Starting tonight and every Thursday evening for the next eight weeks, I pack up my bag with all the cards for the workshop participants, put on a warm jacket, and walk the ten minutes or so down the road to the local community centre where we hold Shoebox ESL PD workshops. It's too close to drive and I enjoy the walk.
Tonight, we are a small group of four, with participants from Australian College of Applied Education, Kaplan, Perth International College of English and Central Institute of Technology. They teach a range of levels from Beginner to Upper Intermediate and all of them want to see a different way of teaching.
Tonight, we covered the Three Houses, Main Clauses, the different types of Nouns and Verbs and the basic principles that hold the English language together. There was some eye-opening stuff, but tonight we just laid the foundations so that we are all on the same page and when I refer to a present participle (the Action Shape), we all know what I am talking about.
Ninety minutes goes VERY quickly! They all took notes, received their cards and asked some thoughtful questions. Then we all said goodbye and I walked home through mist and a clear night sky.
We started the first workshop of this, the second Shoebox Course for 2015 and it was wonderful to have it in my house instead of the George Burnett Leisure Centre, where it is normally held. Because the group was so small, it was easier that way, so we rigged up a whiteboard on a chair and started.
It doesn't matter where, we run a workshop, though, as the principles of grammar still evoke the same 'Aha!' moments in participants. Through all the new information, there is a sense that everything is simpler than we thought, not more difficult. Traditional grammar teaching forced us to look through dim, scratched lenses. Shoebox wipes those lenses clean so that we see clearly.
I usually enjoy sharing Shoebox principles with other ESL teachers, but today was rather different as I ran a mini PD with my own colleagues in a Kaplan room. Not only was the audience my colleagues, but there were, quite a few of them, including those who had been teaching for many years. I felt a little under the spotlight!
I was talking with some ESL teachers recently, and they commented that they didn't really know grammar as well as they would like, an important professional matter since they are expected to teach it. I've been doing Professional Development workshops for some time now for primary teachers, so I thought it would be worthwhile to run one focussed on grammar for ESL teachers. For the average person, talking about grammar for a day would be the most boring day imaginable, but for me, the chance to help teachers understand our baffling but beautiful language is rather exciting.
So, if you are an ESL teacher and would like to dig a little deeper below the myriad grammatical rules and exceptions to uncover the foundational principles of how our language was originally built, come along to one of the two workshops on December 7 or January 11. Register via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the Store / ESL.