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Week2 part-a


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  • 1. Week 2 Unit 2, Part A This unit is divided into two parts. This week is for the first part while the next week will be for the second and last part
  • 2. Unit 2: Interaction between Teachers and Students In this unit: 2.1 The Roles of Teachers 2.2 Describing Students 2.2.1 Age 2.2.2 Learning Styles After you have read about the roles of teachers, tell us which role you play most of the times in your daily lessons. Also, tell us why you say that. A common theme underlying different methods of language teaching is that second or foreign language learning is a highly interactive process. A great deal of time in teaching is devoted both to interaction between the teacher and the learners, and to interaction among the learners themselves. The quality of this interaction is thought to have a considerable influence on learning (Ellis 1985). The focus in this unit is on the nature of classroom interaction and how teachers can influence the kind of interaction that occurs in their own classrooms. We will also analyze several factors that make each of our learners a unique one; such analysis will be done in terms of age, learning styles, among others. 2.1 The Roles of Teachers According to Harmer (1991), the way the teacher behaves when practicing different kinds of activities with students will change according to the nature of the activities. Perhaps the most important distinction to be drawn here is between the role of controller and facilitator, since these two concepts represent opposite ends of a cline of control and freedom. A controller stands in front of a class like a puppetmaster or mistress controlling everything. A facilitator maintains a low profile in order to make the students’ own achievement of a task possible. We will represent these extremes in the following way: Controlling________________________________________________Facilitative (Harmer, Jeremy. The Practice of ELT. 1991. Longman) We will indicate where the different roles we are about to discuss can be placed on this cline. We will examine the roles of controller, assessor, organizer, prompter, participant, resource, and investigator. The teacher as controller As we have said, teachers as controllers are in complete charge of the class. They control not only what the students do, but also when they speak and what language they use. On our diagram this role is placed at the extreme en d of the cline.
  • 3. The teacher as controller is closely allied to the image that teachers project of themselves. Some appear to be natural leaders and performers, while some are quieter and feel happier when students are interacting among themselves. Where teachers are addicted to being the center of attention they tend to find it difficult not to perform the controlling role and this has both advantages and disadvantages. We can all recall teachers in our past who were able to inspire us. Frequently this was because they possessed a certain indefinable quality which attracted and motivated us. Frequently, too, it was because they had interesting things to say and do which held our attention and enthusiasm. The sane is true in language classes. Some teachers have a gift of inspiring and motivating us even though they never seem to relax their control. And at their best teachers who are able to mix the controlling role with a good performance are extremely enjoyable to be taught by or observed. When teachers are acting as controllers, they tend to do a lot of the talking, and while we may feel uneasy about the effect this has on the possibilities for students talking time it should be remembered that it is frequently the teacher, talking at the students’ level of comprehension, who is the most important source they have for roughly-tuned comprehensible input. (See unit 1). We should not let these advantages fool us, however, into accepting the controller role as the only one that the teacher has. It is vital that control should be relaxed if students are to be allowed a chance to learn (rather than be taught). Even during immediate creativity teachers will have begun to relax their grip, and during communicative speaking and writing their role must be fundamentally different, otherwise the students will not have a chance to participate properly. The Teacher as Assessor Clearly a major part of the teacher’s job is to assess the students’ work, to see how well they are performing or how well they performed. Not only is this important pedagogically, but the students quite naturally expect it, even after communicative activities. We must make a difference between two types of assessment: correction and organizing feedback. During an accurate reproduction stage, where the teacher is totally in control, student error and mistake will be corrected almost instantly. The teacher’s function, Harmer among others suggest, is to show where incorrectness occurs and help the student to see what has gone wrong so that it can be put right. A slightly less formal style of correction can occur where students are involved in immediate creativity or in doing a drill-type activity in pairs (asking and answering set questions, for example). Teachers will still want to correct, but it has been
  • 4. suggested that such correction will be “gentle”. Gentle correction involves showing students that a mistake has been made but not making a big fuss about it. Whereas, in the accurate reproduction stage, teachers insist on students saying the sentence, phrase or word correctly once they have been told about their mistake, with gentle correction the teacher says things like ‘Well that’s not exactly correct….we don’t say “he goed….”, we say “went”.’ The important point is that nothing more happens. The student doesn’t have to repeat his or her sentence correctly; it is enough that a mistake has been acknowledged. This kind of gentle correction, used in the right way, will not seriously damage the atmosphere of pair work or freer conversation. We can represent these two kinds of correction in the following way on our cline: Organizing feedback occurs when students have performed some kind of task, and the intention of this kind of assessment is for them to see the extent of their success or failure and to be given ideas as to how their (language) problems might be solved. We must make a distinction between two different kinds of feedback. Content feedback concerns an assessment of how well the students performed the activity as an activity rather than as a language exercise. For example, when students have completed a role play, the teacher first discusses with the students the reasons for their decisions in the simulation. Let’s think of a role play where a couple of students are pretending to be at a travel agency. As content feedback, teachers and students discuss why the pair chose a particular hotel and if it was the most sensible choice. In other words, when students are asked to perform a task it is their ability to perform the task which should be the focus of the first feedback session. If the teacher merely concentrates on the correctness of the students’ language then they will conclude that the task itself was unimportant. Form feedback, on the other hand, does tell the students how well they have performed linguistically, how accurate they have been. When students are involved in a communicative activity the teacher will record the errors that are made so that they can be brought to the students’ attention after whatever content feedback is appropriate. Two final points need to need to be made. Firstly it is important to stress again that feedback does not just include correcting language mistakes. It also means reacting to the subject and content of an activity. Secondly, feedback does not only
