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Teaching vocabulary to_advanced_learners_of_english

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The aim of this diploma project is to analyze various methods of teaching vocabulary to advanced students of English. Particular attention is paid to the concept of multi-prefabricated chunks, i.e. …

The aim of this diploma project is to analyze various methods of teaching vocabulary to advanced students of English. Particular attention is paid to the concept of multi-prefabricated chunks, i.e. collocations (e.g. strong winds, but heavy rain), phrasal verbs (e.g. to take up), fixed phrases, (e.g. in jeopardy), idiomatic expressions (e.g. make good). The main idea is ‘that fluency is based on the acquisition of a large store of fixed and semi-fixed prefabricated items’ (Lewis, 1997:15).

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  • 1. Table of Contents Introduction ................................................................................................................................ 2 Chapter One................................................................................................................................ 5 Introduction ............................................................................................................................ 5 1. Advanced learners - The definition .................................................................................... 5 2. How to teach vocabulary? .................................................................................................. 5 2.1 What is vocabulary? ..................................................................................................... 5 2.2 How to teach a word? ................................................................................................... 6 3. The chunks - What advanced learners need ....................................................................... 7 3.1 What are the chunks? ................................................................................................... 7 3.1.1. Collocations ............................................................................................................ 7 3.1.2. Phrasal Verbs.......................................................................................................... 7 3.1.3. Fixed Phrases.......................................................................................................... 8 3.1.4 Idiomatic Expressions ............................................................................................. 8 3.2 Why chunks? .................................................................................................................... 9 3.3. Main techniques of vocabulary acquisition ................................................................. 9 4. Newspaper articles as a medium of teaching vocabulary to advanced learners ............... 10 4.1. Why newspapers? ...................................................................................................... 10 4.2 The press and press readership ................................................................................... 10 4.2.1 Types of readership ............................................................................................... 10 4.2.2 What type of press appeals to black-top readers? ................................................. 10 4.2.3. What type of press appeals to red-top readers? .................................................... 10 4.2.4 The ''mixed ground'' newspapers ........................................................................... 11 4.3 Examples of chunks in newspaper articles ................................................................. 11 4.4 How to teach the chunks from newspaper articles? ................................................... 12 4.5. Example of explicit teaching technique - Idiomatic expressions ............................. 12 4.6. Example of inferring teaching technique - Fixed phrases ......................................... 13 5. Hypotheses ....................................................................................................................... 13 6. Summary .......................................................................................................................... 13 Chapter Two ............................................................................................................................. 15 Introduction .......................................................................................................................... 15 1. The hypotheses and their justification .......................................................................... 15 1.1 The justification.......................................................................................................... 16 2. The Method .................................................................................................................. 16 2.1 Participants ................................................................................................................. 16 2.2 Measures..................................................................................................................... 17 2.3 Procedure .................................................................................................................... 17 2.4 Results ........................................................................................................................ 28 2.5 Discussion .................................................................................................................. 29 3. Summary .......................................................................................................................... 30 Conclusion ................................................................................................................................ 31 1. Purpose of the study ......................................................................................................... 31 2. Implications for Further Studies ....................................................................................... 32 3. Implications for the EFL classroom ................................................................................. 33 References ...................................................................... Ошибка! Закладка не определена. Appendixes ..................................................................... Ошибка! Закладка не определена. 1
  • 2. Introduction The aim of this diploma project is to analyze various methods of teaching vocabulary to advanced students of English. Particular attention is paid to the concept of multi-prefabricated chunks, i.e. collocations (e.g. strong winds, but heavy rain), phrasal verbs (e.g. to take up), fixed phrases, (e.g. in jeopardy), idiomatic expressions (e.g. make good). The main idea is „that fluency is based on the acquisition of a large store of fixed and semi-fixed prefabricated items‟ (Lewis, 1997:15). The chunks are the cornerstone of vocabulary teaching. Every language follows certain rules and the multi-prefabricated chunks are an expression of grammatical rules found in English. For instance, phrasal verbs have different meanings in different contexts, as a Merriam-Webster dictionary analysis of the phrasal verb take off clearly shows. The phrasal verb take off can function both as a transitive verb when it takes an object and an intransitive one when it does not take an object. Its transitive uses include - but are not limited to – removal, e.g. take your shoes off, a discontinuation of a process, e.g. took off the morning train, deduction, e.g. took 10 percent off, and spending one's time away from a usual occupation or activity, e.g. took two weeks off. In the language of slang, take off denotes to rob. Its intransitive uses include: taking away (detraction), departing, e.g. took off for her trip, branching off (as from a main stream or stem), taking a point of origin, beginning a leap. The above only shows how multifaceted the chunks in English are - and the intricacies of meaning is precisely what advanced learners want to study. The reason why I have chosen this particular topic is because I enjoy expanding my vocabulary on my own terms. This particular interest of mine makes it more sensible to work with advanced students, because the exchange of ideas in the classroom where grammar is no longer an issue and students do not have to look for words that often (and even if they do not know a particular lexical item, they can use circumlocution) equals more focus on the lexicon expansion. I am an advocate of ''the real world'' language rather than purely theoretical studies, and I do think advanced students are motivated by the notion of practicality, i.e. the C1-C2 level of English means that the students are more likely to use the language merely as a tool in achieving their goals rather than focusing on the language itself. 2
