Tag Archives: teaching methods

Types of Reading for the Classroom VIDEO

Reading types for instructional purposes

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Passive vs Active Learning

Passive and active learning are two extremes in the world of teaching. Traditionally, learning has been mostly passive in nature. However, in the last 2-3 decades, there has been a push, particularly in the United States to encourage active learning in the classroom.

This post will define passive and active learning and provide examples of each.

Passive Learning

Passive learning is defined from the perspective of the student and means learning in which the students do little to nothing to acquire the knowledge. The most common form of passive learning is direct instruction aka lecture-style teaching.

With passive learning, the student is viewed as an empty receptacle of knowledge that the teacher must fill with his knowledge. Freire called this banking education as the student serves as an account in which the teacher or banker places the knowledge or money.

There is a heavy emphasis on memorizing and recalling information. The objective is the preservation of knowledge and the students should take notes and be ready to repeat or at least paraphrase what the teacher said. The teacher is the all-wise sage on the stage.

Even though it sounds as though passive learning is always bad there are times when it is beneficial. When people have no prior knowledge of a subject passive learning can provide a foundation for future active learning activities. In addition, if it is necessary to provide a large amount of information direct instruction can help in achieving this.

Active Learning

Active learning is learning in which the students must do something in order to learn. Common examples of this include project-based learning, flipped classroom, and any form of discussion in the classroom.

Active learning is derived from the philosophy of constructivism. Constructivism is the belief that students used their current knowledge to build new understanding. For example, with project-based learning students must take what they know in order to complete the unknown of the project.

For the flipped classroom, students review the lecture style information before class. During class, the students participate in activities in which the use what they learned outside of class. This in turn “flips” the learning experience. Out of class is the passive part while in class is the active part.

There is a reduction or total absence of lecturing in an active learning classroom. Rather students interact with each and the teacher to develop their understanding of the content. This transactional nature of learning is another characteristic of active learning.

There are some challenges with active learning. Since it is constructivist in nature it can be difficult to assess what the students learned. This is due in part to the subjective nature of constructivism. If everybody constructs their own understanding everybody understands differently which makes it difficult to have one objective assessment.

Furthermore, active learning is time-consuming in terms of preparation and the learning experience. Developing activities and leading a discussion forces the class to move slower. If the demands of the course require large amounts of content this can be challenging for many teachers.

Conclusion

There is room in the world of education for passive and active learning strategies. The main goal should be to find a balance between these two extremes as over reliance on either one will probably be a disadvantage to students.

Series Method

The Series Method of language acquisition was perhaps the first step away from grammar translation in language teaching. This method of teaching language was developed by Francois Gouin (1831-1896).

This post will provide a brief background that led to the Series Method as well as some examples of the actual techniques used in the method.

Background

Gouin was a French lecturer of Latin. He decided to attempt to study at the University of Berlin but realized he needed to learn  German in order to continue his studies. Being a natural lover of languages, Gouin figured a brief stop in Hamburg would be enough to learn the basics of the German language.

Gouin attempted to learn German using the grammar translation approach. He memorized thousands of words in an incredibly short period of time. Though he could decipher written text, Gouin was not able to speak or listen to German at all. His goal was not only understanding text but to understand and participate in lectures in German. After a year of studying the grammar and even translating advance text into his own language, Gouin went home discouraged.

Upon returning to France, Gouin found that his 2-year-old nephew, who could not talk when Gouin left, was now a 3 year old talkative child. Gouin became convince that children hold the secret to language acquisition and he began to observe children to see how they learned language.

The conclusions that Gouiin reached from his observations was that children use language to represent their thoughts. At the time, this insight was revolutionary. This insight was later used to develop the Series method.

Techniques

The Series Method is a “series” of connected sentences that are easy to understand and requires little knowledge of grammar. Below is a partial example.

I walk toward the door. I draw near to the door. I draw nearer to the door. I get to the door. I stop at the door

This is focused on different ways to speak about using the door. The entire series on door is fifteen sentences in all. Through these various uses of the word door students are exposed to a wide range of grammatical uses. The success of this method was the simplicity and ease of memorization

Conclusion

Gouin ideas about language were ahead of their time. Despite the awkwardness of his approach Gouin’s method had a brief moment of success only to be overshadow by Berlitz’s Direct Method.

Examples and Nonexamples in Teaching

Teaching involves the use of various techniques in order to convey meaning for the students. The available methods that are available are highly varied. In this post, we will look at the use of examples and nonexamples in providing meaning for students.

Example

The term many of us are probably familiar with is example. In education, examples represent an idea or concept that a teacher is trying to teach their students.For example (no pun intended), if a teacher is trying to explain vocabulary they may use several different illustrations to explain the word. Consider the example below.

Teacher: Today’s vocab word is convoluted. Convoluted means something that is complicated. For example, the human body is very convoluted with all of its cells and systems.

This example above brief an illustration of the use of examples. Examples provide synonyms or other means of similarity with the unclear concept. Therefore, an example is always like or similar to whatever it is an example of.

Nonexample

Nonexamples are, as you can tell, the opposite of examples.Where examples provide an instance of similarity, nonexamples provide an instance of contrast. Below is the same situation with the use of convoluted is a sentence but this time the teacher shows the meaning through employing a nonexample.

Teacher: Today’s vocab word is convoluted. Convoluted means something that is complicated. Something that is not convoluted would be a rock or a ladder.

The example in the last sentence is an example of what convoluted is not. The contrast helps students to envision what the word is not and to develop their own ideas of what the word is.

Teaching Ideas for Examples and Nonexamples

Depending on the teaching method there are many practical ways to use examples and nonexamples. If direct instruction is used, it would be the teacher who provides the examples and nonexamples. If indirect instruction is employed, the students create the examples and none examples. In cooperative or inquiry classrooms, small groups develop examples and nonexamples.

For whatever reason, it is normally easier to develop examples rather than develop non-examples. The mind seems better adapted at seeing similarities rather than differences. For this reason, challenging students to develop nonexamples, may stretch their thinking more.

As a teacher, it is probably best to develop examples and nonexamples before teaching that are consistent with the goals and objectives of the learning experience. It’s difficult to create great teaching strategies while in front of the students. A methodological approach to developing teaching tools is always valuable.

Conclusions

Examples and nonexamples are tools that most teachers have been using without perhaps knowing it. This is especially true for examples. However, understanding how and why the tools work is highly beneficial in inspiring informed practice.

Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction

Robert Gagne was a psychologist in the field of education. One of his most influential ideas was his Nine Events of Instruction. The concept has had a significant impact in the instructional approach of many in the world of education.

This post will briefly explain and cover the Nine Events of Instruction and to explain their application in the classroom. The nine events are as follows.

  1. Gain learners’ attention.
  2. Inform learners of the objectives.
  3. Stimulate recall of prior learning.
  4. Present the content.
  5. Provide “learning guidance”
  6. Elicit performance (practice)
  7. Provide feedback.
  8. Assess performance.
  9. Enhance retention and transfer to the real-world

Gain Learners Attention

Obtaining attention is critical in terms of information processing. Unfocused students cannot learn anything. How a teacher gains the attention of their students can vary. Some use classroom management techniques to obtain behavior such as ringing a bell or raising their hand to indicate that it is time to be quiet.

Inform Learners of the Objectives

It is hard for many to enjoy a journey when they do not know where they are going. The same idea applies to many students. You need to explain to them what they will do in order for them to enjoy doing it. This is one reason for sharing with the students the objectives or purpose of a class. It provides a sense of direction and perhaps relevance.

Stimulate Prior Learning

Stimulating prior learning allows students to connect new information with old. Review what they have learned in order to extend and build upon it. This is one aspect of constructivism. The review can be in the form of questions, game or some other method. Students need to see the connections among the information they are learning for schematic reasons as well.

Present Content

This the part of the teaching in which new material is presented. This can be done through any method of teaching including direct instruction, indirect instruction, cooperative learning, etc.

Provide Guidance

After learning new material, students need to use it. This first happens with a hands-on example with guidance. In other words, the first few problems are done together with teacher support. This is the scaffolding aspect of Vygotsky’s model. You as the teacher guide the students through the initial experience of using new information.

Elicit Performance

At this step, the students are executing the new skill without immediate feedback. Students need the freedom to perform without instant critique even from the teacher. However, this is only temporary.

Provide Feedback

Now the students learn how they did. This can happen through going over the answers or discuss various opinions about a subjective subject. This event provides students with a way to compare their performance with that of others or some external standard.

Assess Performance

This is the giving of some sort of grade or indication of progress. There are several different methods for giving marks or grades.

Enhance Retention through Transfer to Real World

Students need to see how the knowledge they attain can be used in the real world. Therefore, the teacher needs to assist in this transfer. This can be through discussion on how to do this or through the use of some sort of authentic assessment.

Conclusion

Gagne’s Nine Events of Instruction is a fantastic model to follow when trying to teach and interact with students. The order is the most common flow and there are natural exceptions to the order developed by Gagne. However, a teacher chooses to do this they should keep in mind the nine events in order to support student learning.

Community Language Learning

Community Language Learning (CLL) is a humanistic approach to language learning based on psychological insights of Carl Rogers. The role of the teacher shifts to that of a counselor and the role of the student shifts to that of a client. The difference is that in CLL the counselor is a knower and the client is a learner.

This post will discuss the beliefs of CLL as well as its curriculum.

The Philosophy

CLL is based on interaction between learners and between learners and knowers. The goal is to strengthen social ties in order to establish a community. This is defined as intimacy in CLL lingo.

The interaction between learners and knowers goes through five stages.

  1. The learner explains what they want to say
  2. He tries to become self-assertive without success
  3. The learner becomes resentful of their dependency
  4. The learner becomes tolerant of their dependency
  5. The learner becomes independent

This five-stage process is based on the development of babies as the move from helplessness to independence.

The roles of teachers and students has already been alluded too. Learning is viewed as collaborative in CLL. This explains why learners are consistently working together. The learners need to move from one affective crisis to another. These crises are what encourage development in the language skills of the learners. A crisis is any challenge that pushes the learners.

The teacher’s role, in addition to being a knower, is to provide a stable learning environment in which learners collaborate. In addition, the teacher provides the various affective crises in order to encourage learning.

