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Tag Archives: overseas students

For many kids Civics is arid, deadly dull and is thus hard to teach

That, I suspect, is part of the problem behind the story in today’s AustralianStudents do badly in study of civics. I really don’t think results would have been much better fifty years ago when I was fifteen.

STUDENTS’ knowledge of Australia’s system of government is lower than expected, with only one in three Year 10 students knowing what the Constitution is.

The national assessment of civics and citizenship in Years 6 and 10 found about 54 per cent of primary students and 41 per cent of high school students met the proficiency standards for their year. But about one in five Year 10 students failed to meet the Year 6 standard.

"This was especially the case in relation to information about the constitutional structure of Australian democracy," the report says. "Lacking such fundamental information will restrict the capacity of students to make sense of many other aspects of Australian democratic forms and processes, and they may, therefore, be disadvantaged in their capacity to engage in meaningful ways in many other levels of civic action or discourse."

At Year 6, students are expected to recognise the division of governmental responsibilities in a federation, identify a link between a change in Australia’s identity and a change in the national anthem, recognise the benefit of different political parties and the federal budget.

By Year 10, students are expected to recognise key functions and features of parliament, analyse the common good as a motivation for becoming a whistleblower, explain the importance of a secret ballot, and recognise how the independence of the judiciary is protected. On the Constitution, Year 10 students were asked "what is the Australian Constitution?" and given four possible answers: the rules about how the major Australian political parties are run; the policies of the Australian federal government; the framework for the ways Australia is governed; all the laws that Australian citizens must obey…

Look at the last paragraph there! Did I know all that fifty years ago? Answer: NO! What do we expect then? Why, aside from pious hopes, should we expect 100% of kids to have mastered all that arcane matter?

On the other hand, kids today do have advantages. In the web world there are some marvellous sources of information. Even the Book of Answers from the last government’s ill-conceived citizenship tests is not a bad resource on these and other matters. But then there are sites such as Australian Politics and Oz Politics. Certainly it isn’t hard to find out these days; in my day it was less easy.

There is a big role here too in well organised excursions to parliaments and courts, as many schools do. The information people there are often brilliant, and the whole thing becomes more concrete. On the other hand bureaucratic responses to child safety issues have made organising any excursion a logistic nightmare, so I suspect there has probably been some reduction in such activities. A shame. Mock courts and parliaments are another approach that can bring these matters to life.

Coincidentally, yesterday I found myself with a 15-16 year old from China, a recent arrival whose English is developing, trying to help him with a Legal Studies task on the rule of law – and a whole host of other key terms all crowded into one or two of his school lessons. A challenge. We did our best.

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How to Study English 7 Tips and Ideas | UK Student News and Events

How to Study English 7 Tips and Ideas | UK Student News and Events is a new UK blog from an education consultancy firm. The post linked here does give good advice to the overseas students among us, whether here in Australia or in the UK. It is advice you will find in many places, but that doesn’t make it less worth having. 🙂

Here are the first two tips. Go to the link above for the rest.

1. Learn slowly

You are like a new born baby. You will learn a new language slowly and through careful steps. So, adopt the steps a baby would and you’ll develop in no time. First learn to listen and then learn to talk and then learn to read and write.

2. Listen everyday

Make sure that you are always listening to English. Listen to the radio. Watch English movies and regular TV. Enjoy a day out at the cinema and watch English movies and make use of any English audio you find online. There will be loads and it doesn’t cost you a thing!

And just one more, because I approve of this so much:

4. Read, read and read some more

You want to be reading as much English as possible. Not only to help your reading skills but in order to expand your vocabulary too. A great place to start is children’s books and stories and these can be picked up for next to nothing from charity shops all over London. Read many of the UK’s free newspapers, the backs of packets whilst shopping, adverts on the Tube and trains. When you think about, there is English you can read everywhere. So make sure you do every single day.

You’ll have to adapt that a little for Sydney: ads (not adverts in Aussie English) on bus stops maybe… And make sure you pay for those “children’s books and stories”… 😉

We do have good public libraries in Sydney too. The one in Chinatown is excellent; of course it does have a big collection of material in Chinese, but an even bigger collection in English. They have DVDs too; you can try watching a movie in English with the English subtitles on — getting both reading and listening.

 

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Yes, there is a problem!

I received an email the other day; naturally the first part I find very pleasing. 🙂

I thought about creating an ESL blog for my students, but now conclude that this is not necessary as your site does it all. I passionately support all your ideas on this site and applaud your remarkable work. I am an ESL/English teacher in a … non-selective independent high school. Even though I graduated with HD from my uni ESL program five years ago, I have been using my scales and teaching ESL for only the last year and I am overwhelmed with the learning needs of my students. I am from a NESB [myself], but I do not speak the first language of the students.

My school is currently going through a learning support review and I would like to seek your wisdom. The school has found that students entering from language colleges cannot cope with the demands of our curriculum. Some students have learning difficulties as well as a language barrier. What type of ESL delivery has worked best at SBHS?

Well, I doubt how much wisdom I might have, but I am glad this site has met a need.

