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IATEFL Part 4 – Luke Prodroumou on self-esteem

Luke Prodromou has Aretha Franklin’s Respect playing as the audience filters in.

He then asks what each of letters mean.
R for respect and rapport.
E is for esteem and evaluate (positive evaluation).
S is for self, special.
P for principles and practice, patience.
E is for empathy and emotion -feeling that you deserve the respect.
C is for competence and building the feeling in the learner that they can do it.
T is for technique and how the teacher does things in the classroom.

Prodromou then goes on to read excerpts from Robert Frost’s the Road Not Taken before starting to examine the turning points in our professional lives – our self-esteem moments.

After sharing with our partners moments that changed our lives, moments that made us feel good, and emphasises the fact that one of the things that make us (and our students feel good) is when our names are remembered.

What is self-esteem?
A basic definition is a high regard for oneself, a good opinion of oneself.
But more appropriately, self-esteem is
A feeling that you are as important as other people and that you deserve respect and to be treated well.

Self-esteem can be seen on the levels of competence and worthiness.

On the level of worthiness, he gives the example of Hamlet, one who had issues with self-esteem and beliefs that he is not worthy. ‘I could accuse me of such things that it were better that my mother had not borne me. I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious…what should such fellows as I do, crawling between earth and heaven?’

In contrast, ‘Yet today, many years later, for my living I sweep the streets or clean out the toilets of the fat hotels. why? Because I constantly failed my exams’ – Brian Patten shows a low self-esteem to do with competence.

The audience then watches a scene from Kes directed by Ken Loach where Kespar tells the story about his hawk, and we identify self-esteem moments in the lesson.

With personal examples, Prodroumou talks about how he used cards to nominate students so they don’t feel intimidated by the forest of hands (of their other classmates) going up and about how he paired the best student with the difficult student (the flower and the bud).

Group work and collaborative production of tasks and written work could make less confident students feel included and proud of the being part of the end product.

Emphasising that labelling (students) is more suitable for jam jars, Prodroumou encourages us not to judge students but to offer them opportunities to participate and to learn.

IATEFL Part 3 – Isil Boy on MLearning

Isil Boy’s session starts with her asking the basic question – what is Mobile Learning? We can learn anywhere anytime…even in the toilet!

Showing us a slide of early men using slates to carve on, Isil asks us what the difference is between a slate and an iPad. Aside from the price (laughter from audience), connectivism is what makes a difference.

She goes on to highlight the illusion of mobile learning: e.g. Using tablets only in the classroom. Are schools using tablets because other schools are using it, or is it to truly enable mobile learning? Are iPads merely a substitute for a paper dictionary? Are we using tablets for the sake of using them?

The apps as classified by the SAMR model (substitution, augmentation, modification, redefinition) could transform education. But remember that the tablets are not transforming education, you are.
Does this mean that we teachers become the performers and the magicians with the help of technology? Or should we be handing over to students and letting them perform the magic instead?

How then can we integrate mLearning into teaching?
Dropping hardware into a classroom and dipping teachers into training does not work.
So, if you have a principal who says to you ‘I’ve bought the tablets! What should we do now?’, what would you do?

5 Tips for integrating tablets into your classroom
1. Define our objectives
2. Provide on-going training
3. Teach kids how to stay safe online
4. Establish a protocol for parents
5. Set some rules to switch tablets off

Isil then moves on to asking the audience what their dream app might be.
Do we know how to search for apps?
There are search engines for apps e.g. Quixey and App Crawl which we can use.

As a framework for teaching with apps, one can categorise apps into Searching, Bookmarking, Organising, Creating, and Sharing.
An example of an app that helps with Organising is U-Pad lite that helps the user to complete and sign forms.
Educreations help turn your iPad into a recordable whiteboard with voice recording.
Isil also recommends Edmodo for Organising information and sharing them with students.
Storykit is another free app that allows us to add text, voice and create digital stories with our students.

But why are we using these apps? According to the affective context model, if we can learn things whenever we need it, it becomes more effective. With the help of mLearning, we can learn anytime and anywhere we want. We don’t need to convince students to use the iPads and push the information on them. We are instead pulling the information that they have found out from them.

