Teacher Professional Development Languages (TPDL)

‘Another language opens up a whole new window on the world. It might be small and difficult to see through at first, but it gives you a different perspective, and it might make you realise that your first window could do with a bit of polishing and even enlarging.’ 

(Hone Tuwhare, Die Deutsche Sprache und Ich, NZCTE, Goethe Institut, circa 1997)

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Newmarket School is committed to their Chinese students retaining their Chinese language skills and (as for all students) developing literacy skills in both Chinese and English, while also valuing the learning of Te Reo Maori.

Wendy Kofoed (Principal) and Virginia Kung (Deputy Principal) have attended Principals Delegations to China with the Confucius Institute previously, and this helped them to understand the contexts that new students from China are coming from. (Virginia herself is a heritage speaker of Cantonese and grew up in New Zealand.) The school has had school delegations from Singapore and is developing a sister-school relationship in Ningbo.

I  am a bi-lingual Samoan and English speaker and have early stage proficiency in Dutch, French, Maori and Japanese. I am a TESOL trained teacher and have led a Samoan Bilingual Team and taught Samoan. I have traveled to China twice in the past three years and this year I took up the challenge to learn Chinese and lead the teaching of Chinese at Newmarket School. Currently I am the ALLiS (Asian Language Learning in Schools programme) Lead Teacher. I am also a learning concierge for the Flat Connections Project, observing how students and teachers between Australia, China and New Zealand are communicating using Wechat, a mobile text and voice messaging communication service, as well as other online forms of communication.

Newmarket School has had Mandarin Language Assistants from the Confucius Institute for five years, and are aiming for continued sustainability with me having a lead role and giving support to the junior classroom teachers as they increasingly take over more of the teaching of Chinese. This year I not only had support from Parent Language Assistants but also community members who taught Mandarin in the middle and senior school. Chinese lessons are run after school and are coordinated by the parent community.

Recently I completed TPDL (Teacher Professional Development Languages), a Ministry-funded one year programme. The programme supports teachers by providing them with Language Study. When I stood up to receive my graduation certificate my principal and deputy principal rushed up with an ‘ula lole’ as an acknowledgment of their support. Now those of you in school know how important it is to have support in the work you do and I have certainly had that this year from Wendy and Virginia. 

support

As part of the TPDL programme I have been taking a weekly Mandarin class at Unitec Institute of Technology and passed HSK Level 1. I must mention here two amazing year 5 students who gave me 30 minutes of Mandarin practice each week. I listen to my colleagues in my Mandarin class speaking about how challenging it is to find people to practice with and I have had this extra luxury.screen-shot-2016-11-26-at-6-37-32-am

All students and teachers at our school have had  Chinese lessons this year. I teach in the Junior School and during my In-School Support Visits I was observed teaching a New Entrant class and working with their teacher and also teaching a combined large group with a total of 55 junior school students and three teachers. These students were be grouped to learn with me or with the other two teachers with whom we work cooperatively. Within the large group students were grouped into advanced/heritage speakers, a middle group and an emergent group. However with TPDL training this learning has shifted to more across grouping so that students can  also learn with and from each other. Students chant and sing together at the beginning and end of lessons and also break up to work in their groups. After each observation an In-School Support Facilitator discussed my lesson in order to support me in my language teaching. These In-School Support Visits took place each term and I found them valuable for reflection and identifying my next steps. Thank you to Andrea, Sarah, Reubina and the children of Te Ako Kowhai for allowing me to come into your class each week and work with your children. 

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I frequently teach through songs and chants.  I have aimed for the students to replace words in songs to change the meaning of the sentence. This year I presented several times in order to share my learning and to help with reflection.

First of all I presented at the NZALT (New Zealand Association of Language Teachers) conference in Nelson in July. Here is a link to my presentation. Then I presented at  the Chinese Language Teacher’s Conference. Next I presented to the Auckland Ningbo sister school principals conference. After that I was invited by Julie Lindsay to share on a Global Education Panel Discussion during the 12online conference.  Finally I shared my inquiry in front of my colleagues as part of the TPDL assignments inquiry to the TPDL.