Curriculum

The primary goal of CLL is oral proficiency. As such, interaction is a primary characteristic of a CLL curriculum. Common activities in a CLL classroom include conversation, listening, translating, and transcribing.

Materials are developed by the teacher and are suited for the local context. The actual procedures vary and are not agreed upon among proponents of CLL.

Conclusion

CLL is an approach that is focused on providing students with an opportunity to learn from each other and the teacher. The environment is one in which learners are supported by a knower who provides guidance and language knowledge to the students.

ARCS Model of Motivational Design

The ARCS model of motivational design is an instructional model used in education. Instructional models are used to facilitate the learning experience of students. The ARCS model provides a step-by-step process of engaging students, building there confidence, and providing a sense of satisfaction during a learning experience.

In this post, we will look at the various aspects of the ARCS model as they are based on the acronym below

A  ttention
R  elevance
C  onfidence
S  atisfaction

A-ttention

Attention is the first step in the ARCS model. The goal at this stage is to help the learner to focus on the lesson.  There are several different ways to do this and they include the following.

  • Examples such as stories, and or audiovisual.
  • Hands-on experience such as experiments, skits, etc
  • Incongruity and Conflict which can be through employing cognitive dissonance. For example, making a statement that confuses students could provide a hook to get them to focus on the lesson
  • Inquiry involves having students ask questions to pull them into the lesson. The questions they develop rouse their desire to find the answer

None of these approaches are exclusive, which means that they can be used in combination with each other. For example, you could use an example to cause incongruity and or inquiry. The point is that a teacher must find a way to get their students’ attention.

R-elevance

Relevance is about using concepts and ideas the students can connect with to explain whatever new ideas are in the lesson. If students can see how what they are learning connect with their lives they are more inclined to learn it. Below are some ways to bring relevance into a lesson

  • Future usefulness means showing the students how what they are learning will help them later. This is not the strongest approach but it provides a platform for developing relevancy.
  • Needs matching means helping students to discover that they need to learn a particular skill or idea. When students know they need to learn something they are often motivated to learn it.
  • Modeling means being an example for the students. By demonstrating the new skill, student have something that they can imitate. This relates well with social learning theory.
  • Choice is highly motivating for many students. Through empowering students, there is often an increase in making learning relevant.

C-onfidence

Developing confidence is about providing students with opportunities to succeed. What this means for the teacher is to provide assessment and activities that are stimulating but not impossible to complete.

A general rule of thumb is that students should be a able to successful complete 60-70% of a new skill on the first try. This allows them to have some degree of success while still indicating where they need to improve.

S-atisfaction

Satisfaction is closely related to confidence. With satisfaction, you provide the students with authentic situation in which to use their newly acquire skills. This implies the use of authentic assessments. However, authentic assessment requires feedback in order for the student to understand their growth opportunities.

Conclusion

The ARCS model provides teachers with an easy to follow template for developing clear instruction. The foundational principles in this model are useful for anyone who is looking for a way to vary their teaching practices.

Cooperative Language Learning

Cooperative language learning (CLL) is the application of the instructional method cooperative learning in the language classroom. This approach to language teaching was a reaction against the teacher-centered methods of its time in favor of learner-centered methods.

This post will discuss the assumptions of CLL as well as the instructional practices associated with it.

Assumptions

Proponents of CLL see language as a primary tool for social interactions. Students learn the language through these social interactions. This idea is based primarily upon the work of Vygotsky. In addition, language also serves the function of communication and accomplishing tasks. This implies a need for authentic assessment.

The student’s role is to work as a member of a group. CLL questions if learning a language alone is an appropriate way to learn. The teacher must provide a highly structured environment in which they serve as a facilitator of learning.

Curriculum 

CLL has several specific goals including the following.

  • Learn the target language naturally through group interaction
  • Develop learning strategies
  • Create a positive learning environment
  • Develop critical thinking skills

These goals are partially achieved through developing interdependence among the students, individual accountability, and the formation of groups. Interdependence is useful in showing students that what benefits one benefits all of them.

Individual accountability happens through not only assigning group grades but individual grades as well for projects. Lastly, group formation is the foundation of the CLL experience.

Some common activities based on CLL includes

  • Jigsaw-Divide the work and then have the students put the pieces together
  • Projects-Any assignment that requires more than one person
  • Think-Pair-Share-Pose a question, let them think, put them in pairs, and have each pair share.

All of these activities involve collaboration with communication in the target language.

Conclusion

CLL involves learning in groups rather than alone. There is research that indicates that CLL is beneficial in acquiring the target language. As such, CLL is yet another way in which language teachers can support their students.

Lexical Approach

The Lexical Approach is a unique approach in TESOL methods. This approach starts from the position that language learning is not about the individual word but rather multi-word chunks. As such, a student should focus learning various combinations of word chunks.

This post will share the assumptions and curriculum of the Lexical Approach

Assumptions

The Lexical Approach states clearly that language acquisition happens through acquiring the chunks or collocations of a language. Learning a language is not about rules but rather about acquiring enough examples from which the learner can make generalizations. For example, I child will eventually learn that “good morning” is a greeting for a  specific time of day.

Chunks are learned through one or more of the following strategies

  • Exposure-You see it over and over again and make a generalization
  • Comparison-You compare the target language chunk with a chunk for another language
  • Noticing-You notice a combination for the first time

Lexical approach is primarily an approach for developing autonomous learning. Therefore, the teacher’s role is to provide an environment in which the student can manage their own learning.

The student’s responsibility is in using what is called a concordancer. A concordancer is an online resource that provides examples of how a word is used in real literature. Each concordancer has one or more corpus from which examples of the word being used come from.

Curriculum

The Lexical Approach is not a comprehensive method and as such does not include any objectives. There are several common activities used in this approach.

  • Awareness activities help students to notice chunks and include. The teacher might provide several examples of sentences using the word “prediction” to allow students to try and determine the meaning of this word
  • Identifying chunks involves having the students search for chunks in a text. The results are then compared during a discussion.
  • Retelling involves having a student make their own sentences while reusing a chunk that they have just learned. For example, if the students learn the chunk (don’t put all your eggs in one basket) they would have to use this chunk in their own unique sentence.

Conclusion

The Lexical approach is a useful approach for those with a more analytical way of learning a language. Digesting a language through memorizing and applying various collocations can be beneficial to many language learners.

Text-Based Instruction

Text-Based Instruction (TBI) employs the use of different genres of text in a social context to encourage language development. This post will discuss the assumptions and curriculum development of this method.

Assumptions

TBI starts with the belief that different forms of text are used for various situations. This leads to another conclusion that mastering a language involves exposure to these different genres.  Furthermore, each text has a distinct organizational pattern

However, exposure to different types of text is not enough. Students must also use language in a social setting. Communicating about the text is critical for language acquisition.

TBI also stresses the importance of learning explicitly about the language. This means conscious awareness about what one is learning. This again can happen through discussion or through the illustrations of the teacher. In fact, scaffolding is a key component of TBI.

Students learn through the guidance and support of the teacher. The teacher’s role, in addition to scaffolding, is to select materials and sequence the curriculum.

Curriculum

The objectives in a TBI curriculum depends on the text that is used in the learning experiences. For example, the objectives for reading newspapers are different from reading textbooks.

Instructional materials play a crucial role in TBI. This is because of the emphasis on authentic materials. As such, actual reading samples from books, articles, and magazines are commonly employed.

A common instructional approach using TBI would include the following steps

  1. Build the context
    • This means providing a background about the reading through sharing necessary information for an understanding of the topic of the text. This can be done verbally, visually, a combination of both, etc.
  2. Deonstructing the text
    • This involves comparing the writing of the text the students are using with another similarly written text. For example, comparing the structure of to newspaper articles.
  3. Joint Construction of text
    • Students, with the support of the teacher, develop their own example of the text they were reading. For example, if the text was a newspaper article. The class develops a sample newspaper article with teacher support.
  4. Independent construction of text
    • Same as #3 but now the students work alone.
  5. Reflection
    • Students discuss how what they learned can be used in other contexts

Conclusion

TBI is a unique approach to language teaching that focuses on reading to develop the other three skills of language. This approach is particularly useful for people who prefer to learn a language through reading rather than in other forms.

Task-Based Language Teaching

Task-based language teaching (TBLT) is an approach to language teaching that involves giving students a functional task to complete that develops their ability to use the language in authentic situations. In this post, we explore the philosophy and some principles of using this approach in a curriculum

Assumptions

TBLT is focused not on the end result or product but rather the process that is used to complete the task. In other words, it is not the final draft that matters most in TBLT but developing the skills of writing and editing. The task needs to be sequenced according to difficult and reflect the real-world whenever possible.

The goal in TBLT is to exchange meaning. This means that understanding each other is more important to adhere to all the rules of the language. Language is for making meaning. When people communicate they are able to scaffold each other’s language acquisition while talking.

The tasks in TBLT serve the purpose of helping learners to see the gaps in their knowledge. This discovery provides motivation to learn what is necessary to overcome the deficiency. Since the activities simulate the real world students can see that they really need to learn something as they can see the connection of the task with reality.

The learners’ job is to participate and take a risk in their learning. The teacher’s role is to motivate students, select task, and monitor students progress.

Curriculum

TBLT starts with a needs analysis. Tasks are then developed to help the students. Normally. the tasks mirror the real-world and are called real-world task. However, there are also pedagogical tasks which are not real-world but traditional learning activities. These are useful when students lack specific needs.

Some activities of TBLT includes the following.

  • jigsaw-Break an activity into several parts and have each student do a different part and then combine
  • Problem-solving-Solve a problem together
  • Opinion exchange-Share thoughts on a topic

Materials used in TBLT can include many forms of realia such as TVs, newspapers, and other forms of communication. The goal is always to be as authentic as possible.

When using TBLT there are three common steps to teaching

  1. Introduce the task-This provides an overview of what is happening in order to motivate the students. You also explain what they will do.
  2. Provide support for task performance-Scaffold the students so they can complete the task.
  3. Post-task-Provide students with an opportunity to reflect

Conclusion

TBLT is most useful for teachers with extensive experience who have a large amount of resources available for use. Developing the teaching materials in TBLT is a major challenge because they often have to be original and need specific.