The conclusion Isil the draws is that schools should develop a technology plan, create a policy for tablet use, and have primary control over the downloading and syncing of apps. Teachers should be involved in the decision-making process and students should be allowed to keep the tablets and take them home, otherwise it defeats the purpose of having tablets in the classroom.

Isil ends the presentation to the packed room with a useful link to her blog isilboy.com.

IATEFL Part 2 – Jim Scrivener on Demand High

Jim’s talk started by looking at a quick definition of demand high teaching.

Demand High is a meme, an idea that gets passed from person to person. It is not a new methodology. The question asked is ‘Am I engaging the full human learning potential of the students in my class?’

 

Modern language teaching seems not to push students to achieve and focuses more on being fun and entertaining.

Starting with the following questions:

 

  • Are my learners capable of more?
    Am I under-challenging my students?
  • Would my students learn more if I demnded more of them? How could I do that?
  • Have the tasks and techniques I use in lass become rituals and ends in themselves?
  • How can I stop ‘covering material’ and start focusing on the potential for deeper learning?
    What small shifts can I make?

 

The evolving manifesto of Demand High

It is okay to ‘teach’.

The word ‘teach’ seems to have got a bad rep over the last few years and learning is expected to emerge. There is value in explicit teaching, which is not equivalent to the teaching ‘yapping’ in front of the classroom.

We need to focus on where the learning is

You have permission to be active interventionist teacher

Learn the classroom management techniques that make a difference

Work at everyone’s pace – not just the fastest few

Risk working hands-on with language

Don’t expect the book to do the teaching for you.

Expect more – Demand High

 

One way of being more ‘demand high’ is by looking at one common stage in many lessons:

When students have done an exercise  (individually and in pairs) and the teacher leads a feedback stage to check answers.

 

What are some things that one could do to extend this stage to last 60 minutes.

 

Here, Jim suggests

  • probing and expanding on the students’ answers e.g. ‘Do you agree with her answer? What do you think?’ and playing devil’s advocate (this blogger likes this!) rather than simply rubber-stamping the students’ answers;
  • exploring what’s behind the answer e.g. ‘Why is that the answer?’ and ‘Why do you think the person said that?’;
  • getting students to listen to you or the speaker is saying it and replay the voice in their heads and ‘Can you hear that voice saying it in your head? Can you change that to a different voice? Maybe a voice of a relative?’;
  • thinking about the paralinguistic features that go with phrases/sentences; working on the pronunciation e.g. stress patterns, speed, intonation etc;
  • practising the target language through drilling and playing around with the phrases;
  • remembering the target language by promoting recall;
  • raising awareness of mistakes;
  • playing with the grammar and lexis e.g. can you change the verb, can you drop a word, change the formality, context, relationship, etc.
  • ensuring that you keep the whole class engaged and pitching the challenges to the individual’s needs, yet avoiding ‘yap’ mode but intervening with authority, etc.

After lots of fun practicing some of these practical techniques with the audience, Jim emphasizes that the presentation stage of a lesson might not really be the most important part, but it is in fact that practice stage that allows students to really internalize the new language.

 

Communicative and fluency activities are fine and good but we should also not forget structured grammatical practice.

 

Fixing mistakes does not lead to insight and awareness. It merely puts paper on a crack. It should not just about collecting the right answers, but we need to start looking further.

IATEFL Opening Plenary – David Crystal

David Crystal officially opens IATEFL Liverpool by first warning us not to trust Wikipedia, which has knighted him for a few days and stated that he has had different numbers of children and wives. He moves on to tell us about he went to school in Liverpool and proudly tells us to listen out to the Liverpudlian influences in his accent.

Introducing us to some popular songs and then focusing our attention on a well-known song by Paul McCartney and Wings, ‘Live and Let Die’, and the much-discussed lyrics ‘But if this ever changing world in which we live in’.

The tune needs two prepositions for it to work and when music calls, grammar blends.

Lexical blends like ‘brunch‘ become part of our everyday language quickly but syntactic blends do not get into our language as easily.

It is however important to note that blends are very common in speech

Here are some examples:

I don’t know to which hotel I’m going to.

For which party will you be voting for in the March 9th Election?

Mentors are for business people, mentors can help you and be your role models, couples to which we look up to.

From which country does a Lexus come from?

Syntactic blends arise when people are unsure of which to use and so they use both.

