Lesson Plan: Listening + Method Acting: readiness

 

Have you ever felt like you understand a situation around you, but you just have a hard time responding to that stimulus immediately?

Maybe it’s in the middle of an argument and you can only think of a come back two hours later, or perhaps your interlocutor reacts unexpectedly and leaves you speechless.

I guess we’ve all been there.

In order to avoid that from happening once again, we could draw some help from the creator of Method Acting, Konstantin Stanislavski. But this time, we could focus on his concept of readiness and how it can aid spoken communication through active listening.

Why use Stanislavski’s readiness concept into Active Listening?

The imagination that leads to faith begins at the very moment the actors allow themselves to be available for any kind of stimuli the environment might present. By developing a sense of readiness in his actors, Stanislavski aimed at fostering acceptance of external stimuli. This technique demands from the actor a volatile, agile and alert mind, which is capable to respond to these stimuli through action, whether physical or verbal. And that is exactly the link between acting and ELT: attempting to develop the learner’s listening so that skills such as perceiving, analyzing and responding to auditory stimuli can be enhanced.

 

This activity in particular intends to create a sense of emergency that leads to deep focus and readiness. Just like during rehearsals for an actor, the students are faced with a situation which demands high levels of attention, language recollection and creativity and allows them to let the target language sink in through active listening and drilling.

I hope you have fun with this one as well!


Listening + Method Acting: readiness

Type: Listening

Age: Young adults and Adults

Language level: A2-C1

Aims: Actively involve learners in the listening process; promote sense of readiness to perceive, analyze and respond to auditory stimuli; encourage metacognition development.

Interaction Pattern: Whole group, pair work, group work, individual work.

Material: Course book; recording; audio player; white board or similar.

Timing: 60 min (full lesson)


Procedure:

1. Before listening, activate learners’ schemata by discussing the overall situation in which the speakers will be in. You could come up with questions or use the ones in the ‘pre-listening section’ in the course book you usually follow. Ask follow up questions to personalize the situation and elicit as much language as possible such as: ‘What would you say in this situation?’; ‘What do you expect the other person will reply to you?’.

 

2. Tell learners they are going to listen to a conversation, but you will pause the recording a few times. Every time you pause, they will be given thirty seconds to write down what they believe the next sentence will be. (Tip: depending on your class goal, pause right before the target language for that class is used in order to draw extra attention to it). Tell students they are also supposed to check if their predictions were correct when you continue playing the recording. Play recording, stopping before language you would like them to focus on (give learners enough time during pauses).

 

3. Ask learners to compare in pairs what they had predicted and what was actually said. Write on the board: ‘Can the sentences you predicted actually be part of this conversation?’; ‘Why do you think the speakers decided to use these words/sentences to continue the conversation?’; ‘What else could they have said?’. Learners discuss in pairs.

 

4. Tell learners they will listen to the conversation again and you will stop the recording at the exact same parts. However, this time, instead of writing down predictions, they should speak up what comes next. Play recording, stopping before language you would like them to focus on. Learners speak in unison during pauses. Play as many times as needed until most learners remember the target language by memory.

 

5. Assign learners a few questions to develop metacognition of their listening skills, such as: ‘What were you listening to?’; ‘What helped you to understand the text?’; ‘What prevented you from getting the correct answer?’; ‘What did you do to understand as much of the text as possible and remember it afterwards?’. Give learners a few minutes to reflect on their own listening processes. Afterwards, divide learners in small groups and have them share and discuss their findings with their peers.


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Lesson Plan: Listening + Method Acting: faith

Method acting

Many have heard this term but few outside the Drama field know what it actually stands for. Method Acting is the title given to the acting methodology created by Konstantin Stanislavski, the Russian director who is still one of the most influent thinkers and practitioners of the dramatic arts until this day. It is a rigorous system, which intends to guide actors through their craft from character-building, to rehearsals and performance.

Among many crucial topics covered in the Method, one can be particularly interesting for language teachers, especially when it comes to listening instruction: the concept of faith.

 

Truth on the stage is whatever we can believe in with sincerity, whether in ourselves or in our colleagues

Stanislavski, K.

 

For Stanislavski, communication can only be truthful, meaningful and purposeful on stage if the actors truly believe – or have faith – that what is happening at that moment between them is real. And this concept can be very useful to help our usually forced, unnatural and artificial listening classes into something students can actually relate to, actively.

Why use Stanislavski’s faith concept into Active Listening?

By inviting learners to be participants in the conversation they are about to hear, not only is their schemata activated but also their faith in its reality developed. It gives them purpose to listen and enhances the sense of usefulness and meaningfulness about the target language. Instead of passively eavesdropping on the speakers, students are invited to actively ‘be in the conversation’ with them. It also stimulates their promptitude abilities to respond or react to what is listened to at the time of speech, as they would have to do in real life.

 

Thinking about these benefits and applications into modern listening instruction, I thought about a possible lesson plan combining these two worlds and you can find it below. Hope you all enjoy and test it!

And, as usual, have fun with the games!!!


Listening + Method Acting: faith

Type: Listening

Age: Young adults and Adults

Language level: A2-C1

Aims: Actively involve learners in the listening process; Promote sense of belief (faith) that the situation portrayed in the recording is personally relevant, useful and meaningful to learners; Develop skills such as listening for gist, listening for detail, promptitude to react or respond to interlocutor.

Interaction Pattern: Whole group, pair work, group work, individual work.

Material: Cards with background information about speakers; Course book; Recording; Audio player; White board or similar

Timing: 60 min (full lesson)


 

Procedure:

1. Before listening, distribute cards to learners describing the situation divided in different points of view. For example, if there are two people talking, half of the learners receive a card describing background information and motivation of speaker A, while the other half receives cards with similar information, but about speaker B.

 

2. Divide learners in two groups, according to the character they received. Tell students they ARE these characters now. Assign some questions to get them emotionally involved, such as: ‘Where are you?’; ‘Why do you want to have this conversation?’; ‘Why are you going to talk to THIS particular person?’; ‘Which pieces of information do you expect to get from the other person?’. Have learners discuss their motivations in groups.

 

3. Tell learners they will listen to the conversation and their task is to check if the motivations they predicted are the same in the conversation. Play the recording. Ask for interpretations from the whole class. Ask follow up questions such as: ‘So where are you, actually?’; ‘Why did you choose to talk to this person really?’; ‘What is your real motivation to have this conversation?’.

 

4. Assign first question to develop listening for gist. You could come up with one or use the one in the course book you usually follow. Play the recording. Check answer. Ask follow up questions such as: ‘What was you overall intention while speaking to this person?’; ‘Were you satisfied with the result of your interaction with this person? Why?’.

 

5. Assign other tasks to develop listening for specific information. You could come up with some or use the ones in the course book you usually follow. Play the recording as many times as necessary. Learners compare answers in pairs, justifying it. Check answers. Ask follow up questions such as: ‘What motivated you to say ___?’; ‘Why did you use the word /form ____ ?’.

