Emily Bryson ELT

ELT

A graphic for goal setting.

At the beginning of the year, I find it helpful to think about my goals and ambitions for the year ahead. There’s tons of research out there showing that if you write down clear goals, you’re more likely to achieve them. Even more so if you actually draw them.

I created this visual template to help this process. You can use it for you, or with your classes. Write on the .jpg provided or draw your own. I recommend the latter as it will be more fun!

In the section with the target, add one goal for each arrow. Consider different aspects of life, e.g. family & friends, personal development, work, health, money, etc. Be mindful that goals should be flexible and acheivable. I often find my goals change with time.

The thought bubble with stars represents dreams or aspirational goals. These can be things that you or your participants don’t have as much chance to influence. For example, one of my aspirational goals is to visit friends in Spain in the summer, but this is covid dependent.

In class, once students have completed or drawn their own goals, ask them to share their goals and discuss how they might achieve them. You could use language such as ‘I want to..’, ‘I’d like to…’, ‘I hope to…’, ‘It’s my dream to…’, ‘I’d love it if,…’, ‘I’m going to…’, ‘I plan to…’, ‘I will…’ etc, depending on their level. Draw attention to any emergent language.

If you like this, I’m now running online courses in graphic facilitation for English language teaching professionals.  Click the image below for more information.

It’s not a snowman! It’s not a Christmas tree either!

I got this idea from twitter. I was browsing and noticed the hashtag #NotAGingerBreadMan.

Students are given what looks like half a gingerbread man, and asked to colour it in and draw something else with it. If you search for this hashtag, you’ll see all sorts of cool creations – faces, dinosaurs, cats, football players.

The #DrawingELT theme for the next fortnight is ‘festive’ and I was instantly inspired to draw these festive themed ‘half pictures’.

In class, I’d ask students to turn the image around a few times and discuss ideas with a partner. Then give students time to draw or colour in their creations. Once they’ve finished, I’d display them around the room and ask students to explain what they drew and why.

Here’s a link to the PDFs: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1fEc1Yl6XTGHNu8riqnIwnnxMKjsktUG3/view?usp=sharing

I’d love to see your work. If you do this with your class, or by yourself just for fun, share your work using #DrawingELT and copy me in. It would make my day!

Love this idea? I have literally tons of super-simple ways to use hand drawn graphics in the ELT classroom. My next course starts soon. Click on the image below to find out more:

Feedback comes in many forms. But the best is a fairy!

Feedback is crucial for developing high quality learning experiences. As a materials writer, I value the editorial process because it helps me develop my content from first to final draft. As a teacher, I encourage my students to tell me how they feel about the content of my lessons, and what I can do to support their learning. As a teacher trainer, I am always keen to hear what participants thought of my session so I can make changes the next time I deliver it.

Feedback comes in many forms. Pun intended. It’s true, often feedback comes in the form of a form. Survey Monkey and Google Forms are the ‘go to’.

As a graphic facilitator, I can tell you that there are much more creative (and fun) ways of receiving feedback. In this post, I’d like to share with you to one of those methods.

Let me introduce the Feedback Fairy.

Visual capture sheet inspired by Martha Harding at Scottish Refugee Council.

I was first introduced to the Feedback Fairy by Martha Harding while I was on secondment at the Scottish Refugee Council. Martha had lots of cool ideas for facilitating sessions, and I added this one to my toolkit. I drew this version for the Sharing Lives Sharing Languages project that I was managing at the time.

The feedback fairy is best used as a flipchart, and participants add post-it comments in the various sections. You can do this online using the annotation tools in Zoom or using post-its in Jamboard. If you want individual feedback, you could photocopy one per participant.

Participants are guided to consider:

Heart – things they loved

Toolkit – tools, resources or activities they’d take away

Speech bubble – things they’d tell others

Brain – things they thought or learned

Wand – things they wished had been included

Bin – things they didn’t like

For my first cohort of Engaging Learners with Simple Drawings participants, it was a no-brainer to use the feedback fairy. But since the course focus was on drawings, I did something a little different.

I asked them to draw their own feedback fairies.

I’d like to share some of them here with you. I was blown away by the creativity, skill and imagination. And how much they all loved the course!

Credit: Annette Flavel

Credit: Eve Sheppard

Credit: Nergiz Kern

Credit: Cheryl Palin

Loved this? Want to learn more Graphic Facilitation techniques specifically for ELT professionals? Join my Online Course! Follow this link to find out more: www.emilybrysonelt.com/all-courses/

For updates: sign up to my mailing list, or follow me via this blog or on Twitter: @E_Bryson

Feel the fear, and draw anyway! Launching #drawingELT!

It is with great excitement that Clare Catchpole (of Express Yourself in English fame) and I launch the hashtag #drawingELT.

We are both firm believers in the power of drawing. It’s creative. It’s relaxing. It’s engaging. It’s supportive. It’s fun. It’s also great for checking understanding, aiding memory, supporting students to take notes and activating life skills such as critical thinking.

We know that there are many teachers out there who agree and who would like to develop their drawing skills. So we’d like to create a community of like-minded ELT professionals. All you need to do is use #drawingELT on Twitter or LinkedIn to share your lesson ideas, blogs, doodles, sketches and flashcards.

To inspire your drawings, we’ll post challenges. These will vary from ELT related topics, to vocabulary items to more complex concepts like grammar, metaphor or puzzlers such as how to draw inclusive pronouns or the difference between need and want. You can add your own suggestions here: https://www.menti.com/zp1ajaytg1

And before you say it, everyone CAN DRAW. Some of us are maybe just a bit rusty or haven’t had much practice. Drawing is a visual language, and as language teaching professionals we all know the best way to improve is regular practice. I have two mottos:

Feel the fear, and draw anyway!

