Sunday, 24 May 2009
Thursday, 21 May 2009
Tuesday, 19 May 2009
Monday, 18 May 2009
Sunday, 17 May 2009
Saturday, 16 May 2009
Friday, 15 May 2009
Sunday, 10 May 2009
Saturday, 9 May 2009
also found on youtube.
Teachers can use these videos in many ways:
a) for a quiz
b) for a dictogloss
c) listening activity
It's important that a pre-listening activity be done. The same question is asked to the student, and then the student 'predicts' what Paul is going to answer.
Friday, 8 May 2009
Thursday, 7 May 2009
Having set out my manifesto for autumn last month, I urged alacrity in response: "come on," I cried, "we only have three days!", writes Luke Meddings
Well I almost had less than that; nagging abdominal pain as I completed the piece (I'll make the gag about it having the same effect on readers, thanks) turned out to be appendicitis. "The future's bright," I heard docs say as I came round from emergency surgery, only to discover they were talking about my suture. Yep, they had me in stitches.
Is there a lesson in it all, I have since been asked? Eat and drink a little more moderately, perhaps - oh, that kind of lesson. Trauma dogme. Well there is, I'd say, but only while the wounds are fresh.
If something is news, it has real currency in every day conversation. So it is with lessons that feed on the detail of our every day lives, and this particular one would start quite naturally as someone asks: "How are you?" Or, more pragmatically: "Where were you?" Or perhaps, if you have been away for a while: "Who are you?"
Answer in a chatty way that encourages more questions. By all means contribute correct form and vocabulary in the course of the conversation, but don't make this explicit - students may echo you, but they may not, and telling them to do so won't make it any easier. Remain seated, ideally away from your desk; make notes unobtrusively as people are speaking.
When there is a natural pause in the conversation, go to the board. Use your notes from what has been said, and match your interventions to the language needs of the people in the room.
Build outwards from any vocabulary that comes up, and work with what you have. If all you have for starters is "how are you?" and "fine, thanks," there is enough to work with. What about a synonym for "fine"? An antonym? Stronger or weaker words for the same? More or less friendly or formal ways of having this conversation?
Ask students to write down the original exchange they heard at the very start of the lesson, as far as they remember it. Ask them to compare notes in small groups and read a version back to you. Write it on to the board and compare their memory of what was said with your own. What can be learned from the differences?
Keep the language moving from speech to notebook to board, and back again. Fold in some idioms.
How might the exchange proceed by email? By text message?
How again might such an exchange proceed between two people talking about a third party who is either really not very well, or not half as ill as they think or say they are? How do people express real concern, how do they express scepticism? What intonation do they use to do this (there is a lot of fun to be had with this - exaggerate it, make it absurd, and people will remember the vocabulary that goes with it: intonation as an integral part of chunking).
Invite students to write down some other examples of (not very) bad luck, which might prompt a conversation of this sort - different reasons for someone being away from work for a day or two - then invite pairs of students to role play a brief exchange on the subject.
If much of this sounds familiar, you're right. Strategies learned from "delivery" teaching, from the best course books and materials writing, will serve you well in the unplugged classroom. The opportunity is to allow the conversation to arise from real life, the language to emerge from the conversation, and to match the language development, analysis and practice to the needs, interests and abilities of the people in the room.
Of course, one doesn't have to wait for big news to start a conversation. In fact it is important to establish a class dynamic where the bar for "interesting" input is explicitly set very low. Ask students on a Monday to share the most enjoyable thing they did over the weekend, rather than an enjoyable one. It allows everyone in - people who are shy, people who can't think of anything off the top of their head, and people who had a rubbish weekend.
Relish banality, and enjoy each other's company. In this atmosphere, people will feel able to talk about each other's lives with a degree of openness, with some seriousness where it is appropriate, and with general good humour.
Managing this atmosphere, as much as the conversation and the language it generates, is your responsibility. It demands the most constant attention to the detail of how we ordinary human beings respond to ordinary things: the expressions on our faces are as important as the expressions on the page. Don't you agree?
Wednesday, 6 May 2009
Scaffolded instruction is "the systematic sequencing of prompted content, materials, tasks, and teacher and peer support to optimize learning" (Dickson, Chard, & Simmons, 1993.)
Scaffolding is a process in which students are given support until they can apply new skills and strategies independently (Rosenshine & Meister, 1992).When students are learning new or difficult tasks, they are given more assistance. As they begin to demonstrate task mastery, the assistance or support is decreased gradually in order to shift the responsibility for learning from the teacher to the students. Thus, as the students assume more responsibility for their learning, the teacher provides less support.
Pre-engagement with the student and the curriculum - The teacher considers curriculum goals and the students' needs to select appropriate tasks.
Establish a shared goal - The students may become more motivated and invested in the learning process when the teacher works with each student to plan instructional goals.
Actively diagnose student needs and understandings - The teacher must be knowledgeable of content and sensitive to the students (e.g., aware of the students' background knowledge and misconceptions) to determine if they are making progress.