  • 3. From my own experience, I know that advanced learners' linguistic competence greatly increases when they are allowed to use authentic newspapers - more so than in the case of traditional lessons where course books are used. Newspapers by native speakers - for native speakers contain a multitude of authentic expressions - and that is precisely what advanced learners need. I also know that advanced learners are familiar with many linguistic expressions - a direct consequence of their C1-C2 level. The only question is: how many expressions do they know and how did they come across them? This is why I have decided to conduct my experiment in a private (Catholic) school. The IB class seemed like a good choice, because those students would be more motivated to study English than other non-IB students. The class I taught represented a mosaic of linguistic ability, despite everyone sharing the label of ''advanced.'' There were students who I would personally not classify as advanced, as well as native speakers of English - which, one could even say, makes it a mixed-ability class despite the same outward level of the language. Language learning is inextricably intertwined with a person in question, more so than mathematics, for instance, where one's cultural background is virtually of no significance. Therefore, the implicit dynamics within a group are very important when one deals with a language-oriented classroom. Personally, it was of particular interest to me how native speakers' of English (and I consider myself lucky because there was one American English native speaker and one British English native speaker in this particular group of students) linguistic competence would look when juxtaposed with the other members of the class. I think that my conclusions are interesting, to say the least, and the details of my observations regarding the matter are described in the diploma project itself. I posit that advanced learners' linguistic competence greatly increases when they are allowed to use authentic newspapers - more so than in the case of traditional lessons where course books are used. As a result, I have prepared a multitude of materials to be used in the classroom - course books were never used. Students did not seem to have a problem with that; on the contrary, their reaction was favorable, a respite from the ''course book'' daily grind. The diploma project consists of two chapters. In the theoretical chapter 1, I provide the definition of advanced learner according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Then, I provide a definition of vocabulary while paying particular attention to the concept of lexis. The concept of lexis is bigger than that of vocabulary and denotes what is contained within our ''internal database'' we can recall and use instantaneously. I offer an explanation that lexis can be receptive, i.e. what we are able to understand but not necessarily 3
  • 4. utilize in every day life, and productive, i.e. the set of lexical items we tend to use in every day interaction with the outside world. The chapter later focuses on collocations, i.e. common going-together patterns of words as a prelude to multi-prefabricated chunks as my main teaching method. The ways to teach words are analyzed by citing experts in the field, most notably Paul Nation, who offers his own perspective on teaching vocabulary and this is a perspective I agree with. The chapter proceeds to the topic of multi-prefabricated chunks, or prefabs as they are colloquially referred to. Michael Lewis' book, ''Implementing the Lexical Approach'' is cited as one of the most influential works of its time. Lewis argues that “multiprefabricated chunks are a cornerstone of vocabulary teaching” (Lewis, 1997:3). A list of multi-prefabricated chunks is then provided, i.e. phrasal verbs, fixed phrases, idiomatic expressions and collocations. Their prevalence in authentic materials (mainly newspapers) is presented. Two types of teaching - explicit and inferential - are discussed in terms of their efficacy in advanced language classrooms. The practical chapter two approaches the topic of teaching advanced learners via multi-prefabricated chunks. It is a more personal chapter, where I offer my insights into the classroom milieu. First, I describe the participants who took part in the experiment. Second, I explain the measures, i.e. materials used in the classroom. I present three lesson plans with the materials used in the classroom. I describe the topics covered by the lesson plans and my justification regarding their choice. My post-lesson reflections follow, where I present classroom dynamics - and the causes underlying these particular dynamics. Then, I discuss my findings by comparing them with literature. Appendixes, where one can find the materials used, and the references follow. 4
  • 5. Chapter One Advanced learners and ways of teaching them vocabulary Introduction The aim of this chapter is to provide the theoretical background concerning various techniques of teaching vocabulary to advanced learners of English. In section 1, the definition of the term ''advanced learner'', according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, Teaching, Assessment will be provided. In section 2, a detailed overview of vocabulary teaching methods will be presented. In section 3, the focus will shift toward advanced learners and the question of which techniques are to be used to improve their linguistic competence. In section 4, I will focus on newspaper articles as a medium of teaching vocabulary to advanced learners of English. In section 5, the research hypotheses to be tested in the second chapter will be outlined. Section 6 offers a summary of the chapter. 1. Advanced learners - The definition One of the most common definitions of the C1-C2 level is the following one, according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, Teaching, Assessment (CEFR, p. 110): ''A learner at the C1-C2 level can express him/herself at length with a natural, effortless, unhesitating flow. He/She pauses only to reflect on precisely the right words to express his/her thoughts or to find an appropriate example or explanation.'' For the purpose of this diploma project, it is paramount to expand the above definition by adding that a learner at the C1-C2 level can convey finer shades of meaning precisely by using, with reasonable accuracy, a wide range of qualifying devices (e. g. adverbs, expressing degree, clauses expressing limitations, etc.). One of the major problems surrounding the topic of C1-C2 students is that, this is an area rarely dealt with in ELT materials, and as such occupies a spot in an underappreciated, undervalued and yet important element of the student ability spectrum (Maley 2009: 75:80). 2. How to teach vocabulary? 2.1 What is vocabulary? Vocabulary typically refers mainly to single words and sometimes to very tightly linked twoor three-word combinations, such as stock market, compact disc, sky blue, go off. 5
  • 6. Vocabulary is sometimes known as lexis, which reflects a fundamental shift in understanding and approach. The concept of lexis, however, is bigger than that of vocabulary. Lexis denotes what is contained within our ''internal database'' of words that we can recall and use quickly without having to construct new phrases and sentences. Lexis can be receptive (lexical items we are capable of understanding but do not really use in every day speech) and productive - lexical items we tend to use in every day speech (Scrivener 2005: 226). Common going-together patterns of words (collocations) and larger combinations of words which are typically used together as if they were a single item (chunks) are of particular value to advanced learners of English, who want to focus on real-life practical aspects of the language as much as possible. Due to the advent of modern technology especially huge computer databases containing real-life language use known as corpora - our understanding of how language works in real-life has changed dramatically, which becomes an enormous educational asset to advanced learners (ibid.: 227). 2.2 How to teach a word? In order to successfully teach a word, there is a set of principles which need to be adhered to. There is seldom a one-to-one relationship between L1 and L2 words, and the processes of learning an L1 and an L2 are potentially different because of age, cognitive maturity, the way a society categorizes the real world, etc. (Schmitt and McCarthy 1997: 129). In an article entitled ''Teaching Vocabulary'', Nation (2005) presents three stages that need to be considered when teaching a particular lexical item. Stage 1 involves giving the meaning quickly by (a) using an L1 translation, (b) using a known L2 synonym or a simple definition in the L2, (c) showing an object or a picture, (d) giving quick demonstration, (e) drawing a simple picture or diagram, (f) breaking the word into parts and giving the meaning of the parts and the whole word (the word part strategy), (g) giving several example sentences with the word in context to show the meaning, (h) commenting on the underlying meaning of the word and other referents. Stage 2 is based on drawing attention to the form of the word by (a) showing in what way the spelling of the word is similar to the spelling of known words, (b) giving the stress pattern of the word and its pronunciation, (c) showing the prefix, stem and suffix that make up the word, (d) getting the learners to repeat the pronunciation of the word, (e) writing the word on the board, (f) pointing out any spelling irregularity in the word. 6
