Sunday, 17 June 2007

Learning questionnaire

Design a short questionnaire/inventory which you could use with students at the beginning of a course to raise their awareness of their assumptions about learning a language and/or their reactions to past learning experiences.
I don't know who to give credit for this idea because I'm sure I took it from one of my teachers, but to be honest, I don't know who. But the point is that I use this activity with my students at the beginning of the course to know more or less where they are standing and to get to know them. The name of the activity is "coat of arms" and as the name says it, it's a drawing of a coat of arms divided into 5 sections. There I write different things but just to give you an example: 1. Me (so they have to tell me or write something about them), 2. My family (idem but with the family), 3. Favourite Place, 4. Hobby, 5. English Experience.
This activity is like the springboard because after or during the activity, I ask different questions and also check how they want to learn and what they expect for the rest of the year.
I also work with photocopies from books that have kind of questionnaires or inventories where students have to tick what they like, the way they learn or the way they would like to learn.
It is very important to show students they have different ways in which they can learn and if we teach them that, they will have more possibilities to learn on their own (at home with homework or when they need to study for English or other subjects).
And what about you? Do you have activities to share with me?
Hedge, Tricia (2001); A Framework for Teaching and Learning; chapter 3(Discussion projects and topics # 4- p. 103); O.U.P.

Learner training

To what extent have the concepts of self-direction or learner training influenced your own ELT situation? Do you think the implications they hold for institutional practice are desirable or possible, and what are the practical constraints?
Before starting the Teacher Training College I used to teach at an institute and at home. I thought I taught beautifully because I gave my students everything and lots of grammar and exercises. But when I started learning how to teach, it changed my life completely.
These concepts, self-direction and learner training, have changed the way I teach because, nowadays, I start from my student's needs so classes are suited for them and not just for me.
I believe that this is possible to be applied as long as the number of students and the institution allow you. the problem sometimes lays on the institution when they think we have to follow the syllabus and that's it, without thinking about quality learning but only on the "quantity" of exposure.

Hedge, Tricia (2001); A Framework for Teaching and Learning; chapter 3(Discussion projects and topics # 9 - p. 103); O.U.P.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Groupwork in the communicative classroom

Hedge (2001) lists the following reasons for using pairwork and groupwork in the communicative classroom:

  • It motivates students to work in face to face encounters in the classroom.
  • It increases opportunities for practicing the language.
  • It enables students to take risks with the language and to see if they can negotiate meaning.
  • It gives students the opportunity to monitor how well they understand and are understood.

I agree with all of the reasons but I believe items C and D are the most important ones.

I think some students like this kind of activities because they can play and have fun and if they enjoy doing an exercise, they learn more. That would be another reason.

The disadvantages are that sometimes students don’t behave or speak in their mother tongue and complete the charts but in their mother tongue so the purpose of the activity is ruined.

I think there should be conditions to follow so students can profit from the activity. One of the conditions, for example, should be to speak in English when working or maybe telling them they can say 3 things in their mother tongue but not more than that, so they have to choose when to use their mother tongue and then switch back to English.


Hedge, Tricia (2001); Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom; chapter 2 (Discussion projects and topics # 6 - p. 73); O.U.P.