ve found this Coronavirus pandemic to be both a revelation and a nightmare. Although I lost my job recently and have undergone big lifestyle changes, this period has allowed me the time and space time to think and reflect, which I hadn’t really done for a long time.
As a languages teacher, I have always wanted to write a book about language learning, but I was initially put off by the thousands of language books already out there and wondered what I could possibly write about which would have any bearing or impact.
I am and always have been passionate about languages not as a means to an end but as a gateway for further learning and as a tool for achieving an unlimited possibilities. However, my experience of teaching languages in the British educational system has left me with a slightly sour taste in my mouth. Languages are no longer compulsory in most British schools at GCSE and I feel the exams are rather narrow in their focus in terms of what they are asking students to do, and where the exams themselves have been dumbed-down. In short, the prevailing mood in recent years in Britain has been that of failing to prioritize languages on a national level. This is a real travesty as languages are hugely important for the way we conduct ourselves outwardly across the globe in terms of not only ecomomic harmony but also our shared cultural identity.
This void has left me looking back towards a time when languages were at least thought of in a more positive way by our governments.
On a personal level, I distinctly recall my days as a young EAL teacher when there at least appeared to be a wider scope for more ‘dynamic’ learning than in mainstream education probably because the teaching in language schools allows for more ‘creativity’ and experimentation than in mainstream education, where arguably, there is more focus on results at the expense of creativity and fun learning. This is a great shame because learning a language can be hugely fun and rewarding.
This got me thinking more about what my students really enjoy and about the content of some of my most successful and enjoyable lessons. From my experience, everybody loves a good story. This is nothing new and has been passed down for thousands of years when our ancestors were sitting around camp fires keeping warm at night. Despite the fact that people probably read less than before, people still love a good story whether it be in book or in film format. For example, it is no surprise that Hollywood, in a more recent attempt to claw back viewers who had been deserting the cinema for a long time in their droves, resorted to making old-fashioned blockbuster movies such as Moses, because at least they have a good storyline.
Seeing as good stories can be so appealing, I have decided to write a fundamentally exam-based, language course-book centered around a story rather than on individual and rather perscriptive topics, which is normally the case in traditional language-based text books. This particular book is more than just a Graded-Reader. It contains skills-based exercises and activities for B2 EAL exams – IGCSE, B2 First and IELTS. It is probably best used either in class as a support and it lends itself well to pairwork activities or it can be followed by individual students who need to sharpen up their English skills.
The book, known as The Bracelet, is a student coursebook which follows the storyline of a thriller, and will be coming out on Amazon in January 2021 in paperback version. There will be an e-version of this book coming out soon after.
I shall be writing my monthly blog here and will be looking specifically at how good stories can help improve students’ language and study skills and can help make the learning process a more enjoyable experience.
Happy New Year! Stay safe and see you in January.