Category Archives: Resources/activities

How to engage language learners online – #AusELT Twitter chat, 4th February 2018

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Our first Twitter chat for 2018 took place on Sunday 4th February,
This chat has now taken place. Click here to read the transcript.

Because we’re running our awesome video competition on Engaging Learners Online, we thought we’d also make that the topic of our first Twitter chat for the year. That way you can brainstorm your ideas, or get some support for what you’re not sure about, by using our community as a sounding board. Of course, even if you’re not planning on entering the video competition, we want you to join us to discuss anything to to with this broad topic.

Please join us with your questions and thoughts about…

  • your success stories in engaging students in online language learning
  • what are some of the hard things about engaging learners online?
  • what do your learners think about online learning in the classroom?

And also your ideas for…

  • what are some strategies for engaging learners online?
  • what are some things we should be mindful of when encouraging students to go online for their language learning?

We look forward to engaging with you on Sunday!

This chat has now taken place. Click here to read the transcript.

 

This post prepared by @cioccas

[Photo taken from https://www.flickr.com/photos/eltpics/5285506614 by @CliveSir, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/%5D

PARSNIPs: Controversial topics in the English language classroom – #AusELT Twitter chat, 2nd April 2017

 

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This Twitter chat was held on Sunday 2nd April 2017. We don’t have a summary for this, but see some useful resources listed below.

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

Using phonics in the adult learning context (#AusELT Twitter chat summary)

The last #AusELT Twitter chat of 2015 was on the topic of using phonics in the adult learning context.

With apologies for the long delay, you can now read the summary of what we discussed and pick up some great resources. Enjoy!

This post by @sophiakhan4

5 Things to Remember when……..Covering a Class at the Last Minute

If you missed last month’s post, the first in this series, you can read our reflection on 5 things to remember when listening to your colleagues complain right here. This month, we turn to that dreaded moment….the one that happens to the all of us:
It’s 8:55, you’re nervously watching the clock thinking I’m almost there….five more minutes and my morning will be free (and I can finally get around to culling all those friends of mine on Facebook)….and in walks your DOS, silently, slinking in the morning shadows cast by shelves and shelves of dusty copies of Practical English Usage. She clears her throat and nervously taps you on the shoulder, your index finger quivering with excitement over the left mouse button as you feel time ticking down with a certain sense of cruel, twisted fate….happy Monday!!!

1) Stop, don’t retaliate and listen!

Cover happens to everyone – we’ve all had to do it, or better yet, drop someone in it at some point as a result of a bad oyster, broken leg, bike accident or torn skirt.  There is certainly something to be said for the reciprocal, karmic nature of the way teachers handle their contractual obligations in relation to covering classes….and if nothing else, we really need to remember that one day it will be you calling in sick and in need of help.
Talking about cover to some friends the other day, we noted that the stress teachers typically feel in response to the proverbial tap on the shoulder and nervous smile from the DOS is inversely proportional to the amount of time remaining before you need to walk into the classroom; When you’re asked to cover with two weeks’ notice most teachers barely notice, but when that tap on the shoulder comes at five minutes to the hour, there are some of us who need to change their socks, others of us who manage to fit a surprising number of cigarettes into the morning, and others of us whose profane vocabulary comes into its own.
That being said, we also feel that once the clock ticks past the hour, the students are settled, and pleasantries have been exchanged, things becomes eerily familiar (unless of course you happen to be covering for a teacher who did all the cutting a prep for you….and then you realise that they’ve cut up the materials for the wrong class……….which has NEVER happened to us or anyone we know…..ever….).
So, when the tap comes, and it will come at some point, is there really any purpose in complaining, doing your best Napoleon Dynamite impression or burning your way through a pack of cigarettes?  Stop, don’t retaliate, and get the basic information you need: When is the class? What room is it in? Which book are they using? Is there a plan or any notes? Do you have time for a quick visit to the loo? (Hey, there are some luxuries even the most pressed teachers need….) Is there someone around who can help you for five minutes to quickly do some printing and cutting up or bring it to you in ten minutes? Are your shoes done up, your pants on the right way and this morning’s spinach omelet safely removed from between your teeth?
Remember, even if there is a serial offender in your office, be frustrated with them – don’t take it out on the messenger, or the students.  A smile goes a long, long way.