It raises because of the clash and choice that could come from formal and informal usage.

In the prescriptive tradition that dominated schools, teachers tend to try and eliminate the informal forms and therefore enforcing rules such as ‘Never end a sentence with a preposition’. Yet, Shakespeare uses end-place prepositions all the time. But the rule appealed to classically-inclined pedants. Winston Churchill even had rules ‘up with which he would not put‘.

So those who try to follow the rules taught to us and place the preposition at the beginning… but the natural pattern of the language takes over and the preposition is put after the verb where it feels most natural, forgetting that they’ve used a preposition already.

The further away the two prepositions, the more likely this is to happen.

e.g. For which of the five candidates in the forthcoming by-election will the people of Eastleigh be voting for?

But double prepositions aren’t the only Syntactic Blend that happens.

Here, Professor Crystal introduces another Beatles song with the lyrics

He won’t do nothing right just in sitting down and look so good‘ (as opposed to ‘looking so good’)

and

I been told when a boy kiss a girl‘ (as opposed to ‘a boy kisses a girl’)

When we leave music behind and listen to spoken English, such blends all the time.

We start sentences, change our minds and end sentences differently from how we intended when we started.

We usually do not notice this though, as we are paying attention to what is being said rather than how it is being said.

Prof. Crystal uses his own lectures as examples of the non-grammatical statements in spoken English:

Within how long did it take for an American English start to grow?

which is a blend of ‘Within what period of time did it take for an American English to start to grow?

and

How long did it take for an American English to start to grow?

Here’s an example embedded in a dialogue:

‘Well, we don’t speak it?’

‘Why don’t we speak it?’

‘Well, cos I was never taught it.’

‘Well, why weren’t I taught it?’

As a result of the constant use of the pronoun ‘we’ at the beginning, the last statement is a blend of ‘Well why weren’t we/you taught it?’ and ‘Why wasn’t I taught it?

These blends of course appear a lot less in written material due to gatekeeping by editors and publishers. Thus, a lot of what is considered ‘standard English’ corresponds to what is published. Yet, with the advent of the internet, these gatekeepers might not be there and most people do not revise and re-read what they write in emails and blogs (especially if they’re blogging simultaneously during a conference plenary).

Here, Prof David Crystal uses examples from the most popular blogs in the UK with blended constructions.

Comprehension is governed by the distribution of weight in a sentence. English is governed by end weight, and speakers tend to put the  most important information at the end, after the main verb, rather than in the beginning. Most sentences use a single pronoun and verb followed by a concentration of content after the verb. One can of course use long adverbials at the beginning of the sentence, but this makes comprehension more difficult and the sentence is more difficult to process…therefore naturally, in spoken English, this does not happen as often.

Note these two sentences:

It was nice of John and Mary to visit us the other day.

versus

For John and Mary to visit us the other day was nice.

We tend to get irritated with the second sentence, thinking ‘Where’s the verb? Get on with it!”

Here, Prof. Crystal uses a random ELT coursebook to make a point.

In a chapter on relative clauses, long noun phrases are featured:

e.g. Salesman who sell books at your door are a  nuisance. The books they sell are often expensive’

A lot of information needs to be processed before getting to the verb, while trying to learn a new piece of English grammar.

This could make it more difficult for students and perhaps coursebooks should use relative clauses with shorter subjects when introducing the grammar point, and leave such long noun phrases for more advanced levels.

e.g I don’t like salesmen who sells books at the door.

It’s often expensive to buy the books they sell.

In ELT, we come across blends often in students’ writing.

e.g. ‘Does it not worry you that the man to whom you will marry might be cruel to you?

It is important to realise that errors such as these blends are signs of growth and not be condemned.

Teachers should try to understand the origin and source of the blend. To condemn them as mistakes would result in students not daring to try out new constructions in the future.

Blends tend to occur more often when the speaker/writer is under pressure and has to complete the sentence quickly, and the grammar finds it harder to keep pace with the thought  e.g. football commentaries, family rows, etc.

Blends are nothing to feel guilty. In writing, we try to eliminate them for being labelled as careless and sloppy by readers who have more time to examine our sentences.

Here, Prof. Crystal clarifies that he is not advocating that we teach blends, but more that we not condemn blends in speech when we are likely to use them ourselves.

