Skills for Life, through embedded learning, have been seen to be vital these days. These skills, literacy, numeracy, and ICT are skills that are fundamental for any students to have as a minimum requirement. This fact was exacerbated many years ago by the Moser report ‘A Fresh Start’ (DfEE 1999) that highlighted 7 million adults literacy skills were below those expected of an 11-year-old. This worrying figure emphasized the need for teachers to take use any opportunity to embed these key skills in their lessons. I would like in this essay to reflect on my experiences of embedding which asserts “learn by doing”. Moreover, research has suggested if the skills are embedded the students actually feel more motivated (Roberts et al. 2005). I faced this with a research project I did involving Howard Gardeners Multiple Intelligences (1983). I studied students’ learning characteristics in an ESOL class and reflected on them using various techniques to aid their learning.
To begin, multiple intelligence suggests that students learn in different ways, so, for example, one learns more by being active (body kinesthetic) while another learns more from pictures (visual spatial). Of course, in an ESOL class language and literacy are paramount, but this had to be done in ways that were learner-centred with active learning which kept the students focused on the task, so they still used their English language. For instance, I gave each of them a picture of a famous person with some text about that person. I gave them the grammatically formed questions and answers to ask each other about their famous person (verbal linguistic). Incidentally, I had a higher level class get their information from the internet. So, they first had to read the text and write down the answers to the questions. They would then get to ask and answer each other who the famous person was, where they were from, how old, and an interesting fact. I collected the faces, got the students into groups (interpersonal) and each group had to ask questions (logical mathematical) to find out who it was I was thinking about. It was like a game show. The winner was the one who guessed right first. Language was guided by myself, the teacher, to use complete answers and questions and the discussion in the groups was prompted by me also. The embedding here involved having a fun activity while pressing home language proficiency which is similarly shown in LLUK standard BS1, of ‘maintaining an inclusive equitable and motivating learning environment’. This class had competition, interest and a challenge which was valued as much as with English and literacy.
Still staying with learning languages, but this time related to numeracy, I had been teaching a class about nouns. I had had them in groups outside (naturalistic approach) describing objects. It was a kind of treasure hunt. They then had to write about what they found and present it. The presentation involved the characteristics of the object. The progression from objects was onto using nouns involved with shopping. I also felt for this subject the students should get used to prices. I found some newspapers, magazines, and door-to-door fliers that were filled with adverts for shops, filled with writing and numbers. So, I proposed that the students go through the newspapers, magazines, and door-to-door flyers. The students needed to read them, cut out eight objects and stick them on a large sheet of paper (Bodily/Kinesthetic). However, the pictures had the prices missing. Then, they had to write about their object, ready for selling. A few times, I actually did this part of the lesson with the computers and had the students make up a catalogue for their objects. There was certainly less clearing up. Once they were finished sticking, the challenge for the exercise was for each group to get the other groups to guess the answer to the price of the object. The students had to work in their group to guess the price. This meant they had to work in their group to come up with answers using their English. It ended up as ‘Price is Right’ competition with myself telling them they could not go over the real price. The nearest won, so, they had to work out the prices higher or lower which as an embedded numeracy skills worked well.
To sum up, in this reflective essay I have shown that through my work and reflection with multiple intelligences, which was actually part of my ongoing continual professional development (CPD), that as a teacher I try to embed key skills into my lesson. This I feel goes a long way to ‘discovering, respecting, and meeting individual needs’ (FENTO, 1999). My ESOL classes are full of opportunities to use not only to use literacy coherently in reading and writing but also in numeracy where for example we talk about the telling the time and buying goods. Not forgetting, the use of ICT to allow the students to work on projects in groups or an individual basis.
Further Education National Training Organisation (FENTO, 1999)
Moser, C. (1999), A Fresh Start. London: DfEE. Retrieved on 15 June 2008 from http://www.lifelonglearning.co.uk/mosergroup/
Roberts, C., Baynham, M., Shrubshall, P., Brittan, J., Cooper, B., Gidley, N., Windsor,
V., Eldred, J., Grief, S., Castillino, C. and Walsh, M. (2005), Embedded teaching and learning of adult literacy, numeracy and ESOL: Seven case studies. London: National Research and Development Centre for adult literacy and numeracy.
A first recognizable factor about English language classes is the highlighting of the daily use of language which has to be the main dynamic in anyone’s scaffolding of knowledge. The more any speaker uses it, the more they will be able to use their fresh available knowledge of language. As a teacher, it should be mentioned that reading and writing inspire to make a student more creative with their speaking. This, I think , is found to be a sensible choice to further one’s linguistic knowledge. I would like to draw attention to students writing their memoirs in class (collected for a final portfolio). This means allowing students ten minutes at the start of each lesson to write about amazing stories in their life. Below is an example to highlight this.
Memoirs – All For Nothing
I had just flown in from Bangkok to Holland and was heading for Euro 2000, the European Football competition between neighbouring Euro countries. I first went to Amsterdam and headed straight for the railway station to chuck my bag in storage, so I could go off to Eindhoven to see England play Portugal. I had actually booked a ticket to see the rock group Oasis in Hamburg the following day after the match; this was really my only plan. So, at least I knew now I had to get from Eindhoven to Hamburg somehow.
I spent one night in Amsterdam and then the next day went off down to Landgraaf, I had found out about a festival, it was the PinkPop rock festival about an hour or so from Amsterdam; actually having Oasis playing. I always remember going to this concert, as I never had a ticket. As I got there, I saw lots of people in a field, so I spent a good 30 minutes looking how to jump the fence to get in for free only to find out that it was only for tents and the festival was in another field. Anyway, I got a ticket for a cheap price, so it was not a hassle. The festival finished (Oasis without Noel Gallagher), and my next move was thinking about the football. I ended up getting the train to another town one stop down from Eindhoven, as it was full of England football fans who had taken over every hotel. So, I spent the night in the next town; the next night was the big match.
Once again, I was without a ticket. I spent the day drinking and generally mixing with the English fans, fortunately, finding a guy who had tickets for the match. I was a bit wary because this ticket had the owner’s name on it, and match security were going to check tickets and passports too. I bought it anyway; I was going to chance it. I thought if security take the ticket away, at least I tried to get in. And then came the moment of getting in; as I walked closer I saw there were metal fences stopping people, I got my ticket out and showed it. The inspector just looked at the ticket, I had made it past. Yes, I had made it but only to the next fence, there were three of these. The stars were shining that night; I made it past all of them. The match was brilliant too, although we lost to Portugal; damn Figo!
Now, it was time to look for somewhere to stay the night. There was nowhere, I was homeless in Holland. I ended up sitting in a few bars and restaurants which was not nice for me, as you meet up with many weird people from 11pm to 6am. 6am was the time of the train to Hamburg. I was actually early and spent an hour waiting; still seeing England fans going round singing after a big night out. I needed sleep badly. The Oasis concert in Hamburg was that night and I had had no sleep. So, it was just my luck when I got on the train, and it was full and this continued through my three changes of train, as I crossed from Holland to Germany. I actually found a seat, but by that time, I was scared of never waking up and ending up in Russia or something.
So, now I was in Hamburg, I found myself a hotel, had a look around, and made my way to the concert. I could not believe all that I had done over the last few days. This was the only action I had planned. I had a ticket, I was legal. There would be no worries over security, no worries about jumping fences and a nice hotel waiting after. I had looked forward to this concert for the month, I had the ticket. As I got to the stadium, I thought it looked a bit quiet and wondered if I had the right place. I asked one of the guys there and he said the Oasis concert had been cancelled. I had made the trip all for nothing. Nice one Liam!