The whole school has Chinese lessons and recently more and more responsibility now rests with class teachers as they take over teaching Mandarin in class. I have created a chinese blog and use it to highlight my lessons. While our teachers have great heart in teaching languages they have had some anxieties about teaching Mandarin as non-native speakers, they feel that this is specialist work. They are more competent and capable of ensuring students have cultural competencies in Mandarin. Myself? I can totally empathise with this and for this year have the TPDL team to thank for supporting me in my journey of knowing first hand what it is like to walk in my learners shoes by learning and teaching a new language.

I am beginning to utilise across school connections from lead teacher observations. For example I learnt a lot from Cornwall Park School and Meadowbank School by observing how their teachers teach Mandarin. 

Some of the highlights for me this year have been

Chinese Language Week link to photos and videos.

  • Confucius – sent in artists
  • Asia New Zealand (applied for and won funding)
  • Having Lily Lee share with us.

Hosting our sister school and when the Children returned to China we continued communication via wechat. Then I was asked to present at theNingbo-Auckland Education Association (NAEA) conference. This years conference theme was“Connecting Learners” and the aim was to further strengthen existing ties between sister schools in Ningbo, China and Auckland, New Zealand.

naea

Passing HSK level1.

hsk-results

Learning to use WeChat for making connections with external agencies and some of our parents.

Some of the unexpected spinoffs have been forming closer relationships with parents and children. 

Overall taking part in the TPDL programme has allowed me to reflect on myself as a learner and as a teacher. The year is nearly over and I am so looking forward to some quiet time. I have learnt a lot about myself and I have learnt a lot about the children and their families that I work with. Learning other languages enables our children to practice the key competencies of “relating to others” and “managing self” while developing a strong sense of their cultural identity.

Finally I must mention here our own Ministry of Education who fund this  in-service year-long professional development programme. The programme combines language study, second language acquisition pedagogy, and in-school support to enable effective language teaching. I believe that all teachers who teach children learning English should apply for TPDL. The papers can count towards the Graduate Diploma of TESSOL.  I really liked the course because it reminded me how hard the journey is for our learners and reminded me that language learning is all about Whanaungatanga. 

New Zealand Chinese Language Week

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Newmarket School recently celebrated its first Chinese Language Week. In New Zealand Chinese is the fourth-largest ethnic speaking group. However at Newmarket School it is our largest group. Our school is nearly one third Chinese and we wanted to celebrate who we are.

As a school we promoted Chinese language and culture through a range of activities. Students were involved in several events such as calligraphy, traditional Chinese games, making and cooking dumplings, investigating and creating Chinese art, eating Mooncakes, and a celebration assembly. Our children also used WeChat to talk to a kindergarten and then our sister school in China.

We had a special day on Wednesday when children were invited to celebrate their own culture by wearing traditional dress. We asked for a gold coin donation to help with the publication of a student created book telling the story of Chang E. I am still working on this with our children.

Friday was a special day for us because the youngest members of our school led our assembly. The whole school had been learning songs and a dance that we incorporated into our assembly. Mandarin has been identified by our school community as being important. So much so that we offer after school classes in addition to the language being taught in all our classes.

We have undertaken this journey because our Ministry of Education research shows that Mandarin is an upcoming global language. I also know from experience that learning a second language contributes to literacy skills in our children’s first language. As a school we are part of the Asian Language Learning in Schools (ALLiS). Therefore I am a student of Mandarin and am teaching the language to our five and six year olds.

The week long events highlighted our Chinese students and chance for them to step up and be leaders. At the same time many of our senior school students stepped up too and led morning tea game activities and supported many of the in class art activities.

We were one of the lucky schools to receive funding from the Asia New Zealand Foundation to hold events. This funding was used to purchase art equipment and Chinese food ingredients for our children.

We also had Lily Lee as a guest speaker who shared her book Sons of the Soil and told us stories of her time at Newmarket School.  Confucius Institute Auckland supported us with a guest calligrapher and support team who shared his skills with us. In addition we were most fortunate to have parents who gave time to share their skills too.

For clearer photos, do visit our school’s facebook page.

Where to next?