  • 7. Stage 3 includes paying attention to the use of the word by (a) quickly showing the grammatical pattern the word fits into (countable/uncountable, transitive/intransitive, etc.), (b) giving a few similar collocates, (c) mentioning any restrictions on the use of the word (formal, colloquial, impolite, only used in the United States, only used with children, old-fashioned, technical, infrequent), (d) giving a well known opposite, or a well known word describing the group or lexical set it fits into. Traditional models of language - or at least models of Western European languages are generally built on grammatical principles with the clause or sentence being the focal unit. In such models, connections are the syntactic relationships between elements in the clause or sentence (Carter and Simpson 2004: 152). 3. The chunks - What advanced learners need 3.1 What are the chunks? In 1993, Michael Lewis published the ground-breaking book ''The Lexical Approach''. In it, and in his subsequent book, ''Implementing the Lexical Approach'' (1997), he posits that language does not consist of traditional grammar and vocabulary but often of multiprefabricated chunks, sometimes colloquially referred to as ''prefabs''. Those chunks are the cornerstone of vocabulary teaching. Lewis (1997:3) states that the chunks are usually divided into the following (there are variations, depending on the source - but Lewis is the originator of the idea): collocations, phrasal verbs, fixed phrases, and idiomatic expressions. Each of these classes will be briefly discussed below. 3.1.1. Collocations Collocations represent the way words combine in a language to produce natural sounding speech and writing. The combination of words follows certain rules, peculiar to each language. For example: strong wings, but heavy rain. The word collocation is derived from the verb to collocate, meaning ''to set or arrange in a set or position''. (http://www.literaturacomparata.ro/acta_site/articole/acta4/acta4_gogalniceanu.pdf) 3.1.2. Phrasal Verbs A group of words that functions as a verb and is made up of a verb and a preposition, an adverb, or both. Take off and look down on are phrasal verbs (Merriam Webster Learners' 7
  • 8. dictionary - http://www.learnersdictionary.com/search/phrasal%20verb). Phrasal verbs have different meanings in different contexts, as a Merriam-Webster dictionary analysis of the phrasal verb take off clearly shows. The phrasal verb take off can function both as a transitive verb when it takes an object and an intransitive one when it does not take an object. Its transitive uses include - but are not limited to – removal, e.g. take your shoes off, a discontinuation of a process, e.g. took off the morning train, deduction, e.g. took 10 percent off, and spending one's time away from a usual occupation or activity, e.g. took two weeks off. In the language of slang, take off denotes to rob. Its intransitive uses include: taking away (detraction), departing, e.g. took off for her trip, branching off (as from a main stream or stem), taking a point of origin, beginning a leap or spring, leaving the surface, beginning a flight, embarking on a rapid activity, springing into popularity. 3.1.3. Fixed Phrases Within this category there are some words that are commonly used in combination with one another but are not necessarily included as entry words in most dictionaries. Some of these fixed phrases represent virtually the only way in which the word is used in contemporary English. For example, in jeopardy appears as a phrase synonymous to liable because a person exposed to something dangerous or undesirable is a person in jeopardy. The word jeopardy is generally only used in the phrase in jeopardy. Another example of a fixed phrase would be golden opportunity. It is possible to say silver opportunity, but the phrase would not carry the same cultural connotation, i.e. it would be a grammatically correct phrase which sounds unnatural to native speakers. There are cases when fixed phrases function as idioms, red herring, for example. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/help/thesnotes/phrases.htm) 3.1.4 Idiomatic Expressions Idioms are phrases that have a special meaning that is different from the literal meaning that a person would get by adding together the individual meanings of the components of the phrase. For example, the phrase make good is virtually meaningless if one attempts to piece together the literal meanings of make and good. As a fixed phrase, however, make good means "to reach a desired level of accomplishment" and is a synonym of succeed. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/help/thesnotes/phrases.htm) 8
  • 9. 3.2 Why chunks? To Lewis (1997), his method is not a mere shift of emphasis from grammar to vocabulary. Rather, Lewis argues, it is essential to shift the focus away both from grammar and vocabulary, and adopt a more global approach, where each part of what constitutes a language is going to be properly utilized to maximize the results of second language acquisition. The main idea is that fluency is based on the acquisition of a large store of fixed and semi-fixed prefabricated items (Lewis, 1997:15). Language fluency is measured by the level of communicative competence; and communicative competence is not merely a matter of knowing the rules for the composition of sentences but rather a matter of knowing a stock of partially pre-assembled patterns as well as the discernment necessary to make adjustments according to contextual demands (Widdowson, 1989:135). 3.3. Main techniques of vocabulary acquisition There are two basic teaching techniques most closely associated with vocabulary acquisition: explicit teaching and inferred teaching. Explicit teaching involves directing students' attention toward a specific learning in a highly structured environment. Explicit instructions begin with setting the stage for learning, followed by an explanation of what to do, then students are shown what to do by the teacher, which is followed by multiple opportunities of practice. One of the most characteristic features of explicit teaching is teachers‟ thinking out loud while presenting the process of problem-solving to their students (Schmitt and McCarthy 1997: 239). A diametrically different technique is called ''Inference''. The method revolves around the ability to deduce the meaning and situation correctly based on the prior knowledge the students possess, i.e. inference from the context. Examples of a task focused on inference can be, find 10 ways to say shut the window! (ibid.: 228). 9
  • 10. 4. Newspaper articles as a medium of teaching vocabulary to advanced learners 4.1. Why newspapers? Advanced learners have already mastered the language and need to focus on more lexical aspects of English. People who read more know more vocabulary. This relationship between print exposure and vocabulary appears to be causal in that it holds even when intelligence is controlled (Stannovich and Cunningham, 1992: 153). Thus, choosing newspapers - the medium of written communication filled with everchanging lexical items - as their focal point is an obvious choice. 4.2 The press and press readership 4.2.1 Types of readership Black-top readers are generally more interested in serious news stories and want to read an opinion that agrees with their own. Red-top readers are often interested more in light entertainment and gossip. Tabloids are most popular among this type of readership (McNair 1995: 19-27). 4.2.2 What type of press appeals to black-top readers? This type of readership prefers broadsheets. Broadsheets are generally thought to be purview of high-quality journalism, but they are also large and cumbersome, unsuited to reading on public transport (hence the name). Examples of broadsheets include the Sunday Times and the Financial Times (ibid.: 19-27). 4.2.3. What type of press appeals to red-top readers? Tabloids are most popular among this type of readership. Tabloid newspapers have such a poor journalistic reputation that broadsheet-quality newspapers which have decided to take on a tabloid size have instead called the format „compact‟ in order to avoid the many negative connotations of tabloid newspapers – connotations that those same broadsheets likely helped to reinforce in the past. Examples of tabloid newspapers include the Daily Mail and the Sun (ibid.: 19-27). 10
