Joined: 12 Mar 2010
|Posted: Sun Feb 19, 2012 7:40 pm Post subject: Structured Interaction (direct method) based Texts
I would like some more information on any other "Structured Interaction" type textbooks, programs- i.e. methods that give teachers a structure (usually Q and A type format but not necessarily exclusively) with which to interact with the students, throughout every lesson of the course. I have a list of three
2. Direct Method
3. Speak Your Mind
I like the structure that they provide, how they deliver core material, and enable students to do most of the speaking, more than any other method, how everything is reviewed and recycled. I don't necessarily like them to be strict, and turn the teachers into actors and robots as happens when we follow Callan's guidelines. But the structure gives me structure to take the students somewhere, in terms of progress, and also facilitates review, to enable mastery
Say there is a method with units, that takes on average 100 days to finish. If each day they learn on average 25 new words, not counting the grammar structure, that is 2500 words by course end, designed to be the most important at any given level which are capable of being taught. Each word can be covered at least four times- once as new material and three or more times as the following days' revision, plus perhaps a general revision. Plus the times that word comes up in future lessons by intelligent design. That is pretty powerful and leads to memory and mastery of a language when implemented well, and supports teachers, both new and experiences. If it also gives them freedom and does not enforce strict measures like Callan I think that would be a great system. So if we err too much on this side for a while, I think that might be healthy. Today it seems we err too much on the "throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks" side of things. Which is why I don't really refer to these books as methods. The idea behind a method anyways is that like a student of chess or of anything, the idea is to start improving first and foremost by having a reason for doing things, and not just do them from tradition or cluelessness. That is the starting point of conscious understanding I bet.
I am not so big a fan of the block on block method that many books use- like the Oxford New English File and New Headway that I am supposed to use. I struggle with it. I find it is not really a method, just a mix of so many different materials. I find listening is a big waste of time in the class when we could be making the students speak, and when they could do that so easily at home. Yet it is hard to avoid with this. I find this not the most efficient and effective method.
I'm not one who likes to find fault with things for pleasure.. I know a lot of time went into these books and they are better than nothing. And they may work for others. But I try to picture myself as a student and give them what I would like.
I taught with Callan and Direct method in Poland and have studied Callan somewhat. I think it has some elements of genius but is also strict and stupid in some areas. I'll be the first to criticise aspects of it and yet along with it's critics I criticize most of what the critics are doing. At least it provides structure and gets them speaking- and following the Callan rules strictly is not necessary. I've talked to speak your mind staff and have read of their materials. How I would like to try this but in order to do it I need to get a school to sign a contract with them.
I'm a relatively new English teacher, 30 but I know a few things now and I want to be a professional teacher not just a teacher. I love learning languages, though I can't say I am good.
In essence I prefer a direct sort of method at least in part. In reality I want something more in the middle, not that everything I have to choose from is on one of the extremes, but I want something more closer to a speaking emphasizing direct method with structured interaction. That is what I would want as a student. Not a book full of kitchy pictures and graphics and images as if they weren't designed for serious men and women. These are little things and maybe I am too sensitive to let them bug me. I am also so sensitive that I am somewhat bugged by the names " pre intermediate, intermediate, upper intermediate, etc" when there is a perfectly good system called A1- C2.
Anyways people criticize the Callan method and I will do that with them but let's not forget to criticize those "methods" that the Callan method smacks down and that the school is among the biggest i the world with no advertizing. Let's not be in our egos teachers. Let us learn a thing or two about what students want. But let's look for something more evolved and updated than Callan. This is my challenge, this is my throwing down the gauntlet, albeit in a somewhat abstract way that somewhat hard to put into definite terms.