  • 5. mean telling students about their errors and mistakes, it also means telling students what “went right”. Where they have achieved a successful outcome, or where they have used good and appropriate language, they need to be told this. We can put the organizing feedback function in the following place on our cline. The Teacher as Organizer Perhaps the most important and difficult role the teacher has to play is that of organizer. According to Ellis, 1988, “The success of many activities depends on good organization and on the students knowing exactly what they are to do”. A lot of time can be wasted if the teacher omits to give students vital information or issues conflicting and confusing instructions. The main aim of the teacher when organizing an activity is to tell the students what they are going to talk about, write about, read about, or give clear instructions about what exactly their task is, get the activity going, and then organize feedback when it is over. This sounds remarkably easy, but can be disastrous if teachers have not thought out exactly what they are going to say beforehand. The organization of an activity and the instructions the teacher gives are of vital importance since if the students have not understood clearly what they are to do they will not be able to perform their task satisfactorily. The organization of an activity can be divided into three main parts: 1) The Lead In – an introduction to the subject ( eg. The teacher and students briefly discuss the topic in order to start thinking about it) 2) Instruction – Students are told exactly what they should do ( eg. The teacher tell the students they are going to work in pairs and then designates one member of each pair as A and other as B. The teacher then gives each student A a picture and says, “do not show this picture to B until the end of the game”, etc, etc.” 3) Initiation – The teacher initiates the activity. A final check is given that students have understood. sequence can almost always be followed when the teacher is setting up activities – when the teacher is acting as organizer. For the sequence to have the right effect
  • 6. the teacher must remember to work out carefully what instructions to give and what the key concepts for the activity are. The job is then to organize the activity as efficiently as possible, frequently checking that the students have understood. Once the activity has started the teacher will not intervene (where pair / group work is used) unless it is to use gentle correction or to prompt. The teacher’s role as organizer goes on our cline in the following way: The Teacher as Prompter Often the teacher needs to encourage students to participate or needs to make suggestions about how students may proceed in an activity when there is a silence or when they are confused about what to do next. This is one of the teacher’s most important roles, the role of a prompter. Follow up questions and real answers are good devices for prompting. The teacher prompting students has to ask them to do follow up questions and must be ready to suggest about what these questions might be in case the students could not think of any themselves. The role of prompter has to be performed with discretion for if teachers are too aggressive they start to take over from the students, whereas the idea is that they should be helping them only when it is necessary. The teacher’s role as prompter goes on our cline in the following way: The Teacher as Participant There is no reason why the teacher should not participate as an equal in an activity especially where activities like simulations are taking place. Clearly on a lot of occasions it will be difficult for us to do so as equals (since we often know all the material and all the details), but it is recommendable for teachers to join simulations as participants, sometimes playing roles themselves. The danger is that the teacher will tend to dominate, and the students will both allow and expect this to happen. It will be up to the teacher to make sure it does not. Teachers should not be afraid to participate since not only will it probably improve the atmosphere in the class, but it will also give the students a chance to practice English with someone who speaks it better than they do. The teacher’s role as participant goes on our cline in the following way:
  • 7. The Teacher as a Resource Penny Ur (1999) states that “It is of great importance to stress the teacher nonintervention where a genuinely communicative activity is taking place in the classroom” and this means that the teacher is left, to some extent, with nothing to do. There are still two very important roles, however. One is to be aware of what is going on as an assessor – although discreetly – and the other is to be a kind of walking resource center. In other words the teacher should always be ready to offer help if it is needed. After all we have the language that the students may be missing, and this is especially true if the students are involved in some kind of writing task. “Thus we make ourselves available so that students can consult us when (and only when) they wish” Harmer, 1998. We can see, therefore, that when the teacher is acting as a resource we are at the facilitative end of our cline. The Teacher as Investigator All the roles we have mentioned so far have had to do with the teacher’s behaviour as it relates to the students. But teachers themselves will want to develop their own skills and they will hope for a gradually deepening insight into the best ways to foster language learning. Of course it is possible to go on teacher training, to attend teachers’ seminars, or even to get enrolled in a BA like the one you are studying right now. These will certainly help teachers to come across new ideas and keep abreast of what is happening. But teachers can develop by themselves or with colleagues, too. The best way to do this is by investigating what is going on, observing what works well in class and what does not, trying out new techniques and activities and evaluating their appropriacy. Teachers who do not investigate the efficiency of new methods and who do not actively seek their own personal and professional development may find the job of teaching becoming increasingly monotonous. Teachers who constantly seek to enrich their understanding of what learning is all about and what works well, on the other hand, will find the teaching of English constantly rewarding.
