After the tangential digressions of the past two posts, it’s time to get back to reviewing day four’s input sessions. My ranting and raving might have angered some people perhaps, or might have stimulated some serious thinking; whichever the case, it was quite therapeutic for me. Words are a very important tool, but a tool can be used in many ways; sometimes, they can be put to good use, and sometimes the intention may be good, but they can be misunderstood and backfire. Wars have resulted because of misunderstanding. I have often say that final judgement should be reserved until there’s been a dialogue. Even then, misunderstandings happen. Words can be interpreted in many forms. That’s why I like writing poetry. A single word can have many nuances. Take for example the ‘vessel’ in the title of my last post. I wonder how many of you thought of my choice of word. There were at least three reasons for it, not just one.
Anyway, there I went again – digression. Apologies!
This day’s input session was a demo lesson on adverbs of frequency using the discrete item approach and it was given by Ceri. I wished she was my primary tutor instead of the secondary. She’s quite ‘techy’ in a way and she would have appreciated my audiovisuals more. While we’re on the subject of tutors (oh no, there he goes again!), I have always wondered why we never had a final evaluation/assessment session with our main tutor but we had, instead, a mid-course session with our secondary tutor. It beats me. If we had, perhaps, just perhaps, all my frustrations and rantings could have been avoided. Dialogue. As I said in the first paragraph.
As we trickled in – this was, effectively, out first input session – Ceri asked for, and wrote our names on the WB. I thought this was a neat trick to allow her to address us by name immediately. This is a large room, and had a reversible whiteboard plus an IWB, so equipment-wise, it was fabulous.
For the first half of the session, we were acting as “students” while Ceri gave a lesson on the adverbs of frequency. She beamed up the often-quoted Confucius saying, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” In pairs, we discussed who wrote it and what it means.
That done, she beamed up images of leisure activities and, again in pairs, we had to discuss what the teacher likes doing, and justify our choices.
Bible question: Are we thinking of your hobbies or my hobbies? Chorus: Yours!
Introducing target language
She had us explaining our choices before she beamed a text on “My hobbies” which goes something like this: In my free time, I often go travelling: at least four times a year. I never play football because…
We then answered questions such as:
- “Do I like travelling a lot or a little?”
- “Which word tells you so?”
- “Which activity do I do the most?”
Following that, we were asked to identify the adverbs (of frequency), and to place them in the most appropriate position on a cline (0-100%).
CCQ: If I go to the café every morning and have coffee every morning, do I sometimes have coffee or do I always have coffee? Chorus: ALWAYS!
She drilled the adverbs, emphasising on “often” (because there are two ways of pronouncing this).
I wasn’t sure why she did the pronunciation work at this point; I would have thought a better place would be just before the free practice, or maybe, before the controlled practice.
Conveying/Checking form (guided discovery)
- Adverbs of frequency come BEFORE/AFTER the main verb.
- e.g, I always go running after work.
- Adverbs of frequency come BEFORE/AFTER the verb to be.
- e.g. I’m always happy.
We did a gap-fill exercise, e.g. I ______ play tennis; two or three times a week. There was also another exercise, which I think we didn’t do, and it was to put the adverb in the right place:
- I cook the dinner (never)
- I am very tired (often)
- I dance badly (always)
Again, in pairs, we discussed our own hobbies: where we do them, who with, and most importantly, how often?
ICQ: are we talking of my hobbies or your hobbies? OUR HOBBIES! YAY!!!!
Then, one person/group gives one sentence without saying whose hobby it is and the rest had to guess who they were talking about, e.g. I often go for walks.
This would have been the PACS session if we had been real learners. She showed some sentences and we had to say if they were correct or incorrect. We did this in pairs, too. I wonder if she would have done it in pairs with real learners, or she would have done it globally.
- I am playing football always
- I play tennis sometimes
- I never going dancing
Note that the second sentence will be corrected at lower levels, but not necessarily at higher levels.
That was the demo lesson. We went back to being teachers after that, and started discussing the lesson.
We agreed that the lesson was intended for elementary or pre-intermediate level. Because of this, the lesson tends to be more visual and the language is sometimes not very natural. At very low levels, grammar is put across more prescriptively and diversion from the coursebook is not advised because it can confuse the students.
The stages for a discreet item lesson basically progresses from presentation to practice:
- to engage students
- to establish topic/context
- to enable students to bring their external knowledge of the topic and the language to the lesson (activate their schemata)
- Introduce target language
- to introduce the target language into the lesson
- Convey and check meaning
- to highlight the meaning of the target language
- to check students’ understanding of it
- Convey and check form
- to highlight the form of the target language
- to check students’ understanding of it
- Pronunciation (floating)
- to practise the pronunciation of the target language
- Controlled or semi-controlled practice (oral or written)
- to practise the meaning and form of the target language
- Free(r) practice (oral or written)
- to provide students with an opportunity to practise the target language in a free way
- to allow students to discuss the topic of the lesson
- PACS – Language feedback (in pairs → whole class)
- to provide students with corrections on the language produced
- to provide students with correct examples of language produced
There are 5 different ways of introducing or revising language
- via examples
Examples of target language are introduced, and from this, students establish rules by means of guided discovery.
- via text
The context is provided in the form of a reading or listening text. General procedures for a receptive skills lesson is followed.
- via rules
A set of rules is given, and students look at examples and identify the rules.
- via situation
A context, which contains examples of the target language, is built by using images, mime, story, etc.
- via TTT (test-teach-test)
Students are “tested” to see how much they already know about the target language. What they are unsure of is taught. They are tested again.
I’m not convinced as to the usefulness of the first part of this session. OK, it’s always interesting to watch another teacher at work, but using us as the students felt comical at times, especially with the corny ICQs and CCQs. I thought it was too long for the benefit we reaped and would have preferred more time to be spent on showing us/discussing the five different ways.