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Опубликован: 18.11.2015 | Уровень: для всех | Доступ: платный
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Overview of ESOL issues

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Language, task and topic

We have said that students acquire language partly as a result of the comprehensible input they receive - especially from the teacher. This means, of course, that we will have to adjust the language we use to the level of the students we are teaching. Experienced teachers are very good at rough-tuning their language to the level they are dealing with. Such rough-tuning involves, at beginner and elementary levels, using words and phrases that are as clear as possible, avoiding some of the more opaque idioms which the language contains. At lower levels we will do our best not to confuse our students by offering them too many different accents or varieties of English, even though we will want to make sure they are exposed to more Englishes later on. We will also take special care at lower levels to moderate the speed we speak at and to make our instructions especially clear.

This preoccupation with suiting our language to the level of the students extends to what we ask them to read, listen to, write and speak about. There are things that students can do with authentic English - that is English not specially moderated for use by language students - but in general, we will want to get students to read and listen to things that they have a chance of understanding. Of course, it depends on how much we want them to get from a text, but we always need to bear in mind the demotivating effect of a text which students find depressingly impenetrable.

The same is true for what we get students to write and speak about. If we ask students to express a complex opinion and they do not have the language to do it, the result will be an unhappy one for both students and teacher. If we try to force students to write a complex letter when they are clearly unable to do such a thing, everyone will feel let down. We will discuss the concept of trying to ensure achievement below.

One problem with some beginner coursebook material in particular is the way in which quite complex topics are reduced to banalities because the language available at that level makes it impossible to treat them in any depth. The result is a kind of 'dumbing-down', which sometimes makes English language learning material appear condescending and almost childish. We must do our best to avoid this, matching topics to the level, and reserving complex issues for more advanced classes.

Motivation

It is accepted for most fields of learning that motivation is essential to success: that we have to want to do something to succeed at it. Without such motivation we will almost certainly fail to make the necessary effort. We need, therefore, to develop our understanding of motivation - what it means, where it comes from and how it can be sustained.

Defining motivation

At its most basic level, motivation is some kind of internal drive which pushes someone to do things in order to achieve something.

Marion Williams and Robert Burden suggest that motivation is a 'state of cognitive arousal' which provokes a 'decision to act', as a result of which there is 'sustained intellectual and/ or physical effort' so that the person can achieve some 'previously set goal' (Williams and Burden 1997: 120). They go on to point out that the strength of that motivation will depend on how much value the individual places on the outcome he or she wishes to achieve. Adults may have clearly defined or vague goals. Children's goals, on the other hand, are often more amorphous and less easy to describe, but they can still be very powerful.

In discussions of motivation an accepted distinction is made between extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, that is motivation which comes from 'outside' and from 'inside'.

Extrinsic motivation is the result of any number of outside factors, for example the need to pass an exam, the hope of financial reward or the possibility of future travel. Intrinsic motivation, by contrast, comes from within the individual. Thus a person might be motivated by the enjoyment of the learning process itself or by a desire to make themselves feel better.

Most researchers and methodologists have come to the view that intrinsic motivation produces better results than its extrinsic counterpart. Even where the original reason for taking up a language course, for example, is extrinsic, the chances of success will be greatly enhanced if the students come to love the learning process.

External sources of motivation

The motivation that brings students to the task of learning English can be affected and influenced by the attitude of a number of people. It is worth considering what and who these are since they form part of the environment from which the student engages with the learning process.

The goal: one of the strongest outside sources of motivation is the goal which students perceive themselves to be learning for. Frequently this is provided by a forthcoming exam, and in this respect it is no surprise to note that teachers often find their exam classes more committed than other groups who do not have something definite to work towards. However, students may have other less well-defined goals, too, such as a general desire to be able to converse in English, to be able to use English to get a better job or to understand English language websites, etc. Some students, of course, may not have any real English learning goals at all. This is especially true for younger learners. In such situations they may acquire their attitude to (and motivation for) learning English from other sources.

