Training mainstream staff: graphic organizer and collaborative learning

Below is a presentation I used for my training of all the mainstream teaching staff at my school in late October 2014 (60 minute session). The idea here was to deliver something that was useful for everyone there: I didn’t want to exclude non-English subject teachers. Rather, it was to something that all teachers could take away.

Thus, the training first presented the very basics of who EAL learners are, their struggles and needs when mainstream in British schools. Following this, I have exposed the teachers to key visuals/graphic organizers. I have provided them with a table adapted from Bernard Mohan’s website, suggesting the use of specific types of graphic organizers (e.g. Venn diagrams, cycles, spidergrams, etc.) for teaching different kinds of knowledge (slide 11). (Mohan has found that 6 different types of knowledge is present across all the curriculum subjects). This means, quite simply, for instance: if you want to teach how to write about comparisons (what are the differences? what are the similarities?) you can use Venn Diagrams for that.

Mohan has linked specific language to talking/writing about these knowledge structures, e.g. Knowledge Structure: Principles – Thinking Skills: Explaining/predicting/drawing conclusions – graphic organizers: cycles, line graphs, cause effect chains or problem/solution branches – Language required: linking to language such as since, due to, in order to, consequently, etc.

The teachers were asked to create a graphic organizer for a lesson they were about to teach. They were asked to not only draw a graphic organizer, but also add relevant language (sentence starters / writing frames) to it to further scaffold learning for EAL learners or other learners struggling with literacy. Provided with the sheets adapted from Mohan’s Language and content (book) and his website (links inside the presentation below), all teachers, whether in their English department or in PE, History, ICT or Arts, were able to devise quite a few – and it appeared to have been useful to them!

The second part of the training focused on collaborative learning activities and the need to provide real context for learning through the use of activities such as barrier games and Dictogloss. I concluded with some ideas for the use of DARTs (Directed Activities Related to Texts) and some examples on how this can be done in different subjects.

I hope this gives you an inspiration to both teach and include your EAL learners in your classroom and – if you are an EAL coordinator / teacher – some ideas on how to provide whole school training that you would obviously adapt to your own professional context.

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