November 20, 2011 § 6 Comments
“ELT BITES is an English language teacher resource dedicated to sharing minimal resource activities that can complement and extend lessons at any level in any teaching context.”
Richard has suggested a challenge:
You are in class and all you have is a board pen/chalk, perhaps a coursebook, and the learners of course: NO photocopier and NO digital technologies. Describe an activity in 200 words.
Concluding with his hearty belly laugh that always made me warm to him, my first ever DoS, an Italian bon vivant fluent in half a dozen languages, recounted how many moons ago a teacher colleague of his, an Irish guy with the gift of the gab, fed up to the back teeth with the highly structured drills which were the norm in the days before Halliday gave the world a more enlightened view of language, slightly modified the “this is a pen” drill the course book was dictating his students should be doing on his last ever lesson before fleeing the country with no forwarding address.
It was all set up, and worked perfectly, so that when their DoS, not like my friendly one, but a stern, authoritarian strode into the classroom in the following lesson and promptly held up a pen as a cue to his question “what is this?”, he was greeted by the compliant but unwitting students with the chorus:
“IT’S A BLOODY PEN!”
Take a piece of student language – a word, chunk, sentence, right or wrong, but something that is at the forefront of their knowledge.
“The teacher’s primary function … is to optimise language affordances, by, for example, directing attention to features of emergent language”, as Scott and Luke write in Teaching Unplugged.
You’re going to work with it, improve it, make your learners aware of it, by highlighting words you can add to make it better, longer, more advanced.
It requires you to think on your feet, fly by the seat of your pants, as Candy describes dogme teaching.
And how can you record it?
That’s the good bit! Imagine breaking free from the linear straight-jacket, of mind and of hand you’ve been subjected to all your life. It’s as liberating as unshackling the chains of the linear progression of your course book.
On the board, make a language plant. (148)