The society we live in: outside any classroom there are attitudes to language learning and the English language in particular. How important is the learning of English considered to be in the society the student lives in? In a school situation, for example, is the language learning part of the curriculum of high or low status? If school students were offered the choice of two languages to learn, which one would they choose and why? Are the cultural images associated with English positive or negative? All these views of language learning will affect the student's attitude to the language being studied, and the nature and strength of this attitude will, in its turn, have a profound effect on the degree of motivation the student brings to class and whether or not that motivation continues. Even where adult students have made their own decision to come to a class to study English, they will bring with them attitudes from the society they live in, developed over years, whether these attitudes are thoroughly positive or somewhat negative.

The people around us: in addition to the culture of the world around them, students' attitudes to language learning will be greatly influenced by the people who are close to them. The attitude of parents and older siblings will be crucial. Do they approve of language learning, for example, or do they think that maths and reading are what count, and clearly show that they are more concerned with those subjects than with the student's success in English? The attitude of a student's peers is also crucial: if they are critical of the subject or activity, a student may well lose any enthusiasm they once had for learning English. If peers are enthusiastic about learning English, however, there is a much greater chance that the same student may feel more motivated to learn the subject.

Curiosity: we should not underestimate a student's natural curiosity. At the beginning of a term or semester, most students have at least a mild interest in who their new teacher is and what it will be like to be in his or her lessons. When students start English for the first time, most are interested (to some extent) to see what it is like. This initial motivation is precious. Without it, getting a class off the ground and building rapport will be that much more difficult.

Even when teachers find themselves facing a class of motivated students, they cannot relax. For it is what happens next that really counts. Sustaining students' motivation is one area where we can make a real difference.

Components of motivation

For as Alan Rodgers wrote many years ago ' ... we forget that initial motivation to learn may be weak and die; alternatively it can be increased and directed into new channels' (Rogers 1996: 61). In other words, we can have a powerful effect on how or even whether students remain motivated after whatever initial enthusiasm they brought to the course has dissipated. We have the ability, as well, to gradually create motivation in students where, initially, there is none. This is not to say that it is a teacher's sole responsibility to build and nurture motivation. On the contrary, students need to play their part too.

Success in language learning needs to be built on the solid base of the extrinsic motivation which the students bring with them to class. This will lay the foundations for:

  • Affect: this is concerned with students' feelings and here we as teachers can have a dramatic effect. In the words of some eleven-year-old students I interviewed 'a good teacher is someone who asks the people who don't always put their hands up’ and 'a good teacher is someone who knows our names’ (Harmer 2007: 26). In other words, students are far more likely to stay motivated over a period of time if they think that the teacher cares about them. This can be done by building good teacher-student rapport which in turn is dependent on listening to students’ views and attempts with respect and intervening (i.e. for correction) in an appropriate and constructive way. When students feel that the teacher has little interest in them (or is unprepared to make the effort to treat them with consideration) they will have little incentive to remain motivated. When the teacher is caring and helpful, however) they are much more likely to retain an interest in what is going on and as a result their self-esteem (an important ingredient in success) is likely to be nurtured.
  • Achievement: nothing motivates like success. Nothing demotivates like continual failure. It is part of the teacher's art, therefore, to try to ensure that students are successful, because the longer their success continues, the more likely they are to stay motivated to learn. However, success without effort does not seem to be that motivating. If everything is just too easy, students are likely to lose their respect for the task of learning. The same is true if success is too difficult to attain. What students need to feel is a real sense of achievement, which has cost them something to acquire but has not bankrupted them in the process. Part of a teacher's job, therefore, is to set an appropriate level of challenge for the students. This means setting tests that are not too difficult or too easy, and involving students in learning tasks they can succeed in. It also means being able to guide students towards success by showing them how to get things right next time.
  • Attitude: however nice teachers are, students are unlikely to follow them willingly (and do what is asked of them) unless they have confidence in their professional abilities. Students need to believe that we know what we are doing. This confidence in a teacher may start the moment we walk into the classroom for the first time - because of the students' perception of our attitude to the job. Aspects such as the way we dress, where we stand and the way we talk to the class all have a bearing here. Students also need to feel that we know about the subject we are teaching. Consciously or unconsciously they need to feel that we are prepared to teach English in general and that we are prepared to teach this lesson in particular. As we shall see, one of the chief reasons (but not the only one, of course) why classes occasionally become undisciplined is because teachers do not have enough for the students to do - or seem not to be quite sure what to do next. When students have confidence in the teacher, they are likely to remain engaged with what is going on. If they lose that confidence, it becomes difficult for them to sustain the motivation they might have started with.
  • Activities: our students' motivation is far more likely to remain healthy if they are doing things they enjoy doing, and which they can see the point of. Our choice of what we ask them to do has an important role, therefore, in their continuing engagement with the learning process. It sometimes seems to be suggested that students only enjoy activities which involve game-like communication and other interactive tasks. However, this is not necessarily the case. Different students, as we have seen earlier, have different styles and preferences. While some may want to sing songs and write poems, others might be much more motivated by concentrated language study and poring over reading texts. We need to try to match the activities we take into lessons with the students we are teaching. One way of doing this is to keep a constant eye on what they respond well to and what they feel less engaged with. Only then can we be sure that the activities we take into class have at least a chance of helping to keep students engaged with the learning process.
  • Agency: this is a term borrowed from social sciences. Here it is appropriated to mean something similar to the agent of a passive sentence, that is, in the words of some grammarians, the person or thing 'that does’. A lot of the time, in some classes, students have things done to them and, as a result, risk being passive recipients of whatever is being handed down. We should be equally interested, however, in things done by the students. When students have agency they get to make some of the decisions about what is going on, and, as a consequence, they take some responsibility for their learning. For example, we might allow students to tell us when and if they want to be corrected in a fluency activity rather than always deciding ourselves when correction is appropriate and when it is not. We might have students tell us what words they find difficult to pronounce rather than assuming they all have the same difficulties. J.J Wilson suggests that wherever possible students should be allowed to make decisions. He wants to give students ownership of class materials, letting them write on the board or control the CD player, for example (Wilson 2005). For Jenny de Sonneville, while the teacher may decide on broad learning outcomes, he or she should design tasks 'in which the students are empowered to take a more active role in the course design' (2005: 11). For Lesley Painter, it was allowing students to choose what homework they wanted and needed to do that was the key to motivating her students to do the tasks that were set (Painter 1999). Real agency occurs, finally, when students take responsibility for their own learning, and we can provoke them to do this. A student we have trained to use dictionaries effectively has the potential for agency which a student who cannot access the wealth of information in a dictionary (especially a monolingual dictionary) is cut off from. No one is suggesting that students should have complete control of what happens in lessons. But the more we empower them and give them agency, the more likely they are to stay motivated over a long period.

Before we leave the subject of motivation, we need to remember that motivation (where it comes from and what teachers can do to sustain it) may not be the same for all students and in all cultures. Judy Chen and her colleagues (based on their study of more than 160 students in Taiwan and China) observe that an assumption that motivation for Chinese students is the same as for EFL students in the USA, is 'apt to be off the mark, as is any assumption that the components of motivation are universal' (Chen et al 2005: 624). What their study clearly shows is that throughout Greater China there are numerous learning strategies based entirely on memorisation (2005: 625), and that the greatest motivator is success in exams based on how much students can remember. In such situations (and until and unless the exams change so that they prioritise spoken and written communication rather than memorised vocabulary and grammar), perhaps agency may not be important in the way we have described it; nor is the need for activity variety so pronounced if all students are fixated on this kind of achievement. Indeed in Taiwan many successful ex-students, Chen and her colleagues report, promote an ever-popular 'memorize a dictionary' strategy, and some students get an idiom a day sent to their mobile phones. We have already discussed the need for context-sensitive methodology. The study which Judy Chen and her colleagues have undertaken reminds us again that in discussions of teaching and learning strategies we need to look carefully at who the students are, where they are learning and what their aspirations are.