 

6. After listening, assign tasks that promote interaction between learners and characters, such as: creating a script with an alternate ending, based on the motivation and language learners believe would be more suitable and realistic for this situation; reporting the conversation based on the character’s point of view (gossip to a third party).


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Essay – Active Listening: a principled approach towards autonomy and metacognition

Birmingham

List

Dear Drama gamer friends, I bear good news!

I was accepted at the University of Birmingham into their TESOL Masters programme!!!

I couldn’t believe my eyes when that happened.

Well, I’ve just finished my first module and decide to share with you all my first essay on Active Listening.

I hope you enjoy reading it as I did researching and writing about the topic.

 


1.   Introduction

The Cinderella of the four skills (Nunan in Richards and Renandya, 2002), listening was often overshadowed by its ‘elder sister’ speaking and treated either as a passive activity meriting little classroom attention (Vandergrift, 2004) or as a mere means to reinforce language input (Field in Richards and Renandya, 2002) and testing comprehension as a product. However, the concept of listening as a skill to be explored in class has sprung and increasing academic studies that promote the perception of listening comprehension as process have emerged (e.g. Vandergrift, 2004; Goh and Taib, 2006; Rost, 2013; Rost and Wilson, 2013). While academia blooms in research regarding listening as a truly active skill which deserves special attention and ought to be taught in terms of subskill strategies so that students can ‘listen to learn’ (Vandergrift, 2004), classroom instruction seems not to have adhered to this new wave, as Field puts it:

 

“The teaching of listening has become more sensitive to learner needs, but our listening lessons remain predictable in form and content, and the presuppositions which underlie them are left unquestioned.”

(Field 1998:2)

 

This paper proposes an examination of my own current practice in teaching listening and observing if praxis corresponds with modern academic methodological propositions. Also, approaches and techniques will be exposed as a suggestion for improvement. At the same time, a reflection on the benefits the suggested approaches and techniques can have on the learners the author currently works with will be presented.

  

  1. Current practice in listening instruction

This section intends to depict how listening instruction is practiced in my classroom. The analysis of procedures and rationale were divided in pre, while and post due to the standard format of the listening lesson (Field in Richards and Renandya, 2002) still remaining as the same three-stage process.

It appears that the principles behind aural comprehension lessons nowadays include at heart the attempt to recreate and stimulate learners to better cope with listening in their real lives. Nevertheless, it would be ludicrous to infer teachers are able to cover every possible scenario in which learners might find themselves. Ur (1984: 2) affirms to be possible to list some examples of the types of listening we might expect reasonably educated people living in a developed country to be exposed to. Therefore hoping that an examination of the results might bring some useful conclusions, meaning the teacher can only prepare the class bearing in mind a certain audience and hope the assumptions made may actually aid students during real life linguistic needs.

The audience described above by Ur matches the one who attends the lessons here analyzed: a majority of German or Swiss adults who work for multinationals or have frequent contact with other non-natives.

Now that the structure, principles and target audience of the lessons are outlined, common practice in the instruction of listening for this audience will be observed during pre, while and post-listening phases. In order to exemplify how my personal teaching can be improved, three different activities taken from materials most frequently used by me in the classroom will be analyzed in the following section.

 

2.1 Pre-listening phase

A story, vocabulary elicitation through brainstorming, an image used to generate discussion: these are the most common techniques used by this author to introduce a topic.

The rationale behind this practice is the attempt to activate students’ schemata, set the context, create motivation for listening and encourage both top-down and bottom-up processing. Richards (1983) calls this knowledge that we have in advance about the subject-matter or context of the discourse in real life situations ‘script competence’ and that is precisely what pre-listening activities attempt to recreate.

As for the practice of motivating students to create expectations about the text, it has been said that expectation and purpose for listening are closely linked together and these previously forged assumptions actually generate opportunity for success in listening, for ‘heard discourse which corresponds closely to what the listener expects and needs to hear is far more likely to be accurately perceived and understood than that which is unexpected, irrelevant and unhelpful’ (Ur 1984: 3).

Hence, the approach presented here is aligned with current ELT pedagogy, which supports the instruction of listening as a means to capacitate learners to deal with authentic listening situations by enforcing several means of data processing.

We shall take the lesson prepared around Material’s extract 1 as a practical example.

Material’s extract 1

01

(Doff, Thaine, Puchta, Stranks, Lewis-Jones. Empower A2 2015: 81)

 

The proposed pre-listening activity seemed to lack in incentives to activate mental data processing based on decoding the sounds in a linear way, gradually combining increasingly larger units of meaning (Vandergrif, 2004), known as bottom-up processing. Consequently, the teacher provided students with four chunks of language: Rio de Janeiro, Olympic Games, support and demonstrations[1]. These prompts were used to generate a brief discussion about the pros and cons of holding the 2016 Olympic Games – a means to retrieve students’ knowledge of vocabulary units that could be key to decoding the text later on.

This choice of procedure also enabled learners to activate their ‘inside the head’ information (Hedge, 2000) in order to build a conceptual framework for comprehension (Vandergrif, 2004), known as top-down processing. This choice aligns with the paramount concept that both bottom-up and top-down processing skills are to be taught simultaneously (Nunan in Richards and Renandya, 2002) in order to equip learners with as many strategies they can resort to as possible, owing to the fact that if a student fails to make use of one of them, an utterance or discourse may be incomprehensible (Richards, 2015). Apart from these, the activity promoted opportunity for affective connection to the topic and an information gap, which generated expectation and, thus, purpose to listen.

Only then students’ attention was drawn to the first proposed exercise. By then, however, learners had already been encouraged to build their script competence, find purpose, connect personally with the topic, elicit specific vocabulary to aid bottom-up processing and activate schemata to benefit top-down processing. Consequently, their aural comprehension was facilitated in the following tasks. On the other hand, both of these goals could be reached in 5 minutes or so (Field in Richards and Renandya, 2002). Time management during pre-listening activities is paramount and the 15 minutes usually taken by this paper’s author to fulfill this phase are excessive. Therefore, timing is at the top of the list of improvements this teacher should work towards. Other areas with room for growth are decreasing TTT (teacher-talking time) and being more learner-centered.

Succeeding the observation and analysis of the pre-listening phase, we now move on to the activities involving the act of listening itself.

 

2.2 While-listening phase

Presenting learners with dialogue from which hardly any extra-linguistic queues (Ur, 1984) can be retrieved, assigning activities that prioritize testing rather than teaching strategies and carrying out the lesson in a teacher-centered manner seems completely out of sync with the current perspective of effective listening instruction (Richards, 2015). Nonetheless, it is still predominantly what is found in teaching materials and, ergo, in language classrooms (Field, 1998).

 

We shall exemplify with the listening lesson in Material’s extract 2:

Material’s extract 2

02

(Cotton, Falvry, Kent. Market Leader Intermediate 2013: 8)

 

If rigorously taught as proposed, the lesson would begin by inviting students to listen for gist via extensive listening, followed by general questions establishing context (Field in Richards and Renandya, 2002). The four prompted sentences prior to listening are a way to activate processing and guide students’ attention. Consequently, learners will probably focus on identifying words (bottom-up) and ideas (top-down) written on exercise A and bring knowledge of the script into play in order to make sense of content (Hedge, 2000).

