Friday, 20 January 2017

Inclusive unit (13/01/17)

The title of our unit was Culture Vulture, and that is exactly what we expect our students to be after completing this series of amazing activities whose main objective is to arise their innate curiosity and to encourage them to learn more about different countries and lifestyles! 
(Take into account that our tasks have been designed to complement teh ones offered by the book, so teh timing may vary according to the studnets needs in each lesson)

1. WARM-UP: Guess the country! 
In order to develop this activity, students will be divided in groups of five, and they will have to cooperate in order to gather all the information they need to win!

Before the game starts...
The teacher  will hang posters on a wall in the corridor, outside the classroom. Each poster will deal with one country. Each will contain pictures which portray both the famous character who lives in it and funny or peculiar facts about that country.  Moreover, eah poster will include the instructions of the activity itself

During the game...
Three members of the group will have to go outside the classroom and check the posters the teacher will have hanged onto the walls. They will have to remember what they have seen and then come back into the classroom and tell their peers. They will have 5 / 10 minutes, depending on the complexity of the facts. After that, all the group will have to reconstruct the facts and read them out loud. The group who understands and gathers more facts, will win!

This activity is great because...
Students with ADHD are assigned a role which consists of dealing with a very visual kind of material, rather tan a long text about facts of a given country,  so they will be more motivated.  Moreover, they will be able to access the instructions of the activity, so they can keep focused.
Gifted students  will feel integrated and motivated as well. They will be able to connect the ideas more easily as well as to contribute with their own previous knowledge about the matter, more even look up more information about the country they are interested in.

It implies movement and therefore kinesthetic learners can benefit from it.
It deals with visual material and thus visual learners will find it easier to learn
It is necessary to cooperate in order to win, and therefore we are fostering cooperative learning and teaching.

It deals with the interpersonal intelligence as well, since students will have to reach agreements and understand each other in order to reach their goal.

For instance, in a poster about Tasmania we will have images such as:

2. Vocabulary (10-15 minutes)
The vocabulary section of this unit will be practiced using the poster that the students have been working on in the warm-up. The teacher will give each group a series of flashcards containing each an adjective of opinion. Then, they have to match each item with the character of the poster that bets represents that feelings, according to them. The idea is that they work in groups, helping each other while discussing the meaning of the new words (if none of them knows the meaning, they can look it up in the dictionary).  
The fact of using again the poster will be beneficial for students with ADHD. As we are using the vocabulary items of the book, maybe some of the older students remember them from the previous year, so they can participate in the activity by helping their peers to guess the right meaning and the picture which bets matches each definition. In turn, for this activity gifted students will switch groups, so they will be working on a poster of a different culture, a fact that may arise their curiosity and their interest in the lesson.  

3. Grammar task:

Make sentences with the comparative “(not) as…as” and the superlative using the given cards with the adjectives.

REMEMBER: You should be as creative as possible.


With this activity, the typical fill-in-the-gaps or the matching exercises will be avoided because students are bored of them and they usually do them systematically without thinking of the process. So, students will be divided into groups in order to build sentences using the comparative and superlative basing them on the cards that the teacher will give them. In these cards they will have the main adjectives that they should include in their sentences. One member per group will do the mimics and the others will have to guess the adjective and write down a whole sentence. Each of them has to make up the rest of the sentence so that it will be as creative as possible and, of course, without any grammar mistake. Then, this process is repeated as many times as members in the group. Students can add some more adjectives. The most creative sentences will be the winners.
This activity will help to many types of learners. For example, kinaesthetic learners would be benefited from the movements that the mimics imply. Furthermore, visual learners will associate these kinds of movements to the comparatives and superlatives. The ADHD students will feel that they can express themselves in the same way as the rest of the class and this time, they will not be sat down as usual. Moreover, they will be paying attention to the gestures because they want to give the most of them in order to win the game. The gifted students can reflect their abilities in the creativity of the sentence and the students who are retaking the course will be “distributed” in different groups so that they will not feel excluded. These students will have the obligation of working the same amount of time as the others due to the fact that this activity will be carried out in groups. Students normally enjoy with this kind of competitions and because of this, the whole class would be involved.