2) Taking opportunities to develop – earning your stripes

There is a a lot to be said for aiming to be the most professional teacher you can be – especially in an industry that isn’t necessarily internationally associated with fiercely competitive entry requirements and performance review standards.  The TEFL world grew largely from the spread of John Haycraft’s CELTA-style short courses which championed the reality of teachers learning and developing practical skills in front of students, and figuring out what seems right, intuitively, in from moment to moment, and from class to class.
There is arguably no better way than to get back to this fundamental alignment of variables (I mean, really, have you ever been as nervous, or felt under as much pressure in front of a class as on your first observed lesson on your pre-service course?) than being put in front of a class at the last minute, and seeing what happens.
In fact many would argue that this is teaching in its purest form – when you have no security blanket of a lesson plan, there is no choice but to listen to your students and respond to them – and some of our best lessons and most insightful moments have come from those moments when we felt under the most pressure.
So, business needs aside, we would argue that the issue of cover, and its associated stresses are not only important and something everyone needs to share, but an essential part of continuing professional development.  Teaching, as an art form, is centred around the notion of teachers thinking on their feet and responding, from moment to moment in the classroom.  Our industry was founded on this belief, and what better way to earn your stripes than by spending more time on the front line, at the chalkface, in the spotlight…hmm, out of metaphors…

3) What really matters?

There are two types of teachers – those who fill in their registers, and those who don’t.  If you’re lucky enough to cover a teacher from the first of these two groups, well done.  If not, and frustrating as it may seem in the moment, you will probably gain significant perspective on life’s important things as a direct result of covering a teacher from the second of these two groups.
At the end of the day, your shoulder-tapping DOS simply needs a teacher in front of the class – that is the ultimate reason they have asked you to help out.  If there is no plan, and no reference to the last page they’ve covered, and you’ve still got 250 friends to cull from your list of Facebook friends…..chin up.  Given the other benefits, most of which will have a direct positive result on your professional development (and not necessarily on your sweat glands) life at this very moment could certainly be a lot worse.
So what really matters? Only that you remember to stay positive, keep a smile (even it it’s a slight grimace) on your face, and a professional attitude the moment you step into the classroom.

4) Contingency plans

Not wanting to sound like your mother-cum-CELTA trainer-cum-director (and what a complicated relationship that would be…) teachers really need to be ready.  We know everyone always says you need to have something ready for fast finishers, and we all pretend that we do, but having a reserve of flexible, portable, instant lessons really can make the difference between a one-cheeky-cigarette-kinda-day, and a 2-pairs-of-undies-kinda-day.
We’d like to share some of our all-time greatest last minute lessons, for your reading (and teaching) pleasure (can you spot the odd one out?). Keep in mind, these are not necessarily our lessons, but lessons we know work most of the time, with most ages, levels and abilities.  Credit for these ideas and references are listed below.
a) Guess what’s inside my head
If you’ve never done this with a class, you’ve never lived.
Teacher: Can you guess what I’m thinking of?
Students: Is it a carrot?
Teacher: No! Guess again!
Students: Is it a chameleon?
Teacher: No! Guess again!
Students: Is it the eternal struggle of ethnic minorities in former British colonies who have since gained independence from the oppression of White colonial expansion?
Teacher: Very close, keep guessing!
Thanks to Claire Steele for this one!
b) Dialogue Building
A very flexible lesson, with minimal preparation needed that features loads of repetition, writing practice and a role play.  We got this one from Scott Thornbury’s article on OneStopEnglish here.
c) Sentence Relays

