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Archive for October, 2007

It has just occurred to me that I must have a few dozen more students this year – I even calculated the exact number when I arrived home from work this evening – 114.  Considering the fact that the majority of them are quite advanced, designing & marking their tests as well as proofreading their written work tend to take ages. My website is A REAL TIME SAVER. I mean it. My students even practise writing letters online. Some teens boo, of course, but the majority and I are happy – I don’t waste time deciphering illegibly written work. Moreover, students can make use of all sorts of dictionaries, etc.  Another interesting by-product of all this online activity is that I can easily print out sample answers (having removed their authors’ names)  or use them as raw material for designing various exercises especially those focusing on common mistakes. Unlike paper-and-pencil tests, interactive ones can be done several times, and many students actually do each quiz a few times aiming at boosting their scores. The downside is that the initial effort required when I design a test from scratch is enormous. Whatever I do, marking creative writing assignments is bound to remain my pet hate for years to come.

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There are quite a few terms or shall I say buzz words that seem to be juggled again and again when discussing the topic.  I’ll try to jot most of them down to help myself get the gist of the subject matter – in a way it is all about familiar phenomena being labelled/tagged with fussy names.  Likewise, the list of collocations I am going to compile is likely to help me to learn to talk fluently about issues pertaining to the topic:

  • the basis of destructive ethnocentricity
  • to see dynamics of change
  • a cultural market place where ideas and practices are traded between different groups according to their needs
  • expatriate teachers
  • curriculum developers
  • observations of classroom events
  • relating to their own (diverse) social contexts
  • to embark upon thick description (ie not the whole picture, fragments only)
  • the imperialist paradigm (commonly quoted limitations : patronising, seems to work on the West-against-the-developing-world principle only)
  • the complex nature of the diverse social contexts surrounding English language education (ELE)
  • the propensity (ie a natural tendency that you have to behave in a particular way)  for breakdown in communication
  • methodologies for designing curricula
  • to prescribe syllabuses before considering the (linguistic) needs of students (ie to put the cart before the horse)
  • to rectify the state of affairs
  • to enable student (language)  needs to drive syllabuses
  • to make ELE more appropriate to the social requirements of students and educators alike in different environments throughout the world

According to A. Holliday, the author of Appropriate Methodology & Social Context, there are three basic types of appropriate methodology for classroom teaching (p.1) 

Type

Activities

the methodology for carrying out the work of teaching English or for doing ELE what the T does in the classroom, ie methods and approaches; the work of training or educating Ts.
the methodology for carrying out the work of designing & managing ELE aka Curriculum Development writing textbooks and examinations; designing, setting up and managing larger projects for developing anything from textbooks to teacher training curricula
the methodology for collecting the information* about the particular social context in question *which Ts/curriculum developers need to make the other two methodologies described above appropriate NB This methodology in its turn also has to be appropriate to the social context (A Holliday argues for ethnographic action research & social investigation in a gradual, non-prescriptive way)

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I am thoroughly enjoying the course unit I am doing now – everything seems to be relevant and to the point.  It feels as if I were doing a 10-thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle and someone was helping me a lot in a very discreet, unobtrusive way by providing hints rather than doing anything for me, encouraging and preventing me from getting sidetracked by guiding me all the way through – the input is quintessential and takes little time to familiarize myself with and yet it gives a lot of food for thought.  The reading lists are exhaustive, though, I wish I had a lot more time so that I could read everything – I am really interested and it is a pain I cannot afford to devote more time to studying.  The good thing is that I can finally afford to attend every single lecture and do every single task – I am not restricted in terms of time or pace in any way.  I have never been taught this way before.

PS I have just discovered that it must be the Reflective Approach

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There is something incredibly amusing about such hyphenated rhyming words as willy-nilly, airy-fairy, nitty-gritty and the like – I really feel like compiling an exhaustive list of those. I wish I had more free time.

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It looks I’ve got to reread everything I’ve got on the topic, Grammar Translation first, then the Structural Approach and whatever comes next. It is strange that they do not ever mention the Lexical Approach – I absolutly love it. All the groups I happen to teach on Fridays are doing their unit test tomorrow, so I could make full use of the time then:)

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Just a few notes or should I better say observations? regarding the very beginning. Like in offline classrooms, the first actvity Ss are supposed to enage in is the GTKY. Newbies are asked to introduce themselves and encouraged to make some smalltalk. It is a shame there is no possibility to apply any formatting to messages, everything you contribute is just plain text. I somehow need all those bulleted and numbered lists, tables, etc. I still cannot see the main course – I wonder whether Gail has received my last message.  There are not many people on the course, about a dozen or so, but everyone has a story to tell. It is fascinating to discover what sort of people become EFL teachers and how come they tend to enjoy what they do.

It is so much easier to talk in password-protected VLEs – one feels so much more secure and relaxed.  Even the shyest participants eventually speak up and join discussions.  Compared with the course I did last year, this one seems to be a lot more promising in terms of fellow participants’ contributions. Last year it was all so teacher-centered – people hardly ever wanted to talk to each other apart from situations when artificially divided into groups to work on tasks assigned by the course tutor.  It sometimes felt so that nobody was really interested in the subject matter or possibilities of application of the newly acquired knowledge and skills – most people just aimed at getting good or passing grades judging by what I heard during breaks.  I wonder whether any of them are into trying out anything we covered in class last spring.

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