Regardless of this, for those who are looking for a different experience in language teaching TBLT is one option.

Competency-Based Language Teaching

Competency-based language teaching (CBLT)is a language teaching focused aspect of competency-based education. In brief, competency-based education is focused on having students master specific skills that are related to real world task. CBLT takes this approach and applies it to the learning of language.

This post will focus on the assumptions, curriculum of CBLT, and the criticism of this approach.

Assumptions

CBLT takes an interactional approach to language learning. Language is viewed as a way to achieve social and personal goals. Language is also viewed as a concept that can be broken down into component parts. For example, breaking words down into phonemes. Lastly, there is also an emphasis on the development of skills such as decoding.

The student’s role is to monitor their mastery of the target competencies and to be able to transfer the skills they develop to a different context. The teacher serves in the role of a needs analyst, materials developer, and coach of the student.

Curriculum

Objectives in CBLT are usually highly specific. Examples include the following

  • Follow verbal instructions to complete a task
  • Request supplies orally
  • Read directions to complete a task

The highly detailed nature often makes it clear to both the student and the teacher how things are progressing. Instructional activities focus on the exchange of information among all parties as well as authentic assessments.

The procedures used in CBLT often consists of the following format.

  1. Warm up
  2. Introduction
  3. Presentation of new information
  4. Check for understanding
  5. Guided practice
  6. Unguided practice
  7. Evaluation

Most of these steps should be self-explanatory. The overall point is to start with what they know, move to what is unknown, and practice the unknown until it becomes familiar.

Criticism of CBLT

CBLT has been accused of being overly behavioral. The minute objectives can almost be seen as a form of “dog training.” People are able to execute a behavior but they do not know why they are doing it. In other words, CBLT is lacking in the development of higher cognitive activity.

On a deeper level, CBLT has been accused of making passive students in a way consistent with Friere’s concept of “banking” education. This reasoning flows from the idea that the competencies prescribe for the student are based on the values of the dominant group.

This makes some sense as competencies in many fields of education are based on the demands of business.  Students are being trained not necessarily to push boundaries but to fit into a status quo.

Conclusion

CBLT serves the purpose of itemizing the behavior a person should have in order to use a language. The benefits of this approach are the clarity in the expectations. However, for some the minute nature of the expectations limits the development of a person. Regardless of the pros and cons, CBLT is one model of approaching language teaching.

The Oral Approach of Language Teaching

During the early part of the 20th century, linguist in Europe developed the Oral Approach. This approach to learning a language had a major impact for several decades in language teaching. In this post, we will look at the history and characteristics of what was once a revolutionary approach to teaching language.

Background

The Oral Approach was a direct reaction to the Direct Method. In contrast to the Direct Method, Oral Approach was based on scientific research. One of the primary desires of the developers of this approach was to have a systematic way of teaching English.

Characteristics

The Oral Approach stresses the following…

Vocabulary-Vocabulary is seen as a way for developing reading skills in this approach. The Oral Approach stipulates a list of 2000 words essential for reading comprehension

Grammar-In terms of grammar, it is not the same as the grammar-translation method which stresses a universal grammar. Rather, in the Oral Approach, it is the patterns of the sentences that matter such as Subject-Verb-Object. Students learn the structures in order to use and understand the language.

Curriculum-There are three main elements to curriculum development in Oral Approach selection, gradation, and presentation. Selection is the choosing of content. Gradation is the process of organizing the curriculum, and presentation is the instructional component.

Another major aspect of curriculum was the development of the PPP instructional model.  PPP stands for presentation, practice, and perform. Presentation is the teacher sharing information with students. Practice is the students having time to demonstrate their understanding without fear of failure. Perform is the students sharing their knowledge as a form of assessment.

Theories  & Teaching

The Oral Approach has a structural view of language learning as mention in the curriculum section above. With an emphasis on behavioral practices. Students learned through repetition. Teaching takes place inductively.

The Oral Approach relies on the use of situations to teach language. A situation is the use of such as pictures, objects, and or realia, to teach. Students are expected to listen and repeat what the instructor says. This means that students have little control over content.

The lessons are highly teacher-centered and the teacher is extremely active with timing, reviewing, testing, etc. The ultimate goal is to have the students use the language in non-structured real-life settings.

Another Name

The Oral Approach is also called situational language learning. The difference is really a matter of age. The Oral Approach was developed in the 1920’s while situational Language learning was developed in the 1960’s. There are other minor differences but the primary separation between these two is time.

Conclusion

The Oral Approach is yet another reaction to what was done before its implementation. With new information came a shift in teaching language that lasted 70 years. As perhaps the first scientifically based way of teaching a language. The Oral Approach paved the way for even more innovation in language teaching.

The Direct Method

In reaction to the grammar-translation approach that had been used for several centuries, many educators placed an emphasis on oral communication skills. By the late 19th century, the natural method was primarily a method that focused on oral skills.

Many methods are derived from the natural method approach. One of the most influential methods in language teaching that came from the natural method approach was the direct method in the late 19th century.  In this post, we will examine the characteristics of the direct method as well as its impact in teaching language.

Traits of Direct Method

The direct method stressed the use of only the target language in the classroom. Instead of using the students’ native language the teacher would demonstrate and use body language to express meaning. Due to this reliance on the target language, only common, everyday vocabulary was taught. As such, this method may not be appropriate for academic language learning.

Speaking and listening was the primary purpose of the direct method. These skills were developed through a question and answer approach. This supported the development of communication skills as well as strengthening comprehension.

Correct grammar was also important as was pronunciation. Grammar was taught inductively with the teacher sharing examples that illustrated the principle of the grammar lesson.

Impact of the Direct Method

The direct method was highly successful in private language schools were motivated students came to learn a language. However, this method never replicated this success in public schools. There are several reasons for this lack of broad-based success.

The direct method was lacking in any form of linguistic theory to support its principles. This method was basically developed by amateurs who were unfamiliar with the details of language learning but instead were trying to overcome problems strictly through the use of common sense rather than common sense with research.

The direct method also requires the use of native speaking teachers. This is not always possible. The strict avoidance of the students’ language was often too cumbersome when teaching for many people.

With these and other concerns, the direct method was mostly abandoned by the 1920s in Europe. This method was never popular in the US.

Conclusion

The direct method was perhaps the first major fad method in language teaching. For over 100 years language teaching went from one method to another as it searched for the perfect method for teaching language. As we well see in a future post, each method always claimed to be an improvement in relation to its predecessors. The reality is that there is no single best method but a collection of choices to be made depending on the situation one is facing.

Reaction Toward Grammar-Translation

By the mid 19th century, many language educators began to react negatively towards the grammar-translation method. This post will examine several concerns of the grammar-translation model and the proposed early solutions to these concerns.

The Problems

Among some of the problems people had with grammar-translation includes was the inability to communicate verbally and lack of context. The lack of verbal communication was a major problem particularly when grammar-translation was used to teach living languages such as English. For many, learning a living language involves learning to speak it and the grammar-translation model does not provide this.

A closely related problem was a lack of context. A large part of communication is the setting in which it takes place. Another term for this is pragmatics. The setting along with body language (paralinguistic features) determines a large portion of understanding in communication. This is all ignored with the grammar-translation method as it is focused on text exclusively.

Proposed Solutions

Several 19th-century language teaching innovators offered answers to these problems. Prendergast was one of the first to notice how children learn language through context. He also found that children memorize commonly use phrases for future use. From these two observations, Pendergast proposed a structural approach to language learning in which the most basic units of a language are taught first followed by more complex ideas.

Gouin also studied how children learn language He proposed that language learning was easiest through using language to accomplish sequenced events that were related. For example, students might learn several phrases using the word door such as “I walk toward the door” and “I stop at the door”. Students would then learn the verb of such phrases like “I walk” and “I stop”. This experience happens in several different ways in order to help the student understand what “walk” and “stop” mean.

Gouin also supported the use of paralinguistic features such as gesturing in order to help explain ideas in a conversation with students. This support of body language influenced several methods of teaching English.

Conclusion

The reformers of the 19th century notice something about language that is obvious to us today, and that is the need to learn to communicate verbally.This led to many proposed reforms. However, few have heard of these reforms as they did not spread throughout the world of language teaching. This is due to inferior ways of communicating when compared today.

Though lacking recognition. The reforms suggested in the 19th century have become a part of standard practice for any teachers today.

Grammar Translation Method

The grammar-translation was developed through the teaching of Latin. This post will explain some of the traits of the grammar-translation model as well as reactions towards it.

Characteristics

The goal in grammar-translation is to learn read and write another language for the sake of developing mental discipline. This is consistent with the perennialist worldview of education at the time. Learning a language is focused on grammar rules used in manipulating the meaning of the text.

As such, listening and speaking are not a focus. This leads to the students’ native language being used as the mode of instruction and the foreign language is strictly for other purposes. A typical lesson involves copious amounts of translating with a goal of high accuracy.

Grammar was taught deductively which means that the teacher always explained the rules for the students who would then apply them. This is in contrast to discovery learning which relies on students learning principles of a lesson themselves.

Impact

Grammar-translation was essential the first formalized way of teaching a language. Even today, this approached is used for the teaching of English as well as many “dead” languages such as Latin, Koine Greek, and Classical Hebrew.

The result of this approach to learning a language was an endless amount of vocabulary without context combined with an emphasis on memorizing.  Many a pastor and theologian bemoan their days of taking biblical languages. This was partially due to how the language was taught. Many programs require memorizing an extensive list of word and declensions even though there are dictionaries, lexicons, and concordances readily available.

There are some advantages to this approach. For learning to communicate on an academic level via writing this method is supreme. This makes sense as the student does not have to develop speaking and listening skills. In addition, understanding the rules of a language provides insights into how and why of using it.

The grammar-translation method was easy to administer for teachers while boring for students. For teachers who lack verbal ability, it allows them to provide some sort of understanding of the language to their students. This method is also beneficial to large classes where it is difficult to monitor behavior.

With time, language teaching was becoming more and more important. Combine this with the dissatisfaction that was arising from the grammar-translation and there arises a shift and push back against the grammar-translation.

