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.
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?
In the ELT industry, the topic of teaching the sounds of English has many names from phonemics and pronunciation to phonetics, phonology and sound charts. Each of these could be considered a variation on a theme or, alternatively, individual aspects of the overall topic of teaching pronunciation. Some carry an air of academia, such as phonology, while others hint towards Young Learners e.g. sound charts and phonemics.
Regardless of what we call it, teaching the sounds of the language is an important part of English Language Teaching. Yet, very much like grammar and lexis, it is somewhat of a divided topic with some defending the old fort while others push for change.
When native speakers converse, their speech involves a mixture of voluntary speech acts, freely formed to convey their thoughts and ideas, as well as a number of automated responses. Consider this beginning of a conversation with a friend and ask yourself: How much of this constitutes freely-formed speech acts; How much is automated response?
John: Hey Bill! How’s you?
Bill: Not too bad, thanks. You?
John: Yeah, not too bad. Well, I’ve actually just found out I failed my exam.
Bill: What?! Oh man, that’s terrible. Sorry to hear that.
John: Yeah, well, never mind eh.
In his entry on technology on the A-Z of ELT blog, Scott Thornbury rightly points out that there are “good reasons for integrating technology into language education, and there are bad reasons.” When it comes to technology, we’re always looking forwards: the newest hardware, the latest update, the best app.
Rarely do we look back at what once was. Should we perhaps be
doing exactly that?
In order to understand how our industry has grown, ELT teachers need to possess a solid grounding in what came before: an appreciation of the effectiveness of the Communicative Method means understanding the flaws of the Grammar-Translation Method, for example. However, a retrospective look into the past shouldn’t always result in a negative outlook – not everything from ‘back then’ was bad.
Every input session on my CELTA course brought with it fresh demands in the practical sessions. The seminar on lexis meant having to include vocabulary lists highlighting the potential issues in (M)eaning, (F)orm and (P)ronunciation. The presentation on receptive skills resulted in the inclusion of the necessary stages to produce an effective listening lesson.
All of this was very closely monitored by the trainers. If you didn’t do it, then you would fall below standard. The only exception to the rule was the session we had on using the whiteboard, which went as far, ‘… if you want, you can include a whiteboard plan in your lesson plan.’ Continue reading
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!
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.