Showing posts with label language learning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label language learning. Show all posts

Monday, May 26, 2014

TESOL 2014 – Mousetraps for Language Teaching

Being a so called TESOLer is having an opportunity to be part of a dynamic community of professionals.  Therefore, it is always a rewarding experience to attend (and present at!) a TESOL Conference, and this year couldn’t have been different. I knew in advance that I would have a chance to attend presentations with Diane Larsen-Freeman, Douglas Brown and Penny Ur, among others. In fact, there were so many different presentations with interesting titles and renowned presenters that it was hard to choose what to attend.
However, having read, studied and used as reference Dr Douglas Brown’s books for so many years, it would be inevitable not to share his presentation here. His My “top ten” list of mousetraps presentation revolves around the “mousetraps” which work very well in our profession.

He started his presentation by asking the audience to think about the mousetraps – “principles, methods and the kind of foundation stones” - we have been engaged in during our professional lives. Dr Brown made us stop to think about the kind of methodology we rely on in our teaching when we plan our classes. After a brief review of his “Ten Commandments” (from 1990), the presenter stated that, at the time, he simply pictured everything relatively unified in some kind of Strategic Investment Mousetrap, meaning that we teachers would get our students to invest in the language we were teaching. 

Then he wondered whether or not we were right to do so at the time, however, what really mattered was that we were on the right track. From then on, Dr. Brown stated that many things have changed, for there have been lots of research for the past twenty-four years, and that there are now better mousetraps, showing the audience how our profession has progressed in many positive ways. However, before starting to talk about those “top ten” mousetraps, he made a point of telling us that things have evolved, becoming simpler, but not that the twelve principles from his well-known book Teaching by Principles (1993, 2000, 2007) don’t work anymore, for they are still great principles; it’s just that researchers have improved on them. 

That being said, the presenter made it clear that those changes encompass all the connections that researchers in the field have been making with learners, for they revolve around what makes students successful and what makes them interested in learning, not forgetting about all the global implications of teaching English worldwide.  Based on that, he compared the traditional mousetraps to the better mousetraps for language learning.  

Traditional Mousetraps
Better Mousetraps
# 10 Behavioral vs. Cognitive
         Competence vs. Performance
         Innate (acquired) vs. Learners
Dynamic Systems Theory
Emergentism (This term is used to say that language learning is like any other learning, for it emerges from the human being like other skills emerge.)
# 9 Transfer
Embodied Cognition
(According to Brown, cognition is part of a whole picture: body, mind and world connections. He states that it’s like “opening up and capturing the concept of transfer, interference and overgeneralization in a much more holistic and refreshing way for teachers”.)
# 8 Focal vs. Peripheral Attention
      Controlled vs. Automatic Processing
Form-focused Instruction (FFI): Noticing
(The idea here is to get sts to work with the pieces of language they learn and put them together with a whole form with all the communicative efforts. Students need to notice the language in order to be successful at using it.)
# 7 Strategy-based Instruction (SBI)
       Awareness -> Action
Self-regulation, Scaffolding
Mediation, ZPD
(This mousetrap is about having teachers mediate the learning process that learners are going through in the classroom and how they can work within sts’ zone of development to keep them progressing along with awareness and action.)
# 6 Intrinsic Motivation
      Meaningful (vs. Rote) Learning
Imagined Community
(This principle is important to remind teachers that the perception learners have is more important than the reality they face. As teachers, we need to help learners square their imagination to their own reality; to the community they will be using the language with.)
# 5 Personality & Cognitive Styles
      Anxiety, Risk-taking, Empathy
Communities of Practice
(According to this principle, nowadays, teachers shouldn’t look at learners as individuals who are striving to overcome their anxiety and self-esteem, but as communities of learners. We should see our classrooms as communities of practice and the future of the language in those communities of practice.)
# 4 Community Competence
      Willingness to Communicate (WTC)
Interaction,  Collaboration
Communities of Practice
(Once again, Dr Brown states that researchers’ theories and methodologies are showing that learners shouldn’t be seen as individuals working alone in the world, but people relating to other people, within communities. It’s all about the social nature of language.)
# 3  Intercultural Competence
       Cross-cultural Analysis
       Social Distance, Optimal Distance
(With the global use of English, in this mousetrap, the presenter says that the concept of crossing-cultures is changing and that the term Languaculture is being used, for it captures the notion that language and culture are intertwined.)
# 2 Language Ego
(This is an extremely important principle, for the whole notion of identity is related to the way people talk, and that is something we can’t change. There are few things you can do to improve the way people talk, because the way they talk is the way they are.)
# 1 Empowerment
(This is the concept which Dr Brown believes wraps it all up, for it reminds us that, in his own words, “our mission with our students is to help them to be agents, using the language, internalizing the language, making choices of their own, and not think of themselves as second class citizens”.) 

Before his closing remarks, Dr Brown mentioned he hopes that, in a couple of years, there will be no distinction between non-native English speakers and native English speakers, for this distinction is something from the past. He also added that non-native English speaker teachers who have learned English as their second (or third) language are the most wonderful teachers that one can have, for we are agents; we have identified ourselves in the English language.

The presenter ended his presentation with a quote from Gandhi which says that we “must be the change we want to see”. Douglas Brown thinks that we are becoming even more humane in the process of being English teachers. He is also encouraged by what has been happening in the last four decades and the directions that our profession is turning to and the methodology that has been embracing the different identities of our learners. For all of us there, he left the challenge of taking those principles and making them work in our classrooms.

As for me, I left his presentation not only feeling blessed for having the opportunity to attend it, but also with the feeling that one of my favorite authors, who has inspired me as a professional for more than twenty years, has shown that I have also been on the right track by researching and trying to adapt the mousetraps to my own teaching.

*H. Douglas Brown & Heekyeong Lee are launching the fourth edition of Teaching by Principles, in early 2015.  

Friday, May 23, 2014

Simple Prep iPad Activity: TELLAGAMI - Giving Life to Students´ Avatar and their Language Production

Tellagami is one of those multi-purpose free apps that will give an extra boost to your classroom activity, with lots of student production in English.

Here´s an overview of the app:

In the classroom, use Tellagami to:

  • let the avatar tell a story about a specific place (you can change the background there)
  • review a concept. Students have to summarize what they´ve just learned
  • do a follow-up activity in which students tell their own views on the topic
  • drill basic structures in a young learners´ class ( I like; I don´t like; I have; I don´t have)
  • practice physical descriptions when students are creating their avatar; then, they record about their best friend´s physical appearance
  • work on clothing by changing the avatar´s outfits; the avatar can record why he chose that specific outfit
Students can record their own voices, or even use the text to speech feature (they write the text and choose the accent of their avatar. Warning: this feature only works when there´s Internet connection).

GOING THE EXTRA MILE: there´s an editing feature on YOUTUBE that you can put your students´ Tellagami videos altogether in one single Youtube video. Here´s an example from a training session we had about high performance class. First, we used this poster as a discussion springboard.

Then, the groups created their avatars and recorded their main ideas about highly performaning classes. Finally, I edited them, using Youtube editor, after having uploaded all the gamis.

Ready to begin? We´d love t know what you´ve been doing in class with Tellagami.