It’s not art, it’s communication. 

As such, with #drawingELT, anything goes. You can share the most rudimentary stick person scribbled on the back of a napkin or a detailed illustration capable of making Da Vinci jealous. Mine will be closer to the former!

Here’s a fantastic little .gif that Clare made to get you in the mood!

I look forward to seeing your creations!

If you’d like to brush up on your drawing skills, why not join one of my online courses? You can find information here or join my mailing list to hear about the next dates. You could also follow me on Linkedin or Twitter: @E_Bryson

Sketchnotes from Innovate ’21 (day 2)

I’ll start this post by saying what a well organised and inspiring conference Innovate is! I’ve wanted to go for many years, but have never been able to travel during term time to Barcelona. So when I saw that it was online this year, I got my session proposal in straight away.

One of the best things about the conference is that it’s just the right size. There were four sessions to choose from with each timeslot, which offered choice without overwhelming and it was easy to network in the Zoom garden.

On Saturday morning, I woke pondering the run scheduled in my marathon training plan or Fiona Mauchline’s session. The memory of how great Fiona’s previous sessions have been aided my choice. That, plus it was all about the senses. It sounded brilliant. And it was. Here’s my sketchnote:

I took a few hours off in the afternoon to feel guilty about my run (but not actually do it) and add a few drawings to my own session on Engaging Learners Online with Simple Drawings. Sandy Millin did me the wonderful service of taking these wonderfully detailed notes, if you’d like a summary. Thanks, Sandy!

After my session, I couldn’t miss Tyson Seburn’s plenary. It’s amazing how much equality and diversity advice he squeezed into 15 mins! Using the metaphor of a dirty river, he explored the journey ELT has taken. Our metaphorical river is flowing in a cleaner direction now than before but we still have a lot of work to do before ELT Footprinters would deem it ecologically safe! I especially loved his reference to the ELT ‘coursebook closet’. A term coined by Scott Thornbury. Here’s my sketchnotes:

 

If you’d like to learn how to sketchnote or use simple doodles to communicate, why not join one of my online courses? You can find information here or join my mailing list to hear about the next dates. You could also follow me on Linkedin or Twitter: @E_Bryson

 

 

 

 

Sketchnotes from Innovate 21 (Day 1)

Today I’ve had the good fortune to attend some amazing sessions at Innovate Online 2021. Four hours on Zoom can take its toll but sketchnoting helped me stay focused and avoid the many distractions that my computer has on offer.

As these are a visual record and summary of the talks, I’ll leave this as a visual post.

Enjoy!

Katherine Bilsborough and Ceri Jones discussed all things Ecoliteracy.

 

 

Harry Waters gives advice on Becoming a Lean Green Teaching Machine!

 

Nergiz Kern brought Environmental Topics to Life with Virtual Reality.

 

 

Tetiana Myronova introduced her super useful, super positive Reflective Practice Toolkit.

 

Do you ever use sketchnoting? I’d love to see your examples.

If you’d like to learn how to sketchnote or use simple doodles to communicate, why not join one of my online courses? You can find information here or join my mailing list to hear about the next dates. You could also follow me on Linkedin or Twitter: @E_Bryson

 

5 essentials for teaching life skills

 

English language learners often want to learn English to improve their life chances. We can help them do so by incorporating life skills into our practice. In fact, it is my firm belief that teaching English and teaching life skills are the perfect match; each supports the other.

Here are five essentials for supporting learners with life skills.

Create a positive classroom atmosphere

It is not only our approach to teaching that makes ELT the perfect environment for incorporating life skills, it is the environment itself. As trainee teachers, one of the first things we learn is the importance of a welcoming, supportive, and encouraging class atmosphere. Students need to feel comfortable in the classroom and positive about their learning experiences.

Our classrooms must therefore be a safe space to learn from mistakes. We can create this by framing failures as learning opportunities and praising learners for their achievements. Giving students time to think before they respond, opportunities to reflect on their learning, and the chance to practise their skills in a supportive environment are invaluable for encouraging life skills acquisition.

Be patient

In creating a safe space to learn, we must also provide sufficient time for the adoption of life skills. Think about how you first learned to organise your time.  When you were in your early teenage years, it’s unlikely that you were as good at time management as you are now. You probably learned through a combination of advice from peers, teachers, parents, and other role models as well as simple trial and error. It’s possible that you may still feel that you still haven’t yet perfected this life skill. That’s because life skills take time and practice, and everyone is different.  Find out what your students’ aspirations are, give them the confidence to grow, and reassure them that their goals are achievable with a little hard work.

Be a role model

Students naturally look to their teachers for how to behave and succeed. We are role models. By presenting a professional, organised and well-prepared persona, we can inspire our learners to do the same.

Invite questions

Student questions can be tricky, but when they ask difficult questions, that’s when you know their critical thinking skills are developing. Actively encourage your learners to ask questions. Then support them to find the answers for themselves and to help their peers.

critical thinking

Identify goals

In many ways, developing life skills is aspirational. They are not something that anyone can truly say they have mastered and couldn’t improve on in some way. Although I’m regarded as an efficient spinner of many plates and master of deadlines, I may still get caught out with a last-minute photocopier malfunction making me late for class; there’s always room for improvement.  As such, we need to help our students to identify realistic goals based on each individual’s current abilities and give sufficient time to process the information, respond, and incorporate it into their lives.

Identifying individual students’ abilities and goals is a great starting point for incorporating life skills into your classes. Every teaching context is different as are the needs of every learner. Some students will already have a strong grasp of life skills, while others have a longer road to travel. Working with your learners and identifying which life skills are most appropriate to them is a crucial first step.