The above-mentioned procedure can be especially helpful for learners who tend to focus excessively on understanding every single word emitted, which ultimately impairs comprehension on the grounds that our working memory is limited. Therefore, there should be supports provided to the learner in direct relation to the discourse to be listened to and the tasks to be performed (Vandergrift, 2004), as to optimize the use of the students’ working memory.

Merits aside, noticing the proposed activities for the completion of the while-listening phase – exercises B and C –, it is clear that no other strategies or skills are worked on. Moreover, absent from this lesson would be the opportunity to work on identifying specific information through intensive listening and subskills training (Field, 1998), discussing inferences acquired from the text (Rost and Wilson, 2013), aiding comprehension with visuals and transcripts (Wilson, 2008), developing metacognitive skills (Goh and Taib, 2006), focusing on the process of listening instead of its product (Vandergrift, 2004), among others.

Such heterogeneity of outcomes could be reached by getting learners to listen to the text several times – however, following different instructions each time (Nunan in Richards and Renandya, 2002), then practicing a number of strategies. Yet, due to lack of perspicacity or available time, teachers – including yours truly – merely follow what the course book proffers and vital elements learners could benefit from are left aside. In the words of Field (1998):

 

“Materials writers do not seem to have responded by designing appropriate exercise types or developmental syllabuses, and (…) teachers do not appear to have incorporated subskills teaching into their practice.”

(Field 1998:113)

 

Based on the examples presented on this paper, it is observable that the gap between academia and classroom practice when it comes to the while-listening phase is far greater than during the pre-listening one and there is still much room for improvement and implementation of process-focused techniques and subskills training in the instruction of listening.

After recognizing the issues that lie during the listening phase, we shall move on to an analysis of the activities proposed subsequently.

 

2.3 Post-listening phase

 

In real life, listening is almost always succeeded by an action inspired by the content of what has been heard. In other words, people react to the acquired information, forming an interactional bond with the message and controlling the propulsion of communication forwards.

As discussed in the previous section, current research in listening instruction has focused its attention on emulating these life-like situations in the classroom so that learners are exposed to more authentic communicative practice. For instance, Harmer (1991) proposes 6 possible purposes for listening in ELT based on genuine daily goals, which require some sort of post-comprehension action: (1) listening to confirm expectations; (2) listening to extract specific information; (3) listening for communicative tasks; (4) listening for general understanding; (5) listening to recognize function; and (6) listening to deduce meaning.

Once the while-listening activities are over, students are usually encouraged to react and interact with the contents of the exposed recordings. Though just how satisfactory these post-listening interactions really are is the real issue to be observed in this section.

Taking Material’s extract 3 as a sample:

Material’s extract 3

03

(Clandfield and Jeffreys. Global Advanced 2012: 10)

 

There are two post-listening activities proposed by this course book, exercises 5 and 6. The course of action usually chosen by this paper’s author is to follow the procedure as presented for the first and modify the second.

Exercise 5 offers four pieces of vocabulary from which learners have to, via top-down inference, retrieve as much as their working memory has retained and contrast it to the concepts depicted by the 4 given words. It is a highly cerebral task which demands learners to activate a number of mental processes at once. For this reason, it is usually unrevised and proposed as it is. Alternatively, exercise 6 is often altered and presented in Table 1, as follows:

Table 1: Alternative procedure for Global Advanced (2012: 10) exercise 6

Step

Procedure
1 Teacher reads task title out loud
2 Students spontaneously come up with a few ideas and report them orally
3 Teacher encourages students to summarize their stories in 5 bullet points
4 Students write individually
5 Teacher draws students’ attention to the audioscript of Shaharazad telling her stories and asks learners to observe the words and expressions she uses to make her stories so riveting and transfer them to the learners’ chosen story
6 Students underline their favorite chunks of language on the audioscript and later add the language to their bullet points
7 Teacher allows a few minutes for students to rehearse telling their micro stories
8 Students rehearse individually
9 Teacher sets task: listen carefully to the other students’ stories and decide who would survive the evil king, like Shaharazad
10 Students take turns telling their stories and later vote on who they believe would survive and why

The rationale behind this modified version is to act in accordance with recent research by helping students construct a plan from the elements of the discourse (Hedge, 2000), expanding learners’ interaction with the content and creating more integration with other skills (Hedge, 2000), therefore propelling the communicative scenario forwards. Furthermore, providing autonomy and personalization-prone activities in the classroom are of the essence nowadays and can be done, for instance, as Nunan points out:

 

“For example, it is possible to increase learner involvement by providing extension tasks which take the listening material as a point of departure, but which lead learners into providing part of the content themselves.”

(Nunan in Richards and Renandya 2002: 240)

 

Nonetheless, the lesson would still lack other elements. For instance, post-listening activities could not only intensify linguistic studies, further facilitating bottom-up processes (Hedge, 2000), but also borrow subskill training from other abilities, such as inferencing words from context as done in reading (Field in Richards and Renandya, 2002). The most interesting and promising aspect to be explored during this phase is, however, absent from the practice of this paper’s author: metacognition.

Metacognitive instruction encourages self-reflection through planning, monitoring, and evaluating strategies used for the selected listening text (Mendelsohn, 1998). Goh and Taib (2006: 224) argue that ‘the post-listening stage (…) should not stop with using the information gathered from the listening passage. It should extend further to include learners’ introspection of their mental processes during the listening task’. This kind of instruction should be at the top of the list of improvements in post-listening activities for this papers’ author.

To sum up, the efforts observed here to embody the latest trends in methodology research into classroom practice are more successful during the pre and post-listening phases, being the while-listening phase the one with the most room for growth. Suggested enhancements this teacher may adopt are found in the following section.

 

  1. Refining current listening instruction: inspiring techniques

This section exposes three techniques which, based on the analysis depicted in the previous section, could possibly be integrated to this author’s current practice of listening instruction, pursuing the enhancement and fine-tuning of classroom procedures in accordance with current research.

Subskill and strategy training, TTT, time management and metacognitive instruction were some aspects mentioned in part 2 which could be ameliorated. It is hoped to find some progress for them in Field’s (1998) research on a new methodology for teaching listening, which will be discussed in 3.1. The following subtopic is devoted to diving further into metacognition based on the findings by Goh and Taib (2006). Finally, the third and last subtopic aims at finding procedural inspiration on how to implement all of the above at once with Vandergrift’s (2004) model for modern listening instruction.

 

3.1 Strategy and subskill training

Field (1998) intends to move away from the idea that listening was primarily a way of enforcing language input, thus product-focused, and implement a new concept of listening as a skill in itself, which has to be handled as a process. He proposes a revised instructional model to cater for these new needs, which includes: a shorter pre-listening period lasting a maximum of five minutes and should concentrate on motivating students and establishing context; a lengthy while-listening phase with numerous replays and chances for learners to re-listen and check their work; and an extended post-listening session where micro-listening exercises would aid students to examine gaps in their listening skills.

