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Опубликован: 18.11.2015 | Уровень: для всех | Доступ: платный
Лекция 8:

Visual Aids

Now consider the following extract:

Writers and course designers have to take a number of issues into account when designing their materials. Once they have a clear idea of how their theories and beliefs about learning can be translated into appropriate activities they will have to think about what topics to include. This will be based on perceptions of what students find engaging, what research shows in this area, and on the potential for interesting exploitation of the topics they might select. It will also be necessary to consider what kind of culture the material should reflect or encourage, and to ensure some kind of appropriate balance in terms of gender and the representation of different groups in society, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic.

Writers and course designers also have to decide what language variety or varieties they wish to focus on or have represented, and they need to adopt a position on how authentic the language should be, especially at beginner levels.

Once these decisions have been taken, coursebook writers (and language program designers in general) can then turn their attention to the central organising strand of their materials, namely the syllabus.

Syllabus design

Syllabus design concerns the selection of items to be learnt and the grading of those items into an appropriate sequence. It is different from curriculum design. In the latter, the designer is concerned not just with lists of what will be taught and in what order, but also with the planning, implementation, evaluation, management and administration of education programmes. There are now a number of different types of language syllabus all of which might be taken as a starting point in the planning of a new coursebook, or of a term's, or year's work. But, whatever type it is, every syllabus needs to be developed on the basis of certain criteria, such as 'learnability' and 'frequency', which can inform decisions about selection and ordering, as described below.

Syllabus design criteria

When designers put syllabuses together they have to consider each item for inclusion on the basis of a number of criteria. This will not only help them to decide if they want to include the item in question, but also where to put it in the sequence. However, these different design criteria point, in many cases, to different conclusions. The syllabus designer has to balance such competing claims when making decisions about selection and grading.

Learnability: some structural or lexical items are easier for students to learn than others. Thus we teach easier things first and then increase the level of difficulty as the students' language level rises. Learnability might tell us that, at beginner levels, it is easier to teach uses of was and were immediately after teaching uses of is and are, rather than follow is and are with the third conditional. Learnability might persuade us to teach some and any on their own rather than introduce a whole range of quantifiers (much, many, few, etc.) all at the same time.

Frequency: it would make sense, especially at beginning levels, to include items which are more frequent in the language, than ones that are only used occasionally by native speakers. Now that corpus information can give us accurate frequency counts, we are in a position to say with some authority, for example, that see is used more often to mean understand (e.g. Oh, I see) than it is to denote vision. It might make sense, therefore, to teach that meaning of see first - but that decision will also have to depend upon the other design criteria listed here, which might lead us to a different conclusion.

Coverage: some words and structures have greater coverage (scope for use) than others. Thus we might decide, on the basis of coverage, to introduce the going to future before the present continuous with future reference, if we could show that going to could be used in more situations than the present continuous.

Usefulness: the reason that words like book and pen figure so highly in classrooms (even though they might not be that frequent in real language use) is because they are useful words in that situation. In the same way, words for family members occur early on in a student's learning life because they are useful in the context of what students are linguistically able to talk about.

Different syllabuses

The grammar syllabus: this is the commonest type of syllabus, both traditionally and currently. A list of items is sequenced in such a way that the students gradually acquire a knowledge of grammatical structures, leading to an understanding of the grammatical system. Even in multi-syllabuses, it is the grammar syllabus which tends to be the main organizing foundation, with units devoted to the verb to be, the present simple, the present continuous, countable and uncountable nouns, the present perfect, etc. Although grammar syllabuses have been used with success over a long period of time, many methodologists have come to see grammar as the wrong organising principle for a syllabus and have proposed a number of alternatives as frameworks to hang a language programme on (as we shall see below).