There are some ideas of how to do this in my previous post: Simple drawings to support life skills.

Available now: https://wayzgoosepress.com/emily-bryson/

Want to know more?

My book, 50 Ways to Teach Life Skills is a collection of practical tips and activities to enhance students’ social, academic, critical thinking, digital, and work skills to help students become their best selves.

This guide is simple, supports all levels of learners, and many of the activities require little or no preparation or special materials. Each activity assists students to improve their speaking, reading, writing, listening, grammar, vocabulary, or pronunciation skills while also practising their broader skills for life.

It is available now in print and digital from Wayzgoose Press from just £1.99.

For more info about me, my online courses and books you can sign up to my mailing list, or follow me via this blog or on Twitter: @E_Bryson

 

A zero prep ice breaker.

The first days in class are a time for students to get to know each other and make connections. As teachers, we need to equip ourselves with a toolkit of ice breakers. Here’s one that you might like to try. You can use it at any level.

  1. Elicit some questions from students which people often ask when they meet them for the first time.
  2. Write the questions on the board, or type them into an online display (e.g. Jamboard, Zoom whiteboard, Powerpoint). Draw simple icons to engage learners and support understanding. Online, your can do this using a visualiser or drawing tablet. You could also use stock images or free icons from The Noun Project).
  3. Ask learners to work in pairs or small groups to answer the questions, then report back to the whole class on their partners’ answers.

As an extension, you could:

  1. Ask them to write about themselves, using the questions as prompts.
  2. Display the written answers around the room for others to read, or ask learners to share their work online using Google Docs, Padlet, Wakelet or similar. Feedback as a whole class.
I elicit getting to know you questions from my beginners.

One caveat for this activity is inclusion. I don’t know about you, but my learners often want to know about age, marital status, work and whether their peers have children. These are natural things to be curious about but can be sensitive subjects. Make sure learners know they don’t have to answer any questions if they don’t want to and teach them techniques for avoiding sensitive topics. For example, expressions like ‘That’s a secret’ or responding to the age question with ‘I’m 21.’ Which, of course, I am!

What activities do you use to help learners get to know each other? Share your ideas in the comments.

If you’d like more ideas on how to use simple drawings in the classroom, I’m now running online courses, sign up to my mailing list to stay informed of the next opportunities or follow me via this blog or on Twitter: @E_Bryson

For more information: https://emilybrysonelt.com/all-courses/

Welcoming whiteboards!

I can’t tell you how excited I was to be back in the classroom this week. I got to teach real live students! It was wonderful.

I also got to use a whiteboard. And a whiteboard marker! What a treat!

The beginning of term is a time for welcoming learners, getting to know them and double checking they know exactly where they are going and when.

This year, I’m teaching a beginner and a starter class. I tend to find that writing times, dates and room numbers on the board can lead to confusion. Drawing some simple icons can help make this information clearer.

I’d like to share the simple icons I use with you. You’ll notice that these are not works of art, that my whiteboard is a little smudged and that I probably wrote these in a hurry. That’s because I did. I’m a teacher. That’s how we roll!

Welcoming learners with simple drawings helps communicate information more clearly.
Keeping break time simple.

How do you welcome your learners? How do you make sure they understand their induction information? I’d love to hear your ideas, or to see your whiteboards!

If you like these ideas, and want to learn more about Engaging Learners with Simple Drawings, I’ve started running online courses. 

Sign up to my mailing list so I can update you, or follow me via this blog or on Twitter: @E_Bryson

You can find more information about my online courses here.

ESOL for Employability: support organisations every practitioner should know about

I recently delivered a webinar for National Geographic Learning on Embedding Employability and Life Skills into the ESOL Curriculum. Along with all the engaging ways the Voices coursebook series embeds employability (watch this space for another post), I shared some of the wonderful projects from across Europe that support ESOL learners’ employability and life skills. Here they are:

Bridges Programmes

This organisation is near to my heart as I have worked so closely with them over the years. The ESOL for Vocational Purposes courses which I developed for City of Glasgow College have mostly been in collaboration with Bridges. This well-oiled machine supports anyone living in Glasgow whose first language is not English by delivering training and arranging volunteer or work placements. This image is of my learners on a construction site visit. https://www.bridgesprogrammes.org.uk/

Heart and Parcel

Two friends in Manchester set up this organisation because they believed food brings people together. ESOL learners can sign up to their free online English classes and learn to cook at the same time. They also run cookalong classes to teach people how to cook dishes from around the world. https://heartandparcel.org/

Bread and Roses

I found out about this organisation while hillwalking in the Cairngorms with a friend. Their friend was up from London and told me about the amazing subscription floristry project she ran. Bread and Roses run floristy training programmes for women from refugee backgrounds to help them improve their language and work skills. Genius. https://www.wearebreadandroses.com/

ELATT

East London Advanced Technology Training (ELATT) run pretty much every vocational skills course you can name. They want to make learning new skills accessible to all and offer full, part-time and evening courses. https://www.elatt.org.uk/

City of Glasgow College ESOL Job Club

One of the Modern Apprentice students at Arnold Clark.

I can’t write a post without mentioning my fabulous co-worker Pam Turnbull and the incredible things she has done for the learners at my college. Pam tirelessly networks with the local community to create work, volunteer and apprenticeship opportunities for ESOL students at City of Glasgow College. She also supports them with job searches and applications. She’s a true shero. The image is one of our CoGC students on a Modern Apprenticeship with Arnold Clark.

