RATE ISSUES WINTER / 2010  

In this issue:
 

 

ISSN 1844 – 6159

Editor's Notes:

One of the most coveted, yet most elusive distinctions in my line of work is nothing like an M.A., a Ph.D. or a professor emeritus. It is simply when you are called a good teacher. But what does that mean?
Some think it means having students who achieve great results in high stakes exams and are often tempted to neglect average students and devote both class time and their own free time to coaching those “worthy seedlings” who could bring them glory.
Others think it means getting involved in all sorts of projects and extracurricular activities, enriching their CV with an ever wider range of activities that would show open-mindedness and varied interests or abilities. However, while ferociously pursuing their Comenius project or their environmental campaign, they sometimes fail to realize that they have lost their noble cause somewhere along the way and are now narrowly chasing the certificate or diploma that will help them score points for the merit bonus, while their students or their own teaching have been ignored, scarcely bearing any trace of the pompous claim that stands out from the embossed font of the diploma.
There is a third category of teachers, my own favourite, who find it in their job description to teach values, harmony and balance to their students. They never steal the show in the faculty meeting, yet their students remember them with fondness despite the low marks they sometimes received. Mind you, this is even more elusive a concept, since many of us mistake this way of being a good teacher for allowing students to skip school, to have high marks for no good reason, to disrespect us or our colleagues and some teachers even try to be “good” by not showing up for class at all.
So how exactly should we be good teachers? While the obvious answer is a compromise between the three approaches above, it always helps to do some soul searching and see if what we are doing is what we set out to achieve in the first place. We could find ourselves in the position of the dictator who, despite his good excuses, cannot deny the unforgiving reality of the men and women dying or hurting under his command.

Ovidiu Aniculăese, Colegiul Naţional "A.T. Laurian", Botoşani

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 The Teacher as Class Manager. Dealing with Problem Behavior
by Mihaela Dascălu, Şcoala de Arte si Meserii Argetoaia, Dolj

Keywords: teacher, manager, behavior, rules.


It is common knowledge that what actually makes teaching challenging and at the same time extremely demanding is not the mere activity of transmitting new information, but the teacher’s ability to establish a strong, communication-based relationship with their students. Maintaining good order in classrooms and dealing with problem behavior is one of the most difficult tasks facing young inexperienced teachers, such as myself. The task has become more difficult over the past few decades as young people's attitudes to people in authority have changed dramatically. Some of the changes have led to greater self-confidence in students- a self-confidence which, to a certain extent, is of great use for the teacher himself. Others - such as the acceptance of violence to achieve ends, attitudes to substance abuse and an increasing lack of respect for authority - have made classroom management and life in school generally more difficult, and more demanding, on those who are charged with maintaining a positive learning environment.
Problem behavior from students can take many forms, from disruptive talking, tardiness and poor attendance to cheating in tests and unwillingness to speak in the target language. It is nonetheless true that the students’ personalities and behavior are closely bound up with their levels of self-esteem – how they feel about themselves and the level of self-confidence they are experiencing. Many disruptive behaviors in the classroom can be alleviated before they become serious discipline problems. Such behaviors can be reduced by the teacher's ability to employ effective organizational practices which are at the heart of the teaching process and are essential to establishing and maintaining classroom control.
In like manner, the first encounter between the teacher and the students might be quite misleading, especially for inexperienced teachers; this is when the students formulate their impressions of the teacher. Students sit quietly, raise their hands to respond and are generally well behaved. The teacher is easily misled into thinking that this is an ideal class and may relax their vigilance. However, within a week or so, some students will begin to test the waters to see what they can "get away with"; this is an attitude that I have noticed within the first weeks of my activity as a teacher. It is during this period that the effective teacher - a teacher that we all aim and train to be - should establish the expected ground-rules for classroom behavior.
Establishing a set of classroom rules to guide the behavior of students at once is of utmost importance. Discuss the rationale of these rules with the students to ensure they understand and see the need for each rule. Keep the list of rules short. The rules most often involve paying attention, respect for others, excessive noise, securing materials and completion of homework assignments. Though some of the students may consider these rules a sheer formality, it is the teacher who must make sure to apply them whenever necessary.
I have noticed that calling a student by his or her name early in the year gives him an increased sense of well being; moreover the student’s self-confidence is increased, provided that we deal with aloof, sometimes hostile students (especially teenagers). This way of dealing with students also gives a teacher greater control of situations. Nonetheless, a teacher can be firm yet still be supportive and friendly with students despite the fact that sometimes we find it difficult not to lose our temper. A firm teacher can provide an environment where the students feel safe and secure. Many teachers report that it is easier to begin the year in a firm manner and relaxed later, than to begin in a relaxed manner and then try to become firm.
In addition to this , when we plan our classes we need to think how we can engage students in a reading or listening activity before starting detailed work, this way introducing topics that are relevant for our students’ experience.
“Praise is better than blame”, some researchers stated about four decades ago (Madsen et al 1968) and I myself have noticed it when dealing with disruptive, uncooperative students. When they are told off for their inappropriate behavior, it had little effect. However, even ‘difficult’ students responded extremely positively when they were praised for appropriate behavior; but praise has to be offered in the right way and for good reasons if it is to be effective.
In order to act according to the above-mentioned guidelines, it is essential that teachers be thoroughly prepared. It is good preparation that gives the teacher time to be proactive that is to be able to anticipate the students’ problematic behavior as far as possible. This teacher doesn’t have to scramble between classes setting up materials, printing copies in the office, and hurriedly writing instructions on the board. He or she has enough time to observe her students so that she knows who is angry and likely to vent that anger soon. The proactive teacher has planned her lessons so that she has a few minutes at the end of each period to get things ready for her next class before passing time.
Proactive classroom control begins with setting the tenor in your room in the first few minutes, before behaviors can become problems. If you miss the opportunity for a smooth, controlled start, you will spend more of your time trying to calm things down and regain control.
By following a routine that the students can count on, the proactive teacher heads off many discipline problems that the reactive teacher faces daily. Students arrive to class over the course of several minutes during passing time, but the children go right to work on a daily start up activity when they enter the room. The reactive teacher is trying to get attention when the bell rings. He starts the period by interrupting "free time."
In a nutshell, whether we work in primary, secondary or high-school we will all experience problem groups and encounter problem behavior at some time in our teaching careers. More often than not, the problem is minor and can be easily dealt with, especially if we can refer to a previously established code of conduct, and if our responses to discipline are based on solid principles and strategies.


Bibliography:

1. Harmer, Jeremy- “ The practice of English language teaching”, London: Pearson 2007
2. Celce-Murcia , Marianne – “Teaching English as a second foreign language”, New York : Newburry House 1991
3. Larsen-Freeman, Diane- “Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching (Teaching Techniques in English as a Second Language)”, London: Oxford, 2005
 

 

 What Textbook Is the Right Choice for Me and My Students? Guidelines for Assessing Course-books
by Mihaela Pălimariu, Colegiul National “Mihai Eminescu” Iaşi


Keywords: textbook, assessment, training course, Comenius, teacher’s book, student’s book, two-stage process

Selecting the appropriate textbook has always proved challenging for many of us. I remember when I was in my first year of teaching, I was overwhelmed by the offer of publishing houses and found myself ever more confused about which one to choose. All textbooks had an exceptional design, excelled in images and graphics and came with audio support and teacher’s books. Had it not been for my colleagues whom I turned to for support, I would never have managed to make a good decision. The reason for that was that I did not have a proper framework to assess the textbooks.
Many of my questions regarding this topic have been answered while attending the two-week training course “Motivating Materials for the Secondary Class” organized by International Studies Programmes in Southampton, UK, for which I received a Comenius mobility grant from ANPCDEFP.
During the workshops on Teaching English as a Foreign Language, textbook writer and Cambridge Publishing House collaborator Diana Hicks provided me and my fellow colleagues with proper tools to objectively assess course books. She suggested a two-stage process of evaluation that begins with reviewing the teacher’s book and then continues with examining the student’s book.
According to this approach, what we should first and foremost do is take a look at the teacher’s book and establish if it mirrors the latest developments in foreign language teaching and learning. Here are a few tips that can help us decide whether a book is a good fit for our students as well as for us.
• It should have a clear section that explains the principles on which the pedagogy of the Student’s Book is based
• It should address the teacher directly, using the pronoun “you” and not the noun “the teacher”
• It should be written in the Active Voice (e.g. “The authors designed the book to …”) and avoid Passives (e.g. “The book was designed to …”)
• The language in the book should not be dominated by imperatives; rather, it should suggest possibility and alternatives through the use of modals (e.g. “You could also …”, “You might …”, “Another idea would be to …”)
If it still seems difficult to evaluate the course book, consider doing a quick check by taking a paragraph from a teacher’s book and underlining all the verbs for the teacher in red and all the verbs for the pupils in green. Then, these can be copied into a chart as shown below.
 

Original text
World Class Level 1 Teacher’s Book
(Teacher’s verbs in italics. Pupil’s verbs in bold)

Look at the example sentences with the students. Tell students to listen to the examples and complete the sentences with “is” or “are”. Then, students copy and complete the tables. Go through the answers with the whole class. Ask students for a translation in their own language. Tell them to write them in the tables. Tell students to read the postcard. Ask them where Sam is and where Anna is. Tell students to put the verbs in brackets in the present continuous. Tell students to look at the big picture of the festival. Look at the example question and answer. Ask another question “What is the man doing?”. Elicit an answer.
 

Teacher

Student

Look at, tell, go through the answers, ask, tell, ask, tell, tell, tell, look at, ask a question, elicit

Listen to, complete the sentences, copy, complete the tables, translate, write in the tables, read, put verbs in brackets, look at the picture

Taking a brief look at the verbs in this table can easily render an idea about what happens in the classroom and who is doing what. Obviously, the teacher is doing too much work while the students do not put in as much effort as expected. Thus, it would be a good idea to look for a textbook which involves the students more from a cognitive point of view.
The next stage involves evaluating the Student’s Course Book according to several criteria: language, language use, structure of material and task types, teacher roles, learner support and content and graphics. Here are a few questions that we should bear in mind:
 

Focus

Questions

1. Language

A. What is the view of language expressed in the Student’s Book?
B. What type of language is focused on?
C. Is there a clear balance between accuracy and fluency tasks?
D. Are the language skills integrated or separated?

2. Language Use

A. What skills are focused on?
B. How are the skills related to each other?
C. To what use are the skills put in the tasks?

3. Structure of material and task types

A. How are the contents sequenced?
B. How are the contents sub-divided?
C. How is continuity provided?
D. Can the students understand the purpose of each task without the teacher?
E. Is there a worthwhile outcome of each task?
F. What evidence of cognition is there in the tasks?
G. Where and how can the students self-evaluate?

4. Teacher roles

A. What roles does the teacher play in each lesson/unit? Monitor? Guide? Advisor?

5. Learner support

A. Does the unit provide advice to the learners?
B. Does the unit allow for different learner styles?

6. Content and graphics

A. What are the texts about?
B. What role do the graphics play in the book?
C. Are the graphics age-appropriate?
D. What values are expressed/implied in the text and layout?

A good textbook would always focus on communicative language, present a fair balance between fluency and accuracy tasks, integrate skills and provide continuity in the learning process. An important point to consider is that textbooks should ultimately guide the students towards independent learning. In this respect, our students should fully understand the purpose of each task and its outcome.
The answers to these questions should provide us with a more objective view of textbooks and should make the selection process easier. In the end, it is worth remembering that not every textbook that looks good is necessarily a good-quality one as well.



Bibliography

Harris, M., Mower, D., Date, O., Axbey, S - World Class, Level 1, Teacher’s Book. Longman Publishing House. 2000
Hicks, Diana – Workshop on Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Southampton, 2-14 May, 2010.
 

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 Go for Comenius. A Course on Developing Oral Fluency

by Alina Creţu, CT Petru Muşat Suceava & Monica Lepcaliuc, CTIA Suceava

Key words: Comenius, course, Exeter, communication, Queen.

