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Featured school: Solihull College ESOL School

Lesley Duffin, from Solihull College's ESOL School, tells us how the materials in the Listening skills section of onestopenglish have played a key part in developing her students' listening skills, and explains that it's easy to integrate onestopenglish resources into an ESOL curriculum.

Solihull College is one of the largest Further Education (post 16) Colleges in the UK, delivering educational excellence in a first-class learning environment. It offers a wide range of courses to learners, from traditional A Level programmes to vocational and Higher Education courses.

The ESOL School comes under the auspices of Community Education, an OFSTED Grade 1 area. Its well qualified (DELTA, PGCE, BA, MA) and experienced teachers provide Cambridge ESOL from Entry 1 to Level 2, FCE and CAE, IELTS and CELTA training courses from September to August in an atmosphere that encourages learners to improve and develop their language skills. A one-to-one tutorial system provides learners with the opportunity to reflect on their learning by setting and reviewing learning targets. Most classrooms are equipped with Interactive Whiteboard (IWB) technology to enhance the learning experience, and all learners have access to excellent IT facilities to extend classroom learning.

Solihull College invests in a strong staff development programme which encourages teachers to progress and develop their skills and qualifications in order to help learners to learn more effectively. In addition to the wider college programme, the ESOL School has regular in-house development meetings where teachers share ideas and resources, of which website and IT resources have formed an increasing focus. Lesley Duffin is the school’s IT representative and has been developing and integrating IT in her ESOL classes for many years.

Lesley Duffin and her Level 2 class

Lesley writes:

I use a variety of resources to enhance and accompany the ESOL Core Curriculum and have found onestopenglish resources easy to follow and very adaptable, in particular the learning styles resources. I am constantly looking for new resources that help learners to improve language skills and had noted that many struggled with the listening component of the ESOL exams. Unlike the main suite exams, the ESOL exams combine the assessment of Speaking and Listening with listening assessed throughout the test as Listen and Respond. However, there is also a taped listening section which learners hear once only. In addition, learners often complain that they understand the teachers because they speak clearly but that they find it difficult to understand the different accents they hear in the UK. With this in mind, I began to explore whether the onestopenglish podcasts could be used to develop listening skills and took out a private subscription.

I began with Live from London with my new Entry 3 class (low intermediate – intermediate) in September 2007 and with the success of this I introduced the class to extended listening through the Northanger Abbey podcasts and associated lesson plans. Although these lessons are graded as beginner level, the class initially struggled to comprehend much of the first lesson. However, by providing background information on the setting, era and society they began to recognize characters from voice alone, predict possible future events and harass me each week for the next instalment. These were not just listening lessons but also allowed for vocabulary, grammar, reading and writing to be developed. The lessons were both fun and educational, and I believe resulted in excellent exam results in December 2007. Learners are often asked to discuss different learning methods and the advantages of IT in learning – by experiencing IT in the classroom the learners are more able to give an opinion and examples.

Since this time I have shared my experience and the resources I had developed from onestopenglish with my colleagues. I also used The Road Less Travelled, the onestopenglish soap opera, with the same group (now Level 1), who are desperate to hear the new series and, having championed the site to the college so that we now have an Institutional Subscription, their new teacher can continue the series.

Teaching the Live from Edinburgh: Tourists lesson

This year I continue to use onestopenglish resources with a very advanced Level 2 group. At this level learners must give a short presentation, demonstrating an appropriate use of language and structure in the speaking exam (similar to IELTS). To provide an interesting focus for teaching these skills I utilized the presentation resources from onestopenglish, set a task whereby the learners had to research a tourist destination in the Midlands area 'Off the Beaten Track' combined with the podcast Live from Edinburgh: Tourists. The resulting class presentations have been exemplary.

To anyone who is put off from paying a subscription fee for access to onestopenglish resources I would say that it is money very well spent. To me and my colleagues it provides a wealth of resources that can be used straight from the site or adapted to specific learners. Look at the extensive, excellent business resources which I have used for one-to-one classes with businessmen and with groups, the interactive games which work well with the young and not-so-young as a warmer, and the news lessons which are great for those last minute lessons.

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