The Influences of Latin in TESOL

There are probably many TESOL teachers who are perhaps unaware of the role Latin has played in shaping the world of TESOL today. Latin has had a tremendous influence on how language teaching has been shaped as Latin was one of the first languages that were systematically taught on a large scale. As such, Latin provided the foundation for how language was taught for several hundred years.

Latin at its Role in Language Teaching

Speaking several languages was the norm for most of known history in most parts of the world such as Europe. However, with the dawn of empires such as the Greek and Romans, there came a need to have a dominating language over local languages.

The language of Rome was primarily Latin. As such, this led Latin to the spreading of Latin throughout the Western world. What was unique was how long the Roman Empire lasted. After over 1000 years, Latin was the language of education, business, and government. It was embedded in tradition and not just an outside language imposed on locals.

With the decline of the Roman empire came a growth in the use of other languages in Europe such as English, French, Italian, etc. This contributed to Latin being taught as a subject because of the prominence it uses to have. Change is difficult and abandoning a language that was so ingrained in Western civilization was not easy for scholars.

Another reason that Latin was still taught after its decline was for purposes of strengthening the mind. Educators believed that study of Latin would improve intellectual prowess of students because of the challenge of learning it.

The Teaching of Latin

Latin was taught to young people through a focus on grammar rules, declension, and conjugation of verbs. Students also translated passages to and from Latin to developing writing skills.

A deductive approach was used in developing a knowledge of the grammar. Students were taught the rules of the grammar first and then provided with opportunities to apply them. There was no discovery or inductive approaches to learning.

Furthermore, students only learned to read and write Latin. This is partly due to the fact that Latin had died as a verbal language. Therefore, there was no development of conversational skills or practical application.

Latin and Modern Language Teaching

The approach of Latin with its focus on grammar and translation was how other languages were first taught by the 19th century. Since there was no other example of how to approach language teaching it only made sense to copy how Latin was taught. Everybody was focused on text but never on context.

People learned to communicate in through text even though they were studying living languages.  Every language was taught as a mental exercise rather than as a skill for practical use.

Conclusion

The teaching of Latin led directly to the development of the grammar-translation method. This method laid the foundation for reactionary methods that are a part of the field of TESOL.

Rapid Instructional Design

Instructional design is a critical component of education particularly in the field of e-learning. Instructional design can be defined as the application of learning principles in order to support the learning of students. To put it simply, instructional design involves designing the teaching in a way that improves learning.

In this post, we will look at one example of an instructional design. We will look at Dave Meiers’s Rapid Instructional Design (RID).

Meier’s RID model uses learning techniques that speed up learning and includes a learning environment that emphasizes practice, feedback, and experience rather than presentations. RID is focused on active learning rather than the traditional model of passive learning through such examples as lecturing.

The RID model has the following four phases

  • Preparation
  • Presentation
  • Practice
  • Performance

Preparation

Preparation is about preparing the learner for learning. In this first step, the teacher would share the big picture of the learning experience. This includes state the goals and benefits of the learning experience. Other activities at this step are to arouse the interest of the reader in an appropriate matter and to deal with any potential problems that would impede the learning.

How this can be done varies. Often, beginning a lesson with a story or illustration can arouse interest. Dealing with problem students could be one way to deal with potential barriers to learning.

Presentation

At the presentation step, the learners are first exposed to the new knowledge and or skill. Whereas traditional teaching focuses on content delivery, the RID model focus on interactive activities and discovery learning.

A primary goal of RID is to use and incorporate real world phenomenon into the teaching. For example, do not only talk about math but develop lessons from the real world involving people and companies for the students. This enhances relevancy.

Practice

Practice involves having the students use whatever they just learned. This is critical as this allows them to learn through trial-and-error. As they receive feedback on their progress the students develop mastery.

Practice is easy in such fields as math, science, and even music. For more abstract fields such as critical thinking, theology, and philosophy. Practice takes place via discussion or through expressing ideas in writing. Demonstrating thought through communicating ideas verbally and in writing are forms of practice for more abstract subjects.

Performance

Performance is the application of the skill in a real-world setting. This is also known as an authentic assessment. How this is done is discipline specific.

In education, performance includes such activities as the student teaching phase of a new teacher. This allows the student to apply many of the skills they learned during their teacher training. In music, the recital serves as an excellent model of performance.

Conclusion

The RID model is just one of many ways to guide the learners of students. The value of this model is in the simplicity of its approach and the emphasis on active learning.

Getting and Keeping Student Attention

Getting students to focus and pay attention is a major problem in education. Fortunately, there are several strategies that a teacher can use to help students to pay attention. In this post, we will cover the following approaches for maintaining a student’s attention…

  • Indicate what is important
  • Increase intensity
  • Include novelty
  • Include movement

Importance

There are times when students are engaged but they don’t know what to do or what they are looking for. For example, a teacher may want students to summarize a paragraph. However, it is common for students to get focused on the details of the passage and never identify the main point.

To overcome this problem, a teacher may want to focus the student’s attention on questions that will guide the students to summarizing the paragraph. The questions break down the task of summarizing into individual steps. Below is an example

  1. What is the topic of the paragraph?
  2. What are some of the details the author includes in the paragraph?
  3. What is the main point of the paragraph?

The example above provides one way the task of summarizing can be broken down into several steps. This helps in focusing the students.

Raise the Intensity

Increasing the intensity has to do with the amount of stimulus a child receives while doing something. For example, if a child is struggling to write the letter ‘t’ you may have them say out loud how to write it before writing the letter. This exposes the child to new material both verbally and in a psychomotor way.

The goal of this approach is to engage more of the student’s senses in order to help them to pay attention.

Novelty

This approach is self-explanatory. Students pay attention much more closely to something they have not experienced before. The only limits to this approach are the imagination.

For example, if a teacher is teaching math to small children, they may choose to use manipulatives as a new way of reinforcing the content. Another option would be to incorporate simple word problems.  There is truly no limit in this strategy.

Movement

Movement can involve the students and or the teacher moving around. When the students move it can help in breaking the monotony of having to sit still.  Movement is even beneficial for adult students. A moving teacher, on the other hand, is a moving target the students can focus upon. It is normally wise to avoid staying in one place too long when teaching children for the sake of attention and classroom management.

Conclusion

These ideas are some of the basics for increasing attention. Naturally, there are other ways to deal with this challenge. However, a teacher chooses to deal with this problem, they need to determine if their approach works for their students

Learning to Learn: Teaching Autonomy to Students

For many educators, the primary purpose of education is to equip students to learn to learn and think for themselves. How this is done is not always clear. However, one goal is to help students to understand how they learn and to develop appropriate learning strategies that work with their character. This post will provide some strategies that promote learner autonomy.

Reflection

Reflection is about looking back on what happened and deciding what went well and not so well. This is an important step in autonomy in that students begin to understand what their strengths and weaknesses clearly are. However, it is not enough to define strengths and weaknesses. The next step is to have students develop a plan to maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses.

For example, after completing a major project or assignment in any class, you can have the students write a 1-2 reflection paper in which they share strengths, weaknesses, and a plan to maximize strengths and deal with weaknesses. The purpose of such an assignment is not to rigorously mark it but to get the students to think about their own progress.

Another approach involves having the students develop a list of what they can do after a particular learning experience. Whatever subject is taught, the students identify what they can now do.This is a way of empowering the students to realize that they have actually learned something and can go forward able to reproduce these skills.

Provide Different Strategies

Autonomy is about choice. Therefore, providing various learning strategies for the students can play a role in developing autonomy. An example would be providing various ways to take notes. Students can learn how to develop cluster notes, a traditional outline, or some other method. After the students learn several different strategies they then choose the one that works best for them.

The opportunity for choice empowers students with responsibility. In addition, students will probably pick the approach that works best for them. If they do not, they also will get to learn that a particular strategy is not for them and they can make the decision to switch to different one.

Teaching Each Other

When students support each other’s learning it helps them to better understand themselves. Having students evaluate and comment on each other’s work is another method of developing autonomy. Evaluating is near the top of the cognitive domain and is useful in developing the thinking skills of students.

The common name for what I am trying to explain is peer-review. When students serve as teachers to one another it provides an opportunity to develop autonomous learning skills.

Conclusion 

It is important that not everyone agrees with autonomous learning. Some people and many cultures expect the teacher to feed them the information. It is tempting to condemn this put it is better to remember that people view independence differently. For those who see that autonomy is important, this post provided some basic ways to approach this.

Textbooks in the TESOL Classroom: To Use or Not to Use

For the past 35 years, there has been an interesting debate over the use of textbooks in English language learning context. Naturally, there are three camps, those who support the use of textbooks, those who do not support the use of textbooks, and those who believe it depends. In this post, we will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using textbooks as well as tips for those who want to use textbooks but with flexibility.

Advantages

Good textbooks have a coherent curriculum within them that provides all the essentials needed for teaching, such as activities, assignments, media and clearly written text. This is priceless information especially for those new to teaching who do not have the prior experiences and or resources to teach a class without a textbook.

Most students actually prefer some sort of textbook as well. It allows them to track their progress by seeing what they have done and what they still need to do. There is a sense of pace as the class moves through the text. Even if the student neglects to read the textbook it still serves as an anchor throughout the course.

Disadvantages

Textbooks can be ridged if they are stubbornly adhered too. This can become a serious problem if there is something in the approach of the book that the students struggle to understand. Even a great textbook may not be able to meet the needs of a particular group of students.

Textbooks can have other issues as well. The book might be expensive, it might be too heavy or big for students, and or the textbook might also lack user-friendly features.

For Those on the Fence

Some want to use textbooks occasionally, for those here are some tips below

  • Replace only parts of the book with what you want- Some teachers use pieces of a textbook while replacing topics that do not work for them or their students. This is a reasonable compromise between total rejection and acceptance of a textbook.
  • Modify- Sometimes, teacher modifies a chapter or topic within a textbook instead of replacing it. Perhaps they add another activity or replace an assignment. Other options include changing the order information is presented, adding to a chapter, and leaving information out that is in the chapter.

Conclusion

Textbooks are part of education. Some appreciate this while others are looking for alternative approaches. Teachers and students will need to work together in order to see how textbooks can benefit the learning experience.

Grouping Students IV: Pros and Cons of Groupwork

Group work is another approach for having students complete assignments and task. A group is often characterized as anywhere from 3-8 students with most groups being in the 3-5 member range. As with other approaches to grouping, this one also has pros and cons. This post will explore the good and the bad of having students work together in groups

Pros

Here are some common advantages to group work.

  • Encourages collaboration and cooperation
  • Opportunity for decision-making
  • Opportunities for role-differentiation

Groups encourage students to work together and collaborate in order to achieve something. As they work together, the students are developing communication and cooperation skills. The students also are being given a chance to work on their overall social skills as well.

In groups, students need to make decisions about various matters in order to coordinate the completion of the task. This involves critical thinking as well as negotiating skills.  Students need to maneuver this process in order to develop a plan for action.

Another benefit of groups is the opportunity to assigned roles. Preferably, every group experience calls on people to work on a team in which their strengths can be utilized. This is not always the case but in reality, people often work on teams according to their strengths. As such, groups that allow people to focus on tasks that take advantage of their talents is beneficial.

Cons

Some problems with group work include the following.

  • Organizational time
  • Risk of chaos
  • Student’s preference to work alone

Groups take more time to setup and get going. Students often have to move around and begin planning and discussing. Each group needs a little personal attention to get them focused and on the right track. After this, there is still lingering confusion over what to do even when the best teachers explain the assignment.

In a related point, group work brings chaos. Students are talking, in and out of their seat, and working on something that involves several people. This is in contrast to students sitting quietly in rows working on something. As such, many teachers are not comfortable with students working in groups. There is nothing wrong with not enjoying having kids in groups. However, a little bit of group work is an experience students need to become more versatile.

Just as some teachers do not like group work so do many students disagree with it. Many prefer to work alone, are shy, or do not like the noise. As such, the proper prescription is a little bit of group work without over doing it.

Conclusion

Group work is part of living in this day and age. Everybody needs to do it at least some of the time. It is important that teachers and students understanding the purpose and goals of group work before the process begins. This will help in reducing the impact of the cons of group work.

Grouping Students III: Pros and Cons of Pairwork

Having students work in pairs is a classical learning activity in the classroom. As with other activities in the classroom, working in pairs has pros and cons to it. This post explores the advantages and disadvantages of having students work in pairs.

Pros

Below are some common pros to students working in pairs

  • Students working together require less guidance from the teacher
  • When students need help, the teacher works with several students at a time instead of one
  • Promotes collaboration and cooperative learning

Students who are working together can discuss and often figure out what to do without teacher intervention. Why would any teacher want to explain something he can have the students figure out? In pairs, students can teach each other and utilize the synergy that comes from working together.

When students cannot overcome an obstacle, the teacher is there to provide support. However, instead of working with only one student, the teacher is working with two students at a time. This reduces the amount of support needed significantly because as long as one student understands what the teacher says they can help their partner to grasp the information.

Pair work promotes collaboration and cooperative learning. These are critical skills that students need to compete in the world. As they work together they develop skills for real-world collaborative and cooperative learning.

Cons

To be fair, pair work is not always the best approach. Below are some disadvantages with pair work.

  • Noisy and risk of chaos
  • Lost of direction
  • Student disdain

Working in pairs can be noisy and loud. This can lead to chaos in the classroom. It will take serious classroom management skills to get students to stay the course and complete the task.

A second point that is highly related to the first is that students can lose direction when working in pairs. It is easy for them to start to talk or do anything not related to the learning activity. This can even apply to adult learners. Keeping students focused is another skill that a teacher needs when putting students in pairs.

Lastly, some students hate working in pairs. They may prefer to work with the teacher or alone. This can also be compounded if the student does not like who they have been partnered with. To successfully overcome this requires the teacher to be aware of the relationships and even the politics of their classroom.

Conclusion

Few would argue that students need to work together. The real question is how much? Some teachers require more pair work than others. The point is that pair work should be a part of the learning experience but not the only learning experience of any classroom.

Grouping Students II: Pros and Cons of Individual Work

There are many different ways in which a teacher can group their students. One option is to have the students work alone. This post will look at the pros and cons of having students work individually.

Pros

Some of the pros of individual learning are the following…

  • Contributes to learner autonomy
  • Responsiveness to individual differences
  • Useful for transitioning from high stress experience

Individual work helps students to develop the capacity to learn without always leaning on others. This can hopefully lead to some sense of learner autonomy, which is a critical goal of many teachers. As students rely on their own resources it strengthens them in learning to learn on their own.

Individual learning is closely related to differentiated instruction. A teacher can plan distinct experiences for each student and respond to the needs of the students personally when individualize learning happens. This catered made experience is critical for many students

After a noisy whole-class or group project experience, individual work can be used as a classroom management tool to calm the students down and transition to another activity. For example, after a science lab activity that has the students out of their sits and talking and moving around, the teacher has them write a reflection about the experience quietly in their seats. The students are reflecting on the experience and they are calmly at their desks. After this, they transition quietly to the next subject. This is preferred instead going from one loud and active activity to the next with some form of cool-off transition.

Cons

Nothing is perfect not even individual learning. Below are some concerns with this approach

  • Lack of social cohesiveness
  • If teaching is individualized as well, it significantly increases the workload of the teacher.

When students work individually they are work alone. This means that there is little social interaction and camaraderie. This can be good or bad depending on the context. In many cultures, extensive individual work is not appropriate as students naturally want to work together. In other settings, it is individual students who struggle with this approach because of their out-going nature.

If the teacher makes an effort to personalize the learning of each student it can increase their workload a great deal. If the class is small it may be doable but in larger classes this could be a nightmare. Individualized instruction is usually the preferred model of teaching but this does not mean that it is the most practical.

Conclusion

All modes of teaching have times when they work and when they do not work. Individualized learning has a place in the classroom. However, it is finding a balance between these various styles that is critical to the success of the learner and the teacher.

Grouping Students I: Pros and Cons of Whole-Class Teaching

Teaching the entire class at the same time has a place in education. There are times when it is most effective and beneficial to the students when they actually sit and listen to what the teacher has to say. Having said that, there are also many instances when this approach is not appropriate in learning. This post will take a look at the pros and cons of whole-class instruction.

The Pros

The following are some instances when whole-class teaching my be useful

  • When the teacher needs control
  • To increase a social cohesion
  • When it is preferred

When the teacher needs the power whole-class teaching is useful. This is most common when giving instructions, doing a demonstration, or explaining something that is completely new to the class. Other instances when whole-teaching is useful is when the teacher is presenting visuals or other forms of media.

Teaching to the whole-class is also beneficial in terms of social cohesion. In some cultures, doing things together is important. This is particularly true in collectivist societies. When everyone is listening together and laughing together it builds community. This is difficult for some to understand but it is necessary to be aware of this depending on the context.

Whole-class teaching could also be the preference of the students and teacher regardless of culture. Some students do not like to work in groups while others prefer the anonymity of being in a larger group focused on the teacher. For whatever reason, whole-class teaching works just because of the setting.

The Cons

Some problems with whole-class teaching are below

  • Passive, transmission of knowledge learning
  • Overly collective
  • Difficult for shy students

Whole-class teaching leads to the teacher transmitting knowledge to the students. This goes against active learning in which students participate in their learning. It is exceedingly boring for many people and does not help in retaining, understanding and applying new knowledge. Passive learning is not a way to make active learners who can do something with what they have learned

Whole-class teaching is also seen as overly collective. Everyone is forced to do the same thing. This goes against the idea of differentiated instruction which promotes having students do different things in the classroom at the same time. Students are usually heterogeneous in terms of their skills and abilities so it makes it difficult to support consistent use of only whole-class teaching.

Lastly, whole-class teaching makes it challenging for shy students to participate. Many students do not want to speak in front of the whole class as they do not like this kind of pressure. However, in small groups, these same students feel much more comfortable sharing their views. Therefore, occasional use of small groups, even in collectivists contexts, will allow all students an opportunity for fuller participation.

Conclusion

Whole-class learning still has a place in education. The question is how much of a place? The point is that a moderate approach to whole-class instruction is beneficial to students and the teacher. There are times when this approach is the best and there are many times when it does not work. It is best for the teacher to determine when to use this approach based on the needs of their students.

Using the L1 in an English Classroom

There are some teachers, whether because they learned the language of their students or they are a native speaker who mastered English, who can communicate with their students in the students’ language. This is becoming much more common as English proliferates all over the world.

However, knowing the students’ language is a double-edged sword. There are some obvious advantages but using the students’ L1 can lead to problems as well. This post will explore the pros and cons of using the L1 in the classroom.

The Pros

Using the L1 in the classroom can be useful when the students are evaluating their performance. In other words, the teacher and students talk about the students’ English performance in the L1. This does make sense from a metalinguistic perspective as the students are addressing challenges and developing solutions. They are talking about their learning.

Translating activities is another instance in which L1 use is considered acceptable. The students shift back and forth between the two languages as they translate material. This allows the student to compare the two languages.

A third reason that some support L1 use is that it helps to maintain a conducive classroom environment. When students and teachers are able to just “talk” it often helps with maintaining the social cohesiveness of the class.

The Cons

One major concern with using the L1 is that it is used too much. It is tempting to only talk about English in the L1 rather than use English. Another problem is that using the L1 limits the students’ exposure to English, which stifles L2 acquisition.

Depending on the context, some English classes are holistic in that each class addresses all the skills of language (reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Other places address each skill separately. If a school approaches the skills separately one place where the L1 is not accepted is in the speaking class. In such an environment many support L2 only.

Dealing with the L1

Here are some ideas for use of the L1 if you consider its use appropriate

  • Think about the level of English-Lower level students need more support and thus L1 use is more appropriate. As the students advanced there should be a gradual reduction in the L1.
  • Establish rules-With the students, set up guidelines for L1 use.
  • Accept the L1-Students can feel discouraged when they are harassed about their language. Understanding their desire to be understood should call for patience rather than anger when they speak in their L1.

Conclusion

It is up to the teacher and students to decide the use of the L1. This post just provides ideas on how to handle what could be a sensitive topic. The goal of teaching is to balance the goals of the curriculum with the needs of the students. As such, it is the context that should determine how to handle L1 use rather than a philosophy of learning acquired in a classroom or even from years of experience.