This coming weekend I have been invited to share our story at the Oceania Chinese Language Conference. Here is a link to my slides.

Our junior classes will continue to flatten their walls of learning as we take part in the Flat Connections Project beginning in term 4. The project is called K-2 Building Bridges to Tomorrow. We will be working with schools from around the world as we connect, collaborate and share our learning together. One way of doing this is using WeChat and all our junior school teachers are signed up and on board.

Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up

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Introduction

Yesterday I took a bit of a risk. Yesterday was the day to share my inquiry around Chinese language learning with my year 0 and 1 children and teachers at Newmarket School. We were asked to create a Task Based Language Activity, teach it, evaluate its effectiveness and present our learning to our colleagues in the EDProfst360 TPDL Course. I had extra pressure of having my principal invited to come and hear my learning and of course she accepted and was there. My learning about the task I created was how I failed and the learning I took away from this. So here is my presentation and story.

  • wǒ xìng Van Schaijik
  • wǒ jiào Sonya
  • wǒ shì xiǎo xué  lǎoshī
  • wǒ zài Newmarket xuéxiào jiào shū

Background

My class is made up of forty four year 0 & 1 students. I take them for thirty minutes once each week. The class is made up of 22 year 0 students and 22 year 1. Of these ⅓ are Chinese speakers of varying proficiency from new learners of English to having some words. There are two teachers who work in class with me and we are all learning together. However because I am in the TPDL programme I am the teacher preparing and leading the lessons. My own language of Mandarin is minimal and I am in my second semester of learning Mandarin. I am also teaching the language therefore my proficiency is developing.

Where did the idea for my Task Based Language Activity  come from?  

Earlier this year for my first assignment, I researched Rod Ellis. I  developed the learning task using a PM reader. I was really clear in my approach and rationale behind the lesson. I spent ages on the artefact so that it all worked well. I called in a proficient L1 speaker to help with the resource. My understanding was the task should have worked.

Information gap.

So I carried out the lesson with the whole class. The task was mostly receptive and did not require much language demand because the children were already familiar with colours and where is (zài nǎ lǐ)

 叶 子 在 哪 里
hóng zi zài nǎ lǐ

They just needed the new word zi meaning leaf.

I deliberately chose a PM reader that most would have already read in English so there was little language demand.

I wanted the children to fill in the missing colours by looking at the picture of the leaf. I believed that they would easily accomplish this simple task and the lesson would be a great success. 

However I experienced a disastrous outcome. I felt that nothing was right.

Justification on my disaster

So I reflected on the outcome.

  • Why was the task all wrong?
  • Maybe the timing was wrong.
  • My expectations were too high.
  • I did not have enough language knowledge to carry out the teaching of the task.
  • Maybe the children were just playing up for me this particular day.

#Smallvoice

Then a niggling doubt surfaced. Maybe my designed task did not not fit a task based language activity.

According to Rod Ellis, a task has four main characteristics:

  1. A task involves a primary focus on (pragmatic) meaning.
  2. A task has some kind of ‘gap’.
  3. The participants choose the linguistic resources needed to complete the task.
  4. A task has a clearly defined, non-linguistic outcome.

Yes there was meaning because the children could see the colours and hear the language.

But there was no gap because I was teaching whole class, all children could see the task. I misinterpreted Gap as a Gap in knowledge, rather than a gap in communication. 

I did not give the participants an opportunity to choose the linguistic resources in order to complete the task because I had colour coded the vocabulary I expected them to use.

The task did not have a clearly defined, non-linguistic outcome. Instead I expected a focus on form.

Evaluating the task

I could not evaluate the task because I did not have enough evidence. I did not allow the students to use all the language they knew and or are learning. Instead I expected them to use just the ‘target language’ of the lesson. Therefore I had little evidence of output.

Time was against me as the term’s end was approaching fast. So instead I gave up on this activity and left the idea of task based language teaching for a few weeks. 

Instead I concentrated on more focussed input such as building vocabulary and building simple sentences by having the children continue to learn formulaic sentences.

I used more songs to give sentence frames and structure for language. I read more around the criteria of a task.