The lexical syllabus: it is possible to organise a syllabus on the basis of vocabulary and lexis to create a lexical syllabus. Applying syllabus design criteria to a lexical syllabus can be complex since there are so many facets to lexis, such as:

  • the vocabulary related to topics (e.g. art, clothes, crime)
  • issues of word formation (e.g. suffixes and other morphological changes)
  • word-grammar triggers (e.g. verbs which are followed by certain syntactic patterns)
  • compound lexical items (e.g. walking-stick, multi-storey car park)
  • connecting and linking words (e.g. when, if, he/she)
  • semi-fixed expressions (e.g. Would you like to ... ?, IfI were you I'd ... )
  • connotation and the use of metaphor

Another problem with lexical syllabuses is the relationship between lexis and grammar. Should phrasal verbs be taught as simple multi-word lexical items as they occur, or as a grammatical class? At what stage is the study of word formation appropriate, and when will it be useful to include fixed and semi-fixed expressions? What grammar should be included with new words, and how should that be selected and graded? Though syllabus designers may have little difficulty in applying design criteria to individual words, melding all the other concerns of lexis into a coherent order to make a truly lexical syllabus has not yet been shown to be feasible. A lexical syllabus produced by John Sinclair and Antoinette Renouf was 'several hundred pages long'. Nevertheless, lexis in all its many forms does appear in wider syllabus plans.

The functional syllabus: in his book Notional Syllabuses David Wilkins (1976) included categories of 'communicative function'. These language functions are events which 'do things' such as inviting, promising, and offering, so that a functional syllabus might look like this:

  • Requesting
  • Offering
  • Inviting
  • Agreeing and disagreeing etc.

The syllabus designer then chooses exponents for (ways of expressing) each function. For example, for offering she could choose from the following:

  • Would you like me to ... ?
  • Do you want some help?
  • I'll help if you want.
  • Let me give you a hand.
  • Here, let me.
  • I'll do that ... , etc.

But the syllabus designer can then run into problems of lexical and structural grading. If a syllabus is designed on the basis of the functions which students are most likely to have to perform (their 'usefulness'), the designer still needs to choose and order the exponents for each of those functions on the basis of 'learnability', 'coverage', and 'frequency' and may have trouble matching the functions with these criteria. It is possible to end up, too, with a series of phrases rather than a coherent system. The modern consensus seems to be that functions may not be the best sole organising units for a syllabus, but that the teaching and learning of functions is an important part of a wider syllabus (see below).

The situational syllabus: a situational syllabus offers the possibility of selecting and sequencing different real-life situations rather than different grammatical items, vocabulary topics, or functions. A situational syllabus might look something like this:

  • At the bank
  • At the supermarket
  • At the travel agent
  • At the restaurant ... , etc.

Where students have specific communicative needs, organising teaching material by the situations which students will need to operate in is attractive, since the syllabus designer will be able to define the situation, the likely participants, and communicative goals with some certainty. Material for business or tourism students, for example, can profitably be organised in this way. But situational syllabuses are less appropriate for students of general English largely because it is difficult to guarantee that language for one specific situation will necessarily be useful in another. Furthermore, choosing which situations are 'key' situations for a general class is problematic since it depends on who the students are (they are never all the same) and where they are learning. It is for these reasons that situations are rarely taken as the main organising principle in general syllabus design.

The topic-based syllabus: another framework around which to organize language is that of different topics, e.g. the weather, sport, survival, literature, music, and so on. This list can then be refined, so that the weather topic is subdivided into items such as the way weather changes, weather forecasting, weather and mood, and the damage that weather can cause. Topics provide a welcome organising principle in that they can be based on what students will be interested in. It may also be possible to identify what topics are most relevant to students' communicative needs (their usefulness) - though this may differ from what they want. Yet marrying topics to the concepts of learnability, frequency, and coverage is once again problematic since they will still have to be subdivided into the language and lexis which they generate.Providing students with a sequence of topics which are relevant and engaging is an important part of a syllabus designer or coursebook writer's skill. But on its own such organisation is unlikely to be sufficient for syllabus organisation.