I have only found these three texts that use a sort of system that I like- Callan, Direct Method of poland, and Speak Your Mind. I have found several self instructional language learning courses that also have structure on a gentle gradient going in one direction, from beginner to a certain level. They deliver the material in different ways but they all have this in common- the various gradient and material which is reviewable and which encourages review, and progress. That is another thing- most textbooks like Oxford ones that I have used are hard to do review with. Not a general vague review of a big abstract subject like "present continuous" but about specific words, structures, collocations, etc, exact or very similar to what came before. Very hard to do such review. And also a challenge of creativity to adapt the books to Q+A or speaking at their level. In my thinking,students, especially more towards beginner but (even also at higher levels) need the questions put to them to be some what closed and specific, limited to what they can give as an answer, so as to not waste time and so as to practice certain words and structures. So to fulfill these conditions of posing questions (or any other effective way of getting the students using the language for that matter- questions are just the easiest) and also to do the review, both creativity and memory are demanded, which only taxes even the best teachers and takes away energy and concentration from other tasks I find.
I am long winded in my writing I know, but if you've come this far I will say I have found other self teaching materials that have structure- for the English (or French) speaker to "teach himself" a foreign language. Chief among them are Pimsleur, Assimil. I like how they recycle themselves. I think Pimsleur is way to slow and boring. I like the audio only approach in theory but in practice it bores me and the gradient is much too easy, you don't finish the course with so any words. Assimil is a great program. The gradient is not as easy and that is why one book can get you up to the level of B2 they claim. These involve naturally no interaction with a native speaker, and that is why they are not structured interaction but they have the structure at least in common with the other method
maybe there is a logic to the oxford books or the other books I remember from my TEFL course. I do not intend to be a critical person to things indiscriminately. I have tried to be logical in my criticisms and suggestions, as well as having a reason for everything I do in the classroom, a reason which I can justify, and also which I can improve on when new ideas come. I only try to put myself in the position of the student. But they seem to like me, other teachers (native Turks, senior teachers) complimented me. I am not great, not yet anyways. And students seem interested in what I have to say when I talk about my ideas of method and structure. I can understand, they don't want their time wasted. They want something that like the Millenium Falcon has got it where it counts, even if it doesn't look fancy or colorful (misplaced priorities anyone). WE ARE NOT CHILDREN! Even children, I wonder how much they really need this, this sort of wild, all over the place, collage of everything. Plain text alone might be boring. But then again my point- everything tends to be of one extreme or the other that I come across
In the end I don't mean to criticize any person too heavily. we are all just people doing our jobs, hopefully I assume doing our best. But I think we ought to be open to new ideas and also traditional ideas, ideas that work. People may differ and what works for some may not work for others, but I can only put myself in the place of the students, and I know what I would want. And that even the Callan school isn't the biggest in the world, it's big, and that speaks in my view to a need for other coursebooks to get on board.. and stop using the "throw everything on the wall and hope something sticks method". But I don't have a degree in either applied linguistics or education so maybe I am not qualified to speak on these subjects.
I have wanted to share my thoughts. I guess this is a good place to do so. I would love to try "Speak your Mind", if I could. I don't want to lose all my creativity in the classroom. This post has been sort of a long winded rant hoping to stimulate a thoughtful discussion, from thoughts that have long been bottled up in my mind. But also like I said at the beginning, if anyone can simply give me the names of other books that fit this mold, even only somewhat, that would be very helpful and not take much time. I wonder how many such things are actually out there, and I suspect not many. I mean any core syllabus type thing with structured interaction that enables teachers to pull the students along already laid tracks towards a final destination, and not just jump around, block by bloc and then blame students for not being better students, and teachers blame themselves. The blame game in teaching.. self blame and blame of students. I see what is happening and why.. and i want to get off this merry go round.. with the help of a good method. An actual method. When creativity and hard work come at the front end of a project, in terms of the design and architecture, it means much less work will have to come at the back end of it- that usually means be ongoing, doing the actually running of the lessons. When the creativity and hard work is put into the structure itself.. then running the lessons becomes not so bad, as permaculture, for example, attempts. Let's put our energy in a good structure so we can relax and let it do a lot of the work for us and achieve results for students. What say ye?!