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Often overlooked aspects of lesson obs in EFL. And hamsters
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2012 12:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Did Fluffy say that? I must have missed it in his postings... Still, strikes me as a little odd that anyone would say that Celta is worthless because it is easier to teach learners, in pairs, when they have already learnt enough English on their own before coming to you.
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Sashadroogie



Joined: 17 Apr 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2012 12:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's a pair of Soviet hamsters. Clearly more advanced politically than your average decedent hamster, but would they be easier to teach singly or together?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57CTsyR5XOg
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artemisia



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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2012 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, that was how I interpreted this:
Fluffyhamster wrote:
To be honest, I'm not sure it is possible to teach much outside a pair, a dyad, a dyadic relationship. ............... [My advice then is still to teach yourself a foreign language to the point where you can converse, and then to find a partner, perhaps a literal one, to genuinely talk to. But if one does insist on lessons before or even after the TY course, make sure that the teacher is capable of actually teaching via conversing, not just at teaching or conversing but not the two combined].

I thought this could refer to the teacher and individual student as the pair, or possibly pairs within a very small class.

My point was/is that this situation does not seem to reflect the reality of what most English language teaching situations are. A lot of ELT involves working with fairly sizeable groups. I also do not think most learners have learnt the basics on their own and that any prior knowledge they have comes from previous formal learning situations. That's mostly what I've worked with anyway.
Quote:
Still, strikes me as a little odd that anyone would say that Celta is worthless because it is easier to teach learners, in pairs, when they have already learnt enough English on their own before coming to you.

My thoughts, too, especially as Fluffy's ideal language learning situation is far from the reality of most English language teaching, as I see it. I think the Celta (or similar) is a worthwhile investment for the very basics in language teaching and that it will hopefully be followed by further training for teachers. I don't know if anyone has the same interest as I do in listening to J Harmer speak, but I really like the way he defines student-centred learning, describes the use of course books and also what he thinks good teacher practice is.
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Sashadroogie



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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2012 1:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

J Harmer et al is just old shtick, according to Fluffy. Does this bear on your opinion, Artemisia? : )

Hic!
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2012 9:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, a lot of ELT involves (IMHO unfortunately) teaching largeish groups. But even with larger classes (larger than a pair or trio or foursome, say), I still try to engage on an individual basis - not for me the thousand-yard "Tony Blair/Sauron sweeping gaze-grinace", for example. (Not that that is exactly an approved CELTA technique).

I still don't understand then why many learners invest in "formal" lessons when they are or could soon be linguistically halfway there already. I would much prefer they immerse themselves in the real world than shut themselves off in classrooms that are usually the linguistic equivalent of padded room or kindergarten (with not even a coffee shop in sight). I'm all for gradual immersion, practising strokes etc, but let's make sure the water is at the right temperature and depth and not as I say some lukewarm~frigid glorified goldfish bowl.

Nothing that odd then with maintaining that the CELTA and equivalents certs may not be methodologically worth as much as they are claimed to be. The value of such certs ultimately depends on how long the teacher can see themselves teaching in workplaces that absolutely demand such approaches.

Tell you what, I'll dust off some of my more conversation- or discourse-analysis oriented books and see if I can give you guys something a bit more "authoritative" than my "inane ramblings". IIRC Thornbury & Slade's Conversation: From Description to Pedagogy has some good (reasonably thought-provoking) stuff or pointers in it for a start. And I've already mentioned Lewis' The Lexical Approach (old hat in a way, but I rather suspect that a lot of what he points out and criticizes still holds true).

I didn't say Harmer's books were shtick, all I in fact said (about not only his but in general) was that one can read more (or indeed less) into a book than a video clip. (I appreciate that it's nice to have the video clips in addition to the book though, and assume that they show some of the model lessons from said books. My editions of HTTE and TPoELT are the paper only/pre-additional DVD ones). Anyway, I'll now give the YT link that Artemisia's posted a whirl (even though it isn't an "immediately-practical" clip of classroom teaching!!!).
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artemisia



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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2012 11:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

fluffyhamster wrote:
I still don't understand then why many learners invest in "formal" lessons when they are or could soon be linguistically halfway there already. I would much prefer they immerse themselves in the real world than shut themselves off in classrooms that are usually the linguistic equivalent of padded room or kindergarten (with not even a coffee shop in sight). I'm all for gradual immersion, practising strokes etc, but let's make sure the water is at the right temperature and depth and not as I say some lukewarm~frigid glorified goldfish bowl.

