Coaching English in Class or Online: For Lower Intermediate Level and Above
Emmanuelle Betham, M Ed (Applied Linguistics), former trainer at Pilgrims, is an Educator/Coach (NLP, CBT), Company Director, and author of: An Introduction to Coaching For Language Learning, 2018, Amazon Publishing; the I realise series 2019, 2020 (illustrated stories for coaching all ages), and numerous articles on Linguistics and Education. E.Betham@LanguageCommunicationCoaching.com ,
These ready-made Interactive Projectable Classes can be downloaded, edited and used in class or shared online as part of a webinar style class. In a coaching style, each slide asks questions that the learners should read and discuss, as a way to learn English and develop the person.
They were designed for the application of Coaching For Language Learning (E. Betham, 2018, Amazon publishing), in a student-led classroom where the teacher-coach’s role is that of a research companion, helping with emergent language and generally providing support.
Teachers use IPCs to enjoy and achieve the following:
- Learners use language as a means of communication, to learn and do other things, and not viewed as an end in itself.
- Learners’ engagement, critical thinking and self-confidence are fostered.
- Learners and their teacher-coach learn from each other and interact meaningfully.
- Any piece of learning is as good as another.
- Learners speak International English, and the culture of native speakers of English may be shared but is not specifically emphasised.
- The teacher-coach is attentive to the learners’ immediate needs and preferences and willing to improvise.
- The quality or effectiveness of the teacher-coach is determined by their competence as such (regardless of whether or not they are a native speaker of English).
- Any additional pertinent texts or English translations of literature may be used.
- A variety of accents will be enjoyed as long as pronunciation is clear.
- The learners’ first language may be used to make linguistic connections, references and associations, thereby enhancing second language learning and helping memorisation.
IPCs offer subject specific information and ideas for learners to think about and discuss. They help create an immediate context for learning, introduce specific language, and raise the linguistic awareness needed to become a successful communicator (both at the interpersonal and intrapersonal level). They allow the leaners to take action and responsibility for their own learning, so the teacher-coach can give their full attention to the learners and to the natural flow of the class, without worrying about forgetting to share key points about the language area in hand.
IPCs aim to facilitate learning by allowing it to happen naturally because:
- We are all sharing one activity, looking at the same slide, doing the same thing together and at the same time.
- Language and communication are natural.
- What we do and talk about is relevant to the learners’ needs/work/life.
- The learners are enjoying themselves.
- They are using and experiencing language.
- The programme enables the learners to make up their own rules rather than reading about them.
- The programme encourages reflection on ‘what works’* best for one’s own language learning (*as defined in Coaching For Language Learning, E. Betham, 2018, Chapter X.3: Seeing ‘what works’).
In using IPCs, the learners should be active and lead the class. The teacher-coach, in the facilitator and observer’s seat, may use the computer mouse or a laser to point at things on the slides.
IPCs are not intended for the teacher-coach to make an active presentation, nor to be used to make a speech in any way. They are intended as a visual, language-based prop for opening conversation, curiosity and reflection on pertinent subjects amongst learners. They aim to facilitate learning in a natural, social and enjoyable style, and they allow the teacher-coach to relax about content so that s/he can be more present and create a natural atmosphere.
IPCs were designed from a coaching perspective, taking into account that in learning (and especially when it takes place in classrooms, physical or virtual), there are often elements of (subconscious) resistance and inner conflict slowing down and restricting progress. The format, like the subjects, was therefore chosen to minimise and go beyond self-imposed limitations. It is a format that encourages an interactive class with co-created content and should neither resemble school nor a teacher presentation, nor anything seen or experienced before!
The projected format allows everyone to look at the same thing at the same time, providing a support for communication on subject of interests to the learners, thereby giving the communicative classroom a natural atmosphere, with texts as genuine as is possible in the context of the classroom.
IPCs are organised ‘themed contents’ (rather than lesson plans) that aim to give learners language experience as naturally as is possible in a classroom context, by offering research-based learning rather than information, and practice rather than rule, whenever possible. Other IPCs re-introduce grammar concepts (in order to clarify the learners’ existing confused knowledge) before offering practice.
IPCs provide a support for method and content, for the learners and the teacher-coach. However, the different IPC subjects available do not constitute a lesson’s worth of material, either in content or in time: They can be used in any order. The length of time spent on each slide will depend on the dynamics in the classroom. Although the slides exist so that no important concept is missed within the subject practised, some slides may be seen and skipped, and others more deeply discussed and researched. In this way, the learners and teacher-coach will jointly construct the content.
The subjects available (so far) were selected purely because of their observed popularity and usefulness to learners during my years of teaching and coaching English for Business and General purposes. They contain diverse aspects of language and communication, which were found to successfully answer learners’ needs and (sometimes not-so-straight-forward) requests.
When the subject content is not language per se, the area of language worked on will naturally be general fluency, emergent vocabulary and language forms.