Field elaborates on subskill and strategy training techniques for the enhancement of aural comprehension, always advocating in favor of using authentic materials and the borrowing of approaches often used for the instruction of reading strategies, applied to listening. He argues that the procedure should be ‘one of analysis leading to synthesis’ (Field, 1998) and subskills, after being combined, ought to be applied to longer listening texts, from intensive to extensive listening.

In sum, the new methodology proposes shortening the pre and while phases so that this extended post-listening phase may be explored in a series of micro-listening activities focusing on diverse subskills and strategies, mirroring reading instruction procedures. The exercises would have to be designed so that firstly, learners are equipped with the subskills that a competent listener could be expected to possess; secondly, learners are familiarized with the features of natural conversational speech; and lastly, learners are trained in some smaller-scale strategy techniques (Field, 1998).

Since the learners who attend this paper’s author’s class have primarily the goal to communicate orally with other non-native speakers and at the moment are not receiving proper training and incentive to develop their own listening skills, Field’s new methodology seems ideal to be implemented as regular classroom practice from now on.

The only reservation would be the premise of only authentic recordings being used, which would not benefit the students in question since most of them use English with other non-natives and wouldn’t benefit much by just listening to native-like recordings. In this regard, balance might be of the essence.

By raising awareness of the skills and strategies used to improve listening, it becomes paramount for learners to also notice and analyze how they listen. More on this, in the subsection below.

 

3.2 Metacognitive instruction

Goh and Taib (2006) encourage teachers to promote the concept of learners taking an active role in their listening development though reports and discussions about the thought processes undertaken by learners during listening tasks. Their rationale in opting for this approach is that ‘besides helping learners explore new ways of learning, metacognitive instruction also reduces language anxiety and builds confidence when approaching listening tasks’ (Goh and Taib 2006: 230).

Also, they expose a framework for developing metacognition in the language classroom divided in three stages: (1) Listen and answer; (2) Individual reflection; and (3) Self-report and group discussion.

As the target audience in Goh and Taib’s classroom was young learners preparing for exams, stage 1 was composed of test-like activities preceded by no pre-listening phase. The second and third phases are actually the most relevant, owing to the encouragement and development of metacognition.

Stage 2 is when learners are invited to dive into some introspection so they can notice and analyze their own mental processes. The following questions were posed and the purpose for each is also stated in Table 2 below:

Table 2: Individual reflexion questions and purposes

Question Purpose
What were you listening to? Confirm comprehension
What helped you to understand the text? Elicit task knowledge (factors that influenced listening)
What prevented you from getting the correct answer? (Same as above)
What did you do to understand as much of the text as possible? Elicit strategy knowledge (strategies for facilitating listening)

(Goh and Taib 2006: 226)

 

Stage 3 was mediated by the teacher and it took the form of a discussion in which students reported their findings in groups while comments and follow-up questions were made.

As a result, Goh and Taib observed a greater degree of self-appraisal and self-management of listening on the students’ part after being exposed to metacognitive instruction, being the weaker students the ones who benefitted from it the most. The outcome was that instead of just aiming for scoring higher, learners started to include comprehension development in their list of goals.

Despite the discrepancy in the profiles of Goh and Taib’s and this paper’s author’s learners, the findings reported here are of great use for both audiences. Whether listening in order to score high on an exam or for the sake of understanding what is discussed during a conference call, metacognition allows learners to get a hold of their own development, becoming more autonomous and confident.

 

3.3 Vandergrift’s model for modern listening instruction

Bearing in mind the shift of concept listening instruction has been through from product to process-based, the opportunities strategy and subskill training bring and the importance of metacognition in students’ development, Vandergrift (2004) embodies the very essence of what modern listening instruction is and presents not only a well-rounded rationale, but also a structured approach on how to tackle the teaching of listening in 5 stages.

The suggested model below provides an explanation of what each phase consists of and its correlated metacognitive strategy. In other words, it provides a synthesis of both Field’s methodology (1998) and Goh and Taib’s strategy (2006) into a practical procedure for the teaching of listening.

Table 2: Listening Instruction Stages and Related Metacognitive Strategies

Stage of Listening Instruction Related Metacognitive Strategies

Planning/predicting stage

1. Once students know topic and text type, they predict types of information and possible words they may hear. 1. Planning and directed attention

First verification stage

2. Students verify initial hypotheses, correct as required, and note additional information understood. 2. Monitoring
3. Students compare what they have written with peers, modify as required, establish what needs resolution and decide on details that still need special attention. 3. Monitoring, planning, and selective attention

Second verification stage

4. Students verify points of disagreement, make corrections, and write down additional details understood. 4. Monitoring and problem solving
5. Class discussion in which all contribute to reconstruction of the text’s main points and most pertinent details, interspersed with reflections on how students arrived at the meaning of certain words or parts of the text. 5. Monitoring and evaluation

Final verification stage

6. Students listen for information that they could not decipher earlier in the class discussion. 6. Selective attention and monitoring

Reflection stage

7. Based on discussion of strategies used to compensate for what was not understood, students write goals for next listening activity. 7. Evaluation

(Vandergrift 2004: 11)

 

Looking at the model attentively, it is recognizable that some active role is to be performed by the teacher during the first lessons, since the procedure differs from that which students are used to. However, the idea is that once learners become familiarized with this approach, lessons would become more and more learner-centered and the teacher would have a secondary role in the classroom. Learners gradually become autonomous, confident and practical, managing their own learning process and relying on the teacher for aid and guidance when needed.

Inspiring, principled and adequate to challenges of current language teaching, this model would definitely refine this paper’s author practice in listening instruction and aid her learners both listen to learn and learn to listen.

As mentioned previously, most of the audience in this teacher’s classroom is adult EFL learners who need English primarily to communicate orally with both native and non-native speakers in several business environments – whether formal meetings, informal dinners or semi-formal in-company atmosphere. This approach will work best with these individuals due to the fact that they will be better able to independently cope with variations in discourse – accent, speed, formality, and so on – because they have actively developed a plethora of subskills in class and are aware of their own listening process. Consequently, their primary goal will be reached through successful aural comprehension as a basis for competent spoken interaction.

 

4. Conclusion

The shift in concept regarding listening as a process observed in academia has not yet been fully transferred to classroom practice, which needs to be revised in order to accommodate autonomy, mental process analysis, confidence building for learners and a review of the role of the teacher.

In order to eradicate these issues we turned to Vandergrift’s 5-stage approach, which supply the rationale and techniques to support my quest for refining my listening instruction.

A more secondary role played by the teacher is sure to decrease TTT in class, handing more responsibility to the hands of students guarantee learner-centeredness, a structured and principled approach to modern listening instruction covers gaps in strategy and subskill training and, finally, the introduction of metacognitive strategy training glues all of the previous together. Alas, Vandergrift provides the approach which most certainly aids this paper’s author to become a better professional and her students to become self-reliant, independent learners.

