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Humanising Language Teaching
Humanising Language Teaching
Humanising Language Teaching

Dear HLT Readers,

Welcome to the new issue of HLT and Happy New Year.

Perhaps in 2012 we will be able to welcome you to Pilgrims. Most the participants on our Easter, Summer and Autumn courses come funded by the EU. It is past the deadline to apply for an EU Comenius or Grundtvig grant for the summer courses but you can still apply for an autumn course; the deadline is mid-April 2012. For more information read Easter, Summer and Autumn Courses.

Two articles in this issue reflect what kind of atmosphere and professional development you can expect: The Multiple Intelligences Entry Point Approach: Engaging Language Learners into Any Topic by Josh Lange and The Cambridge Grammar of English in the ELT Classroom - Teaching Selected Features of Spoken English edited by Veronika Piccinini, Sylvia Velikova and Andrea Rebrová. The spoken grammar artlice is the outcome of a very fruitful brainstorming session on a course at Pilgrims in the summer of 2011.

As HLT editor I experience joys and personal satisfaction. Thank you for sharing your ideas and kind words, some of which you can read in the Letters section. There are poignant moments, too. When Lis da Rocha from Libya submitted her article in the early months of 2011 the text dealt with teaching in Libya. With all the political developments, the original text had to be almost completely changed and the photos removed as the author was not sure of the fate and situation of the people in them. If you want to get a glimpse of life in Libya as it is now, read One Town Before and After.

I would say this issue is very poetic, too; there are quite a few poems: Two Poems from an Oxford Summer, 2008, 26 Letters and A Teacher’s Song, and an author’s review The Shapes of Things by Michael Swan. We all know Michael Swan from the Grammar books he has written or co-written with Catherine Walters (see: Short Book Reviews for their latest Grammar Course, OUP), but not many know that Michael Swan also writes poems. Now you can enjoy some of them thanks to HLT and then buy the book.

As for other contributions to this issue, the major article The Impact of Teachers’ Communication Skills on Teaching: Reflections of Pre-service Teachers on their Communication Strengths and Weaknesses by Sng Bee Bee looks at productive skills while Reading Aloud: Breaking the Taboo by Robert Buckmaster and Social Turn, Identity and ‘New’ Literacy Practices by Peter Clements look at receptive skills and literacy. More practical ideas on reading activities can be found in: One Text: Eight Ways to Exploit It by Susan Purcell and The Enchanted Lake by Michael Berman.

As usual there are some jokes in A Little Humour: Three Snippets With Interesting Explanations by Edwin Salter and a very entertaining letter and text from Geoff Tranter in the Letters section.

Finally Happy Valentine’s Day with St. Valentine’s by Alexandra Costa

Hope you will enjoy this issue of HLT!

Hania Kryszewska
HLT Editor

An Invitation to Join an Important New Movement –
Early Childhood Action
20 January 2012

Dear colleagues and friends,

We are writing to you formally to invite you to join a new alliance of early years individuals and organisations, the aim of which is to campaign intensively in the coming weeks and months to influence the Government’s final revision of England’s statutory Early Years Foundation Stage. Early Childhood Action will be entirely ‘flat’ hierarchically; that is, it will not be dominated or controlled by any particular organisation(s) or individual(s), and all ‘voices’ which align themselves with ECA will have equal respect and potential influence.

Our vision is to create as soon as possible a major alliance or ‘coalition’ of authoritative voices from across the early years sector, for whom that which collectively unites us, in terms of our concerns about EYFS reform, is far more important than any differences we might have. We set out below what is a provisional, working ‘manifesto’ which describes briefly our concerns and aims. This is very much a ‘standing’ document, which can be revisited and amended as ECA develops, and its emerging identity takes shape. ECA will be strictly non party-political, and will have as its overriding aim the well-being and flourishing of all young children, from whatever background, in developmentally appropriate environments.

