Rebecca Walker, English lecturer
I teach 4 lessons a day in a typical week. Each GCSE class is made up of learners from one vocational area which makes it much easier to plan lessons which embed aspects of their vocational subject into each lesson.
8.15 – arrive at college and prepare for my first lesson of the day. I typically teach 4 lessons a day.
9.00-10.15: GCSE class with electricians. All learners have achieved a Grade D or a Level 2 Functional Skills previously. Of course next year this will be a Grade 3.
10.45-12.00: GCSE class with animal care learners.
12.30-1.45: GCSE class with plasterers.
2.15-3.30: Functional Skills class with beauty learners (Entry level 3 – Level 2). I have a learning support assistant (LSA) in this class as there is such a range of ability and I adopt a very individualised approach in this class with the support of the LSA.
4.00: end of teaching day. We usually have informal team meetings at this point of the day. We have one formal team meeting every week at this time. This is also time spent marking and checking the planning for the next day.
Next year there will be no Level 2 Functional Skills, so all learners will be doing GCSE.
Each GCSE lesson is loosely the same over the course of a day as we follow a strict Scheme of Learning in the English team. This means that we can link in support from English mentors much more effectively as there is college-wide consistency in the delivery of the curriculum.
The challenges of teaching English
Teaching the new GCSE 1-9 scheme has been a challenge as we are all doing it for the first time; teachers and learners.
However, the key issue with teaching English to 16-19 years olds is motivating them. The best way I have found is working with them to help them realise the wider value of English in their vocational subjects as well as helping them to see how English is about engaging in wider society and is integral to their future success whatever their chosen pathway. Teaching language techniques and the power of these techniques to influence is a good way of engaging young people in language usage.
The joys of teaching English
This year I have been working with other departments across college and been part of a ‘Tech Talk’ project where I worked closely with the Automotive department. The purpose of this project was to embed technical vocabulary into English lessons eg pneumatic and diaphragm. I developed these technical terms into a spelling activity called ‘Stairway to Spelling’ which the Automotive lecturers then adopted and it has proven to be very successful with 0% of learners being able to spell tricky technical words at the beginning of lessons and 100% by the end. It is a spelling activity that focuses on visual spelling rather than phonetics.
I love being part of the process of reframing with individuals and seeing confident and linguistically competent learners at the end of the course. At the beginning of the academic year, I spend a lot of time trying to unpick learners’ prior experiences of learning and learning English. Then the process of reframing begins; for some learners, this can take a while, but it is about me working with the learners and them realising that they have a role to play in this reframing too. I can’t do it for them!
Being part of a team
The English team at the college are really collaborative and positively driven to make GCSE resits successful. We have regular weekly meetings where we share ideas and also collaborate with colleges in the region. Learner motivation is key and the main focus of our ideas to develop the curriculum. We are constantly trying to find new ways to engage learners in English lessons and one way that has proven very successful this term has been the use of Blogs with my group of Functional Skills beauty learners who through creating Blogs became experts in language features and techniques.
As a team, we find that writing generally tends to be the biggest obstacle for most learners. The ever-growing use of technology for written communication means that handwriting is becoming used less and less. As an English teacher, I must bridge that gap for learners and embed the digital skills they use in their daily lives and link it to the English curriculum so their learning is relevant to the 21st century. Doing this helps to remove barriers and then learners can feel positive about English again.