PARSNIPs: Controversial topics in the English language classroom

 

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Our April Twitter chat is happening on Sunday 2nd April at 8.30pm Sydney time – click here to see the time where you are – and don’t forget the clocks have gone back! Hope to see you there!

We have a controversial topic this month! Or is it? It’s true that publishers of global ELT coursebooks try to avoid certain issues that may cause offence, often summarised under the handy ‘parsnip’ acronym:

P          for Politics
A         for Alcohol
R          for Religion
S          for Sex
N          for Narcotics
I           for “isms” (eg communism, atheism…)
P          for Pork

But this is controversial in itself, with different teachers (and authors, and publishers) responding in quite polarised ways. You can read Scott Thornbury’s insightful overview of the issue here: https://scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/t-is-for-taboo/ and do have a look at the comments as well.

So what does #AusELT think about this? Here are some questions to get you thinking

  • Have any ‘taboo’ topics have come up in your classroom? By accident or design?
  • How did you/the students respond?
  • Are there issues we **should** be raising with our international cohorts in Au/NZ?
  • Are there any specifically Australian taboo topics?
  • Do you have any tips for how we can handle sensitive material in the classroom?

See below for some useful further reading and help with Twitter. Hope to e-see you on Sunday!

Further reading

#ELTchat have discussed this a couple of times if you need some ideas:

There have also been some useful published resources for teachers wishing to engage with controversial issues in the classroom:

  • Taboos & Issues by Richard MacAndrew & Ron Martinez
  • Parsnips in ELT: Stepping out of the Comfort Zone (various).Vol.1 &Vol.2. These 2 free ebooks were crowd-sourced from the online ELT community including #AusELT regular Mike Smith as one of the authors!
  • 52 by Lindsay Clandfield & Luke Meddings, reviewed by Mike Griffin in the English Australia Journal here.

Not sure about Twitter?

Why not have a go? We can help you out. Get in touch with any of the AusELT admin team on Facebook or Twitter (eg, @sophiakhan4,  @heimuoshutaiwan or @Clare_M_ELT) or by leaving a comment below. Here are some posts that should also help you get started:

This post by @sophiakhan4

#AusELT Twitter chat Sunday 5 March 2017 – Discrimination against non-native English speaking teachers

In our Twitter chat for March 2017, we discussed discrimination against non-native English speaking teachers. This chat has now taken place but you can read the summary here.

Have a look at the following questions and links to prepare for the chat.

Questions

  • Why should we be concerned by this topic?
  • Why would students from abroad pay to study in Australia, only to be taught by a teacher from their home country or a surrounding country?
  • Do students need a native speaker to acquire native sounding accent?
  • Is a native sounding accent really important?
  • What can we do about discrimination, and why is it important to do something?

Links

You’ll see we had a similar chat last year, so a quick read through that (link above) would allow us to really move the topic forward.

This chat has now taken place but you can read the summary here.

For those new to Twitter chats, these posts should get you started:

If you are not sure about Twitter and need a hand to get started, do message Gerhard on Facebook or Twitter (@heimuoshutaiwan) or by leaving a comment below.

#AusELT Twitter chat: What would you like to talk about on Sunday 5th March 2017?

We are approaching March which means we need to start planning for our next Twitter chat. That’ll be on Sunday, March 5, at 8:30pm Sydney time.

We have a choice of three topics, based on topics which have generated some interest on the #AusELT Facebook group recently.

Please vote in the poll below and we’ll announce the winner on our Facebook page and on Twitter towards the end of next week. The chat will take place on Sunday 5th March at 8.30pm Sydney time (click here to see the time where you are).

Vote here:

For those new to Twitter chats, these posts should get you started:

If you are not sure about Twitter and need a hand to get started, do message Gerhard on Facebook or Twitter (@heimuoshutaiwan) or by leaving a comment below.

Transitions and Transfer: From EAP to Uni (#AusELT Twitter chat, 5th Feb 2017)

puzzle-1020221_1280In this post, Meredith MacAulay discusses how we can better help students transfer their knowledge from preparatory courses to the real world. (NB: The Twitter chat referred to has now taken place but you can read the summary here.)

Despite the increasingly high enrolments in EAP courses in Australia, particularly Direct Entry courses, there is still limited published research into what impacts these courses have on students’ success at university. It can be argued that the ultimate goal of an English for Academic Purposes course is for students to transfer the language, skills and strategies they learn to the tertiary context. However, to what extent does this occur? What affects whether our students use what they learn in their EAP courses? And are we teaching what they really need?

This Twitter Chat will focus on issues surrounding the teaching of EAP courses and learning transfer, that is the application of skills or knowledge learned in one context to a new context. The inspiration for the chat comes from my personal interest in learning transfer and research I carried out on the transfer of learning from a Direct Entry EAP program [DEP] to students’ university mainstream subjects. It focused specifically on speaking skills and the related assessments from the DEP course, and you can read more about it here.

In the Twitter Chat, I’d like to draw on three factors that have been suggested as possible influences on transfer of learning, and which also featured in my results.

They include:

  • students’ perceptions of task similarity – do tasks that students are required to do at uni seem similar to tasks they have done before?
  • students’ perceptions of transfer ‘climate’ (James, 2010) – do students feel supported by the context, including their peers, teachers and assignments?
  • instructional strategies – we can teach for transfer by making our courses similar to the target context and by making students aware of these similarities. We can also encourage students to reflect, plan and monitor their activities and to anticipate future applications (Green, 2015). These strategies are outlined in the  ‘hugging and bridging’ model.

