More than just the language

TimeApril 26, 2019 by ELT forum

Aleksandra Zaparucha  is a Geography and English teacher from Toruń, Poland, with 30 years of experience in Geography and EFL/ESL teaching, teacher training, translating, examining and materials writing.  She has over 10 years of Content and Language Integrated Learning experience and has worked extensively as a teacher and teacher trainer in Poland, the UK (incl. Pilgrims) and across Europe and Asia.

Can you tell me how you got started in teaching English and what have been some of the most important influences on your career?

I attended a special English program when in high school, so I could start teaching English while still studying geography at university. This might sound strange, but in fact these are the two loves of my professional life – Geography and English. So after completing an MSc in Geography and starting teaching Geography in a primary school, I was also asked to teach English! No degree, no preparation, just trial and error methodology, but English language specialists at primary level were scarce (Russian was still compulsory throughout education system in Poland at that time). It took me 12 years to gain a proper degree in English.

My main influences included the decision of my then high school principal to introduce bilingual education, thus introducing me to CLIL. This also gave me the opportunity to finally combine Geography and English into one. The next step was when I applied for a training program in Qatar in 2010. This was my first proper CLIL teacher training job (which I learned on the job!) and it took me to all those great destinations in Europe and Asia (other continents still await my visit!).

How do you think English language teaching has changed over the course of your career, and what are the most exciting developments in the pipeline?

A lot has changed over these 30 years. One of the biggest changes, I think, is in the range of materials available to both the student and the teacher. It does not mean, however, that the life of a language learner or language educator is any easier. It is different, but no less challenging than in the past. The amount of resources and learning channels might mean there is loads of time involved in finding a proper handout, app or website.

To me, one of the most exciting developments is soft CLIL’s coming of age. It is now officially accepted as an option in many situations. There are ‘CLIL pages’ in coursebooks, there are ‘CLIL readers’ available, and many language schools are trying to make learning the language more exciting and efficient by combining it with, for instance, science experiments. It seems CLIL is here to stay :))

In what ways do you see language teaching as being about “more than just the language” ? What is the potential for English teaching to influence positive change and what are the possible pitfalls of this approach?

The potential is huge. An English teacher may be combining language with some other subject(s) the students are doing, thus showing that various aspects of school curricula are in fact connected. This is what I was talking about during the recent IATEFL Liverpool.

One possible drawback may include simplifying or even compromising the subject content for the sake of a grammar structure being taught or introducing CLIL topics randomly and without a proper structure.

Please tell us about your Jazz Chants workshop

The Jazz Chant workshop in fact combines a few issues together: one is teachers’ and students’ creativity, which if unleashed may bring wonderful outcomes. The other one is the unlimited potential of Jazz Chants to help with language learning. I will show examples of Jazz Chants being used as a teaching tool and as a teacher training tool for both EFL and CLIL teachers.

Aleksandra will host two workshops at the ELT forum: Beyond a coursebook: using CLIL for teaching Global Issues on June 7th and Write your own Jazz Chant on June 8th.

author: Graham Strouts, teacher at the Bridge

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7th-8th June 2019

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