 

5. References

Field, J. (1998). Skills and strategies: Towards a new methodology for listening. English Language Teaching Journal, 52, 110-118.

Goh, C. and Taib, Y. (2006). Metacognitive instruction in listening for young learners. ELT Journal, 60, 222-232.

Hedge, T. (2000). Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom. Oxford University Press. pp. 227-257.

Nunan, D. (1999). Second Language Teaching & Learning. Heinle & Heinle. pp. 199-224.

Richards, J. (2015). Key Issues in Language Teaching. Cambridge University Press. pp. 369-405.

Richards, J. and Renandya, W. (2002). Methodology in the Language Classroom. An Anthology of Current Practice. Cambridge University Press. pp. 235-253.

Rost, M. (2013). Teaching and Researching Listening. Routledge.

Rost, M. Willson, JJ. (2013). Active Listening. Routledge.

Ur, P. (1984). Teaching Listening Comprehension. Cambridge University Press.

Vandergrift, L. (2004). Listening to learn or learning to listen? Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 24, 3-25.

[1] The word ‘demonstrations’ was used instead of ‘protests’ owing to its proximity to its counterpart in learners’ L1, German – Demonstration. Therefore avoiding shift in focus from the discussion proposed due to vocabulary misunderstandings.

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Lesson Plan: Storytelling – Listen, judge, repeat – Vocabulary / Function practice

chinesewhispers1

Stories.

So much of what we speak daily consists of reporting facts. Gossip, news, jokes, catching up, recollecting a fact, explaining causes of injuries to a doctor, reporting past procedures, lying. So much language use devoted to narrating fiction or facts. Yet, classrooms still lack storytelling time and teachers still see it as a distraction or time filler.

We often ask students how their weeks went as they enter the classroom, although seldom do we truly focus on the language being produced at that point. Or worse, too much focus on form rather than meaning could inhibit students from sharing future personal experiences and that could end up damaging rapport.

 

Teacher: So how was your weekend?

Student: My dog die.

Teacher: DIED. Can you repeat?

Student: (sobbing) My dog died.

 

Storytelling is part of being human. Also, it is a great tool to enable students to connect to their peers and teachers while practicing the target language. In expressing their personal views and experiences freely and feeling their voice is truly being heard, they allow themselves to strengthen bonds and untie any emotional knots that might be sabotaging their language acquisition process.

I have recently taken part in a workshop entitled ‘Personal and creative storytelling: telling our stories’ given by David Heathfield. Apart from proposing a few activities to use storytelling in ELT, he also pointed out a few academic findings regarding the effects of storytelling in our brain.

One of the most interesting experiments in order to investigate what happens to the brain when there is an exchange of personal stories is called neural coupling. Research on the issue has found that the same areas of the brain of the listener and the speaker light up, almost at the same time, when a story is being told. As if the listener’s brain would ‘guess’ where the story will go as the speaker tells it.

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This leads to building bonds and confidence through sharing a narrative. Steven Pinker, a sociobiologist heavily influenced by Chomsky, affirms that:

“The areas of the brain that processes certain senses are activated though being engrossed in a compelling narrative.” PINKER, 2007.

 

One of the storytelling activities in the workshop really stuck with me for the many benefits that may arise from including it in an ELT lesson. It has the power to foster better rapport among students due to the fact that they have to, literally, put themselves in their colleagues’ place. Additionally, it provides them with the opportunity to explore not only verbal, but also physical language to convey their message. Also, it might help students with short attention spans to focus through observing their colleagues globally, not just focusing on what they are saying, but also what they are doing. Finally, it ensures enough time for students to play with the target language as they please, making attempts at including it in their everyday linguistic repertoire in a safe environment.

Therefore, after considering these many upsides to this activity, I have elaborated a lesson plan inspired by it and I hope you can enjoy and apply these techniques in your classrooms too.

Enjoy and, as usual, have fun with the games.

 


Drama Game: Storytelling: Listen, judge, repeat– Vocabulary/Function freer practice

 

Type: Vocabulary / Function practice

Age: Young adults and Adults

Language level: A2-C1

Aim: Create a social bond and practice target vocabulary / function freely

Interaction Pattern: trios

Material: none

Timing: 20-25 min


The suggestion here is to insert this storytelling activity after you have already presented and worked on the target language in a very controlled way. Therefore, students should be aware of what the target language is, how to use it (form) and when to use it (meaning). Only then would you ask them to attempt using it in a freer manner, combining it with personal memories or creating a narrative with it.

So the recommendation would be to assign this task at the last half an hour of the lesson in which you introduced the topic or as a reviewing activity at the beginning of the following lesson. In the first scenario, it would be used more quickly as freer practice; in the second, you could devote a full lesson just for the practice of the target language, providing late correction of what was performed during the storytelling.

 

Procedure:

Set the task carefully and make sure students understand what each member of the team is supposed to do: Tell your students they are going to be in trios and one of them will tell the others a story; they should decide who will tell the story first, who will listen and who is the judge; the person who tells the story has to use the language learned in the lesson and tell a story (real or not) in a very interesting manner; the listener has to pay close attention and look for mannerisms, mimics, intonation, tone of voice AND content. The listener will have to retell the story AS THEIR PARTNER, with the same mannerisms, mimics, intonation, tone of voice AND exact content; the judge observes everything and gives feedback in the end on vocabulary use and fluency to the storyteller and on retelling the story accurately to the listener.

Tips for giving instructions:

To make sure students really understood the task and know exactly what they are expected to do, you should use Instruction Check Questions, or ICQs. You should prepare them beforehand baring in mind the difficulties that may arise in comprehending the procedures to be followed. For more on the topic, here are a few links to help you:

https://eltstew.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/here’s-a-blog-about-task-checking/

http://efl-resource.com/icqs-making-sure-your-students-know-what-to-do/

 

Set the objectives carefully and make sure students understand WHY they are to perform this task: Tell your students the objective of the storyteller is to practice the language learned in class and improve their fluency; the objective of the listener is to practice retelling stories they have heard and improve their language use (spoken and physical); the objective of the judge is to observe if the other people in the group followed the instructions thoroughly and practice giving constructive feedback.

Why talking about goals?

Especially when proposing activities that are not common place in ELT – such as this – it is advisable to make sure students know the reason they are being asked to perform the task. In other words, be prepared to answer questions such as: why in hell should they play games in class? How can any of this help me show my boss the English course he is paying for is bringing me results?

Students are a lot more receptive to new classroom practices if they comprehend the outcomes expected from using these tools for language learning. You will not have to explain the objectives every time. Nevertheless, you ought to at least for the first time you introduce an unusual activity.

 

Students take turns performing their tasks: first the storyteller tells the story; second, the listener reenacts it; third, the judge gives the previous two feedback on both their performances.

Now, students change roles: storytellers are now judges, listeners are now storytellers and judges are now listeners. Repeat all procedures.

Once more students change roles, taking the ones they haven’t performed yet.

