Pedagoo Xmas Party: Literacy for Life Session

padagoo christmas logo

The Pedagoo Christmas Party took place at Newcastle University on December 6th 2014. I’ll write up the full event shortly. I chaired the ‘Literacy for Life’ workshop sessions – the room was set-up with tinsel, holly, Christmas songs, chocolate Santas and even seasonal notepads and pens – what more could we need? A little bit of sharing, that’s what.


Our running order was determined by a randomly chosen sparkly Christmas decoration and appropriately enough, sparkles feature in the first idea to be shared.

Sparkly Synonyms

Fiona Duncan (@FeDuncs) and Michelle Olson introduced us to Sparkly Synonyms, a method of encouraging students who struggle with finding synonyms, in particular English as an Additional Language students (EAL). The sparkly synonym book is simply a normal thesaurus that has been covered with paper and adorned with stickers – this transformation makes this particular thesaurus the most in-demand of 32 thesauri available. It’s also the most looked after – always returned to the shelves when others are abandoned. The student who comes up with the best synonym also wins a party popper from a special sparkly bag. A bit of sparkle does indeed go a long way.sparklysynonyms

The discussion that followed highlighted the importance of the appearance of learning resources, that students do, in fact, judge a book by its cover. We remembered fondly the days of backing our exercise books!

Grammar from the Trenches

Fiona and Michelle also outlined a whole range of methods they used to teach how to write about poetry and also improve their own writing, focussing on the poems of Wilfred Owen. There are so many to list but Fiona will be sharing these resources so I’ll link to them soon. One activity I thought could be easily transferred to different contexts was the ‘Give one, Get one back’ sheet. Students have to list 5 points about the poem (it’s important to restrict the number, so they need to evaluate and select). They then share their comments with others (Give one) and choose comments they agree with from others (Get one back). It’s a great way of encouraging sharing and discussion.

Fiona also likened poetry analysis to pathology (admitting to an obsession with all things macabre), splitting the chest open and examining various parts. The students love this analogy!

Pass the Paragraph

Working in pairs, Jane Hutchison (@janehutchison1) set us the challenge of writing a couple of sentences about the dawn of a new day (it’s surprising how hard that is when you’re asked on the spot!). We then passed our paragraph on to the next pair, who had to try and improve our text by substituting words or adding extra words. Once again, the paragraphs were passed to the next pair, with new sentences added this time. With one more pass, the paragraphs were back to their original writers – it was fascinating to see the changes that had been made.

During discussion Jane explained that she had used this activity with students of different ages leading to different reactions. Younger students would focus on getting the spellings right, whereas older students competed over their vocabulary. We discussed how this activity could also be used with pre-prepared text as well as that written by students. I can certainly see myself using the ‘pass and improve’ idea to encourage sharing and commenting.

From Talking to Writingkamilgraphicorganisers

Kamil Trzebiatowski (@ktlangspec) explained how he used lesson plans based on the work of Bernard Mohan to guide his work with EAL students, encouraging them to move from the spoken to written word. Kamil’s plans certainly seem well thought out and provided a logical structure to developing student’s language. I was particularly interested in the section on classification of vocabulary, which strongly relates to my work on developing search skills.

Kamil shared further ideas on graphic organisers and differentiation for EAL students in the plenary session  halfway through the afternoon. Judging by the reaction of the audience, these are much needed resources to help teachers better support their EAL students better.

Kamil’s presentation is below and he’s also written up his methods in more detail in his post from a TeachMeet in Glasgow.

Knowledge Feast


Lou Chesterton unfortunately couldn’t make it to the session, but kindly forwarded her presentation to share. There were lots of ideas about how to cover vast amounts of knowledge in a fun and accessible way – all based around the idea of a feast with the following menu:

  1. Cups full of knowledge
  2. Eggcellent questions and answers
  3. Doily definitions
  4. Plate puzzles
  5. Serviette sentences
  6. Judgement jugs

I’ll link to the full presentation containing details of all the activities when it’s available.

Finding the right information, choosing the right words

I gave a brief overview into how I try to get students to think beyond the obvious when carrying out their research, involving brainstorming keywords, synonyms, identifying concepts, broader and narrower terms etc. The relevance to previous activities was obvious: from thinking of (sparkly?!) synonyms to encouraging students to find identify the themes and concepts within their research questions (echoing Kamil’s knowledge classification activity).

I took away several ideas I felt I could try in my own teaching and training and really enjoyed the opportunity to not only share ideas, but discuss with others how these ideas could be adapted in various contexts. #simplysharing at its best.

This entry was posted in CPD, Pedagoo, Reports, Teaching, TeachMeets. Bookmark the permalink.

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