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‘Grammar Explanations’
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spiral78



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2011 12:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
what is so essential but so very complex and high-flying at MA level


It's simply far wider and more complex than at the CELTA level. Not necessary for a basic-level teacher, but there are teaching contexts that do require teachers with more knowledge of the field.

From a very basic market angle, it's not sensible for a university to hire a teacher for post-grad students who has not got a post-grad degree him/herself. Many corporate clients want teachers on a consultant basis - and 'consultant' is a highly-paid position. They want the creds. Regions where the pay is quite high generally demand equivalent quals: the Middle East is the classic example.

Consider: most MAs require very wide reading in the field: it's not uncommon to need access to as many as 50+ books and as many articles: and good MA programmes require writing and/or classwork from their candidates to demonstrate that they understand what they've read.

They normally demand six to eight extensive papers (30 pages plus) on different aspects of teaching, many of which require hands-on classroom research and description of it (topics, for example: in-depth evaluation of a coursebook, a dissection and discussion of teacher-talk in a two-hour lesson, creation of a syllabus (and the rationale for it) for a new teacher training course, in-depth study of functional grammar, design, implementation, and discussion of a new unit on something, etc, etc.

All this in advance of a dissertation, which is normally expected to add something new to the field, whether it's further confirmation of established findings, or something entirely new - or a refutation or new limitation of something that's been considered 'true.'

To do all this successfully without previous classroom experience is, again, almost always a recipe for failure. How can one evaluate a coursebook effectively if 'you've' never used one? How can 'you' create a unit if 'you've' never taught one in the past?

What certs can aim to do: Offer as sound and broad an introduction as possible - and aim to eliminate those whose daily work habits don't qualify them for the very responsible job that teaching (at every level) is.

An MA is very far beyond an entry-level course. ...... Try one - you'll see Very Happy
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Sashadroogie



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2011 4:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

fluffyhamster wrote:


One concrete example I gave on the first page was the concept of 'remoteness' (a useful umbrella term) - it would make a lot of sense and could actually help teachers if this were formally mentioned at the cert rather than dip level. (Or would every single person really need to buy and read the whole of Lewis' book rather than rely on a potted synposis or even a mere reference or two to it?).


I'm afraid that from what I know of entry-level trainees, the above mentioned concept would simply be above their heads. Sounds condescending, I know, but it was true for me too at entry level. Even figuring out and remembering which tense/form was called what proves to be a serious challenge.

Entry level certs are in no way the same as linguistic courses. They are designed to keep everything as simple as possible. Yet even so, most trainees remark that the CELTA, for example, was still one of the most intensive course they've ever done.

I think it is useful to cast our minds back to when we were raw tyros too. Introducing abstractions such as mentioned above would simply be beyond most initiates.
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gaijinalways



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2011 5:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

spiral78 posted
Quote:
Consider: most MAs require very wide reading in the field: it's not uncommon to need access to as many as 50+ books and as many articles: and good MA programmes require writing and/or classwork from their candidates to demonstrate that they understand what they've read.


I was already well read on ESL/EFL theory prior to doing my Master's course.

spiral78 posted
Quote:
They normally demand six to eight extensive papers (30 pages plus) on different aspects of teaching, many of which require hands-on classroom research and description of it (topics, for example: in-depth evaluation of a coursebook, a dissection and discussion of teacher-talk in a two-hour lesson, creation of a syllabus (and the rationale for it) for a new teacher training course, in-depth study of functional grammar, design, implementation, and discussion of a new unit on something, etc, etc.


I had actually done this already (well, except for writing about it) prior to doing my Master's. I feel like it deepened some of my understanding of the theory, but didn't necessarily improve my teaching. The degree basically gave me more of a review of the jargon, not the methods etc., which I was already using.
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2011 5:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The problem Sasha with congratulating the trainee on just about learning only the names for tenses (and there are really just two, 'present' and 'past') is that it sooner or later leads to the inevitable "What tense is this modal?"-type questions that betray a fundamental lack of overall understanding about the language (more or less ~ system) one is professing to be a teacher of. It would be better then IMHO to give students a functional label that will hold across the spectrum of usages than just a formal/form-based label that one has to remember doesn't always functionally apply. And there is nothing particularly theoretical-linguisticy about this - it probably ought to be Applied Linguistics meat-and-potatoes fare, but for some strange reason isn't (bums on seats and money rolling in, I guess - that, or the insitutional inertia of the training establishment, if not the would-be laziness and resistance of many trainers). The opposite of 'remote' would I guess be 'non-remote'. All that one would then need to do is decide quite what to call all non-finite phrases (calling them clauses doesn't seem to have caught on much in ELT, which is probably just as well - see first footnote below), seeing how 'finite' is a bit of a vague term that I have no particular desire to inflict on anyone (not that I think I could explain it adequately!).*

