I don't remember where or when this happened. I remember that there were a lot of teachers and it was late at night. So that would indicate that it was probably during a conference. Where else!?
Anyway, someone asked the following question:
"After all your years of experience as a teacher and after all the training you have done and given, if you had to say just one thing about teaching methodology of which you are absolutely 100% sure, what would that thing be?"
This was quite a dilemma for a lot of us and we got into some interesting discussions/arguments! Anyway, I thought I would ask the same question here.
One thing of which you are sure of .... What would it be?
OK - perhaps I should have got the ball rolling myself with this one! Here goes - one thing of which I am 100% sure:
It is wrong to never drill.
I know that some teachers don't like drilling in the class. It's not a very nice word after all. The dentist drills you. In Spanish, if someone drills you (taladrar), he or she speaks so much that you are bored. None of this gives the word a very positive light.
But there are a lot of language learners that need to be drilled. I know this because I am one of them. I had a few Catalan classes a couple of years ago and got really frustrated because the teacher was going too fast and didn't give me (us) the opportunity to try the sounds for ourselves. I wanted to repeat a sentence over and over until I was happy with it but couldn't.
For me, pronouncing or repeating new words and structures in a new laguage is like trying on new clothes in a clothes shop. You wouldn't buy a new outfit without trying it on first.
Of this, I am 100% sure :-)
What an interesting question, Jamie! I'd have to agree with you about your drilling comment - I found that quite useful in language learning situations myself.
I don't know that I'm 100% sure about ANYTHING, but ... I'd go so far as to say that I'm 99.9% sure that
if you don't use it, you'll lose it (or in my worsening chinese, shiyong ta huo diu shi ta).
I'm looking forward to hearing what the rest of you think. Thoughts?
OK - you are right. 100% is far to much to ask. Let's change the title of this post to:
"One thing of which I am 99% sure"
I like your slogan: If you don't use it, you'll lose it.
I would almost certainly agree with you there. We are referring to our so-called active vocabulary/language, right? The words, expressions, structures, etc that we hope to be able to produce ourselves rather than just recognise from a speaker or text.
Then by pulling our ideas so far, we are 99% sure that as teachers have to drill and revise, drill and revise, drill and revise, ...
... and they don't make coursebooks like they used to.
Here's an extract from C.E. Eckersley's 1947 Essential English for Foreign Students. I found it in a London fleamarket a few months back.
HOB: "I say Pedro, you are a judge of cigarettes, aren't you?"
OLAF: "Why do you want to know? I didn't know that you were interested in cigarettes good or bad."
HOB: "Oh, no! It's not for me. You see, it's my Uncle Albert's birthday next week and as he likes good cigarettes i am going to send him a hundred of these. What better present is there than a hundred cigarettes like these?
PEDRO (having smoked one of them): "Fifty!"
HOB: What do you mean - aren't they any good?
PEDRO: "Hob, they're terrible. Honestly they are the worst cigarettes that I've ever smoked. Where did you get them?"
Ha ha - fantastic. Do you yearn for the old days? Could we persuade Pearson to publish a retro textbook full of material like this? What fun we could have!
Re. the grammar explanations, I would almost be 100% with you if it were not for one little experience I had.
When I first started as an English teacher, my classes were basically grammar lectures. I would stand at the front of the class beside the whiteboard, armed with a marker pen in hand.
I soon decided that this was not the way to do things. I embraced the communicative approach, stopped the grammar lectures and focussed on getting my students to speak and write.
This was all great until one day one of my students told me that she much preferred the old way - the grammar lectures. Incredibly, she wasn't alone. A few students said that they felt that despite the active roles they taking, they felt they weren't learning anything!
Wow - what a slap in the face for their teacher!
"Let the students do most of the work"
As novice teacher I use to spend ages planning a lesson and I use to take lots of resources to the classroom.Later I've learnt that all I need to do was to make the lesson student centred! It's great for the students it makes it more dynamic and fruitful. I am not talking about going 100% DOGME but some elements of it go a long way towards collaborative and productive lessons. :-)
I just loved this text! It is not only really funny, but very creative too! Full of irony in just a few lines... I wish I had access to that book!
Thanks for sharing!
I would say that I'm 100% sure of that, if it didn't sound arrogant... hehe! Buuut...
I'm 99 (,9!)% sure that it is not possible to help students improving their pronunciation if you don't teach Phonetics and Phonology.
The fact is that it is natural for any learner to replace "weird", unknown sounds by others that are "normal", familiar. If they are not taught about phonemes which don't exist in their mother tongue, they will not only be incapable of producing them, but even of hearing them!
Is there anyone who agrees with me?
"Let the students do most of the work"
This sounds pretty good to me! Is this the best way to do things because they learn more or because it makes life easier for the teacher? (as it should do!) Could you imagine a situation in which the teacher does almost all of the work but the students still learn?
I like your question: Is there anyone that agrees with what I am 100% sure about! Makes me laugh It makes me realise how difficult it really is to be 100% sure about anything in teaching.
I agree that we have to train students to recognise different sounds and produce them in the right places. Do you think that this means that it is necessary for them to get involved with terminology and symbols that are associated with the field of phonology and phonetics? Or do you prefer a gentler approach?
Here’s my 100% sure line: Plan before your lessons! Then you know, and I agree with some ideas mentioned here, when to drill, when to explain grammar (especially when teaching adults), how to make classes more student-centered, and many more things.
Now, in spite of planning you can’t really know how things are going to develop in class, they might change because something went wrong (technical issues are my latest fears!) or because something you have planned is so interesting that you decide to keep on going and drop the rest or a part of the plan.
I think that the teaching process starts here and this is why having a backup plan is part of the bigger plan!
This is an interesting one
I am a great believer in planning as well. In my experience, students appreciate a planned lesson much more than a Dogme freestyle class! (Did you ever get involved in Scott Thornbury's Dogme discussion group which advocates no planning and no materials? Here is the link: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dogme/)
So it's funny. I am 97% with you (it can never be 100%!). But isn't it interesting that virtually anything that one person can say confidently about teaching can be disputed by another.
Compare this with another area - maths, for example. You could start this thread by saying something like:
I am 100% sure that the area of a circle is equal to Pi multiplied by the square of its radius.
No one could argue with that! Such is the nature of the profession we have chosen!
Thanks for the link. I started reading some messages but then I couldn’t stop and have taken note of some ideas I’d like to use in class. I think that a very resourceful and knowledgeable teacher could come to class and just by asking a question create a lesson and even send happy students home!!
I love the idea of consulting with learners what it is it that they want to do in class. Give students a chance to use or to discover their own resources, instead of the teacher providing lots of material. Well, I work in mines, and students are invited to suggest topics or bring materials they would like to work with in class but I hardly ever get any suggestions from them. It’s probably a cultural thing, in my context we are used to teacher-centred environments, where the teacher´s word is never questioned and is expected to decide what is best for the students. I have yet to discover how to get students involved in content organization.
About how opinions differ, I was thinking after I had posted the previous message how I claim to be 100% sure about lesson planning but at the same time I said I was not 100% sure that my plan would carry out! Yeah, that’s the beauty of this profession, different points of view, different ways of doing things, different outcomes…so, look at that, nothing is 100% sure!