More specifically, our emergent ‘manifesto’ currently consists of the following key points:

  • The recognition that free imaginative play should be at the centre of young children’s experience and learning.
  • A strong belief that the over-assessment and excessive monitoring of young children, with the accompanying ‘audit culture’ mentality, must not come to dominate, or significantly influence, early years practice, and the healthily diverse ways in which practitioners work with children.
  • A conviction that the EYFS’s statutory Early Learning Goals require a radical overhaul, if not abolition, with the age-inappropriate demands of the overly-cognitive literacy and mathematics ELGs requiring particular attention.
  • The ubiquity of ICT (computers), specifically in early years settings, needs fundamental re-thinking in relation to the most recent research evidence available on the impact of these technologies on young children.
  • The statutory nature of the EYFS framework needs to be urgently re-visited, with only those aspects of the framework that are widely regarded as being uncontroversial and essential remaining statutory, and the rest becoming voluntary ‘guidance only’.
  • There doesn't have to be a trade-off between the drive for greater equality between young children, and the extent to which government intervenes inappropriately into early childhood experience. We need to persuade government to find creative and effective ways to address inequality which do not involve indiscriminately imposed policies and curricular frameworks that ‘catch’ all young children in their wake.

In light of the above, ECA intends to draw up an Alternative Foundation Phase (or AFP), which explicitly addresses the above concerns. AFP will then be circulated throughout the sector and will be freely available to download as a pdf document, with the aim of galvanising the sector around an alternative early years framework to which all can easily and enthusiastically subscribe, and which avoids the worst aspects of the current statutory EYFS curriculum. The success of this alternative framework and the welcome it receives will then hopefully be something that Government and the DfE will be unable to ignore.

Suggested Time-frame

  1. Tuesday 7 February 2012: ECA is formally launched – with a major press release and an agreed founding Open Letter that will be circulated to key destinations (e.g. Nursery World, the TES, etc.). The Open Letter will be co-operatively drafted by (say) five trusted ECA members, who will hopefully step forward in the coming days to draft it. Trust will be vital in ECA; of course no-one will agree with every ‘dot’ and ‘comma’ of the Open Letter and the AFP – but we need to submerge our nuanced differences for the wider aim of significantly influencing government policy-making; and it is our demonstrable unity, and our gravity and ‘balast’ as an independent movement, that will enable this to happen. This gives us only a short time to attract all the individuals and organisations prepared to join together under the ECA banner. We will also need a website, which will list our supporters in full, perhaps with a brief statement from each as to why they have aligned themselves with ECA.
  2. Monday 16 April 2012: Launch (to a big media and sector-wide fanfare) of The Alternative Foundation Phase. Again, we envisage perhaps three or five respected authorities/colleagues in the field stepping forward tooffer to compose what will be a viable alternative document to the EYFS. We would need to decide how the drafters would be chosen; and they would hopefully be able to circulate a first draft of their document to all ECA supporters before Easter, so that feedback could be sought from all supporters prior to the final version being written, with feedback being incorporated where appropriate into the final document. This would give those drafting the AFP document the Easter period/holiday to finalise it.

We very much hope that you’ll wish to align yourself with ECA. There is no joining fee, and if we find that funds are needed to help with aspects of ECA’s activities (e.g. setting a new website, travelling expenses to meetings for those drafting the AFP etc.), hopefully these can be raised by voluntarily appealing to the membership to cover any significant expenses or participants – but costs will be kept to an absolute minimum. We believe that together, we can really influence the Government in the crucial coming months – please join us and help make this happen! At the very least, the successful launching of Early Childhood Action will give a strong message to Government that the sector really does have a collective ‘mind of its own’, and will no longer lie down and passively accept whatever is imposed upon it.

We hope to hear from you soon – please email if you’d like any further information etc.

With our kind regards,

Marie Charlton, Grethe Hooper Hansen, Dr Richard House, University of Roehampton, Dr Jayne Osgood, London Metropolitan University, Sue Palmer, Dr Rupert Sheldrake, Kim Simpson [to which list, we hope to be able to add your name!]


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