Laget Quo Vadis

I had the good fortune of visiting this organisation on an Erasmus+ funded trip to Oslo a few years ago and their innovative work has stuck with me. This organisation provides Norwegian classes and trains learners in textiles, ceramics and cooking. Graduates leave with strong transferrable skills and the confidence to succeed. http://www.laget.oslo.no/about

KMEWO

The Kurdish and Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation is a London based organisation who provide training, advocacy and support for women from Kurdish, Middle Eastern and North African communities in the UK. They offer training in digital skills, employability, ESOL, parenting and exercise classes. https://www.kmewo.com/

Code your Future

CyF are a coding school for people from refugee backgrounds and disadvantaged people. They are a non-profit organisation that trains marginalised groups to be web developers and find employment in the tech industry. CyF training is delivered by volunteers and graduates have progressed to prestigious organisations such as BBC, Financial Times and Ticketmaster. https://codeyourfuture.io/

 

These are just a few of the inspiring organisations and projects that I’ve heard of over the years. Do you know any others? Please share anything I could in the comments or via my twitter.

Enjoying the simple drawings on my blog and social media posts? Why not join one of my online courses? Find out more by clicking the link or sign up to my mailing list.

What is Graphic Facilitation (and why is it perfect for ELT)?

So you may have seen my previous blog posts, social media messages or attended one of my training sessions. You might have heard me say ‘I’m a Graphic Facilitator’ or ‘Graphic Facilitation is great for the English Language Classroom.’…. you then might have thought…

Well, Graphic Facilitation is the use of simple, hand-drawn, graphics to
support groups or individuals towards their goals. Traditionally, Graphic
Facilitators use large sheets of paper, flipcharts or whiteboards and markers
to engage participants. Online, Graphic Facilitators can do this using pre-drawn
visuals, a graphics tablet, drawing software or a visualiser.

Some examples of Graphic Facilitation techniques involve using very simple hand-drawn
icons, visual templates, graphic organisers, infographics, mindmaps and
sketchnotes. Having used Graphic Facilitation techniques for a few years now, I
can safely say that they work very well indeed in the language classroom.

Why? Here’s why…

It’s multisensory and aids critical thinking.

Learners can observe the visual, listen and understand its explanation or instructions, analyse
it, apply it, share their interpretations, write about it, or create their own.

It makes things memorable.

In my previous blog posts I’ve written about the drawing effect, which found
that drawing aids vocabulary retention. It also makes pages of notes, resources
and materials more distinct, which in turn makes them more memorable.

Here’s a quick sketchnote I made of Joan Kang Shin’s IATEFL 2021 talk on Visual Literacy.               Wouldn’t you agree it’s more memorable than a page of text?

WhatsApp Image 2021-06-19 at 17.26.30

It aids understanding.

Adding a quick drawing, asking your learners to draw or using a visual as a concept check is an excellent way to find out if they have understood. 

It’s versatile.

It can be used to teach grammar, vocabulary, reading, writing, speaking,
listening and pronunciation. You can use it to plan out lessons, curriculums or
meeting agendas. I even used it to capture my students’ reflections at the end of term.  This template can be used in in various ways: 

  1. Photocopy it and use a pen or pencil.
  2. Online – share your screen and use annotation tools.
  3. Send them a copy and ask them to use digital drawing tools to complete it. 
  4. Ask them to draw their own. You could ask them to add their own sections (e.g. a cline for digital skills). 

WhatsApp Image 2021-06-08 at 09.36.55

It’s quick and copyright free.

The visual capture sheet above took about ten minutes to draw. The same
document would probably have taken me about an hour fiddling about with tables in a word document or canva and searching for copyright free stock photos. Granted, it took me a while to learn to draw those icons quickly, but it’s a bit like learning the alphabet; it takes a bit of time but once you know it, you wonder how you ever lived without it.

It is my firm belief that Graphic Facilitation enhances and supports the language learning experience. I’d love ELT practitioners to gain confidence using it…

…so I’m now running online courses! Engaging Learners with Simple Drawings! 

whatsapp-image-2021-07-08-at-20.19.15-1

To find out more, or to read previous blog posts about how I’ve used Graphic Facilitation in my own classroom and training sessions, follow this link: https://emilybrysonelt.com/all-courses/

Sign up to my mailing list, or follow me via this blog or on Twitter: @E_Bryson

Why everyone can and should draw in their ELT Classroom

Recently I’ve become a bit obsessed with using drawings in the classroom. In this high-tech era, drawing is a back to basics approach and the perfect excuse to get away from a screen.  My drawings are quick and simple.  They are not attempting to be Takashi Murakami or Christine Clark.  They have at times drawn funny looks (pun totally intended) or initiated laughter, but that’s OK.  Students get the message and we have fun doing so. Plus, imperfect drawings teach students that it’s ok to be imperfect – and encourages them to confidently create their own imperfect drawings.

Using drawings in class is a brilliant multisensory way of adding some fun to your lessons, concept checking, get students thinking critically and as a tool for mediation. It’s also great for memory. The drawing effect refers to a 2016 study by Wammes, Meade and Fernandes which found that drawing can aid vocabulary retention. The study gave participants a list of simple words and asked them to either write the word repeatedly or draw it. The results showed that participants recalled twice as many drawn words as written.

The best bit is that drawing works well online and face to face. Hand-drawn visuals engage participants as they bring a piece of analogue into the digital world. You can prepare the visuals before class. In a live class you can point your webcam at a notebook or flipchart, treat yourself to a visualiser or use the annotate tools. Obviously your drawings won’t be as pretty using a mouse but isn’t that part of the fun? Again, it’s not about artistic magnificence, it’s about communication.

Using annotation tools with a visual template to navigate the digital swamp in a recent webinar.