  • 8. What role do you adopt as a teacher? Explain! What roles do most your colleagues at school adopt? Do you agree or disagree? Why? 2.2 Describing Students Before we start describing students, take some time to fill in the following chart. Gap in column three’s heading needs to be filled in with the age group you work with. (e.g. “I teach English to children because…”) Remember to include, in your post, the answers you give for the chart below. I THINK…… Children learn English because… A) B) Adults learn English because… I teach English to ____________ because…
  • 9. C) When you are ready, share your responses with others in your group. 2.2.1 Age The age of our students is a major factor in our decisions about how and what to teach. People of different ages have different needs, competences, and cognitive skills; we might expect children of primary age to acquire much of a foreign language through play, for example, whereas for adults we can reasonably expect a greater use of abstract thought. In what follows we will consider students at different ages as if all the members of each age group are the same. Yet each student is an individual with different experiences both in and outside the classroom. Comments here about young children, teenagers, and adults can only be generalizations. “Much also depends upon individual learner differences and motivation” (Harmer 2001) Young Children Young children, especially those up to the ages of nine or ten, learn differently from older children, adolescents and adults in the following ways: • • They respond to meaning even if they do not understand individual words. They often learn indirectly rather than directly – that is they take in information from all sides, learning from everything around them rather than only focusing on the precise topic they are being taught. • Their understanding comes not just from explanation, but also from what they see and hear and, crucially, have a chance to touch and interact with. • They generally display an enthusiasm for learning and a curiosity about the world around them. • They have a need for individual attention and approval from teacher. • They are keen to talk about themselves, and respond well to learning that uses themselves and their own lives as main topics in the classroom. • They have a limited attention span; unless activities are extremely engaging they can easily get bored, losing interest after ten minutes or so. (From Vale, David. 1998. & Harmer, Jeremy. 2001)
  • 10. Look at the main characteristics young children share for learning. Think about what good teachers need to do and how classrooms should be in order to acknowledge such characteristics. Fill in the chart. Then read the first paragraphs on the following page to confirm your answers. Good teachers of young learners need to… Classrooms for young children should… In the light of the characteristics presented above, it can be concluded that good teachers at this level need to provide a rich diet of learning experiences which encourages their students to get information from a variety of sources. They need to work with their students individually and in groups developing good relationships. They need to plan a range of activities for a given period time, and be flexible enough to move on to the next exercise when their students are getting bored. We can also draw some conclusions about what a classroom for young children should look like and what might be going on in it. First of all we will want the classroom to be bright and colourful, with windows the children can see out of, and with enough room for different activities to be taking place. We might expect them to be working in groups in different parts of the classroom, changing their activities every ten minutes or so. ‘We are obviously’ Susan Halliwell writes ‘not talking about classrooms where children spend all their time sitting still in rows or talking only to the teacher’ (1992). Because children love discovering things, and because they respond well to be asked to use their imagination, they may well be involved in puzzle like activities, in making things, in drawing things, in physical movement, or in songs. Adolescents What makes adolescents so special? Think of 5 “good” adjectives to describe teenagers and of 5 “not so good” adjectives as well. Write them in the chart below. Adolescents are… Adolescents are… Remember to include, in your post, the answers you give for this chart.