Yes, I take your point that there is something almost strange about attending a language class in the country where the ‘target’ language is spoken and you already have the basics. Why not just experience full immersion instead plugging away at the language in a “lukewarm" environment of a classroom? Except it didn’t work like that for me. I found the following:

(a) Once you’ve got to meet and know people in one language it feels hard or strange to try to change the language. It usually takes having an equivalent level of the other person’s language otherwise it’s too frustrating for everyone as you know you could be communicating so much more easily.

(b) No matter how much you learn, your language never really goes much beyond a few public situations. For example, I never had a long, meaningful conversation with anyone in a supermarket. I was always interested when I had a few students who after time spent abroad, commented on much the same thing to me and on how much they’d depended on their language class for that.

(c) You have the basics but it doesn’t mean you really can speak or feel confident enough to express yourself. People learn in different ways and at different rates. Speaking was low on the list for me: I’d struggle to get a sentence out. Then one day, after some time of not really thinking about it, I suddenly realised I’d been speaking about something without struggling and practically having to spit words out.

If you’re preparing for an exam like IELTS so that you can get a high enough score to attend a university course, your motivation is going to be different from someone attending a summer language course. Unless your parents have shipped you off and you don’t really care what happens, you’re going to be desperate to get through so that you can get on the studies you really want and need to be doing.
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2012 11:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

@Artemisia: I've made it as far as the "unplugged Layla" bit (@22mins) in Harmer's IH talk. I have to admit that by 14-15 minutes I was wishing for a Strutter Bubble playing The Cabin in the Woods. And my immediate thought for now is that standard ELT (in comparison to Dogme) is hardly plugged Layla. I'll get back to watching it in a bit - right now The Innkeepers beckons!

It sounds like you simply didn't get out and about enough with your L2 (or the methods and materials you were using were lacking). Hard to tell, as your post is a bit meandering and vague TBH. As for e.g. standard textbook formalish greetings, "How to introduce yourself and start a conversation" stuff, that IME is precisely the sort of thing that just doesn't cut it in real life outside the classroom or workplace (e.g. names are rarely exchanged until quite a way into any halfway worthwhile spontaneous conversation). Even corny chat-up lines would be better! Anyhoo, perhaps as a bit of light relief I'll dig out, scan n post links to some of the only halfway-serious doodles I made regarding (decidedly non-textbook) "Chat start-ups" and the like LOL.
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artemisia



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PostPosted: Mon Oct 29, 2012 11:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
It sounds like you simply didn't get out and about enough with your L2 (or the methods and materials you were using were lacking). Hard to tell, as your post is a bit meandering and vague TBH

And you talk about teachers being patronising!
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2012 1:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, if it's any consolation, I've fairly or unfairly also been patronized, Artemisia! Though admittedly and thankfully not by you. I did of course get the gist of your points, but a bit more detail would be nice is all. Or something really meaty, to get one's teeth into. I dunno? Maybe some posts are best passed over in silence, if one can't think of much to say in response to them. (But dead silence can also be somewhat disappointing LOL).

But regarding IELTS classes, IME the students taking them are often not of a high-enough general level and rather clutching at straws, while not getting the necessary levelling-up instruction from such "preparation". Mind you, I am talking about scabby high-expectation quick n dirty miracle-working sell-'em-anything eikaiwa in Japan rather than gleaming futuristic Total Recall class-scapes in the West.
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artemisia



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PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2012 4:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Maybe some posts are best passed over in silence

Maybe! But I don’t know what wasn’t sufficiently ‘meaty’ enough about identifying speaking as an area of difficulty for me in a foreign language, and that I needed the classroom learning environment for support with that. It wasn’t ‘til some time after those initial classes that the situation changed for me. But I always credited my classes as having given me the necessary foundation to allow that to happen.
Quote:
But regarding IELTS classes, IME the students taking them are often not of a high-enough general level .... sell-'em-anything eikaiwa in Japan rather than gleaming futuristic Total Recall class-scapes in the West.
Ha! I love the last description – and if only it were true. Unfortunately, the reality is that for various reasons you sometimes do end up with students who shouldn’t be in your class – and you just have to work with that. It can be exhausting if you do this long-term. To clarify this, I mean I find it stressful at times when there is a fixed time limit and students are in danger of losing study scholarships.

Fluffy, I’m generally interested in ideas about teaching and incorporating other methods and approaches. Your posts have made me think– damn it! (I've never liked doing too much of that..). But I’m definitely a ‘keep the baby if not the bathwater’ type. I’m always going to recommend a more traditional training & ongoing PD, etc. - especially to someone starting off – and I do include different kinds of observations with that as part of a developmental continuum. Hee hee; back on track! (Groan)


Last edited by artemisia on Tue Oct 30, 2012 5:05 am; edited 1 time in total
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Sashadroogie



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PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2012 4:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Awwwwh, poor little Fluffy-wuffy! Who's been patronising you then? The big meanies!