Teaching Tips for Different Class Sizes

A teacher has to deal with different class sizes frequently. One major problem is determining what is a large class. In America, a large class is consider anything over 35 while in other countries, “large” is not considered until 50 or more students. Despite the confusion over class size, there are different approaches to teaching depending on the size of the class. This post will deal with two extremes in class size, one-to-one teaching, and large classes.

One-to-One Teaching

For many the dream class size is one-to-one. What more can a teacher ask for than the chance to work with a single mind? There are many advantages to teaching only one student at a time. The interaction is as high as possible as all activity is focused on the single student. Another benefit is that the teacher can adjust the teaching specifically to the needs of the student. Lastly, feedback is much more frequent and immediate when teaching one-to-one.

However, everything is not perfect with one-to-one teaching. A common problem is lack of rapport. At times students and teachers do not get along. In a larger class, they can avoid each other at least partially. However, in a one-to-one teaching, there is no timeout from one another. Other concerns include demanding students and students who expect the teacher to do the work for them.

When working in a one-to-one setting keep the following tips in mind.

  • Explain expectations and set guidelines. Communication saves a lot of problems
  • Be flexible and adaptable. Though guidelines are necessary things should be fluid enough to allow for necessary change.
  • If things are not working and you have the luxury, discontinue teaching a difficult student.

Large Class

Most believe large classes are a nightmare and they normally are. Everything increases as students, preparation, marking, behavioral issues, etc. One of the few advantages of teaching large classes is the potential for higher student to student interaction. As such, a large class should hopefully never be a boring class especially if it is student-centered rather than teacher-centered. Below are some tips for dealing with large classes.

  • Organization and processes are vital. They both help to reduce or eliminate various problems that happen in the classroom. If there is a problem for submitting assignments, establish a process. If there is a problem with communication, establish a process. Processes put out the fires of organizational life
  • Use both group and individual work. Group work helps kids to work together while individual work reduces the time spent trying to deal with the entire class at once. Both forms take the focus on the teacher on a particular task which helps in improving engagement.
  • Use the students. Students can be used to teach each other or lead out in a group project.This again mitigates having to work with the whole class at once.

Conclusion

Teachers often cannot control the size of their class. However, teachers can control how they deal with the challenges that come with different size classes. The examples here provide some ideas on how to work students regardless of class size. With appropriate techniques, students can learn in spite of the size of the class.

The Role of the Teacher: Part II

In the last post, we began to look at various roles of teachers in the classroom. In this post, we will look at additional roles of teachers in the class. In particular, we will look at the following roles.

  • Participator
  • Expert

Participator

The teacher as participator is a democratic approach to teaching. In this role, the teacher is just another person along for the learning experience. The teacher can choose to participate in such learning experiences as discussion, experiments, and educational games.

Students usually enjoy it when the teacher is along for the ride. As such, the participator role is very useful in developing an appropriate social climate in the classroom. The participating teacher is highly useful for collaborative learning and self-directed learning.

As with all roles, there are some drawbacks. For example, it is easy for the teacher to take control when participating due to their natural role as leader of the classroom. It takes a tremendous amount of self-awareness not to fall into this trap.

Below are a few examples when the participator role may be of use to a teacher

  • Discussion in large or small class
  • Situations that call for cooperative learning
  • Activities that require whole class effort

Expert

The teacher in the role of the expert is the most passive role of teaching. In this approach, the “sage on the stage” has become the “wise guy on the side.” The teacher is available to help the students but refrains from offering support until the students ask for help.

The expert role can be boring for a teacher. Many teachers love to be at the center of the learning either through direct discussion or at least participating in a discussion. However, in the role of the expert, a teacher has little to do but observe the students and step in if things get out of hand in terms of behavior or low quality work.

The ultimate goal in education for many is to develop students who become independent and are able to handle their learning without significant intervention by the teacher. As such, the teacher as an expert role is the ideal role of a teacher and represents mastery teaching as the students have mastered how to learn without teacher support.

The teacher as an expert can be used in any situation in which the students have mature to the point of handling the learning for themselves. Whether large or small class it does not have ant affect when the teacher and students can handle this role.

Conclusion

Teaching involves a variety of roles and responsibilities. A teacher can participate at times. However, the highest level of teaching is not teaching at all. Rather, the teacher just provides a tip here or there or shares a little bit of experience. The rest of the learning is left to the student.

The Role of the Teacher: Part I

A teacher has many different roles in their profession. Not only are the coordinating their classroom they are also communicating with parents, collaborating with peers, and reporting to administration. This involves the need to have many different skills and abilities.

In this post, we will only look at the role of the teacher in the classroom. In particular, we will only discuss two roles and leave the others for a future post. Some of the roles of a teacher in the classroom include the follower.

  • Director
  • Encourager

The Teacher as  a Director

The teacher as director is one of the most common roles. In this capacity, the teacher is leading out in whatever is happening in the classroom. Often, the teacher in this role is the one transmitting the knowledge to receptive students. Another word for this form of teaching is direct instruction.

Although there are times for the teacher to serve as the unquestioned leader of the class there are some concerns. One, students are forced into a passive learning situation which is not beneficial to them learning how to do something. Two, the teacher is doing all the work which can exhaust him or her.

It is most appropriate to use this approach in some of the following situations.

  • The content is lower level information that only requires memorization and not higher level thinking
  • The content is completely new and the teacher wants to go through it before other forms of learning happen with the content
  • An incredibly large class in which other forms of teaching would lead to chaos

There are perhaps other situations. The point is that complete abandonment of this approach would be unfair to students as there are times when it works.

The Teacher as Encourager

There are times when students are collaborating or discussing and things are not going well. The encourager does not take over and lead the group or class. Instead, an encourager provides a hint or phrase, or perhaps they ask a question that leads the students to discover the answer. In many ways, the teacher who serves as an encourager is practicing indirect instruction at least occasionally.

This approach can be inappropriate of students just need to be told what to do. If they lack the content to find answers it is necessary to first supply the necessary information. As such, below are times when this role is appropriate in the classroom.

  • The students have the basic knowledge and the goals is for experiential learning of the content
  • Smaller class in which active participation is easier to manage.
  • Group work in which the teacher goes from group to group offer encouragement.

Let’s not limit this role to only these situations. They only provide some examples for those who need some guidelines.

Conclusion

Every teacher has their style. The point is not to attack anybody’s preference. The purpose of this post was to help teachers to see what might be their preferred role and to expand into other styles that might be useful depending on the occasion. It is not about change as much as it is about flexibility to support students as necessary.

Teaching English to Adolescents and Adults

Teaching English to adolescents (11-18) and adults present challenges distinct from young children. This post examines some of the challenges and traits of both groups.

Adolescents

Teenagers are often seen as difficult students. Extreme changes are happening in their lives and bodies and at times learning is discounted. Despite their reputation as learners, teenagers have the capacity to acquire a language much faster than children because of their ability to think abstractly. As such, grasping grammar and identifying rules of syntax and semantics is much more natural for them. However, teenagers do have issues with pronunciation as their ability to imitate has declined.

For teenagers, the content must be highly engaging and relevant. If they miss the point they often will quickly lose interests. Keep in mind that they are often studying because they have to and thus have no personal reason for learning. This is why relevancy is so important as it replaces their lack of empowerment.

Students at this age also need opportunities to take risk. However, it needs to be risk without humiliation. So off color humor is probably best avoided during this age.

Adults

Adults are perhaps the most fun yet most challenging group of people to teach. Adults can be critical of the teacher due to their experience. Adults can also have concerns about looking bad and thus be somewhat nervous in class.

Despite this, adults have fully developed cognitive powers which mean abstract thinking is not an issue. Furthermore, adults bring life experience into the classroom that is highly enriching for everybody. Lastly, adults have a purpose for studying. Unlike teenagers who are there because they have to be. Adults have chosen to study and are driven by some sort of goal.

When teaching adults, organization is often king. A teacher needs clear activities and presentations to maintain the respect of adults. Due to their longer attention span, a teacher will probably need fewer activities that last a longer period of time compared to activities of teenagers and young children. Lastly, discussion and questions are expected when engaging most adults. They want to assist with their language experience. Therefore, a teacher-centered instructor may have challenges with this.

Conclusion

Teachers need to have flexible approaches for dealing with diverse students. Teenagers and adults have distinct needs when learning a language. Understanding this can help a teacher to have success in the classroom

Teaching English to Young Children

Teaching English to young children (0-11) is not an easy experience. For one, young children often struggle to make progress in language acquisition. This is surprising to many. However, TESOL literature makes it clear that though young children are superior when it comes to pronunciation in a second language, adolescent students make faster progress and are more effective at learning a language than young children.

Despite this, the myth that early exposure is best compels teachers to work with young children. As such, this post provides some tips on dealing with young children.

How Young Children Learn Language

Here are some basic characteristics of young learners in bullet format.

  • Young kids struggle with grammar so avoid it for now.
  • They need individual attention. This means try to limit the size of the classes.
  • They have short attention spans. Several small activities are better than one long one.
  • The respond to topics related to themselves and their immediate space. This means to limit the conversation to something in the room or their life.
  • They love to learn. Use this enthusiasm to motivate them.

Tips for Teaching Young Children

Teaching young children involves have a litany of activities. Since their attention span is so short, young children need many different activities in order to learn for long periods at a time. It is not easy to find enough reasonably relevant teaching activities that relate to goals and objectives while encouraging learning. This is perhaps the top challenge of teaching young children. Finding meaningful activities that are not only fun but lead to learning that is measurable and aligns with goals and objectives.

Classroom environment needs to be visually stimulating. This means that decoration is necessary. The easiest way to make this happen is to allow the students to decorate or at least pick the decorations for the classroom. This gives students a voice in a harmless decision. In addition, this is useful for male teachers who struggle with decorating.

Conclusion

Teaching young children English is a job that requires dedication and expertise. Young kids are fantastic imitators but struggle with truly understanding and appreciating another language. To overcome this problem, a teacher needs to keep in mind the traits of young learners as well as ideas for overcoming the disadvantages of teaching young children.