Tip:

While students perform the task, you can monitor their work and take notes on ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’: ‘the good’ are examples of successful use of the target language; ‘the bad’ are examples of language that is not necessarily wrong, but can be improved; ‘the ugly’ are examples of misusage of the target language that should be corrected. You could use these notes to make an extra reference sheet for the following class and hand it out to students or you could provide them with a late correction activity as a follow up to the storytelling.

 

As students finish the task, praise them on their accomplishments, point out what has to be worked on and ask them for feedback on their production during the activity. Alternatively, you may ask them how they FELT during the activity and how they think it helped them practice the language.

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The C word in ELT

OMG, you’re so creative! How did you think of that?

 

I really need your help. I want to do something different with my students and you are so creative… Can you think of an activity for me to use with them?

 

I wish I were as creative as you are. I would never think of that!

 

These are some of the many utterances I have heard from colleagues over the years, whether in the teacher’s room or at workshops. All of them have something in common, though: the concept that creativity is innate. Moreover, those who have been graced with the gift of being creative will always think outside the box and control their creativity, being able to access it whenever they want or need it.

All rubbish, of course.

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Creativity is hard work for the brain. It is connection, resemblance, contrast and link. Plus, as most of what goes on in the brain, it is inertia. 

Cerebral activity is mostly guided by inertia due to the fact that doing things the way it has always been done saves energy – and that’s the brain’s ultimate goal. Therefore, if making unexpected connections between external stimuli and recorded memories has been part of your mental activities for a long time, it will happen most frequently.

And what do we usually call people who make unexpected connections in order to create something new or solve a problem? Creative.

I was fortunate to have parents who were extremely fond of arts in general and exposed me to several forms of art from an early age. So I grew up having to deal with these complex connections between visual, auditory and kinaesthetic stimuli. Actually, after some time, that became the modus operandi of my learning process. Nowadays I learn a lot easier when bombarded with multi sensorial pieces of information at a time. It has become how my brain works, all the time.

Most of my colleagues whose quotations were mentioned earlier were not used to making these kind of connections and had traditional educational backgrounds. Their brains were simply not used to linking far-fetched ideas and memories. On the other hand, when it came to focusing on a topic at a time, they were a lot better then me at solving issues or performing tasks.

Then when it came to ‘bringing creativity into the classroom’, they thought they would not be able to incorporate it into their teaching for they themselves lacked the skill.

Also rubbish.

Everyone has the power to change mental processes and create new synapses. It might be more arduous for some, though not impossible. I was not different from them owing to an inborn characteristic – I had just been doing it longer.

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So how can teachers, more or less inclined to being creative, deal with and include innovation and creativity in their classrooms? 

A panel about creativity in ELT was presented at IATEFL 2016 in Birmingham and the panelists attempted to shed some light into the matter. Here are some key ideas I personally took from each talk:

Dr. Daniel Xerri, University of Malta

-We should try to bring different domains into our classrooms in order to be more innovative as practitioners

-Multimodal communication could be incorporated into our lesson plan, having a topic be explored though different media (text, video, sound, body language, etc…)

-Combination is key for creativity: try to make or elicit link between concepts

-Teachers choose to be creative, it is not inborn. It might seem like hard work to some, but it pays off in the end

-Empowering teachers during teacher training is imperative in order for them to feel confident to be creative themselves

-One concept that might be helpful: seeing yourself as a creative writer when putting your lesson plan together.

-Therefore, engaging in creative writing or attending workshops on the subject might assist with transferring these skills into the classroom

-Another external concept to be considered: teachers, like actors, are improvisational performers. Both have to react to the here ad now, coming up with instant physical and mental responses to issues that may arise. As a result, taking improv lessons or delving into the work of Theatre theorists such as Stanislavski can lead to a practice of disciplined improvisation (structure + freedom)

 

Gloria Gil, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina

-Creativity means variety: in content, media, form, etc…

-Ludic behaviour and critical thinking also play major roles in fostering a creative environment in the classroom

-Creative interactions stem from the learners’ engagement

-It is paramount to be creative WITH students, instead of being creative myself, as a teacher

-Affective learning might play a large role in making students feel safe to attempt being more creative in class

-Practical food for thought when planning your class: Does a creative activity necessarily lead to creative interactions in ELT? Does this activity allow students to be creators? If not, how can we ensure students’ creativity will be triggered by the proposed task?

 

Stephanie Xerri Agius, University of Malta

-The teacher’s role has to be redefined if creativity is to be fostered in ELT: from teachers as syllabus followers to actively producing teachers

-We should be ‘doers’, not just ‘givers’

-A suggestion: a 50-50 ratio between attending to syllabus and promoting freer activities

-Writing can be a first stimulus to incorporating creativity in the classroom

-Writing does not have to be an essay, it could be a paragraph

-Stimulate them to think and discuss a topic thoroughly, making enough connections to other stimuli in order to provide them enough opportunity for creative links to be made before they actually put the ideas on paper

-Practical assignments fostering creative writing:

         -Vlog: writing a script, instead of making the video

         -Lyrics: writing for music ideas that have been muted

         -Dramatic texts: gapping lines and filling it out unexpectedly


Well, I hope these ideas sparked new synapses in all of you and that creative thoughts are flooding your brains right now! I know mine is overflowing! May your classrooms and lesson plans be filled with innovative, fun ways to learn English!

And, as usual, have fun with the games!

creativity

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Interview – TESOL Drama founder: Marisol Santana

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In 2013 I was feeling lonely in my quest for games and drama techniques to use in the classroom, and so I started looking for people who shared my passion for the subject.

This search pointed me to one of the most interesting, intelligent, creative, soulful teachers I have ever had the privilege to meet: Marisol Santana.

She is the founder of TESOL Drama and gives workshops to teachers both in the USA and in Europe on how to incorporate theatre in ELT. It was during one of these workshops in Paris that I first had the chance to learn how, not only drama games, but also theatre as a whole could be incorporated into the ELT lesson plan with great benefits.

Needless to say, we hit it off immediately and she has since been a great colleague and someone I profoundly admire.

Today we learn a little more about her and her craft, as she kindly agreed to answer a few questions to expose the processes she uses to integrate art and language learning.

Enjoy!


ESL DRAMA QUEEN: When did you first start working with Drama as a learning medium for ELT?

Marisol Santana: After graduating from NYU’s program in Educational Theatre, I began experimenting with a TESOL certification institute and created a professional development program for teachers in 2010, which taught techniques on how to teach English through drama.

ESLDQ: Has adding Drama techniques to your classroom affected the overall learning process? How so?

MS: Using drama techniques in the classroom increases engagement in a major way. Learning a language can be quite tedious. Drama makes it interactive and fun, as it stimulates all types of learners, whether they be kinesthetic, visual, or audible learners (Howard Gardner, Theory of Multiple Intelligences). Drama stimulates confidence and risk-taking in speaking and conversation for ELL’s.

ESLDQ: One of the most voiced concerns about integrating Drama and the traditional language classroom is that students may not accept participating in some activities. How is it with your groups?

