Today I’m going to write about methodology and practical for English teachers, regarding methodology and practical tips for the English classroom. In today’s fast-moving and technological world, making good use of all the resources available can be a difficult task. At times, teachers may feel overwhelmed by the huge amount of online resources that are available such as websites, blogs, podcasts, e-books, images and video. Sometimes it can be impossible to know what to choose.
In order to make sense of it all, teachers may want to turn to practical methodology books for guidance. One well-established series is the Oxford University Press Resource Books for Teachers. For years, these practical handbooks have provided teachers with a wealth of activities and classroom ideas within a wide array of topics such as dictation, storybuilding, speaking, CLIL and exam preparation.
The latest addition to the series, a title that caught my attention recently, is Images, by Jamie Keddie. In this interview, Jamie Keddie talks to us a little about his life and his book.
1. Jamie, tell us a little about your life previous to teaching English. Where did you grow up and what’s your educational background?
Well, I grew up in Scotland – in and around the capital, Edinburgh. I did a degree in biochemistry at Aberdeen University in the north of Scotland. After that, I had a mini crisis because I realized that what I really wanted in life was to be a musician. So I went to Leeds College of Music in England and spent 4 years there. That led to my dream job – playing piano on a ship. But it only lasted a few weeks. Unfortunately, I played too much and started to get pains in my arms. It was tendonitis. The doctor told me to stop playing for 6 months. I didn’t know what to do with myself during that time so I did a TEFL course in Barcelona. That was in 2001. Nine years later, I’m still here in Spain. Unfortunately, I think I’ve forgotten how to play the piano.
2. Where did the idea of writing Images come from?
It’s quite strange really. When I first started teaching, I think that I was obsessed with texts. Perhaps this was something to do with my scientific background! Anyway, one day it occurred to me that my classes lacked almost any visual element. I found (as many teachers do) that when we combine words with pictures, the whole learning experience becomes more engaging, memorable and productive. So in a sense, the book is a reaction against the way I used to teach. To quote from it:
“Words and images are inseparable. We read or hear words and think of images. We see images and think of words. If we merely focus on one over the other, we will inevitably miss out on the full picture and in turn overlook learning and teaching opportunities.”
I should say that I am absolutely aware that this idea is not original. Language teachers have been using images for years.
3. So what parts of the book are original?
Well, I really like chapters 5 and 6, which look at image activities for teaching grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation (chapters 1 – 4 contain image activities for listening, reading, writing and speaking). Let me tell you a bit about them.
The activities in Chapter 5 re-examine an old favorite teaching aid – the picture flashcard. However, it has been given a technological makeover. You see, the images that we flash at our students can be digitally obtained, digitally stored and digitally displayed. No paper or card at all! So for the activities in chapter 5, we talk about Flash Images instead of flash cards.
Flash images are also different to picture flashcards because of the type of picture we use. Imagine a standard flashcard to teach the word dog. I’m sure you can imagine the type of thing that I am talking about – perhaps a cartoon dog that has been drawn especially for the classroom. Now compare that with the picture below:
The point is that the pictures we obtain from the Internet can be more funny, interesting, engaging and stimulating than the traditional picture flashcards that were created specifically for teaching language.
To find the above image, I typed the word ‘dog’ into Google Image site and looked for a good Image. For learners of English, an image search site can be regarded as the biggest picture dictionary the world has ever seen.
Chapter 6 deals with activities that get students drawing and creating their own picture flashcards. Teachers of young learners will probably be more familiar with this than teachers of teen and adults. But drawing is for everyone. Look at the three images below. They were created by two adult students of mine: Miguel and Roser.
“He wouldn’t have walked into the wall if had had looked where he was going.”
“I would have won the gold medal if I hadn’t been injured.”
Do you see the language point? It’s the third conditional. I took a few examples of this structure out of a course book – one for every student in the class – and wrote them on the blackboard. I then gave students pieces of scrap paper and asked them to choose a sentence to draw. In this activity, when a student decides what he/she is going to draw, he/she wipes the sentence from the board so that no one else can draw it. Finally, we put the images up around the classroom walls and number them. Students have to look around the ‘gallery’ and write down a third conditional for each picture. Can they remember the specific sentence? It is fun and it can be quite effective. This is an example of the type of activity in chapter 6. By the way, Roser and Miguel didn’t like the idea of drawing at first but now there’s no stopping them!
4. You also have a website, TEFLClips.com. Tell us how it works.
I am a bit of a YouTube addict and I use online video a lot in the classroom. Two years ago, I decided to create the website to share all these video lessons that I have written. There are now approximately 60 lesson plans. They can be downloaded on PDF and they are all free. The most recent one uses a funny phone call from the US comedy series Sienfeld: How to respond to a telemarketer:
5. Thanks very much Jamie
Thanks very much English Experts!
Jamie’s site: TEFLclip