Talking of finites just then has reminded me of how teachers can complete certs without apparently ever meeting let alone establishing precisely what a clause might be (and I'd like to stress again how this is not necessarily their fault). So I think there is DEFINITELY something wrong with the basic training in ELT**, if teachers can be working teaching between their cert and whatever further level of qualification without even being aware of anything so basic and potentially useful. (One might question the value of the term 'clause', and/or want to replace it with something more transparent, but that is obviously an entirely different matter from being totally unaware of the term in the first place and what it is trying to represent). http://forums.eslcafe.com/teacher/viewtopic.php?p=40930#40930

Ever heard of theory-culling, Spiral? Smile The value of in-depth reading often depends on how much the area interests you personally rather than its having any absolute value in and of itself, and even on the most catholic course, there will be some so-called "options" that will still be boring yucky stinkers to wade through. So I guess we are all "well-read" before and after courses, but at least before courses we can exercise some choice (which is therefore hardly ever completely 'random reading', once we've devloped a taste for what we like, for what "clicks" with us as individual reader-reserachers). And the danger of a lot of very focussed reading is that it could well be quite cut off from other areas*** (though a lot will depend of course on the research traditions and sympathies at any particular university...not that the average prospective MA applicant seems to be aware of those traditions (but maybe some of them simply can't afford to study at what would be their preferred institute, and are thus casting their net wider in search of just any old piece of paper...I mean, this is ELT and ELT wages at the base that we're talking about, with little employer support for post-cert qualifications. And what is one man's MA or conversely pile of beer cans may be another's pile of books anyway)).

And there is nothing, really nothing, to stop any working~minimally-experienced non-illiterate teacher from at least chipping away at any of that list of things that people might write MA papers on. Dissertations, hmm, I've noticed that some (IIRC for a PhD no less) have been on things like, no joking, songs in ELT (Condensed read: "Hmm, started being used in ELT once the technology became portable enough...sometimes useful, given the repetitious nature of most songs, for increasing exposure to certain structures and/or getting a sense of stress patterns, but as a rule, used and overused by mostly newbie teachers"). As for evaluating coursebooks, a lot of that is intuitive even for a newbie (I remember for example opting as a complete newb teacher for Swan & Walter, as opposed to Abs & Freebrain or Sores & Sores, nice that I was given any choice eh...meaning, that for many teachers, they can be as perceptive and discerning as they like but will nevertheless still have to make do with some often pretty poor management decisions).


*I guess 'subjectless dependent, or participial or infinitive or indeed verbless, phrase' will do LOL (I quite like subjectless/not itself containing any explicit subject though, in that the presence of a subject is what creates a clause and thus a more lexicalized/non-infinitive/non-participial, or modal/invariable, [first] verb, as seen most clearly in present tense subject-verb agreement). "Absolute clauses" however (see following definition from Chalker & Weiner's Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar) are a bit of a grey area, but are probably rare and "peripheral" enough to the main/non-dependent clause that they needn't preoccupy the trainee or student too long. (Absolute clause: 'A non-finite or verbless clause containing its own subject, separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma, or by commas or dashes, and not introduced by a subordinator: The fight to board the train - the women crushed against the doors, the children clutching their mothers - repeated itself at the next station; The place empty once more, I settled down for the night'. Note the 'with its own subject' - that is, the content of the absolute clause applies to that subject rather than, as would be the case with subjectless phrases, a/the subject in another clause; compare then the second of C&W's examples with Empty once more, I settled down for the night).

**I hesitate to say wrong with the preceding secondary schooling though, at least in relation to 'grammar', because I'm not convinced that much if any of that really needs to be taught much below the age of 16.

***See for example the debate that "raged" in SLA between Firth & Wagner and all those who replied to them in the pages of the MLJ, most of which has been handily and usefully reprinted in Seidlhofer's Controversies in Applied Linguistics (unfortunately now only available in snippet view on Google Books, so we'll probably have to make do with just the final article, here: http://newcastle.academia.edu/AlanFirth/Papers/228988/SLA_Property_No_Trespassing._Response_to_Firth_and_Wagner_97_Responses_MLJ_1998 ). Remembering that debate has reminded me that I must get round to reading the sixth and final chapter ('SLA: Breaking the Siege' LOL!) of Long's Problems in SLA (but I should really start reading the whole book more closely - have only dipped into it so far): http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Kfk9Qvj_ArAC&


Last edited by fluffyhamster on Wed Jun 29, 2011 12:03 am; edited 1 time in total
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spiral78



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2011 8:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Ever heard of theory-culling, Spiral? The value of in-depth reading often depends on how much the area interests you personally rather than its having any absolute value in and of itself, and even on the most catholic course, there will be some so-called "options" that will still be boring yucky stinkers to wade through.