There are lots of ways to use drawings and visuals in the classroom. You can check out my other blogs posts

Neil Cohn has some wonderful research into the use of drawings as a visual language. One of his papers discusses how most people lose their drawing ability in their teens, and with it their visual communication skills. He has found the use of drawings to be beneficial to interaction, motor skills, feedback, culture, motivation and emotions.

This research resonates with me. When I was about 12 or 13, I had to choose which courses to study at school. I swithered a lot between PE or Art but finally chose PE because at the time I wanted to be a personal trainer. When I broke the news to my art teacher, he looked genuinely dejected. I wish someone had told me that learning to draw is a communication skill for life while fitness comes and goes.

A quick diagram to compare my fitness and drawing skills since I was a teenager.

Many people believe that they can’t draw, and I have to admit that until I got into graphic facilitation I had started to believe this myth about myself. I now draw most days and have made it my mission to inspire more drawing in the ELT world. 

I’d love to support the ELT community to grow their visual vocabulary and add ‘visual’ to their list of lingua francas. I’m now running Online Courses to help you do this!

Why not join me and learn how to engage your learners with simple drawings? My next course is in January. Follow this link to find out more: www.emilybrysonelt.com/all-courses/

Sign up to my mailing list, or follow me via this blog or on Twitter: @E_Bryson

Visual templates for engaging environmental discussions

I recently read Dan Barber’s ELT Footprint blog about giving your lessons a sustainability twist. It inspired me to create some visual templates to stimulate environmental discussions in the classroom.

A visual template is a tool commonly used by graphic facilitators to inspire workshop participants. It is essentially a technique which turns a plain flipchart or whiteboard into a visual prompt to guide and focus students’ attention. It uses simple iconography to represent topics and bold text to catch their eyes and imaginations. Put simply, it is far more exciting and inspiring than a boring old blank white space.

Take these templates on saving electricity or reducing plastic, for example. Students add their ideas using post-it notes, writing directly or by adding their own drawings. Prior to this activity, you could ask them to read or listen to some information on either topic.

In a face-to-face classroom, these templates can be pre-drawn on flipcbart paper and displayed around the room or passed between tables, carousel style. Students can then walk around or simply add their ideas when they have that template. The teacher can then facilitate discussions using the students’ ideas or students could use the ideas to produce some written work. The templates can be stored and re-used, or students could add their own drawings to them and the final piece be displayed on the wall.

In a digital classroom, the templates work well on a platform such as Jamboard, where students can add their own digital post-its, then discuss their ideas in a breakout room. If your learners have strong digital skills, you could give each a copy in a word document and they can add answers in a transparent text box.

When using this visual template about Energy Sources, as a dynamic receptive skills comprehension task, you could ask learners to read or listen to some information, then ask them to put notes of what they learned in the relevant section. You could later ask them to add their views on the advantages and disavantages of each energy source using two different colours of post-it notes. Then have a discussion about the topic and/or write about it.

Visual templates are fabulous as they can be used (and re-used) for many topics. Have a look at my previous post for ways you could map out learners journeys, for example.

If you’d like more ideas for embedding environmental topics into your lessons, I’m giving away 3 free lesson plans! Click this link to find out more. 

Would you like to learn to create hand-drawn visuals to stimulate student creativity and communication? Why not join my Online Course? Follow this link to find out more: www.emilybrysonelt.com/all-courses/

Sign up to my mailing list, or follow me via this blog or on Twitter: @E_Bryson

Digital skills courses for ESOL learners

Even prior to the online teaching boom, I noticed that my ESOL Learners often had limited digital skills. In the good old days, I’d refer students to community libraries and educational organisations offering courses such as ‘Getting started with computers‘ or the ‘European Computer Driving Licence‘. These were popular with students, but have ceased during the pandemic. Now that learners need digital skills more than ever, I wanted to find free (or affordable) online digital skills courses in a variety of languages.

https://twitter.com/E_Bryson/status/1351239663458127883

Through various online searches, and utilising my online network, I found these courses. Thanks to everyone who contributed (you know who you are and you are all wonderful). I’d love to hear from you if you know of any more or if you can find translated links to these in other languages:

Microsoft (available in multiple languages):

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/digitalliteracy

 

Microsoft web apps training:

www.alison.com/courses/office-365-web-apps/content

 

Google:

English: https://applieddigitalskills.withgoogle.com/s/en-uk/learn

Spanish: https://applieddigitalskills.withgoogle.com/c/es-419/curriculum.html

French: https://learndigital.withgoogle.com/ateliersnumeriques

 

Open Doors Plymouth:

Some wonderful instructional videos in various languages:

https://www.youtube.com/user/opendoorsplymouth

 

Sarah Queen’s fabulous blog post about ICT in ESOL has some great links:

https://www.esolqueen.co.uk/2020/08/introducing-ict-to-asylum-seeker-and.html?m=1

 

Typing and mouse control skills:

https://www.typingclub.com/

https://edu.gcfglobal.org/en/mousetutorial/mouse-tutorial/1/

 

The Department for Education’s Essential Digital Skills:

This programme offers courses in using devices and handling information, creating and editing, communicating, transacting, and being safe and responsible online. Suitable for A2+ learners living in the UK. 