Provide tailored assistance - This may include cueing or prompting, questioning, modeling, telling, or discussing. The teacher uses these as needed and adjusts them to meet the students' needs.
Maintain pursuit of the goal - The teacher can ask questions and request clarification as well as offer praise and encouragement to help students remain focused on their goals.
Give feedback - To help students learn to monitor their own progress, the teacher can summarize current progress and explicitly note behaviors that contributed to each student's success.
Control for frustration and risk - The teacher can create an environment in which the students feel free to take risks with learning by encouraging them to try alternatives.
Assist internalization, independence, and generalization to other contexts - This means that the teacher helps the students to be less dependent on the teacher's extrinsic signals to begin or complete a task and also provides the opportunity to practice the task in a variety of contexts.
Begin with what the students can do - Students need to be aware of their strengths and to feel good about tasks they can do with little or no assistance.
Help students achieve success quickly - Although students need challenging work in order to learn, frustration and a "cycle of failure" may set in quickly if students do not experience frequent success.
Help students to "be" like everyone else - Students want to be similar to and accepted by their peers. If given the opportunity and support, some students may work harder at tasks in order to appear more like their peers.
Know when it is time to stop - Practicing is important to help students remember and apply their knowledge, but too much may impede the learning. "Less is more" may be the rule when students have demonstrated that they can perform the task.
Help students to be independent when they have command of the activity - Teachers need to watch for clues from their students that show when and how much teacher assistance is needed. Scaffolding should be removed gradually as students begin to demonstrate mastery and then no longer provided when students can perform the task independently.
The teacher does it - In other words, the teacher models how to perform a new or difficult task, such as how to use a graphic organizer. For example, the teacher may have a partially completed graphic organizer on an overhead transparency and "think aloud" as he or she describes how the graphic organizer illustrates the relationships among the information contained on it.
The class does it - The teacher and students work together to perform the task. For example, the students may suggest information to be added to the graphic organizer. As the teacher writes the suggestions on the transparency, students fill in their own copies of the organizer.
The group does it - Students work with a partner or a small cooperative group to complete a graphic organizer (i.e., either a partially completed or a blank one).
The individual does it - This is the independent practice stage where individual students can demonstrate their task mastery (e.g., successfully completing a graphic organizer to demonstrate appropriate relationships among information) and receive the necessary practice to help them to perform the task automatically and quickly. For additional scaffolding tips, teachers may want to view the videotape, How to Scaffold Instruction for Student Success (ASCD, 2002). See Beed, Hawkins, & Roller (1991) for examples of teacher-student dialogue during scaffolded instruction.
Use scaffolding when appropriate - Keep in mind that all students may not need scaffolding for all tasks and materials. Provide scaffolding to those students who need it only when they need it.
Be knowledgeable of the curriculum - This will enable you to determine the difficulty level of particular materials and tasks as well as the time and supports necessary to benefit students.
Practice generating possible prompts to help students - The first prompt you give to a student may fail, so you may have to give another prompt or think of a different wording to help the student give an appropriate response.
Be positive, patient, and caring - You may become discouraged if students do not respond or are not successful as a result of your initial scaffolding efforts. Continue to convey a positive tone of voice in a caring manner along with continued scaffolding efforts and student success soon may be evident.
This video can be used as a warmer, a dictogloss, a source for a conversation about flirting, awkwardness and lack of communication, etc or even as a listening practice activity.
Jeff - Best friend of Steve and a co-worker of Susan. Horrible at talking to women and obsessed with sex, you never know what will blurt out of Jeff's mouth. He performs a masterclass in how to chat up a girl in this hilarious short video from BBC smash hit sitcom Coupling.
Coupling is a hilarious British comedy that ran from 2000 to 2004 on Britain's BBC2 and won "Best TV Comedy" at the 2003 British Comedy Awards.
The show focuses on the lives and relationships of the six main characters. They are all connected to one another either as best friends, co-workers, currently dating or ex-dating.
Some reviewers have described it as a cross between "Friends" and "Seinfeld".
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
Monday, 4 May 2009
aMap has been developed by Delib and friends to promote the art of arguing.
At its heart, aMap is about helping people get to grips with complex (or otherwise) issues and get people thinking.
The underlying structuring of aMaps is based around “informal logic” - this is the logic people use to argue in everyday life. Informal logic has a four-tiered structure:
- Your position (I think . . .) - what you think overall
- Propositions (Because . . .) - reasons that support your position
- Arguments (As . . .) - supporting arguments that back up each of your propositions
- Evidence (Supported by . . .) - supporting evidence to back up your arguments
for further information, click here.
This is one example I did with my students. Move your cursor and move up and down to read the arguments, such as BECAUSE, AS, SUPPORTED BY, etc for students to add their arguments.
