Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Is that really a solution?

Just replied to Blinger's post about the textbook 'SMILE'. I just couldn't help to say something good about it because I did have very good experience of using that textbook.

Blinger also mentioned that the author of the SMILE suggested that for each level it usually takes 3 months. This just made me think of the time when I was teaching English in Taiwan. Sometimes it was such a despressing situation that you couldn't make your students learn at the same pace. Older children are certainly quicker learners than younge children, especially for grammar and vocabulary. (I am not talking about long-term language acquisition situation because if we are talking about long-term learning, younger children seem do better). However, in Taiwan, or other EFL countries, language schools arrange their students to class according to their English ability, without regard to age differences. This just makes teaching become so difficult.

I used to have one EFL class, in which the oldest child is 12 years old whereas the youngest one is 7 years old. That class was certainly the toughese class that I had ever taught

At that time, I could notice that Janet (that oldest child) sometimes felt bored in class because I kept letting them practice the same sentence structure in different kinds of activities. According to the textbook syllabus, I needed to spend at least 2 weeks (that total 6 hours) teaching one lesson. However, at the same time, I also noticed some younger kids or slower kids had hard time to catch up.

I do believe many language schools have this kind of problem: not able to make the whole class learn at similar pace. Schools just couldn't do anything about it. I remember at that time I told my boss about this kind of situation. The answer was 'because of the budget, we need to have at least 10 students in one class'. At that time, I did understand the situation.

But... is that really a solution? We slow down fast learners' learning pace and at the same time we need to spend more time helping other learners who can't catch up.

If you have some ideas or similar experiences about this, please feel free to give me comments. By the way.. you can write Chinese here. 寫中文也可以唷!

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Review on Dave's Article- Let's not be Left Behind

I've just read Dave Sperling's article on ESL Magazine. It is quite amazing when searching 'