Praising Good Vocabulary

In a previous post I spoke about the importance of Positive Reinforcement in the language classroom. It’s important that teachers show learners what language they are using correctly and praise them for it.usterdf7yey-moritz-schmidt

My justification for this is because we as teachers know what language is correct and incorrect, but that doesn’t mean learners know. In fact, as long as they have executed a successful communicative act, then they have achieved the desired goal: they’ve communicated a message.

Language is a wide topic and showing examples of good language use could range from grammar through lexis to pronunciation. Today, I’d like to focus only on vocabulary.  Continue reading

When the Learners Take Over

I can’t remember if it was Jim Scrivener in Learning Teaching or Jeremy Harmer in the Practice of English Language Teaching who said what is important in a lesson isn’t what the teacher does but what the learners do. Either way, it’s a recurring theme in ELT pedagogy, with other notable authors of language methodology referring to the notion of creating an environment which is conducive to

In fact, this concept of creating a learning environment in which there are ample opportunities for learning to take place was something I didn’t quite grasp when I first started teaching. However, a few years into the job I came to understand that what is important isn’t what I do, but what my learners do. They are, after all, the ones doing the learning.

It wasn’t until I had finished the Delta that I realised it really is all about the learners. I remember one of my Delta tutors talking about how in a pre-service training course he overheard a trainer describing a committed and excellent teacher is one who runs around the classroom and the school, so much so their clothes stick to them from the ensuing perspiration. Of course, my tutor was quick to point out that if anyone should be sweating from a lesson, it should be the learners – they should leave the room having been pushed to their learning limits.

While that sounds all nice and dandy, it is hard to put into practice. How do you design a lesson which really maximizes learner engagement, so much so that it pretty much removes the teacher from the equation? How do you pass on the learning to the learners to the point that the teacher plays nothing more than a supporting role?

Well, this week I got the opportunity to do just that. Keep reading to find out more… Continue reading

Lesson Aims in Dogme ELT

I was first introduced to the concept of Dogme ELT a few years ago. It was a very foreign concept to me at the time, but its attractive promise of an Materials Light approach was invigorating. This was at a time when I wanted to make lessons more Learner Centred and I wanted to spend less time on Lesson Planning in order to spend more time on the learners and on my Professional Development.

Source: Scott Thornbury’s blog

As you can probably imagine, Dogme seemed to offer all of that and more. Its only requirement was a group of learners and a knowledgeable teacher. Although since then I have learnt far more about the English language then I could have ever thought possible, at the time I felt confident in my understanding of the mechanics of English linguistics.

After purchasing the seminal piece on the topic, Teaching Unplugged by Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings, I immersed myself into the world of dogme-esque ideas, activities and approaches.

Since then I have completed further training, including a course in Advanced Methodology, a Teacher Training certificate, and the Cambridge Delta, all of which has led me to re-evaluate my beliefs and principles about teaching and learning.

As a result, I have found myself coming back to Dogme, with varying results. However, I think this time I have come to a principled conclusion about going materials light. Continue reading

Conversation Classes

There’s a post on WanderingELT which looks at what seems to be a fairly common conundrum in English Language Teaching. Basically, a learner comes to a language school traumitized by the experience of learning English through a Structural Syllabus in the state sector. In the words of Giulia Brazzale, such learners have had enough of grammar and they want “to learn to speak.”minions-363019_640

So, these learners sign up for Conversational Classes, or one-to-one lessons with a conversational focus. From the perspective of the teacher, like Giulia, this raises a number of questions:

  1. Why do learners end up in this situation?
  2. Are conversation classes the solution?
  3. Can good teaching happen solely through the conversation?

This post will take a look at these questions one by one and it will try to offer some answers. Keep reading to find out what they are. Continue reading

Flipped Learning, Tutoring Bar and Educational Myths

How effective are teaching methods? Are learners taking enough away from lessons? What could improve learning output? These are all typical questions developing teachers ask themselves.

Questions about the effectiveness of teaching and the effect it has on learning have grown immensely over the last years not only in language education but in general education, too.

As a result, teachers have gone back to school, so to speak, and started reading up on research, developing hypotheses and running experiments. The end result? A wealth of tried and tested methods to make teaching and learning a guaranteed success.

However, all of these results don’t point in the same direction. In fact, we are now in a situation where experiment results stand in absolute contradiction to each other.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these theories on how best to educate our learners. Continue reading

Revising KWL Charts

I have just finished reading David Harbinson’s post on KWL charts, which contains a neat suggestion of adding an ‘how to find out’ column to the chart, changing the ubiquitous acronym from KWL to KWHL.

When I first started out in ELT, I put a lot of focus on the activities learners did in my lessons. I often thought about activities in terms of:

  • How engaging they were
  • How much time they took up – the more the better!
  • How fun they were

Now, a few years into teaching and post Delta, I take a very different approach to classroom activities. Before using any activity in class, I actually do the activity myself. This sounds like a logical thing, but you would be amazed at how many teachers take a look at an activity and instantly ‘know’ what it involves, without going through the motions themselves.

I feel it is important to do an activity yourself before giving it to your learners for one fundamental reason – that reason being namely the following:

To know what the learner is really doing linguistically and cognitively during the activity 

In education in general, but particularly in ELT, there is a lot of talk about how lessons help learners to develop and expand on their skills, knowledge and cognitive abilities.

Bearing in mind the fundamental principle above, after reading David’s post I read an article and did a KWL chart myself. The results were surprising. Continue reading

Role of the Teacher in the ELT Classroom

One of the biggest things I got out of Delta was a better understanding of the role the teacher plays in the classroom. It wasn’t just a topic we had an input session on – it was something which significantly changed through the course as my understanding of teaching changed.

The role the teacher plays in lessons can vary quite a lot. At times the teacher is the “knower” and other times the teacher is more of a “friend” or “colleague.”

For most of my pre-Delta teaching, my main role in the classroom was setting up activities, letting them run and then feeding back on them. In fact, if anything caused me to stray from that course, I would get quite irritated: I didn’t like it when a learner asked me during an activity if the answer is X or Y. I would always tell them to wait and just to try their best.

Now, post-Delta, the role of the teacher is quite different. The teacher is the “knower” – the specialist you have paid all that money for. The teacher “knows” what is right and wrong – they can also help you to understand why something is correct or incorrect, by “explaining” or “eliciting.”

Continue reading