jueves, 17 de febrero de 2011

Something to say about: Teaching vocabulary

A language is made up many elements; one of them is, obviously, vocabulary. What can our poor students do with a grammar rule and/ or pattern if the they do not have the words to fill it in? How can we ask them to do pair and group work if they do not have the words to express their ideas? I found a really interesting article about this important area of ELT in the English Teaching Forum, that excellent magazine published by the US Department of the State.
The author, Keith S. Folse, reviews the types of words we teach, from the point of view of a second/ foreign language teacher. He talks about: (1) single words, (2) set phrases, (3) variable phrases, (4) phrasal verbs, and (5) idioms. You may already have recognised most or all of them. Mr Folse continues his article explaining other aspects of vocabulary teaching, then he tells us how to select vocabulary for teaching, and ends with six activities that can prove useful in our classes.
Good article. I am sure you´ll like it.
Cesar Klauer

martes, 8 de febrero de 2011

Something to say about: cooperative and collaborative work

The courses I teach used to require that students do some kind of small scale bibliographic research. The results were varied. Most of the times students understood that each member of the group had to do “his/ her part.” They then got together for a quick coordination of order of appearance in front of the class on the day or one day before the actual presentation. They even pasted together the written work, with the obvious mismatches in style and contents, not to mention the shameful copy/paste cases.
Was this method acceptable? In the eyes of the students, it was. They knew no other way of doing it: distribute sections, work independently and then put it all together. We teachers fought very hard against that kind of work, we wanted them to share their findings in the group and come to a final group conclusion. What we were doing was trying to make a distinction between cooperative and collaborative work.
I have found an interesting article that tells both methods apart. It appeared in the English Teaching Forum magazine. To begin with, the two approaches are set clearly: “The key difference between these approaches to group work is that cooperation is more focused on working together to create an end product, while successful collaboration requires participants to share in the process of knowledge creation.”
The rest of the piece discusses the two methods and gives some practical suggestions that we teachers will find extremely useful. Find the article clicking this link. I am sure you´ll like it.

martes, 1 de febrero de 2011

Something to say about: NNESTs

What does NNESTs stand for? Well, if you didn´t know, here it is: Non-native English Speaking Teachers. I am one, for that matter, and proud of it, too. Come to think of it, most teachers I know are NNESTs! What´s more, the majority of English teachers are! Uff, what a relief! I had started to think we were kind of intruders in a world full of "gringos" who are the non plus ultra of the language. But wait a minute! We also have things to chip in here, don´t we? Of course we do. For starters, we have learned the language and gone through all (or almost all) the troubles associated with understanding, assimilating and producing messages in a foreign language. Sadly enough, many (too many, in my opinion) native speaking teachers I have met in my teaching carreer do not want to even learn Spanish. A pitty, really, not only because they are showing disrespect for the local culture but also because they are not developing. Trying a different language is a very good way to put yourself into the other person´s shoes, experience the frustration and / or satisfaction of being able to tackle communication in another tongue; and that´s an invaluable resource for any language teacher: understanding the student´s position first-hand does not come in any one-hour workshop. I am not going to talk about the "mochileros" (those native speakers who come to "teach" whithout any prepartion at all) who are so well-considered by some, it´s not worth the effort.
All this talk comes up because a very good friend of ours, Carmen Caceda, just sent me a link to a TESOL Essential Teacher article on precisely this topic. A NNEST teacher who is given the task of teaching German. A challenge.
Read the article HERE.