The task-based syllabus: a task-based syllabus lists a series of tasks, and may later list some or all of the language to be used in those tasks. N S Prabhu, whose experiments in Bangalore, India did so much to advance the cause of task-based learning, organised a programme in just such a way, calling it a 'procedural syllabus'. The only piece of 'deliberate language grading' occurred when teachers set oral before written tasks. Otherwise it was a question of putting one task before or after another. Prabhu's tasks are related to topics, as in this example:

1 Clockface

Telling the time from a clock face; positioning the hands of a clock to show a given time.

Calculating durations from the movement of a clock's hands; working out intervals between given times.

Stating the time on a twelve hour clock and a twenty-four hour clock; relating times to phases of the day and night.

From N S Prabhu (1987: 138)

Jane Willis lists six task types that can be used with almost any topics. These are: listing, ordering and sorting, comparing, problem solving, sharing personal experience, and creative tasks (Willis 1996: 26-27 and 149-1S4).

As with situations and topics, it is difficult to know how to grade tasks in terms of difficulty. Prabhu does suggest sequences of lessons where the same topic information is used in more than one lesson and where the tasks to go with that information become more complex with each subsequent lesson, but there is little to say how such complexity is measured. The focus is, in David Nunan's words, on 'learning process' rather than 'learning product', and there is 'little or no attempt to relate these processes to outcomes' (Nunan 1988a: 44). A variety of factors interact to determine the difficulty of a task, but as yet, no one has worked out a satisfactory system with which to combine them into any kind of decent measure of difficulty.

A task-based syllabus may well satisfy the desire to provide meaning-based learning but until there is a way of deciding which tasks should go where, such a syllabus remains tantalisingly 'ad hoc', and fails to command sufficiently widespread support amongst teachers and methodologists for it to become universally accepted.

The multi-syllabus syllabus

A common solution to the competing claims of the different syllabus types we have looked at is the 'multi-syllabus'. Instead of a program based exclusively on grammatical or lexical categories, for example, the syllabus now shows any combination of items from grammar, lexis, language functions, situations, topics, tasks, different language skill tasks or pronunciation issues.

Where coursebook writers are not following a syllabus laid down by an education ministry, educational institution, or examination board, this is the approach that is most often followed. As the following example shows, authors often present their multi-syllabus in a 'map of the book':

In practice, many multi-syllabuses of this type take a grammar syllabus as a starting point. The materials designers then start the long and often frustrating business of trying to match this list with all the other items they wish to include - the vocabulary and the skills, the tasks and the functions. As the process goes on, the original order of the grammar syllabus will have to change to accommodate some of the other claims; the list of functions will shift around to accommodate the grammar, and the tasks will have to take account of the language at the students' disposal for the performing of those tasks. No one element predominates; all have to shift to accommodate the others, and the end result is always a compromise between the competing claims of the different organising elements.

The coursebook

For years, methodologists have been arguing about the usefulness of coursebooks, questioning their role (Allwright 1981), defending their use (O'Neill 1982), worrying that they act as methodological straitjackets (Tice 1991), promoting their value as agents of methodological change (Hutchinson and Torres 1994), or arguing yet again about their relative merits (Harmer 2001, Thornbury and Meddings 2001).

Coursebook or no coursebook?

The benefits and restrictions of coursebooks use can be easily summarised:

  • Benefits: good coursebooks are carefully prepared to offer a coherent syllabus, satisfactory language control, motivating texts, audio cassettes/CDs and other accessories such as video/DVD material, CD-ROMs and extra resource material. They are often attractively presented. They provide teachers under pressure with the reassurance that, even when they are forced to plan at the last moment, they will be using material which they can have confidence in. They come with detailed teacher's guides, which not only provide procedures for the lesson in the student's book, but also offer suggestions and alternatives, extra activities and resources. The adoption of a new coursebook provides a powerful stimulus for methodological development (see Hutchinson and Torres 1994). Students like coursebooks, too, since they foster the perception of progress as units and then books are completed. Coursebooks also provide material which students can look back at for revision and, at their best, their visual and topic appeal can have a powerfully engaging effect.
  • Restrictions: coursebooks, used inappropriately, impose learning styles and content on classes and teachers alike, appearing to be ‘fait accompli over which they can have little control' (Littlejohn 1998: 205). Many of them rely on Presentation, Practice and Production as their main methodological procedure, despite recent enthusiasm for other teaching sequences. Units and lessons often follow an unrelenting format so that students and teachers eventually become demotivated by the sameness of it all. And in their choice of topics, coursebooks can sometimes be bland or culturally inappropriate.