Ending his plenary with a piece of titbit about his days as a saxophone player, he muses that Paul MacCartney may have earned much more than him, Paul MacCartney never quite had the honour of ending up as the patron of IATEFL.

IATEFL Part 1 – Mike Hogan on How to be a successful freelancer

Mike Hogan starts this year’s IATEFL with one of the three ‘How-to’ sessions just before David Crystal’s opening plenary with the very useful topic – ‘How to be a successful freelancer’.

He first looks at ‘Organisation’. Many of the talks and workshops tends to be about what happens in the classroom and ‘in-training’ ideas, but sometimes there’s less focus on the organisational side of being a freelancer. Essentially, as a freelancer, you are a one-person business, and so it’s important to think about the way you budget your finances. Consider the lifestyle you have now and the lifestyle you want to have and how much that would cost you per month/year, bearing in mind that as a freelancer, you don’t get paid for holidays or sick days. Mike recommends that the freelance teacher learns basic accountancy and the use of Excel so as to reduce the stress levels when dealing with taxes and year-end accounting.

Balancing out when and where the income is coming from also means looking at alternative sources of income, e.g. teaching online, writing, etc. It’s important to know where your most stable income is coming from and to guarantee this ‘bread & butter’ income before scheduling the unlimited holidays that you might think freelancers get. Think of yourself as a company and plan your annual budget and do not just live from day to day/month to month.

When getting work, one must not forget the marketing strategy one employs or intends to employ. Know your product and know what you are selling. Be clear about why clients should choose you over other competitors.Consider how you can get the contract by either offering a lower price or adding value to your product. Find out what your competitors are doing and what the going market rate of what you are trying to sell. And where can your clients find out about you?

At this point, Mike emphasises the importance of CPD (Continual Professional Development) and how the CELTA is merely the beginning of one’s career development. If you are trying to get work, ensure that you professionalise yourself first by looking the part. Find out what everyone else in the company wears and try not to overdress or underdress. Practise the skills that you are teaching. If you are teaching students to present, get as much experience presenting yourself so that you can add value to what you offer. If you are teaching students to negotiate, go out there and try and get some negotiating practice in the shops or with your mobile phone service provider.

When talking to your client, be aware of possible unrealistic expectations and clients who try and treat language training like any other commodity, e.g. wanting the same results with fewer contact hours. You therefore need to be creative when putting together your training packages. Also remember that different people have different needs and so it is important to carry out a needs analysis to tailor the course to suit the individuals and not simply roll out a ‘one-size-fits-all’ course.

Be realistic and do not try to take on every kind of course. Know your specialisation and know how your product differs from the other competitors. Do not be afraid to say no to a client that wants something you can’t offer and do not hesitate to recommend someone else who can do the job. As they say, pay it forward!

This summer, the European Profiling Grid is to be published. A tool for mapping and assessing language teaching competencies internationally might change the way clients buy language training and so it is important to keep up to date with what the industry is implementing.

Finally, Mike finishes off with the importance of reflecting on the relationship between quality and reputation. If someone mentions your name at the coffee machine at work, how will that conversation run? What will they say about you?

 

 

Influencing Second Language Learning – Personality Factors

This is a repost of a previous blogpost I wrote for ELT Knowledge (see here).

I thought it would be good to get a discussion going on the following topic and so here it is again:

A fellow teacher told me about two learners in his class – one, he says, is a better learner than the other. Which one do you think that might be?

 

Liliana is a university student from Argentina. She is shy and insecure about her English ability. She feels stupid when she speaks English, and is afraid of making mistakes. She loves travelling and meeting people from all over the world but prefers speaking English to ‘native speakers’ from Britain or America because they speak ‘correct’ English. For Liliana, the ultimate compliment would be if someone asked her if she were English.

 

Jochan is a manager of an important department in a multinational company based in Germany. He is talkative and confident, and used to being in control. A good team player, he enjoys participating in group activities. He has had a few bad experiences with some of the Americans and Brits, and so have his friends in Germany, and Jochan has decided that he does not like the American or British culture.

So, who do you think is the better learner?

