It always instills great pride in trainers to see our alumni go on to make a positive difference in the world of education, and so it was with great pleasure that we welcomed the opportunity to work closely with one of our Trinity CertTESOL 2014 graduates, now at Christian Alliance P.C. Lau Memorial International School (CAIS), K1 - Grade 3 andin charge of arranging the training for her school’s Professional Development Day. She approached Train The Teacher and invited us to run a workshop for the school’s K1 to Grade 3 classroom teachers at their Lai King campus.
CAIS’ highly skilled classroom teachers (most of whom are L1 English speakers) were in a unique situation: The student body at CAIS is comprised of more than 20 nationalities with varying levels of English proficiency, learning in an EMI (English as the Medium of Instruction) environment. Therefore, in addition to the children facing the regular challenges of learning content in a variety of subjects, the faculty were concerned that their learners were under considerable extra pressure by having to both process the content as well as communicate in their second language.
Train The Teacher conducted an interactive half-day workshop, where teachers were introduced to and discussed with their colleagues some EFL classroom techniques they could use with their learners. These included (but were not limited to) concept checking of subject content and vocabulary; giving clear, checked instructions to maximise task clarity; a plethora of interaction patterns to keep STT (Student Talk Time) high and interesting; drilling, teach and transfer, etc.
Teachers considered the merits of these and other techniques with each other, reflecting on which ones they had previously been aware of and the usefulness of their application, and discussing which of the new strategies introduced might be beneficial, and that they could implement straight away.
In addition, while familiar with some of the concepts of CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning), or Language Across the Curriculum (LAC) as it is more commonly known in Hong Kong, the CAIS teachers were also reminded of the principles of CLIL and, using these, were given guidance on how to more effectively integrate subject content with language in their lessons in order to aid comprehension among their L2 learners.
Content determines the language we teach, and a successful model ensures that learners can communicate with each other meaningfully and effectively on a topic, or any kind of problem solving activity (for what is the point of language, if not communication?). Because students who learn language for a purpose learn it better, elements of task-based learning were emphasized as well.
It was a joy to work with such intelligent, informed teachers, and during the workshop I found them to be skilled professionals who were very supportive of one another, and cared a great deal about their learners and the difficulties they face. Not only were they a delight in the formal setting of the classroom, I also found the school environment in which they interacted to be naturally convivial, warm and welcoming – an attitude, I am sure, they display in abundance in the classroom towards their fortunate young pupils as well.
Training at CAIS was also an exercise in reciprocity, as it offered a valuable opportunity for us at Train The Teacher to, in return, learn from these teachers and how they fared in fairly exceptional circumstances, as well as re-examining the benefits of CLIL even from the preparatory stage.
We at Train The Teacher would like to extend our warmest thanks to Vice-Principal David Best and all involved who organised the workshop and ensured everything ran smoothly on the day, and to all the teachers and staff at CAIS who contributed to such an enjoyable and rewarding afternoon.