Sunday, 3 May 2009
I asked students to make short videos about a person's life. They had to:
describe the person: name, nationality, place of birth, occupation, etc
say about his daily activities using adverbs of frequency.
Here's an example of a short video made by Bruno, a 15-year-old student of mine who is studying Face2Face Elementary Unit 3.
Saturday, 2 May 2009
To make reading more challenging, teachers can test:
Opinion: understanding of opinions expressed or referred to by the writer.
Attitude: understanding of feelings described in the text which the writer or someone the writer refers to expresses.
Tone: identifying from the style of the text or a section of it the impression the writer wishes to create.
Purpose: identifying what the writer is trying to achieve in the text.
Implication: interpreting what is not exactly stated in the text but instead is strongly suggested in such a way that it is clear that the writer intends the reader to make certain inferences.
Exemplification: understanding how a point made in the text is illustrated with examples.
Reference: understanding of what words, phrases or sentences in the text refer to or relate to elsewhere in the text.
Here’s an example of how we can make reading more challenging to the students:
Spanish companies in Latin America.
A good bet?
Apr 30th 2009
From The Economist
1. EUROPE was a grim place during the hard economic and political times of the 17th century. But the mood in Latin America was different, as Ruggiero Romano, a historian, has observed. While Europe’s population, consumption and production fell, Spain’s colonies thrived.
2. Spanish companies that have been doing a lot of business in Latin America hope it will buck the trend this time, too. It is so far proving more resilient to the global financial crisis than Spain, where a decade-long boom has come to a halt. Spanish unemployment has just hit 17%, more than twice the European average. The IMF expects Spain’s GDP to contract by 3% this year. Economic output in Latin America, A is expected to shrink less and recover sooner. The region’s institutional strength should shield it from the worst of the crisis.
3. Telefónica, a Spanish telecoms firm and the biggest investor in the region, says Latin America will be its engine of growth in the next few years. Spanish utilities are also optimistic. “The perception is that Latin American operations are once again becoming a source of strength,” says Sergi Aranda, head of Latin American operations at Gas Natural, a Spanish utility.
4. This is a turn-up for the books. From Mexico’s “tequila crisis” in 1994 to Argentina’s collapse in 2001, B Spanish companies have been on a roller-coaster ride in the region. After nearly two decades of frenzied activity, Spain is now the biggest foreign investor in the region after America. The first wave of serious interest began in 1993, after the establishment of the single European market. Facing increasing competition and the risk of hostile bids from larger rivals in Europe, Spanish firms went to Latin America in search of profits and greater scale.
5. This coincided with a wave of liberalisation in the region. Spurred on by cultural affinity and a shared language, Spanish firms collectively spent an average of $9.7 billion a year from 1993 to 2000, mostly in Argentina, Brazil and Chile. Subsequent crises and some populist policies dampened enthusiasm.
6. The numbers are eye-popping. Six firms undertook 95% of the investment by Spanish companies in Latin America: Telefónica, Repsol, Santander, BBVA, Endesa and Iberdrola, according to a study by Enrique Alberola, a senior economist at the Bank of Spain. C Gas Natural and Union Fenosa also made big investments. The cumulative gross investment by the top five companies was $170 billion. All this generated $28.9 billion of operating profit in 2008. For the six biggest Spanish investors, Latin America accounted for a good chunk (16-51%) of their profits.
7. Telefónica has made the biggest bet, spending a total of $100 billion. Analysts believe Latin American assets account for about a third of its $147 billion enterprise value, including debt. It has gained or held market share in all big markets except Colombia.
8. Latin America is also important for Santander and BBVA, Spain’s two biggest banks. The region accounted for 43% of Santander’s 2008 operating profit and over half of BBVA’s. Mexico and Brazil offer greater potential than Spain. Santander has strengthened its presence in Brazil, where it bought Banco Real of ABN AMRO in 2007.
9. Latin America is not a perfect hedge for Spanish companies. Recent devaluations of some Latin American currencies have dented their profits. But if the region manages to recover quickly from recession, it will provide further vindication of their decision to invest so far from home.
Copyright © 2009 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.
ACTIVITIES: LANGUAGE AND STYLE
1. What does the author suggest in paragraph 1?
2. What are the four words in paragraph 2 used to suggest that Latin America may be a good place for investments from Spain?
3. In paragraph 3, two expressions are used to highlight the potential of Latin America. What are they?
4. What does the sentence ‘This is a turn-up for the books’ in paragraph 4 imply?
5. What do we infer from the sentence in paragraph 5 ‘Spurred on by cultural affinity and a shared language’?
6. Why does the author use the expression ‘The numbers are eye-popping’ in paragraph 6?
7. What do we infer from the last paragraph?
8. The general tone of the article was:
9. What does ‘its’ in paragraph 3 refer to?
10. Where could this best be added?
a) Letter a
b) Letter b
c) Letter c
11. The sentences below show the timeline of investments
from Spain in Latin America.
Put the sentences in chronological order.
