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TEFL Masterclass – Using Cuisenaire Rods in the Language Classroom: Part 2

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Anna Cuccia – CELTA & DELTA Trainer School Governor @United Learning Trust.

Anna started teaching English as a foreign language at university, and this led to many professional development opportunities: CELTYL Young Learner Endorsement, LCCI/Arels Teaching English for Business Certificate, preparing students for all Cambridge main suite exams, as well as training up to be a CELTA and DELTA tutor.  She has been worked with most nationalities and have taught in the private and state sector, she developed and delivered countless training courses to students, teachers, and trainees at all levels. She has also written papers and speak at conferences, including delivering EAL training to NQTs.

What you will learn

Cuisenaire rods are a deceptively simple tool. Once you see them in use they are very easy to build into your own teacher toolkit. You do not need to be a mathematician; though maths departments around the world have used them with success in the Singapore Bar Modelling Method.

In the Modern Foreign Language Classroom, in primary schools, secondary and with adults, there is much to learn from 10 coloured bars. They can be used in a very structured, prescriptive way to model language, but equally have the power of suggestion, able to take the teacher and their class into unchartered, unplanned territory.  Emergent language will abound when you open a box of rods, students don’t even need to be terribly imaginative to get involved. 

In the first workshop, we explored icebreakers; describing places; comparing things – colour, size; assessing level, working on error; helping with grammar; functional English practice and exam work.  This session will look at storytelling in depth, pronunciation, controlled practice, ways of checking progress, The Silent Way and Dogme, potential pitfalls and benefits of rod use.

This second workshop is a great stepping stone into DELTA and the Professional Development Assignment (PDA) in which you need to choose an area for Experimental Practice.  Cuisenaire Rods and the Silent Way are a popular area to choose.

Workshop Summary

Introduction to the Webinar 

Anna Cuccia introduces a Gallery Teachers Webinar focused on incorporating Cuisenaire rods in language classrooms.

Engaging Beginners with Cuisenaire Rods

Cuisenaire rods, known for their versatility in language teaching, are introduced. These tools, varying in colour and size, facilitate a range of educational activities. Beginners can use them to construct simple models or replicate artworks, such as Michael Parekowhai’s ‘Tongue of the Dog’, enhancing their understanding of spatial language and prepositions. This hands-on approach also tests students’ comprehension and ability to follow instructions precisely.

Advanced Language Learning through Storytelling

The rods are also effective in teaching syntax and grammar. They can represent different parts of speech, helping learners to grasp sentence structure and grammatical rules visually. Additionally, storytelling with rods provides an immersive method for narrative construction and language application, making the learning process more interactive and engaging.

Interactive Games and Classroom Management

Adapting interactive games like Battleship with Cuisenaire rods offers an engaging way to practise language skills. This kinesthetic approach combines language learning with fun activities. The rods also serve as tools for classroom management and feedback, enabling students to signal their understanding and participation levels. This method, inspired by Simon Linde, uses a traffic light system (red, amber, green) to gauge students’ readiness for further practice or correction.

Exploring the Silent Way Teaching Method

The webinar concludes with an exploration of the Silent Way, a teaching method that minimises teacher intervention, developed by Caleb Gattegno. This approach employs a sound-colour chart where each colour correlates with a phonemic sound, promoting student-led sentence construction and language discovery. It encourages reflection, reduces teacher talk time, and enhances student autonomy.

Conclusion: The Versatility of Cuisenaire Rods in Language Teaching

Cuisenaire rods are not merely engaging tools but also effective aids in language acquisition, catering to various learning styles and promoting long-term memory retention. Their versatility and durability make them an invaluable asset for any language teacher, offering a wide range of lesson possibilities. For more detailed activities and resources, the Gallery Teachers website is recommended as a useful platform for educators.

Reflective Questions

Have a quick think about the reflective questions below in order to get the most out of the workshop:

  1. Can we keep learners engaged whilst they have the distraction of rods in front of them? How can we focus them on the task?
  2. What’s the connection between Dogme and rods? Is this a route into using the Silent Way?
  3. Some students experience synesthetic and partial synesthetic responses to colours, ‘red for nouns’ etc – How can that affect the use of rods?
  4. What are your thoughts regarding the value of having objects to handle available and the need of some students to fidget, move or doodle to concentrate?
  5. Tell me about rods and asynchronous teaching.

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