Do you feel like renewing your teaching methods and materials? Are you fed up with the traditional approach to teaching? Do you want to catch a glimpse of the British culture and civilization for real? Well, you are just a click away from all of these.
For us, it was just a matter of trying our luck on the ANPCDEFP official site, as we just followed the instructions provided and we eventually discovered our names on the “winners’ list”. We were about to forget to tell you that the course was on Developing Oral Fluency in English Language Classroom (Secondary) which took place in Exeter, Devon under the guidance of two wonderful and energetic teachers from the International Project Centre (IPC). And if you think that during our stay there we were the “slaves” of the ever tiresome routine home – school, you can’t be more wrong. It was quite the opposite as our schedule was filled with activities such as: trips to the Dartmoor National Park, Tintagel (the legendary birth place of king Arthur), Thomas Hardy’s county, research sessions both on the field and within the host family and, of course, the after course meetings that necessarily took place in a pub. Having met fellow teachers from Turkey, Spain, France, Italy and Latvia helped us discover that we do not only share an interest in teaching English and in the British culture and civilization, but also that we are all part of the big European family.
The course was designed for teachers of English that want to enliven their classes with communicative activities focusing on the British history and culture, on developing spoken language, as well as on role plays on social problem solving. Another way of communicating was via the language of music and dancing to which everybody contributed with their traditional way of celebrating life.
Our favourite task, though, was to bring forth a glimpse of the Devon family and surroundings which gave us the occasion to get a closer look into their “universe”. It was wise to choose to stay with a host family since we chatted a lot about British bits and pieces, from Lady Diana to fish and chips and from ghost stories to charity events. We were amazed to find out how involved the British are in all kinds of activities that are meant to raise money for the unfortunate. Over the years, our host family have supported a number of different charity cases such as Commando Challenge. Though it seems a childlike game, it takes quite a lot of time (15 months) to organise the event that only lasts for 2 days per year. Next to the 10,000 charity organisations in the UK, this is by far the biggest fund raiser event in the country as they manage to raise up to 300,000 pounds.
The entire experience we have had can be put in simple words with a clear message: a teacher can never say they have learned enough. As teachers of English, we can’t stop developing ourselves, establishing connections and making the most of our second language. You should also bear in mind that if you step on British land, you might as well “bump into” the most well known figure as we fortunately did: the Queen.












 

 

Back to School. Ice Breakers for Autumn

by Roxana Nicola, "Dimitrie Cantemir" High School, Iaşi

Keywords: ice-breakers, sharing interests, Bingo activity, "Me Posters", qualifications

You have a lot of curriculum to cover throughout the school year. Time is precious, and you can't afford to lose the first two weeks of class so the students can learn to get along well together. Coming up with activities to "break the ice" for your students is a great way to cut down on that introductory period. And whether you're a first-year teacher or have been doing this for 20 years, coming up with ideas for the first couple of days can be tough.
My introduction to the students is sharing a part of my interests and self by taking a small white paper bag (lunch bag size) with my name written in crayon and decorated with stickers, sequins, etc.. I place about 5 - 10 different items that tell about myself. Chocolate Hershey bar ( I love chocolate...what teacher doesn't?), pictures of my animals, sea shells, NY Yankees pennant (favorite baseball team), a favourite book, a little potted plant, (enjoyment of gardening), a baby rattle & picture of my new baby, etc... After sharing this with the students, I pass out these same types of bag and direct the students to bring no more than 10 items depicting their interests and likes (must fit in the bag!) They then will take turns explaining their items - sometimes I video the presentations to be used later on in the year (can be used on a web page or avid cinema presentation). The students learn a lot about each other as well as provide you with their interests on which to use and build on during the school year for motivation and/or conversation. I finish up the day by bringing the students and a large skein of yarn (rolled into a ball) outside and sit everyone into a circle. I begin by holding the end of the string and tell something about another person I learned, then I gently toss the ball to another student, they must share something they learned about another student. The ball is tossed around the circle weaving a "web" until the yarn is totally unrolled. This allows for bringing the class together as a "family" from day one, making your interests common ones, and helping new students unfamiliar with those who know each other more comfortable now that they know the others a bit better.
Another use I had with the yarn. When you throw it, you must say something that you LIKE about the person you are sending it to. When everyone has had a go, the yarn is thrown back, again, stating what you like about the person you are throwing it to.
Ask students to bring a box or a bag with items that tell something about them. Have students interview one another and then introduce their partner to the class. Once students have interviewed each other, have them make a place mat for their partner. Have a personal scavenger hunt Ask them to write an acrostic with their names Play the Letter Name Game: Students must go around the room looking for someone who has a certain letter in their names. Ex. Look for someone who has an "m" in their name. Or, find how many people in the class have an "m" in their name. Play "Get Acquainted Bingo." Get a list of students' names and ask them to fill in a Bingo grid. Then play Bingo. Another Bingo activity is to have them say something about themselves as their name is being called. Play Signature Bingo. Instead of you writing the names of the students on the Bingo grid, have students go around collecting signatures from the students; then play Bingo. Hope you can try some of these.
You could have your students make "Me Posters" and you could make one also. The poster would include photos and/or magazine pictures that tell something about the person, such as family, hobbies, special interests, etc. - you make your poster including the information you want to know about the students and then use is to introduce yourself to them. Then ask them to do the same. I always ask them to include their name or nickname in a way other than just written out. Another suggestion would be to write the class a letter about yourself and put it on a transparency. Read the letter to the students and then ask them to write you a letter including the same type of information. You will need to be specific about what info you want included - I give an outline or list. I don't know what age your students are but this works well with older students.
Here are some other activities you can do to make your students feel at ease as soon as possible.
Each student receives a slip of paper with a song title on it, with about four or five people receiving the same song. They don't show their song to anybody. Instead, they hum their song, walking around the room trying to find other people humming the same song. For younger students, put the name of an animal on their paper. They can walk around making their animal's noise until they find others making the same noise.
Have each student introduce himself by first name and tell something they did this summer that starts with the same letter. For example, I could say "Hi, my name is Nicole, and I nudged the President." The next person in the line (or circle) does the same but must also introduce the people before him and their summer activity.
Place enough chairs for every student in a circle. Tell the children that you're sure you all have something in common with each other. Then say something like, "I really love pizza. If you love pizza, too, stand up by your seat." Comment on how many and continue with a few more statements like this. Then, and this is where the fun begins, tell the students to move to another seat if must stand in response to the next question. It should not be adjacent to them or occupied. As they do this, you sit in an empty seat. The last child standing will be the next person in the middle who must form an "if" statement. The trick to getting out of the center is to pick something that lots of people will have in common. Your students should learn this after a couple of rounds.
A classic icebreaker is to give your students a "People Finder Sheet." Make a list of qualifications like "Can speak another language" or "Has visited Europe." Then have students seek out these people in your class. Students who meet the qualifications initial the item. The object of the game is to fill the page with initials, but they can only use a student's initials once per sheet. Be careful, though. Because this icebreaker is a classic, many of your older students will have done this countless times in the past. But you can still use this icebreaker! The trick is to make the qualifications more interesting so they can learn funny things about each other.
Each student should write down three sentences describing himself. For example, "I have attended 11 schools," and "I have an aunt and an uncle both named Laverne," and "I love to vacation in Cancun." The catch is, two of the statements are true and one is false. (Try to guess which one I am lying about!) The students then share their three statements with each other or the entire class (whichever you prefer) and vote on which they think are true and false. The catch here is that the more unusual the information, the harder it will be for the other students to guess. Let them know this, and you are sure to learn some interesting trivia about your new students.
Starting a new school year can be as stressful for new students as it can be for you. Through the use of some of these icebreakers, your transition to the new year can be more comfortable for everyone. Good luck!

Reference:
www.teachnet.com
 

  How and Why Get a Comenius Grant within the Lifelong Learning Programme?

by Daniela Vasiloiu, Henri Coanda Technical School, Râmnicu Vâlcea

Keywords: grant, Lifelong Learning Programme, European Training Database, training course, opportunity


I have recently been the recipient of a two-week Comenius grant within the Lifelong Learning Programme which, I believe, represents the perfect occasion for teachers of all subjects – I italicized these words in order to emphasize the idea that these courses are not only for language teachers as some of our colleagues may think – to develop themselves and improve their professional, linguistic and inter-personal skills. A first step in obtaining a Comenius grant is to access the site of the LLP (Lifelong Learning Programme) and go to the section dedicated to teaching staff. After consulting the European Call for Proposals and the Candidate’s Guide (which gives detailed information on each sub-programme), you can access, for instance, the European Training Database to look for a course to suit your professional needs. There you can find the detailed description of the course, dates, costs and types of accommodation available.
Why is it necessary for us teachers to continue training and thus, learning? First of all, as language trainers, we all know that language is in permanent change. Consequently, we need to refresh and update our knowledge all the time in order to be good professionals and provide our students with high academic standards. What is more, they need an up-to-date and communication-oriented approach of the language they are learning. This kind of training courses is different because they take place within the native context (complete immersion into the language) and is meant to freshen up not only our methodological knowledge but also our linguistic skills. Courses like these boost our confidence in using the language communicatively and open up new opportunities such as acquiring new vocabulary, direct access to that particular culture, new teaching technologies and methods to arouse our students’ interest more efficiently.
My training course, Irish Culture and Civilization for English Teachers, organized by the Language Centre of the University of Limerick in Ireland, provided me with both a significant amount of updated information regarding the Irish culture and civilization, and the opportunity to meet teachers from various European countries (France, Italy, Czech Republic, Hungary, Spain) with whom I hope to continue collaboration. It was a very interesting experience as, during the interactive courses we had, we could look at the cultural, economical and political situation of our countries. Furthermore, we could also compare the educational systems in our countries and the textbooks/ activities we use to teach English which has broadened my experience of how teachers in other European countries work.
I believe that my participation in Comenius Lifelong Learning Programme has brought about benefits on both professional and personal levels. On the professional level, I have been given the opportunity to expand my knowledge in education and teaching, which I shall be able to share with my students and colleagues afterwards. What is more, I had a fresher and more direct perspective of the Irish culture and civilization as I chose to stay with a family and thus could practise English in various situations all the time. Moreover, I gained greater expertise in the educational field as I was provided with the best methods and tools to continue my work within professional grounds. On a personal level, this program has represented another important step in my self-development and has come to fulfill my permanent quest for improvement and learning. Not to mention that it managed to fire my enthusiasm for teaching again.
To conclude, if your teaching vision is one of lifelong learning, it is worth participating in any of training courses you can find in the European Training Courses Database (or similar databases) which you might find useful for your classes. However, bear in mind your students’ needs and interests when you pick a course, because they are the direct beneficiaries of your training. These courses undoubtedly give us the tools to keep our students and ourselves happy with our work; this can be so difficult sometimes, but so worthwhile when successful.


 

 

 Sloganeering in Education. Biases and Fallacies in Didactic Communication

by Gabriela Pachia, Master in Journalism
Colegiul Naţional Bănăţean, Timişoara

Keywords: bias, communication, education, fallacy, sloganeering, social psychology

