The aim of this course is to sample a variety of activities that you can use in your English classes.
But before we begin sampling activities, we have to take a quick look at the difference between structure, function, content, and skills. We need to do this so that we can determine how our activities satisfy the goals of our curriculum.
What is the relationship between structure, function, content, and skills?
Structure Structure is basically the grammar associated with a language. If you are teaching passive voice today and present perfect tense tomorrow then you are teaching a structural syllabus.
Function Function is how a language is used. If you are teaching giving advice today and ordering food tomorrow, you are teaching a functional syllabus.
Content A content-based syllabus is one in which language is used to talk about things. Students are not explicitly studying the language but language learning occurs incidentally. If you are teaching about dinosaurs today and volcanoes tomorrow you are teaching a content-based syllabus.
Skills Skills are things that help students become more competent independent language learners. If you are teaching students how to identify a main idea or how to ask a clarification question you are teaching a skills-based syllabus.
Task 1 Before we discuss anything else Id like you to discuss with a partner and fill in the blanks for the proverb below: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day... ___________________________
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish And you feed him for life. As language teachers, we dont just want to teach a language. We also want to teach our students how to learn a language.
The Importance of Skills While we will discuss all forms of syllabi, we will pay particular attention to skills. One reason to teach skills is that they can be applied everywhere. Another reason to teach skills is that they help foster learner independence.
Before we go into what negotiating meaning is, lets take a look at why we need to negotiate meaning. The cartoons in this slide and the next illustrate why we need to negotiate meaning with our students. In the cartoon the teacher says that the homework is due. In this example, what does due mean? Can you foresee any difficulties arising if this situation is in an ESL context?
Here, the student misunderstands what his teacher wants him to do. This is a failure of communication. Do homework today?
Do and Due are homophones (words that have the same pronunciation but different spelling). ESL students are likely to know the first homophone do, but not the latter homophone due.
Native speakers (who have acquired the structure of the language already would know that is do is not usually a valid construction grammatically. The base form of a verb usually cannot follow is.
For example: He is do the dishes. She is do her homework. The above examples would immediately seem strange to a native speaker.
And so, even if a native speaker had never heard the word due before and didnt know what due meant, they would know that the teacher didnt mean do. And hence they would have a chance to clear up the miscommunication.
In fact, a native speaker may already be aware that what is required in that construction is an adjective or preposition since ________ the homework also precludes it being a noun.
A second language learner will not have the benefit of these structural filters to let them know when they have misunderstood. The construction is do may seem like a valid construction.
And so, Your homework is due today becomes: Your homework is do today.
Which in the mind of an ESL learners might simply mean: Do your homework today.
So what does this cartoon tell us? As teachers, there will be times when your students do not understand you when you are giving instructions in English.
Whats worse, there are times when they will not understand but they think they do understand.
If both student and teacher are passive in this interaction, the misunderstanding will not be cleared up: the boy will not hand in his homework on time. Teachers, therefore, must be active in their interactions. They must make sure the communication was understood.
And so both teachers and their students will need skills to clear up misunderstandings. Negotiating Meaning is just one example of a skill that teachers should actively teach.
Task 2 In the previous cartoon we saw an example of a failure of communication, which resulted in a student not handing his homework in. In partners discuss: (a)How could the teacher have avoided this? (b) How could the student have avoided this?
Here are some possible answers: Teacher Rephrase: Your homework is due today. You have to hand it in by three oclock this afternoon. Comprehension Check: You got that? So when do you have to hand in the homework. Visual Reinforcement: Write on the blackboard. Send a written notice home. Student Rephrase: So I hand it in tomorrow then. Clarification Request: Im sorry. Did you say I have to do the homework tonight.
So now we have some insight into what negotiating meaning is. Its giving instruction to your students and then checking to make sure that they understood it! It is discussing the message until both teacher and student can agree on what was meant. This is known as coming to mutual comprehension.
We will look at discussion strategies/skills such as rephrasing, clarifying, and summarizing that will help us to avoid misunderstandings. When we clarify and rephrase we are negotiating the meaning of our message.
We will look at language structures that you can use so that (a) your students understand what you mean. (b) you know that your students understand what you mean.
Negotiating meaning is an example of one skill. Being able to negotiate meaning is an important skill for someone who has to give instruction to others on a daily basis. It is something that you naturally do in your native language, but is not as natural in a second language.
Being able to communicate clearly and uncover misunderstandings is also a good skill for your students to have. This is one skill we should teach our students as well.
Word Skills Being able to discuss words is another valuable skill that students should have. Being able to define words, understand definitions, find rhymes, identify sounds, recognize letter patterns and ask for spellings are examples of word skills.
These word skills helps students get the information they need when they dont understand. It helps them become independent learners.
Because the skills that we learn in this course are valuable for your students, we will look at activities we can use to teach these skills. (This is probably the best part of the course! We will look at really practical ways to teach English that can even be used for the large classes that you are likely to have to teach.)
This brings us to the second aim of this course, which is to look at how we make our students good independent language learners. To do this we have to teach them skills and not just highlight language points for them on the blackboard.
3. The Teacher as a Primary Source of Comprehensible Input and Interaction
The final concept we need to cover in this class is the idea that teachers who conduct their classes in English become a primary source of input and interaction for their students.
Comprehensible input The concept of comprehensible input was first introduced in Krashens theory of language acquisition.
He argued that people acquire languages by receiving input that is meaningful and can be understood. * This view has been much debated and later refined (including a reformulated interaction hypothesis.)
Language teachers are a good source of meaningful interaction and their instruction provides input for their students. By not providing instruction in English you are depriving your students of important source of input: you.
Of course, this places a heavy burden on teachers who are not native speakers. They have to be comfortable discussing language and giving instruction in English.
Classroom Interactions And so, as part of this course we are going to look at classroom interactions that teachers have with students and ask: How can we accomplish that in English?
Classroom interactions are interactions that teachers have with students such as: (a)Giving definitions. (b)Posing hypothetical questions (c)Putting language in context (d)Giving feedback. (e)Explaining instructions.
This brings up another problem: Do we try to interact in authentic native- like speech or do we modify our input to be understood better. In other words, do we dumb it down for our students.
Of course, giving instruction in authentic English increases the likelihood that students will be confused. Therefore, we have to try to balance two important goals: Making sure our students understand us. and Making sure our students get rich and varied input.
The more authentic (rich and varied) our instruction is the less likely it will be understood.
To see what I mean look at the following instructions: Take out your books and draw a picture. What I want you to do is to take out your books and draw a picture.
Clearly, the first quotation is easier to understand. On the other hand, should we really use the imperative voice every time we give instructions? Isnt it rude? Also, If we dont give our students real examples of complex grammar then who will? And so, we will look at ways to modify and vary our input to balance these two goals.
Once Again: The Ultimate Goal My ultimate goal is to give you the confidence to interact with your students so that you will conduct a greater portion of your class in English.