The impact of designing this task on my teaching

With failing comes reflection:

  • Reflecting on practice and where to next;
  • Discussion with colleagues how to improve the task and using my colleagues and their teaching skills; 
  • Refocus Task Based Language Teaching and ensuring that pretask, task and review are ongoing;
  • Refocus on learning formulaic expressions;
  • Refocus on my own language learning and registering for semester two of learning Chinese;
  • Focus on allowing the children to use all the language they knew and or are learning and opportunities to develop greater complexities of the target language such as using connectives or time order words.

Try again but adapting the task

  • Will the activity engage learners’ interest?
  • Is there a primary focus on meaning?
  • Is there a goal or an outcome?
  • Is success judged in terms of outcome?
  • Is completion a priority?
  • Does the activity relate to real world activities?

Focus on Input

So I spent most of term three focussing on input because the children still required plenty of exposure to LI through input before I can expect output. Therefore I focussed on smaller group teaching with the teachers focussing on language input. I was lucky enough to have an L1 parent join us as support and she was a fabulous L1 model and help. We also had a teacher in her final year of training who had the mindset and was willing to have a go. So with our forty four students we had 5 adults. I continued to use youtube videos as a model for L1 and created several visuals with images that would help with receptive input because most of our children are still developing basic reading skills. I focussed too on less whole class teaching except for the pre task stage.

The impact that ‘failure’ had on my students

Initially I was gutted and felt like giving up. I was tired and disheartened and I know that by my third TPDL observation I had more than had enough of my own learning.

But as the Chinese saying is

失败不是倒下,但拒绝起床。
shībài bùshì dǎoxià dàn jùjué qǐchuáng
Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up

So as a thinking teacher who is always reflecting I looked for opportunities to bring in the expertise of the teachers I work with. I completed another assignment around the key concepts relevant to intercultural communicative language learning. This gave me another pathway to think outside the square and try something even more amazing.

Our Chinese Language and Culture Week at Newmarket School

So I approached our management team and asked for the opportunity to develop a week long series of events that focussed on culture. I applied to the Asia New Zealand Foundation and won a grant to help with the weeks event. I planned for several cultural events such as the kinds of games that children played, a calligrapher who shared his skills and who I was able to get through the support of our deputy principal and her connections with Confucius, a guest speaker who wrote a book about the history of Chinese Market gardeners to New Zealand.  I thought seriously about opportunities for language output and was especially excited because my focus classes of year zero and one would be hosts for the upcoming school assembly. I ran a small speech competition with a focus on students who could use connectives and I also looked for students who could recite a poem because I knew that they would have to carry out research to do this. Classes were invited to compete a Chinese art artefact and in order to do this I knew that the teachers would have had to research into some Chinese history and to find out about the art before they would do this. I asked all classes in the school to learn a dance and to learn three songs in preparation for the assembly and they did. My own Chinese dance group were given another opportunity to present and this time I ensured that they had dance costumes so they looked stunning.
The highlights are published on our Newmarket School’s Facebook page. The highlights for me were:

  • Seeing the little children talk to a kindergarten in China via WeChat and singing Twinkle Twinkle little stars together;
  • Seeing the parents come in to help with in class activities;
  • Seeing the delight at the whole school partaking in mooncakes during Mooncake day;
  • All classes learning a little bit of culture and language;
  • Our fabulous guests;
  • Our senior students leading the games events each morning tea;
  • Of course my absolute pride at the fabulous team lead assembly from the 5 and 6 year olds.

Balance

You might fall down seven times and maybe on the eighth time you might have your balance. As I reflect on my language programme I must balance meaning focussed input with meaning focussed output. I must balance  Language Focussed Learning with Fluency Development. This delicate balance enables more student centred, meaningful communication, and provides extra-linguistic skill building. I must continue to provide real world activities and tasks that are familiar to the students such as our WeChat session and our fabulous week long celebration. Our recent week highlighted that our students and staff were engaged which may further motivate them in their ongoing language learning of our target language as part of the ALLiS project.

Celebrate the learning

Finally look for opportunities to celebrate the language learning. Use the tools to capture the output such as video or iRecord. I have a big week ahead of me as I publish our celebration for our school website. I have a group of students who I will record their poems and introductions for our learning resources. I have a book that needs publishing in both English and Mandarin. I have heaps of people to send thank you letters to that helped make our week amazing.