(a)   Liliana – Her love and respect for the British/English culture and native speakers would propel her to learn the target language and she would seek out opportunities to speak English to ‘native speakers’, whereas Jochan’s status in his company might mean a lesser ability to relinquish power and therefore be more resistant to correction and being adventurous with language. In addition, Jochan’s distaste for the American and British culture is bound to affect his motivation levels as well.

(b)  Jochan – He’s confident and therefore would not be averse to taking risks. This should mean that he would be adventurous with language and not be afraid of making mistakes. His talkative nature also means that he would get lots of speaking practice. He’d be motivated because he can see how useful English is at his workplace. Liliana, on the other hand, is shy and this would lead to her not wanting to practise speaking and using the language.

(c)   This is just silly. I can’t decide based on the above descriptions. Doing so would be stereotyping and putting people in boxes. People’s personalities and behaviours change and evolve depending on the situations they are in. After all, Jochan’s confidence in his job does not mean confidence in language learning, and Liliana might just be shy in the classroom but not when she’s with her friends.

If you picked Jochan (b) as your answer, you perhaps believe that the personality of a learner has a large part to play in one’s success in language learning, and that these innate characteristics are biologically determined, and therefore some people make better language learners than others. It’s all in the genes.

If you picked Liliana (a) as your answer, you might think that one’s culture and experience of life moulds the way we learn to see the world, and that our view of the target culture of the language we are learning can largely affect our motivation, and therefore, our success rate. Loosely categorised as social structuralist or constructivist in outlook, you see external influences, such as social variables, as shaping the language learning process.

If you picked (c) as your answer, you probably are balking at this blogpost right now and wondering how anyone could make sweeping statements about issues as complex as Second Language Learning abilities and learner identity. Taking a more post-structuralist stance, you know that we play different roles and display different personality characteristics depending on the situation and community we are in, and the people we are talking to. And you are angry that some teachers blame the learners’ personality for failure in language learning.

Theories about how different factors could lead to success in the second language learning process have been a core part of studies into second language acquisition for decades. This is a series of blogposts attempting to categorise and summarise research that have been done in these different areas, and we start today with more biologically deterministic approaches, with a look at the different characteristics of a learner’s personality that are said to influence learning.

Individual differences among learners, such as personality variation, have long been seen as the cause of different learning abilities, and researchers like Gardner and Lambert (1972) have focused principally on the individual’s internal influences on Second Language Learning. There have been disagreements over the categorisation of affective variables, and although some might admit that personality variables are abstract concepts that are difficult to define, and that the validity of psychological tests that attempt to measure them are often challenged and criticised, their categorisation is still necessary to understanding the Second Language Learning process.

Self-esteem 

An important variable included in much SLA research, high self-esteem, or self-confidence, is believed to be an important construct for success in Second Language Learning. Often taken to be relatively stable in adults and resistant to change, a person is seen to either have high self-esteem or low self-esteem, regardless of the situation they find themselves in.

However, Malinowski (1923) provides a different view of ‘self esteem’ seeing it as the reflection and acceptance of oneself in interactions with others, which presumably vary depending on the different interlocutors and social networks.  Self-esteem was thus divided into three types: global, situational/specific, and task (Brown, 1994).

Nevertheless, it is usually assumed that global self-esteem is an intrinsic personality trait that improves proficiency, and not much focus was given to situational- or task-based self-confidence.

Inhibition

Learners with low self-esteem are believed to display more inhibition, leading to the building of defences and alienation from the target culture, as they are less able to tolerate threats to their existence.

The process of Second Language Learning could pose internal threats, such as learners judging themselves harshly for their mistakes, and external threats, where learners perceive others as judging them.  However, the emphasis on what learners ‘perceives’ seems to suggest that threat was not necessarily real, thus making learners wholly responsible for their learning.

Thin ego boundaries are believed to allow learners to be open and tolerant of ambiguity, and therefore more creative when learning a second language, and it is commonly believed that by lowering inhibition in the language classroom, we can promote freer communication and a willingness to learn from trial and error.

However, this call for learners to simply ‘remove their defences’ suggests that inhibition is purely intrinsic and does not take into consideration the social factors that perhaps contribute to a learner being inhibited.

Moreover, learners of far-eastern backgrounds might value the judgements of others highly, and might be brought up to believe that mistakes are detrimental to learning. Such cultural factors are often neglected when considering individual affective variables.

