Creating a multi-sensory learning environment for ESL students.

Watching videos on our professional development day at the start of term 3 drew me into the possibilities of using video and iMovies, especially to create trailers to spark interest in course content and use flipping the classroom in new and innovative ways.

If I’d had the time I would have rushed off to make an iMovie trailer on ‘The Clause’ that featured ‘participant’,  ‘process’ and ‘circumstance’ but that will have to wait till another day. Something to dream about.

Following up on all this excitement, the next day in my ESL class I put into action my new activities based on a functional grammar approach to developing literacy.  In our study on the life of Ruby Payne-Scott I wanted to get the students to interact with the text and to build an understanding of the abstract ideas involved in the topic such as, women’s rights and feminism. To start with, I had made videos to set the scene and give background information, and recorded readings for listening to develop vocabulary and knowledge.

Although watching the videos and listening to readings is still passive learning I hoped that by using the visual dimension of a PowerPoint along with my voice and text to make the content more memorable and more accessible to EALD students.

Now, to the thrilling part, how to create an active learning environment through engagement and participation?

To actively engaged students I used several activities. I began with pair work reading, creating posters to display understandings, students reported to the class, and the whole class built a display of images and timelines. For me to listen to their verbal participation showed me they were interested and engaged and that the information they were creating had relevance.

Over the following week we further built our shared visual display and moved between written and spoken language through reflective online discussions and through verbal games such as ‘Hot seat’ in which the student in the hot seat had to answer questions from the point of view of Ruby Payne-Scott.

I found this active learning approach was an effective use of class time and made learning more memorable and relevant.


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