Just when you thought running dictations couldn’t get any better…..Students line up in groups facing the board.  The teacher reads a sentence clearly twice for students to memorise. When you say GO! students race to the board to write the sentence, one word per student at a time, in a relay.  If you have 4 or 5 sentences ready to go, the students then write down all of the sentences they remember at the end of the activity.  This can then lead into question writing and speaking, a jazz chant, or if you’re feeling up for it, a cheeky game of guess what’s inside my head!

d) Dictaphone Stories

If there was one thing we learned from our DELTA, it was how to use a dictaphone in class.  And we mean, really use a dictaphone.  This lesson is actually adapted from Teaching Unplugged (Thornbury & Meddings), but you can find a short description here (Disclaimer: this is a link to James’ blog).  It is a speaking/listening and materials-light lesson that will challenge even the most annoying of students.

5) Enjoy the limelight

Collectively, we flog the catch phrase student-centred learning to death.  Should there be a time and a place for teacher-centred teaching?  Is it ok to be the centre of attention, add a sprinkling of funny remarks, those old favourite jokes (the ones that every class loves, even if you’ve been telling them for 20 years) and a little anecdote here and there?
Yes, of course it is, despite what your conscience might tell you.  There is a voice inside the heads of many teachers (not ours! not anymore!) that questions any move to take the spotlight, and any conscious decision to “play up a bit” in class.  Is it a CELTA remnant? No TTT! TTT is bad! Teachers talking in class ROB STUDENTS OF THEIR BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS! Pish. While we use this phrase very cautiously, what we are really talking about is the immeasurable notion of teacher-student rapport.  This is arguably one of the strongest factors to influence student motivation, which in turn is the single biggest challenge to overcome for any teacher or student. So have a chat, tell a story, make them laugh, get them onside.
Students typically enjoy the novelty of a new face, a new voice, a new rhythm in class and this deserves to be indulged.  In reality, the students might appreciate their cover teacher all the more, simply from the novelty of having a change.  So, while that dreaded tap on the shoulder at 8:55 on Monday morning might fill you with a sense of endless and unrequited social media errands, you may very well be delighted and surprised to find yourself in the spotlight of an interested, curious and interactive group of students – and this really is what most of us live for.

* By James Pengelley and Jane Pyper (Hong Kong), purveyors of Australian wit and bathers tans.

The views expressed in this post are our own and not those of #AusELT as a whole, or of English Australia

Extensive Reading – #AusELT ‘slowburn’ chat summary – 3rd April 2014

?????????????Many thanks to Lesley Cioccarelli (@cioccas) for this summary of our very first ‘slowburn’ on the topic of Extensive Reading. Read on for great tips, links and things to think about.

 

EXTENSIVE READING was the chosen topic of the inaugural #AusELT slowburn on Thursday 3rd April 2014.

Unlike the usual one-hour chats, the slowburn was spread out over 12 hours. Participants were free to start and follow whatever conversations they liked on this topic. Read more about the format here: https://auselt.com/2014/04/02/inaugural-auselt-slowburn/

The chat was kicked off with the question:

Q: What is the value of extensive reading?

  • It allows learners to engage with the text in a meaningful way, which the tiny reading ‘bites’ in coursebooks don’t.
  • I’m a big fan of reading in general so if I can get my students reading in class then I’m all for it!
  • Vocabulary and the unconscious acquisition of language patterns is the biggest plus. Great, convenient exposure to L2.
  • I’ve done quite bit of exploration on ER with interesting results. One student said ” I think in English now” ‏@Ratnavathy

This comment:

  • I think it helps if you are a reader yourself. You understand the need for choice, time, and quiet.

led to a discussion of teacher fears and obsession:

  • I also like the idea of valuing silence in classrooms. Teachers and learners shouldn’t see silence as unproductive
  • One of the unintended consequences of Communicative Language Teaching (CLT): fear of silence.
  • I think we touched on this fear before in the chat on writing. Teachers must relax and allow silence to happen.
  • Also a fear of reading ‘long’ texts, bite-sized things are the norm.
  • It also reflects general obsession with product over process ‘comprehension approach’ to reading and listening

Following a statement that, if students are given solid orientation to ER and select appropriate texts, they meet with a lot of success, the question was asked:

Q: What does a “solid orientation” to ER involve? How can we set students up to take advantage of ER?