• Spain had a prosperity which lasted for ten years.
• The importance of Latin America to Spanish banks.
• Currency devaluations may slow down profits.
• Latin American countries go through an economic crisis.
• Spanish colonies thrived while Spain collapsed.
• The introduction of the Eurozone triggered overseas investments.
Aim: Renting a Flat
Subsidiary Aim: There is, There are, Some, Any
Watch the video made by my student Pedro. Look how creative he was!
Here's another one by Roberto. Look how he used what he learnt in class to make a video between an American and the Queen, highlighting the accents, habits and expressions from both The US and England. The Queen who could not help farting is hilarious!
Check his site and let yourself explore new possibilities.
Click here, please.
Friday, 1 May 2009
Making Grammar Memorable
by Simon Mumford, Turkey
Simon Mumford teaches at the Izmir University of Economics, Turkey, where he also works in the Academic Writing Centre. He enjoys designing language learning activities, and has been working with creative thinking for several years. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The role of memory is language learning is paramount, and Thornbury (2006:26) points out grammar presentations which are not retained by the students will not be effective. In fact, ideally, any information given by teachers, or activity performed by students should have something to make it memorable.
I would like to suggest two broadly different ways to make grammar more memorable for students. The first is by enabling the practise of language items in contexts that clearly illustrate their meanings and by asking learners to choose between items to reflect personal attitutes and expectations. The second way is to use mnemonics, devices which are designed to aid memory, ranging from poems, rhymes, puns and other word play, and including metaphor.
A major theme related to this division between the creation of contexts on the one hand, and playing with language on the other are two different ways of thinking. The first, logical thinking is relevant when relating grammatical structures to contexts and to other structures, finding or creating language connections. The second, creative thinking, takes a wider view, and makes a deliberate attempt to find different, unusual and innovative ways of making language memorable. I will suggest that both these different but often complementary ways of thinking are useful when generating new ideas for teaching. After looking at how each way of thinking can help in developing ideas, I make some suggestions as to how the two can be combined.
Connecting language, creating contexts
Thinking logically about language often means considering the purpose of a language item and its relation to other structures, in order to create a context for learning/practise. This can include using information given in grammar texts, but also our own observations of how language ‘behaves’, the intentions of speakers when they use specific structures, and the meaning of structures in relation to each other. The following three dialogues give some examples: When practising First and Second Conditionals, we can exploit the fact that an action is seen as either a real possibility or unlikely, using a dialogue:
S 1: If we get married, we’ll be so happy! S 2: Yes, but how would we live if we got married? S 1: We’ll find something. We’ll be the most beautiful couple! S 2: If we did, where would we live? S 1: We’ll live with my brother. S 2: He wouldn’t want us!
In this case S1 uses First Conditional to show he thinks something should and will happen, and S2 uses Second because she believes it should not. This draws attention to the different implications of the two tenses, and can be further practised by giving students a situation, asking them to consider positive and negative aspects and create a parallel roleplay/dialogue.
A dissatisfied customer and used-car salesman arguing about a recent sale provides a context for practising Past Simple and Continuous:
Customer: You said it did 12 kilometres per litre. Salesman: It was doing 12 kilometres per litre when I had it! C: You said the brakes worked. S: They were working when I tried them. C: And you said the oil didn’t leak. S: It wasn’t leaking last week! C: It did 170 kph, you told me. S: No, I actually said it was doing 170 kph when the last owner had it.
The salesman uses the Continuous to protect himself by refering to a situation that was temporarily in progress at the time of the sale, in other words, he was not claiming that it was a permanent feature of the car.
When contrasting Past and Present Perfect, we can describe the latter as the vague tense, since there is no need to commit to specific times. A detective examining a suspect provides a situation where vagueness suits one but not the other, as the suspect tries to avoid giving the specific information the detective wants:
Detective: Where have you been this week? Suspect: London. D: Where exactly did you go? S: I’ve been to lots of places, stayed with a friends. D: Who did you stay with? S: I’ve stayed with several different people. D: OK, who was the last? S: Well, I’ve just come back from John Smith’s in North London. D: Did you buy a new car there? S: Well, in fact I have bought several cars recently. D: Oh yes? Where did you get them from? S: I’ve bought them from various people I know in the trade.
These dialogues all focus on a conflict of interests between the speakers, making the dialogues dramatic and thus memorable. They can be practised, extended, and used as models for students’ own dialogues or conversations.
We can also contrast other pieces of language. Any, some/a, and the can be related in terms of definiteness: any is less definite in questions because there is no expectation that the answer will be positive, unlike some, which suggests a positive answer is anticipated (Carter and McCarthy 2006: 367). Thus, we can construct a game: Student 1 has to find out what is in Student 2’s picture, using Yes/No questions only.
S 1: Are there any animals? S 2: Yes. S 1: Is there a dog/some dogs? S 2: Yes. S 1: Is the dog/Are the dogs brown? S2: No. S1: Black ? S2: Yes.