Best Teaching Practices: Reflection

Reflection is the process of reviewing what you have already done and extracting lessons and principles from these various experiences. Surprisingly, this is a commonly forgotten skill in teaching. Teachers are so busy prepare for their next class or next day, that sometimes they do not take a minute to see what works for them and their students. Through the process of reflection, a teacher begins to grow and develop as an instructor. Reflection helps teachers to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Some basic questions to consider when reflecting on your teacher include the following…

  • What did I do?
  • Why did I do it
  • How did it go
  • Where do I go from here?

These kinds of question can be addressed through in a journal or whatever way works for you. As time progresses, it becomes natural to reflect and to develop a course of action for the future. Another term for this concept is mental planning, which is a focus on long-term planning instead of daily planning. Experience teachers look more at the big picture of the course outline and course syllabus instead of focusing on the day-to-day lesson plan. This focus on the broader picture is due to experience and is important in student achievement.

In the beginning, it is important for people who are new to teaching to focus clearly on providing the day-to-day teaching with the end goals in mind. Knowing where you are going is only as useful as knowing how you will get there. Goals are good but it is the daily planning that gets you to your goal. While all this is happening, it is beneficial to think about how things are going in the classroom

Reflection may be one of the most important skills for teaching because it is through this trait that a teacher can identify their strengths and weaknesses. It is doubtful that a teacher is strong in all of the skills mentioned in this blog so far. Through reflection, a teacher can learn how to maximize their strengths while finding ways to develop and compensate for their weaknesses. Just knowing what you are good and bad t gives you an advantage when teaching. However, this self-discovery happens through reflecting on one’s teaching.

Best Practices in Teaching: Student-Teacher Relationships

Teacher affect is the rapport or relationship that teachers have with their students. Some teachers want to have very close and warm relationships with their students while other teachers need more space and distance from their students. As much as possible, a teacher needs to understand and develop relationships with their students. A teacher needs to show that they are comfortable with their students and that their students are comfortable with them as well. Whatever your style of relating is below are some ways to develop rapport with students.

Know about each student. Spending a few moments before class to talk to some of the students and learning about their lives. These few moments also provides time to see how they are performing in your class as well. This is valuable for developing rapport and will be useful if it is ever necessary to make unpopular decisions.  

Bring student interests into the lesson. When teaching, if a teacher can relate the lesson to something the students love it can indicate that a teacher cares about what they care about. This idea is related to the use of a needs assessment which helps to determine what should be taught in any given course. Bringing students’ interests into the class increases the relevancy of what they are learning, which heightens attention.

Humor. A good sense of humor can be beneficial in a classroom. People who laugh together often are able to work well together. However, use humor with care as it can be a double-edged sword as people perception of what is funny can be different.

Enthusiasm. Teaching with energy and passion is inspiring for many students. Such energy is contagious and helps to motivate students to achieve. It is not necessary to jump out of your chair while teaching. Rather, a steady controlled passion for teaching is more than adequate to demonstrate enthusiasm.

A Culture of Learning. As the teacher, it is your responsibility to set the tone in terms of how academics are valued in your classroom. Coming to class on time, submit assignments in a timely matter, being prepared to learn are all indicators of the learning culture in a teacher’s classroom. It is possible to establish this culture first by the example of the teacher. A teacher’s preparation and demeanor is a way of expressing this culture in a way that is not possible verbally. Whatever a teacher’s culture of learning is, it is important that it be set by them so that they are comfortable and the students can adjust to it.

Conclusion Connecting with students is vital to effective teaching. However, it is not necessary that introverted or people who are naturally cold and distant start to all of a sudden deny their personality. What is important is that teachers develop ways of indicating to students that they have enough rapport for the student to be successful.

Best Practices in Teaching: Probing

In this post, we continue looking at best practices for effective teaching. We will examine the concept of probing and how works in the classroom.

Probing are statements made by the teacher to encourage a student to further develop an answer. There are three common ways to do this and they include

  • eliciting
  • soliciting
  • redirecting.

Eliciting

Eliciting are statements a teacher makes to push a student to clarify an answer. If a student is close to the correct answer or if they are sharing an opinion but it did not come out clearly a teacher can use this approach. Usually, a follow-up question to what the student is trying to say can bring about a response that the entire class can understand. Below is an example

Teacher: Dan, what do we use a t-test for?

Dan: To see if there is a difference

Teacher: What kind of difference? (Eliciting)

Dan: Mmm, a difference between two groups.

In the example above, the student’s answer was partially correct but with a little help from the teacher through the use of questions, the student was able to strengthen their response.

Soliciting

Soliciting is similar to eliciting but it focuses on getting additional information from a student but not for clarification. Instead, the desire is to extend a response that is adequately correct already. Below is an example

Teacher: Dan, what do we use a t-test for?

Dan: To see if there is a difference between two samples

Teacher: What do you mean by difference? (Soliciting)

Dan: A statistical difference based on the alpha level chosen.

In this example, Dan’s answer was correct and the teacher encourages further elaboration for his benefit as well as for the class.

Redirecting

Redirecting is guiding an incorrect answer into a correct one. This takes a great deal of tact and interpersonal skills but is a valuable tool in effective teaching. Below is an example

Teacher: Dan, what do we use a t-test for?

Dan: To see if two groups are the same

Teacher: Same or different? (redirecting)

Dan: Oh! I think we want to see if they are different.

In this example, the teacher guides Dan to the correct answer through providing a small hint. Dan knows he is wrong without experiencing embarrassment about it.

Conclusion

Probing is an important skill in teaching. Eliciting, soliciting, and redirecting are all useful for guiding students to have success. The is by asking appropriate questions that encourage understanding in students. This skill in particular highlights components of indirect instruction, which is one of many styles of teaching.

Best Practices in Teaching: Task-Orientation & Student Success

In this post, we continue to examine best practices for effective teaching. The topics of this post are as follows…

  • Teacher Task-Orientation
  • Student Success Rate

Teacher Task Orientation

Task-orientation of the teacher is about how much time a teacher spends actually teaching. There are many hurdles to staying on-task from classroom management issues to interruptions by announcements from the administration. In addition, if the teacher is not prepared through thorough planning and if he/she is unclear in their delivery, a lot of time will be lost in having to re-explain and go over the same material several times unnecessarily.

Task-orientation plays a role in the environment of the classroom. As such, it influences the students’ perception of their learning experience. If the kids are off-task too much there learning suffers and their experience at school plummets as well. Therefore, If the focus of the teacher is not on teaching and the instructional guidance of the students, it could impact their effectiveness. This means that planning and the focus of the teacher are components of successful teaching.

Student Success Rate

Student success is the rate at which students are able to understand and complete assessments at levels that meet or exceeds objectives. It is a common misperception among many that if students do not perform well it is their fault. To be fair, it is often the student’s fault at least partially. However, an effective teacher also needs to look at him or herself if many students are struggling.

A general rule of thumb to determine how challenging a task should be is that students should spend about 2/3 of their time on tasks and assignments that allow for almost totally understanding of the content. This means that your goal should never be to overwhelm your students through requiring task beyond their ability. The desire should be the growth of the talents of the student and not to decimate them through requiring tasks that are beyond their zone of proximal development.

Frequent failure lowers self-esteem and could lead to students who become disengaged. On the other hand, moderate to high levels of success contributes to mastery of content and fosters deeper critical thinking. This may be because the students are learning but they are not perfect. Thus, they are doing well but are also aware of where they need to improve. This experience of good but not perfect contributes to a growth mindset in which the student is convinced that they can improve. To summarize, an effective teacher must be cautious of the twin dangers of total discouragement and on total success of students.

Conclusion

Time on task and implementing principles of assuring student success are core components of effective teaching. It is not necessarily easy to get things done in the classroom. In addition, it is a challenge to determine the right amount of difficulty for assignments. However, understanding how to achieve the goals of time on task and student success is necessary for those who aspire to increase the effectiveness of their instruction.

Best Practices in Teaching: Knowledgeable

In this post, we will continue to look at common best practices in teaching. A critical best practice for teachers is having a thorough knowledge of their field. As such, being knowledgeable is a core component of effective teaching.

Knowledgeable 

An effective teacher must be knowledgeable. However, there are several types of knowledge that teachers need. Among the various types includes the following.

  • Content knowledge
  • Pedagogical knowledge
  • Context knowledge
  • Curriculum knowledge

Content Knowledge

Content knowledge is perhaps the most obvious form of knowledge a teacher needs. Content knowledge is a thorough understanding of one’s subject. It is commonly taking for granted that content knowledge is a given by the time anyone reaches the level of teacher at any level of school. However, there are times when a teacher is called to teach outside their expertise which jeopardizes their effectiveness as they lack the necessary knowledge to teach at a high level.

Pedagogical Knowledge

Pedagogical knowledge relates to knowledge of various modes of instruction. Many lecturers love to lecture. Lecturing is only one form of teaching and there are many different ways to add “spice” to one’s instructional approaches without undue stress. Understanding how to teach in different modes is important. In addition, knowledge of how to assess students in various ways increases the variety of instruction and thus the teaching effectiveness of lecturers.

Pedagogical knowledge is closely related to variety of instruction.  However, pedagogical knowledge is an antecedent of variety of knowledge since you cannot teach different ways with having the necessary knowledge to do this first.

Contextual Knowledge

Contextual knowledge is possessing an understanding of what is happening within the institution. Such knowledge of context includes knowledge of decisions by leadership, happenings within various departments, and or student activities. Knowledge of the context is valuable because these factors within the school affect the students. For example, if the Student Association had an activity over the weekend, there may be a decline in the time spent by students over the weekend studying. This may mean having a major test the next week may not be the best decision after such a weekend. A teacher can choose to go forward with the same teaching decision without considering context but this could affect the effectiveness of the teaching.

Curriculum Knowledge

Curriculum knowledge entails the skill to develop a cohesive plan for instructional activities. Effective teachers need to understand principles of instructional design for the sake of information processing. In addition, an effective teacher needs to see the big picture of how what they are doing in their classroom influences their students, their department, their fellow teachers, and their institution. This view is often missing as teachers focus exclusively on their class to the detriment of the goals of the school.