  • Start with something they’ve read in their own language.
  • Absolutely need to explain how ER works. Provide research evidence and testimonials from previous students.

Another thread which emerged was around the issue of Classroom management and Scheduling for ER:

Q: At what stage in the lesson would you organise ER?  Better at the end? Or before the break?

  • Different times each day so students can’t predict and avoid.
  • I questioned the teacher I observed about her choice to put it at the start. There was 20 minutes ER and the students did not want to put their books down.
  • Once a week, 15 minutes at start of class, student choice. Did it with a CMB (?) class with good student feedback

Q: Should teacher dedicate class time to silent, student-selected ER? How much? Would students complain?

  • They should. Classtime may be the only time students are in an environment which is conducive to ER
    • What is ‘conducive’? Not sure lack of opportunity is the issue (bus, breaks, bedtime, bathroom)
    • Time given over to ER, quiet, expected, no judgement because everyone is doing the same thing
  • It’s also a good opportunity to develop ER habits that may not have been there before
  • Drop Everything and Read – read texts of personal interest then tell the class what you read
    • Students read what peers had recommended according to their interests
    • Worked so well with reluctant readers because they chose their own texts. Over a few weeks they read a lot.

Q: Day and Bamford say that the teacher needs to be a role model … How can we do this?

  • Read and read and read and love it
  • Let students know you love reading. Read during ER time. Talk about what you read.
  • Show them you are practising what you preach in your own L2 learning
  •  “I’ve done ER in Japanese along with students. Share my test scores with them too. Why not?” “It’s been a while but when I was studying for/taking Japanese LPT we had a kind of team thing going. And sometimes just misery loves company (or empathy if you prefer) after test day. “ @gotanda

Q: What are your views on having students read eBooks in ER time?

  • On one hand might get them reading, but would it need more policing?
  • Depends if they read naturally eBooks or not? Whatever is closest to what they do normally would work best I think

Q: How do you get love for books in English when they hate reading in their first language?

  • Not everyone likes reading even in L1. ‘Reading is caught, not taught’ (Nutall).
  • Ensure you’re not just offering fiction. Pop science, topical writing, bios, etc. can engage where a story might not.
    • “A good mixed diet of junk food, meat and three veges and a sprinkling of quinoa.” @chimponobo
  • I remember seeing a doco where a guy gamified the reading experience with primary kids who hated readings (parents as well). He did like a reading World Cup and each student’s reading contributed to team’s score. By the end most were engaged. @chimponobo
    • That’s a nice idea for competitive classes.
    • I saw that too. He also got students to decide what books the school bought. Mixed success was the outcome if I recall. @trylingual

Q: What are you suggestions for how students should select texts for ER?

  • Have them read 1st 100 words of book. If they don’t know more than 3 words, put it back. Then see if they can answer these 2 questions: 1) Do you want to keep reading? 2) Why do you want to keep reading? @kevchanwow
  • Many people like to look at front cover, blurb, get recommendations – we can leverage this in ER programs.
  • Start with something they’ve read in their own language … and LOVED
  • Students chose own books.
  • Students select their own here. This seems to work well for B2 and upwards.
  • Some of our teachers do excursions to a local 2nd hand bookshop. Students always buy one book, and by choice too!


Coursebook/textbook readings didn’t seem to be considered useful as part of an ER program:

  • Textbook readings often don’t resemble anything from real life and not motivating to boot.
  • An ‘interesting’ coursebook text is still nothing like being glued to a thriller.

so…

Q: What types of text students get interested?