Any is appropriate for the first question because Student 1 has no idea what is in the picture, and so he uses animal, a noun covering a class of other nouns. In the second question Student 1 uses a/some, because dog is a common member of the class animal, and there is a reasonable expectation of a positive answer. Finally, having established that the picture contains at least one dog, Student 1 uses the definite article. This process could be made more game-like by setting a target of three adjective+noun phrases (eg a black dog, a red flower and a young man) to be found within a limited time or number of questions.
Language items have meaning in relation to others and there is good reason for selecting one form rather than another. This can be exploited in drills; in the following, students choose between (not) going to or will/won’t:
T: Eat out this weekend. S1: (who has planned to eat out this weekend) I’m going to eat out this weekend.S2: (who has not, but has been inspired to by the suggestion) I’ll eat out this weekend. S3: (who is definitely not) I’m not going to eat out this weekend. S4: (who is undecided) I probably won’t eat out this weekend.
Students decide for themselves which is the correct form, based on their own plans, bringing a note of realism into the drill. A similar drill could be constructed for the First and Second Conditional.
T: Go abroad this year... S1: If I go abroad this year, I will probably go to England. S2: If I went abroad year, my bank manager would be very angry!
Again, students select language to show their own attitude; S1 sees it as a real possibility, S2 as possible but extremely unlikely.
Information about language from corpus-based grammars can be incorporated into personalised grammar practise. In selecting the Present Perfect, ‘the speaker chooses to mark the event as relevant to now’ (Carter and McCarthy 2006:616), therefore, I have seen the latest Harry Potter film implies the speaker is still being affected by it, whereas I saw the latest Harry Potter film suggests that any effects have disappeared and that it has perhaps been forgotten. Thus, students can show their attitudes:
T: You know the latest (James Bond film)... S1: (positive attitude) Yes, I’ve seen it (and I still remember enjoying it.)S2: (indifferent attitude) Yes, I saw it (but I’m not thinking about it any more.)
This distinction between the use of the tenses is certainly one that would be memorable for students because it involves their personal preferences.
The ‘relevant now’ factor could be connected with the pronouns this/these and that/those, which can convey not only physical distance, but also emotional distance according to Carter and McCarthy (2006:370). They note that That/those is more detached (and therefore presumably less favourable) and this/these is more involved. Students can create dialogues or conversations where each implies an attitude to an object not physically present:
S1: You know this/that new Renault.. . (depending on how they feel about it)S2: Yes, I’ve seen it/I saw it... (depending on the effect it had)
As already noted above, the use of some or any in questions depends on the speakers expectation of the answer, with some suggesting that the speaker expects a positive answer (Carter and McCarthy 2006:367). Therefore, we can encourage students to decide which form to use based on their expectations when questioning classmates, giving a new twist to the Find someone who... activity:
S1: (To teenager) Have you got any cassettes?S2: No, of course not!S1: (To older person) Have you got some cassettes?S3: Yes, I have.
Creating grammatical mnemonics
Mnemonics, a general term refering to any technique that helps people remember information, are used in many different educational fields, including science, history, music and geography (Hobbs). Regarding Language Teaching, however, the lack of published material on grammatical mnemonics seems remarkable, considering the amount of information to be remembered, and the potential benefits of these techniques.
Russell (1997:124) describes the factors that can be exploited in mnemonics as ‘uniqueness, exaggeration, the senses, simplicity, interactivity, creativity, vulgarness and involvement’. While few teachers are in a position to be vulgar, all are able to create visual images, and exploit interactivity between grammar and linguistic features including sounds and spelling of words, as well as non-verbal communication.
In devising mnemomics, creative thinking is useful since there is a need to get a different perspective on language. ‘Creative thinking’ in its broadest sense should not be confused with any one particular technique, but covers any method that leads to innovation, including giving old ideas a new lease of life, and combining existing ideas to produce new ones (Harris).
Combining logical and creative thinking
I have suggested two ways to make grammar memorable. First, thinking about specific language items and their interrelationships can help us create contexts that are memorable because they can be dramatised, contain an element of conflict, or may also reflect personal preferences. This can be loosely described as a rational or logical thinking.
The second is more creative. When constructing mnemonics, we take a different approach in making connections between language items, and other language and other concepts. In this sense we seem to do the exact opposite to logical thinking. We deliberately look for ways of taking language out of context, perhaps making it inauthentic, to produce memorable images. This need for a more playful use of language in teaching, including rhyme, alliteration, puns, poems, and metaphor has been recognised (Cook, 2000).
