VIEWS: 99 PAGES: 13 POSTED ON: 12/2/2011
TAKING REVISION AND RECYCLING SERIOUSLY Hugh Dellar Abstract (from the conference program): If second language acquisition research tells us anything, it is that students need comprehensible exposure to language in order to learn it. This workshop will consider how the way materials are constructed can help or hinder this process. We will then look at some practical ways of revising language which could be used with any course. Hugh Dellar is a teacher and teacher trainer at the University of Westminster, London, and co-author of the course book series Innovations (Thomson and Heinle) TAKING REVISION AND RECYCLING SERIOUSLY The presenter began by narrating his ordeal remembering the names of a class of Korean students. He then went on to establish a parallelism between his experience and language learning, in order to make the following points. TAKING REVISION AND RECYCLING SERIOUSLY THE ROLE OF ROTE LEARNING The value of this type of learning is relative. One needs to consider what needs to be remembered. In his experience with the Korean class, he was able to learn the spelling of the names by heart, but he failed to remember either their pronunciation or who the bearer of each name was. Students may remember single words, or lists of words, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be able to use them productively. e names of a class of Korean students. He then went on to establish a parallelism between his experience and language learning, in order to make the following points. TAKING REVISION AND RECYCLING SERIOUSLY LEARNING FOR PERFORMANCE The students need much more than to learn single words or memorize grammar rules, or even pronounce words and phrases correctly. In his experience, the presenter found this to be true when he was finally able to remember most names on his Korean class registration list, but was unable to match the names with the people. TAKING REVISION AND RECYCLING SERIOUSLY LANGUAGE LEARNING STRATEGIES Language learning strategies are good but they also have their drawbacks. For example, focusing on familiar words can eventually lead to sticking with what sounds familiar. In the presenters experience, he ended up calling only on those people whose names he could remember because he was able to associate them with familiar-sounding English words. TAKING REVISION AND RECYCLING SERIOUSLY FORGETTING IS A GRADUAL PROCESS Language learners need to revise and recycle. This type of practice is best provided in class. As language teachers we are responsible for providing for this in the classroom. In order to get us started we need to reflect on the following: • What do we expect our students to revise and recycle outside the class? • What is the relationship between what we do in class and how the students revise outside the class? • Does the course book help us to review and recycle? • What sort of practice can help our students recycle and revise effectively. TAKING REVISION AND RECYCLING SERIOUSLY A lot of what the students do for recycling (outside the class) in fact only serves to confuse them further. We should show our students better ways of revising vocabulary and making notes. One idea to help with learner training would be to record stories of successful and unsuccessful uses of learning strategies and discuss them in class (example on page 1 of handout). TAKING REVISION AND RECYCLING SERIOUSLY Students get into trouble when they separate words and grammar, and often too when they use dictionaries. Most course books are written so that chances for revision and/or recycling are reduced. TAKING REVISION AND RECYCLING SERIOUSLY One problem with course books setting out to present grammar meanings and grammar rules is that course book writers want to produce interesting contexts but they often overdo it. For example, the use of farfetched examples and language to present and practice the use of the modal auxiliary can. Example: Talk to a partner. Ask and answer questions about what each of you can and can’t do. ___ use chopsticks ____ take the bungee jump ___ cook a crab ____ scuba dive ___ walk on a tight ___ touch your toes with the tip of your nose rope TAKING REVISION AND RECYCLING SERIOUSLY The big aspirin The presenter contends that what many course books do is analogous to a doctor prescribing an aspiring the size of a cake. Textbook units are often organized around a couple of grammar items to the exclusion of others. Related to the above, discrete textbook units get cleaned up of a lot of structures just to focus on a couple of them. TAKING REVISION AND RECYCLING SERIOUSLY What to do? Re-cosnisider the interaction between grammar and lexis. Organize lessons and practice around practical situations/topics (rather than isolated grammar structures). Take a topic and think about types of conversations that would take place within these contexts in order to ensure relevance. For example, it is not sensible to expect low level students to learn the present perfect tense. Instead, we can expose them to high-frequency instances of the present perfect and present these in a lexical sort of approach. TAKING REVISION AND RECYCLING SERIOUSLY AUTHENTIC MATERIALS Be cautious with authentic materials. As classroom practitioners we should write our own texts and dialogues, or adapt ‘authentic’ texts by stripping them down or grading them down. Another problem with most course books is that they don’t recycle topics over a series. We need to allow our students to talk about the same topics throughout a course, only widening gradually the range of grammar and lexis. We need to take the idea of repetition more seriously. For example, pages 2 and 3 of the handout show an example of an exercise for reviewing the use of the modal auxiliaries can / can’t for different course levels. TAKING REVISION AND RECYCLING SERIOUSLY There a number of practical -and very simple -ideas that we can make use of to help our learners revise and recycle. For example, use the workbook retrospectively. For example, don’t assign workbook homework for unit one until after you have covered the whole unit in class. Pages 5 and 6 of the handout propose ideas for revision-enhancing classroom practice and course planning.
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