  • 11. 4.2.4 The ''mixed ground'' newspapers Certain newspapers decided to implement the strategy of a „golden mean‟, whereby they combine the elements of tabloid with that of high-quality newspapers. Two formats employ that style – Berliner and compact. The hybridization of newspaper format is a pragmatic decision as it offers considerable leeway in terms of layout and design. The Guardian began printing in Berliner format in 2005, after competing broadsheet newspapers had switched to the tabloid or „compact‟ format. Interestingly, the „compact‟ format is identical to the „tabloid‟ size format, but broadsheet-quality newspapers decided to use the term „compact‟ in order to avoid negative connotations associated with the lexical item „tabloid‟ (ibid.: 19:27). Newspapers are filled with examples of chunks because manipulating them impacts the readership in desired ways. Examples of collocations, phrasal verbs, fixed phrases and idiomatic expressions which are found in authentic press materials are now going to be presented. 4.3 Examples of chunks in newspaper articles Collocations „‟We are taking the air out of the golden parachute’’. Financial Times, 15th October 2010. Golden Parachute is defined by Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary (www.merriamwebster.com) as an employment agreement that guarantees a key executive lucrative severance benefits if control of the company changes hands followed by management shifts and comes from financial register. Phrasal Verbs ''More and more people are becoming impecunious and we are just not going to keep up with this nonsense''. The Guardian, 25th November 2010. It is noteworthy that high-quality newspapers are not going to explain various lexical items, because journalists working for those newspapers assume the readers are educated and familiar with the terms. For example, The Guardian - English bourgeois newspaper - uses words such as impecunious, which are not typically a part of less educated people‟s lexis. In the context of the sentence, More and more people are becoming impecunious and we are just not going to keep up with this nonsense, it is clear the word impecunious is juxtaposed with the phrasal verb keep up for a tongue-in-cheek effect due to the fact phrasal verbs are viewed 11
  • 12. as informal by many speakers. (http://www.britishcouncil.org/burma-library-services-learnenglish-online-english-language-article-it-calls-for-idiomatic-expression.htm) Fixed Phrases „‟The plaintiff’s claim that Mr Rajaratnam and his family‟s foundation transferred millions of dollars to the Tamil Relief Organisation puts his reputation in jeopardy''. The Times, 31st October 2009. Idiomatic Expressions ''Ian Powell remains at the helm of PricewaterhouseCoopers. The CEO says there's a lot to be done''. The premise regarding advanced learners focuses on vocabulary acquisition, whereby fluency is based on the acquisition of a large store of fixed and semi-fixed prefabricated items (Lewis, 1997:15). Thus, the analysis of the teaching process itself is crucial. 4.4 How to teach the chunks from newspaper articles? The topic focusing on the methods of teaching advanced students is an underappreciated, undervalued and yet important element of ELT which cannot be ignored because, sooner or later, teachers are going to be faced with advanced students of English. (Maley 2009: 75:80). Thus, the model of inference and explicit teaching proposed by Schmitt and McCarthy (1997:228:239) is particularly useful when it comes to proficient learners because it was created with them in mind. The following are examples of inferring and explicit teaching techniques, demonstrated on two sets of lexical items discussed: idiomatic expressions and fixed phrases. 4.5. Example of explicit teaching technique - Idiomatic expressions A sentence ''CEOs are at the helm of their companies'' contains an idiomatic expression at the helm. The meaning behind this idiomatic expression could be taught in the following way: the teacher first asks the students if they know the meaning of two words helm and CEO. These are C1-C2 level students, which means it is highly likely some students are going to be familiar with these particular lexical items. Afterwards, the students will undoubtedly recognize that the lexical item helm is associated with the nautical register. Based on that knowledge, the teacher asks students who is the most important person on a ship. The 12
  • 13. students are bound to answer ''captain'', which can then be used to say, ''CEOs are captains, but their boats are companies they lead. They are at the helm of their companies''. 4.6. Example of inferring teaching technique - Fixed phrases Inferring from the context can be applied to an expression ''too big to fail''. Given the current economic climate, a short description of the circumstances in which the term is used, e.g. the banks are too big to fail - if the banks fail, the entire financial system fails and everyone is in trouble. Based on that short sentence, the students should be able to deduce the meaning of the expression correctly. 5. Hypotheses I posit that advanced learners' linguistic competence greatly increases when they are allowed to use authentic newspapers - more so than in the case of traditional lessons where course books are used. Newspapers by native speakers - for native speakers contain precisely what advanced learners need - a multitude of authentic expressions. My second hypothesis asserts that advanced learners are familiar with many multiprefabricated chunks prior to actually studying them - the latter being a direct consequence of their C1-C2 level. 6. Summary Chapter one has focused on advanced learners of English and problems they encounter in the ELT environment. First, the definition of an advanced learner has been provided based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, Teaching and Assessment. Afterwards, the analysis of vocabulary teaching methods has been offered in terms of the three stages a student needs to go through if he/she is to grasp the meaning of a new lexical item. Then, the idea put forward by Michael Lewis in his 1993 book, ''The Lexical Approach'', has been outlined. Lewis posits that language consists of multi-word prefabricated chunks, which is crucial when teaching advanced learners because they have already mastered basic aspects of the language such as grammar and their proficiency allows them to focus solely on the multi-word prefabricated chunks, which include: collocations, phrasal verbs, fixed phrases and idiomatic expressions. Schmitt and McCarthy (1997: 228:239) have specified two teaching methods that are particularly effective when dealing with advanced 13
  • 14. learners, i.e. inference and explicit teaching. Next, the issue of newspaper articles as a medium of teaching vocabulary to advanced learners has been examined. An attempt has been made to answer the question as to why the newspapers are the best choice available for advanced learners by providing examples of multi-prefabricated chunks in authentic newspaper articles while simultaneously expounding on a multitude of meanings these chunks often carry. Finally, the hypotheses have been provided which are to be tested in the practical chapter 2. 14
  • 15. Chapter Two The practical application of pre-fabricated lexical chunks in an advanced classroom setting Introduction The purpose of chapter two is the practical application of the theory described in chapter one, according to which the pre-fabricated lexical chunks constitute the most efficient way of teaching when it comes to advanced learners (C1-C2 level, as defined by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). Chapter two is going to contain personal observations and assessments of the advanced classroom setting based on the three lessons. The lesson plans are available in the procedures (2.2.3) section. I intend to start by presenting my hypotheses from chapter one of the diploma project (section 2.1), followed by the rationale behind them (the justification). I will then focus on the individuals who have taken part in the lessons (2.2.1). In the following (2.2.2) section, I will expound upon the materials used in the classroom by providing the description of each of them, along with the references to the materials themselves which can be found in the Appendix. The results of the experiment are going to be gathered in section 2.3, i.e. the research questions will be analyzed in order to extrapolate the data. The discussion is going to follow (section 2.4), where I am going to juxtapose the outcome of the experiment with assertions made by experts in the field, as described in chapter one. The result of this juxtaposition is going to follow. The chapter closes with the summary. 1. The hypotheses and their justification I have put forward two hypotheses to be tested in a practical classroom setting. The first hypothesis posits that advanced learners no longer require artificial, i.e. textbook materials. It is highly probable that advanced learners want to use English in order to function in the wider world, not just use it in an artificial setting that is the classroom milieu. Therefore, they require authentic linguistic samples, and those are easily found in authentic materials, i.e. those complied for native speakers by native speakers of English. My second hypothesis asserts that advanced learners are familiar with many multiprefabricated chunks prior to actually studying them - the latter being a direct consequence of their C1-C2 level. 15
