To mix or not to mix…..

June 26, 2012

I spent a day with a Languages department in a north London school a week or so ago working on strategies for a mixed ability classroom.

Although a discussion of the relative merits of mixed ability grouping vs setting was not the principle aim of the day we did start off by thinking about the opportunities and challenges of mixed ability classes.  We then went on to spend the bulk of the day considering strategies for differentiation not only for the G & T and SEN pupils, but also for those with different learning styles and intelligences, more information about which can be found in this bibliography I put together for the day.

Our discussion also considered how pupils might be grouped within a mixed ability class, particularly when engaged in a group task;  interestingly this topic has come up recently on the TES forum in a thread about differentiation with the case being put both for pupils to be grouped by ability and for mixed ability grouping when working on a group task.

It seems to me that there will be times when one form of grouping will be more appropriate to a particular task than another, and that as long as you have thought through the rationale for adopting one form of grouping over another and can justify it then that ought to be sufficient.

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Dragon boat festival – 端午节

June 24, 2012

This weekend has seen the Dragon boat festival observed amongst Chinese communities so I’ll be looking at that with my Chinese club this week.

There are a couple of good videos which I’ll probably be using to introduce the topic:  this one, produced by Unesco gives a comprehensive introduction to the festival, its origins and customs.  There are some good clips showing families and communities observing traditional folk customs and it gives a good sense of the importance of the festival in Chinese culture and heritage.

This other one recounts the story of 屈原Qū Yuán whose death in the Mìluó  river was the origin of the Dragon boat festival.  It also shows some of the traditions associated with dragon boat races such as painting the dragon’s eye before the race and the making of zongzi.

I may get the pupils to make a paper dragon boat and this link provides a template for a model.


ALL London June event

June 12, 2012

I’m looking forward to the ALL London branch June event this coming Saturday morning, June 16th.

As ever there are some terrific speakers.  Rachel Hawkes, a favourite of ALL London is back – her talks are always inspirational and full of practical ideas that can be used immediately in the classroom.  James Stubbs will also be there talking about “Sowing seeds for spontaneous speaking” – an aspect of language learning that is likely to be on the radar of any Ofsted inspector lurking near your classroom.

I am also particularly interested in hearing Jeremy Harmer, a renowned TESOL specialist;  having been trained in and taught some EFL myself I think there is a lot of common ground between the teaching of foreign languages and English as a foreign or second language particularly in the field of practical methodology, so it should be an interesting session.

Full details of the event to be held at the LSE are on the ALL London branch website.