  • Genre fiction, such as the thriller, follows rules our students understand, reduces need to build schema.
    • I remember doing an observation once where the teacher started with ER, and one student was completely absorbed in his copy of “Dorian Gray” @Penultimate_K
  • English as it is actually written and not how the coursebook thinks it should be. Natural language patterns.
  • Teachers can influence success of ER by recommending books that work. Not yucky graded classics. Young Adult fiction for example.
  • Graphic novels!
  • Most borrowed from our library = non-fiction. Least borrowed = graded classics (except Sherlock Holmes)
  • Movie tie-ins very popular.
  • Comic books work, but superhero stuff actually riddled with low frequency words.
    • Personally I’d rather read superhero stuff 🙂 Do low frequency words matter less in a visually supported context?
      • Think it depends. Superhero stuff has lots of exposition without visual clues. You know monologuing. That’s impenetrable.
      • Visually supported texts sometime interfere with vocabulary acquisition. Had students say, “can’t remember the word, can only see the picture”
      • Interesting – at least they remember there WAS a word! Is there research on visuals interfering with word memory?
      • I was always thought visuals enhance memory. Like the usage of mnemonics
    • This was a plenary on using comic books in the classroom http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/turkey/key-plenary-samantha-lewis-using-graphic-novels-comics-teens-story-sharing-web-conference  @chimponobo
    • Micky Mouse goes down well.
    • Some students really loved Archie, Betty & Veronica. Longer stories better than strips. Too many idiom gags.
    • There are so many great ‘comics’ though. Watchmen, Walking Dead, Sandman…Am not thinking of kids, obviously…
    • Persepolis and American Splendor too. Lots to work with there, especially non-explosive movie tie-ins.
  • I have a box set of Roald Dahl books in my classroom for students – fiction & autobiographies. I love Dahl and so do many of my students!
  • I’d love to share more authentic texts that work eg, many texts for “teens” or “YA” are perfect for ER

Q: It sounds like ER is often treated as reading books (or comics) – does it have to be? What else do you include?

  • I love reading short stories, so I often share favourites with students.
  • I find dual language books (first language and second language side by side) in my Thai reading really helpful. @chimponobo

Q: What other types of techniques help students get interested?

  • Giving students time to do book exchanges/recommendations at the beginning of an ER session works well.
  • Also letting students write one line reviews (with 5 star ratings) in the back of books works well
    • I guess now they could do reviews in 140 characters on Twitter as well
  • Used exam as motivation for practising ER in class (to ensure students saw value)
  • Being stubborn? Bring extra books, mags, newspapers, in case students forget
  • Teacher reads what students recommend? Teacher outlines what he/she enjoys and students confer to choose book. Teacher reads during ER and then gives feedback.

Q: “Grading” texts is much touted in ER. Is this really necessary? How do you/your students feel about it?

For:

  • I had a good range of graded Penguin readers at my previous place. We had ER twice a week, with truly fruitful results.

Against:

  • I find students enjoy the challenge of straight up natural texts, particularly if they like the book.
  • I feel a bit uncomfortable giving (*) adults heavily graded versions of ‘grownup’ books. Not convinced it’s necessary (*students choose from the publisher’s selection of graded readers).

I came across this after the chat and thought it might be of interest: Graded readers in ELT: the benefits and ways of using them (#ELTchat 30 November 2013)

Q: What type of texts work well for low level learners? ‏

There were questions re this, but no responses during the chat – if you have suggestions, feel free to add via a comment here, a tweet using the #AusELT‏ hashtag, or start a discussion thread on our #AusELT Facebook group.

  • Q: Any suggestions for interesting reading materials for adults who speak well but who are very low level of literacy in L2? @JoHorsburgh1
  • Q: What type of texts work well for low level learners? ‏@trylingual

Suggested resources and websites

Student/Reading resources

Teacher resources

I thought these summaries of chats on related topics from #ELTchat might be of interest:

And I heard about this new project from The Round as I was writing this summary:

  • A Community of Readers by Michael McCollister
    Extensive reading (ER) is an approach to language learning that has experienced enormous growth in many parts of the world, though most noticeably in Asia. In contrast to intensive reading, its older, more established brother, ER asks students to read lots and lots of easy material, slowly building up greater understanding and control over one level of linguistic material before moving on to a slightly more challenging level. Slow, but steady.
    The purpose of this collection is not to offer a prescribed set of rules regarding extensive reading as it to ask readers to participate in a discussion of ER theory and practice.