Essential Digital Skills

 

Learn my way/Make it click:

Lessons such as ‘Introduction to email’ and ‘How to create a document.’. Suitable for B1+ learners.

https://makeitclick.learnmyway.com/directory

Learn My Way – Internet Skills

 

Computer coding/Code your Future:

I love everything these guys do! I even cycled to IATEFL in Liverpool to raise money for them a couple of years ago! They offer free computer coding classes for refugees and disadvantaged people: https://codeyourfuture.io/

Khaled, a graduate of Code your Future created videos in Arabic about computer coding: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbQpxSFueTnQz5peofVo4yg?app=desktop  

 

Accenture, Digital Skills: digital skills for work and life

This is probably better suited to Intermediate+ learners who are already relatively confident with computers. It covers digital skills for work, staying safe online and growth mindset. https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/digital-skills-for-work-and-life   

 

MOOC list

Massive Open Online Courses are free and varied. Here is the link to search all of them. The courses are likely to change over time. https://www.mooc-list.com/ 

 

 

Do you know any more free online digital skills courses suitable for English language learners? Or (even better) in another language? Please share them via comments or tweet me.

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Simple drawings to support life skills.

Working visually is a great way to promote life skills, and drawings don’t need to be masterpieces – their purpose is simply to convey a message.

One fun activity is to create a five-year plan with students. Making plans for the future is a common tool for professionals wishing to enhance their careers, and clarify their goals and plans. In fact, there’s some evidence to suggest that you’re more likely to succeed if you set goals. 

To support learners in this way, ask them to draw a simple road map or steps (see illustrations) in their notebooks, then add visual representations of their current situation and end goals at the beginning and end points. 

Using simple graphics with students is a great way to enhance their creativity and self-expression.  The icons don’t need to be works of art, but simply to communicate visually. When I’m stuck for ideas of how to draw something, I find that looking at images of ‘icons’ online can aid inspiration.

Once students have each drawn their road map or stairs and added their start and end points, they can then discuss how to achieve their goals in pairs or small groups. This can be done in a chatroom or breakout room online. Then ask them to add stages for working towards their goal on their map (attend university, take a course, etc.). Some students may need more than five years to achieve their goal ( e.g. if they want to study medicine or architecture). Allow these students to add additional years.

Display each student’s road map around the room, or ask them to share it using a collaborative tool such as padlet or whatsapp. Ask students to comment on each others’ plans. Encourage them to focus on how realistic each goal and stage is within the time frame, and to give motivational feedback and suggestions on other ways it may be achieved. This is a great way for them to practice giving and receiving constructive feedback.

While the aim of this activity may be to identify goals and current abilities, it also allows students to practise numerous life skills, such as communication, organisation, self-awareness, planning, giving and receiving feedback and making suggestions.

It’s a great way to review mixed tenses and different ways of expressing future. (E.g. Right now I’m a delivery driver but in the future, I want to own my own business. OR I’m planning to go to university next year.). It’s also perfect for feedback expressions, such as giving advice or making suggestions (e.g. You could also do an evening class. OR You should speak to my brother, he did something similar.).

If you liked this activity and would like more ideas for how to incorporate life skills into your curriculum, you will love my book. I wrote 50 Ways to Teach Life Skills as I realised just how important it was to incorporate life skills into any comprehensive curriculum.  It is a collection of practical tips and activities to enhance students’ social, academic, critical thinking, digital, and work skills to help students become their best selves.

This guide is simple, supports all levels of learners, and many of the activities require little or no preparation or special materials. Each activity assists students to improve their speaking, reading, writing, listening, grammar, vocabulary, or pronunciation skills while also practising their broader skills for life. It is available in print and digital from Wayzgoose Press.

Loved this? Want to learn more Graphic Facilitation techniques for your classroom? Join my Online Course! Follow this link to find out more: www.emilybrysonelt.com/all-courses/

 

My top recommendations: books and films about refugees

I watched an inspiring TED Talk by Ann Morgan, who read one book from every country in the world. She did it because she wanted to expand her understanding of the world. It made me think of all the books and films I’ve read over the years for very similar reasons.

Since I started teaching people seeking refuge back in 2007, I’ve always looked for books and films that teach me about their countries, culture, stories and history. I’m not the kind of person who can read fact-heavy history books to relax so I need mine in easy-reading or graphic novel.

So here are some that anyone with an interest in other cultures or refugee matters might be interested in:

Film: His House

His House is about a couple seeking refuge who move to the UK and have to navigate the UK asylum system. It is a psychological thriller in which the couple are haunted by past traumas. This film really struck a chord with me as so many of my learners have mental health problems such as PTSD, depression and insomnia. When teaching daily routine, many have intimated anxiety towards bedtime, as that’s when the bad dreams come.

Film: Glasgow Girls

This film makes me proud to be Glaswegian. It’s the true story of a group of schoolchildren who campaigned to stop dawn raids and the detention of asylum seeking minors in Scottish detention centres. These girls are an inspiration.

Pick your own adventure: Have your Passport Ready

Have your passport ready is an online video story commissioned by Knaive theatre. It follows two Syrian brothers who travel to the UK for safety. Viewers watch short video clips and make choices on how to navigate the UK asylum system, or leave their decisions to dice rolls. I got deported within two moves, see if you can make it to getting leave to remain!

Graphic novel: Meet the Somalis

Meet the Somalis is a collection of 14 illustrated stories sharing the lives of first, second and third generation Somali families in different European cities. The stories are each unique and include themes such as fleeing warzones, refugee camps, family life, making friends, work and settling in a new city. You should know by now that I love visual communication and these illustrations are stunning.

Book: The Jungle by Pooja Puri

Set in the infamous ‘Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais, this story follows Mico, an ‘unaccompanied minor’ and the people he meets in the camp. It makes you consider the impact of the refugee crises on the local area as well as displaced people themselves.

Book: The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

I’ll be honest with you. I stayed in bed ALL DAY one day reading this book. I literally could not put it down. My husband came in to check on me because he thought I was ill! The story follows Nuri, a Syrian refugee, and his wife on their journey from their life in Syria tending bees to resettling in the UK. The journey tracks from warzone, to people smuggling, to refugee camp, to homeless hostel accommodation in the UK. The characters are so vivid and it really touched me as so many of my students have shared similar stories with me.

