Top Contributors of the month: May 2018.
Does practice make perfect?
Luiz Otávio Barros (MA Hons in Applied Linguistics, Lancaster University) has been teaching, training teachers, designing language courses and writing ELT materials since 1992. Formerly academic coordinator at Cultura Inglesa São Paulo (where he was responsible for the advanced levels, as well as COTE, DOTE and DELTA tuition), head of research and development at Associação Alumni São Paulo (where he was in charge of the adult segment) and BRAZ-TESOL’s second vice president, Luiz Otávio is co-author of Richmond’s English ID / Identities, Personal Best and series editor of Access. In 2016, he self-published The Only Academic Phrasebook You’ll Ever Need, available on Amazon.
In general, it does, I know.
But as far as language learning is concerned, this is not as straightforward as it seems.
First, we need to define practice and narrow it down. Does watching a video in English qualify as language practice? Yes, it does. And so does having a group discussion. Or doing a reading activity. But that’s not what I had in mind as I wrote this post. Here, I am using the term practice to describe controlled oral activities that isolate a specific language form for students to manipulate – a sort of rehearsal for real life, if you will.
The term rehearsal creates another conceptual problem, of course. People rehearse in order to hone their skills as, say, athletes, dancers or musicians. So, if we talk about language rehearsal, we’re implying that (1) learning a second language is essentially a form of skill learning, and that (2) “knowing that” (declarative knowledge) can become “knowing how” (procedural knowledge) through practice. Both assumptions came under close scrutiny in the 1980s and 90s.
Stephen Krashen, for example, would have translated practice makes perfect as stress-free exposure makes perfect. Richard Schmidt might have gone a step further and claimed that noticing salient language forms makes perfect. And, finally, people like Merrill Swain and Michael Long, on a different tack, might have argued that negotiation of meaning during real communication makes perfect.
So, for a long time, controlled practice was thrown to the wayside of ELT. This might have happened, I suspect, partly as a backlash to the endless and mindless drilling that our students were subjected to in the 1970s. Counterintuitive as it was, the notion that declarative knowledge could not be automatized through practice (i.e. the so-called non-interface position) gained a lot of traction in the 1980s and 1990s, which might have left many teachers wondering if they should ditch controlled practice altogether.
But it seems that the ever-swinging ELT pendulum has finally swung back to a position where we can compare language learning and other forms of skill learning without fearing for our lives.
Jeremy Harmer, for example, has on more than one occasion attempted to explore the connection between music practice and language practice. Jim Scrivener, in turn, has coined the term “3 times practice” to highlight the importance of tweaking classroom activities so that students can go beyond the ubiquitous gap-fill in its all glory. And last but not least, Scott Thornbury has also given controlled practice activities a nod of approval, arguing, however, that they should be treated as fluency, rather than accuracy work.
So, when it comes to language learning, does practice make perfect?
I’m not sure about perfect, but probably better, regardless of where the ELT pendulum stops next.
BRAZ-TESOL Teacher Development SIG leva você ao BrELT On The Road: The São Paulo Edition
1. Esta bolsa é oferecida pelo Teacher Development Special Interest Group (TD-SIG) do BRAZ-TESOL e pela BrELT de forma a estimular a participação no evento BrELT on the Road dia 7 de setembro de 2018 em São Paulo.
Benefícios da bolsa
2. A bolsa cobrirá os seguintes custos:
a) 100% da inscrição do evento;
b) hospedagem por uma noite em São Paulo, caso o(a) ganhador(a) não more na Grande São Paulo.
3. A hospedagem será dia 6 de setembro de 2018 em hotel determinado pela BrELT.
4. Os custos de deslocamento de/para a cidade de São Paulo e de/para o local do evento serão por conta do(a) ganhador(a).
5. Para se candidatar a esta bolsa, o(a) candidato(a) deverá atender a todos os seguintes requisitos:
a) ser membro da BrELT, http://www.facebook.com/groups/brelt;
b) ser membro em dia do BRAZ-TESOL, http://www.braztesol.org.br , não importando a que SIG é filiado;
c) ser residente no Brasil;
d) atender à tarefa proposta pelos itens 7 e 8.
