Skip to main content

New book out in August


I have blogged a couple of times about the book I've written for Routledge. It's called Becoming an Outstanding Languages Teacher. Following the success of The Language Teacher Toolkit written with Gianfranco Conti, Routledge approached me out of the blue to write a book in their series "Becoming an Outstanding...". I had not been intending to write a second handbook, but on reflection I saw how I could put together something which would be distinctive and original. The target readership is teacher trainees and other interested teachers aiming to refine their practice. Since most of the examples I use are in English, so as not to confuse teachers of particular languages, the book may appeal to ESL/EFL teachers too.

The book is now in the final stages of proofing. There are fourteen chapters covering areas such as running a classroom, teaching texts, listening, purposeful games, vocabulary, task-based teaching, writing and speaking, as well as a final chapter featuring case studies of unorthodox approaches which can achieve success.

Reference is made to aspects of particular current interest: translation and advanced level essay writing. In that last chapter I focus on the work being done at the Michaela Community School (a strongly bilingual approach) the TPRS (storytelling) method and AIM, the mainly Canadian approach, with its emphasis on gesture, plays and acting out.

The unique aspect of this book lies in the detailed descriptions of lesson sequences. Some chapters offer blow-by-blow accounts of sequences based on the oral-situational/communicative approach which was the essence of my own approach. I describe, with inexperienced teachers in mind, how to run specific lessons based on visuals, tasks, aural and written texts, and games. I concentrate on the very specific interactions which occur between teachers and students, and between students themselves. For example, I take another look at the use of questioning. The subtleties of such interactions are at the heart of good teaching, I would venture to suggest.

The book is barely referenced at all, being based largely on personal experience and observation over many years. The general approach will not be everyone's cup of tea, but I do emphasise that there is no one best method. I hope my case studies chapter reinforces that point.

Readers familiar with the Toolkit book and my blog won't be surprised to find that the lessons reflect my belief in those two strands of thought in second language acquisition research: the key role of comprehensible input and the importance of acquiring skills through meaningful and highly structured presentation and practice (skill acquisition).

Once again I have to stress that the book is not about theory and research, but about what you actually do in the classroom to make lessons work, maximising input, practice and motivation. This includes, by the way, references to technology. Most of the chapters include a number of tech tips for beginners (as well as experienced teachers less familiar with digital tools).

The book is due to be published in late August and is available for pre-order from Amazon.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The latest research on teaching vocabulary

I've been dipping into The Routledge Handbook of Instructed Second Language Acquisition (2017) edited by Loewen and Sato. This blog is a succinct summary of Chapter 16 by Beatriz González-Fernández and Norbert Schmitt on the topic of teaching vocabulary. I hope you find it useful.

1.  Background

The authors begin by outlining the clear importance of vocabulary knowledge in language acquisition, stating that it's a key predictor of overall language proficiency (e.g. Alderson, 2007). Students often say that their lack of vocabulary is the main reason for their difficulty understanding and using the language (e.g. Nation, 2012). Historically vocabulary has been neglected when compared to grammar, notably in the grammar-translation and audio-lingual traditions as well as  communicative language teaching.

(My note: this is also true, to an extent, of the oral-situational approach which I was trained in where most vocabulary is learned incidentally as part of question-answer sequence…

A zero preparation fluency game

I am grateful to Kayleigh Meyrick, a teacher in Sheffield, for this game which she described in the Languages Today magazine (January, 2018). She called it “Swap It/Add It” and it’s dead simple! I’ve added my own little twist as well as a justification for the activity.

You could use this at almost any level, even advanced level where the language could get a good deal more sophisticated.

Put students into small groups or pairs. If in groups you can have them stand in circles to add a sense of occasion. One student utters a sentence, e.g. “J’aime jouer au foot avec mes copains parce que c’est amusant.” (You could provide the starter sentence or let groups make up their own.) The next student (or partner) has to change one element in the sentence, and so on, until you restart with a different sentence. You could give a time limit of, say, 2 minutes. The sentence could easily relate to the topic you are working on. At advanced level a suitable sentence starter might be:

“Selon un article q…

Google Translate beaters

Google Translate is a really useful tool, but some teachers say that they have stopped setting written work to be done at home because students are cheating by using it. On a number of occasions I have seen teachers asking what tasks can be set which make the use of Google Translate hard or impossible. Having given this some thought I have come up with one possible Google Translate-beating task type. It's a two way gapped translation exercise where students have to complete gaps in two parallel texts, one in French, one in English. There are no complete sentences which can be copied and pasted into Google.

This is what one looks like. Remember to hand out both texts at the same time.


English 

_____. My name is David. _ __ 15 years old and I live in Ripon, a _____ ____ in the north of _______, near York. I have two _______ and one brother. My brother __ ______ David and my _______ are called Erika and Claire. We live in a _____ house in the centre of ____. In ___ house _____ …

Dissecting a lesson: using a set of PowerPoint slides

I was prompted to write this just having produced for frenchteacher.net three separate PowerPoint presentations using the same set of 20 pictures (sports). A very good way for you to save time is to reuse the same resource in a number of different ways.

I chose 20 clear, simple, clear and copyright-free images from pixabay.com to produce three presentations on present tense (beginners), near future (post beginner) and perfect tense (post-beginner/low intermediate). Here is one of them:





Below is how I would have taught using this presentation - it won't be everyone's cup of tea, especially of you are not big on choral repetition and PPP (Presentation-Practice-Production), but I'll justify my choice in the plan at each stage. For some readers this will be standard practice.

1. Explain in English that you are going to teach the class how to talk about and understand people talking about sport. By the end of the lesson they will be able to say and understand 20 different sport…

Designing a plan to improve listening skills

Read many books and articles about listening and you’ll see it described as the forgotten skill. It certainly seems to be the one which causes anxiety for both teachers and students. The reasons are clear: you only get a very few chances to hear the material, exercises feel like tests and listening is, well, hard. Just think of the complex processes involved: segmenting the sound stream, knowing lots of words and phrases, using grammatical knowledge to make meaning, coping with a new sound system and more. Add to this the fact that in England they have recently decided to make listening tests harder (too hard) and many teachers are wondering what else they can do to help their classes.

For students to become good listeners takes lots of time and practice, so there are no quick fixes. However, I’m going to suggest, very concisely, what principles could be the basis of an overall plan of action. These could be the basis of a useful departmental discussion or day-to-day chats about meth…