4. Listening task (10-15 minutes)
-Watch the video "Cultural Diversity Examples: Avoid Stereotypes while communicating", and then answer the following questions using your own words:

  •   What did the man really mean when he asked the woman "Where are you from" a second time?
  • Why did he ask the question more slowly?
  • Was the woman being sarcastic when she repeated the man's questions? Why would she do so?

The video about racial stereotypes will be played two times for the students to get the general meaning (they have to pay attention to the message, not to each individual word). The purpose of this activity is to arise intercultural awareness in the students, so they will learn to appreciate the richness of social diversity. If there is spare time, students can provide their own definition of stereotypes with examples from different countries (they are allowed to draw their ideas to better exemplify them).
By including a video, we aim to catch the attention of students with ADHD. As so, as it is a listening task completely different from the one proposed by the book, it might seem more appealing for the students retaking the year. In turn, students with high capacities can also benefit from the activity by reflecting on the damaging effect of stereotypes in their lives, and the best strategies to avoid them.     
Being a more interactive activity, it has been designed to end the lesson in a more relaxed and cooperative atmosphere. 

5. Speaking task (15-10 minutes)
The balloon debate (role-play). To begin with, each student is given a piece of paper with the name of a famous character from the countries studied in the lesson. Then, they are divided in groups of 5 and the teacher explains the situation: 

 Each group discusses around 10 minutes and then the final decision (which should have been agreed by the group) is presented to the rest of the class.

The purpose of this activity, besides practicing speaking, is for the students to learn to make responsible decisions as members of a social group.  They are expected to be as creative as possible when defending the position of their character in the balloon, analyzing the question from different perspectives (social, economic, cultural, political or even religious). Thus, when analyzing the social relevance of the different characters, they will be fostering their critical thinking abilities.       
During the activity, a series of visual stimuli will be projected in order to create the suitable atmosphere for drama purposes. Additionally, if the teacher presents the task  in advance, students can bring customs or masks to class, so they will feel more identified with the character they have to defend. At the same time, students will be allowed to stand up and interact with the environment while performing their character. Thus, this activity has been designed to be engaging for ADHD learners. The teacher will also project the instructions and some sample sentences so they can better understand the purpose of the task. 
On the other hand, students with high capacities will be given not so well-known characters, appealing thus to their curiosity to learn more, and also challenging their researching abilities. In turn, students retaking the year can take advantage of the activity to show to their peers their background knowledge on cultural icons (since they have already worked on the topic). Indeed, making an appropriate use of ICT technologies is one of the general objectives of Secondary Education. 

6. Writing
-Choose one of the situations below to create a text of around 100-150, in which you include some of the grammatical and lexical content seen across the unit:
  •     What would have happened if Madonna and Albert Einstein had had a child? Would the world be a better place or not? 
    (If you want, you can choose instead any cultural icons from the countries we have seen)
  •     Do  you think life was much easier 100 years ago? Why? Why not?
  •    Compare two countries in terms of cultural richness (music, films, arts).
  •    In your opinion, if there was a universal competition of intelligence, who should win?
  •  Choose a topic on your own (ask the teacher for permission)


The purpose of this activity is to offer the students as many options for the writing task as possible, in an attempt to find a topic they like or may be interested in. We have tried to create a variety of situations (some of them quite unreal) so as to caught the attention of the whole class and encourage them to show all their innate potential and creativity with regards to written production. While explaining this homework task in class, some visual materials will be projected to benefit visual learners. In turn, by doing this writing they are expected to show how this unit has helped them notice the dangers of cultural stereotypes, fostering thus their role as autonomous researchers. 

Jumbled reading (10-15 minutes).
Students will be given a reading text whose paragraphs are not in the correct order. In pairs, they will have to read each fragment and re-organise the information so they can understand the whole text. Then, they have to answer the following questions:
  •     How many countries are mentioned (directly or indirectly) in the text?
  •   Can you find any similarities/differences between the different explanations of the superstition?
  •    What legend/myth have you liked the most?