6. A moderação da BrELT e membros do comitê do TD-SIG ou do Conselho Geral do BRAZ-TESOL não poderão concorrer à bolsa.
7. Para se candidatar a esta bolsa, o(a) candidato(a) deverá escrever um texto de 100 a 200 palavras em inglês incluindo:
a) uma breve descrição de seu contexto de ensino;
b) sua visão de desenvolvimento profissional continuado;
c) como a bolsa ajudará o seu desenvolvimento e o de professores em seu contexto ou localidade.
8. O texto deverá ser acompanhado do nome completo do(a) candidato(a), identidade, CPF (ou equivalente em caso de estrangeiros), endereço com CEP e celular com DDD. Deverá ser enviado no corpo do email, junto a uma foto de rosto, para firstname.lastname@example.org até as 13:00 (Horário de Brasília) do dia 15 de maio de 2018.
9. Após verificar quais participantes atendem aos requisitos listados na seção “Requisitos” deste regulamento, a BrELT e o comitê do BRAZ-TESOL TD-SIG aferirão, separadamente, uma nota de 0 a 10 para cada proposta. A nota final da proposta será a média aritmética entre as notas da BrELT e do BT TD-SIG.
10. Os critérios de análise da proposta serão os seguintes:
a) o cumprimento da tarefa proposta;
b) a qualidade do inglês escrito;
c) a importância percebida da bolsa para o(a) professor(a) candidato(a), sobretudo seu papel como agente de desenvolvimento profissional em seu contexto ou localidade.
11. Em caso de empate, e somente em caso de empate, serão aferidos 2 pontos extra, um pela participação frequente e pacífica na BrELT e outro pelo histórico de voluntariado junto ao BRAZ-TESOL.
Da não comunicabilidade do prêmio
12. Caso o(a) ganhador(a) more na Grande São Paulo, o prêmio incluirá somente a inscrição no evento. O valor da hospedagem não será convertido em dinheiro, nem transferido para outro(a) participante.
13. Caso o(a) ganhador(a) não responda 24h após o anúncio do prêmio com sua aceitação, a bolsa será repassada para o(a) segundo(a) colocado(a) e assim sucessivamente.
14. Caso o(a) ganhador(a) comunique, na semana do anúncio do prêmio, que não poderá comparecer ao evento, a bolsa será repassada para o(a) segundo(a) colocado(a) e assim sucessivamente.
15. Caso o(a) ganhador(a) comunique impossibilidade de comparecer ao evento posteriormente à semana seguinte do anúncio do prêmio, a bolsa será cancelada. Ficará a critério da BrELT oferecer para um(a) outro(a) participante a isenção da inscrição, seguindo critério da própria moderação, porém a hospedagem não será mais inclusa.
16. A bolsa é pessoal e intransferível e em hipótese alguma a bolsa será trocada por um valor em dinheiro.
17. Ao se candidatar, o(a) candidato(a) autoriza que a sua foto seja utilizada para a divulgação do prêmio caso ele(a) seja contemplado(a) com a bolsa. Entende-se pela candidatura que o(a) candidato também permite que seus dados pessoais sejam utilizados para a reserva do hotel.
18. Exceto pelo nome, os dados pessoais do(a) candidato(a) não serão divulgados.
19. A candidatura a esta bolsa implica a aceitação deste regulamento e da BrELT e do BT TD-SIG como banca soberana.
Mais informações: https://www.facebook.com/tdsigbraztesol/posts/825741847609903
We know you love a challenge. So here it goes:
1 – [LINGUISTICS]:_______ is what we intuitively know about a language in order to be able to use it. It is the kind of internalized knowledge that allows us to distinguish well-formed from ill-formed sentences, such as This is the book I lost it and This is the book that I lost, even if we can’t say what rule is. (7 letters)
2 – [METHODOLOGY]: ________ questions are questions asked by teachers in order that learners can show their knowledge, such as What’s the capital of France? They typically initiate a three-part exchange that is characteristic of classroom interaction, and is called an IRF (interaction-response-follow-up) sequence. In language classrooms, ______ questions are usually aimed at finding out what learners can say in the target language. Asking a series of _____ questions is called eliciting. In this sequence, the teacher is eliciting vocabulary: (7 letters)
Teacher: What does Phill Collins do?
