Saturday, January 14, 2017

PBLA with Literacy and Seniors

PBLA with Seniors
Day One: Seniors did a warm-up activity to gently get them back into English after the two-week break; it was not related to PBLA.

Day two: I discussed with seniors my plans to continue restructuring our course to better meet their stated needs (e.g., more listening practice). I will be testing out some different types of activities on them, such as Dictogloss, which I think will really help them focus on capturing meaning, not every word verbatim. They are keen to help me field test techniques and give feedback.

Seniors explored the Language Companions in more depth than before. We did some poking around in them, some reading in the introduction. After break they got their requisite student talk time in the form of some small group discussion questions. During the last 15 minutes of class, I surveyed the groups for the results of their discussions. They pleasantly surprised me.

Discussion questions:
  1. Is the LC useful to you? Overwhelming majority said yes.
  2. Have you ever taken it home? Majority said yes, at least once. All but one student limits this home use to holidays and breaks. One student keeps his at home and TRIES to remember to bring it on Tuesdays (the day T passes back marked work).
  3. What is the most useful part? Students were most excited about the Helpful English section, followed by My Canada.   CLB and Where I Live tied for third place.
  4. If it were lighter / more slender, would you take it home daily? All said yes and had many suggestions regarding how this could be achieved. Some suggested the LC (all content except their dossiers) be bound into one volume, others thought each section should be bound separately to allow for convenient portability. 
  5. Do you like learning about PBLA? Why or why not? At least 50% said yes, they want me to teach them about portfolio-based language assessment and do some teaching from the Language Companion. This contradicts what they had conveyed to me during previous needs assessments. (They normally vote for health, health, and health, in that order.)
Day three: We read Jan's New Binder and did the associated activities as a way of warming up with material that is not in the least intimidating. After break is always less teacher-centred with opportunities for group work or discussions. Seniors like to take things VERY slowly, breaking everything into baby steps. We don't always have a complete PPP pattern in every 2.5-hour session. Do you?
Our lexis for the module is on an easel pad.
Day four: With a true dictation the day before for comparison, we attempted our first Dictogloss using a paragraph about PBLA. Well, we didn't do it exactly right, but we will learn from our mistakes. I am always honest with them when I'm trying something out and ask them to give it three or four tries before we decide if we want to stop or continue.  Personally, I really liked it and hope we are able to hone our method.
After note taking, Ss collaborate to reconstruct the dictated passage.
I dragged a poster out of dormancy to make the CLB concept less abstract.

PBLA with CLB 1L
Day One: Not everyone showed up to an already small class, which was awkward. Did a gentle warm-up activity before break; after the break we started familiarizing ourselves with the four skill sections of the portfolios. We decorated and colour coded the dividers so that in the future we might not continue to confuse "reading" and "writing," which sound a lot alike.  This idea came from Jean Campbell's webinar on PBLA with Adult Literacy Learners (ALL).

Students' drawing for his reading divider

Our easel chart

Student's illustration for her writing divider
Day two: We took pictures to illustrate a reader that we will co-create about our Language Companions and associated routines and the purpose of them. Used TPR to help Ss get familiar with sections (put your pencil under the binder, in the back of listening, at the front of speaking, close your binder, give your pencil to Farhia, open the rings, close the rings, etc.) One key to successful TPR is to keep them on their toes; don't let the next command be easy to anticipate. You have to mix in crazy commands like "put your binder on your head." This ensures they truly listen to the words. I have to fight to keep my eyes and hands from giving away the meaning since I normally use a lot of pantomime and gesture for their benefit. In TPR, it's counterproductive to do that.
Picture taken to illustrate student and teacher reviewing artefacts

cover page of our book

a page from the book
Day Three: We worked on hard C and hard G using the book This Really Works (possibly out of print). I usually give them about 90 minutes of explicit phonemic awareness / decoding lessons each week. I especially appreciate when we are learning vowel sounds in CVC words and later vowel teams.

We also working on reading our new book, "My Big White Binder" and did some activities with the component lexis, such as hangman, flashcards, and more TPR. NB: Ss LOVE reading a book that is about THEM with pictures of THEM doing stuff. It makes the language come to life.

Day Four: We finished up the hard C / hard G activities. Played Sentence Unscramble on using words and sentences I had pre-loaded from our story. We then did a sentence unscramble worksheet that matched the sentences in the game. Played the flyswatter game. Since we had an odd number of students, I volunteered to go up against a student. He happens to be about 6'2" and 200 lbs. We decided it was a fair handicap since I know all the words but he can block me from reaching the words. The others collapsed in tears watching 5'3" me and my fancy footwork as I tried to sneak under and around.
flyswatter game board
We did not manage to get to the Yes/No quiz; not sure if I'll incorporate it on Monday. Its' another four-day week.
We take up the answers to a worksheet.
Friday: No class due to PBLA training session #9.

P.S. I highly recommend Jean Campbell's series on teaching ESL literacy. The first one is over, but you can still watch the webcast on Tutela. The second one is in February, I believe. Oh, and my colleague Maria Margaritis is giving a webinar on PTSD in the classroom Sunday at 1 Eastern. Be there or be square!


  1. Great post ( as usual). Love that you are documenting process. Would be interesting if group of teachers doing PBLA (same and different level)s) could do this simultaneously over fixed period of time for action research. Cya at Jean's webinar!

    1. Thanks! It's always nice to have a reader who comments. I know you told me not to stress over comments, but they are what motivate me to keep doing this.

  2. Great posts indeed!

    1. Thank you for taking the time to say so. It means a lot.


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