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
Alan Kay

The sciences of communication reveal the mechanisms of the social influence phenomena – “the art of influencing” and “the art of communicating”. On the grounds of the systemic theory of communication, also making use of comprehensive analysis, we have investigated the field of didactic communication with a view to identify persuasion, manipulation, empathy, as well as the biases, fallacies, and the blockages in communication, making themselves manifest particularly in the form of sloganeering. As a good communicator, the teacher of English ought to spot and thwart the “viruses” in communication, resorting to the psycho-pedagogical foundations of communication since “we are not creatures of circumstance, we are creators of circumstance” (Benjamin Disraeli). Our paper aims at classifying and exemplifying group and individual biases and fallacies which characterise didactic communication due to its high levels of subjectivity, “truthfulness”, and to the frequency of sloganeering. Examples from daily-biased sentences are offered with the hope of restoring communication to its genuine condition.
Social influence envisages the generation of new – both positive and negative – significances through a multitude of processes and phenomena such as compliance, persuasion, normalisation, obedience, imitation, manipulation etc. For motivationists, “«good communication» means the communication which engenders a wish, a motivation or a profound need, and which, almost without the subject’s knowledge, will make him «move» towards the object of his wishes” (MuccAc, 25). According to the formal-transactional paradigm, communication becomes a ‘game’, a “system of recurrent transactions, superficially plausible, with hidden motivations” (MuccAc, 32), which employs stratagems to cause the interlocutors “«to enter the game» and to play a complementary role” (MuccAc, 31). From the point of view of the systemic-relational paradigm, groups, families, institutions are considered ‘ill’ if their rigid games place the participants in the position of subordinates / complementaries, i.e. schismogenesis (MuccAc, 44): dominator / dominee, teacher / pupil, adult / child or teenager, master / disciple etc. The praxeological-phenomenal paradigm emphasises the permanent collective reconstruction of the world, through empathy, stating that “we build the world, we do not perceive it” (Palo Alto NLP, Apud MuccAc, 57). Interpersonal communication requires deep knowledge of social psychology, the constructivist-situationist perspective distinguishing between seven fundamental contexts which create meaning: space, the physical and sensorial context, time, the actors’ relative positions, the immediate sociorelational context, the cultural and the expressive contexts. Accordingly, teachers must positively change the meaning attributed to a situation to effect a change in behaviour, by creating ‘affectional «proximity»’ (e.g. ‘school is the place where I feel fine, I can affirm my personality and skills, I can improve myself, I have a wide circle of friends / coworkers, I am appreciated and rewarded’). As a consequence, communication as social interaction is “an instrument of human action” (MuccAc, 245).
The “prejudices” / “biases” / “errors” / preconceived ideas / a priori / “sophisms” / false beliefs of communication display a subjective character – the so-called “unacknowledged favouritism” –, leading to both self-deception and miscommunication. Broadly speaking, there are confirmation / validation prejudices (e.g. ‘I believe so because I want things to be my way’) and systemic prejudices (e.g. wrong evaluation), to be found in the following fields: cognitive (statistics, memory errors, wrong attribution), inductive / logical (“minimum description length”: ‘the simplest solution is the best’; “minimum features”: unessential features should be eliminated; “maximum margin”: groups, classes or forms can be obviously delineated; “nearest neighbours”: the neighbouring elements are similar to each other; the “perfect solution fallacy”: since no solution is perfect, it is not worth tackling any solution), media, statistics (students are frequently the subject of media investigation, being overrepresented in surveys).
The cognitive biases distort reality, arising from localism, one’s native environment, loyalty requirements (e.g. “representativeness heuristic”: judging from similar cases or experiences) and being characteristic of groups (“the risky shift”; “ingroup bias” and “outgroup homogeneity bias”: the group members are more highly regarded than the outsiders; “déformation professionnelle”: the excuse of small-scale perspective; “rank-based organisation”: reward is proportional to one’s hierarchical position – Nielsen, 2004) or of individuals (“fundamental attribution error”; “actor-observer bias”; “group attribution error”; “positivity effect”; “negativity effect”; “overconfidence effect”; “negative proof”; “argument from ignorance”: things are real since they have not proved to be false). Biases and fallacies may affect:
• decision making (“selective perception”; “illusory correlation”; “loss aversion”: since a loss is twice stronger than a gain; “endowment effect” / “divestiture aversion”; “hyperbolic discounting”: the preference for immediate rewards, however small they might be; “framing”; “hindsight bias” / “‘I-knew-it-all-along’ effect”: past events seem predictible; “impact bias”: overestimating future events; “pseudocertainty effect”; “wishful thinking”; “bandwagon effect” / “herd behaviour” / “groupthink”; “reactance”: the tendency to do the opposite of requested things; “extreme aversion”; “illusion of control”; “focusing effect”; “planning fallacy”: underestimating dead-ends; “information bias”: ‘knowledge is power’);
• memory (“anchoring” in the past; the “egocentric bias”; “choice-supportive bias”: exaggerating former decisions; “consistency bias”: incorrect memory of the past; “rosy retrospection”; “suggestibility”: suggestions are taken for memories);
• motivation (“hot cognition” versus “cold cognition”; “self-serving bias” / “self-directing bias”: greater appreciation of one’s success than one’s failure; “illusion of asymmetric insight”: the belief that one has better insight of the other people than vice versa; “mere exposure effect”: preference is based on familiarity and repeated visualisation);
Several biases and fallacies develop in areas such as:
• probability and beliefs (“attention effect”; “ambiguity effect”; “clustering illusion”: presupposed connections where they do not exist; “ludic fallacy”: reality is but a game; “optimism fallacy”; “overconfidence effect”; “positive outcome bias” / “wishful thinking”: expecting a positive outcome; “gambler’s fallacy”; “conjunction fallacy”; “primacy and recency effect”; “reminiscence bump”: recalling events from youth; “telescoping effect”: reversing time distances to events; “stereotypy”; “spotlight effect” etc.;
• “social biases” / “attribution biases” (“halo effect”; “projection effect”; “the just world” phenomenon: people get what they deserve; “notational bias”; “group-serving bias”; “self-fulfilling prophecy”: adopting the bevavioural patterns which confirm our beliefs; “system justification”; “trait ascription bias”: assuming that the others are predictible;
• “logic of emotions” (“appeal to emotion”: ‘school belongs to children’; “appeal to consequence”: ‘clonation is useful; “appeal to fear”; “fear, uncertainty and doubt”: ‘if you do not graduate from a great college, you will not find a decent job / you will remain poor’; “appeal to flattery”: ‘an intelligent student like you will certainly understand’; “appeal to pity”: ‘if you give me an 8, my final mark will never be 10’, ‘I need a 10, otherwise my mum will give my puppy away’; “appeal to ridicule”; “appeal to spite”: ‘Why do you take part in the competition? The teacher will never give you more than 8!’; “wishful thinking”: ‘My new classmate speaks English so well! I think he will be my friend!’;
Sloganeering in education is often based on biases or fallacies as mentioned before: “Less is more”, “Get them interested!”, “Put first things first!”, “Create synergy in the classroom!”, “Treat all students fairly!”, “Every school a good school!”, “Excellence in education”, “quality education”, “To really educate, teach Values!”, “The best course of action is that which benefits the most people”. They are deeply grounded in the students’, the parents’ and the teachers’ minds and are easily detected during the English classes, too:
• “knowledge is power”;
• “students in cities learn English better than those in the countryside”;
• “you will never learn English properly since it is a foreign language”;
• “if you belong to a good form, you will be a good student”;
• “twins speak English in the same manner so they should have the same mark”;
• “if you start learning English properly, you will finally be an excellent student”;
• “learn English the emotional way”;
• “descriptive essays are hard to write”;
• “funny students are always rewarded”;
• “I do not want to learn English because my former teachers neglected me”;
• “I did not deserve that bad mark!”;
• “each student gets what he deserves”;
• “teachers never listen”;
• “my former students were much better in English”;
• “I am just a teacher of English”;
• “English portfolios are a waste of time”;
• “English will help you in life”;
• “you are preparing for your future”;
• “I can speak English, but I can’t write”;
• “I like English very much / more than other languages”;
• “the teachers of English are different from the rest”;
• “I am not stressed during the English classes”;
• “where there is a will there is a way”;
• “think positively!”;
• “I shall never forget my English teacher”;
• “I have learnt so much for the evaluation paper in English”;
• “students used to read more English books”;
• “English has nothing to do with French or Latin”;
• “if education is expensive, try ignorance”;
• “the costs of education can be reduced” etc.
Unfortunately, slogans generate ambiguity, frustration, and resentment – W. Edwards Deming denounced mottoistic slogans –, in spite of their apparent lofty intentions and motivational power, due to the fact that they hide logically questionable statements. Building identity in our complex world may easily be biased by the wrong assumptions, by slogans which abound in every aspect of our everyday life. Nowadays, the teachers’ task increases to follow the most recent developments in social psychology, having to reconsider communication as “a meaning-generating relationship” (MuccAc, 15), “creating an intersubjective world which should serve intercomprehension” (MuccAc, 71).

Bibliography

Baron, J., Thinking and Deciding, 3rd edition, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Baron, R., Behavior in Organization, New York, Allyn & Bacon, Inc., 1983.
Bono, Edward de, Gândirea lateralǎ, Bucureşti, Editura Curtea Veche, 2006, Traducere de Sabina Dorneanu.
Browne, M. N., Keeley, S. M., Asking the Right Questions, 7th ed., Upper Saddle River, NJ, Prentice Hall, 2004.
Cardon, A., Jocurile manipulǎrii, Bucureşti, Editura Codecs, 2002.
Cuilenburg, J.J. van, Scholten, O., Noomen, G.W., Ştiinţa comunicǎrii, Bucureşti, Editura Humanitas, 2004 (sigle: CSN, 9).
Dâncu, Vasile Sebastian, Comunicarea simbolicǎ. Arhitectura discursului publicitar, Cluj-Napoca, Editura Dacia, 2001 (sigle: DCom).
DeVito, J., Human Communication. The Basic Course, New York, Harper & Row, Inc., 1988.
Eiser, J. R., van der Pligt, Joop, Attitudes and Decisions, London, Routledge, 1988.
Facione, P., Facione, N., Thinking and Reasoning in Human Decision Making: The Method of Argument and Heuristic Analysis, The California Academic Press, 2007, http://www.insightassessment.com/books.html.
Farnsworth, Stephen, Lichter, S. Robert, The Nightly News Nightmare: How Television Portrays Presidential Elections, 2nd ed., Rowman & Littlefield, 2006.
Fine, Cordelia, A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives, Cambridge, UK, Icon Books, 2006.
Gamble, T. K., Gamble, M., Communication Works, New York, McGraw-Hill, 1993.
Gilovich, T., How We Know What Isn’t So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life, New York, The Free Press, 1993.
Gilovich, T., Griffin D., Kahneman, D. (Eds.), Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment, Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press, 2002.
Grant, C.A., Sleeter, C.E., Turning on Learning: Five Approaches for Multicultural Teaching Plans for Race, Class, Gender, and Disability, Indianapolis, Jossey-Bass, An Imprint of Wiley, 2006.
Griffin, Emory A., A First Look at Communication Theory, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997.
Guéguen, Nicholas, Psihologia consumatorului. Factorii care ne influenţeazǎ comportamentul de consum, Iaşi, Editura Polirom, 2006, Traducere de Marius Roman.
Hybels, S., Weaver, R., Communicating Effectively, New York, Random House, 1986.
Kahneman D., Slovic P., Tversky, A. (Eds.), Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases, New York, Cambridge University Press, 1982.
Kruger, Justin, Dunning, David, Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments, în Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 77, No. 6, 1999, pp. 1121-1134.
Ladson-Billings, G., The Dreamkeepers, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, 1997.
Miller, K., Communication Theories: Perspectives, Processes, and Contexts, 2nd edition, New York, McGraw-Hill, 2005.
Mucchielli, Alex, Arta de a influenţa. Analiza tehnicilor de manipulare, Iaşi, Editura Polirom, 2002 (sigle: MuccAi).
Mucchielli, Alex, Arta de a comunica. Metode, forme şi psihologia situaţiilor de comunicare, Iaşi, Editura Polirom, 2005 (sigle: MuccAc).
Mucchielli, Alex, Teoria proceselor de comunicare, Bucureşti, Institutul European, 2006.
Mucchielli, Alex, Comunicare în instituţii şi organizaţii, Iaşi, Editura Polirom, 2008.
Nielsen, Jeffrey S ., The Myth of Leadership. Creating Leaderless Organizations, Palo Alto, Davies-Black, 2004.
Nisbett, R., Ross, L., Human Inference: Strategies and Shortcomings of Human Judgement, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice-Hall, 1980.
Pease, A., Gardner, A., Limbajul vorbirii, Bucureşti, Editura Polimark, 1994.
Pease, Allan & Barbara, Abilitǎţi de comunicare, Bucureşti, Editura Curtea Veche, 2007.
Peretti, Andrede, Legrand, Jean-Andre, Boniface, Jean, Tehnici de comunicare, Iaşi, Editura Polirom, 2001.
Piatelli-Palmarini, Massimo, Inevitable Illusions: How Mistakes of Reason Rule Our Minds, New York, John Wiley & Sons, 1994.
Plous, S., The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making, New York, McGraw-Hill, 1993.
Ross, R., Speech Communication, New Jersey, Prentice-Hall, 1986.
Schacter, D. L., The Seven Sins of Memory: Insights From Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, in American Psychologist, Vol. 54., No. 3, 1999, 182-203.
Severin, Werner J., Tankard, James W., Jr., Communication Theories: Origins, Methods, Uses, New York, Hastings House, 1979.
Sutherland, Stuart, Irrationality: The Enemy Within, Second Edition, Pinter & Martin, 2007.
Tavris, Carol, Aronson, Elliot, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions and Hurtful Acts, Orlando, Florida, Harcourt Books, 2007.
Torrington, D., Hall, L., Personal Management. A New Approach, New York, Prentice Hall, 1991.
Zeca-Buzura, Daniela, Veridic.Virtual.Ludic. Efectul de real al televiziunii, Iaşi, Editura Polirom, 2009.
http://adage.com/century/slogans.html
http://www.communicationides.com
http://www.en.wikipedia.org
http://www.fallacyfiles.org
http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite
http://www.logicalfallacies
http://www.mindpowermarketing.com
http://www.newfoundations.com/SLOGANSre/BeckerSlogans.html


