Teaching has Started!

In this blog post, a detailed account of developing the course materials as well as teaching it (done in parallel) is provided.

The second stage of the project is adapting Online Arabic from Palestine (OAfP) course to match the language needs of the Scottish educators, Arabic-speaking parents/carers and children. A team of linguists, researchers, and language experts from both Glasgow University and the Islamic University of Gaza have gathered to work on adaptating and developing course materials that better meet the needs of the Scottish context.

We’re making this possible by following a few steps:

1) Creating A Map of Common Expressions

In the first step, a list of expected common expressions that can be used generally and in alignment with Scottish educators’ language needs was written. The agreed list is used as a map throughout the adaptation process. However, it is not strict; it has been further filtered (prioritising and changing expressions) while developing dialogues in each lesson.

2) Discussing the Table of Content

In the second step, the team agreed on the table of content to formulate a bigger picture of what to include in each unit. The course is divided into five units. Each unit consists of two lessons that serve a certain theme, as revealed in the language assessment data analysis. In this sense, these units include the following:

  1. Greetings and hospitality
  2. School Instructions
  3. School requests/ daily routine
  4. Emotion and Wellbeing
  5. Parents Meetings

3) Developing the First Lesson and Discussing Challenges

In the first lesson, we decided to build up on the OAfP course by first following a storyline that links all themes together and second by including similar interactive activities. We discussed what format we want the final materials to be including a variety of options (PowerPoint presentation, interactive PDF, articulate story designed materials). Due to the time limit, we started with the first option, PPT. During the teaching, ideas and challenges were discussed in every meeting to ensure better quality and enjoyment of the learning process, and as a result, improve and change whenever needed in the next lessons as discussed below.

4) Following the Structure of the First lesson as A Template (with major flexibility!)

The first lesson was taken as a pilot. The tasks and the content seemed to be enjoyable and attainable for the learners. So, we kept the same structure in the next lessons. Though flexibility has been the main rule during adapting the materials and teaching it. One of the things that we added in the next lessons was motion-graphic videos for the main and additional dialogues to engage the learners as well as to help them listen to it as many times as they want at their own pace whenever needed. PowerPoint is still the main format (in the second and the third lesson). The PowerPoint for each lesson includes the videos, audio sounds for main vocabulary and instructions, images, as well as interactive tasks.

Positive attitudes are generally shared among the learners towards the materials and the teaching as a whole so far. However, we believe this is a work in progress and we aim to present it in its best form that could be done. The team is working on presenting the materials using Articulate Story for the final version. This will allow learners to access the materials from one place as well as enjoy the simplified and interactive presentation of what they covered/will cover in their future lessons.

Once learners complete half of their journey (i.e., on their fifth lesson) and before they go off to their summer holidays, we will ask them for their feedback to further reflect on the teaching practice as well as better develop the second half of the course materials. So, stay tuned for the coming updates!

Parents/carers and Children Needs Analysis

Similar to what we did with Scottish educators (discussed in detail in the previous post), we met the Arabic speaking parents/carers and their children. We asked them what “Arabic” they would love to hear/see in Scottish schools.

We conducted semi-structured focus group interviews with Arabic speaking parents and their children. After introducing the project idea and asking all parents/careers and children how they felt about it, all children gathered around two of the researchers to discuss what they would love to hear/see in Arabic inside their schools, and what they would like to teach their classmates and teachers in Arabic. Verbal language was not the only way we used to get the answers from children, but we also used visual posters where the children drew, wrote and coloured the most important phrases or linguistic skills they thought their educators should learn in Arabic.

In the same room, the third researcher gathered with the parents/carers and discussed the questions multilingually, using Arabic and English to hear their reflections on the project’s idea, and what they would love to hear/see in Arabic in their interactions with school staff.

Similar to what we found in staff needs analysis, both parents/carers and children were very keen to see their educators able to greet and welcome them in their own language as a very first step of breaking the ice between them, and a step to getting closer to them in their own native tongue.

Feelings and emotions seem to be important to all three groups as well. Children wanted to know how to express their emotions to their teachers and wanted their teachers to understand and support them in sensitive situations, bypassing the language barriers between them. The parents too mentioned that they wanted to know if something wrong happened to their children. They wanted to understand what happened, so they can come to the school immediately without the extra time that might be wasted while looking for an interpreter.

Parents wanted to ask about their children’s performance and behaviour at school too. They also mentioned they would love to see Arabic included as a school subject in the future and for it to be officially recognised through certification.

Children included many different topics such as colours, animal names, fruit, vegetables, days of the week, school objects, and the alphabet. These topics, as mentioned by one of the teachers, are similar to what the students learn themselves in the English as Additional Language (EAL) classes. The school staff need to become learners like them!

All needs analysis collected from Scottish staff, parents/carers and children are all taken crucial to adapt the OPAC course so that it meets the needs of Scottish educators and Arabic speaking family and children.

Scottish Educators Needs Analysis

The first step of the project is done!

Language Needs Analysis (16 March – 31st March)

The first step of the ‘Welcoming Languages’ project is collecting the language needs of Scottish staff, Arabic speaking parents/carers and children in partner schools. The University of Glasgow team asks participants what language they think should be included in the course that will be taught to Scottish educators.

This is the first post of two that discusses the needs of each of the above group participants, starting with the Educators Needs Analysis.

We conducted focus group semi-structured interviews with Scottish educators in three schools. Over 30 educators were interested in taking part in this project. We asked them how they imagine themselves using Arabic with both Arabic-speaking children and Arabic-speaking parents/carers, and what they would like to be able to say. We also asked them to look at the set of topics currently included in the Online Arabic from Palestine (OAfP) course, which is a generic Arabic language course for beginners, and order them in terms of importance to the Scottish education context and their expected interactions within the school.

The Scottish educators all work in primary schools. They are class teachers, a headteachers, a few EAL teachers. Some of them work in other roles within the schools, such as family support staff and head of subject.

All educators agreed that they would like to be able to use Arabic to welcome new arrivals to their school and to get closer to their Arabic speaking students and parents/carers. Educators expressed their interest in learning how to greet parents/carers and children to make them feel ‘welcomed’ and ‘valued’ inside the school. All of the educators also agreed on using Arabic as a language of reassurance. They wanted to understand the feelings and emotions of their students and how to assure them in Arabic. They would like to learn expressions such as “what’s wrong?”, “Why are you sad”, “Are you OK?”, “Are you hurt?”, “What is it that is bothering you?” … etc. They are also very keen to learn how to soothe their students in their native language. This includes phrases like, “Do you want me to call your mum?”, “How can I help?”, “Do not worry”, and “It’s okay”. In addition, they would like to learn daily survival language including, “Do you want to go to the toilet?” and classroom-related instructions, as discussed below.

Teachers’ language needs differed from those who work with families in terms of the school routine. Teachers would like to learn how to say instructions for daily school activities in Arabic. For example, they would like to learn how to say, “sit down”, “come here”, “take your pen”, “write”, “play”, and some specific subject-related vocabulary such as mathematical language, “take away”, “add”, and “multiply” as they believe that their students are very capable in mathematics, but the language is their barrier.

Family support staff, on the other hand, were more interested in communicative language to be used with the parents. This contains language to help parents/carers enrol their children at school such as questions about age, place, date of birth, educational background, languages spoken at home… etc. Moreover, family support staff are keen to learn phrases to support parents and ask them if they require any help or specific dietary requirements when they come for parents’ meetings.

These language needs will be taken into consideration when adapting our existing Online Arabic from Palestine (OAfP) course to address the needs identified by this specific group of learners, and to meet their expectations. The Arabic course is due to start soon, so watch this space!