Why is Friday the 13th considered to be an unlucky day? Is it so in different countries?

Fragment 1:

Fragment 2:

Fragment 3:

Fragment 4:

This interactive task has been designed to activate students' minds. As the text deals with the same superstition present in different cultures, the idea is for them to develop both intercultural competence and critical thinking. Moreover, they are encouraged to talk about other weird superstitions they know which are very influential in different cultures.
Students retaking the year may be pleased of working on reading texts different form the ones proposed by the book, which they are tired of. In turn, the text will be adapted for students with high capacities, by omitting some keys words which they have to guess (such as the names of the countries or Gods). We want to awake their curiosity on the topic and assure active participation from the whole task. Last but not least, the fragments of the text will be hidden in the class, for the ADHD students to look for. By assigning them a specific role in the activity, we want to make sure they are able to focus all their attention in the task. 

As a summary of all the lexical and grammatical contents covered in the unit, students will have to create their own flashcards, a sort of educative tools to share with younger students. The flashcards are completely up to their imagination: they can include photos, drawings, descriptions... whatever they need in order to explain, in a simple and understandable way, one of the topics they have just studied. The idea is to give a real purpose to their knowledge, while allowing them to develop their artistic nature in the language class.

This project also aims to bring together the different levels of the high school: by creating didactic material specially designing for younger learners, the students of 4th of ESO will take a greater responsibility on their learning progress. After all, we want all of them to be able to communicate useful meaning through the tools they manage. 

Evaluation criteria:

Students will be assessed by using the interactive webpage “Kahoot” with their mobile phones. Throughout this platform, they have to answer to some questions about the grammar and vocabulary points of the unit. The funny thing is that all of them are answering at the same time, so it creates a bit of competitiveness among them.

This is an interactive way of assessing students so that the teacher can verify if the learning processes and objectives of this didactic unit have been accomplished. On the other hand, students would not be bored because they are accustomed to the ordinary exams. The way of evaluating will also take into account the effort that students have made and their individual needs (the ones with special needs too).

Thursday, 19 January 2017

L. 4-5: Intercultural Competence

 You have organised an exchange with a school in another country. During their visit, the students attend each other's school and stay at each other's homes.
1- Describe the general terms of the arrengement, i.e.: country, age and academic level of students, length of the stay, who is visiting who this time, and any other detail you may consider relevant.

2- How would you prepare your students prior to the visit, bearing in mind the above set of conditions.

Trip to Brighton (UK)

Age: 15/ 16 years old
Level: 4th ESO, A2
Group: It will be a group of 20 students, and two teachers (each teacher will be in charge of ten students)

Cities: We will be staying in Brighton, since it is not the big city, and the students will be able to move around on their own. We want them to be autonomous, yet a big city, such as London, may be too big and crowded for our teenagers, who are underage.  However, Brighton is a town full of young people like them, since almost half the population is formed by students. This way, they will be able to meet their English partners, who are the same age, and thus it will be easier to establish bonds with the English culture, which is undoubtedly part of the English language.
Moreover, Brighton is definitely cheaper than the capital. Our students will be staying with the families of their peers. This way we will be able to overcome two problems: students with different economic levels will be able to come, and they will be directly in touch with English people: caring families, who will take care of them like their own family.

When? How long? The trip will take place during the Easter holidays, when our students will enjoy a break from homework and the exams period. It will last for a week. Since our students will be staying in host-families, the cost of the trip will be much cheaper than if they stayed in hotels. Thus, we will be able to enjoy England for a whole week!
What's more! The trip will include a one-day trip to London,  and another day trip to Oxford, where teachers and the local students will be the guides. During the rest of the week, in the mornings, activities will be held for our students to get to know students from  the high school in Brighton, with which we have an agreement.  And in the afternoon, our students will get to know international students from St. Giles College, which holds lectures for students who come from all over the world so as to learn English.