 

 Being Creative When Teaching the Order of Adjectives, a Distinctive Feature of EFL. Practical Aspects

by Cătălina-Ecaterina Burlacu, Ionel Teodoreanu School, Iaşi

Keywords: adjective word order, website, realia, handouts

As learners or teachers of English we have encountered many distinctive features of this particular language (the so called English phenomena) difficult to understand even by ourselves or to teach to someone else. All these specific features of EFL (be it anthropological, cultural, ideological or linguistic) should make the focus of our teaching starting from the earliest educational stages. Apart from specific emphasis on linguistic differences (ambiguities in pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar), a teacher should not disregard the problem of non-standard varieties or traditional culture. All these components build the identity unit of a certain language (ethnos) which we and our learners should be familiar with.
Since we have mentioned the linguistic component, we intend to present from a methodological point of view a morphological distinctive feature, namely the order of adjectives in English. Compared to Romanian, the order of adjectives in English might be really problematic for some of our learners, taking into account the fact that there is an order of adjectives that native speakers of English normally follow. Moreover, at elementary levels, the fact that adjectives are never plural in English could seem really unusual for some learners. How do we, as teachers, cope with these cases? Besides theory, tough explanations and rules, what else could we do to make our learners understand and internalize these distinctive features more easily?
In the first instance, lacking other helpful tips or creative solutions, teachers might present the normal order of adjectives starting from the following basic scheme: OPINION – APPEARANCE – AGE – COLOUR – ORIGIN – MATERIAL. Undoubtedly, there will be many explanations and examples written on the blackboard and a lot of confusion in our students` heads. Probably, some of them will find learning by heart the most adequate solution to retain this scheme. Is it efficient? What if, one day, the student cannot remember the scheme with the right order of adjectives? What if he/she fails a test because of that? In a natural conversation he/she will manage to transmit the message with or without the right order of adjectives, but it would be a success if he/she can do it in a native-like way.
Since the present essay intends to approach the problem from a methodological point of view, our purpose is to find some solutions with real applicability in real teaching. That is why we offer the following model for teaching the order of adjectives in a meaningful and contextualized way.
First of all, I would present to my learners a real-life situation and invite them to simulate it: Let's say you want to buy a new mobile phone. If they perceive some utility and real purpose in the task, they will do it willingly. Then, I explain why it is important to use adjectives in communication. A simple and realistic explanation would be “You could not go to the mobile phone dealer and say, "I have been dreaming about having a new phone for a long time. I know exactly what I want. Please give it to me.” In this situation, since the seller is not a guesser, your student realizes that he/she will have to describe his/her dream phone; otherwise he/she simply wouldn't get it. So far, the use of descriptive adjectives seems to be really important. For a more realistic context, two students will play the seller’s and the buyer’s roles. At the beginning, the conversation might go like this:
“So what kind of mobile phone do you want?”
“Hmmm…I want to buy a blue phone. I want to buy a new phone. I want to buy a Japanese phone. I want to buy a beautiful phone.”
If this is the way my student expresses his/her wishes, I would be tempted to believe that he/she wants to buy four different phones. However, my purpose is to make my student buy only one phone. The next question for my class is how they would combine the four sentences into only one. Here are my suggestions for making them better understand this issue.
Taking into account the well known hobby of our learners, that is computers, I introduce the order of adjectives starting from a fictitious web address. I present it step by step, asking for their help and making them feel confident. As all web addresses, ours too starts with “www”. Then, I add to my address the first too letters of the most fearful terrorist’s name, that is osa (Osama). Then, I ask my students what we encourage when a terrorist is nearby. The expected answer is “silence”. Consequently, in our web address, this turns into sh! Afterwards, we add the final ending of every common web address, namely the “com” part. What our learners get after these steps is the following fictitious web address, used as a mnemonic device.

www. osa.(sh).com

Next, the teacher will provide the associations between the web address and the order of adjectives, giving also some examples of adjectives for each category.
- O= opinion: good, bad, beautiful, ugly, smart, dumb
- S=size: big, small, high, low
- A=age: new, antique, old, young, two-year old
- Sh=shape: round, circular, square
- C=colour: white, purple, red, navy blue
- O=origin: French, Chinese, American
- M=material: iron, cotton, wooden
After having clarified the right order of adjectives, the buyer of the mobile phone has to express his/her wishes in a single sentence, that is” I want to buy a beautiful, new, blue, Japanese mobile phone”. With beginners, especially children in primary school, similar examples could be given while pointing to pictures or even realia brought in the classroom:
- a huge, round, metal bowl
- a yellow, wooden pencil
- a small, red, sleeping bag
- a nice, big, white, metal reading lamp
Following the right developmental stages of a well planned lesson, after the theoretical background, I intend to have some practice with my students. According to the current approaches in teaching, all the activities should be as authentic and meaningful as possible, fostering communication in real-life situations. Bearing this in mind, I intend to rehearse the order of adjectives by a sentence auction activity.
First of all, the learners receive some handouts containing a number of sentences, correct or incorrect according to the right order of adjectives. Like in any auction, they have also a sum of money at their disposal. Since we work with large classes, the most suitable interaction pattern is group work, the students having thus the possibility to speak with their partners, analyze the correctness of the sentences, rearrange the adjectives in a sentence, appreciate the bids, and eventually offer a bid price on their own. Moreover, for a full authentic and meaningful context, there is also a bid moderator. Besides the order of adjectives, this activity focuses also on cardinal numerals. The sentence auction will go like this: each sentence is read by each group and different bid prices are offered according to their degree of correctness. The group who manages to buy the greatest number of correct sentences is declared the winner of the auction. Here are some examples of sentences proposed for a sentence auction:
- The French teacher was sitting at an ugly big brown wooden office desk.
- My sister had long black straight hair cut yesterday.
- As I was watching the historic oval black and white family photograph somebody entered the room.
- Tom was given an adorable black little kitten by his sister
- A Canadian small thin lady with a big red plastic hat was wearing a dirty old flannel shirt.
- My grandmother has knitted a nice woolen new pullover for me.
To conclude, the order of adjectives can be considered a morphological distinctive feature of the English language compared to Romanian. Consequently, being specific to a certain linguistic system, it may pose some problems to the learners. Since the current trend in EFL methodology is to teach grammar in context, meaningfully and with direct applicability outside the classroom, we have intended to offer a model for such an approach: simulations in the classroom, use of realia, activities rehearsing interaction and communication and a handy mnemonic device (www. osa.(sh).com) for an apparently difficult specific feature of EFL. All in all, the key is a bit of creativity from the teacher’s part and direct performance through interactive and authentic tasks, likely to happen in the real world, outside the classroom.



 

 

 Vocabulary Teaching Strategies. More than Presenting New Words

by Ioana Constantinescu Dugan, Şcoala nr.31, Bucureşti
 

Keywords: teaching strategies, vocabulary, lexis.

Teaching vocabulary is clearly more than just presenting new words, since knowing a word means much more than knowing its form and meaning.
Jeremy Harmer summarizes 'Knowing a word' in the following way:

MEANING - Meaning in context; Sense relations
WORD USE - Metaphor and idiom; Collocation
WORDS - Style and register
WORD INFORMATION - Parts of speech; Prefixes and suffixes; Spelling and pronunciation
WORD GRAMMAR - Nouns: countable and uncountable, etc.; Verb complementation, phrasal verbs, etc.; Adjectives and adverbs: position, etc.

More recently two important arguments suggest that treatment of vocabulary should be given appropriate attention in any activity related to foreign language study, whether this is learning, teaching or writing materials:
(a) words are carriers of meaning. In their absence no communication can take place,
(b) words cannot be learnt at first encounter. To help learners communicate meaningfully, teachers and teaching materials equally should have a policy concerning vocabulary and this includes, among other things:
(i) selection - one cannot teach all the vocabulary of English;
(ii) integration of high priority items, to make sure that students can express basic ideas;
(iii) a lot of practice in situations which are as meaningful as possible;
(iv) revision and testing of the vocabulary taught.

“Learning is a process by which information is obtained, stored, retrieved and used”. Here “use” is mainly defined as vocabulary practice rather than interactional communication. Therefore vocabulary learning strategies could be any which affect this. Some of the strategies have been classified as communication or production strategies ( i.e paraphrase the meaning of the word). Recent research by Stoffer showed 53 items clustered into nine groups:
-strategies involving authentic language use;
-strategies involving creative activities;
-strategies used for self-motivation;
-strategies used to create mental linkages;
-memory strategies;
-visual/auditory strategies;
-strategies involving physical action;
-strategies used to overcome anxiety;
-strategies used to organize words.
Stoffer proposes four strategy groups: Social, Memory, Cognitive and Metacognitive. Social strategies (SOC) use interaction with other people to improve language leaning. Approaches which relate new material to existing knowledge fall into the Memory strategies category (MEM). Cognitive strategies (COG) exhibit the common function of “ manipulation of transformation of the target language by the learner”. Metacognitive strategies (MET) involve a conscious overview of the learning process and making decisions about planning, monitoring or evaluating the best way to study.
There is no category in Oxford’s taxonomy which describes the kind of strategies used by an individual when faced with discovering a new word’s meaning without recourse to another person’s experience. So, it a new category was created for these strategies: Determinations strategies (DET).A more basic distinction between vocabulary activities has been suggested by Nation .
When encountering a word for the first time, learners must use their knowledge of the language, contextual clues, or reference materials to figure out the new meaning, or ask someone else who knows. These strategies for gaining initial information about a new word are labeled Discovery Strategies. Once learners have been introduced to a new word, it is worthwhile to make some effort to remember it using Consolidation strategies, which come up from the Social, Memory, Cognitive , or Metacognitive strategy groups.

the syllabus should take into consideration students’ affective, cognitive, attitudinal skills and characteristics;
-the variety of topics and tasks of interest for their age;
-relevant and attractive illustrations;
-using songs, jokes, rhymes and games-the info gap activities which are based on the need to communicate with another party in order to get the complete information;
-the opinion gap where participants exchange views on a given subject;
-personalization activities are relate directly to the learners themselves;
-authenticity in task design and language that give students the feeling of reality, immediacy and usefulness;
- open-ended tasks involve several possible answers or different degrees of predictability.

Discovery strategies

Determination strategies
If learners do not know a word, they must discover its meaning by guessing from their structural knowledge of the language, guessing from language 1 cognate, guessing from context, using reference materials, etc.
Cognates are words in different languages which have descended from a common parent word, such as Mutter in German and mother in English. Learners do not automatically accept cognates as equivalent. It depends on the perceived distance between the two languages.
Guessing an unknown word’s meaning from context has been widely promoted . Context should be taken to mean more than just textual context, however, since contextual clues can come from a variety of sources. Pictures have been shown to be useful if learners focus on them. If the discourse is spoken, gestures or intonation can give clues to meaning. Nevertheless, guessing from context most commonly refers to inferring a word’s meaning from the surrounding words in a written text. First, the learner must also have a certain level of language proficiency in order to use this strategy. The learner must also have adequate background knowledge of the subject and the strategic knowledge of how to effectively go through the inference process. The context itself must be rich enough with clues to enable guessing ,with the most easily utilizable clues being in close proximity to the target word.
Social strategies
A second way to discover a new meaning employs the social strategy of asking someone who knows. Teachers are often in this position and they can be asked to give help in a variety of ways:
-giving a synonym;
-giving a definition by paraphrase;
-using the new word in a sentence.
Though synonyms have similar meanings, students need to know collocational, stylistic and syntactic differences in order to use them effectively in a productive mode.
Paraphrasing involves similar kinds of complexities.
Classmates can be asked for meaning in all of the above ways, but to condense the taxonomy, only the general item ‘ Ask classmates for meaning’ is listed. Learners can be introduced to new words and discover their meaning through group work.