To take the last part first: SBHS no longer has an ESL teacher, and I am retired aside from the odd job here or there, and some tuition work, but even when I was ESL teacher as SBHS we didn’t confront problems of the kind the writer mentions, as there were no overseas fee-paying students at the school and only very occasionally did someone come from an Intensive English school to us. Mostly they had already been a few years at least in an English-speaking educational setting. There were some students who had been speaking English for three years or less, however, who fell well within the five to eight years normally required to attain adequate levels of cognitive academic language proficiency.

The writer is correct in saying that some “students entering from language colleges cannot cope with the demands of our curriculum”. I base this on my tuition work rather than on my work at SBHS. It does seem that there is a mismatch between the levels students from some private language colleges attain and the basic level needed even to function in a mainstream school environment, which I would say has to be at least Australian ESL Scales 4; 5 or 6 in some subjects, even in HSC English ESL, if a decent result is to be gained. I should add that many private colleges do an excellent job, and the NSW Intensive English schools for state school students are particularly good.

Some schools have good ESL support structures; one that I know of actually runs its own ELICOS classes for newly arrived overseas students, affording limited or phased participation in mainstream classes until the right level is reached. Others have sufficient numbers of overseas students to allow targeted classes in mainstream curriculum designed for those students in many subjects, while others rely on traditional forms of ESL support such as regular presence of one or more ESL teachers in various curriculum areas, and cooperative planning of work units with the students’ language needs consciously addressed.

There is an ESL strategy document available from the NSW Department of Education that gives many good pointers, but how effective a particular school can be depends on the human and other resources it can afford. You probably know it but here it is: English as a Second Language: Guidelines for Schools (PDF).

One thing is for sure. Some schools may have, I believe, gone into the overseas student business, which is very profitable, without being fully aware of the social, logistical and educational issues involved.

When I was at SBHS I tested all new students, gathered information about them, and assessed their needs from an ESL viewpoint. This material was shared with classroom teachers. Particular cases were discussed with teachers. Some students were interviewed and given some additional tuition in some cases. With some classes I visited in various subject areas, participating in some lessons. Sometimes teachers would refer certain issues to me. This blog in its original form was a way of reaching more students than I could personally.

 

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Radio Australia’s special English sites

Related to the last post here, I have been exploring:

Radio Australia: Learn English

learnenglish

Worth a look.

 

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Welcome to the Sydney English Student Blog

Here is a new blog designed, it seems, for the many overseas students here in Sydney:

The blog is written by English teachers, for English students. Here you will find everything you need to know about accommodation, work, schools, technology, English resources… Everything you need to live and study in Sydney, written in clear, simple English – you can practice your English as you learn about Sydney.

     Some features that you might like to explore on the blog are:

  • Translate – if your English is not so good, choose a flag above to translate the site.
  • English Resources – links to GOOD English resources online to help with your study.
  • Ask a Question – if you have any questions you want answered, pleases leave a message. Every week 1 question will be answered.
  • Entertainment – a list of things to do in Sydney (bands, galleries, concerts etc.), mostly FREE.
  • Subscribe – stay up to date with the blog by subscribing (click the FEEDBURNER button).
  • Share – share this site with friends on Facebook, Digg, Mixx and Stumbleupon.
  • Games – play games between classes, some English games, some just for FUN.
  • More to come…

It has only just started, but already there is some useful material there.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2008 in esl for students, student help

 

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ESL Podcasts

Thanks to James Rudd for this. James is an ex-student whose computer credentials are most impressive.

eslpod

About the site, linked above:

Who is ESLPod.com?

ESLPod.com is run by a team of experienced English as a Second Language professors with over 30 years of high school, adult, and university ESL teaching experience. Dr. Lucy Tse writes scripts and story ideas for the podcasts, and records many of the dialogs and stories. The host for the podcast is Dr. Jeff McQuillan, who helps read the scripts and provides explanations for them.

Both Dr. Tse and Dr. McQuillan received a Ph.D. in applied linguistics and education at the University of Southern California. Dr. Tse was a professor of applied linguistics and education at Loyola Marymount University, Arizona State University, and California State University, Los Angeles. Dr. McQuillan was a professor of applied linguistics at California State University, Fullerton, and Arizona State University. Both are currently Senior Researchers at the Center for Educational Development, the sponsor of ESLPod.com.

Why are you doing this podcast?
For many people around the world, learning English is very important. Unfortunately, there are very few useful, effective sources for learning English. Most people take English classes, which help them up to a certain point. ESL Podcast is designed to help you continue to improve your English.

What’s so different about ESL Podcast?
Well, first, all of our podcasts are free to anyone who wants them. Second, ESL Podcast uses a very different approach than other courses or websites.

We believe the fastest way to improve your English is to listen to conversations and discussions you can understand. Many people try to improve their English by
listening or reading things that are too difficult. They understand only 40-50%, which means they are wasting half of their time!

At ESL Podcast, we provide English at a slower speed and use everyday phrases and expressions. We explain what these expressions mean and how to use them. That’s all! It’s simple, it’s obvious, and it’s very powerful.

It is directed towards adult learners, but I am sure secondary school teachers and older ESL students will find much to look at and/or use as well.

 

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