How to prepare the students prior to the visit: as it will be the first time many of them travel abroad, we will make sure in advance they have all the necessary documents, such as passport or European sanitary card. As for the language, the lessons before the trip will be devoted to introducing vocabulary and expressions (such as asking for directions or ordering a coffee) to ensure they are able to make themselves understood in any kind of contexts they might encounter during their visit to Brighton. Teachers will also encourage them to prepare a small notebook with useful tips, plans or ideas to share with their English peers.  
We will need: A coat and an umbrella (it’s England.. and you never know when it’s going to pour!). A pair of comfortable shoes and trainers (we won’t stop walking and running and playing!). And a lot of hope and wish to laugh and enjoy meeting a new culture!!!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

L. Activity 3.5. Intercultural Competence (how to implement it in class)

1- Describe an example of exercise, or unit, from a book, dealing with intercultural competence.
    Looking for information about how intercultural competence is actually included in the textbooks, we've found a very interesting unit to analyze. The unit is called "Culture Vulture", a direct allusion to the topic it covers, as well as to the feeling it aims to arise in the students: curiosity towards other cultures, together with the realization of the enriching value of diversity.
            Indeed, what has caught our attention is the warm-up, a speaking activity in pairs entitled: Test your culture knowledge with this culture vulture quiz!  The activity includes images and short clues about cultural icons related to different arts (such as Kylie Minogue, the play Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare or the painter Salvador Dalí) and students must guess the name and the country of origin of each one. Then, they share their answers with the whole class, and anyone who may know any further details about one of the given topics will be welcomed to share the information with the rest of the group.    
               OpenMind2. Level A2. London: MacMillan (2014).   

2- In your opinion, has the subject been dealt with appropriately? Explain why it has or why it has not.
           From a general perspective, the activity is positive since it covers cultural aspects from different regions and different areas (i.e. England, Spain, Italy...). At the same time, it directly appeals to the background knowledge of the learners on this topic, so the activity may arise their curiosity.
       However, we think that it will be more appropriate (and more enriching for the students) if the authors of the book had included some cultural notions belonging to less known countries. For instance, being a book to work on the English language, it could include images and clues about cultural icons from the different English speaking countries (such as India, New Zealand or Ireland), broadening thus the students perspective while dismantlement the myth that the English world only consists of the UK and north America. After all, we believe that the more and most varied information we give to our students, the better for them to mature as responsible citizens of our current, globalized world.    

3- How would you present/include it in your teaching?
         We'll include this activity while studying the names of countries and nationalities, so by doing the quiz students can put into practice the lexical items they have just learnt. Even though it is aimed at a A2 level, it can also be useful for practicing the grammatical point of comparative and superlative adjectives, encouraging students to make comparisons between the pictures and their own reality.  
          On the other hand, as it is a team-work, interactive sort of task, we will use it at the end of the lesson, when students are more tired and need an incentive to pay attention to the explanation. Thus, we believe that the competition factor will assure the active participation of the whole group.

          We can also take the activity a step further by asking the students to research at home the characters or countries they liked the most from the activity, and then prepare their own quiz to be answered by their partners in the following session. 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

L. Activity EGL 1-5. I.C. - Group Discussion

                                                 Intercultural Competence 

1-What is “Intercultural Competence” (I.C.)?

 According to Deardoff, it could be understood as the capacity to communicate (both to utter and to understand) and to adapt oneself to an intercultural context. Moreover, this should be done in a way in which not only is it possible to get one’s point across, but also to do so in the most adequate fashion. This idea could be summed up by the English idiom “When in Rome, do as the Romans”.

2- Is I.C. important for communication?

Yes, it is. On the one hand, it is important in a very practical way. In our experiences as EFL speakers, there will be and have been many instances in which we have had to speak with people coming from different cultures. Therefore, we have had to adapt the way in which we communicate. Not only regarding actual utterances which need to be adapted as well, but also regarding body languages and ways of expression which are much more linked to culture. On the other hand, we also spoke about how interesting this intercultural competence was and what its study could offer concerning the linguistics and the degree to which culture affects language.

3-  How  does  I.C. relate to identity?

It goes without saying that one’s original culture shapes his or her personality. Hence, we have thought that I.C. and the opportunity to interact with other cultures allows people to negotiate and question the roles that might have been assumed.