Although seemingly opposite, logical and creative thinking can, in fact, be seen as two complementary ways of arriving at new ideas. The distinction is perhaps somewhat artificial; many activities described above actually contain elements of both. As these further examples show, it is often the combination of logic, in the form of serious grammatical analysis, with an element of play and randomness, that leads to the creation of interesting and striking activities.
the structure used to, which contrasts two states, past and present, can be matched with comparatives, eg I used to be fitter (than I am now) . This appeals to our logical side. However, from a more creative and playful perspective, we notice that used to and fitter sound similar in normal speech since they both contain /t / followed by schwa. This could make a memorable drill: He used to be fitter/madder/sadder/odder. Going a step further, we can create a rhyme: Mister Foster used to be faster.
The word I’ll is used for offers, which often occur in service situations. I’ll sounds exactly like Aisle. Aisles also are found in many service situations- supermarkets, cinemas, planes, and coaches. We could use one of these situations to practise offers, eg a steward offering drinks, food, blankets and newspapers to passengers on a plane. Logic tells us to teach I’ll in service situations. Creativity shows us how to find a situation and practice the pronunciation at the same time.
If only is used for regrets, so it seems logical to teach it while sighing. A creative suggestion is to make the words themselves into a sigh by lengthening and stressing if and the first syllable of only: Ifffffffffffff OOOOOOhhhhhhhhnly (I were richer!).
I believe that concentrating only on one type of thinking is limiting, as creativity for its own sake, detached from logic, can cause confusion. However, a purely rational approach, denying the need for looking at language in innovative ways, may mean missed opportunities.
A knowledge of grammar is at the heart of language teaching and learning. Teachers and material designers need a detailed knowledge of how language items are used, and this is becoming easier with corpora. I believe we also need to think about language ourselves, and make connections, both those that already exist between items of language, and the ones that an open mind, creative thought and serendipity present to us.
Carter, R. and M. McCarthy (2006). Cambridge Grammar of English. Cambridge University Press.
Cook, G. (2000) Language Play, Language Learning. Oxford University Press
Harris, R. Introduction to Creative Thinking http://www.virtualsalt.com/crebook1.htm
Hobbs, P. Mnemonics www.eudesign.com/mnems/
Mumford, S. (2005) Using Metaphor to Teach Grammar. Humanising Language Teaching http://www.hltmag.co.uk/may05/sart05.htm
Russell, P. (1997). The Brain Book. Routledge
Thornbury, S. (2006) How to Teach Grammar. Longman
by David Martin
Over the short history of the ESL/EFL field various methods have been proposed. Each method has in turn fallen out of favor and has been replaced with a new one. Audiolingualism, functionalism, communicative paradigms, and now the fad is "task-based syllabuses." In his critique of the task-based syllabus Sheen (1994:127) points out, "frequent paradigm shifts in the field of second and foreign language teaching have not resulted in significant progress in language learning." Since no method has been proven to be more effective than another, many teachers have jumped on the "eclectic" bandwagon. Common sense would have this as the best available choice since variety is the spice of language.
Other than considering method, what can the EFL teacher do to ensure success? What follows are some DOs and DONTs that I have found to be very useful in teaching EFL in Japan. None are revolutionary; these are principles I didn't necessarily learn in ESL graduate school, but should have been taught.
1. Learn your students' names.
This cannot be overemphasized. You will be able to control your class better and gain more respect if you learn the students' names early on. If you are one who has a poor memory for names, have all the students hold up name cards and take a picture of them on the first day of class. On the second class, impress them by showing them you know all their names.
2. Establish authority from the beginning.
Expect your students to use English 100% of the time, and accept it if they only achieve 95% usage. Do not let them get away with speaking their mother tongue to communicate with their partner. Deal quickly with inappropriate conduct in a friendly yet firm manner.
3. Be overly prepared.
If you don't have a clear lesson-plan down on paper, then make sure you have a mental one. You should know about how long each activity will take and have an additional activity prepared in case you have extra time.
4. Always consider the learners' needs when preparing for each lesson.
Why are your students studying English? How will they use English in the future? What do they need to learn? If many of the students are going to study abroad at an American university, for example, then the teacher should be preparing them for listening to academic lectures and academic reading to some extent. If, on the other hand, most of the students have no perceived need for English in the future, perhaps you should be focusing on useful skills that they may use in the future, but may not be essential--skills such as understanding movie dialog, listening to music, writing a letter to a pen pal, etc.
5. Be prepared to make changes to or scrap your lesson plan.
If the lesson you have prepared just isn't working, don't be afraid to scrap it or modify it. Be sensitive to the students--don't forge ahead with something that is bound for disaster.
6. Find out what learners already know.
This is an ongoing process. Students may have already been taught a particular grammar point or vocabulary. In Japan, with Japanese having so many loan words from English, this is especially true. I have explained many words carefully before, such as kids, nuance, elegant, only to find out later that they are now part of the Japanese language.
7. Be knowledgeable about grammar.
This includes pronunciation, syntax, and sociolinguistic areas. You don't have to be a linguist to teach EFL--most of what you need to know can be learned from reading the students' textbooks. Often the rules and explanations about structure in the students' texts are much more accessible and realistic than in texts used in TESL syntax courses.
