Image courtesy of Premshree Pillai
I really enjoy being a language teacher, but I make a terrible language learner. When I was younger, I barely scraped by in my French lessons, but when we moved to another province in Canada when I was in grade nine, I found out how far behind I was in regards to the other students. One of the biggest things I noticed was how small my personal lexicon was compared to my classmates. Sure my grammar was bad, but since I didn’t have the words to put together meaningful sentences, no one really noticed.
Fast forward a number of years to when I had moved to Lithuania and was taking Lithuanian language lessons while working as an English language instructor. There was this initial rush of learning as my vocabulary grew while taking lessons and living my day-to-day life shopping, working, and socializing with others. My confidence grew as did my vocabulary, but it was somewhere around the six month mark that I started to notice a levelling off in my lexical growth. I decided I needed to take action, so I bought myself a set of CDs that promised to help me learn a pile of new words. I transferred the audio files to my iPod and listened intently as I walked to and from work each day. It was at that time that something hit me. The words I had learned in my first six months were sticking in my brain much better than the ones I learned while walking. At first I thought it was the fact I wasn’t seeing the words, so I wrote them out to look at as I walked. That didn’t really help. “Okay,” I thought, “what else could it be?” Then it hit me — context. That is what I was missing. Continue reading Acquiring
Image courtesy of Sean Benham
On a side note: This is my 50th post on this blog. As most of you know, I don’t get too excited about things like this, but it is nice to look back over the six months I have been working on this blog and see what has transpired since then. No matter how many visitors, retweets, FB shares, and so on that I get, I am in awe that anyone would think I have anything even remotely interesting to share. Thank you for putting up with my rants and incoherent rambling. I appreciate you all. Really.
Today I did elevator pitches with my students and I thought they did a really great job. I decided to do those instead of a traditional presentation for a number of reasons, but mostly because I feel it is more realistic than a lecture style speech. For those who are not aware of what an elevator pitch is, here is the basic situation.
Imagine you have walked into an elevator and standing there is the CEO / President / Manager of the company you would like to work for or with which you would like to do business. As the doors close, you have one minute to pitch yourself or your idea before the doors open again and you lose your opportunity of a lifetime. Continue reading Pitching
Image courtesy of Rob Cabellero
I am a terrible photographer. Really. For many years, I worked in the photographic industry as a sales person and trainer, but what I knew in my head about how a great image comes together never developed when it came time to push the shutter button. It still frustrates me. Sure, there are times I get a decent picture, but as the wise Doug Peterson once told me,
Image courtesy of Marcin Wichary
Yesterday, I was reading over a discussion happening on the #AusELT Facebook page about students’ perception regarding games / activities in the language classroom. I don’t think I am alone when I say that I have had similar discussions with students about teaching methodology in my classroom. I haven’t had it happen in a while, but that doesn’t mean that students haven’t been thinking it. I would agree with some others here in saying that I probably don’t do that many activities or games in my class anymore, but my approach to teaching is still quite different from what many of my students are accustomed to.
Language teaching is one of those things that most people have an opinion on how it should be done. Even those who have never stepped into a language classroom already have a mental picture, rightly or wrongly, about what that looks like. There is no way that we can please all of the students all of the time. Someone in the classroom is going to think that things should be more serious or fun or something in between.
Upon further reflections regarding this discussion on Facebook, my mind started to wander in a somewhat different direction (anyone who knows me understands that this is completely normal). One of the comments from Mike Smith was in regards to how to best use the time you have with the students in the classroom. He suggested that there is work that is best done by the student on their own leaving more time in the classroom for more interactive practice. I think Mike is onto something here. To flesh out his point a bit more, I decided to break down the various components of language learning into two camps: teacher guided or led and individual work. There really is two parts to the teacher guided or led, that is one-to-one tutoring and group or classwork, but for the sake of this post, I will clump them together into one inseparable group. Continue reading Guiding
Image courtesy of Javier Prazak
I think everyone has had one of those moments where something happens that you just need to share it with someone, anyone. I had one of those instances this afternoon. I was looking for something completely different when I stumbled on this fantastic research article from Merrill Swain and Sharon Lapkin (2011) on the role language plays in creating cognitive change. I’m sorry, what’s that? It doesn’t sound that fascinating to you? It didn’t to me either until I started to read it. For some reason, the subject resonated with me and I will attempt to explain why that is. Continue reading Languaging