Consolidation strategies

Social strategies
Besides the initial discovery of a word, group work can be used to learn or practise vocabulary. The social context enhances motivation of the participants ; cooperative learning can prepare the participants for team activities outside the classroom; students have more time to actually use and manipulate language in class. If input is a key element in language acquisition, then it would seem that interacting with native speakers would be an excellent way to gain vocabulary.
Memory strategies
Most memory strategies ,traditionally known as mnemonics, involve relating the word to be retained with some previously learned knowledge, using some form of imagery, or grouping.
“ Mnemonics work by utilizing some well-known principles of psychology : a retrieval plan is developed during encoding, and mental imagery, both visual and verbal, is used. They help individuals learn faster and recall better because they aid the integration of new material into existing cognitive units and because they provide retrieval cues.”
Pictures/ imagery
New word can be learned by studying them with pictures of their meaning instead of definitions. Pairing words with pictures has shown to be better than pairing them to their L1 equivalents. Alternatively, learners can create their own mental images of a word’s meaning. Imagery has been shown to be more effective than mere repetition for reading passages and sentences. New words can also be associated with a particularly vivid personal experience of the underlying concept, for example, a learner mentally connecting the word snow to a memory of playing in the snow while a child.

The distinction between vocabulary for 'productive' use (active vocabulary) and vocabulary for 'receptive' recognition (passive vocabulary) should be considered. Teachers can adopt appropriate methodological strategies when preparing to each lesson or to test students’ vocabulary.
Students are encouraged to develop their paraphrasing skills.
Practice of vocabulary for active use, at the upper secondary level, is more integrated in the communicative activities meant to develop skills.
The introduction of active vocabulary means focus on form/spelling, meaning and pronunciation ( sound and word stress).
In pre-reading or lead-in activities difficult vocabulary items are anticipated and meaning is clarified but students are also encouraged to guess meaning of some words from context.
At the lower secondary level this has the main aim of developing the skills of extensive reading and contributes to the students’ enjoyment of reading and to developing their language abilities in general, but it also trains students in recognizing the meaning of words in context.

Ways to introduce and practise vocabulary
Most of lexical activities meant to raise students' awareness of the meaning of the words through tasks of graded difficulty.
• At the lower secondary level, one way of introducing new words is through illustrations. Pictures are labelled or words are given separately and students are asked to match them with pictures.
At upper secondary level, pictures continue to serve a good purpose in helping students to decode meaning very quickly or to practise vocabulary: e.g. Match the captions and the pictures or Look at the following pictures. What aspects of laser technology are illustrated?.
llustrations help revise vocabulary and give practice in speaking. For instance, a lead-in activity to the topic of the Internet is based on drawings which help students understand and explain how the system works.
At the same time, they revise and reinforce words and notions related to computers which they learnt .
• Matching words with their definitions or explanations. This type of exercise is widely used.
Students are asked to find words in the text after having read their definitions. In certain cases, students are also encouraged to make use of any clues in the reading text in order to be able to find the right match. For example: " ... on a crisp, dark November evening"ą helps students match crisp with fresh and cold or "... passed the time browsing in the windows of the many tourist shops"˛ helps them see that browsing matches looking at things in no hurry
• Word charts help bring to mind what certain words can be associated with. Here is an example from English My Love Unit 2 Lesson 4: round/heavy/rigid/ ... coin.
• Detailed description gets students to connect the words in lists A and B to make sentences describing certain jobs: "A physicist - studies physics and does research connected with physics"ł
• Word webs mainly deal with topic-related words e.g. word webs on seasons ; word webs on environmental problems.
In different instances, the word webs or mind maps are a way of expressing topic-related ideas. They lead to the practice of whole phrases to brainstorm or recycle notions or elements which define certain notions, e.g. the word web on countryside; the word web on cultural identity {English Horizons Unit 4 Lesson 3).
• Collocations e.g. really and absolutely + adjective. The teacher should show students how to look for words which collocate. Students in the upper secondary levels have to find out which verbs or which adjectives (given in two separate tables) collocate with experience (uncountable noun) and which with an experience (countable noun).
• Connotations familiarize students with the figurative, symbolic and deeper meaning of words. The work on connotations leads to the stylistic, metaphoric use of language. For example, students are asked to identify the characteristics associated with certain animals when they are used to describe human beings: vulture - someone who uses someone else's misfortune for their own advantage; guinea pig someone who is the subject of some kind of test.
• False friends. Students are asked to identify them in contexts and correct the mistakes.
• Work with phrasal verbs and idioms using pictures, paraphrase and a dictionary : the upper secondary series: book - idioms ,doing up the house idioms and phrasal verbs ;phrasal verbs;
A great variety of activities are meant to help revise and check vocabulary:
-finding the odd word in a series of related words: e.g. snowy, chilly, funny, rainy etc.
-multiple choice exercises
-answering questions
-‘cloze’ tests where students have to complete the gaps by choosing adequate words from lists or by thinking of appropriate words.
-fun activities like unscrambling words and crosswords, at the lower secondary level.

My beliefs about learning and teaching English at primary level are that:
• learners learn best when they are INVOLVED in what they are doing
• learning is CREATIVE as well as repetitive
• learning a foreign language should also mean LEARNING
ABOUT THE REAL WORLD
• young learners enjoy DOING, MAKING, MOVING and PLAYING
GAMES
• children love LISTENING TO STORIES and stories are a valuable source of COMPREHENSIBLE INPUT
• pupils need CLEAR, CONTROLLED LINGUISTIC MODELS to learn
from SYSTEMATICALLY
• SONGS and RHYMES are an excellent learning vehicle
• children love talking and writing ABOUT THEMSELVES
• childen learn best when their WHOLE BRAIN is involved: when the intuitive RIGHT SIDE (which is stimulated by music, songs, poems, dances, drawing, miming, moving, imagining and so on), is activated as well as the logical LEFT SIDE (responsible for language, mathematics and analytical thinking)
• some learners are more VISUAL, some are more AUDITORY, and some are more KINESTHETIC (they learn best through feeling or moving), and therefore teaching materials need a variety of content and approach to cater for all three
• GOOD PRONUNCIATION is essential and children are gifted in this area
• materials need to be THOUGHT-PROVOKING to satisfy enquiring young minds
• classroom work should be INTERACTIVE, CO-OPERATIVE and
ENJOYABLE
• materials need to be PITCHED RIGHT to appeal to and show respect for children who are more sophisticated than we were at that age!
“Learners have on/track minds. When they are focused on meaning, they find it very difficult to focus on form. The great challenge of teaching ,then, is to set up activities which are essentially meaning-focused, but within which a focus on form can be engineered. It is what makes teaching an art, not a science .” (Scott Thornbury in Sue Kay & Vaughan Jones, Inside Out Upper Intermediate, MacMillan Heinemann,2001)

Bibliography:
1. Harmer Jeremy, The practice of English Language Teaching, Oxford University Press,2003
2. Stockwell Robert & Minkova D., English words, history and structure, Cambridge University Press, 2001
3. McCarten Jeanne, Teaching Vocabulary, Cambridge University Press, 2007
4. Hiebert Elfrida,Kamil Michael, Teaching and Learning Vocabulary-Bringing Research to Practise, Lawrence Erlbaum Association Inc.,Publishers, New Jersey, USA, 2005
5. Blachowitz Camille,Teaching Vocabulary Across the Content Area, Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, USA, 2007
 

 Being an Alien. Reading Literature in the Classroom
by Ramona Elena Gavriloaia, “Vasile Alecsandri” National College Bacău

Keywords: cultural identity, extensive reading, graded readers.



Learning a foreign language means assuming a whole new cultural identity. It is, in fact, the decoding of another signifying system and the managing of a new set of representations. In this process we find ourselves as aliens on the streets of a totally different world, unable to fully understand it and to be entirely understood. In the beginning of the learning process any novice is like a “Gulliver” who finds himself at the right time, but the wrong place – sometimes too big, sometimes too small, but never the right size. This is why we find it so difficult to get on the same level with the culture whose language we are learning. In order to achieve this, we must make an endeavor to get acquainted not only with the language system, but also with the history, the civilization and the cultural heritage of that people. And the easiest way to do this is by means of reading, as literature is the “seismograph” of a nation registering its turmoils, tensions, values, and encapsulating its mentality. However, we have to agree on the idea that, to a certain extent it is clearly impossible for the “outsider” to fully share the range of references of an “insider”, We sometimes find ourselves as the lecturers in India who cannot appreciate Wordsworth’s “Daffodils” because they have no direct experience of this exotic bloom.

This is the moment teachers become indispensable, when they break the limits of their pure didactic role and turn into mentors of their students’ “be-coming”. Just as Stephen Krashen pointed out, there is more to a foreign language than learning, the conscious process where separate items of language are studied and practiced in turn; we must not ignore the tremendous role of acquisition, the subconscious and anxiety free process. Having this distinction in mind, we are able to say that the teacher is no longer a mere imparter of knowledge, but the provider of the right kind of language exposure, of what we call “comprehensible input”, the “language that the students understand more or less, even if it is a bit above their own level of production” (J. Harmer, p.47).

Students should be able to read texts in English either for their careers, for study purpose or simply for pleasure. Reading is an active process, a transaction between the reader and the text as he or she performs two actions simultaneously; he extracts information and constructs meaning at the same time. Reading is very useful for language acquisition as it has a positive effect on students’ vocabulary knowledge, on their spelling, it provides good models for writing, and can introduce interesting topics, stimulate discussion, and help create a well-rounded lesson. The fact that literary texts are, by their essence, open to multiple interpretation means that only rarely two readers will have identical understanding and reaction to the text. More than that, there is a “genuine feeling” of literary texts which is a powerful motivator, especially when allied to the fact that literary text often touch themes to which learners can bring their own experience.

In any reading activity there are a few principles that should be followed such as encouraging students to read as often and as much as possible, encouraging them to respond to the content of the text and exploring their feeling about it, not just concentrating on its construction, so they should manage to get involved in the reading material. And the most effective way to achieve that is by means of extensive reading, the kind of reading which students do often (but not exclusively) away from classroom, as opposed to intensive reading, the detailed focus on the construction of reading texts which takes place usually in classrooms, and accompanied by study activities. The best material for extensive reading is novels, web pages, newspapers, magazines or any other reference material. It should involve reading for pleasure, what Richard Day calls “joyful reading” (J. Harmer, p.99). This is more efficient if students have a chance to choose what they want to read, if they are encouraged to read and if they are given the opportunity to share their reading experiences. It is proven the fact that the students who read most progress fastest.

We shall focus on using literature for extensive reading purposes. Literary text should be used as a language teaching resource rather than an object of literary study as such. It is Alan Duff’s vision of “cutting away the dead weight of critical commentary, metalanguage, and explanation which has historically been associated with work on literary texts” (A Duff, A. Maley, p.5). The driving force behind reading such materials should be pleasure. Therefore, if we want students to read for pleasure we have to ensure that they do not attempt material that is just too difficult for them, as this could discourage them. This is why for lower-level students should be advised to use simplified or graded readers for extensive reading.

Readers have always been an effective tool for language acquisition, and lately they have become even more popular. This is due to the fact that they are books of both fiction and non-fiction and they satisfy a great variety of tastes and needs. The students are motivated to read because they are reading for the same reasons as they would in their own language: to learn more about something that interests them, to enjoy a good story or to increase their general knowledge.

Nick Dawson draws attention to the fact that “many foreign language learners lack confidence because they have a very negative self-image of themselves as successful foreign language learners and they fail because they do not believe they are capable of learning” (N. Dawson, p.2). Successful understanding of a reader at a suitable level can give the students enormous psychological encouragement and a great sense of achievement.

More than that, the amount of information in the graded reader is controlled, as this compensates for the difficulty learners have in absorbing information in a foreign language. The narrative technique is kept simple, references to cultural background are explained, complex sub-plots are avoided and photos and illustrations support the text and help comprehension.

There are four factors (J. Harmer, p.110) which contribute to the success of this kind of extensive reading:

1. library – students need to have access to a collection of readers, at their own level and above and below it, and it should have a variety of genres;
2. choice – students should be able choose what they read, in terms of genre and level;
3. feedback – students should have the opportunity to give feedback on what they read verbally, or in written;
4. time – students need to be given time for reading in addition to those occasions when they read on their own.