Finally, the quote of the chat from @SophiaKhan4:

  • Reading is about curiosity. EVERYONE is curious about something, we just have to help them find it. 

NOTES:

For ease of summary writing I’ve dropped off who made the various statements – please check the transcript if you need to check the source of various statements:
Transcript: inaugural #AusELT slowburn on extensive reading (Thurs 2rd April, 2014)

Usual disclaimer and apology: I hope I haven’t misrepresented anyone’s views by putting their comment out of context, or left out any comment.  I find doing these difficult, as I have to summarise the chat but I think every comment is important and should be included –  something has to give! If you’re not sure what I mean, put up your hand for the next chat summary ☺  If you do notice any mistakes, errors, omissions, etc. please let me know.

 

 

#AusELT chat summary: Follow up to Scott Thornbury’s workshop – ‘Why are we still teaching the wrong grammar the wrong way?’ (7 November, 2013)

EAJ 28.2_CT_10 questions_Scott Thornbury IMAGEThe illustrious Scott Thornbury (ST) was recently in Australia presenting at the English Australia Conference in Perth as well as presenting workshops at other locations around Australia.  As Thornbury has quite a large fan base among the AusELT members-many of whom had the opportunity to attend the workshops and to meet the man himself, it’s no surprise that we voted to devote November’s Twitter chat to a discussion about Scott’s workshop and our musings about what works and doesn’t work in the classroom in terms of teaching grammar.

The chat was comprised of both members who attended the workshops and those who were not able to go. Although there was some recapping of Scott’s workshop, most of the participants already knew the gist and agreed with his views. The chat started out slowly, perhaps due Daylight’s Saving, noted by @sophiakhan4, but picked up in the last 30 minutes with quite a few ideas being shared.

@sophiakhan4, who attended Scott’s workshop, moderated the chat and structured it around the two main parts of his workshop.

What’s wrong with the way grammar is commonly taught/approached by textbooks today?

@sophiakhan4 drew on Scott Thornbury’s workshop to start the ball rolling, ‘ 12 tenses, 12 units in a CB?!? We make them do the same pre-selected stuff over & over.’

The group was in agreement with ST that the grammar taught in textbooks is too linear with grammar as the ultimate goal. Even though today’s textbooks contextualise the grammar, noted by @kathywa29798411, the texts are often artificial and controlled. ‘Nothing could challenge the “rule”‘ comments  @sophiakhan4, and @michaelegriffin notes that these rules are often ‘questionable.’ Even when the tasks are communicative, they revolve around the limited grammar selections.

@MeredithMacAul1 notes that the grammar taught in the texts is not what students need as they put equal emphasis on all the tenses, e.g., future perfect and past perfect.

Scott Thornbury also pointed out that grammar books ignore things like verb patterns and collocations.

A vicious cycle?

The group noted that perhaps students’ attitudes towards grammar and what it means to ‘know’ it are a reflection of the way it is taught.  @michaelegriffin points out that ‘grasping grammar’ often is equated to being able to ‘spout off,’ the rules, often of the tenses, but students are often not able to use structures in context. Many of us agreed that there is a lot of pressure from students to emphasise grammar in the classroom at the expense of other content.

What did ST suggest we think about? Supplementing or a whole new approach? @kathywa29798411

Scott Thornbury emphasised ‘demystifying’ the tenses, as @sophiakhan4  puts it, and a large portion of the Sydney workshop was spent doing this for teachers (See his slides from his workshop)

He also seemed to suggest a text-based approach with more authentic models.  @MeredithMacAul1 enjoyed the phrases he used, e.g., ‘Ninja grammar’ which involves awareness raising activities with language so that students don’t really realise they are ‘doing’ grammar. In other words, the students will never know it’s coming…

What grammar should we teach? How?