St2: …plays drums I think.
Teacher: He’s a singer and he….?
St3: Plays drums.
Teacher: He’s a singer and he plays the drums so he’s a….?
St4: Drummer, he’s a drummer.
3 – [SLA] _______ is the term used to describe the grammatical system that a learner creates in the course of learning another language. It is neither their first language system, nor the target language system, but occupies a transitional point between the two. It is seen as an independent system in its own right, and not simply a degenerate form of the target language. It reflects the learner’s evolving system of rules. Some of these rules may be influenced by the first language (through transfer), others by the target language, while others are attributed to innate and universal principle. (13 letters)
4 – [SLA] _______ is what learners report to have learnt from a language lesson. Typically, what learners say they have learnt does not necessarily match what the teacher intended to teach. Moreover, ______ can vary from learner to learner. Factors that appear to enhance it are salience, ie, how much emphasis was given to an item or topic, and source, ie, whether the item or topic originated in the teacher or in another learner. Research suggests that, although the majority of the topics that occur in the lessons are raised by the teacher, the topics that learners remember best (ie, their ______) are those raised by other learners. (6 letters)
5 – [PSYCHOLOGY] _______ is the way that knowledge about a topic or a concept is represented and organized in the mind. It helps us make sense of experience, and hence they are crucial in comprehension. For example, the sentence At check-in they told me my flight had boarded will not make much sense to anyone who does not have an ‘air travel_______‘. The air-travel_______ not only includes the various places in an airport, but links these into a typical sequence (or script). Familiarity with the script allows us to fill in the details in a narrative, and to make predictions as to what might happen next. For example: … so I was put on the waiting list for the next one. A_______ constitutes part of what is called the top-down knowledge of a text. If students do not have the _______, or if the_______ is represented differently in their own culture, or if they simply fail to access it, they will have to rely on bottom-up processing alone, ie, working out the meaning from the vocabulary and grammar. Thus, teachers can help learners understand a text by priming them to activate the appropriate _______. One way of doing this is to use contextual information, such as titles, headlines, pictures, as clues as to what the text is about. Another is to ask them to brainstorm what they already know about a topic. (6 letters)
6 – [SLA] _______ is used metaphorically to describe the temporary interactional support that is given to learners while their language system is ‘under construction’. It is this support – from teachers, parents, or ‘better others’ – that enables them to perform a task at a level beyond their present competence. The term derives from sociocultural learning theory, which views learning as being jointly constructed. _______ is an integral part of this model. In first language acquisition it has been observed that children, even at an early age, are able to participate in conversations because of the verbal _______ provided by their caregivers. (11 letters)
7 – [VOCABULARY] _______ is a word that is written and pronounced the same way, but have different meanings. (7 letters)
8 – [METHODOLOGY]_______ is the process of helping learning to happen. It is a way of thinking about teaching that recognizes the fact that teachers do not directly cause learning, but that they can provide the conditions in which learning happens. This notion comes partly from humanist educational theory and partly from critical pedagogy, both of which credit the learner with agency in the learning process. That is, the learner should not be seen as the object of the verb to teach, but the subject of the verb to learn. It is achieved by managing the learning situation, including the dynamics, in a way that is conducive to learning. The role of the teacher involves, therefore, not just knowledge of teaching techniques and subject matter knowledge (such as grammar), but interpersonal skills as well. A good example is in community language learning, where the teacher’s role is primarily that of a consultant, providing learners with the language they need to construct their own conversations. (12 letters)
9 – [METHODOLOGY]_______ ELT is the name of a loose collective of teachers who challenge what they consider to be an over-reliance on materials, including published coursebooks, in current language teaching. It was inspired by a movement in which a group of Danish film makers who have vowed to rid cinema of a dependence on technology, and to produce films using minimal means but for maximal effect. Accordingly, _______ ELT argues for ‘a pedagogy of bare essentials’, that is, a pedagogy unburdened by an excess of materials and technology, a pedagogy grounded in the local and relevant concerns of the people in the room. (5 letters)
10 –[LINGUISTICS] A _______ is a collection of actually occurring texts (either spoken or written), stored and accessed by means of computers, and useful for investigating language use. The use of _______ (plural) for researching language structure and use has led to the development of grammars and dictionaries that claim to be more reliable than their forbears, in that they are based on attested (ie, real) data. Dictionaries, for example, can now present the different meanings of a word according to their relative frequency, and can include the most commonly occurring collocations of a word, as well as using authentic examples, rather than invented ones. One way that _______ information is often presented is in the form of a concordance (a list of words, along with each word’s immediate context). (6 letters)
11 – [METHODOLOGY] A _______ is a classroom activity whose focus is on communicating meaning. The objective of a _______ may be to reach some consensus on a issue, to solve a problem, to draft a plan, to design something, or to persuade someone to do something. In the performance of the _______, learners are expected to make use of their own language resources. In theory, a _______ may be receptive or productive, and may be done individually or in pairs or small groups. However, in practice, most activities that are labelled as such in coursebooks involve production (either speaking or writing, or both) and require learners to interact with one another.