Alan Duff offers a way of gradually building up the degree of demand on students
(A Duff, A. Maley, p.8):

Level 1: easy text + low level task
Level 2: easy text + higher level task
Level 3: difficult text + low level task
Level 4: difficult text + higher level task

A wonderful example of readers at the crossroads between literature and civilization is “How to be an Alien”, by George Mikes, retold by Karen Holmes, a Penguin Reader, Level 3 (1200 headwords – pre-intermediate level). It is a stepping-stone of all types of classes, either focusing on reading practice, or literary texts, or on British culture. It answers several needs of the teacher, but of the students’ too, as it is a fantastic, amusing reading and offers a fresh perspective on being an alien as a general state of mind. The great advantage of these readers is that they help the teacher in creating the strategy used for reading, and offers activities for each stage (before reading, while reading, and after reading), thus meeting the requirements of a valuable didactic tool.

After having all these said, we might conclude that reading literature for/in the class serves one last purpose, and one of the most important, which is helping students to create a self-imposing system for them based on self-regulation, monitoring and directing in order for them to become independent learners, and why not, learning how to be the Alien.



Bibliography:

1. Dawson, Nick (2010): Penguin Readers. Teacher’s Guide to Using Graded Readers, Pearson Education Limited, Essex.
2. Duff, Alan; Maley, Alan (1991): Literature, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
3. Harmer, Jeremy (2007): How to Teach English, Pearson Education Limited, Essex.
 

 

 Memory, Music and Emotion in Learning. An ELT Approach

by Alina Ianeţ, “Nicolae Titulescu” National College- Pucioasa, Dâmboviţa

 

Keywords: habitual memory, short-term memory, emotional memory, music

 
The Complexities of Memory and Learning
Memory is one of the most complex subjects known to man. Why is it that there are some things that you just cannot remember? The more you try to remember, the more you forget. Why is it that there are things you have no wish to remember and in some cases they have little importance to you, yet you cannot forget them? My one-to-one lessons are often interrupted by “urgent” phone calls taken by my students, which may last a couple of minutes. It is amazing how often neither I, nor my student can remember what we were talking about before the interruption. How many great conversations have been ended, as a result of a phone call?
Different Kinds of Memory
There are many different kinds of memory. One of the most common is habitual memory. This is where one action, is almost always followed by another. A cat will therefore know, simply by observing its owner and his/her movements over a period of time, when it is about to be put to bed or out in the rain. It can therefore escape for a short time, before eventually being caught. Similarly, a small baby can predict as it is being placed into its chair for the umpteenth time, that dinner is about to be served. If the baby is anything like me, it will get excited and gleefully wave its arms all over the place. Another common form of memory is short-term memory. That is, remembering lots of information in a short period of time. Some students who have a strong short term memory, will use this skill to cram information into their heads just days or even hours before their exams, perform remarkably well, then just as quickly, forget almost all that they studied. Our students often do gap-fill exercises on the same basis. They study a particular grammar structure, perform a few exercises successfully, and assume that they have understood it and that they can use it correctly in conversation.
Word association is a good way of memorising vocabulary. That is why presumably, teachers often teach words together that are opposites. Sometimes a word is easy to remember because in some way it sounds silly. If it does, that’s great. The sillier the better. The consequence of this is that I now know some words in Dutch and Slovenian to name a couple of languages that I will never use in practical conversation, yet I will never forget them. This contrasts heavily with the view that the more you actively use an expression, the more likely you are to remember it, though this is of course true in most cases. Doing is indeed, one real way of learning.
Memory and Emotion
Not only do we remember what we were doing at some time in our past when some famous world events took place, but also where we were, who we were with, the temperature, aromas, colours and all kinds of trivial information which we normally forget over the course of time. The reason for this is quite simple. The information, which we would not normally remember, is inevitably linked to the emotion experienced. The strength of your memory recall is related to your feelings on the subject. If for example, you have little or no recollection of what you were doing when news of Princess Diana’s death came out, it is not because you have a bad emotional memory, but simply that you are either indifferent or don’t have especially strong feelings on the subject.
Apart from famous world events, there are personal events; birthdays, exam results, weddings, anniversaries, funerals and first loves, not to mention second and third loves, where our memory is inextricably linked to the emotion felt within that experience. Interestingly, most parents remember their child’s first day at school, more than the child him/herself does. Most of us should be able to remember the emotions we felt as we read our school-leaving exam results, what we ate or drank that day and where we spent the rest of the day. We should also find it difficult to forget our first loves, the sensations within as we gazed into our beloveds’ eyes, the aromas and sounds which surrounded us and the warmth of the hot sun! These emotional memories linger on for years and years.
The Power of Music
Music can be amazingly powerful. You only have to think of the Mozart effect, which claims that listening to certain pieces of Mozart’s music can increase learning capacities, making students more creative. It also has therapeutic benefits, such as reducing pains and curing illnesses. Several supermarkets deliberately play certain kinds of music in a bid to try to influence our spending patterns. It has been shown that there is often a connection between the music played in a shop and how much we as customers are prepared to spend. Think of your favourite TV ads! Why do you particularly like those ones? The reasons are almost certainly linked to the use of humour and music. What about ads that you don’t like? How often have you found yourself humming a tune that you detest, but can’t get out of your head? That’s the power of music! Every time I return home after attending a “live” music concert, I almost invariably sleep deeply. People use music in a variety of ways; to wake up in the morning, on their journeys to work, while working in the office and before they go to sleep. Some find it helps them when they are studying, others while they are cooking or cleaning. One of the reasons that it can be an incredibly powerful instrument is that it has such an enormous influence on our emotions.
How can teachers apply all these to their teaching and learning?
Researchers and linguists have come up with an enormity of ideas linking memory and learning. We have already seen that emotional memory can facilitate learning immensely. If I have to teach the word blind, I can either give the translation, or give a clear definition. A blind person is a person who cannot see. How long will my students remember that? If I get my students to close their eyes and be guided around the room for a few minutes, having to trust the person guiding them, the experience is so strong that I honestly cannot believe they will forget it easily. Every time they hear the word blind, they will remember that classroom experience.
Moreover, aside from this example, teachers need to escape from the uninspiring material found in numerous books and really get to know students. Focus on them and what they find interesting! Topics such as childhood can provoke emotions, as can achievements in sport and personal successes. One of my students had great difficulty with the three main conditionals. He was a big Roma football fan. I gave him real examples, using the performance of his favourite football team. He understood so well, that he was eventually able to use all three conditionals perfectly, citing real examples on a weekly basis. I could feel the emotion coming from within him, as he completed the sentence with, “If Montella had scored, Roma would have won the match.” It works far better than the overused, “What would you do if you won the lottery?” While it is nice to dream from time to time, how many of us actually know someone who has won the lottery?
It is clear from what we have seen that memory and emotion are strongly linked. If we can apply these to our teaching, using some of the techniques mentioned above and others, we will help our students, not only to understand difficult concepts, but also to remember them in the long-term and so encourage and promote “real” learning. Thanks to emotion and music, certain events remain forever etched in our minds. Once we accept the link between memory, music and emotion, we have to acknowledge that music and emotion are both important learning and teaching tools.
 

Bibliography
1. Charlyn Wessel , 1987, Drama ,Oxford; OUP, Resource Books for Teachers.
2. Jill Hadfield , 1992, Classroom Dynamics , Oxford; OUP Resource Books for Teachers.
3. Sarah Phillips, 2003, Drama with Chidren, Oxford; OUP, Resource Books for Teachers.
4. S. Halliwell, 1995, Teaching English in the Primary Classroom, Oxford; OUP, Resource Books for Teachers.

 

 Teaching Pre-Adolescence. A Challenge for the Teacher of English
by Elena Cigareanu, Shakespeare School, Bucharest

Keywords: adolescence, learning acquisition, language evolution, motivation strategies.

The aim of this article is to provide some useful information for all the teachers that teach pre-adolescents (10-14). This is a stage in their evolution when they have to deal with different problems from the ones they had as children, and so their interest in learning a foreign language may diminish. This is why the teacher has to understand they are going through a delicate period and he also has to find some strategies to motivate them to keep on learning.
The puberty and the adolescence are two of the most important stages in the human development, stages that are characterized by the evolution to maturity and a sort of integration in the adult society, with its social, political, familial and professional expectations. The pre-adolescence is seen as a precursory stage of adolescence.

The major characteristics of puberty or pre-adolescence are:
a full range of physical development and organic transformations
a considerable evolution of the cognitive processes, especially thinking and understanding a relative growth regarding the independence and autonomy the intensification of self-consciousness.

The most important characteristics of the learning acquisition are:
A great diversification of school subjects, each of them being based on a certain cognitive activity. There is also another important aspect related to this point, meaning the fact that all these new subjects involve a complexity of information and great amount of details which leads to the conclusion that the time and the importance of independent learning grows considerably.
The learning process has to be properly organized and systematic as the student has to face a lot of new teachers with different expectations.
As the cognitive particularities also develop into a new stage, meaning the formal operations stage (according to Piaget’s theory), this means that the student will understand faster if the information is presented in a verbal form, if the teacher speaks a lot with him.
The student’s memory volume also grows due to the level of information.

The most important aspects related to language evolution are:
There is a remarkable increase in the passive vocabulary, reaching a medium of 14000 words at around 14 years old.
The active vocabulary differs from individual to individual, as some of some them live in a language stimulating environment; meanwhile the others are not that lucky.
There shouldn’t be any kind of difficulties regarding the pronunciation of words.
Language evolves a lot during this period as the student becomes part of different groups, they have new colleagues and they have certain slang vocabulary.
The writing speed increases, their handwriting changes a lot, they start to truly understand the grammar rules, and some of them develop artistic skills.

Many of the theories related to pre-adolescence state that one of the most effective ways of determining students to learn a foreign language is to motivate them. This is why the teacher has to find his own strategies of making his students understand the need of individual work and the fact that they have to get actively involved in this task. I will mention next some strategies teachers can use when they have to motivate their students to learn and to get involved in the tasks they have to accomplish:
1. First of all, teacher should have an appropriate behaviour in class and towards their students. This means that he has to show enthusiasm for the course material, to respond immediately when his help is required and also to make his students understand his personal interest in the process of second language acquisition.
2. Secondly, the teacher should be some sort of entertainer for his students and this is why he has to make sure that in the classroom there is a very pleasant and supportive atmosphere.
3. All the materials the teacher brings to his class must be relevant and attractive, to increase their interest on the topic.
4. A teacher has to know some details about his students’ lives and hobbies, and when it is possible, to mention them so that the student feels he is important in this learning context.
5. The teacher could draw learners’ attention to their strengths and abilities.
6. When failure appears, the teacher could encourage learners to explain their failures by the lack of effort and appropriate strategies applied rather than by their insufficient ability.

In conclusion, teenagers have to be motivated to learn, as during this period they understand that they have to learn for a certain goal and that they have to achieve everything based on a conscious effort. This is why the teacher should have a background of motivational strategies in order to determine the student to get involved in the task. On the other hand, the pre-adolescents want to be recognized as group leaders, they want to be the best because, in this way, they will be appreciated by their groups. The teacher has to know how to use this situation in his advantage. Another important aspect for teachers is that in the pre-adolescence, the child is no longer interested in games or learning by means of repetition, he becomes interested in learning by means of verbal structures, music and competitions, or team projects.


Bibliography:

1. Tinca Creţu, Psihologia vârstelor, Bucureşti, editura Credis, 2006
2. Zoltan Dorney, Motivational Strategies in the Language Classroom, Cambridge Unviresity Press, 2001.
3. Ion–Ovidiu Pânişoară, Profesorul de succes: 59 de principii de pedagogie practică, Iaşi, Polirom, 2009.
4. Ursula Şchiopu, Emil Verza, Psihologia Vârstelor, Ciclurile Vieţii, Bucureşti, Editura Didactică şi Pedagogică, 1995.
 