  • 16. 1.1 The justification The reason I have chosen these hypotheses relates to the fact that I want to show that language is - first and foremost - a product of a natural environment and teachers ought to strive for providing this type of environment for their students. Of course, we cannot expect the classroom milieu to reflect the real-world in every single aspect, due to an inherently artificial nature of the classroom. Properly utilized authentic materials, however, are meant to bridge the gap between theory and practice, and - if used sensibly - I do believe this goal to be attainable. Indeed, vicarious experience is often the only way teachers can convey their knowledge to students. The CEFR defines an advanced learner as, a learner at the C1-C2 level that can express him/herself at length with a natural, effortless, unhesitating flow. He/She pauses only to reflect on precisely the right words to express his/her thoughts or to find an appropriate example or explanation. The aforementioned definition draws clear parallels between advanced linguistic competence and fluency. Therefore, having a wide spectrum of multi-prefabricated chunks at one's disposal is self-evident when dealing with the C1-C2 level; the students in question would not be on the C1-C2 level in the first place, had it not been for their linguistic competence. Therefore, it is not difficult to deduce as to why one of the major problems surrounding the topic of C1-C2 students is that, this is an area rarely dealt with in ELT material, and as such occupies a spot in an underappreciated, undervalued and yet important element of the student ability spectrum (Maley 2009: 75:80). 2. The Method 2.1 Participants My target group comprises advanced learners who have been classified as representing a C1C2 level, in accordance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. One ought to remember, however, that every classroom is - de facto - a mixed ability class. If we check the overall abilities of each person, we find that some are 'weak Pre-Intermediate', some 'Mid Pre-Intermediate' and some 'Strong Pre-Intermediate' (Scrivener 2005: 68). My students have not been told about the experiment in order to maintain the principle of experimental neutrality as much as possible. Without a shadow of doubt, my presence has influenced the students' demeanor due to the simple fact I was not been their regular teacher. The class has consisted of fifteen students. It has been an IB class, the level of which has been far more advanced than what is considered 'typical' in Polish schools. In fact, some 16
  • 17. of the students are bilingual, which is even more interesting as I could observe a lot of crosslevel interaction (as stated before, even the term 'advanced' can offer various levels of linguistic sophistication). I have chosen this particular school because I have conducted teaching practice there. As a result, I have gained an insight into the daily operations of this particular educational institution. 2.2 Measures Lesson one comprises the following materials: a picture of a gray alien; an authentic text about the ''Welsh Roswell'' from the Guardian describing a supposed 1974 UFO crash; an authentic text about a new concept of ''exo-politics''; and a transcript of the beginning scenes of ''The X-Files'' movie. The DVD with the authentic version of the movie has also been used. The details can be found in the Appendices under the heading, Lesson Plan One: Materials (see Appendix 1-3). Lesson two is based on the following materials: an authentic text about giftedness from the Telegraph; an authentic article about extreme intelligence entitled The Outsiders; The relevant materials can be found in the Appendix under the heading, Lesson Plan Two: Materials (see Appendix 4-5). Lesson three makes use of the following materials: an authentic text about solar storms and their effects on Earth taken from a NASA website; a text about Arkstorm, a potentially devastating cluster of thunderstorms which may hit California. The relevant materials can be found in the Appendices under the heading: Lesson Plan Three: Materials (see Appendix 6-7). 2.3 Procedure LESSON ONE: Lesson Info Time : 45 minutes Main Aims Day N/A Age Range : 14-18 Improving vocabulary related to the topic of the unexplained 17
  • 18. Objectives By the end of the lesson students will possess a more extensive vocabulary relating to the issue of the unexplained with particular focus on multiprefabricated chunks. Materials The article from the Guardian, see Appendix 1. The Article about ''Exopolitics'', see the website in Appendix 2. A fragment of ''X-Files'': the Movie transcript used in the lesson and the website source, see Appendix 3. Students may feel uncomfortable while discussing topics connected to the unexplained. The teacher must make sure students truly understand the target vocabulary items. A teacher ought to start in order to pave the way for a future discussion Interaction Activity Aim Procedure Anticipated problems Solution Stage Warm-up A reading comprehension exercise and Timing Discussing vocabulary associated with the topic Introducing basic vocabulary connected to the topic Students are given authentic materials to read (See Appendix 2). They are to note any unknown vocabulary items. Reading practice The teacher presents the students with a picture of the gray (cf. Appendix 1). First, the students are asked if they are familiar with the creature. Students are asked about words that they associate with the gray. The teacher notes them on the board. Students are given a text about exopolitics. The students are asked whether they are familiar with the term. Then, the students are to read the text and familiarize themselves with the following target vocabulary items: ripple through sealed off bolide non-issue last-ditch streak exopolitics Extraterrestrial biological entity merit an investigation pose a threat If they are not familiar with the words, the teacher TS 10 minutes 10 minutes TS SS TS 18
  • 19. provides the definition. A discussion Conclusion Homework Reflections The X-Files: a good show or a boring show? Speaking skill focus, using new lexical items in a practical setting The students watch a 15 fragment of ''The X-Files'' minutes movie. The students are to follow the transcript and note any unknown lexical TS items (see Appendix 3). The teacher helps the SS students infer the meaning from the context if necessary after the fragment has been watched by the students. Students‟ Writing The students describe an 10 personal practice encounter with the minutes stories unexplained - be it connected to hypothetical or based on TS the their own experience. The unexplained students are to use all ten SS target vocabulary items when describing the circumstance. Students are asked to find one story pertaining to the „‟unexplained‟‟ by using modern media available. The teacher ought to avoid darker aspects of the „‟unexplained‟‟ such as UFO abductions, etc. as this might frighten some students. Post-Lesson Reflections In this class there were fifteen students, seven males and eight females. The topic of the class was unexplained phenomena. At first, the students' reaction was that of discontent, given the cliche nature of the topic I had chosen (plus the school is Catholic, so I had gone out on a slight limb there). The teacher normally responsible for the class decided to leave the classroom, which is not a typical approach - usually the teachers are less inclined to abandon their forts. Teachers can utter the words, I won't interfere, you can do whatever you like, and everyone is supposed to believe that. In an ideal world, perhaps. We are not living in the perfect world, however, and the sheer presence of the teacher who is surreptitiously scanning every individual in the class (including yours truly) definitely does not equal leaving the classroom. The teacher knows this all too well, of course, and 19
  • 20. sometimes I get the feeling teachers want to make sure their students will wow their, for lack of a better term, substitute teacher, i.e. in this case - me. This implicit ambition is akin to atavistic impulses, but one cannot be surprised to see it; rather, this sort of attitude is perfectly natural. The students who participated in my experiment have represented a wide spectrum of linguistic ability - despite their overall advanced levels. Sometimes C1-C2 level is merely present on paper, a result of happenstance or personal considerations. I have been pleasantly surprised this has not been the case with this class. Most students used English as their second language; despite being fluent, I could notice it was not their native language, my assessment based on their accents and the general speech characteristics (the L1 interference could definitely be felt). Their English was advanced, however, no doubt about that. There were also native speakers of English in the class (American English - female and British English - male) which is a mixed blessing, depending on the activity at hand. Personally, I find teaching them more challenging because it is more difficult to find something they might not know. Fortunately, my English vocabulary/experience is rather extensive so I handled the situation well (in my subjective opinion) and was not paralyzed by the fact I was dealing with native speakers. On the contrary, I think that having native English speakers in the class was a great learning experience for the class as a whole, because native speakers offer a chance to experience the language not as so many teachers would like it to be (prescriptively), but the way it actually functions (descriptively). Moreover, just because a particular individual is a native speaker does not automatically render him/her linguistically omniscient; a lot of other factors come into play, such as this person's interests, level of intelligence, belief systems, et al. Besides, let us remember the very definition of native speaker, as well as the difference between native/nonnative speakers is a proverbial bone of contention among linguists: The terms 'native speaker' and 'non-native speaker' suggest a clear-cut distinction that doesn't really exist. Instead it can be seen as a continuum, with someone who has complete control of the language in question at one end the beginner at the other, with an infinite range of proficiencies to be found in between. (Brandt, 2006:144) The photo of the gray invoked many connotations, which was not surprising to me at all, i.e. the image of the gray is a cultural meme. Even before I finished the distribution of the gray's photo, a multitude of words were bouncing around, e.g. bulging eyes, alien abductions, 20