@ElkySmith succinctly pointed out ‘teach what is salient in the context, teach what Ss need to know really about it.’ The group agreed that that students should be exposed to the type of texts they want to produce, either spoken or written. For example, students in Academic English have different needs than those in a Business class.

@lukeealexander pointed out that students must be taught how text and context dictate grammar, which seemed to be one the underlying points made by ST.

It seems that most of those involved in the chat already teach this way, addressing the needs of the individual class or course. For example, @MeredithMacAul1 pointed out that in the EAP syllabus she teaches with, grammar is drawn from academic texts and this has been successful @cioccas agreed that at TAFE where she teaches, this is also done to some extent.

@sophiakhan4  notes that using authentic texts is desirable but could be difficult for newer, less experienced teachers. Students could also be reluctant to accept a different way learning grammar but @ElkySmith points out that students are willing to try new approaches from a teacher they respect.

@sophiakhan4  asked about the ‘invisible non-tense grammar,’ that ST mentioned. It was pointed out that this is tricky to teach especially in a short intense course but the members of this group seem to have tricks to addresses such points.

@SophiaKhan4 went back to ST’s workshop: ‘ST proposes lang learning is really about FEEDBACK (not T presentation). Sts need massive exposure + problematisation + use/feedback’

This prompted many ideas about what teachers do in their classroom along these lines, based on the language needs of the students and class.

How can we integrate these feedback/problematisation aspects into our teaching?

@cioccas says most of her grammar lesson this semester are based on her students’ errors.

@MeredithMacAul1 also uses a lot of error correction and workshopping of student writing to correct errors but also to identify what grammar students ‘need.’

@sophiakhan4 reiterated Scott’s point that we need to focus more on feedback, awareness-raising, and restructuring of sts’ ‘internal grammar’.

Ideas for feedback, restructuring and awareness-raising raised in the chat included:

  • Mini-grammar lessons based on what students need
  • Grammar auction
  • Text mining activities-making students aware of ‘small’ grammar and setting discovery tasks based on texts in class, e.g., Give a list of words in text and sts find surrounding word patterns. Sts match to meaning.
  • Make a cloze with a text students previously read
  • Sts make their own word ‘webs’ with corpora/collocation dictionary with words from the text & teach other sts  @lukeealexander
  • Ask students to highlight ‘grammar’ in peers’ writing-eg. pres simp, passive, complex sentence-Is it used correctly? @ MeredithMacAul1
  • Dictogloss or grammar dictation – good for providing feedback to groups or whole class, identify grammar which requires revision @cioccas
  • ST suggested learning thru song/putting common expressions to song=exposure/awareness-raising
  • ‘Grass skirt’ with error correction@MeredithMacAul1
  • ‘Error correction maze – sts turn left or right depending on whether they think a sentence is right or wrong. You can only get out if you identify the right sentences as right/wrong’ @SophiaKhan4

In summary, among the teachers in this chat, the best approach is an individualised one and one in which ‘emergent grammar,’ often takes precedence over what is planned. It is acknowledged that perhaps this comes with experience and would be difficult for newer teachers to carry out.

I’ll leave you with two quotes:

@cioccas ‘Most of what we’ve been chatting about comes down to working with whatever comes up with class – works for written & spoken.’

‘YES with what the students want/need to do with English and coming at it from that end, not our end.’@SophiaKhan4

In the last few minutes, two books were mentioned for follow-up. See references.

References

Teaching Unplugged by Scott Thornbury and Luke Meddings available on e-book via http://www.amazon.co.uk/Teaching-Unplugged-Luke-Meddings/dp/1905085192, recommended by @ElkySmith

The English Verb: An exploration of Structure and Meaning by Michael Lewis: http://www.amazon.com/The-English-Verb-Exploration-Structure/dp/090671740X, recommended by@SophiaKhan4 and @kathywa29798411

Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals: http://moviesegmentstoassessgrammargoals.blogspot.com.au/ recommended by @cioccas

Slides from Scott Thornbury’s Workshop at the English Australia Conference  http://www.englishaustralia.com.au/visageimages/about_us/conference/2013_Conference/2013_Thornbury_PCW.pdf

Scott Thornbury’s official website: http://thornburyscott.com/  and Twitter handle @thornburyscott

Thanks everyone for an enjoyable chat!