So bring your experience and ideas and let’s discuss the following:

  • What skills do you expect your students to take from your class to uni?
  • To what extent do your students transfer what they have learnt in their mainstream classes? How do you know?
  • How can we strike a balance between near transfer (learning for the test) and far transfer in a DEP course?
  • What can we do to familiarise our students with the target context?
  • What else do you (or your institute) do to facilitate transfer?
  • What information or research would help us to plan our courses and teach for transfer?

All are welcome to this chat, even if you don’t teach EAP! Transfer from our courses to a ‘real life,’ context is relevant to all teachers-General English, Business English, English for Migrants, Teacher Training, etc…Look forward to seeing you there!

This chat has now taken place but you can read the summary here.

Further Reading & References

Green, J. (2015). Teaching for transfer in EAP: Hugging and bridging revisited. English for Specific Purposes, 37, 1-12.

MacAulay, M (2016). Transition and transfer: Effects of an EAP direct entry course on students’ discussion skills at university. University of Sydney Papers in TESOL, vol 11, pp. 97-130.

James, M.A. (2006b). Teaching for transfer in ELT. ELT Journal, 60 (2), 151-159.

James, M. A. (2010). Transfer climate and EAP education: Students’ perceptions of challenges to learning transfer. English for Specific Purposes, 29(2), 133-147.

merMeredith MacAulay (@MeredithMacAul1) is an active AusELTer and currently teaches a Direct Entry EAP course to international students pursuing tertiary study in Sydney as well as training pre-sessional and in-session teachers. She presented on this topic last year at the University of Sydney TESOL Research Colloquium and the English Australia Conference. This is her first time to moderate a Twitter chat!

Teacher Motivation & Recharging your Batteries (#AusELT Twitter chat summary, 6/11/16)

Read the summary for some great ideas and links on how to make your teaching life a more positive and fruitful one. Managers will also find some guidance on how to build teacher motivation in the workplace.

 

Happy 2017!

Poll: Last #AusELT chat of 2016!

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That went fast…

It’s already time for our last Twitter chat of this year (we usually take a little break over December and January as so many people are away) – and the topic is up to you! Please vote in the poll below and we’ll announce the winner on our Facebook page and on Twitter towards the end of next week. The chat will take place on Sunday 6th Nov at 8.30pm Sydney time (click here to see the time where you are).

If you are not sure about Twitter and need a hand to get started, do message me on Facebook or Twitter (@sophiakhan4) or by leaving a comment below.

You might also be interested in these posts:

Need help with Twitter?

#AusELT 1-page guide to Twitter

So you have a Twitter account – now what? 

AusELT/English Australia Journal Article Discussion – October 2016. “Fluency Development through Extensive Reading”.

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Image from http://www.home-designing.com/2012/11/reading-spaces

Access the article here.

Access the transcripts of the discussion here.

(or search “fluency development” on the AusELT Facebook page)


Overview of the article

Paul Brigg and Alice Chik are reporting on a case study research project involving two English language learners, using two forms of extensive reading – 1) reading for language growth, and 2) reading for fluency development. While both forms of extensive reading are useful for second language literacy development, the authors argue that reading for fluency development is often overlooked in second language programs.

The primary purpose of reading is the competent construction of meaning from text, and fluency is a precondition for this. The development of fluency progresses from decoding words to extracting meaning and then on to the smooth and meaningful understanding of texts. Many international students read more slowly and with less confidence in English than in their first language. This is likely to restrict their ability to manage required academic reading and leads to a belief that they can gain more information and knowledge through their first language. (page 51)

In the literature review section, the authors report on exisiting research into the areas of extensive reading and fluency, shared book reading and read-alouds, and modifying books for fluency development. They then go on to outline the research design.

This project used case-study to investigate the possible fluency differences between participants undertaking two forms of ER in separate five-week courses, one participant reading for language growth (Ken), and the other for fluency development (Lin). After the completion of the courses, think-aloud interviews were used to investigate the mental processes of the participants as they read an extract based on their respective forms of ER. The interviews were conducted in a meeting room at their college, and the participants made their own recordings using their mobile phones – this facilitated follow-up discussions. (page 56)

The student participants were a 39 year old Vietnamese man who had recently arrived in Australia to study English, and a 25 year old Chinese woman who was also new to Australia. Both were keen readers in their native language. The findings of the research are presented in four sections:

  1. oral fluency levels (which is related to reading fluency)
  2. the think-aloud matrix (reporting on what strategies the students were using while reading)
  3. procedural development, (Which measures the length of the think-aloud utterances – an indication of fluency development), and
  4. error count comparison (which give an indication of reading difficulties).

Perhaps the significance of the findings is best summed up in the concluding remarks from the authors.

The present study has found significant evidence of fluency development from ER simplified to a 99–100% lexical coverage. Therefore, an enjoyable and relaxing period of easily understood ER will likely project most EAP students towards accomplishing fluency growth in English.

“Simplified to 99-100% lexical coverage” refers to modifications to the book so that readers can understand 99-100% of the words and phrases.

I hope this brief summary will encourage you to read the article and consider how it may inform your own teaching practices with respect to reading. Indeed, this will be the first question that we’ll discuss next week (w/c 17/10/16).

Question for discussion:

How might the findings reported on pages 60-65 lead to changes in how you approach the teaching of reading in your context(s)?