4-How  does  I.C.  relate to the use of a language as a lingua franca? 
Firstly, we considered that I.C. was of the uttermost importance in the EFL classroom, for English is the likeliest language to be used in an intercultural context. Therefore, this competence has to be fostered and encouraged so that students can thrive in these situations.

5-How would you include  I.C.  in your teaching of  English as a global language?

Discussing this topic, we came to the conclusion that it would be important for students to understand and gain insight into other cultures, while at the same time reaffirming themselves as product of their own. Thus, we though it would be interesting to study different cultures and establish links with the one they belong to, and to study similarities and differences and try to account for them. Nonetheless, we also talked about how the best way to improve this competence would be, of course, to travel. This not being affordable for everyone, other options such as telecollaboration where mentioned.


1- What is the aim of (CLIL) in relation to the teaching of L2/FL?

CLIL aims to guide language processing and reinforce language production. In CLIL the content drives the language.

2- Should CLIL become a substitute for general language teaching, and be used as the sole method for teaching L2/FL as its the trend in “Vocational Training”?

No, it shouldn't, since there are some students (for example, immigrants students) that need to get into immersion programmes. It woudl be ideal to find a balance between both programms, in order to assure a significative process of learning a foreign language for all kinds of learners.

3- Should there be some coordination between the teaching of FL in general and CLIL courses?

Yes, it would be a good idea to blend them, so each tecahing methodology cna complement the other. After all, education should be based on teh principel sof cooperation and interaction.


1- What is “Content and Language Integrated Learning” (CLIL)?

It is a teaching methodology that consists on teaching content from different areas using English as a tool. In other words, an additional language is used for the learning and teaching of both content and language.

2- Is there any difference between immersion and CLIL teaching?
Yes, there are some differences.

3- If so, what are the main differences?

For example, the content we teach through CLIL is adapted. Also, CLIL teachers are not necessarily English native speakers, whereas in immersion programmes most of teachers are.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

L. Activity 2. Languages

-How many languages do you speak, apart from your mother tongue or L1?

Besides our L1 or mother tongue, which varies from Catalan to Spanish in each member of our team, we are all also fluent speakers of English. In addition, the whole group has studied a second language during the degree: Enrique, Alba and Maria Calabuig can converse of almost any topic in French, whereas Maria Jiménez and Andrea are as well quite fluent in German. 

-Is your mother tongue your L1?

In the case of Alba, Maria Jiménez and Maria Calabuig, their mother tongue and the L1 is the same: Catalan; although they can also be considered native speakers of Spanish almost since they started talking, due to the bilingual context of the Valencian Community. When it comes to Andrea, it's rather difficult to establish her mother tongue, because her father speaks Catalan and her mother Spanish, thus, she has been raised indistinctively in both languages. However, she herself acknowledges Catalan as her L1, being this the language she feels more identified with. On the other hand, the most interesting case of our group will be Enrique. Born in Belgium, his mother tongue is French, which he still uses at home or when talking to his relatives. Nevertheless, his family moved to Massamagrell when he was a few years old, growing in this manner in a completely different bilingual context. This fact explains why he considers Catalan (or even Spanish) his L1, the language through which he has expressed his inner thoughts and concerns during most of his life. 

-Are there things you find easier in one language than the other?

Even though all of us are bilingual from birth, there are some fields in which we feel more comfortable using one particular language. For instance, in relaxed atmospheres with family and friends, Catalan comes natural to our minds as the best tool to express our inner selves; whereas for official or academic purposes, we tend to use Spanish, as it seems more 'formal'. In general, for us it is easier to talk about feelings and personal experiences in our mother tongues -having a higher command of the language (vocabulary, structures, idioms, connotations), we feel more confident when using it when it comes to convey important messages. 

In the case of English, it is natural for us to use it in any context related to our degree or the Masters. As we have studied linguistics and literature using the English terminology, many times we find it hard to find the correct equivalent in Spanish or Catalan, because our minds process this sort of information directly in English. It is the same when we think about our Erasmus experience and friends: having lived in English, it is much easier for us to express our feelings and impressions of the period using that language. 