  • 11. e.g. energetic e.g. moody Now read the following paragraphs and confirm your ideas. Anyone who has taught secondary school students has had lessons, even days and weeks, when the task seemed difficult, and on especially bad days hopeless. Yet if, as Penny Ur suggests, teenage students are in fact overall the best language learners (1996) this suggests that this is only part of the picture. When Herbert Putcha and Michael Schartz started to design material for teenagers they, like many before them, wondered why teenagers seemed to be less lively and humorous than adults. Why were they so much less motivated, they asked, and why did they present outright discipline problems (Putcha & Schartz 1993)? It is widely accepted that one of the key issues in adolescence is the search for individual identity, and this search provides the key challenge for this age group. Identity has to be forged among classmates and friends; peer approval may be considerable more important for the student than the attention of the teacher which, for young children, is so crucial. There are a number of reasons why students – and teenage students in particular – may be disruptive in class. Apart from the need for self-esteem and the peer approval they may provoke from being disruptive, there are other factors too, such as the boredom they feel – not to mention problems they bring into class from outside school. However, while it is true that adolescents can cause discipline problems, it is usually the case that they would be much happier if that challenge is met, if the teacher actually manages to control them, and if this is done in a supportive and constructive way so that he or she ‘helps rather than shouts’ (Harmer 1998). However, we should not become too preoccupied with the issue of disruptive behaviour, for while we will all remember unsatisfactory classes, we will also look back with pleasure on those groups and lessons which we were successful. Teenagers, if they are engaged, have a great capacity to learn, a great potential for creativity, and a passionate commitment to things which interest them. There is
  • 12. almost nothing more exciting than a class of involved young people at this age pursuing a learning goal with enthusiasm. Our job, therefore, must be to provoke student engagement with material which is relevant and involving. At the same time we need to do what we can to bolster our students’ self-esteem, and be conscious, always, of their need for identity. Putcha and Schartz see problems with teenagers as resulting, in part, from ‘…the teacher’s failure to build bridges between what they want and have to teach and their students’ worlds of thought and experience’ (1993). They advocate linking language teaching far more closely to the students’ everyday interests through, in particular, the use of humanistic teaching. Students must be encouraged to respond to texts and situations with their own thoughts and experience, rather than just by answering questions and doing abstract learning activities. We must give them tasks which they are able to do, rather than risk humiliating them. We have come some way from teaching of young children. We can ask teenagers to address learning issues directly in a way that younger learners might not appreciate. We are able to discuss abstract issues with them. Indeed part of our job is to provoke intellectual activity by helping them to be aware of contrasting ideas and concepts which they can resolve for themselves – though still with our guidance. Adult Learners Adult language learners are notable for a number of special characteristics: • They can engage with abstract thought. Those who succeed at language learning in latter life, according to Steven Pinker, ‘…often depend on the conscious exercise of their considerable intellects, unlike children to whom language acquisition naturally happens’ (Pinker 1994). This suggests that we do not have to rely exclusively on activities such as games and songs – though these may be appropriate for some students. • They have a whole range of life experiences to draw on. • They have expectations about the learning process, and may already have their own set of patterns of learning. • Adults tend, on the whole, to be more disciplined than some teenagers, and crucially, they are often prepared to struggle on despite boredom. • They come into classrooms with a rich range of experiences which allow teachers to use a wide range of activities with them. • Unlike young children and teenagers, they often have a clear understanding of why they are learning and what they want to get out of it. However, adults are never entirely problem-free learners, and have a number of characteristics which can sometimes make learning and teaching problematic
  • 13. In your opinion, what are the most noticeable characteristics adults might have that could affect learning and teaching? List them below. __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________ • Adults can be critical of teaching methods. Their previous learning experiences may have predisposed them to one particular methodological style which makes them uncomfortable with unfamiliar teaching patterns. Conversely, they may be hostile to certain teaching and learning activities which replicate the teaching they received earlier in their educational careers. • They may have experienced failure or criticism at school which makes them anxious and under-confident about learning a language. • Many older adults worry that their intellectual powers may be diminishing with age – they are concerned to keep their creativity powers alive, to maintain a ‘sense of generativity’ (William & Burden. 1997). However, as Alan Rogers points out, this generativity is directly related to how much learning has been going on in adult life before they come to a new learning experience. (1996) From Harmer, J. 2001. Good teachers of adults take all these factors into account. They are aware that their students will often be prepared to stick with an activity for longer than younger learners (though too much boredom can obviously have a disastrous effect on motivation). As well as involving their students in more indirect learning through reading, listening, and communicative speaking and writing, they also allow them to use their intellect to learn consciously when this is appropriate. They encourage their students to use their own life experience in the learning process too. As teachers of adults we should recognize the need to minimize the bad effects of past learning experiences. We can diminish the fear of failure by offering activities which are achievable, paying special attention to the level of challenge presented by exercises. We need to listen to students’ concerns too and, in many cases, modify what we do to suit their learning tastes.
  • 14. What keys to good communication should all teachers need to keep in mind when teaching new learners of English?