As summer fades and autumn begins to make its presence felt (in Europe at least!!), it’s time to move from A to B in our trip through the alphabet…
A couple of quick reminders:
1) My A-Z of areas is not meant to be definitive or exhaustive. Please feel free each month to add you own!
2) I will comment only briefly on each of my areas. Please expand on them or discuss them as you wish!
So, B is for…
… of skills (Reading, writing, listening and speaking) and language (grammar and vocabulary)
All language and no skills makes for boring lessons and students who can’t communicate. All skills and no language often means lots of fun – but also students who make lots of mistakes – and who can’t communicate…
… of interactions and VAK intelligences
Pairwork, groupwork, individual, teacher fronted… Variety is the spice of the classroom. Balancing the visual with the auditory and kinaesthetic makes for a learning experience that touches all the senses – and in some way all the students.
… of learner support and learner autonomy
Put more simply, how much work should the teacher do and how much should the students do?? Of course our role is to provide support in areas of need, but do you remember Mark Van Doren? He said that “the art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery”, implying the need to get the students thinking for themselves now and then. Hence the inductive approach to language (guided discovery) that is common in so many of today’s course materials. They remember better that way…
… of fantasy, creativity and reality
Reading and writing stories, using films and songs, but remembering that at the end of the day, language is also for real everyday communication.
…of the familiar and the new
We all have our favourite ways of doing things (and so do the students!), and some of these ways may date back a long time. That may not be a bad thing, but new ways, including technology also play their part in teaching and learning today. In fact many students expect technology in their learning; after all they have it in all other aspects of their lives!
What other areas would you include in the balancing act that we are faced with in the classroom? How do you balance these seemingly opposing forces?
Whether interactive or conventional, in most classrooms the board is the focal point of the room (along with the teacher sometimes.) My first lesson in using this vital resource was to plan what I wrote on the board and to organise it. I especially like the idea of a ‘new vocabulary column’ at one side of the board, leading to a sense of achievement in the lesson as the list grows. Colour is a powerful tool when using the board – for example red for phonetic transcriptions and blue for annotating grammatical structures. Also, have you noticed how students often copy everything that you write on the board? Is that always the best thing for them to do? What do you think?
Developed back in the 1940s, this scientific approach to language learning led to the direct and audiolingual approaches. It was suggested that if Pavlov could train dogs to salivate by ringing a bell, then it must be possible to get learners to speak foreign languages by providing a suitable stimulus. The key was therefore to train students to provide fixed answers to set questions – and this gave rise to all manner of language that was unique to the classroom… Although these approaches were largely discredited by Naom Chomsky and his ‘Cognitive Code’ in the 1960s, one important aspect of behaviourism lives on in the classroom of today – drilling – of which more when we get to ‘D’.
If behaviourism has its roots in the past, than blended learning has its roots firmly in the present - and the future! Blended learning is essentially an integrated mix of conventional face to face learning complemented with an element of online learning. So why is blended learning such a CLEVER idea?
Complementary balance of the traditional and the new working together.
Extra practice opportunities.
Variety – of study modes and of materials.
Enhances learner progress and performance in class.
Reliable resource (Computers don’t get tired!)
Have you used any type of blended learning? Why not share your experiences?
That’s all for my list of ‘B’s. Looking forward to hearing from you with your comments – and additional ‘B’s of your own. Next month it’s ‘C’ – and the start of summer for those lucky people out there in the southern hemisphere. Happy teaching.