So my failure ended up being hugely successful for my children and my school. I am always looking for new ways of forced output for our children. I have managed to convince our junior school team to take big steps in term four. They have all signed up for WeChat as we explore new ways for making connections with our families. As a team we have signed up for K-2 Flat Connections project where they will work with schools around the world and look at new ways of learning for our children. The project is called ‘Building Bridges for Tomorrow‘.   Our teachers will be exposed to new tools and the chance to think in new ways because technology has a way of forging past the traditional junior school teacher modelling books and the traditional walls of sharing student learning.

Sharing is caring — learning is giving back to the community

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Image from Darren Kuropatwa

Ewan once wrote that ‘Sharing, and sharing online specifically, is not in addition to the work of being an educator. It is the work.

Recently I was interviewed as part of a research in the use of digital tools in appraisal practices in primary schools. I was asked some interesting questions that I found myself thinking about the interview long after it was over. 

I was drawn back to a series of presentations I shared at Eduignite. My second in a series of three was Digital Tattoos. At Eduignite, I shared about the importance of leaving evidence of what we do as educators and to be cautious of having folders on desks. Personally I have never understood the point of having an appraisal paper folder. I struggle even more with the notion of creating PDFs of what I do. I chuckle at the PDF notion just like I chuckle at stories of educators being asked to print off digital planning. I am aware of needing evidence for compliance, but believe like Ewan, that online sharing is much more powerful. You can check out my slides from that Eduignite session below. Even then I scoffed at the paper folders.

I have writing several times about the importance of transparent sharing.

When I reread my 2015 goal of having all teachers at Newmarket School with an online reflective blog, I am excited to say that I have achieved that goal. Currently most blogs look like the early push onto twitter. Sporadic writing like the earlier sporadic tweeting. Two have set theirs up but have not yet taken that first step. But hey after curating #EdBlogNZ  with two online colleagues, I know, as a school we are in a good space.

I am always thinking about the importance of our teachers sharing. I do remind them about using twitter like online note taking so that they can get into the habit of microblogging and our teachers have supported the use of our school hashtag .

This year I have been particularly excited to see our teachers examples of sharing. These include

  • Running Staff Meetings
  • Running school wide events
  • Presenting outside of school at education events
  • Sharing at Educamp
  • Sharing at an online course and at face2face courses
  • Sharing on twitter chats

However the most powerful of these are when I can see a follow up reflection on their blogs because again it is the sharing online that creates an artefact for the education community.

I am really excited at across school sharing. We have the ACCoS initiative, the ALLiS and the Mutukaroa projects. In addition I co ordinate our Eastern Area ESOL cluster group.

Community of Learners

Soon I will be sharing our school’s journey at Ulearn. I will be sharing about how Newmarket School contributes to many networks such as:

I will be sharing how changes and structures in the school day have evolved from being teacher driven to being student driven and enable innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Also how task-based learning activities are curated for students and how communication evolves as both teachers and students learn to give and receive feedback. I will also share how informal and formal learning creates opportunities for sharing knowledge and skills among the learning community. The above spaces will be used as examples as well as what we are doing in Newmarket School with our children and teachers.

Where to next?

Reminding teachers about keeping content current is an important part of online sharing. I have a project that has developed into something quite close to my heart and that is the #EdBookNZ project. This is where I have identified current education jargons and invited educators to contribute a piece of writing. I take all the writing and publish a digital book for the education community. The #TeachMeetNZ google hangouts that I have run quarterly have been shelved because I have taken on two other roles this year and that has been about building communities of learners.

Finally, I am particularly excited that our principal joining the next cohort of Flat Connection Leadership for Global Education. A criteria of the course is regular blogging so I look forward to her ongoing online sharing.

So as schools how open are your examples of teachers creating and sharing? Do your teachers see online sharing as on top of what they do or is online sharing part of their practice? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Mid Autumn Festival

Background

This year I have been learning Chinese as part of my Teacher Professional Development Languages (TPDL) learning. TPDL is an in-service year-long professional development programme for teachers at all New Zealand schools.

