Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Apologies for this morning

Hi everyone

Thanks for commenting on my blog yesterday. Could you please do the same today?

I must apologize for not being here in the morning. I have an appointment in town that I need to attend. I shall arrive in class before lunchtime.

In your self-directed study time, therefore, please do the following:

  1. Spend no more than 45 minutes doing a Diagnostic Grammar Test. (Look for the 9 sheets in a plastic pocket, pages 301 to 309.) Please do not write on the sheets (please check no one else does either). Work on separate sheets in any order, and exchange with other people when you are done.

  2. Spend up to 45 minutes working through Reading Unit 1 in 'Insight into IELTS'. I shall check this when I come to class.

  3. Don't encourage Ahmed to distract himself playing chess on the computer, unless it is to show you the IELTS speed reading site that he discovered on the computer yesterday (Leo is familiar with it too).
I should be back by 11 a.m. but if not . . . There is a library tour arranged for our class and for AM3 today at that time. After morning tea please join with Pariya's class. You are well prepared to learn more and to ask questions from the library staff!

Otzi the iceman

In class last week we listened to an IELTS task about an iceman. His name is Otzi. You may read about him at this website. Here is a podcast that is worth listening to. And here is a longer one.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday's assignment

photo by Leigh Blackall

Welcome to the afternoon. I am sending you these instructions from F121. Find me there when you come to Step 4.

Step 1: Sketch a simple map of the interior of the Bill Robertson Library. Don't forget: there are two stories--floor one and floor two. This should not take you more than half an hour.

Step 2: Divide the floor area up into exactly 20 sections. It is up to you to decide how to do this, but every space should contain resources. For example, the children's section, the audio-visual section, the periodicals section etc. Label each area.

Step 3: Now I want you to rank these 20 sections into order from the most interesting (1) to the least interesting (20). There are no wrong or right answers. It is only your opinion. (And your ranking is not likely to be the same as anyone else in the class.

Step 4: Visit me individually in room F121. I will then give you the last instruction. You must allow half an hour for the last task, so see me before 2.30 pm.

Later: I will give you a random number from 6 to 15. Look at your ranked list. What is that section in the library (it may be journal about nursing, it may be NZ fiction . . .). THEN, I would like to to take out a book (or whatever) from that section. You will need an ID card. If you don't have the idea card, then just make a note of the title and the author. Next Monday we see if you were successful.

Okay, good luck. Help one another like a true team. I am with you in spirit.

Have patience!

photo by Vecchia Betty

Remember (or learn) the expression: Rome wasn't built in a day.

Some of you--make that a lot of you--are eager to improve your English. Great! I'm glad you've started this year with good intentions.

But do relax. Do take your time. Do give me a chance to think about how each of you, and how each of you may best improve. If we rush thing now then we may not end up spending our time most efficiently.

Thank you for the first needs/preferences evaluations on Wednesday. Excellent! That gives me a base on which to build (your English houses). I'm working on it--them.

Why don't you follow the link to the photographer of today's picture? If you join Flickr then you can write a comment about her and other people's pictures.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rio found this page

Nobody likes this animal, because they bite.

Rio found this page. Thanks for that, Rio. It is for advanced English students. Why don't you try it? Lipika, it has a reading room. Gulchella and Ahmed, it has a listening lounge.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Welcome to 2009

Welcome to all students! My name is William, and I welcome you to my class (AM4), to Otago Polytechnic, and maybe even to Dunedin. It's going to be a good year.

I'm going to use this blog to communicate with you throughout 2009, and perhaps even after. You will be able to access this even after you complete your course. So keep in touch. Drop me a line--maybe as a comment--from time to time.

I'm going to use this post to clarify for you (and for me) what we'll be doing this first semester. All we English teachers will be following a new Programme Document; we won't be teaching you exactly how we've taught in the past. As for me, I'm returning to ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) after a year of working at the Learning Centre. I did not have my own English class last year, though I did help Pariya's class with online learning.

This is the first year that level 4 ESOL is being offered by me, or by us. It will be a step up for all of us. I did once run a course called English for Further Study when I began working for Otago Polytechnic, back in 1997, up at Tennyson Street up from the Octagon. So I am not a complete beginner, and I'm sure you're not either. (Otherwise we wouldn't have put you in this class!)

Let me now say a few things about the new teaching philosophy, scheduling, course content, assessment and so on. But keep tuned. Watch this spot. Don't turn that dial!

Philosophy of teaching:

The main change that former students may notice is that from time to time you'll be working on your own--or in pairs or groups--without constant direction from any teacher. This is a deliberate push to train you to become more independent learners. The aim is for us to train you ideally to become your own teacher. That way you will have the skills to be able to continue to improve after your semester (or year) ends. Think: 'Lifelong Learning'!

Something else we are going to do more of is to tailor our teaching to your needs. All students are not the same, and they are not at the same point. It is important to work out where each student is before being able to decide where to proceed. To facilitate that, we need to work out what your needs are, and what your preferences are concerning your learning style. Evaluation will periodically be carried out . For each of you we will draw up an IDP (Individual Development Plan) used to determine what work you could include in your portfolio and how best you could work on self-directed study.


Our room for most of the week will be H112. However, on Wednesday afternoons another class will be using that room, so from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. we will move to D201 in Semester 1 (H208A in Semester 2).

On paper we will be working through these 'courses':
  • FN401001 Read extended information texts (Term 1)
  • FN308001 English exam preparation (Term 1)FN402001
  • Write a discussion (Term 2)
  • FN403001 Identify the ideas expressed in extended speech (Term 2)
I have yet to decide how to divide up the courses between morning and afternoon class. On one or two days a week--perhaps Mondays and Wednesdays--IELTS preparation classes will run from 4 p.m. until 5 p.m. Attendance then is optional for full-time students. IELTS content will be provided earlier also so that no one misses out.

Traditionally, classes have conversation assistants come in for an hour per week. I will check with you, but I thought it would be better and more relevant to have graduates from previous years come in to talk with you (not to you) about what they are doing now perhaps at university or in the work force.

Course content:

Our entire programme will certainly be integrated. You shall be practicing all skills concurrently, not confined to one part of the programme or day. That includes Speaking, even though it isn't included as a separate 'course'.

There is no one textbook for our semester of work. I shall select material from a range of many textbooks. We will be using a wide range of authentic materials including magazines, newspaper articles, books, blogs, podcasts, tapes, documentaries et cetera. You will be asked to help select these. The worksheets that you will be asked to do may be generic, and be able to be applied to various texts.


Early on I shall provide you with a short list of dates when assessment will take place, approximately twice a term. In addition, all students will need to keep a portfolio of work. I shall tell you more about that in due course. To achieve a pass, students will need to meet performance criteria for both the assessments and and the portfolio.