Monthly Archives: October 2007

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Large Class Sizes & Low-Tech Classrooms

What’s the magic formula I wonder? You are given  a mixed-ability class of ca 20 students, whose average level is pre-intermediate, and an upper-intermediate level multi-page coursebook to cover in ca. 50 90-minute lectures. How on earth is it possible to cover everything and to ensure that all the students have achieved the desired level of proficiency by the end of the course? How to focus on fluency if there is literally no time? How to work miracles if the only equipment available is a chalkboard and there is no CD-player? I should be grateful that it is possible to do some photocopying, though; nevertheless, the prospects are really bleak. To make matters worse, about half the students are technophobes or have no access to computers/the Internet or do not have good dictionaries.  Whatever they say, teachers can do very little without proper teaching aids in large mixed-ability classes, ie GIGO – it is unwise to expect great results if the initial input you can provide is meagre.

Lexis & Writing: Graph Descriptions & Headline English

I wonder whether it is really that necessary to be able to read and describe graphs in a foreign language. I have been teaching this skill for several years now, always going into minute detail, and can say that very few people actually need it in their jobs. They usually spend a few weeks learning all the possible collocations with synonyms of increase and decrease and the degrees of comparison of adjectives and adverbs. They then describe a number of graphs and charts, study model answers, and some of them eventually sit the exam and … archive the acquired skill:(

The same is true about the language of broadsheet headlines – it may be very exciting to learn, but how many students continue reading such magazines as the Economist or newspapers such as the FT after their Business English course is over?  I would certainly like someone to prove me wrong in this pessimistic assumption.  I put such a lot of effort in all those lessons that it makes me cringe at the mere thought that all this devotion is in vain, and the students will not need anything of the kind once we are done with the topic.

E-Moderating vs E-Learning Management by Objectives

I am gripped by the book I am reading now – it is unbelievable how much more advanced DL & VLE use is in some countries. They have been doing what I am just considering trying since the ’90s!

The more I learn about TESOL & CMI, the more I tend to believe in the managerial nature of both.  More than that, there is a clear need for some MBO (management by objectives), ie you should teach to the needs, it is necessary to organize the learning & teaching so that you could monitor, direct or lead,  test & assess (control) and review the needs and requirements list (redefine objectives) on a regular basis.

E-Moderating fits into this framework so neatly. In a way it is E-Learning Management.

What a mix!

I am teaching elementaries this year – this is very unlike me for I find this level somewhat tedious to teach.  To make matters worse, instead of two nationalities, I’ve got four – it is a real challenge, for I do understand what sort of problems Russians and Estonians might encounter in terms vocabulary, grammar or pronunciation, but I am at a loss when it comes to teaching Italians or the Polish:( They seem to be struggling with English sounds a lot more and I have to incorporate loads of pronunciation practice activities into my lessons as a result to cater for their needs.  Obviously, it does not hurt when we work on individual sounds and intonation more,  but that is a completely new  aspect of teaching – I have never devoted so much time to it before.  Another thing is that I have to use flashcards and other paraphernalia every now and then, which is something I am not very keen on either as that means becoming a backpacker again . The good thing is that the dynamics of the group are almost perfect, they are all very nice, smiley people, do their homework most of the time, hardly ever miss classes, are willing to collaborate and have all the oomph I could wish for, and that’s very rewarding.