I chose to take on the challenge of learning Mandarin as part of being the ALLiS teacher for Newmarket School. I also took on the challenge as I wanted to foster closer relationships with the children that I work with at Newmarket School. Nearly one third of our school is made up of children who speak Chinese. I have visited China twice already but with limited vocabulary and my second visit happened during their Chinese New Year.

chang e Chang e -drawn by Seroung

Mid Autumn Festival 中秋節

Soon in China it is the Mid Autumn Festival 中秋節, also known as the Moon Festival. One key idea I have learnt is the importance of festivals and celebrations to bring families back together. My first visit to Chine was just before the time of the Mid Autumn festival. During this visit I was introduced to moon cakes. Again I had very little knowledge of the importance of sharing moon cakes.

The Mid Autumn Festival  falls on the 15th day of the 8th month in the Chinese lunar year. Myself I naively thought this meant the 15th of August. However had omitted the phrase Chinese lunar year in my first round of information. I know now that Mid Autumn Festival takes place in September because Chinese New Year happens in February when we compare the dates to the Gregorian calendar or the calendar which the western countries use. This year the date for celebration is the 15th of September.

The Mid-Autumn Festival has its own special food. People eat moon cakes for celebration. The moon cake is a kind of pastry with various fillings and the surface is printed with different artistic patterns.  Mid-Autumn Festival is also a time for family reunions. As the moon cake is round in shape, it symbolises the reunion of a family.
So for this Mid-Autumn Festival our children at Newmarket School will enjoy a delicious moon cake at school and at home they will probably also enjoy a Moon Cake shared with family.

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New Zealand Chinese Language and Culture Week

Last year New Zealand celebrated Chinese Language week around this period. The first I heard about it was after the event. I have been watching for this years dates and checking the internet for the confirmed week. This year there is now a site for this event.

This year I was determined that at Newmarket School we would celebrate this new national event. So at Newmarket School I am working with a group of senior students to coordinate a week long list of activities. I have just finished a paper on Intercultural Language Teaching which clarified the need to communicate in the first place and seek to teach culture in a way which develops intercultural communicative skills at the same time as developing language skills. Intwined with cultural activities is the opportunity to develop language. As a Mandarin teacher I have been focussed predominantly on language. Partly because of my own focus of learning Mandarin. 

NZCLW at Newmarket School

With my senior students we have developed a list of activities that they have chosen to lead over this week. The activities planned include:

  • Elastics
  • Long skipping rope activities
  • Pong pong
  • Chopsticks activities
  • Diabolo spinning
  • Jianzi- hacky sack-  Shuttle Cock kicking

One key activity is a language activity as I really want our children who learn Mandarin to have the opportunity to celebrate their learning. I will also give the children the chance to practice a formulaic speech and for this activity I will use our fluent speakers as judges to help me judge this. The second part is to identify our fluent speakers because next year I will prepare them for the oral Mandarin speeches.

In addition I am keen to develop literacy skills for our Mandarin speaking children. So I have set the challenge of writing a book in English to retell the story of Chang-e. The lady in the moon. Our children who are literate in Mandarin will help me with translating. Also we have our parent community who will help me with the final draft. I have a group of artists who have chosen to develop the images that will be used.

In class activities that teachers and classes can choose to include in their programme are:

  • Dumpling making
  • Calligraphy
  • Painting cherry blossoms
  • Painting Panda
  • Decorate a tea tin
  • Make and fly fish shaped kites
  • Mask painting
  • Paper cutting
  • Making lanterns from recycled materials

Health and Well Being

One of our school wide goals for 2016 is ‘Heath and Well Being’. So by incorporating mindfulness into the weeks programme through exercise, physical activities and meditation I am proactive in developing a positive health awareness culture in our workplace. I am conscious too that by sharing moon cakes during this week I must take into account the children in our school who have allergies to egg and nuts. Again it is about being prepared and identifying those children for their safety and well being. My next step is to work with my student organising committee and identify any hazards in their physical activities so that injuries for participating children will be minimised. I also need to reconnect with our National Chinese advisor as I wish to strengthen our working relationship. I also still need to reestablish connections with a past pupil of our school by inviting her to our events.During my research for the types of activities to run I have made connections with Confucius, Asia New Zealand, our local secondary school, several parents in our school community, our after school Chinese teachers and of course our children who are running several morning tea activities.