  • 21. scary, mysterious, encounters of the fourth kind. Fortunately, no lexical items I decided to use were mentioned by the students. The definition of words and multi-prefabricated chunks went rather smoothly, with native speakers being particularly active, which resulted in various (not always positive) comments coming from the rest of the class. Comments such as, maybe you're gonna go even faster?, and variations thereof, were particularly common. Mixed ability classes are never easy to deal with; the more advanced students are, the more difficult it is to treat everyone equally and - from my experience - students are keen on showing others just how superior their abilities are. There were unexpected developments as well. For some reason, when discussing the meaning of the chunk to merit an investigation, a colloquial Americanism - take five cropped up. The natives were silent, probably because they were active anyway. One of the students used his technological prowess and discovered the meaning of this particular expression, to take a break, to take a rest, to stop doing something for a while. He definitely enjoyed uncovering the meaning of the term. Students' personal stories connected with the unexplained were intriguing; it will never cease to amaze me what a chorus of overly active imaginations can accomplish. I heard many stories, some of them so enchanting I considered investigating them further… until I realized someone had been pulling my leg all that time. A potential problem associated with darker aspects of the unexplained did not transpire - not much to my surprise, I might add. Overall, the lesson was an enriching experience. LESSON TWO: Lesson Info Time : 45 minutes Main Aims Day: N/A Age Range : 1418 Level : Advanced By the end of the lesson students will have a more extensive vocabulary relating to the topic of giftedness. 21
  • 22. Objectives Materials Anticipated Problems By the end of the lesson students will understand basic myths associated with giftedness The Telegraph article, see Appendix 4 The Outsiders article, see Appendix 5 Solution Students may feel uncomfortable while discussing their own level of intelligence A teacher ought to start with his/her own experience to pave the way for the experiences of the students. Stage Activity Aim Procedure Interaction and Timing A warm-up Discussing vocabulary associated with the topic Introducing basic vocabulary connected with the topic The teacher presents the students with a picture of Stephen Hawking (cf. Appendix 5). The students are asked about their associations with giftedness. Any new lexical items are written down by the students and explained by the teacher if necessary. The students read the text about the origins of intelligence quotient (cf. Appendix 4). They are to focus on the following target vocabulary items: spell riposte hothousing cut loose arrears markedly TS A reading comprehension exercise Students are Reading given authentic comprehension materials to read. They are to note any unknown lexical items. 10 minutes 10 minutes TS SS TS 22
  • 23. A discussion The Conclusion Homework Reflections prodigy keep one's nose to the grindstone to cut loose fling The students infer the meaning from the text with the teacher's help. Intelligence Speaking skill The teacher starts 10 minutes quotient tests – focus, using the topic of the useful or new lexical / discussion by useless? grammatical presenting the TS items in a students with the practical setting Bell Curve (cf. SS Appendix 5). The students are to discuss the topic of the Bell Curve by expressing their opinions about it (pros and cons of the Bell Curve). The students are to use newly acquired target lexical items. Students‟ Writing practice The students are 10 minutes personal stories– to use all the does intelligence target lexical TS matter to you? items in a short essay expressing SS their stance on gifted education, i.e. is this a good idea? Students are asked to prepare a story about one of the contemporary child prodigies. The teacher ought to avoid personal questions regarding the level of students‟ intelligence – only volunteers ought to express their views in order to avoid possible emotional distress. Post-Lesson Reflections The topic of intelligence is a contentious one so it is better to tread carefully when you are conducting a lesson revolving around mental capabilities. First and foremost, it is essential to 23
  • 24. avoid personalizing the issue, as most people are rather sensitive when it comes to their IQ level - whether they accept the notion of IQ or not, the term itself carries a powerful connotation within people's minds. The students were familiar with a lot of lexical items I had prepared, and it turned out there was one student who had been an avid researcher of giftedness. We exchanged interesting remarks regarding recent cases of giftedness, for example, the case of Jacob Barnett, a 12-year-old from Indiana, who claims he can re-define our understanding of existence. We agreed, unanimously, that claims such as these are rather common throughout the world, that many parents would simply love to put their kids on a pedestal as often as possible, especially in America where the culture of success is so propagated. For some strange reason, our discussion veered a little off course and we entered the territory of beauty pageants and the absurd notion of touting your kids for as much profit as possible. We also agreed, however, that Jacob Barnett might have the brains to prove there is more to his claims than mere platitude. We discussed the issue of hothousing, a controversial homeschooling technique meant to stimulate one's intelligence by an intense focus on a particular subject. Famous people who have undergone hothousing include Gordon Brown and Bill Clinton. One student has compared the idea of hothousing and the Bell Curve by saying that both notions are absurd and do not really serve any noetic purposes (yes, this is actually a word he used and I was definitely taken aback, that is not a word one hears too often, whether someone is on a C1-C2 level of English or any other level, for that matter). At that precise moment I knew I had underestimated some students' linguistic competence. We then analyzed various high IQ societies, such as Mensa and the Prometheus Society, and the students did not really find the idea of IQ tests to be reliable, therefore the notion of high IQ societies did not earn a lot of credibility in that particular group of students. There was a minor altercation toward the end when one of the students accused another one of calling him stupid. Fortunately, the ringing of the bell cleared the air quickly and the whole situation just disappeared for good. Another interesting lesson, to say the least, but definitely more personal for a good portion of students. The teacher always needs to be aware of the line between humor and seriousness, because it is a fine line indeed. 24
  • 25. LESSON THREE: Lesson Info Time: 45 minutes Main Aims Improving vocabulary related to the topic of severe weather conditions By the end of the lesson students will possess a more extensive vocabulary relating to various weather phenomena Objectives Day: N/A Age Range : 1418 Level : Advanced Materials Anticipated Problems For NASA article, see Appendix 6 For Arkstorm article, see Appendix 7 Weather may be perceived as an uninteresting phenomenon – one needs to attract students‟ attention early Focus on particularly spectacular weather phenomena Solution Stage Activity Aim Procedure Interaction And Timing A warm-up Discussing vocabulary associated with the topic Preparation for the main exercises. The teacher plays TS a short movie depicting a 10 minutes tornado devastating a town. The students are asked about their impressions regarding what they have seen. New lexical items spontaneously noticed by the students are noted and explained by the teacher if 25
  • 26. necessary. A reading comprehension exercise A discussion The Conclusion Students are given authentic materials to read about a potential ''Arkstorm'' in California. They are to note any unknown lexical items. Reading comprehension The students read the text, while paying particular attention to the following target lexical items: hazard plausible undulate malfunction perfect storm mitigation coronal mass ejection grid landslides in opposition with (cf. Appendix 6 and appendix 7). The students are to infer the meanings from the context. What about you? Speaking The teacher starts What have you practice the topic of experienced? extreme weather by mentioning his own experiences. The students are to recount their own experiences by using all of the aforementioned target vocabulary items. Writing practice Students write a short story about being a journalist reporting on a major weather event. All ten lexical items are to be used in the text. 10 minutes TS SS TS 10 minutes TS SS 15 minutes SS 26
