Getting our teeth in #EarsPeeledProject

Time for an inquisitive look upon my own doings; as the EarsPeeled Project has taken up half of the last year, here’s some reflection on its second part.

It took the core group about a month and a half to get their heads round to what we were doing. I’ll admit to enjoying this process immensely, in spite of my concerns that they got there far too quickly.
Having spent twenty days brainstorming, keeping notes and deciding upon who should do what, it was simply uplifting to experience languages being used in all sorts of ways; all our languages, that is. We’ve been an odd bunch.
Things to consider:
1.Context: this is still general English, though not approached commonly.
2.Backgrounds: we share the current place and language (in Athens, with its ups and downs, naturally), but the linguistic legacies we carry differ. The immigrant framework we work within calls for very specific planning and welcomes four native tongues, other than Greek and English.
3.Age & Emergent knowledge: all this happens in a group of teenage learners of 15-16 years, all assured they know everything.
3.No Coursebooks – our own experiences and where they take us, readers and authentic texts.
4.Skills develop anyway; whether they develop with good purpose is a different story. Our specific aim here is developing listening and speaking, yet how could we possibly isolate those? Isn’t language one thing?

While writing this, I kept thinking what the best way to portray our gatherings would be, and thought that only a weekly development of thought and practice could do so.
Here is a week working with the project group:

Monday through Wednesday:
Collaborating on our dedicated Google Classroom.
Week Theme: Daily Interactions
Weekly Tasks (designed by students):
Sub-group 1 (four students)

  • -Create dialogues for the following scenarios
    -Record yourself performing those scenarios (remember: S(ituation)T(one)P(urpose)

a)You wake up because your sister/brother has just slammed the door of your bedroom.
b)You’re sitting around the table for breakfast. You think the bread is not fresh.
c)You’re getting ready for school. You have forgotten to do an assignment for your History class.

  • Sub-group 2 (four students)

-Listen to the recordings. Note down your answers on the folowing:
Where are the speakers?
What is the problem?
-What would you do in each of these situations? Leave a comment on the thread.
How would you react to those issues? Prepare and record your responses, then share them in the comment section.

Thursday and Friday (still collaborating online, only through both the Classroom and our whatsup chat)

-Group 1: collect responses and propose which recordings & follow-up questions should be added to the project portfolio.

-Group 2: give feedback on Group 1 proposals & share your arguments and suggestions.

Saturday – meeting face2face

-Perform scenarios, including suggestions/modifications by both groups

-Play recordings & compare with live performance

-Reflect collectivelly:

Differences/similarities between recorded and on-the-spot presentation of scenarios

Observation notes: 1) is what you heard understandable? 2) did you spot any problems, and which? 3)Ways to improve?

So, a typical week with the group really held plenty of wonder. I was quite happy to sit in the back and observe those goings-on, and actually found myself wondering when my input would be necessary. In such a week, I was probably just the motivator – yes, keep at this, yes, compare dictionaries too, yes, it’s fine to get emotional, all of this.

To me, being able to blend in the background but also hold the rule still feels remarkable. Especially because no rules have been pre-set, because I’m in the observer and contributor shoes – not the I-know-and-you-don’t ones.

It has been impressive, to say the least, to observe teens translaguaging their way to English – holding onto that in-between part of making sense among the group but then aknowledging and striving to make the effort commonly understood and acceptable.

This process repeated, with many different scenarios, all through the month that followed. We eventually reached a point where some form of more formal assessment needed to come in – the group needed to know if their work and choices were effective. And though my own input on that front was requested and provided through the rubrics I always prepare, it didn’t feel enough.

The truth is I usually panic when this feeling of inadequacy rushes in. Trusting your gut just isn’t enough. I’ve reached a point, however, where this is a forseeable feeling and I remember that somewhere inside me, there are mechanisms to transform it, shape it, make it work for the best. So my #teacherhub rushed in there too. I asked my RP group for help, forgetting I shouldn’t be apologetic about it. And it was a great reminder of why my practice used to make me feel insufficient in the past.

In practical terms, the project group prepared an audio performance – “blind theatre” might be an appropriate title for it – to showcase those three months of learning to their immediate environment: parents,friends and the local community. I suppose it was the ultimate challenge, at that stage, for them to know that among the audience there were six people – six teachers – who were silently assessing them; somewhat like the reviewer assessing the chéf in that optimistically freshly-opened restaurant in town.

There is more. Much more. Which means more blog posts coming. Thank you for reading, for showing patience and for unwittingly being part of this 😊

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