8. Be knowledgeable about the learners' culture.
In monolingual classrooms the learners' culture can be a valuable tool for teaching.
9. Don't assume that your class textbook has the language that your students need or want to learn.
Most textbooks follow the same tired, boring pattern and include the same major functions, grammar and vocabulary. The main reason for this is not scientific at all--it is the publisher's unwillingness to take a risk by publishing something new. Also, by trying to please all teachers publishers force authors to water down their materials to the extent of being unnatural at times. It is the teacher's responsibility to add any extra necessary vocabulary, functions, grammar, or topics that you feel the students may want or need.
10. Don't assume (falsely) that the class textbook will work.
Some activities in EFL textbooks fall apart completely in real classroom usage. It is hard to believe that some of them have actually been piloted. Many activities must be modified to make them work, and some have to be scrapped completely.
11. Choose your class textbooks very carefully.
Most teachers and students are dissatisfied with textbooks currently available. Nevertheless, it is essential that you choose a textbook that is truly communicative and meets the needs of your students.
12. Don't neglect useful vocabulary teaching.
The building blocks of language are not grammar and functions. The most essential thing students need to learn is vocabulary; without vocabulary you have no words to form syntax, no words to pronounce. Help your students to become vocabulary hungry.
13. Proceed from more controlled activities to less controlled ones.
Not always, but in general, present and practice more structured activities before freer, more open ones.
14. Don't neglect the teaching of listening.
It is the opinion of many ESL experts that listening is the most important skill to teach your students. While listening to each other and to the teacher will improve their overall listening ability, this can be no substitute for listening to authentic English. As much as possible, try to expose your students to authentic English in a variety of situations. The best way to do this and the most realistic is through videos. Listening to audio cassettes in the classroom can improve listening ability, but videos are much more motivating and culturally loaded.
15. Turn regular activities into games or competition.
Many familiar teaching points can be turned into games, or activities with a competitive angle. A sure way to motivate students and liven up your classroom.
16. Motivate your students with variety.
By giving a variety of interesting topics and activities, students will be more motivated and interested, and they are likely to practice more. With more on-task time they will improve more rapidly.
17. Don't teach linguistics.
Language and culture are inseparable. If culture isn't a part of your lessons, then you aren't really teaching language, you are teaching about language.
18. Don't teach phonetics.
By all means teach the more important aspects of pronunciation, but don't bombard the students with minimal pair drills that cannot be applied to real communication. They don't really understand the meaning of any of those minimal pairs you teach anyway, do they? A more rational approach would be to teach pronunciation in context, as necessary. For example, if you are teaching a section on health, teach syllable stress with sickness words: fever, headache, backache, earache, constipation, etc.
19. Don't leave the learners in the dark.
Explain exactly what they are expected to learn in a particular lesson. Make sure that students know what they are doing and why. The lessons should be transparent to the students, with a clear organization.
20. Be enthusiastic! Don't do it just for the money.
You don't have to be an actor or clown, but students appreciate it when the teacher shows genuine interest in teaching. Teachers who are jaded with EFL would do best to hide it, or consider moving on to another profession.
21. Show interest in the students as individuals.
Treat students as individuals, not subjects. Don't patronize or talk down to them; talk to them as you would any other person. Only in this way will true communication take place.
22. Allow opportunities to communicate directly with students.
Students want, more than anything, to talk with the teacher. Don't overdo pair and group work to the point that they haven't had a chance to interact with you, too.
23. Allow time for free communication.
For speaking this would mean allowing time for free conversation, for writing doing freewriting, for reading allowing time for extensive pleasure reading, and for listening, listening for entertainment sake.
24. Use humor to liven up the class.
Make it a habit to get the students to laugh at least once per lesson.
25. Show an interest in the students' native language.
This is especially important in the monolingual classroom. Ignoring their L1 causes some students to think (erroneously) that you don't respect them. If possible, use the L1 periodically as part of the lesson. If nothing else, it will show the students respect, and may loosen them up.
26. Don't have pets.
This is extremely hard to avoid, especially when a student is more outgoing or interesting than others. Nevertheless, try to call on and attend to students as equally as you can.
Move about the classroom. At times sit with groups and monitor, as well as joining in on the communication. At times walk about, listen and observe.
28. Make your instructions short and clear.
Demonstrate rather than explaining whenever possible.
29. Speak up, but don't break anyone's eardrum.
If the students can't hear you, you are wasting your breath. Not as bad, but still annoying is the teacher who thinks s/he must speak louder to be comprehended. Research has already proven this to be false.
30. Don't talk too much.
Depending on the subject, you should be talking from about 5% to 30% of the lesson. For speaking or writing, more than 10-15% would probably be too much. Most lessons should be student-centered, not teacher-centered.
31. Don't talk too slow.
How do you expect your students to understand real English if you don't speak at a fairly natural speed? Oversimplified and affected speech will hurt your students in the long run. Shoot for moderate complexity and more repetition if needed.