  • 27. Homework Students are asked to find a developing story regarding extreme weather phenomena and write a report on their findings. Reflections Severe weather phenomena found locally may prove to be a good strategy to elicit students‟ interest. Post-Lesson Reflections The lesson about severe weather phenomena was eerily accurate in terms of what has been happening in many areas of the globe. It was easy to access the data about current tornado events. This was an important move because the students would not really care about an event which had taken place in an unspecified window of time. One of the students asked me a question whether I was aware of the term referring to a tornado on water. A smug expression on his face suggested the, I know this and you don't attitude, but - much to his dismay - I was very much familiar with the term waterspout and his attempt at displaying verbal superiority failed miserably. Visibly impressed, this particular student decided to abandon a line of questioning. I am a person who enjoys learning so I do not take seemingly unrelated queries thrown at me by students personally (I was very much the same way). While still a ''teacher-rookie'', I have observed many teachers who have been unable to deal with their students properly, which has resulted in unfounded aggression emanating from both sides of the classroom barricades. That, in turn, has led to even more hostility and the vicious circle has been formed. Or, indeed, as one student has eloquently put it, a perfect storm of negative teacher-student relations. I asked the students to brainstorm (the politically correct version these days is a thought shower, I believe) some interesting lexical items into existence, which they did. We discussed the topics of solar storms and possible danger they may pose to Earth in 2013; the students enjoyed this part of the lesson and even came up with terms such as CMI (coronal mass ejection) and solar wind on their own. We then focused on a new type of cloud discovered in Missouri called undulatus asperatus, and as the native speaker of American English pointed out, undulatus sounds very much like (to) undulate, which basically denotes, having a wavy surface, edge, or markings (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/undulate). To finish off on a slightly gloomier note than usual, we addressed the issue of an Arkstorm forming off California coast in the near future, while paying particular attention to 27
  • 28. the current food crisis around the world as a direct consequence of severe weather conditions around the planet. 2.4 Results My hypotheses have been largely substantiated by my observations. I would like to focus on them, and to provide readers with additional observations stemming from my hypotheses. I was taking notes throughout my classes, focusing on interesting expressions, quotes, and other types of observations. One particularly interesting opinion made by a student has been used to better illustrate the outcome of the experiment. My first hypothesis posits that advanced learners no longer require artificial, i.e. textbook materials. This has been substantiated by my classroom observations. I did not use textbook materials and focused solely on authentic materials instead. The students were able to express their views without bigger problems revolving around grammar and vocabulary, mostly due to their wide vocabulary range. Textbooks are always a prudent choice, of course, but in the case of the experiment I conducted, they were rendered superfluous. Advanced learners of English comprise individuals who often have a personal goal transcending the school environment. From my observations, that goal is very much dependant upon the language, i.e. someone learning a niche language such as Basque is less likely to do this for career purposes. The English language is the modern lingua franca, and one student has encapsulated the essence of why it pays to focus on English when he said that, These days without a decent command of English you are basically blind, deaf and mute. English gives you an opportunity to communicate with educated people all over the world, to interact with people from all cultures, to access a huge vocabulary range. Having a decent command of English can even save lives and that's not an understatement. I have some Polish friends who can only say a few basic sentences in English and it's amazing how limited their access to information is. They're missing out on a lot of stuff and I've also noticed people who speak English well, apart from some other language, tend to be more open-minded. There are so many layers to this, it's just awesome. My second hypothesis asserts that advanced learners are familiar with many multiprefabricated chunks prior to actually studying them - the latter being a direct consequence of their C1-C2 level. My observations confirm this. Unless one focuses on a specific language type, e.g. business English, legal English, technical English, et al., chances are students are going to be 28
  • 29. familiar with a lot of words due to the omnipresence of English in movies, computer games, etc. This familiarity includes various accent types, regional expressions and even slang. Throughout my teaching practice I have observed that students often know more than teachers are willing to give them credit for. I would like to mention one interesting instance corroborating the above statement involving the use of the lexical item noetic in one of my classes by a seemingly typical student. The lexical item noetic has not been on my teaching list and is rarely used even by educated native speakers of English. Such nuggets of knowledge tend to happen more and more often in English classrooms because this is the language used by circa two billion individuals - be it fluently or on an elementary level - and the globalized world we live in only causes English to grow exponentially. Whether English has the biggest vocabulary as some claim, or not, it still remains the tool without which it is much more difficult to advance in the world - and learners of English in Poland know it. Therefore, they are not going to wait for the school, but rather they are going to expand their lexicon on their own terms. Sadly, educational institutions often cannot catch up with some students due to the modern technological milieu. It is vital to remain open and willing to challenge our assumptions. Every time we break down an assumption to see to what extent it is correct and well founded, we are increasing our own awareness. Every time we seek the truth behind our beliefs, we are using our ability to think, really think in a deep and creative way. (http://www.hltmag.co.uk/jan08/sart02.htm). 2.5 Discussion The outcome of the experiment appears to substantiate my two hypotheses. It is vital to note, however, that the main weakness of the experiment has definitely been the students' advancement; having two native speakers in the classroom has definitely altered the balance of linguistic competence, so to speak, which has resulted in a higher-than-usual level of English in the classroom if one was to juxtapose the level of this particular class with what constitutes the advanced level of English in a typical Polish school. The results of the experiment are far from surprising - people who harbor a desire to learn a new language will not be limited by the school environment. Noam Chomsky (2006: 88) offers a good explanation as to why this is so, Having mastered a language, one is able to understand an indefinite number of expressions that are new to one's experience, that bear no simple physical resemblance and are in no simple way analogous to the expressions that constitute one's linguistic experience; and one is able, with greater or less facility, to produce such 29
  • 30. expressions on an appropriate occasion, despite their novelty and independently of detectable stimulus configurations. The normal use of language is, in this sense, a creative activity. Based on my teaching practice, it is clear that what distinguishes advanced learners of English (or any other language, for that matter), from their less advanced counterparts is their ability to produce expressions appropriate to the occasion, despite their novelty and independently of detectable stimulus configurations (Chomsky 2006: 88). Advanced students of English have a certain feel of the language that less advanced students simply lack. This implicit understanding of the language goes beyond what can be found in textbooks and that is why, according to many eminent scholars, the field of advanced learners occupies a spot in an underappreciated, undervalued and yet important element of the student ability spectrum (Maley 2009: 75:80). Simply put, not every teacher possesses the linguistic competence to teach advanced learners - and most learners are not advanced anyway. 3. Summary Chapter two has focused on testing my two hypotheses in a practical classroom setting. I have begun by presenting the hypotheses, which has been followed by the rationale behind them. I have justified the wording of my hypotheses by stating that language is - first and foremost - a product of a natural environment and teachers ought to strive for providing this type of environment for their students. My personal observations of the classroom environment have served as a practical testing mechanism. I have described the type of school in which the experiment was conducted, the participants of the experiment and their student-student and teacher-student interaction patterns, as well as the materials and procedures used by me in the classroom (including the lesson plans with the relevant materials). The outcome of the experiment has then been compared with my initial research questions. My personal observations regarding the hypotheses and their viability have been juxtaposed with what experts in the field have asserted. 30