Some questions to ask when thinking of curriculum knowledge is. How do my course standards support the goals of the department? How do the departmental goals support the philosophy of the institution? Being able as an instructor to answer these questions about curriculum provides direction in an effective teacher’s approach. All of these principles of curriculum knowledge relate to structuring the content, which includes indicating to the students what they need to know.

Conclusion

Knowledge of various aspects of the teaching experience is critical for strong teaching. The principles in this post are some of the most basic concepts of knowledge needed for teaching.

Best Practices in Teaching: Variety of Instruction

In this post, we continue our discussion on best practices in teaching. The topic of this post is the concept of variety of instructional approaches. This is a key characteristic of effective teaching.

Instructional Variety

Instructional variety is a description of the flexibility of an instructor when presenting a lesson. For a teacher, this means being able to shift from one form of instruction to another in order to maintain the focus of students. This is not easy and is considered a valuable skill in education. If a teacher teaches the same way regardless of what the lesson demands or the students need, this indicates a lack of a variety. This inability to provide instruction in a variety of ways suggest that there may be a lower level of teacher effectiveness.

There are naturally many different ways to provide a variety of instruction. Some of the ways to do this include showing enthusiasm, which helps to maintain the energy of the lesson. Having several forms of reinforcement in your classroom is another form of variety. Reinforcement encourages the behavior you as a teacher want to see in your classroom. The emphasis on reinforcement is psychological being based on operant conditioning. Other approaches include using student ideas. Using student ideas heightens relevance, which is a key component of humanistic teaching. Some ways to include student ideas are the following

  • Acknowledge a student idea-This can be done through repeating the idea the student shared to the class
  • Modify-Rephrase in idea provided by a student and repeat it to the class
  • Apply-Take a student’s idea and use it in a different context
  • Compare-Take the idea and relate it to something similar
  • Summarize-Use the student’s idea to review the lesson.

Using Questions

One of the simplest ways to bring variety into the classroom is through the use of questions. Questions stimulate thinking and provide a way to include simple forms of application within a lesson without extensive effort.

Two common types of questions are content and process questions. Content questions assess understanding of facts which have one answer. For example, “what time is it? Process questions require many different answers. An example would be “who was the best president of the United States?” Content questions deal with declarative knowledge while process questions often deal with procedural knowledge. In addition, content questions deal with lower level knowledge while process questions deal with higher-level thinking.

Conclusion

There is so much more that can be said on this subject. Variety of instruction can come through using student ideas, reinforcement, and or the use of questions. There are other ways to make this happen but the ways provided are perhaps the easiest for someone new to teaching. It would be nice for others to share some ways they bring instructional variety into their classroom

Best Practices in Teaching: Clear Lessons

What is an Effective Teacher?

For many, there are two types of teachers, the good, and the bad. However, labeling a teacher as bad is oversimplistic as there is so much more to the story than this. Many times the success of a “good” teacher and the disappointment of a “bad” teacher have more to do with differences in the effectiveness of their teaching.

A good teacher is good because they are more effective at what they do and vice versa. A struggling teacher can become much more successful through understanding how to be more efficient at what they do. Even with limited “natural” talent, a teacher who is trained to be efficient can have success in the classroom.

So what is effective teaching? An effective teacher is most often a role model and they serve as an example of what students should strive to become. Unfortunately, ineffective teaching also provides a poor example that some students influenced by. Amazingly, such traits as aptitude, personality, attitude, and even experience are not strong indicators of effective teaching. In this post, along with several more in the future, we will look at best practice for efficient. For now, we will look at one critical indicator of teaching effectiveness which is the ability to develop clear lessons.

Clear Lessons

Clear teaching is the ability of a teacher to share content in a comprehensible way. In order to have clear instruction consider the following do’s of lesson clarity

  • Clear lessons allow students to follow along in a systematic manner. This means that a teacher should be familiar with various forms of instructional design which takes into account how people process information. In many ways, the teacher is taking the students on a journey with him/her. The students know what they are doing, where they are going, how they are getting there,  and when they will get there. Without direction, the students are lost and quickly frustrated.
  • Clear lesson actual involves direct oral delivery. Direct instruction has been receiving a bad rap over the last few years as there has been more and more push towards active learning and getting away from teacher-centered instruction. However, an effective teacher connects with his audience while speaking. They are aware of student’s understanding and communicate directly without mysterious unclear language. Sparingly used, direct communication plays a critical role in the 21st-century classroom.
  • Clear lesson includes an advance organizer. Advance organizers are pictorial representations of the content of the lesson. The purpose of organizers is to introduce a lesson, guide students through a lesson, and conclude a lesson.They provide a context in which the relationships of various ideas are seen in how they are connected.
  • Clear lessons include assessing prior knowledge. Keeping with the tenets of instructional design, an effective teacher begins with a review of knowledge students should already have in order to determine where to begin the lesson of the day. In addition, information processing theories indicate that constant reviewing deepens the understanding of the students and can contribute to elaboration and higher levels of thinking.
  • Clear lessons provide an application. This is an aspect of humanistic teaching, which emphasis relevancy. In a post-modern world, students need to know how they can implement the information they are learning in school. The application provides the setting in which students can connect what they learned to their own life. This experience is at the heart of constructionism. The inclusion of context helps in not only information processing but in understanding as relevance has been created for the student.

Conclusion

Lesson clarity is in many ways an indication of a teacher’s organizational skills. In addition, the clarity of the teacher plays a role in the academic performance of students. This is a teachable skill. Many are clearer than others but all can improve their ability to develop clear lessons. The trick is to know how well you do this and to develop steps to improve.

Methods of Teaching English: Part 4

The last few post have been looking at various methods of teaching English. In this post, we will look at the following

  • Communicative Language Teaching
  • Task-based learning
  • Lexical method

Communicative Language Teaching

The premise behind communicative language teaching (CLT) is that people need to learn the spoken functions of language as well as they learn the grammar. Therefore, students in this method focused on communicating as much as possible and learn the grammar of the language along the way. By doing this, students understand the language would happen naturally.

With CLT the focus is always on realistic communication. Role play and simulation are common techniques of the CLT method. For the most part, whatever replicates real communication falls under the CLT method. This has led to confusion in defining CLT as it is a vague method in terms of what it is.

There is some criticism of CLT. For example, it favors native-speakers who can teach in an improvised language environment. CLT is also difficult to use in a context that is traditionally teacher-centered. Another concern is that students develop fluency in the language at the expense of accuracy in their understanding of the grammar.

Task-based Learning

In Task-based learning (TBL) students learn the language by performing various task. TBL has three steps.

  1. Pre-task–Introduction of the topic and task
  2. Task cycle–Students complete the task
  3. Language focus–Students analysis what they did and learn the language lesson

For example, the teacher explains the activity of the day and goes over necessary new vocabulary (pre-task). Next, students are given a bus schedule and they are asked to tell what time such and such bus arrives (task cycle). Lastly, the students complete the task and then the teacher explains whatever language was being used (language focus). This is a highly inductive form of learning. The belief is that if they complete the task then they will develop competency in the language.

Criticism of TBL is that the term is vague and involves common learning task. Another problem is that there is more to language than just completing a task. Some even believe that focusing on a task while also learning the concepts of a language could overload a learner’s cognitive capacity.

Lexical Method

The lexical method is based on the belief that language is not about grammar but multi-word pre-made chunks. Examples include Come on…?, I’ll try, You must be kidding?, may as well. If students learn these “chunks” they can make a whole string of sentences. Students learn how to use these phrases and thus learn the language.

The Lexical method has detractors like all other methods discussed. For one, no one has been able to prove how learning these short phrases actually helps in learning the language. It is like learning the phrases in a phrase book. You know the phrases without knowing the language.

Another concern is the lack of procedures for the Lexical method. A method without procedures is not much of a method. For many, this is a method without support.

Conclusion

These methods here are among some of the most common teaching methods in language learning. Teachers and students need to see what is best among the myriad of choices when deciding on how learning will take place in their classroom.

Methods of Teaching English: Part 2

In this post, we will continue our discussion on various methods of teaching English. In particular, we will look at the Presentation, Practice, and Production method (PPP) along with variations of this approach.

The PPP method is actually derived from the Audiolingualism method. The difference between PPP and audiolingualism is that PPP places language in obvious situational contexts. The teacher uses a scenario that provides contextualization of the language acquisition. Students practice the language within the context. For example, if the context is movies the students or the teacher would develop phrases related to the topic of movies.

The PPP method is divided into the following procedure

  • Presentation
  • Practice
  • Production

Presentation

Presentation is the teacher sharing the context of the discussion. For example, the teacher may show a picture of people in the library. The teacher may then point to various people in the picture and ask the students what the people in the picture are doing.

As the students respond the teacher listens for the grammar that she wants to isolate for practicing. If the goal is to develop students understanding of contractions this is what the teacher will listen for as the students provide answers to her question. Another way to do this is by the teacher modeling the answer she wants. By allowing the students to generate the material it can help in improving relevancy for the students. This experience leads to the next step in the PPP procedures.

Practice

At this stage, the students employ what they learned several times in relation to the context. Returning to our library example, the teacher has the students develop several sentences that describe what is happening in the library while using contractions. This process is also called cue-response.

Production

At this stage, the students are no longer answering the teacher but are developing their own sentences related to the picture. The context can even be extended beyond where the learned the new skill. For example, after learning about contractions in relation to the picture of the library, students might use contraction to describe school, family, friends, etc.

Variations

There are several variations of the PPP method. Most are in response to criticism of PPP. Some claim that this approach is teacher-centered or that the processes are too linear.

One alternative is the Deep-End Strategy which allows a teacher to begin the lesson at any point in the PPP method. Teachers are not bound to start at presentation but can begin anywhere in the procedure. This allows flexibility and removes the linear criticism of the PPP method.

Another variation is the Engage, Study, Activate method. Engage means that the students are emotionally ready to learn. Study is the focus of the student on a form or component of a language such as past tense, passive voice, etc. Activate is the students use of the language in a meaning making activity.

Conclusion

The PPP method is one of many tools that teachers can employ in the teaching of language. It involves the use of context in order to enhance the relevancy for the student. Though this process has its critics, the PPP method is a practical and simple way to teach language.