Books: Anything written by Asne Seierstad

Asne Seierstand is a Norwegian writer who has written many books about her experiences of living in war zones. It’s been a while since I read these, so my memory is a bit hazy, but they each opened my eyes to life in those countries at that particular point in time. Her books include: Book seller of Kabul (Afghanistan), With their backs to the world (Serbia) and 101 days (Iraq).

Book: In order to live by YeonMi Park

Human rights activist, YeonMi Park, shares her experience of growing up in North Korea, being sold into a slave marriage then arriving and resettling in South Korea. A remarkable story and an informative read. If you don’t have time to read her book, I recommend her TED Talk.

Book: I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

No list of books about refugees would be complete without Malala, the youngest ever Nobel Peace prize laureate. In her book, Malala recounts the story of being shot by the Taliban for attending school to becoming a reknowned activist for female education.

Children’s book (age 7-11): The boy at the back of the class by Onjali Q. Rauf

I bought this for my nephew’s birthday, but was so intrigued that I had to read it myself. It’s a story of a boy called Ahmet who is a Syrian refugee. Ahmet is the new boy in class and this book tells the story of settling into a new life and making friends in an unfamiliar country.

Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin (illustrations by Giovanni Rigano)

I was searching online for the graphic novel, Sapiens, when Amazon recommended this to me. It was a moment when I was thankful that computers stalk my buying behaviour. It shares the story of one boy’s journey from Africa, across the mediterranean to the refuge of the UK. The illustrations are fantastic and the storyline is realistic.

Welcome to the New World by Jake Halpern and Michael Sloan

This graphic novel follows a Syrian family who move to the USA to claim asylum. My knowledge of the asylum system is very much based on the UK. It was eye-opening to me to discover how different it is in the USA.

Have you read any good books or seen any good films about displaced people or people seeking refuge? Please share them as I’d love more ideas… or perhaps for one day to say I’ve read a book from every country in the world!  

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Creating Accessible Learning Materials

Every student is different and as teachers and writers we embrace their diversity and support their learning.  The UK Equality Act 2010 has nine protected characteristics; age, race, gender, disability, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, religion or belief, sexual orientation and gender reassignment. I feel privileged to live in a country that legislates to ensure these characteristics are protected under law.  In this blog post, I will outline how to create print and digital materials which are accessible to all.

Protected charactersistics of the UK Equality Act 2010. Quick visuals by Emily Bryson.

I will start with disability, as the needs of students with Specific Learning Differences such as dyslexia or colour blindness can be met by making simple changes in regards to layout and font. 

Font choice

In terms of font choice, serif fonts, for example Times New Roman, Baskerville and Bookman, are considered less accessible as some people find them difficult to read. This is because serif fonts have little ‘flicks’ or ‘tails’ which can be distracting to readers. I apologise that this post is in a serif font! WordPress only seems to offer one option.

Sans serif fonts are more accessible.

Sans serif fonts (e.g. Arial, Calibri and Trebuchet) are generally considered the most accessible choice but you could also download dyslexia friendly fontsThe British Dyslexia Association recommends Comic Sans or Arial. If you teach adult literacy learners, you may also wish to use Comic Sans or Century Gothic as these are most similar to handwritten text, and don’t include ‘a’ and ‘g’, which can confuse learners. Sassoon font is also great for literacy learners, but you need a licence.

Choose fonts similar to handwriting when teaching literacy learners.

Font size

​As an observer for teacher training courses, I often see trainees using fonts which are too small in their presentation slides.  This is also often the case with books and published worksheets. When creating your own print materials aim for font size 12 as minimum.  For presentations, 24 point font is the minimum with 36 or 44 being the recommended size. This also helps to keep the number of words on a slide to a minimum.  No one likes a busy presentation slide – less is more!

For online learning, bear in mind that students may be accessing content on their mobiles, and they can’t always zoom in. If you present online using the editing view in powerpoint, aim to use font size 50 or above. If you make videos using powerpoint, aim for font size 40 or above.

Make sure your font size is large enough for mobile learning.

Adding emphasis

Drawing attention to certain language points, content or rubrics in an accessible way should be considered carefully. Underlining can make things harder to read, while the slope of italics can also make reading large blocks of text problematic.  BLOCK CAPITALS CAN ALSO PROVE CHALLENGING AS ALL THE LETTERS ARE THE SAME SIZE. 

Bold is by far the most accessible method of adding emphasis.  That’s not to say NEVER use block capitals, italics or underlines. These are all perfectly fine to add emphasis in short sentences, questions, headings or rubrics but should be avoided as the main body of a text. I tend to avoid using capitals for emphasis with literacy learners too, as this can confuse their understanding of capitalisation rules.

Using colour​

The number one rule of using colour is never to rely solely on colour to convey meaning.  Colour blind learners may not be able to see any difference in the colours or shades that you chose.  Instead, circle, use arrows, bold or texture – and keep it simple.

Some colour combinations are difficult to read (avoid green and red/pink). Use a light, off-white, single colour background and dark, contrasting lettering.  I tend to play safe and use minimal colours and good old dark grey or black letters.

Other protected characteristics

When it comes to being inclusive to other protected characteristics, image selection plays a huge role.  Select images which show people with protected characteristics in a positive light and represent each frequently within your materials so that they are normalised rather than sensationalised. For example, use a text about a female engineer who is a wheelchair user, a male midwife or a young boy whose parental guardians are his grandparents. Focus on the person and the story surrounding the person rather than their protected characteristic.  Their protected characteristic is not their story, nor their reason for being ‘inspiring’ . This way they are represented and included without being highlighted as different or unique.