Seriously, for a change, it is a little funny to call Artemisia's posts meandering and vague when we are still waiting for you to provide a concrete example of what you think is good practice in the classroom, despite your own meandering and vague postings. So far, all we can ascertain is that you think learning should be only in classrooms with pairs, and done when learners have already managed to get over the hardest parts on their own. Not too convincing so far, if I may say so.

As for Artemisia's reasoning why learners would want lessons even in an L2 environment, I think she outlined some pretty good ideas. I'll go one a little further - motivation. Many learners feel the need to see their progress measured against other learners, and they need feedback from a teacher. Otherwise they do not think they are making much progress. To prove this point, how many of your colleagues made much progress with Japanese by just practicing their few fixed phrases while shopping? I'd imagine the same as made progress with Russian over here: precious few. It is possible, of course. But not for the majority.

As for IELTS, dunno what the situation is where you are, but most of my learners are pretty good and can easily get a general band 6 or 7. And I don't understand what 'not of a high-enough general level' means in relation to IELTS. It's for any level.
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HLJHLJ



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PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2012 6:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm in artemisia's camp here. Learning a language from a book just doesn't do it for me, even when living in an L2 country. I am pretty good at memorising stuff from books, but very poor at translating that into a usable skill when I try to speak. It's something I see daily in Japanese students who can regurgitate texts and grammar rules, but are barely able to actually communicate anything beyond a few stock phrases.

However, aside from personal preferences, assuming people can teach themselves from a book also assumes a fairly high level of education and literacy. It's not really an issue here, but in Ecuador it would have been a big assumption. For various reasons reading books just isn't that common. I had many students who barely read in their L1, some who were only just literate in L1 and some who were functionally illiterate. Even amongst university students self-study skills were minimal and had to be explicitly taught. This stuff doesn't come naturally to everyone, and not all education systems teach it. I just cannot imagine the bulk of the students I had there being able to teach themselves anything much from a book without a great deal of support.

Sasha: IELTS is meant for all levels, but IME if they are approximately 4 or less they generally don't have sufficient grasp of the language to be able to comprehend the details of the questions and there's very little room for an educated guess in IELTS.
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Sashadroogie



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PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2012 7:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, that is right. So they usually only get a band 4 or lower as a result. IELTS is open to even zero beginners, should they want to have documentary evidence that they are in fact zero beginners.

Statements like 'students taking IELTS are often not of a high-enough level' are very misleading, and/or reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between tests like IELTS and TOEFL and exams like First Certificate etc. Just to state that explicitly for other readers, the former are designed to put a candidate's score anywhere on an open scale that matches their abilities, whereas the latter show a candidate has reached a specified standard.
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HLJHLJ



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PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2012 7:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree up to a point, but I just don't feel it distinguishes well at the lower levels. At higher levels I find it's pretty good at differentiating, I expect to see a noticeable and predictable difference between a level 6 and a level 7, and generally speaking, I do. However, between 3 and 4 or even 2 and 4, it's too variable, I don't feel that it differentiates well at those levels.

Again, this is just my perception of it, but I think most of the instructions are pitched around level 5, sometimes higher. If their reading level is 4 or below they can't follow the instructions well enough. So I don't think you get a reliable measure of their levels in the other skills.

Cambridge claim it's a measure for all levels, but I think *that* is misleading. It suggests that students of all levels will be able to complete the test to the best of their current language ability. Yet instruction comprehension is such a big part of IELTS that the claim simply isn't true for very low levels.
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Sashadroogie



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PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2012 8:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't know that it matters so much. Not much would ever be riding on a band 2 as opposed to a band 3 score in IELTS.

But I disagree with a couple of your points. I am not sure what level the rubric is pitched to, but it seems higher than band 5 certainly. In any case, candidates misunderstanding rubric is taken into account, in Speaking as well as Writing papers, and candidates are penalised accordingly. I think that quite a reliable measure is taken, of all skills, in so far as a measure is available at all where there is not much evidence of anything beyond limited knowledge of vocabulary and grammar.

Anyway, the point is that the idea that learners in a class have to be of a fixed level to take the test or even to enroll in an IELTS prep group is a highly debatable one, and that was the only point I was making. All else would need its own thread, as this is straying far, far from the topic of observing hamsters in EFL Very Happy
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