MS: There are many drama activities that can be modified for students may be shy or inexperienced in drama. I have found that the more shy students are still willing to write scenes and engage in simple role plays. It takes time, but a teacher who uses drama can increase dramatic practice slowly, as students become more comfortable with using some of the less performance based drama techniques, they are then more willing to participate more and more as a safe ensemble with their peers is established.

ESLDQ: What other challenges have you faced regarding planning, teaching or assessing in your Drama ELT class and how did you go about them?

MS: Assessment is always a challenge in drama, because I like to give high grades to all who are participating. My biggest challenge in adult ESL has been the inconsistancy in attendence. Integrating drama into the classroom is very effective, but with an inconsistancy in attendance, it is hard to scafforld and have longer term drama unit plans. If attendance is mandatory , say in an elementary or secondary school, these challenges become less and many possibilities for longer drama unit plans can be prepared and implemented successfully.

ESLDQ: What would you suggest a teacher who is just starting to input Drama techniques in ELT?

MS: I would suggest that the teacher start out slow, and let her students experience how fun some dramatic activities can be. Once they get a taste of them, they will be hooked! The teacher may want to start with writing simple dialogues and collaborative readings using new vocabulary or grammar.

ESLDQ: Finally, what message would you leave teachers who are unsure to use Drama in their classrooms? 

MS: I would say:  Try it- you will be amazed with how drama enlivens the class! Even with one simple drama game, you will stimulate energy and engagement instantly! Language learning should be fun, and incorporating drama and the arts is probably the most organic and easy way to make that happen!

 

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Marisol Santana (Tirelli) has performed in various venues in Los Angeles and New York City for the past twenty years. She has taught and developed curriculum in drama, voice, and ESL for grades K-12 as well as at the college level. Marisol is a graduate of Pepperdine University, with a BA degree in Theatre Arts/Acting, where she also studied opera with the Mozartum, in Florence, Italy. She is a graduate of NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education with a Masters degree in Educational Theatre. In 2011, her play Fashion the Musical won Best Overall Musical for the West Village Musical Theatre Festival. Marisol is the founder of TESOL Drama and the TESOL International Film and Art Exhibit that produces “Teaching-Artist Salon” professional development workshops and exhibits in New York City, Paris, and Los Angeles. She is a doctoral candidate in Art and Art Education at Teachers College – Columbia University while she continues to teach and develop her multidisciplinary approach to art-making and education.

For more about Marisol and TESOL Drama:

www.tesoldrama.com

www.marisoltirelli.wix.com/multimediaartist

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Ah, these creative people…

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Unfocused, indisciplined, selfish, uninterested.

These are some of the most recurring words on my report cards every semester from kindergarten until high school.

I was that one student who asks too much, gets bored too easily, has short attention span and resides on the edge of weirdness. Thus, most of my teachers simply did not know how to handle me.

I was an artistic kid who broke out in song in the middle of class, doodled my whole notebook to the point there was little space for actual note-taking and was famous for impersonating colleagues and teachers. And did I mention the nonstop singing?

So how come I survived school and became a scholar wannabe myself? Through art.

It took me years and more that few visits to the educational psychologist to figure out that there was nothing wrong with me. I was just different. My head was different. Instead of dealing with one thing at a time, my head was a constant web browser with 15 tabs open! And I was using them all at once!

As soon as I figured that out, a revolution came about: instead of forcing myself to focus on one task for quite some time as my teachers instructed me to do, I started having 4 or 5 tasks in front of me at the same time. I would tackle them in parts, shifting from one to another while intercalating them with doodling, singing, dancing or fiction writing. It took me a little longer, but I started nailing all of my assignments and actually being able to do them all.

Highly creative people are wired that way because creativity is nothing but the connection of previously conceived ideas that were separated, and now are confronted. So my highly creative brain is way more interested in connecting ideas than focusing in acquiring new ones. And by giving it time and space to create between input sessions, it became easier and easier to focus during those periods.

From this very personal experience I have noticed that there are so many different learning styles and I, as a teacher, should try to embrace and celebrate these differences in the classroom. However, it is not unusual to hear teachers complaining about fidgety students in their classrooms. So how can we tackle that situation, then?

Ways to cater for these highly creative beings are: give them space to breathe and process all the information that they are coping with both external and internally; prepare activities that promote critical thinking or a connection between concepts; include art in your classroom, in the form of drawings, fiction writing, poetry writing, dancing/movement or drama games.

I’m sure that after a little Drama, the unfocused, indisciplined, selfish, uninterested humans in your class will give you no drama at all.

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Ice breaker – Word Cloud

First impressions.

Some might say they can define the whole nature of a relationship.

So how to facilitate student-student or teacher-students first impressions to be favourable and make sure it stands as a solid foundation for further positive rapport in the classes to come?

As part of classroom management, establishing rapport and dealing with different cultures and moods in the classroom are always a challenge.

One suggestion is to initiate every course with an ice breaker and keep stimulating students to create and strengthen a social bond between the whole class (teacher included) throughout the course.

This does not mean everyone has to become best friends, or even keep in touch outside the classroom.

What is key here is to promote rapport via respect of each other’s individuality – which can be fostered by simply having students not hearing, but truly listening to each other and civilly handling differences in the classroom.

Sounds complicated?

Do not fret though, my friends. The games are here for you.

Today’s post is a very special ice breaker that not only has a social aspect to it, but can also help you to check language level placement. Making your life easier by killing two birds with one stone: do you like the sound of that? Me too.


Drama Game: Word Cloud– Ice Breaker

Type: Ice breaker

Age: all

Language level: all

Aim: Create a social bond and check level placement

Interaction Pattern: individual / whole class

Material: Board, A4 paper

Timing: 10-15 min (depending on size of the group)


Procedure:

 

Draw a cloud almost as big as your whiteboard and write some words (names, places, occupations…) or numbers that reflect truths about you. However, don’t write sentences. Just leave all of those scattered pieces of information on the board for students to see once they enter the classroom.

 

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Tip:

Have the word cloud drawn beforehand, so that you don’t waste class time and also when students arrive they can be curious about what’s on the board.

 

Greet students and welcome them to their new English course.

Tell them that before starting, you should get to know each other and this is the chance they have to meet you.

Point out that on the board there are some pieces of information about you. However, you are not going to tell them what they are. THEY should ask you questions and the answers should be the words they see. They cannot use the words on the board, though.

E.g.: “What do you do?” is a valid question and the answer is on the board (teacher). Whereas “Who are Tania and Roberto?” is not a valid question. They could ask “What are your parents’ names?”, for example.

 

Tip:

Write information on the board according to questions you expect students to know by now. Bear in mind their language level and age when thinking about what you will present them with. Also, make the range of information wide enough so that students have an idea of who you are and what you stand for.

Remember: you can only ask for what you have.

 

Students take turns asking questions while you answer ALL of them.

Cross out the words and numbers they ‘get it right’ from the board until they have guessed all of them.

After it is over, invite them to draw their own word clouds on an A4 sheet of paper. Give them a few minutes for that.