Although the linguistic level may differ a little according to subject content, all IPCs are designed for adult and teenage learners who can already express themselves in English, so for Lower Intermediate level and up. Depending on the learners’ English level, more or less time may be spent on each IPC. The pace with lower levels will naturally be slower. In general, it is advised not to stop on more than 5 linguistic aspects on each slide, so as to keep the focus on content. Most of the language-orientated IPCs (such as Spelling or Prepositions) start on a basic level and reach higher levels towards the end. IPCs would not suit complete beginners.
Before selecting an IPC, tell the learners you will be using a coaching approach, and that using the IPCs will allow you to achieve the following:
- provide the information (teaching) and the practice (training) relevant to their goal in English.
- include both technical (linguistic) and practical (more personal) aspects of development in English.
- encourage the class to be run by the learners, interactive and co-constructed as a group, with the teacher-coach acting as a facilitator.
- allow a natural/purposeful way of learning.
Make sure you ask the learners:
- do you want to be able to do in English?”
A learner answer may be short:
“I want to use English for my work”
And you may have to ask for more information, especially about the nature of the learners’ perceived struggle:
“And…” (But is often the word they will use)
“what might the problem/s be?”
An example of a fuller response may be:
“I want to use English for my work but I don’t always understand when people speak too fast”.
Nevertheless, make sure you get clarification about the situation:
“In what situation do you not always understand?”
Depending on the learners’ answers to this question, you may choose from the list of IPC titles.
There are no rules for choosing an IPC, other than the following indications:
- Any piece of learning is as good as another.
- The choice is yours! And ideally the learner’s choice.
- Once the teacher-coach is aware of the learner’s goals, they may point out the most relevant ones.
- Depending on identified needs, the teacher-coach may want to design their own short-list of IPC themes for the learners to choose from.
- It is perfectly alright for the learners to change their mind about their goal and pick a different theme: change is part of learning.
- In a larger class, the learners could take a vote on the next IPC to explore.
What to do once you have selected a theme:
- In turns, individual learners will read the text on each slide aloud, not the teacher (the learners need the practice more). The first slide contains the title, which is an indication of the content (it may be displayed until everyone is ready to start). All other slides are to be read aloud by the learners in the same way. It is a good reading and pronunciation practice but the focus needs to be on the meaning and content on display.
- The slides (and the teacher-coach) invite learners to brainstorm orally and comment, for example by asking pairs to discuss, and then share (this avoids putting individual learners on the spot; it gives them reflection time and fosters social interactions and co-construction.
- Interactions and discussions can have any format, such as teacher-learner in individual classes, or in groups of two to four learners, depending on the size and dynamics of the class.
- From the discussion opportunities the slides offer, new language will emerge for the learners who will be encouraged to research and share their findings about words they did not know - but again, be aware that not all new words are a priority, or you may lose the overall meaning of the discussion in hand.
- In order to familiarise themselves with the messages in the IPCs, the learners need to be given time to interpret the meaning conveyed by the images on each IPC slide. Visual images help learners receive content and are fundamental to the purpose of IPCs. These have been selected to reinforce messages and trigger targeted conversations in the classroom.
- IPCs offer visual and written support for oral work, and the learners may take notes if they wish, or write directly on the whiteboard onto which the IPCs are projected.
- IPCs also encourage learners to write (on the white board when possible) thereby providing a natural spelling practice, allowing an active physical participation, and helping memorisation.
- When the learners give feedback, the teacher-coach provides emergent language but never corrects (because the learners are expressing what they understand so far, and that is ALWAYS good). There is no right or wrong way to understand things, and conversations often involve noticing how interpretations may vary and work differently for each individual.
IPCs encourage individual learners to make sense of things in their own way. Each class is jointly constructed, allowing each individual to learn how is best for them. They allow to develop dynamic rather than fixed knowledge, which means:
- Making people (including the teacher-coach) comfortable with uncertainty, open to discussion and to exploring different points of view.
- No need for closure (which goes against former learning for many of us). This means that we understand that perspectives vary and nothing needs to be set in stone.
- When giving clarification, the teacher-coach may suggest this ‘could be one helpful way to look at it’.
- It is an opportunity for the teacher-coach to use modals such as ‘may’ ‘could’ or ‘might’ be, instead of ‘is’.
Finally, when using IPCs, rest assured that you know enough (you may not know everything, but you can always assist a learner in research which can be more beneficial to them than you giving answers) and know your role:
- As a teacher, you give information
- As a trainer, you lead practice
- As a coach, you allow others to discover for themselves, including ‘what works’ best for them
All roles may be useful when called for, but these IPCs will give you more opportunity to practise the role of a coach, because they enable the learners to be more independent. When unsure about your role, just project the IPC, let the learners read and discuss the ideas suggested, follow instructions, stand back and watch people learn.
Here is a link to projectable slides for coaching in ESL.
Please check the Advanced NLP and Coaching Skills for the English Classroom course at Pilgrims website.
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