Saturday, 28 March 2015

Rokus Klett: English with Lili and Bine

Last Wednesday I saw a presentation on some new ELT materials for young learners from Rokus Klett. They're called A Letter from Lili and Bine and you can see a sample here. It's a work in progress and, judging from the presentation, there's definitely room for improvement, but they do have some nice ideas. Let me start with the strong points:

  • Rokus Klett is planning on putting lots of teacher support online - for free. Lesson plans, videos, interactive tools, everything. A big plus.
  • The course is based on cross-curricular activities - lesson plans are based on a combination of classic approaches to LT and CLIL.
  • Teachers who are already using the Lili in Bine coursebooks for other subjects will be pleased to hear that A Letter from Lili and Bine will be released as a free supplement to the course (or so we were told at the presentation). However, I don't really know if other teachers (the ones using coursebooks different than Lili in Bine) will be able to use A Letter from Lili and Bine at all.

I did say that there's room for improvement, though. Quite a lot, actually. Here are some of the things I didn't like about the course and/or the presentation:
  • The course will only be available (or at least useful) for teachers already using the other Lili in Bine coursebooks.
  • ELT for young learners should be based on listening and speaking skills since they're still learning to write in L1. So Rokus Klett have this idea of using geometrical shapes instead of words in their written texts where different shapes represent different word groups. I don't know. The children the course is meant for are aged 7-8  and the whole shapes idea even sounds complicated to ME.
  • The speaker presenting the course told us there will be no CD available for their songs. Their idea is that it should always be the teacher who sings, even if he sings off-key. This is the opposite to what we were told in our ZGUČAN classes. You should NEVER sing off-key in front of children as they're at a critical age mucic-wise and very prone to repeating your mistakes. The damage you could cause by singing off-key to them is irreversible. If you can't sing, use a CD.
  • ZGUČAN also taught me to use photographs instead of pictures of questionable artistic value whenever possible. There seem to be few photographs in the Lili and Bine course ... and loads of very colourful flashcards.
  • The general opinion among language teachers is that young learners' concentration span is extremely short. The idea is that the activities we use with young learners should only last a few minutes each and then we should switch to something else. Lili and Bine authors seem to feel that way, too. However, as I've been doing my class observation tasks for the ZGUČAN programme, I now know that regular primary school teachers don't hold the same beliefs. Yes, with proper classroom management, children can absolutely do maths or whatever for twenty minutes IN SILENCE. Yes, successfully. No, they won't burst into madness and start running around or fall asleep behind their desks. Yes, I've seen it with my own two eyes. And classroom discipline? Top-notch. Who knew. Anyway, I'm not saying that we should start having boring lessons but I don't think using activities longer than three minutes is always bad. Try it out sometimes. And then tell the Lili and Bine authors what children aged 7-8 are capable of.
  • The speaker presenting mentioned crosscurricular activities and CLIL a lot, saying that they're popular these days so Rokus Klett jumped on the bandwagon. However, from what she said, I don't think she (or they) understands the difference between crosscurricular activities and CLIL. No, they are not synonyms and I think the coursebook presenter should know the difference.
  • The authors seem to be big believers of the silent period idea, so they suggest alternatives to spoken responses, for example, children should stand up if they want to answer your question with "yes" and sit down when they want to say "no". I've taught children as young as four and no one ever had a problem with learning and using the English words yes and no. I mean, come on. We're talking about pupils aged 7-9 here. All of them can learn a few English words and use them, too.
I do think Lili and Bine authors have some nice ideas, though. I just hope that they get rid of these minor flaws before release.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

ZGUČAN psychology/methodology classes

Remember your psychology/methodology classes from your student years? Well, that. I'm sorry but I really can't say I learned anything new from any of my ZGUČAN psychology/methodology classes. Definitely lots of room for improvement here as there is really no need for three (!) different courses all recycling stuff we had passed exams for at the age of 20.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Puppets, part 2

So, you already know what I learned about puppets in the ZGUČAN study programme from this post. Today I'll show you a few different kinds of puppets we made there.

You've already seen the first one in my previous puppet post - it's a sock puppet. It's a dog and its name is Pluto. 


I'd tell you how it's done but I managed to find a perfect tutorial on Youtube! Therefore I'm moving on to our next puppet.

This one is a hand puppet. If you want to make it yourself, you need a foam (or styrofoam) ball, water colours (optional) and some fabric. First, you'll make the puppet's head using the foam ball. You can colour it the way you like or even put a nylon sock over it if you want it skin-toned. Draw eyes, nose etc. on its head or use buttons. You'll also want to dig a hole in the foam ball for your finger. Make the hole big enough to fit your index finger up to the first joint. The hole should fit a little loose on your finger. 

As for the body, take your fabric, cut out two equal parts and sew or stick them together. Leave a hole on top to put your finger in. The whole piece should fit on your hand so I suggest you put your hand on the material you intend to use and draw the body loosely around it before cutting. To join the head and the body together, use a plastic roll or make one out of cardboard. The roll must fit around your finger and in the holes in your puppet's head and costume. Join the parts together and you're finished!
Here's a photo of my hand puppet:

I'm a little snowman, short and fat,
here's my scarf and here's my hat!

Another kind of puppets we learned to make were finger puppets. A finger puppet is extremely easy to make and use. Unfortunately I lost mine, but I made it to act out the Buzz Buzz Buzz story from the Robby Rabbit coursebook and it looked a lot like this:

There are loads of finger puppet templates online you or your students could use. My students made their own finger puppets in the shape of stars and the Moon and we now use them to act out the In The Sky stories (Reach for the Stars coursebook).

We also made flat rod puppets which are also relatively easy to make. All you need is some cardboard and a rod. Flat rod puppets simply have a support rod attached to the back. You can make them with or without movable parts. If you want movable parts - hands, legs and such - on your rod puppet, you have to fix them loosely on the puppet's body. You can fix these parts on extra rods to control them or leave them to move freely when you move your puppet. I made a Dumbo puppet with movable ears but the cardboard got wet on the way home and it's no longer useful, so here's a sketch.

And now, last but not least, I'll show you my puppet theatre in a cup. These puppets are also called pop-up puppets and this is how you make them. Here are pictures of mine:

I use it for the "Five Little Green Frogs" song. However, I change the lyrics to "Three Little Green Frogs" as I could only fit three frogs in the cup. 

I'll end this blog with a gif of Prince with his pop-up puppet. And yes, I'm a Prince fan. :)