Pizza and Professional Development for BridgeEnglish Teachers

Ever wondered how Bridge English Denver teachers come up with such original ideas as getting students to imagine how a conversation between Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama might sound? Or why we might ask students to write a so-called “One-Minute Paper” on what the most interesting thing in class was that day.

As brilliant as most of the staff are, they often need guidance on new teaching approaches or at least revision of older methods they may have forgotten. To do that, they need training.

So, once or twice a month, Bridge teachers in Denver typically get together over a sandwich or a slice of pizza during lunch hour to conduct training sessions designed to develop their professional skills.

The experiences of the Bridge teaching staff are varied and even though they’ve all  had significant experience teaching English as a foreign language, there is still a lot to learn. You can always improve, right?

Indeed, the purpose of such sessions is to continually improve the teaching abilities of staff members who make up the instruction team at Bridge. Whether it’s a discussion on the best way to teach a movie or an update on the newest techniques using visual aids, the sessions provide a vital link between the individual teacher and the overall goal of providing consistently excellent education to the numerous students coming through Bridge’s doors.

“Ongoing training can help teachers overcome obstacles encountered in the classroom on a daily basis and reassure students that Bridge is always striving to improve the student experience,” said Tim Samuelson, Academic Advisor at Bridge in Denver.

Bridge teacher, Denise Kray, leads many of the training sessions held throughout the year. Denise gains many of her training insights from attending industry events such as November’s CoTESOL (Colorado Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) Fall Convention. She brought some of the material she learned at that event straight into December’s training sessions.

In one of those latest training sessions, Denise used the time to explain the benefits of using Graphic Organizers in class for students. Graphic organizers help students retain vocabulary and visualize information as well as facilitate instruction. As an example, she used a KWL (Know, Want, Learn) chart where students first write what they know, then what they want to know and finally what they have learned in any given lesson.

“(Such a method) is not new or unique to Bridge, but is more a way of asking how do we get our students to be better?” Denise said. “There is a sense of how we can associate language if we see it. It can help them organize and understand.”

Also in one of the latest training sessions, Kadie Goodman, Assistant Education Coordinator at Bridge in Denver, helped lead an amusing exercise on the use of a teaching aid called Dictogloss where students can listen to a short text on a specific subject, take notes and then use those notes and their memory as a basis to reconstruct the text and tell the story verbally. Such an activity can help with listening and writing skills if working individually, as well as speaking skills if discussing the activity in small groups.

If the result in the training session was anything to go by, such an activity looks highly likely to be used in the future with students. Bridge teacher, Michael Genova, volunteered his version of the story Kadie had read and proceeded to reel off the text practically verbatim. He may be one of the more laid-back and relaxed Bridge teachers, as well as one of the funniest, but Mike pulled off an impeccable retelling of a story about how a group of friends found it difficult to get organized enough do their Christmas shopping. After completing the story, every teacher burst into spontaneous applause to acknowledge Mike’s brilliance. Maybe students will now get a similar response if they can perform such a trick in class.

From graphic organizers to improving how to teach movie classes, from instruction tips on how to put the right stress on the right syllable to imagining that conversation between Obama and Mandela, the list of topics dealt with in these sessions is varied and stimulating. And, hopefully, it makes for better teachers and a better student experience as a result.

“While all Bridge teachers are highly trained and qualified, the regular training sessions ensure that everyone is up-to-date on new and innovative approaches being employed in the classroom today,” Tim Samuelson said.