Week Fourteen: Reading & Writing

What was this week’s module about?

This time we were looking at Reading and Writing. Truth be told it’s a lot. My first reaction this time last week, when I logged in to the moodle and saw 6 chunky core reading texts, three midweek tasks, an 1300 word assignment, was something akin to this:

Time becoming an issue?

If you’re doing this course whilst working (which to be fair is how you’re meant to do it), then time management is crucial.

At the start of this process I was keeping weekends as free as possible. I’d do some blogging on Saturday morning, and prepare materials and things for the unit, but not really start on anything until Monday morning. Monday was for reading, Tuesday morning was class and reflections, Wednesday assignment draft, Thursday group work and assignment prep, and Friday final drafting. What this meant in reality was that as workload increased I found myself finishing assignments on Friday morning.

After Christmas I decided to commit myself to working before lunch on the weekends. I’ve been aiming to get the core reading done by the end of Saturday. This has freed up  much more time during the week, and given me the freedom to do exciting things with the TEFL Development Hub.

But this week, there was still too much. The reading was dense and overly-academic, and the midweek tasks didn’t really amount to anything.

It’s been a bit of a let-down, then?

Not at all, and I think for teachers who have been doing this for less time than me (seriously, it took me 14 years to get round to doing the Dip…) or who haven’t given conference workshops on it, there is likely a lot to get from this. Back in the methods module in the autumn we learnt that much of being a teacher at this level is knowing the rationale for the approaches you use, to understand the principles behind the choices you’ve made. So I’ve been teaching a process genre approach to writing for several years, but never knew the theory behind it until this week.

What about reading?

Truth be told the core reading on, err, reading, was very dense and tough to engage with. I made extensive notes that I’ll have to go back through during the revision process, which will probably start quite soon (how is it March already?!!).

What was your main takeaway from this week?

Three big takeaways on the reading front:

  • Reading comprehension questions, likely listening, very much lie on the testing end of the spectrum. If you want to test comprehension and actually teach reading, make sure you’re asking students to justify their answers to traditional comprehension questions
  • A collaborative role-based activity cycle for reading that really helps focus on reading comprehension over reading testing
  • Extensive Reading is misunderstood. You don’t need to have a book-based reading programme, and it’s very much Covid friendly. As long as it’s reading for interest or pleasure, and the reading is low pressure (i.e. no testing). The traditional challenge to reading programmes (including from me, fyi) isthat Spanish/Italian/French/Turkish/Polish/Martian teeangers hate reading so what’s the point. But they do have interests, and they do read. Two of the most popular websites in Spain synthesise writing in one place: one shares embarrassing stories from social media, the other shares news and tweets on various themes and topics. The response to this is almost always yes, fine, they like to read some things, but we don’t have time to design a whole new reading programme. Well, pooh. Extensive reading has been shown to be a major indicator in learners’ proficiency in L2, so we need to do it more.

Were there any lows?

It’s been a hard one this week, but that’s all a time management thing. Not even time management, just having a lot to do. Between weekly modules, unit two projects, and an upcoming conference, it does feel like I’ve had very little time to stop.

What about highlights?

A recurring highlight, which I haven’t mentioned up to now, has been been Lindsay Clandfield’s grammar sessions. He’s everything you’d wish a teacher to be: friendly, supportive, engaging, funny, and willing to challenge you. Actually they’re all, well almost all, excellent people and great professionals. If my career up to this point saw me aspiring to be like Jude Brigley, I now aspire to be a version of these tutors.

You didn’t say anything about the assignment!

Oh. Yeah there was an assignment. I did it.

Nothing more?

Nope. None of us enjoyed the assignment this week, I don’t think!

What’s next?

Professional development.

Right. Isn’t that what this whole thing is, anyway?

Well, yes it is! But it’s a topic worthy of itself, and not least because the third section of the written exam focuses on CPD and its various incarnations. Post-Dip I very much intend to continue my foray into teacher training, so this week will be a very important first step in that new journey. Exciting!