Saturday, 20 June 2009

Teaching Vocabulary: a seemingly never-ending task.

How many times have you wondered about the best ways of teaching vocabulary?

"I have to introduce these new words before dealing with this reading activity! How shall I do it?"

Well, in a desperate way of looking for some answers, or at least, for a sort of guide to resort to, we have collaboratively worked on a chart providing some procedures to teach, present and introduce new vocabulary in our lessons.

Please feel free to take a look at our work and leave any suggestions and comments you may think relevant to share with us (since it is a Wiki page and commenting is restricted to its users, you are invited to leave your comments on this blog entry).

I really hope you find it as useful as we meant it to be.

Different Techniques and Ideas to Teach Vocabulary

This project was adapted by Gladys Baya from a task originally taken from "Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom," Tricia Hedge, Chapter IV, OXFORD, 2000.

Are we prepared to have independent students?

There are lots of books, websites and experts talking about encouraging learner independence. It is undoubtedly true that, as teachers, we always want our students to learn (regardless of our teaching approaches), but what is not clearly defined is what we are ready to "sacrifice" to get at that goal.
Are we ready to foster an independent classroom in which students will no longer need to be taken under our wings? Are we ready to promote self-directed learning? Are we ready to admit that some students may no longer need us there all the time?

If we come to the conclusion that we are ready, one way in which we can promote greater learner independence is by helping students to become aware of language as a system so that they can understand many of the learning teachniques available and learn enough grammar to understand simple reference books. In this way, we are helping our students to profit from different learning techniques (to practise vocabulary, phonology and/or grammar) inasmuch as we start little by little showing them how to use those techniques and how to adapt them to match their own learning needs. It is essential for us not to give students the solution to a problem but to give them different tools so that, in the future, when encountered with such a situation, they can use them on their own and for their own purposes. For example, when students ask the meaning of a new word, or its pronunciation, instead of giving it to them, we can show them how to look it up in a dictionary (I personally provide them with different sites, such as the Cambridge Online Dictionary, and, for phonetics, I suggest that they buy/rent/borrow the Cambridge Pronouncing Dictionary (the one with the CD-ROM), in which they can both read and hear the pronunciation and record themselves to self-assess their pronunciation).

And last, but not least, we should do our best so as to convince students that they are capable of greater independence in learning by giving them successful experiences of independent learning. Before providing our students with any technique or tool, we have to be sure that they will be able to use it successfully. For instance, if I decide to suggest that they buy the Cambridge Dictionary I previously mentioned, I need to be sure that they will be able to afford it. If I constantly provide them with tools they cannot get access to, they will definitely reject independent learning because of the feeling of frustration brought about by their impediment to get them.

It is really important for us to be in contact with our students' needs all the time. Helping them find their way out is as important as giving them useful but at the same time accessible tools.

Based on Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom, Chapter III, Tricia Hedge, OXFORD, 2000.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Who has and who should have power in the classroom?

When teaching, have we ever stopped for a minute to think about who takes the decisions in the lesson?
Who decides what is taught? Who decides how and when it is going to be taught?
Are we ready, as teachers, to hand over some power? Or is it precisely power what makes us different from the students?
To me, teaching is all about sharing and negotiating with the students. How am I going to help them if I only teach what I think is relevant and not what they really need? How am I going to help them if I can only rely in one way of teaching?
After observing a lesson at a Secondary School in Buenos Aires City, I wrote a report focusing on power. I analysed what decisions were taken by the teacher (and/or by the students) and which were the general tendencies. Were students given opportunities to take some decisions? Or everything was set and established by the teacher?

I invite you now to go over my report. I really hope you enjoy it as much as I did while writing it. I can assure you it will be a great opportunity for you to reflect on your own teaching. It really helped me realise how important it is for a teacher to be aware of the decisions we take (or let students take). As you will notice while reading the report, I tried to analyse both aspects of classroom power: who does and who should take the decisions (this was done, of course, following my own heart and my personal views).

2nd Report / Alejandra de antoni / Classroom Observation / Methods 2 2009 2nd Report / Alejandra de antoni / Classroom Observation / Methods 2 2009 alez_avrill This is a report of a 40-minute lesson I observed at a secondary school in Argentina. It was a class of 12 and 13 year-olds. They are learning English as Foreign Language and their level is somewhere between elementary and pre-intermediate.
The object of analysis of this report is Power. Who is in charge of taking the decisions in the classroom? The teacher? The students? Or both?
What are the implications of handing over some decision-making and what consequences it brings about in the activities' outcomes and students' learning process?
I really hope you enjoy my reflection and, of course, your comments and reactions are welcome! (:

After writing my report, I came to the following conclusion:

I generally share some decision-making with my students. I don’t generally let them decide everything simply because there are some things that have to be done in a certain period of time (this is related to what I explained in points 5 and 6 above). Of course I know that there are certain aims that we should achieve in a certain period of time but, at the same time, I know that we can sometimes negotiate the way in which we are going to do so. I know that sometimes I put at risk some short-term goals (for instance, practising a certain language topic in a given activity) while letting them decide on the way they will carry out an activity or the topics they are going to talk about. It’s definitely more demanding and risky for us to hand over power but, in the end, it is a lot more rewarding because they will not only enjoy what they are doing but they will also remember it! The key is M & M: Motivating and Memorable!