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 learning.team-1480072_1280

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

Shaking Up Feedback

Working in General English for Adults? Teaching Young Learners over the summer. Moving into English for Academic Purposes? Wherever you teach, whoever you teach, you will always have to give content feedback on a productive task. time feedback

The usual way of giving such feedback is to incorporate it into the linguistic feedback stage. Alternatively, you could opt for a delayed approach – providing feedback in written or spoken form in a follow-up lesson.

Whatever approach you use, maybe there is always the issue that content feedback increases Teacher Talking Time, moves the focus away from the learners and has no true linguistic value.

Perhaps there is a more integrated approach to content feedback?

Continue reading

Pronouncing Stupid

I’m currently teaching students on a summer programme largely from the Far East. This has placed different demands on my teaching – particularly in pronunciation – which is understandable: for Chinese speakers, the sounds of English couldn’t be any more foreign!Pronunciation.JPG

A lot of teachers I’ve met can be quite adverse to pronunciation. Many don’t demand exact pronunciation from their students – as long as the word is understandable, it’s enough, they say…

The issue there is that the vast majority of teachers are well-trained in the art of understanding poorly pronounced English. So, what happens when a student meets a regular native-speaker whose experience of speaking with foreigners goes as far as British holiday resorts in Spain? You’ve guessed it – communication breakdown.
Continue reading