In many countries, it can be challenging to include people who identify as LGBT+ within materials, but there are ways to do so subtly.  For example, you could have a dialogue about two men living together and leave their reason for doing so open to interpretation. In the same way, a text message conversation between two women regarding childcare arrangements could be between friends, sisters or partners. You could also consider using gender neutral names – for example Sam and Alex being in a relationship.

One important characteristic in ELT, that isn’t in the Equality Act 2010, is first language. I guess it could fit in the race characteristic but in terms of ELT I think it’s important to protect ‘non-native English speakers’ from native speakerism. Try to include opportunities within your materials to explore global English, reflect on when, where and how learners use their English and the nuances of accent choice.

Further reading

This blog post only touches the surface of accessibility.  For more information, I recommend the following:

What do you do to make sure your classes are learning materials are accessible? Do you have any favourite resources or sites? I’d love to hear from you.

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Teaching ESOL Literacy Online

Although my materials writing hat is well versed in zoom calls and delivering webinars, my ESOL lecturer hat still took some getting used to teaching online when COVID hit. Teaching online is great, when your learners are self-directed, tech savvy and have all the devices and connections required to attend classes.

Teaching online is somewhat more challenging when your students have little or no educational history, limited IT skills, devices whose best feature is a game called ‘snake’ or who need to save the meagre 3G they can afford to stay in touch with their loved ones overseas. That’s before considering their housing provider may think it’s a good idea to take their weekly allowance from them and house them in a hotel during lockdown. Learning ESOL during a pandemic may not be top priority.

But, us ESOL Literacy Lecturers don’t let impossible situations stop us. We plough on through and do what we can with what we have. And what we had was Whatsapp. Not ideal in terms of giving out personal numbers, but this was crisis and I trusted my students and was well aware that anything involving having to correctly type login details would result in multiple students being locked out of their learning.

Teaching phonics ‘oa’ with Whatsapp.

Whatsapp is actually quite an undervalued teaching platform. You can share and find links, videos and photos easily, provide audio support to all texts, correct students work using the draw function and use the emojis to illustrate vocabulary. You can also upload documents, have audio recorded conversations and even video call to up to eight people. Plus, when your aim is to get students to read and write in English, Whatsapp encourages them to type messages to each other and respond.

The very first lesson was simply handwriting a few sentences, illustrating them with simple graphics and recording a video of me reading the text whilst pointing to each word. Students then had to record themselves reading the text, answer some comprehension questions, then personalise it. Over the weeks these lessons got more sophisticated and included things like YouTube videosPadletsQuizletsEdPuzzles and quizzes on Google Forms, yet what I always got the best response from was a simple handwritten text with audio support.  

Then I figured it was time to move on to the big scary world of email. When we started teaching online, probably around 50% of the class didn’t have an email address. So I created a walk-through video of how to set up an email address and shared it with the group. I started to get a trickle of emails but I wanted 100% of students to be emailing by the end of term, so I asked a friend to send the link to set up a gmail account in Arabic and forwarded that to the students. Genius. Every student now had an email address. But I knew I had to keep them using it. I didn’t want them to email me once and forget how to do it, or forget their passwords. So every single email that I got, I replied with a simple question, then students had to email me back. I had a lovely conversation about yellow flowers with one student and about Glasgow parks with another.

One of the main challenges of teaching ESOL Literacy is that it’s extremely hard to find suitable materials to teach reading, writing and phonics to adults. Most are aimed at children and have delightfully childish pictures of apples, books and cats to accompany the alphabet. This made teaching online more challenging. While my peers had the luxury of coursebook e-packs, I had to create most things myself. Here are some sites which I am eternally grateful for:

Bow Valley College – Graded Readers for ESL Literacy learners

LanguageGuide.org – Very basic supported vocabulary learning

British Council ESOL Nexus

English My Way

Lisa Karlsen ESOL Literacy resource pack – worth every penny

TeachHandwriting.co.uk

Liverpool College ESOL Online

ESOLCourses.com

I AM YOU Humanitarian Aid – Facebook page with lots of ESOL Literacy videos

ESOLUK.co.uk

Excellence Gateway ESOL

ABC English

English Hub for Refugees

Education and Training Foundation – New to ESOL Literacy pack – tips and activities.

Diglin – phonics and skills activities

Citizen Literacy app – City of Glasgow College app to teach phonics to adults. Still in Beta, but you can trial. Watch this space!

LESLLA – Literacy Education and Second Language Learning for Adults website and webinar video.

Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) ESOL Literacy resources

Excellence Gateway Hub – UK resources

NATECLA Scotland – resource list for ESOL Literacies

If you know any more, please share them with me. I’d love to add them to this post.

Overall, my main tip of teaching any students with basic ICT skills is never give up. The more students use tech, the more confident they’ll be, even if your learners can barely type their passwords into the computer.  

In many ways, I think COVID has had some positive impacts on ESOL. I’m sure it catapulted some learners with low levels of study skills into being more self-directed learners. Students who previously needed (or had) their hand held have been effectively forced into taking ownership of their learning and getting to grips with tricky ICT.  Plus, we now have a whole load of lovely interactive materials which future learners will be able to use in their own time.

If you’d like more information on how to teach ESOL Literacy, check out my courses on Language Fuel ELT Training Library. Each course takes less than twenty minutes and is full of practical hints and tips:

Teaching Adult ESOL Literacy: What is it and what’s involved?

Practical activities for teaching basic literacy to adult ESOL Learners.

 

 

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