What we did:
Community ESOL focussed on maintaining engagement with learners. As ESOL depends greatly on group interaction, we developed a programme of videos made by the learners in their own homes. The activity involved the whole family including children. The families made a cookery video, preparing and presenting ‘A dish from home’. The videos were then collated and shared with the group.
Follow up activity supported speaking and listening in the form of questions to the chef. Lessons included online shopping for ingredients, costing, weighing and written tasks to present the recipes. The guests asked questions about ingredients and were given some background as to what to expect when you visit a family in Syria/Afghanistan/Spain/Serbia/etc. The activity was supported by volunteers who edited the footage and gave 1:1 follow up sessions with learners online.
Who we involved:
CLD Literacies/ESOL tutors and learners as well as volunteers. IT technicians supported the collating and saving of clips.
The difference it made:
Families were engaged in the entire process. The children helped with the cooking but used their bi-lingual ability to translate for parents. There was a sense of fun, making the videos and then sharing with the group.
There was an element of competition and focus that contextualised the ESOL learning but was clearly a distraction from Covid-19 isolation. This activity impacted on a wider cultural sharing. The families took great pride in sharing not just the process of making the food but giving a real feeling of being a guest in each other's homes and the customs linked to cultural identity that they would experience. This was real awareness raising and a natural opportunity for us all to learn first-hand, not just about tastes and new ingredients, but what it would be like to visit and the etiquette embedded in the rich cultures we share.
What we will do differently in the future:
The lockdown restrictions forced the service to look at methodology to support learning but more importantly to sustain engagement. We had a new need to look at delivery that would not just meet language needs but that human need of being in contact. We had already planned for online delivery that would facilitate face to face contact with tutor/volunteer and learner but we quickly identified that there was clearly a gap in this interface. Learners need social interaction especially with other learners that they had already formed relationships. They needed to know that the group dynamic was sustainable.
This experience, on reflection, gives us as educators a clearer vision of how learning can be facilitated remotely and be effective. It also however reinforces that element of adult learning, that can only be developed by the wider concept of connection with others in the same situation, with the same challenges. We need to plan for a blended approach that ensures wider interaction not just for learning but for overall wellbeing and mental health.