I think most educated people agree that it's helpful to have a more rounded knowledge of a field rather than to focus solely on what may specifically interest us. Certainly, I didn't agree with or adopt every item I was required to read about in the course of my own MA, but it has still valuably broadened my perspectives. In fact, I've become far more tolerant of approaches different to those I personally enjoy using, and can see better the value of different ideas in the field.

On the coursebook issue, sure, any newbie can 'intuitively' make judgements about a given book, but being able to support one's opinion with research and to describe in field-appropriate terminology what one 'dislikes' or 'likes' about some book or other is part of becoming a professional.

The bottom line is that qualifications, from CELTA through DELTA and MA + are market driven. There's a market for teachers in each category. Again, most universities won't hire a teacher for post grad students who hasn't got a related postgrad degree him/herself, nor will corporations pay for a consultant without credible paper quals.

So, you can argue the need for/value of ABC so long as you like, but the market realities remain.
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Sashadroogie



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2011 9:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear Fluffy

I can't remember if you've said that you are a CELTA trainer or not, but please, let me tell you from my own teacher-training experience that the most basic aim is simple to get newbies to be able to hold down a class for a relatively competent lesson. Dealing with grammar abstractions is not the aim of the course. These are not linguistics courses. 4 weeks is simply not enough to pack in all you say is lacking from such entry-level courses. Any CELTA trainer will probably tell you the same thing, i.e. that fresh trainees are supposed to receive even more guidance on their first job than they got on the course. Their DOS is the one who should train them further. The point of the CELTA is to make them trainable. Their DOS can deal with the 'what tense is this modal' and 'what's an intransigent verb?'

Re tenses, there being only two etc. I can personally vouch for the difficulty this would cause trainees. Aspect? Wha' tha'? Never going to click with trainees who are under enough pressure just with figuring out what the terminology is in the course books. In a very similar vein , try teaching Beginner level English language learners that there are only two tenses in English, and all the rest are aspects, and see how far they get...

Largely similar lack of response as with CELTA trainees...
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 24, 2011 10:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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Mr. Kalgukshi
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2011 8:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sashadroogie wrote:
I can't remember if you've said that you are a CELTA trainer or not, but please, let me tell you from my own teacher-training experience that the most basic aim is simple to get newbies to be able to hold down a class for a relatively competent lesson.
I'm not a CELTA trainer, Sasha (and I'm not sure that I'd want to be!). I guess this portion of the discussion is boiling down to a definition of what 'relatively competent' is. In my book, that would be being able to anticipate questions before they'd even come up, and certainly being able to answer them on the spot rather than necessarily days later (after poring through countless books and perhaps even pleading for help on internet forums). But of course teachers can appear competent, just so long as no such questions are sprung during a lesson.


Quote:
Dealing with grammar abstractions is not the aim of the course. These are not linguistics courses. 4 weeks is simply not enough to pack in all you say is lacking from such entry-level courses.
Well, anything other than the language itself is arguably an abstraction, and I'm culling as much as I'm adding. And I'm not sure what objection there would be to fewer terms covering a previously larger number of terms, and in a more cohesive fashion. (Note for example that the 2009 versus 2005 version of the TKT glossary - those interested can Google and find both online - now contains words like 'finite' in its definition of 'clause', not IIRC that 'finite' itself gets a separate entry...but anyway, I would probably cut not only 'finite' but also even 'tense' from a course's terminology, as the following diagram should help make clear, in which everything to the left of the remote/non-remote distinction, with the possible exception of '[modal] verb' and 'subjectless dependent phrases', can be viewed as marginal, being replaceable as it were with that 'remote/non-remote'. So I would not be, contrary to appearances, trying to prepare English teachers for a career in linguistics!).


........................................__.tense (lexical).__
......................................./................................\.........(Temporally or Factually)
...............finiteness...---{...................................}---.REMOTE versus NON-REMOTE
...........(="limited by.......\___.modal verbs..___/
..........person/subject")

....................^
.....................l
.....................v

.....(non-finite = "subjectless
..........dependent phrases")


Quote:
Any CELTA trainer will probably tell you the same thing, i.e. that fresh trainees are supposed to receive even more guidance on their first job than they got on the course. Their DOS is the one who should train them further. The point of the CELTA is to make them trainable. Their DOS can deal with the 'what tense is this modal' and 'what's an intransigent verb?'
The key words there are 'supposed to', and even those are being pretty idealistic. Many DOSs have nothing but "experience" going for them (i.e. they were promoted from the ranks for some reason or another - often a corporate cronyism), so even if they have time for anything but the most straightforward of queries ('Is there any more chalk?'), they probably won't be all that qualified to answer them well.