WeChat

Those of you who work with Chinese children and are not yet aware of Wechat, then use your phone and locate the app. Wechat is an amazing social media tool to use to create connections with our Asian neighbours. I use Wechat for communication in the Connect with China Flat Connections initiative. I use Wechat to build communications with some of our parents. I use Wechat to maintain connections with our previous Mandarin Language Assistants and to communicate with New Zealand teachers who have shifted to China. I use Wechat to develop closer relationships with our sister school in Ningbo. I have used Wechat to make connections with a kindergarten who will communicate with our junior school during the upcoming week of celebration. 

The week long celebration is now just two weeks away. I have let our parent community know that it is happening via our newsletter. I have alerted teachers to the dates and to be aware of their contribution in class. I have met with the student leadership team to design the activities that will be run. So now it is down to the finer details.

Those of you who are in an ALLiS cluster, what kinds of events have you hosted to raise awareness and to celebrate our children?

July School Holidays

I have an exciting fortnight coming up. Soon it is the New Zealand school holidays. We have two weeks and it is the middle of winter. However at Newmarket School you would not believe what an amazing day we have. I am back at school on a beautiful Saturday to work on my upcoming presentations and to finalise ELL data for term three distribution of our in class support. Those of you who know me know I look after my aging parents and this past six months have been full on as they require more of my time.

So these two weeks coming up means I get a chance to have a break as my sisters step in to support me. They know how much I enjoy sharing our learning so have agreed to take over the care of my parents while I am away. My sisters support me daily with them but during this time they will be the primary support team.

Meanwhile I will be in Nelson, then Hamilton, Auckland for two days and finally I will visit Christchurch to make up for two days missed on the TPDL course that I am involved in this year.

Part of the NZALT preparation has included gathering artifacts to share. I have been working with my Thursday student Mandarin tutors who are helping me prepare my personal introduction in Mandarin. Yes it is really hard and they are tough on my pronunciation. On Monday our Mandarin dance group have agreed to perform for the school’s leadership assembly so I will have an example of that too. Of course SOLO Taxonomy continues to drive what I do and I am especially excited to be sharing SOLO Taxonomy and English Language Learners at CLESOL and at the PPTA Pasifika Fono.

As we race towards the end of the term our school has reporting to parents and of course the leadership week.

However I know that as crazy as it seems all my colleagues are in similar situations and are hanging out for some sleep ins, the chance to do some PD in their PJ’s and the chance to catch up with each other as we share what we do in our schools.

Do share what you are doing in that fortnight. I am particularly interested in those of you taking some time for mindfullness  and well being activities. This non contact time might also be a perfect opportunity to update that blog you have been meaning to do. Remember to use the #EdBlogNZ hashtag.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defining Task-based language teaching

 

Part 1 of my reading log for EDPROFST 360 

Course Director and Lecturer: Dr. Constanza Tolosa

Write answers to the following questions after you have read the reading you have chosen.

  1. According to the author, what is a task-based approach to language teaching?
  2. In what ways does the author claim that task-based language teaching is superior to more traditional ways of language learning? What are the benefits of this approach to language teaching for language learning?
  3. Write a personal response to the author’s claims where you give your reaction to the ideas presented.
  4. Suggest ways in which the content of what you have read could be applied in your language classroom.

Reading Chosen

Ellis, R. (2009). Task-based language teaching: Sorting out the misunderstandings. International Journal of Applied Linguistics 19 (3), 221-246.

Defining Task Based language teaching (TBLT)

Task Based language teaching (TBLT) is an approach to teaching a second/foreign language that seeks to engage learners in interactionally authentic language using the target language by having them perform a series of tasks. TBLT aims to both enable learners (1) to acquire new linguistic knowledge and (2) to proceduralize their existing knowledge.  Teachers need to understand that TBLT involves input-providing as well as out-put prompting tasks and that it is possible to build up proficiency initially through a series of simple input-based tasks.