Depending on the size of the group, decide if you will ask every student to show their cloud and have the whole group play the game together or divide them in smaller groups. If you go for smaller groups, make sure you ask them to report information they found out about their colleagues with the rest of the class in the end.


This activity is multifaceted due to the fact that you are not only giving your students the opportunity to review vocabulary and structure they have previously learned, you are also creating a personal bond with them. All of this while you assess their use of language through question formation.

And it’s fun, of course!

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IATEFL 2015 – Summarized inspirations

Dear ESL Drama Gamers, first of all I am so sorry for my absence these past two weeks. I nearly drowned in information from IATEFL, but I survived! I hope you like the post today!

Lots of artsy love,

ESL Drama Queen


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Immersed in the spring British mists, a tsunami of all things TESOL made its way into Manchester, where thousands of brave participants, determined to make it to shore a little more knowledgeable,  did their best to keep swimming through the vast waters they saw upon arrival: hundreds of talks, workshops and plenaries to choose from.

As yours truly had a clear objective, all events to do with arts, games and creativity were soon highlighted on the programme and there I went, swimming up the main stream.

Some talks and workshops on the use of art and theatre in the classroom were inspiring and innovative, others were targeted to newcomers in the art of using art and were therefore more basic. Both useful though, since there is an audience for each one of them.

Today I start a series of posts about my favourite talks and workshops throughout the four days of IATEFL 2015 Annual Conference and my personal comments about each of them.

Some of the quotes  were heard at events specifically about arts, some of them at talks that had completely different topics. Despite being heterogenous, all of them are relevant to one who is eager to include drama games in ELT in one way or another, for transdisciplinary approaches require transdisciplinary theoretical basis.

A few of them may seem obvious, however I believe that the strongest epiphany one can have is truly noticing for the first time what the eyes failed to see for so long.

I hope they can be as useful and inspiring to you as they were to me. And may you all sail through the rough yet fulfilling, known yet fairly unexplored waters of using art, theatre and creativity in ELT.


Frozen in thought? How we think and and what we do in ELT

Donald Freeman

 

Bio: Donald Freeman is a professor at the School of Education, University of Michigan. For 25 years, he was on the graduate faculty at the School for International Training, where he chaired the Department of Language Teacher Education, and founded and directed the Center for Teacher Education, Training and Research. He is author of several books on language teacher education. He is senior consulting editor on ELTeach and editor of the professional development series, TeacherSource. Freeman has been president of TESOL, and a member the International Advisory Council for Cambridge English.

 

 

“Rethink proficiency as plural proficiencies”

ESLDramaQueen: Once the teacher acknowledges proficiency as plural, the lesson plan can be prepared bearing in mind multiple goals for multiple proficiencies, one of them being body language. Here, the teacher can choose to attach a drama game to his/her plan to include a kinaesthetic element to the lesson.

“Strange things happen to language when it goes to school”

ESLDramaQueen: The gap between real-life language, whether written or spoken, and the language present in most classrooms is quite noticeable. Especially nowadays that students have access to all kinds of language via internet (social media, search engines, etc.). Drama games and Theatre in general can be a way to utilize the language students really feel genuine and relevant in the classroom while still covering the syllabus.

“Teachers should connect curriculum to what’s going on in the classroom”

ESLDramaQueen: It is crucial that teachers be cautious neither to follow the materials blindly without taking into consideration the real needs of the group nor to propose super fun activities that have absolutely nothing to do with the teaching point planned for that class. A balance between curriculum and relevance should be pursued and all games should have a clear purpose.

“Teaching is central, but we don’t have to think about it in the same way”

ESLDramaQueen: The role of the teacher as a fundamental part in the learning process may be the same in most contexts, however the methods and approaches this teacher chooses to use in order to facilitate learning is completely up to him/her. It depends on the teacher’s experience, knowledge, culture, personality and interests.


The artsy side of teaching

Radmila Popovic

Bio: Radmila Popovic is currently a Senior Education Specialist (TESOL) at World Learning in Washington DC. She was an assistant professor in ETL Methodology at the University of Belgrade and also is a past president of ELTA Serbia. She has worked for many years with teacher training and is now researching the intersections between art and science in ELT.

 

“It’s hard to define if teaching is more of an art or a science. Art derives from play, while science is methodology. There is no ONE way of doing anything.”

ESLDramaQueen: The discussion about the nature of teaching, if it should be more play-oriented or method-oriented, is a vast and unfinished one. My personal view on the matter is that when it comes to dichotomies, between the extremities there are tons of shades of grey to be explored, each one with a specific outcome and possibly beneficial to a certain audience.

“Leonardo Da Vinci = science plus art / Tesla = science with creativity”

ESLDramaQueen: It could be a good idea for both teacher training and ELT in general to introduce the work and mind frame of DaVinci and Tesla, to warm teachers and students to the idea of using art and science in the classroom (play and method). Maybe through the discussion and application of some of the concepts and praxis present in the body of work of these two artist-scientists, the idea of using art in the classroom can be taken more seriously, instead of being viewed as just extra fun activities for when teachers have time on their hands.

“Art is the difference between technically competent and excellent teachers”

ESLDramaQueen: Teachers that dare break away from the shackles of method from time to time in order to meet the expectations or cater for the needs of the students are the ones on the way to excellency, in my point of view. Improvisation, instinct, translation skills between what students express and what they really mean, ability to summarise, rephrase and symbolise language in order to convey a clearer message to students and also foster these abilities in students: all these can be developed and enhanced by being exposed to art.

“Teacher trainers should nurture not only technical development, but excellence as well”

ESLDramaQueen: Art can be a tool in teacher training to help trainees develop their skills. Instead of just flooding them with information about methodology and asking them to prepare and observe lessons, trainings could also include personal and emotional development through drama games or art projects in general.

“How can art be transplanted into teacher training?

Ask your trainees: If you were an artist/scientist, what kind would you be? Why? Which of these characteristics can be applied to the kind of teacher you want to be?

Tap associative, intuitive and unconscious sources

Give prompts: the more specific the better to generate content

Propose to your trainees: Imagine the opposite of your favourite teaching activity. Describe it and justify why it is bad teaching practice.

Propose the ‘Bad-teaching machine project’:Imagine a machine that signals every time bad teaching is practiced. Which are the signals the machine would read in the classroom in order to identify bad teaching? What kind of signal and to whom would the machine emit?

Play the ‘weather+definitions=metaphor’game: Trainer / Teacher provides some specific vocabulary to be worked on. Trainees / Students have to use weather terms to create a metaphor for the definition of that piece of vocabulary. (E.g. Term: On the spot correction; Metaphor: On the spot correction has to be monitored in order not to become a hailstorm of mistakes crashing on students’ heads.)”

Suggestions:

Book: Teaching artist handbook (2013, Jaffe, Cox and Barniskis)

Article: Creativity in the Classroom (2005, Cameron)

 


 

Well, these were the two first IATEFL 2015 events to be reported here on ESL Drama Queen.

Stay tuned for more to come the next few days.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Periscope!

And, as usual, have fun with the games!!!!

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