Quote:
Re tenses, there being only two etc. I can personally vouch for the difficulty this would cause trainees. Aspect? Wha' tha'? Never going to click with trainees who are under enough pressure just with figuring out what the terminology is in the course books. In a very similar vein, try teaching Beginner level English language learners that there are only two tenses in English, and all the rest are aspects, and see how far they get...
But aspect is an implicit component of the names for the compound tenses given on certs, and a perceptive trainee will soon be theorizing what is so 'perfect' (or not) about 'Present perfect' etc. And it is if anything given a lengthier definition in e.g. that 2009 edition of the TKT glossary (not quite the same thing as the CELTA, but still) than in the 2005 edition. One thing they should IMHO definitely STOP doing on certs however is peddling 'will' as some sort of tense. You're right though about a shake-up of terms potentially leaving some if not many of the more traditionally-schooled (not necessarily traditionally-minded) amongst the ranks of foreign learners a little nonplussed, but then, they probably aren't going to be that impressed with much current so-called communicative methodology anyway (especially grammar-lite, bungled stuff).

Last edited by fluffyhamster on Tue Jun 28, 2011 5:50 pm; edited 4 times in total
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johnslat



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PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2011 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear fluffyhamster,

I have to wonder - when one is teaching ESL/EFL - if telling students that there are only two tenses helps much, if at all.

There are really only two things that students need to know about a tense:

1. how to make (say/write) it


2. when to use it (admittedly the harder of the two)

and since all 12 tenses/aspects/whatever are used differently (and all 24 are made differently,) I suspect that saying there are only two might be a little confusing for most students.

Regards,
John
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2011 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

But why stop at 12 or 24 or whatever that number is meant to be, John? As Stephen Jones once remarked, why aren't other modals called the future tense, and why don't we call 'can' the potentative tense, 'must' the obligatory tense, or 'should' the advisable tense, etc.
http://forums.eslcafe.com/teacher/viewtopic.php?t=4131

Anyway, I'll leave it for others to think about and decide if essentially just 'remote' versus 'non-remote' ( ~ form-meaning) would be more, or less, confusing than the current "descriptive" apparatus.
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johnslat



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PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2011 9:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear fluffyhamster,

" . . . why aren't other modals called the future tense, and why don't we call 'can' the potentative tense, 'must' the obligatory tense, or 'should' the advisable tense, etc."

Fine by me - although I think 24 are really enough. But you do seem to have sidestepped my main point - that those 24 are all made differently and 12 of them are (generally) used differently (I'm not even mentioning the times when time as tense are distinct, as is the present unreal, using the present continuous with future words to show future time, etc.)

Linguistically speaking, saying there are two tenses is fine - but we're not teaching linguistics to most of our students (and many of the ones that we ARE teaching linguistics to won't be teaching it to their students.)

Regards,
John
Regards,
John
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2011 10:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I should've really just said "Occam's razor" - 24/12 versus just 2 (although of course, one would need to say quite what the other bits and bobs were following the remote versus non-remote first form in any complex verb phrase - but we learn/use/teach stuff like participle and base form or infinitive already, so no debate there!).

Hmm, 'Present unreal', I guess you mean in conditionals (a pretty descriptive piece of terminology for once!), where there is a great big 'If' heading one of the clauses?
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johnslat



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PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2011 10:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dear fluffyhamster,

But Occam's Razor is much too dull when all those tebses they need to learn are made and 12 are used differently.

OK, class there are only two tenses; however there are 24 different ways to make them and (at least) 12 different ways to use those two.

YIKES

"I guess you mean in conditionals (a pretty descriptive piece of terminology for once!), where there is a great big 'If' heading one of the clauses?


Yup, and where the past tense is used but the real meaning is in the present.

"If I had a million dollars . . . ."

Regards,
John
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fluffyhamster



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PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2011 11:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, there aren't many languages (unless we're talking about Inuit or whatever) that we everday westerners are familiar with where all the meaning can be packed into a "one-word" verb, so it shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that there will be other bits in many verb phrases (oops, I am using a meaning of 'verb phrase' that includes only one verb - I guess I should say ['verb' versus] 'verb phrase' in the sense that any trainee would understand the term LOL).

Quote:
Yup, and where the past tense is used but the real meaning is in the present.

"If I had a million dollars . . . ."
"the real meaning is in the present" part of that (though the 'past tense' isn't helping either) is especially wooly (obviously the moment of speaking here is "now"!), compared to simply 'factually remote'. (BTW I'm not sure about the adverb, but I'll continue using it until somebody suggests a better or more "official" alternative - which reminds me, I should check back in Lewis sometime!).
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