A slow (but steady) learner

I came across heads and tails (here or here if you scroll down the page slightly) in Materials Development in Language Teaching when I was reading for a Masters assignment and liked them on sight (with that same jolt of recognition and delight I’d had when reading about some and any and how the choice wasn’t actually a matter of questions and negatives, but of expectations and limits). How could I have used something all these years and just not noticed they were there in my speech ? At that time I was still teaching the big university classes, it was the beginning of the year so they were low level and I thought I might introduce heads and tails later when they got to a point where they could cope and were looking for shiny new things. Then as the year rolled on I forgot.

Continue reading A slow (but steady) learner

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Measurability and countability

Is it ok to have four issues not five in an LSA issues section ? (teacher doing Delta)
‘Look, I wrote lots this week’ (iGCSE student)
Can I see ITI’s Delta results anywhere ? (prospective Delta applicant)
and my response to all of the above was … discomfort. They are the wrong questions (and yes, I know one of them isn’t a question, but they were all looking for a response). They are all reasonable questions, but when they get asked too often and other things don’t get asked, then they are the wrong questions.

And I’ve been noticing how often I get asked them since I read a blog post by Seth Godin a week or two ago – about it being easy to measure the number of words in a book, but that not telling us very much of use about the book and the temptation to do (or notice, or rely on) the thing we can measure because we can measure it. I think it was the title that had the most impact – measuring nothing with great accuracy. The further I got through writing this though, the more I think there is a difference between measurability and countability and he is talking about the latter, but the point still works – in fact it becomes more interesting.

  Continue reading Measurability and countability

learner needs, books and unanswered questions

Theme of the week is meeting learner needs and there is a question in here somewhere I’m having trouble articulating.

Needs in Module Three and on my courses

I’m draft marking as a tutor on the Distance Delta autumn M3 and running the ITI autumn M3 (among other things, but there is much M3 dialogue going on right now), so spending a lot of time trying to get teachers to think about how they can find out what their learners needs are and how to address them. At the same time, the first class they have given me in the language school this year is a small group of teenagers who hope to eventually do the iGCSE first language English.  It is new for me and I’m not sure if it even really counts as TEFL. Continue reading learner needs, books and unanswered questions

Chunks, exams and teachers

If language were all chunks, we could never say anything new, but the chunks help us to say anything at all (including the new). Listening to a learner trying to assemble component parts to express something often needs patience and at lower levels may also involve powers of interpretation on the part of the listener, so chunks have a role to play as sometimes a chunk would allow that thought to be expressed faster (and probably in a more instantly recognisable form). If the files that one occasionally comes across on the net with 500 IELTS compositions in them really are memorised by some language learners in order to get the points they need, would those learners not then be able to write better ? Perhaps not brilliantly, but if you had that many prefabricated phrases and pre formed thoughts lined up and ready to roll, would they not potentially be ready for use in what could be a criteria meeting composition ? But you need to have a sense of the whole as well or you get my all time favourite homework near miss line of ‘I am writing to enquire as to why I would like to borrow £50,000’. But surely if you have read and learnt all 500 you must be at a level that allows you to scan what you have written for coherence as well ? Or must you ?

Continue reading Chunks, exams and teachers