 

 London. Immersion in a Two-Week British Cultural Experience
by Elisabeta Maxim, School no. 2, Botoşani

Keywords: professional and personal development, training course, creative methodology, culture and civilisation, A.N.P.C.D.E.F.P., Comenius grant

This summer I had the great opportunity to spend two weeks in the UK, attending the course “Overseas Teachers of English – Creative Methodology”, organised by Oxford House College, London. Due to a Comenius grant I got from ANPCDEFP, on the 10th of July I began my experience in the bustle of London. As I had never been in such a big city before I arrived there two days before the course began in order to give me some time to get accustomed to the places. I wanted to make the most of studying there, so I chose to live in homestay accommodation. This has proved to be a wise decision because I had the chance to be the guest of a very kind and communicative person who was patient enough to teach me new things every day. Thanks to Sheila, my host, I found out that car-boot sales are not only a way of buying brand-new things with only a few pence, but also a way of spending time outside the busy city. I found out that going to musicals and open-air theatres is very fashionable among Londoners. I was not only spoiled with her various and delicious meals, but she also had to answer a lot of questions related to the dishes she prepared: “What is it?”, “What is it made of?”, “Is it traditionally English?”, “How do you eat it?” etc. Every conversation with her was a cultural and a linguistic lesson at the same time. Apart from all the information she could give on the places that are worth visiting, the news on TV that we watched and commented upon together, the endless discussions on their customs, she also helped me with my English. It was very interesting to notice that words are used in a different manner by native speakers, that they tent to use some words and consider other words as being old-fashioned, that they use a lot of contractions that some time is difficult to understand what they are saying.
The first day of the course was one of the most exciting because we met our classmates and our mentor. Our mentor was Dominic Fennell, an experienced teacher trainer from the Oxford House College. Apart from being very knowledgeable, what made a deep impression on us was his teaching style. Dom, as he asked us to call him, was the liveliest, the most energetic teacher I had ever seen. The first thing I realised after starting this course was that I should use more humour in my classes because it is an excellent way of breaking the ice.
I was not the only participant from Romania, there were two more Romanian teachers. The other course participants were from Spain, Italy, Finland, Hungary, Greece and Turkey. We had classes from 9 a.m. to 12.30 a.m. every day, usually followed by a workshop or by a classroom observation session. During the first week of the course we discusses about different approaches to language teaching and different methods (The Grammar Translation Method, The Audiolingual Method, The Direct Method, Suggestopedia, The Silent Way, Total Physical Response, Task Based Learning, The Communicative Approach, The Natural Approach, The Lexical Approach etc). Two of these were emphasised: Task Based Learning and the Lexical Approach, both of them being discussed in distinct sessions. We were very involved in the teaching process as we were always asked to share our experiences, our favourite activities, our “magic tricks” through pair-work and group-work.
On Friday we had to say goodbye to some of our classmates, because they had chosen to take part only in the first week of course. We took a lot of group photos. Our collaboration throughout the whole week showed us that we can learn not only from the experienced teachers, but also from the ones who are at the beginning of their career, so we exchanged email addresses hoping to exchange ideas in the future too.
The weekend was the busiest part of the whole stay in London. I had two days and a half and a lot of places in mind to visit. On Saturday I walked along the Thames admiring The London’s Eye, The Globe Theatre, the City Hall and I visited the Houses of Parliament, The Westminster Abbey and Tate Modern. I chose to walk because this gave me time to observe the people around me, to hear them speaking. On my way home I stopped for a few moments in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was too late and the opening hours had finished. My Sunday began with the change of guards at The Buckingham Palace and continued with the Official London Transport Sightseeing Tour which offered me the chance to admire the most beautiful sights of the city. I hopped on and off a few times because I needed extra time for some places: The Tower of London and a cruise on the Thames.
The second week of the course brought new course participants to our classroom. They were from Italy, Spain and Brazil. We studied together effective techniques in teaching language skills: speaking, writing, reading and listening, and also phonetics and phonology. I particularly liked that in the era of technology we had a session on how to make your classes interesting with activities which require little or no preparation. This shows concern for the teacher too, because it is very common these days for the teachers to feel overwhelmed with so many responsibilities or even to become burnout.
During these two weeks we also attended a number of conferences. The Lexical Approach was the topic of the first one, held by Hugh Dellar, teacher and teacher trainer at the University of Westminster in London. He is also the author of the Innovations and Outcomes series of General English coursebooks, published by Heinle Cengage. The second conference was on academic writing and the topic of the third was language assessment, coordinated by a teacher trainer from The University of Cambridge.
I had a lot of expectations and the course was way above them. Our mentor succeeded in making his classes memorable due to his refreshing, interactive style, far from the traditional one. This makes him a very good teacher trainer because it involves the ability to explore answers from experienced teachers and using their experience to teach the new contents. At the same time, the methods and techniques we discussed about were not just a topic, but also an integrating part of the lesson which proved their efficiency.
I think that the time spent at Oxford House College together with all the other course participants contributed to our development not only as teachers, but also as human beings. The course encouraged us to develop a commitment to a high standard of continuing professional growth, gave us a greater awareness of our scope and space within the profession, fostered an in-depth awareness of the latest theory and practice in ELT, but also promoted teachers’ professional collegiality, within our individual institutions and the profession as a whole. Thus, if you intend to apply for a Comenius grant and you seek for professional and personal development, the “Overseas Teachers of English – Creative Methodology” course from Oxford House College in London is the perfect choice.

 

 Using the Discovery Technique for Teaching Grammar. Tips and Activities
by  Diana Toader, Mihail Kogalniceanu College, Focşani, Vrancea
 

Key words: tips, activities, discovery technique, 3rd conditional.


Introduction
What is the discovery technique?
Grammar can either be taught explicitly or implicitly. When we talk about an explicit approach to grammar we are talking about stating directly, usually at the beginning of a particular activity, what the grammar is. For example, “Today we are looking at the third conditional.” On the other hand an implicit approach to grammar is one where the students are ‘led’ to the grammar through a series of steps – this is what is meant by the ‘discovery technique’. In other words, the ‘discovery technique’ aims to lead students towards a generalised grammar rule or pattern.
Isn’t that the same as task-based learning?
No. Certainly task based learning is one form of ‘discovery technique’ but not the only way. In task-based learning the focus is on carrying out communicative tasks without specific focus on form. However, it is possible in the ‘discovery technique’ to be predominantly concerned with the form. The idea is that students will ‘discover’ the grammar through a series of steps (these might be tasks, language awareness activities, pictures, questions etc) and will deduce both the form and the meaning from the context(s).
Why use the discovery technique?
One reason is that students often surprise us with what they already know or half-know. By using the ‘discovery technique’ we learn more about their knowledge and abilities eliciting information from them rather than telling things to them.
Giving students chances to be exposed to, or to attempt to use, language ‘above’ their apparent level of knowledge of grammar is extremely useful and greatly aids future work on grammar. This approach celebrates what students can do – and clarifies precisely what still needs to be worked on.

An example activity
• Level : Intermediate/Upper Intermediate
• Grammar point: 3rd Conditional
• Function: Speculating about past possibilities (what might have happened).
• Materials: magazine pictures (optional) or board drawings.
Procedure - setting the context
Use the following story to set the scene & try to elicit the form:
This is John
(show a picture of a man looking unhappy)
Question: Does he look happy?
(Elicit the response – No)
Q: Why do you think he’s unhappy?
(Elicit a few ideas)
Well, John was going to meet his friend
( show a picture of a woman) Jane.
Q: What do you think happened?
(Elicit that John didn’t turn up)
John didn’t wake up until
(Elicit a time, and draw a clock) ____.
Because he woke up late he missed
(show a picture of a bus)
John tried to phone Jane but his mobile phone didn’t work.
(Elicit that he’d forgotten to charge it the previous night).
Jane waited for
(elicit a length of time e.g. an hour) and then she left.
Q: Where do you think she went?
(Try to elicit ‘nightclub’ & show a picture).
In the club Jane met
(show a picture of another man & elicit a name).

Jane and _____
(try to elicit fell in love) and they (try to elicit got married)
Note 1: You can build on this story.

Note 2: Use ideas elicited from your students BUT make sure that you keep the story on track (it is quite easy to go off on a tangent).
 

 

 Optional and Intensive Courses. The Need to Communicate in English
 
by Ştefana Balan

“Vasile Alecsandri” National College, Bacău

Keywords: TBLT, task, communicative, PPP, listening, reading, activity, work in pairs/groups, prediction, practice, production, confidence, language fluency, assessment.