  • 31. Conclusion 1. Purpose of the study While researching materials for the first chapter, it struck me how little attention is devoted to the field of advanced learners. I discovered a few eminent English teachers, most notably Alan Maley, whose opinion was summarized by stating that “one of the major problems surrounding the topic of C1-C2 students is that, this is an area rarely dealt with in ELT material, and as such occupies a spot in an underappreciated, undervalued and yet important element of the student ability spectrum” (Maley, 2009: 75-80). Given the definition of advanced learner, however, it stands to reason that not many teachers can specialize in that particular area. After all, when students are advanced then teachers ought to be even more advanced and the more advanced students are, the more difficult it is to establish clear-cut boundaries revolving around linguistic competence. The purpose of the experiment was to test the following hypotheses in a classroom environment. The first hypothesis posits that advanced learners no longer require artificial, i.e. textbook materials. It is highly probable that advanced learners want to use English in order to function in the wider world, not just use it in an artificial setting, that is the classroom milieu. Therefore, they require authentic linguistic samples, and those are easily found in authentic materials, i.e. those complied for native speakers by native speakers of English. My second hypothesis asserts that advanced learners are familiar with many multiprefabricated chunks prior to actually studying them - the latter being a direct consequence of their C1-C2 level. Bearing the above hypotheses in mind, I have conducted my lessons. My interaction with the classroom has taught me a lot about how any sort of linguistic classification is really a misnomer, i.e. this observation has been a lateral result of my experiment. It is much easier to determine who is a beginner and who is an intermediate student than to determine who is more advanced when everyone in the classroom is supposedly on a high level of English. I would like to stress the word supposedly because, from my classroom experience, it is abundantly clear that linguistic classification can barely keep up with the real world where globalization makes it possible to constantly improve one's linguistic competence (especially when dealing with a lingua franca of the modern technological age, i.e. the English language). I observed native speakers ''in action'', and that was particularly 31
  • 32. interesting because I was able to observe other students and how they perceived their native friends. I have chosen multi-prefabricated chunks in connection with authentic materials because it is far more efficient to focus on authentic materials (newspapers, movie transcripts, articles). I have also wanted to choose the topics which would be seen as up-to-date by the students, i.e. something they could relate to on a personal level but not too personal because this could lead to unnecessary scuffles throwing the lesson into chaos. The level of importance increases when students know they have been provided with real vocabulary used in the real world. The level of importance might not be of paramount significance for beginner students, for example, and rightly so; but the C1-C2 level means students want to delve into the intricacies of the language. I have observed those patterns in my classroom, and they came in all of the proverbial shapes and sizes. The results of my classroom observations are then juxtaposed with my hypotheses; afterwards, the conclusions I came to were compared with the academic sources. 2. Implications for further studies As my classroom observations have demonstrated, the advanced learners were very much aware of many linguistic items, sometimes surpassing even the most optimistic expectations (see the description of noetic in my diploma project where one such situation has been mentioned). Therefore, it is of particular benefit for advanced learners of English to focus on a different topic via the medium of English. If a particular teacher does have what it takes to teach advanced learners, there are certain programs in place which utilize those skills, such as Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), which involves teaching a curricular subject through the medium of a language other than that normally used. The subject can be entirely unrelated to language learning, such as history lessons being taught in English in a school in Spain. (...) Teachers working with CLIL are specialists in their own discipline rather than traditional language teachers. They are usually fluent speakers of the target language, bilingual or native speakers (http://ec.europa.eu/education/languages/language-teaching/doc236_en.htm). Programs such as CLIL ensure that teachers and learners alike can benefit from using English as a tool. This way, the language no longer is the focus but certain structures are solidified automatically throughout the course of learning. The teacher must be careful, however, what is conveyed in the classroom in order to avoid fossilization, i.e. “the process in which 32
  • 33. incorrect language becomes a habit and cannot easily be corrected” (http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/knowledge-wiki/fossilization). This approach yields more results than merely using English as a tool, especially when students in question are of native/near-native level. 3. Implications for the EFL classroom English as a foreign language is the key expression in this section. What does foreign mean exactly? How can it be measured? What does it mean for the students in question? How does it influence the classroom? There were two native speakers of English in my classroom. Therefore, English was not a foreign language for them. What were the implications for the classroom? First of all, I could detect a note of jealousy in the air, undoubtedly stemming from the innately unfair global environment, where many native speakers of English do not even bother to learn other languages and feel as if the world is their oyster, while Polish students need to devote hours of study to achieve even a remote level of English competence. This is the psychological process I call an ''emotional charge'' and the process is rarely - if ever - addressed in a classroom milieu. The lack of focus on that particular aspect of language learning stems from grassroots issues, such as underpayment of teachers or simply lack of linguistic competence to discuss such topics. The linguistic competence of teachers matters especially for advanced learners of English (or any other language, for that matter). The higher the level of linguistic competence, the more can be conveyed, but the factor of simple respect also comes into play. Furthermore, in this day and age it is more and more prevalent that children coming from mixed-marriages are - for all intents and purposes - bilingual, something the Polish educational system has a problem with because teachers are unable to devise interesting activities for more advanced students). I wanted to detect the source of that jealousy: is it their accent, their vocabulary, something else? One would be mistaken to think advanced students have to lag behind the natives, however, because there are many factors at play, i.e. the level of intelligence, personality, etc. The level of intelligence (whether a particular students is a voracious reader, etc.) and personality (extrovert, willing to interact with others, more reticent) proved to be valid in the class I taught; in fact, apart from the accents, the level of linguistic competence was remarkably close, I would even say native-like for most students. Of course, just because 33
  • 34. someone is a reticent student it does not mean he/she is less likely to excel in the classroom, i.e. their introvert demeanor might be misconstrued as a lack of interest. Are accents important? This is another question many advanced students seem to be asking themselves. In the process of conducting my experiment, I noticed an interesting phenomenon of accent-adjustment to sound more like the natives, while the natives pretended to sound more like Polish speakers of English. I kept recalling various classroom situations in my earlier years, where teachers would tell advanced students (frankly, more advanced than the teachers in question) to practice their grammar. The question immediately arises: is this really what those teachers thought was useful for those particular students or was this a poorly devised stratagem on their part, a red herring, if you will? That is the question which definitely warrants further study. 34