Adapted from The Practice of English Language Teaching, Jeremy Harmer 2007, Longman.

APPROACHES TO TEACHING

Good practitioners of TESOL will be thinking about the implications of the way they present material and information to students. Coursebooks and other materials for students are presented in a way that reflects the beliefs about language of the people that write them. Some books may be based on structural points. Others deal with ‘topics’. Many state their beliefs on the back of the book or in the introduction. Here follows a discussion of some aspects of TESOL approaches that have had support over the years.

The Structural Approach

Grammar plays a leading part here, the structure being referred to, being a grammatical structure. Course writers list what they consider to be the most important grammatical elements. Learning terminology is unimportant, but the patterns of the grammar are, of course, very important. The grammatical elements are placed in a practical order for teaching purposes and each is taught, practised and drilled. There is a hierarchy of structures: present tense before past tense, first conditional before second and third and so on. When used alone this can become repetitive and boring, even surreal. These days this method is rarely used without good situational practice.

Here is an example to demonstrate the absurdity of a structural lesson devoid of context.

Exercise 1

Change these present tense sentences into the past:

He eats mice. He ate mice.

He hangs off branches. He hung on the branch.

He hides under stones. He hid under a stone.

He is orange. He was orange.

Here we are in some surreal world which we do not understand even though we can change present into past.

Exercise 2

Change the sentences from singular to plural.

They eat mice . They slither etc.

This could be conceived of as ‘teaching grammar’, but the student is caught in a ‘form only, no real communication’, a sort of surreal world.

These sentences in fact all relate to my pet snake!

If students look at a pet manual and observe the use of present tense for the pet’s behaviours, appearance and habitual actions, then the present tense use can be seen, studied and replicated in any situation.

So the student then becomes able to do the following, if they have the vocabulary -

Write about the behaviour of your pet (or your Mum, or your boss, or the men at the ticket office at the station). The grammar point can be taken and applied to any situation if there is a clear situation to start with.

Command of grammatical structure is essential to complete understanding and any form of meaningful communication in ESOL. Good teachers and materials writers include situational practice, always checking the student's understanding of what he is repeating. They build in personalized or imaginative exercises where the student can use the structure for himself.

We are teachers of COMMUNICATION, our aim therefore is to facilitate this communication, this will not happen through translation or through mindless repetition of grammatical structures. Students need to know not only the correct grammatical structure but also where and how to use it.

The Communicative Approach

It is important to keep reminding ourselves that we are teaching communication. We rarely need to teach declensions and verb lists. We are teaching non-native speakers of English to effectively communicate with native speakers of English or other non-native speakers of English, both orally and using written forms. (As an essential language of the world of commerce, English may necessarily be the language of communication between different nationalities none of whom have any other language.)

If you, yourself have not had the experience of being in a position in which you HAD TO communicate in a foreign language (one in which you are not fluent) you will doubtlessly have observed others in that position. They adopt different styles according to the situation, the audience, their own personality and so on. Some seem to relish the task and throw themselves into speaking with as much 'fluency' as they can achieve with the string of mistakes they make along the way. Others freeze, too afraid to speak in case the listener cannot understand due to the mistakes they fear they will make. They may, however, be listening intently and later communicate effectively.

Whichever way they tackle the task, we know that most students of ESOL want more than simply to communicate. They want to communicate in good English - why otherwise would they bother with classes year after year? They do not want to be laughed at, they do not want to have to resort to paralinguistics (facial expression and body language) or to have to point and mime. They want their English to be good enough to allow them to communicate effectively in ‘correct’ English. But beware.