One solution to the perceived disadvantages of coursebooks is to do without them altogether, to use a 'do-it-yourself' approach (Block 1991, Maley 1998, Thornbury and Meddings 2001). Such an approach is extremely attractive. It can offer students a dynamic and varied programme. If they can see its relevance to their own needs, it will greatly enhance their motivation and their trust in what they are being asked to do. It allows teachers to respond on a lesson-by-Iesson basis to what is happening in the class. Finally, for the teacher, it means an exciting and creative involvement with texts and tasks.

In order for the DIY approach to be successful, teachers need access to (and knowledge of) a wide range of materials, from coursebooks and videos to magazines, novels, encyclopedias, publicity brochures and the Internet. They will have to make (and make use of) a variety of home-grown materials. They will also need the confidence to know when and what to choose, becoming, in effect, syllabus designers in their own right. This not only makes preparing lessons a very time-consuming business, but also runs the risk that students will end up with incoherent collections of bits and pieces of material. However, where there is time for the proper planning and organisation of DIY teaching, students may well get exceptional programmes of study, which are responsive to their needs and varied in a way that does not abandon coherence.

Using coursebooks

Around the world, however, the vast majority of teachers reject a coursebook-free approach and instead use them to help their learners and, what's more, to give structure and direction to their own teaching. The most important aspect of coursebook use is for teachers to try to engage students with the content they are going to be dealing with. This means arousing the students' interest in a topic, and making sure that they know exactly what we want them to do before we get them to open their books and disappear, heads-down in the pages, while we are still trying to talk to them. Many teachers want to use their coursebooks as a kind of springboard for their lessons, rather than as a manual to be slavishly followed. In other words, while they base much of their teaching on the contents of the coursebook, they reserve the right to decide when and how to use its constituent parts. There are two main ways they can do this:

  • Omit and replace: the first decision we have to make is whether to use a particular coursebook lesson or not. If the answer is 'no', there are two possible courses of action. The first is just to omit the lesson altogether. In this case, we suppose that the students will not miss it because it does not teach anything fundamentally necessary and it is not especially interesting. When, however, we think the language or topic area in question is important, we will have to replace the coursebook lesson with our own preferred alternative. Although there is nothing wrong with omitting or replacing coursebook material, it becomes irksome for many students if it happens too often, especially when they have had to buy the book themselves. It may also deny them the chance to revise (a major advantage of coursebooks), and their course may lose overall coherence.
  • To change or not to change? when we decide to use a coursebook lesson, we can, of course, do so without making any substantial changes to the way it is presented. However, we might decide to use the lesson but to change it to make it more appropriate for our students. If the material is not very substantial, we might add something to it - a role-play after a reading text, perhaps, or extra situations for language practice. We might re-write an exercise we do not especially like or replace one activity or text with something else, such as a download from the Internet or any other home-grown items. We could re-order the activities within a lesson, or even re-order lessons (within reason). Finally, we may wish to reduce a lesson by cutting out an exercise or an activity. In all our decisions, however, it is important to remember that students need to be able to see a coherent pattern to what we are doing and understand our reasons for changes.

Using coursebooks appropriately is an art which becomes clearer with experience.

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

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.
Эркин Мухаммедов
Эркин Мухаммедов
Туркмения, Мары
Эдуард Чариков
Эдуард Чариков
Россия, г. Омск