To sum up, the feeling of easiness or difficulty that a language causes on us depends very much on the context, the people we are with or even the topic of the conversation, but in general we all tend to switch to the language in which we feel more confident of our linguistic abilities.

-In language use terms, how would you describe the society you live in? Are the people in that society plurilingual?

We consider the Spanish society rather narrow-minded in language use terms, because even though there are several co-official languages recognised in different regions (Catalan, Valencian, Euskera, Galician) the general trend is to impose Spanish over all of them, particularly in the public atmosphere. 

At the same time, although studying a foreign language is compulsory in our academic system, very few individuals can be considered true plurilingual. In our current society, many people claim proudly to have a 'good command' of a foreign language, namely English, French, German or Chinese. In general, this 'good command' means that they are just able to mutter some basic, stereotypical sentences (which in many cases native speakers are unable to understand), but still people tag themselves as plurilingual individuals for business purposes. In our view, being a real plurilingual is one of the hardest status to attain, as long as it means being able to switch from one language to another in any context without hesitation, not just murmuring words without order or coherence. The problem with our current society is that titles and fake impressions are more important than a real control of the language. 

In the case of the Valencian Community, many people claim to be bilingual in Spanish and Catalan, but when it comes to real speaking, most of them are unable to express themselves fluently in the second language -which means that they have studied the language at school, but they haven't really learnt how to use it in real situations. This fact is usually explained by the personal lack of interest of some individuals who consider learning a second language as a useless task. 

-How would you encourage ‘bilingualism’ in your classroom?

First of all, it is important to make students (and parents) aware of the great benefits of being bilingual. If learners realize that a second language will help them progress in their future careers, if they see it as part of their nature, they will no longer see the second language just as an academic subject, and as so, they will be less reluctant to improve their linguistic skills. In other words, the first step will be presenting languages as the key tool for personal success. 

At the same time, we should encourage bilingualism in the classroom through a great variety of interactive activities, in an attempt to make languages seem appealing for the students. For instance, we can ask them to write an essay about themselves (likes and dislikes, family, hobbies, hopes) in their mother tongue, so they can express their inner thoughts in a more coherent and fluent way. Then, we can try to move them a step away from their area of comfort (meaning their mother tongue) by asking them to translate the text in the second language. The idea is to make them aware of their innate creative abilities, while they learn new vocabulary and structures (improving thus their bilingual linguistic competence). By mixing both languages in the same exercise, we want students to look for similarities and differences, so they can notice that all languages are similar to some point, but still, they have particularities which make them unique. 

Another key point will be arising students' awareness of the richness of being bilingual in communicative terms. By mastering two languages, they will be able to communicate with a wider social group, enlarging thus their personal opportunities -for instance, through the second language they will gain access to a huge variety of content (films, books, news) in the original version. Furthermore, once they have learnt a second language, it will become much easier for them to study new ones, because they will be able to make comparisons among languages, or even apply studying strategies that have been useful for them before. 

All in all, the best technique to encourage bilingualism in the classroom is based on activating students' self-esteem towards their bilingual nature. 

-Do you feel some languages have a higher status in the classroom?

In the case of our region, Spanish has a higher status in the classroom than Catalan, although the legislation establishes both as equally important. This imbalance is particularly noteworthy in the province of Alicante, as well as in Valencia city, where the vast majority of pupils just use the regional dialect in the Catalan course. 

In the case of public institutions, the law establishes that half of the subjects should be taught in Catalan, and the other half in Spanish, but from our personal experiences we can claim that there's a general trend of predominance of one over the other. This can be explained through different factors: the educators own ignorance of the Catalan language; the students' reluctance to study in a language which most of them feel alienated from their own reality; and most importantly, the authority's support to our current context of diglossia. In other words, being Spanish the official language of the country, the language of 'culture and authority', many educators and parents discourage learners from using Catalan, even at school, because this language has been stigmatized as 'provincial' (representative of a minority). Surprisingly enough, in many cases a foreign language such as English or French has a higher status inside the classroom than the regional one, because their international prestige is more valued than the real context in which we live. After all, this imbalance of languages inside our classroom responds to political interests.