This summary was written by Meredith MacAulay @MeredithMacAul1

“Well done Josh! +1 for teamwork!” Gamification and Crabs – a guest post by Paul Driver

A decorator crab covered in borrowed bling. (Photo by q.phia)

A decorator crab covered in borrowed bling. (Photo by q.phia)

“Well done Josh! +1 for teamwork!”

Gamification and Crabs

By Paul Driver

http://digitaldebris.info

Nobody seems to know what gamification is. I used to think it was a pretty straightforward case of appropriating certain elements associated with games and then applying them to systems that are not games. These typically include creating multiple levels (or levelling up in gaming jargon), adding points, leader boards, virtual badges and medals. The idea is that these things all work so well in games, so why not apply them to address real-world problems? Simple.

But as the popularity of the term has spread so its meaning has become similarly smeared. It is now often used to refer to anything from game-based learning, serious games and problem-based learning to company loyalty schemes and marketing gimmicks designed to increase “customer engagement” (in other words, spending).

While video games are increasingly being embraced as valid and practical learning tools, regardless of whether they were designed with that in mind, the practice of gamifiying education seems to have thrived on this ludic zeitgeist.

One prominent example, Class Dojo, which describes itself as “Behaviour Management Software”, claims that it can “improve behavior in class with just one click of a smartphone, laptop, or tablet” . It enables teachers to send instant customizable notifications such as “Well done Josh! +1 for teamwork!”. Apparently, Generation Y is particularly responsive to such positive reinforcement.

So why is it then that so many people who appear to know an awful lot about games are so vocal in dismissing gamification as, at best, an over-hyped and misguided fad, and, at worst, an evil and manipulative strategy for getting people to do things they normally wouldn’t want to? Ian Bogost, award-winning author, theorist and game designer, has described gamification as “exploitationware” and “bullshit”.

Other high-profile members of the gaming community like Jane McGonigal, world-renowned designer of alternate reality games and best-selling author of Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, has distanced herself from the concept. In a 2012 NYT article she states,

“I don’t think anybody should make games to try to motivate somebody to do something they don’t want to do. If the game is not about a goal you’re intrinsically motivated by, it won’t work.”

The problem is, many of gamification’s leading proponents often produce substantial amounts of evidence to support that it works. Student grades and behaviour have been shown to improve, absenteeism has demonstrably decreased. On the surface, rewarding learners with points and badges might sound like a very pragmatic and efficient way to get them to do what we want, but is this just a short term solution? What happens when the rewards are removed? What happens when the learner is already motivated to learn or complete a task? As McGraw (1978) notes,

“Incentives will have a detrimental effect on performance when two conditions are met: first, when the task is interesting enough for subjects that the offer of incentives is a superfluous source of motivation; second, when the solution to the task is open-ended enough that the steps leading to a solution are not immediately obvious.”

Personally, I find it hard to get past the awkwardly glued-on suffix “ify”, which implies that the characteristics borrowed from games are mere adornments, designed to deviate attention or disguise something that has fundamentally remained unchanged. I’m reminded of the decorator crab, an otherwise unremarkable crustacean that sticks sedentary plants and other colourful animals to its shell in order to conceal its presence.

Similarly, although gamification may be an efficient way to produce better-behaved students who perform better in standardised tests, is it also concealing more fundamental problems with the ways we educate people? Is it being used to dress up and disguise anachronistic systems of ideas of what school and learning should be? How might gamification be used instead to challenge the status quo? Also, are teachers qualified to design gamified systems? Is it ethical to haphazardly apply operant conditioning techniques and half-understood game mechanics?

Perhaps these are some of the questions we can discuss at the next #AusELT chat?

Further reading:

The #AusELT chat with Paul Driver is on Thursday October 3, 2013, 8:30pm AEST.