Risk-taking

A fear of ramifications of mistakes made could deter one from taking risks with the language. Although some assume that good learners are high risk-takers (Ely, 1986), Beebe (1983) finds that highly-motivated learners are often moderate risk-takers, preferring to make intelligent guesses. It is widely assumed that learners with high global self-esteem take more risks, that fossilization is due to unwillingness to take risks, and that teachers should encourage risk-taking behaviour (Brown, 1994).

However, such overgeneralisations do not take into account that the willingness to take risks, especially outside the classroom, depends largely on what the individual stands to lose from being perceived negatively by his interlocutors and the costs of making mistakes.

Anxiety, Extroversion and Empathy

Anxiety, or the tendency to worry, can be seen as either a personality trait or a state due to a prevailing situation or event. Anxiety caused by a competitive environment can be facilitative or debilitative to success in Second Language Learning, but it is unclear why different effects are produced or what the optimal level of anxiety is in promoting Second Language Acquisition.

As abstract as the concept of anxiety is that of extroversion. Debunking the myth that extrovert learners are good learners, Brown (ibid) states that extroverts need their self-esteem reaffirmed by others and tend to have thick ego boundaries and less empathy.

Empathy is the ability to make accurate assumptions about state of the people one is talking to, thus leading to effective cross-cultural communication. This, again, makes the learner accountable for understanding the culture of the target language and interpreting non- and para-linguistic cues, on top of having to cope with interacting in an unfamiliar language.

Krashen (1981) mentions these personality factors as affecting learners’ affective filters, stating that a confident, secure and outgoing person who lacks anxiety would have low affective filters, thereby allowing comprehensible input to reach the language acquisition device, resulting in acquisition. However, there has been much disagreement about Krashen’s understanding of how these variables interact with social contexts (Norton, 2000).

Ultimately, the learner should not be made solely responsible for his or her learning.  Putting the onus on the learner to be motivated and to find opportunities to increase their exposure to the target language can be just as extreme and as unhelpful as blaming their failure entirely on the people around them.

Bibliography

Beebe, L. (1983) ‘Risk-taking and the language learner’. In H. Seliger and M. Long. Classroom-oriented research in second language acquisition. Rowley, MA: Newbury House, pp: 39-166.

Brown, D. (1994) Principles of Language Learning and Teaching (3rd Edition). New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Ely, C. (1986) ‘An analysis of discomfort, risktaking, sociability and motivation in the L2 classroom’. Language Learning, 36, pp: 1-25.

Gardner, R. and W. Lambert. (1972) Attitudes and Motivation in Second Language Learning. Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Krashen, S. (1981) Second Language Acquisition and Second Language Learning. Oxford: Pergamon.

Malinowski, B. (1923) ‘The problem of meaning in primitive languages’. In C. Ogden and I. Richards. (eds.) The Meaning of Meaning. London: Kegan Paul, pp: 296-336.

Norton, B. (2000) Identity and Language Learning: Gender, Ethnicity and Educational Change. Essex: Pearson Education.

Thank you for your support!

Thank you note

First of all, thank you for nominating my post ‘Things students say that break my heart‘ for the Most Influential Post for the Eddies 2012 and making it one of the finalist entries.

Special thanks to Brad Patterson, Aysun Günes, and several other wonderful PLNers for nominating me for Best Individual Blog and Best Teacher Blog.

TESOL France 2012 Closing Plenary

TESOL France 2012 Closing Plenary

Also, thank you for being there for my closing plenary both at the English UK conference, and TESOL France 2012.

Some of you have been so kind as to write a summary of my plenary talk.

Here are the links to some of them (if I haven’t included yours, please feel free to contact me and let me know):

Chia Suan Chong on Principled Eclecticism – by Hancock McDonald.

The Principles of Principled Eclecticism according to Chia Suan Chong – by Leo Selivan

My TESOL France Review – by Sue Annan

Thanks for playing along with me during my plenary talk!

Thanks for playing along with me during my plenary talk!

Most of all, thanks for voting…(mwa hahahaha)

And if you haven’t, here’s the link!

http://edublogawards.com/vote-here/

Select the category ‘Most Influential Post’ and vote everyday! ; )

Hope you’re having a great December!

Once again, thank you everyone!

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