Did you guess? Comment and share!
In case you would like to print this, click here.
Source: An A ‑ Z of ELT: A Dictionary of Terms and Concepts Used in English Language – Scott Thornburry
Hoje, às 22:00 (UTC -3), teremos um BrELT Chat que promete ajudar muitos professores que estão pensando em “mudar de área”. Se você quer se tornar um professor em escolas bilíngues, não perca o chat de hoje! Clique aqui para confirmar sua presença no evento e receber as notificações. Clique aqui para acessar o link do chat.
We have invited two specialist teachers from Richmond to talk about a subject that we feel is rather important for Education: social emotional competences.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Share them with us!
Lívia Mantovani and Sheila Saad are both ELT editors at Richmond Publishing. They hold a BA in English and an MA in English Language and Literature. They have taught English as a Second Language for over ten years.
- Why do we need social and emotional learning competencies?
We have struggled a lot to write this article because we were too worried about technicalities. But, then, it occurred to us that social and emotional learning (SEL) competencies are anything but technical. And that is exactly why we need them right now. In Brazil, with our crowded classrooms, we have never really given personalized learning a try, at least not outside elite schools. Everything comes to numbers in the end. This is how we define who goes to college. And this is how we decide whether a school is good: if it puts our kids into college. But the time has come for us to ask ourselves: are numbers enough?
It is no news that an emotionally distressed student does not do as well at school as the others. So, if anything, working on students’ SEL competencies smooths the path for the contents they have to learn. When developing SEL competencies, students learn to cope with their own and others’ expectations, which ultimately can impact their performance. Since the act of learning is essentially social, the ability to make conscious choices and interact with people enables them to make the best of their school years. Finally, this approach improves students’ well-being and directly impacts their results at school.
In addition to the academic benefits of working on students’ SEL competencies, let us also look at them as people who matter more than their grades. There is a saying in Brazil about “education coming from home”. It means that kids’ families are responsible for shaping their character and that the school’s job is to teach them “the academic stuff”. Tempting as this saying is─since it exempts schools from responsibility toward students’ characters─it could not be more untrue. A kid’s education comes from everywhere: home, school, TV, the internet, parks, shopping malls, the subway etc. And worrying about students’ SEL competencies means to acknowledge this and step up to the challenge.
After all, we want our kids to grow up to be adults who can keep their relationships and jobs, who are prepared to deal with conflict and unexpected situations, who are responsible drivers and care about public property and who can deal with the dashing changes in our globalized world. We have been asking ourselves what kind of world we want to leave to our kids, but we should also ask ourselves what kind of kids we want to leave to the world.
Maybe one of the most difficult aspects of working with SEL competencies in our schools is the fact that they cannot be assessed with grades. There is no accurate test to check if a student’s self-awareness or creativity has improved over the school year. Life itself is the ultimate test. So, we must be brave enough to, for once, prioritize students as people rather than their grades.
This does not mean that there are no methodologies for developing students’ SEL competencies. Quite the opposite. Teachers all over the world have been working on them and educational publishers have been developing materials to help them tackle this task.
It is not easy, especially in Brazil, with our aforementioned crowded classrooms. And maybe we will not see the effects of our hard work in the short term (although chances are that we will). But we need to try it. Our students deserve it and so does our society.