As teachers of ESOL we can be happy with the concept of 'correct' English. It is our job to know what is correct and what is incorrect, and to know that when our students are not making correct utterances, they should be made aware of this fact. However, we must allow students to communicate - a balance must be struck between effective communication and correctness. Mistakes are inevitable, even from the most advanced students, but to constantly respond each time a mistake is made would be very off-putting for your students, and fluency would be impaired. On the other hand, we cannot be seen to accept an incorrect sentence offered by student A, when student B, or in fact student A after further thought or a look in his book, is likely to challenge our acceptance. Similarly we must prevent students from continuing to make the same mistakes which an examiner will mark wrong.

Note also that there is increasing recognition of the fact that ‘spoken grammar’ differs from ‘written grammar’ and that some phrases appear in spoken English that we would not necessarily write. For example, many people would use the expression.

‘I was sat in that awful meeting for three hours.’

On paper we would correct this to:

‘I was sitting/sat in that awful meeting for three hours.’

But when the speaker says ‘I was sat…..’ they are trying to get across to the person they are talking to how trapped they felt in the meeting and make the expression look like a passive to show they have no power over it. So it is not ‘wrong’.

We have to be alert to what is going on in language and we have to be adaptable. Classroom technique is, of course, also of immense importance to good, effective, communicative teaching. This is dealt with in Unit 4 Module 1.

Striking the balance between communication and correctness can be difficult, but the following features should be kept in mind if we are to effectively teach communication.

  1. Communication is passing information to somebody.
  2. Communication is saying what you want to say, rather than what you are told to say.
  3. Communication is saying what is true and meaningful rather than what is linguistically correct.
  4. Communication is producing authentic English rather than textbook English.
  5. Communication is paying attention to what people mean rather than how they express themselves.
  6. Effective communication means getting the job done, getting a response, agreeing with others to do something - all of which we do on a daily basis.

A great deal of research and work in this field has been going on over the last 20-30 years. The above features of the 'communicative movement' are included here for you to incorporate in your thinking when planning lessons, though not to the exclusion of all else, including correctness.

The communicative movement’s persistent concern has produced a technique which has useful applications. Communication, by definition, is the transfer of information from source to receiver; that information, by definition, is not already known to the receiver. A communicative exercise, therefore, can be set up by ensuring that student A has some information which student B does not have, and then prompting an exchange of information.

It can also be a discussion of shared information and again, it is simple to set up a situation where students are given some information and then encouraged to act on it.

At a very simple level, get the students to elicit information from you, the teacher. You set the scene by telling them what they must elicit from you; they can then ask questions at their own level.

Beginners could be asked to find out your hobby by asking simple questions which require yes/no answers such as:

  1. Do you like to swim?
  2. Do you do it inside?
  3. Do you make something?
  4. Are you tired afterwards?
  5. Is it a sport?

and so on.

Intermediate and advanced students can cope with something far more complex and with 'free' questions in order to elicit the required information.

Another way is to get the students to elicit information from each other. This is more complex to set up, and needs planning, but will stimulate your students, will liven up a dull class, and will often prompt the students to ask for further information from each other - this is invaluable in a mixed nationality class.

Once the premise is set up in your classroom that people will communicate real information with each other, you can then guide them into all manner of communicative tasks that simulate communication in the outside world, both collaborative and with information gaps.

SELF-CHECK 3:1 6

Divide these pair activities into collaborative and information gap

Write C =collaborative or I =Info gap next to each activity. There are 4 of each.

Asking about train times

Discussing what to order

Choosing a route on a map

Giving directions to your house

Deciding what pet to buy

Drawing a diagram from the instructions of your partner

Planning a party

Making a complaint to a shop

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Вадим Бондарь
Вадим Бондарь
Как найти и выбрать тьютора?
Ирина Суханова
Ирина Суханова
здравствуйте! я прохожу курс учитель англ. языка. я отправила тест №1, как долго его будут проверять.
Павел Плахотник
Павел Плахотник
Украина, Днепропетровск
Анатолий Федоров
Анатолий Федоров
Россия, Москва, Московский государственный университет им. М. В. Ломоносова, 1989