The CELTA Trainer’s Diary Part 8 – Loop Input

The 8th Day of the CELTA was about introducing the trainees to the Lexical Approach and the idea of language existing as chunks, rather than individual pieces of vocabulary strung together to make meaning.

 

Trainees were getting experiential training through the use of a demo lesson of a jigsaw reading method I use to encourage learners to remember language in chunks.

 

Trainees, acting as learners, were divided into two groups (blues and yellows) and given different texts to read and summarise. The catch was that they were only allowed to make notes in the form of drawings to help them remember the content. This means that the learner would not be able to simply read the words off the page, but is encouraged to truly understand the meaning of the text and remember some of the chunks of language.

 

The trainees, now learners, are put in a carousel, with the Blues on the inside and the Yellows on the outside. The Blues then had to relay their summaries, with the help of only their drawings, to the yellows. The Yellows then moved a place to their left and had to re-tell what they had heard to their new Blue partner.

 

This achieves two things. It practises the very common communicative function of re-telling stories and reporting what one has heard, while allowing the new blue partner to fill in the gaps of the retold story, thus co-constructing the information learnt and reformulating the chunks of language from the text.

 

As Güven has very concisely summarized the lesson in his blogpost, I will refrain from describing the rest of the input session here.

 

What makes this input session slightly different from those with a demo lesson which employs the technique of a straight forward experiential learning/training, is that the text given to the trainees was about the Lexical Approach itself.

 

The Blues were given a page-long definition about the Lexical Approach from An A-Z of ELT (Thornbury, 2006) while the Yellows were given a page from the same book about lexis, lexical sets and lexical verbs.

 

Loop de Loop
Photo by Mike Hogan, from http://www.flickr.com/photos/irishmikeh/

Combining content (i.e. What the trainee is trying to learn: the text about the Lexical Approach) and process (i.e. How the trainee is trying to learn: the ‘drawing jigsaw reading’ which enforces the Lexical Approach), this specific style of teacher training sessions could be described as a loop input (Woodward, 1986).

 

Being multi-sensory, loop input allows for lots of recursion and for the reverberation of learning to take place through content (the text) and through experiencing the process (pretending to be students in the demo Lexical Approach lesson), thereby resulting in a deeper understanding and learning of the concept (Woodward, 2003).

 

What is perhaps most important in loop input sessions, and in fact any experiential learning process involving a demo lesson, is that trainees are given the chance to unpack (or what Woodward calls ‘decompress’) the lesson.
This means that time is given to trainees to have a detailed discussion of the main stages of the lesson they have just experienced, the aims of each stage, the content and materials used, and the participant experience of the activity (ibid).

 

In this loop input session for example, I asked the following questions in the unpacking stage:

 

What were the main stages of that lesson?

Why did I only allow you to draw and not write words?

Why did I ask you to re-tell what you had heard?

What words did you use when re-telling?

Did you remember individual words or chunks of language?

How did you remember the words you had to use to re-tell what you had heard? How did you feel as a student?

 

And judging from Güven’s blogpost, it seems like the trainees got the gist of the Lexical Approach.

 

 

Bibliography

Thornbury, S. (2006) An A-Z of ELT, Macmillan.

Woodward, T. (1986) ‘Loop Input – a process idea’ The Teacher Trainer 1: 6-7.

Woodward, T. (2003) ‘Key Concepts in ELT: Loop Input’ ELTJ 57/3: 301-304

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