32. Be sensitive to your students.
Watch their faces and reactions. Do they understand you? Are they interested or bored? Try to be aware of what is going on in your classroom at all times. If you are starting class and one student is still talking, try to gently get him/her to stop. If you are sitting with a pair of students on one side of the room, try to be attentive to what is happening in other groups as well. There may be a group across the room that is confused and doesn't know what to do.
33. Don't be a psychiatrist.
Shy, introverted students are not going to change their personalities overnight in order to learn English. Give these students opportunities to talk in small groups, but don't expect them to shout out answers in front of the whole class.
34. Respect both "slow" and "fast" learners.
Language learning is not about intelligence; the important thing to stress is that the students are improving.
35. Don't lose your cool.
If you do, you will lose hard-won respect. Even if you have to go so far as to leave the classroom, do it in a controlled manner, explaining to the class or student why you are unhappy with them.
36. Be frank.
Praise your students when they are getting better and encourage them when they are not doing as well as they can.
37. Be a coach.
At times you must be more of a coach than a teacher. Push the students to write those few extra lines, to get into their groups faster, to extend their conversations.
38. Be fair and realistic in testing.
Teach first and then test; don't test things that haven't been taught. Also, remember that the main purpose of language is communication. This means that when marking a dictation portion of a listening test, for example, a "What [ ] your name?" response should get nearly full points because the listener has demonstrated full comprehension.
39. Don't overcorrect.
For example, when correcting a narrative composition at low-intermediate level, it doesn't make much sense to correct mistakes with relative clauses. Likewise, if your class is practicing simple past tense, don't correct article usage at the same time. If you think a student can correct their own mistake, don't supply the correction for them, rather allow for some self-monitoring.
40. Be reflective.
Think about your own teaching. After each lesson is over take some time to reflect. Was the lesson effective? What were the good and bad points? How could it be improved?
41. Keep in shape.
EFL teachers don't have to become jaded with teaching. Get into it. Look at new coursebooks and teacher training books to get new ideas. Share your ideas with colleagues. Go to conferences.
42. Laugh at yourself sometimes.
There are those times when nothing goes right despite our best intentions. We must be humble enough to admit to ourselves and to our students that we just messed up.
Sheen, Ron. (1994). "A Critical Analysis of the Advocacy of the Task-Based Syllabus," TESOL Quarterly 28 (1): 127.
In 2007, the British Council conducted market research into how the Internet has affected the preferred learning styles of young people wanting to learn English around the world. The results of this research suggest that if teachers are to remain relevant and effective, then they need to use 'learning technologies' to help students reach the world outside the classroom.
69% of learners around the world said that they learned most effectively when socialising informally. This result suggests that a lot of students learn best from their friends and family. Perhaps that isn’t so surprising. The things we learn from our loved ones are often more immediately relevant to our lives than what we learn from a teacher in a classroom.
Also, when we are relaxed (such as when we are at home or in a café), then we are more open to suggestions and new ideas.
Does that mean teachers should start taking their students to cafés more? No, of course not. However, a lot of teachers take their students outside of the classroom once a term to try and create a different experience, atmosphere and dynamic for their teaching and learning.
There are other implications from the result above. For example, teachers might find they are more successful if they:
organise group work in their classes
make the exercises they give their students fun, since students are motivated when they are having fun
give their students work to do outside of the formal setting of the classroom
take on the role of 'facilitator' rather than the role of 'giver-of-knowledge'.
The average young person in the world today owns £500 of technology. It feels like everyone has a mobile phone today. In China, more people have mobile phones than land-line phones. In some African countries, people own more than one phone each on average.
What these findings mean is that sometimes young people get more new information from the technology they use outside of school than they do from their teacher in the classroom. Sometimes, young people learn more from using the Internet at home or in a café than they do at school.
When young people are on the Internet, they feel 'connected' to people and the world’s knowledge. In the classroom, they can feel 'disconnected' and 'isolated'. They sometimes feel that school isn’t particularly relevant to their lives.
The implications, therefore, are that teachers might:
try to use 'learning technologies' in the classroom whenever they can, to make the learning experience relevant to their students
show students how to find and access information and opportunities through technology
focus on developing students’ networking skills (both online and face-to-face) so that the students become 'connected' to people who can give them information, help them learn and keep the learning experience relevant to the student’s life
take on the role of 'trainer' rather than 'engineer'.
Students with strong social networks perform well academically,
The research done by the British Council showed that students who felt they were getting enough opportunities in their lives to socialise informally were also successful in their learning. You might wonder how a student finds time both to study and socialise as much as they want. Well, it’s important to understand that successful students combine studying and socialising, and that combining the two things helps them to be successful at both.
The implications here are that teachers might:
find out what social networking sites students like to use
show students what free learning opportunities are available through social networking sites
show students how they can set up their own blog site for free using sites
take on the role of 'network administrator' rather than 'materials writer'.
source: British Council