Task

Central to TBLT is that word task, and teachers must have a clear understanding about task by providing opportunities for communication. There is is no single ‘task-based teaching’ approach. Task can be focused or unfocused and can be identified by the following four key precepts of Task.

First the primary focus for TBLT should be on ‘meaning’ by which is meant that learners should be mainly concerned with processing the semantic and pragmatic meaning of utterances.

Then there should be some kind of ‘gap’ with a need to convey information and to express an opinion or to infer meaning.

Next learners should largely rely on their own resources whether it is linguistic and or non-linguistic in order to complete the activity.

After that there should be a defined outcome other than the use of language because the language serves as the means for achieving the outcome, not as an end in its own right.

These key precepts of tasks central to TBLT is superior to more traditional ways of language learning because TBLT is capable of providing much greater exposure to the target language than traditional language teaching. Task allows the students to communicate for a real purpose to achieve success criteria. The tasks need to be trialled to ensure that they result in appropriate L2 use and revised in the light of experience. Therefore in practice attention is drawn to as the name suggests, the Task.

Advantages of TBLT

Task-based learning is advantageous to the student because it is more student-centered, allows for more meaningful communication, often provides for practical extra-linguistic skill building and are likely to be familiar to the students such as visiting the doctor.

  1. Task-based language teaching offers the opportunity for ‘natural’ learning inside the classroom.
  2. TBLT emphasizes meaning over form but can also cater for learning form.
  3. TBLT is intrinsically motivating therefore students are more likely to be engaged, which may further motivate them in their language learning.
  4. TBLT is compatible with a learner-centred educational philosophy but also allows for teacher input and direction by allowing the learner to pick out the language to use for the task.
  5. TBLT caters to the development of communicative fluency while not neglecting accuracy.
  6. TBLT depends on the purpose of the activity and can be used alongside a more traditional approach.
  7. TBLT develops communicative abilities.

The role of the teacher for TBLT

Teachers need to be clear in their understanding of what a task is and to be aware of the purpose and rationale for performing tasks. Developing task materials allows teachers to tailor the task to the proficiency levels of their students.

Applying the principles of TBLT In my current practice of teaching Mandarin.

In my current practice of teaching Mandarin I am already using several principles of TBLT. However I had not unpacked it to the depth that I am currently doing. I am a new learner of Mandarin and I use songs and simple children’s poems when focussing on form. My current class has a large proportion of Mandarin speakers and I use them to help with extensive L2 input. Initially they supported me with form and L2 input with the other children. I am already taking into account the individual differences of my learners by grouping the students according to ability. From other readings would like to trial grouping mixed ability children so that more experienced speakers can help emergent speakers.

Where to next

I will develop language teaching activities with a primary focus on meaning as I have been focusing only on form. I will aim to provide more opportunities for group and paired activities that enable my learners to pick out the language for the task.

When I highlight the 10 principles I can see that I have taken formulaic expressions to mean my learning of the expressions but have omitted my students learning them too. In order to understand what a task is and understand what is required of the learner to understand communicative messages I have begun the process of providing tasks and activities to focus on output. I have identified that I need to examine free use of language as well as controlled production because activities have shown that such tasks are effective both for practising managing and facilitating students’ performance of tasks in TBLT.  For my new task I have made decisions around both design and methodology. I have sequenced the tasks using the three phases of pre task phase, task phase and post task phase. For the pre task phase my learners sing the Mandarin colour song that has already been taught. We recap on the colours by holding up a colour block as the colours are called out. For the task phase I have developed a resource using the images from the simple PM reader called Sally’s leaves.  I have added a question and answer component to the story using formulaic phrases of  asking the question, ‘Where is the red leaf?’ Then responding with, ‘Here is the red leaf.’ My learners will group in threes to discuss and practice the patterns that they can see and hear. For the final two slides, I will leave out the formulaic expressions but will leave in the colours of the leaves. For the post task phase I have created another resource that has the coloured leaves with the words. Included are the two formulaic phrases. My learners will work in pairs to practice asking and answering the questions. The task I have created for learning has an element of natural language use.