Number one for English language teachers

IATEFL scholarship 2015: Shortlisted entries 2

Read our shortlisted entries from Malgorzata Wojcik, Lisa Wood and Stacey Xaelani for our  IATEFL 2015 Scholarship and take a look at their creative ideas on how to teach life skills in the classroom.

Malgorzata Wojcik, Poland

For her shortlisted entry, Malgorzata Wojcik encourages her students to respect diversity and develop their sense of self-awareness through an activity which highlights similarities across different cultural groups. 

Today’s society is more diverse than ever before, in terms of ethnicity, race, social status, or background. It seems important to teach the youth how to live and thrive in this demanding social environment. Primary context for social interactions to be learnt and practiced is classroom: an enduring setting, reflecting all challenges of diverse, modern society. Knowledge acquired there is crucial but social skills as personality fit with colleagues and teams, self-awareness and openness are features which will benefit in both personal and professional life. It’s clear to see that the way peer relations are experienced at school may determine success in the future.Therefore we shouldn’t let diversity and differences become the ground for categorization leading to exclusion and bullying but we have to help students create supportive and inclusive context where they feel safe to interact in honest and open way without being afraid of rejection. Every “teachable moment” (Graham, 2010) is important to encourage students to make use of advantages provided by personal differences. This can be developed and practiced by: recognizing similarities within differences; crossing categories to demonstrate that students share multiple identities; illustrating connections so students can see that they belong to the same social categories as people who seem very different.

The readiness to notice similarities is both a good resource for the future and an effective tool for creating supportive environment where other social skills can be practiced.

Lisa Wood, Spain

Choosing digital literacy as one of her most important life skills, Lisa in Spain identifies different ways in which she helps her students develop the essential 21st century skills they need.

At my Spanish secondary school , ICT resources are minimal and enthusiasm for this area even less.  There are no ICT classes and mobile devices are banned!  Faced with this situation and a determination to ensure my students leave school, capable digital citizens, I needed a solution …  The solution was a Wiki!

I introduced our wiki as an obligatory part of the course last year.  We’re still learning and coming up with new ideas how to use it, but some of things we have done this year are:

  • learned about netiquette, e-safety and copyright.  Before using the wiki, we worked on these topics and information was posted on the home page of the wiki for future reference.
  • participated in online polls (created by myself to choose the reader for the term and by the students themselves for other things, using www.surveygizmo.com). Polls are a great way to give students a voice.
  • posted videos and reviews of books, films and music and responded to classmates’ contributions (appropriately) in the discussion boxes.
  • posted topical news items after searching for and selecting them, encouraging critical thinking, an important life skill in itself.
  • monitored activity on the wiki. Students had the responsibility of ’wiki monitor’ once a term for a week, to check everything was ok, editing and commenting where appropriate.

Stacey Xaelani, Iraq

For Stacey Xaelani, using role play with her university students from different religious and political backgrounds is a great way to encourage them to develop the all-important life skill of tolerance.

Whilst teaching in the ESL classroom, it is always important to teach life skills through interactive lessons. One skill that is very important is tolerance and particularly communicating in difficult situations. I am currently teaching English on a pre-undergraduate course in a university in Kurdistan and in this region, there are many students from a variety of different backgrounds. In my classroom,there are Arab students from Mosul (due to the recent clashes with ISIS forces in Iraq, there has been an influx of refugees from the south of Iraq), Yezidi students, Christians from Baghdad and then the Kurdish students. Due to the political situation in the Kurdistan region, there have often been conflicts between the different groups of students based on political or religious differences. 

I do not directly tackle the religious side of the conflict for fear that it will spark more controversy but I engage the students in role play based on similar situations and get the students to brainstorm solutions to hypothetical situations and then ask them to apply these solutions in their own lives.

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