INTRODUCING TASK-BASED LANGUAGE TEACHING IN THE ROMANIAN HIGH-SCHOOL
1. Introduction
Every EFL teacher dreams of finding the key to successful teaching and many studies and books, have been published containing such success recipes. Since I find myself in this category, I have often felt that I found the secret of perfect teaching when reading such theories, yet, I have also understood that the conditions for it are so diverse and why not say it, random? In my one decade of experience I have had the chance of working with students of great potential, and in most cases, motivation for language learning, but despite all these positive conditions, I also had my failures in obtaining the set objectives.
The first question which came to my mind when I started my career was: What makes a successful teacher? A number of answers crowded in my head: good knowledge of the language, social skills, and love for this career (I am now sure that it is indispensable), methodology knowledge, and good students. When I got all that, and still had teaching problems I continued questioning myself: What is missing?
I chose the topic of my article since it contains in itself a part of the answer I received to my question, and because it came with the promise of the discovery of the other part: conditions for successful teaching.
The article focuses on the TBLT method, presents it in the broader context of the Communicative Approach and of the European demands, and presents such aspects as: neurological aspects of language learning, planning, roles of teachers and students, language learning condition, principles of instructed second language acquisition etc. It presents at the same time a definition of the task, the phases of the task (pre-task, task cycle and language focus), types of task (listing/brainstorming, ordering/sorting, matching, comparing, problem-solving, sharing personal experiences and story-telling) as well as a parallel between the traditional PPP (present-practice-produce) and TBLT.
2. CLT-Communicative Language Teaching
As David Nunan pointed out, the language is more than a set of grammar rules or sets of vocabulary; it is a dynamic resource for creating meaning.
A first consideration in discussing methodological aspects is the difference between what the student knows and the language he can produce, the difference between competence (the what) and performance (the how).
The latest approaches and methods focus more on the language as a tool for communication, language as action.
There is today “a greater concern with the capacity for communication, with the activity of learning a language being viewed as important as the language itself and with a focus upon means rather than predetermined objectives, all indicating the priority of the process over the content.”
The general view is that students learn to communicate by communicating.
We need to notice that while the CLT is a broad methodological approach to the language curriculum, the task-based language teaching is a realisation of this philosophy at levels of syllabus design and methodology.
3. The TBLT Method
The first question coming to the teacher’s mind would be: What is TBL: a method, an approach, a direction in language teaching?
The answers are various, but most specialists agree that TBL is part of the Communicative Approach, previously presented, so we may consider it a method of teaching, and that just to simplify things.
For instance, Rita Baker considers TBL as a way of incorporating all approaches, the PPP in reverse. She also shows that the roles of the teacher are very diverse, from language teacher to trainer and coach.
Neurological Aspects
The human brain is in the form of the TRIUNE:
• The Novelty Seeker (learning brain) - the Cerebral Cortex (Neo-cortex and Cerebellum)
• The Pleasure Seeker (emotional brain) – the Limbic System (Mid-brain)
• The Physical Survival Expert (Brain Stem or Reptilian/Primitive Brain)
Effective learning requires the involvement of all parts of the brain, but every student is different. The Cortex (learning brain) is divided into left and right hemispheres, and the psycholinguists have been doing a lot of research to understand the implications of this differentiation and the individual learning styles, but I shall not get into many details since these findings alone may represent the contents of another article.
To keep it to the point, the task-based learning has the advantage of being highly brain compatible because it requires creation as opposed to consumption-representing one of the key requirements of the brain.
It is also highly memorable and time efficient and allows us to draw on various areas of knowledge including language training approaches and communication strategies. TBL directly highlights the situations in which participants require enhanced competence and is similar to the real world problem-solving and coping.
4. Towards a definition of the task
The parent of TBL, Prabhu, defines the task as “an activity which required students to arrive at an outcome from given information through some process of thought and which allowed teachers to control and regulate that process.”
Jane Willis defines tasks as “activities where the target language is used by the student for a communicative purpose (goal) in order to achieve an outcome.
Other definitions of the task were: ”a piece of work undertaken for oneself or for others, freely or for some reward” ; “a work plan that requires students to process language pragmatically in order to achieve an outcome that can be evaluated in terms of whether the correct or appropriate propositional content has been conveyed.”
The students need to give more attention to meaning and make use of their linguistic resources. The most important role of a task is to result in language use that resembles, directly or indirectly to the language use in the real situations.
As for the language skills, a task can engage productive or receptive, oral or written skills and cognitive processes.
David Nunan defines the pedagogical task as “ a piece of classroom work that involves students in comprehending, manipulating, producing or interacting in the target language while their attention is focused on mobilising their grammatical knowledge in order to express meaning and in which the intention is to convey meaning rather than to manipulate form.”
That is why, the task need to constitute finality in itself, being able to stand alone as a communicative act in its own right with a beginning, middle and an end.
5. Phases of the task
Pre-task. In the pre-task, the teacher will present what will be expected of the students in the task phase. Additionally, the teacher may prime the students with key vocabulary or grammatical constructs, although, in "pure" task-based learning lessons, these will be presented as suggestions and the students would be encouraged to use what they are comfortable with in order to complete the task. The instructor may also present a model of the task by either doing it themselves or by presenting picture, audio, or video demonstrating the task.
Task cycle – the students get the chance to use the language they know to carry out the task under the teacher’s guidance while planning reports on the task.
Task - During the task phase, the students carry out the task, typically in groups, although this is dependent on the type of activity. The teacher's role is typically limited to one of an observer or counsellor—thus the reason for it being a more student-centred methodology.
Planning Having completed the task, the students prepare either a written or oral report to present to the class. The instructor takes questions and otherwise simply monitors the students.
Report The students then present this information to the rest of the class. Here the teacher may provide written or oral feedback, as appropriate, and the students observing may do the same.
Language focus –allows closer study of some specific features naturally occurring in the language during the task cycle.
Analysis Here the focus returns to the teacher who reviews what happened in the task, in regards to language. It may include language forms that the students were using, problems that students had, and perhaps forms that need to be covered more or were not used enough.
Practice The practice stage may be used to cover material mentioned by the teacher in the analysis stage. It is an opportunity for the teacher to emphasize key language.
6. Types of tasks
As Jane Willis showed in her article Six Types of Task for TBL that the activities which have the potential of becoming effective tasks are:
• Listing/brainstorming-the students can list people, places, things, actions, reasons etc by either working in pairs, groups or individually and then consulting a partner.
e.g. Exercises 1-2/page 51 in FCE Gold: 1. Someone has suggested that a coffee machine should be installed in your classroom. Listen to some students discussing the suggestion and complete the sentences. 2. Now complete the table using the words you wrote.
• Ordering/sorting-can be represented by sequencing, ranking, classifying etc.
• Matching – such activities can be used as captions, texts, recorded extracts to pictures, short notes to longer texts.
e.g. Exercise 2/page 74 in Gold Upper-Intermediate: You are going to read an article about pyramids. First, match the words in italics in sentences 1-8 with their definitions a-h.
• Comparing: finding similarities or differences – students can contrast two similar texts or pictures or even their own work with a peer.
e.g. Exercise 1/page 12 in Gold Upper-Intermediate: a.) Photogrqphs A and B show parts of the two different cities. Listen to someone comparing and contrasting them and number the following questions in the order she talks about them; b.) Work with a partner. take turns to compare and contrast the photos. you should speak for about one minute.
• Problem-solving – such issues as pollution, the financial crisis, disruptive teenage behaviour etc., can become tasks.
e.g. Exercise 6/page 54 in Gold Advanced: Read the following questions and think about how you would answer them: Do you think it is important for children to study science at school? Why/why not? How do you think we can encourage more young people to take up science as a career?
• Sharing personal experiences and story-telling – such activities are extremely valuable since they give the students the chance to speak for a longer period of time, as well as interact with the classmates.
e.g. Exercise 3/page 94 in FCE Gold: What kind of friend are you?
Many other types of activities which appear in the textbooks can become tasks, but quizzes, questionnaires or projects can generate interaction and be adjusted into tasks.
7. Differences between TBL and PPP
As previously shown, teachers may find difficulties in using the TBL methodology since they are used to the control over the activities given by the PPP-presentation-practice-production paradigm.
a. PPP stages
Presentation stage-it begins by the teacher’s presenting a language item. The role of the teacher is a central one, while the students may be asked some right/wrong questions during the presentation.
Practice stage – students repeat or practise the input until they can produce it correctly.
Production stage – the students are required to produce in a broader language context the construction they have just learnt. Such context may be given by a role play, conversation, simulation etc.
b. PPP shortages
The use of the PPP paradigm is still very frequent in the language teaching despite the modern approaches and methodologies, due to the natural human instinct to hold control. Working with all kinds of students is a difficult task for the teacher, since he/she is in the first place outnumbered by the students (with the exception of the one-to-one lessons). Our approach has in view teaching English for high-school, which brings forth other difficulties a teacher may encounter (discipline, different attitudes etc), so in this case, a teacher may very easily fall in the trap of the PPP safety.
In the short run, this paradigm may ensure disciplined classes, easy to plan activities, students for whom it is very clear what they did during the lessons. On the long run, this may lead to students who are unable to use the language in real life situations, who will always look for the “safe” speaking environment in which applying the input generated correct language use. Unfortunately, PPP is still extensively used in language teaching and its unsatisfactory results are seen in such important contexts as job interviews, meetings, negotiations etc.
c. Comparison between PPP and TBL
Jane Willis presented the main differences, together with the advantages and disadvantages of the two methods in the following tables:
TBL
Pre-task - introduction to task and topic
Task cycle
Task
Planning
Report
(e.g. task recording or text)
Language focus
Analysis and practice-review and repeat task
The students get exposure in all stages, and the instruction is as needed while the use is either spontaneous or planned.
PPP
Presentation – one language aspect
Practice – exercises, dialogues, drills, word matching
Production – activity, role play, dialogue, simulation
The language exposure is restricted in the first two stages, and the use is restricted or partly restricted.
It is clear that TBL gives more opportunities for language use since all three components (task, planning, report) are not controlled linguistically and the students use their internal resources. The task offers the chance to use language to communicate. The report allows a free exchange of ideas for the language students. The planning encourages language accuracy and fluency rather than form, since the students will perform in public for the report form.
8. Introducing TBL to high-school students
All students come to class with various expectations. Many of the high-school students are very accustomed to the PPP teaching, especially from exact sciences, that they will consider that a proper lesson needs to follow these stages. Parents on the other hand, will ask their children what they had learnt that day, and they surely expect an answer talking about a certain notion, more than that, when they check the notebooks, they expect to see a grammar structure discussed and presented in a traditional manner.
In the Romanian context, teachers might find difficulties in introducing the TBL methodology in terms of parents and students expectations.
a. TBL and the Romanian Curriculum
The Romanian Curriculum follows now the European demands and represents a good platform for TBL English teaching. The European regulations evaluate language knowledge in terms of competence and performance for all skills and the demands do not require anymore disparate language constructions (like cleft sentences, subjunctive constructions) but their use in a valid language context.
The Syllabi for English teaching offer the perfect background for TBL, while the textbooks are tailored to be used in a variety of teaching methodologies, and do not require the PPP paradigm.
b. Strategies to introduce TBL to high-school students
Unfortunately, a task-based approach may not seem immediately fit for the expectations of the teenagers, especially for the ninth graders, who come from a more teacher-controlled environment, and for whom the freedom they get may be frustrating and frightening.
But studies have shown that language students gain confidence in speaking and interaction in a very short period of time, they get to like the tasks since they are more active and fun, become able to speak about the language connected to other topics, improve fluency and appropriacy, are able to deal with more difficult reading or listening tasks and become independent students.
Adapting TBL is a process that should include both high-school students but also parents. The students need to be aware of the fact that they will be able to make great progress by being very active during the lessons and to reassure them that their grammar will improve naturally during the lessons.
A first step to be made is to find out more about the students, their expectations, their favourite activities, motivation to learn the language etc.
Another step is represented by an open discussion with the class by presenting them the four conditions for language learning. With weaker students, the teacher should seek what condition was not met and how this could be remedied in the short run. Students need to be aware of the fact that making errors is part of language learning, and that they should take the “risk” to communicate.
The introduction of the TBL framework should be done by means of simple tasks, like names or telephone numbers exchange in order to assemble a class telephone list. Related listening or reading tasks should be done prior or after the task.
It is important for the students to know and understand the stages of TBL and recognise them easily, and for the teacher to react positively in order to encourage them.
The integration of the receptive skills is very important, for instance, at the language focus phase, it is useful to use some listening transcript or reading for analysis to provide a context for grammar. The students should be encouraged to write down in their notebooks the new phrases and patterns and practise them.
As I have mentioned before, one of the most important issues with the high-school students is that they come from a grammar-oriented background, so the TBL explanations should be adapted in familiar terms: “let’s revise...”,”after we have read the text, let us study some grammar...”etc.
c. TBL and the textbooks
As a teacher I prefer the Gold Series of textbooks published by Longman since it is organised in a way that fits the TBL stages. As a matter of fact, these books are designed for the Cambridge examinations which have officially embraced the TBL methodology. Another problem is given by the fact that teachers are afraid to adapt text-books according to their needs and level of students, since another deeply engrained idea is that all activities in the book need to be done. Students have to be explained that the textbooks are helping materials in learning the language and not a goal in themselves. As a matter of fact, I used to believe the same, until I participated in a training session by Jen MacArthur, Senior Trainer for the American Embassy, who made it very clear that it is impossible to use a textbook in the same way for all groups of students, even in parallel grades.
The teacher is the tailor of the materials, by means of planning, he/she must feel free to use them in order to attain the objective and organise tasks. Another worrying aspect is given by the school management requirements for the teachers to use the manuals entirely, but it has to be understood that it is the teacher who knows better what the needs of the group of students are.
In order to help students adapt, the teacher needs to announce the components of each task cycle, and clearly explain every step, in order to make them feel secure about what to expect. At the end of each lesson, the teacher needs to review the progress.
At the same time, students need to be encouraged to learn outside the class. A good record of their achievement is represented by the ELP (European Language Portfolio), which will be discussed in the Assessment Chapter. In order to increase their exposure and improve the vocabulary, they could borrow readers or magazines or listen to radio/watch television programmes in English (BBC, CNN etc).
A good method of checking the efficiency of the method is by using questionnaires or by encouraging the students to write students diaries. Such questionnaires were used as feedback of applying TBL for high-school English teaching with my students and the findings are presented in a further chapter.
d. Adapting textbook activities to TBL
More practically, a teacher using TBL in class could perform such changes:
1. Before a listening/reading activity, instead of asking questions to the entire class, the students might be asked to work in pairs or groups and consider the question for a few minutes.
2. If a reading/listening text is followed by a series of questions, the questions may be used to predict the text, therefore creating higher expectations and more interest about what they are going to read or listen to.
3. Less time could be spent on practising or perfecting students’ production and spend more time in highlighting useful language students used in writing or task reports.
4. Bringing the fun activities in class is very important. Feeling confident has much to do with language fluency, so the tasks should be presented in a challenging way.
At the same time, the textbooks should be supplemented with real-life materials, and even the students should be encouraged to find such materials and propose them for class.
To conclude, the teacher needs to assess the real needs of the students, adapt the input to fit them and should not be afraid to skip some textbook activities if they do not represent meaningful tasks and replace them with better materials.
BIBLIOGRAPHY


Breen, M. (1984) : Student Contributions to Task Design, Oxford University Press, Oxford
Ellis, R. (2003): Task-based language learning and teaching, Oxford University Press, Oxford
Harmer, Jeremy (2000) :The Practice of English Teaching, Longman, London
Krashen, S. (1981) : Second language acquisition and second language learning, Oxford University Press, Oxford
Krashen, S.(1985) : The Input Hypothesis :Issues and Implications, Harlow: Longman, London
Long, M and Crookes, G. (1992): Three Approaches to task-based syllabus design, Tesol Quarterly, London
Long, M.H. (1985):A role for instruction in second language acquisition: Task-based language training, Oxford University Press, Oxford
Mohan, B. (1986): Language and content, Oxford University Press, Oxford
Norris, J. and Ortega, L. (2000): Effectiveness of L2 instruction: A research synthesis and quantitative meta-analysis, Language Learning, London
Nunan, D. (2001): Task-based language teaching, Oxford University Press, Oxford
Prabhu, N (1987): Second Language Pedagogy: a perspective, Oxford University Press, Oxford
Richards, Platt and Weber (1985) :Longman, London Dictionary of Applied Linguistics, Longman, London
Willis, J.(2001):A Framework for Task-based Learning, Longman, London




 

 
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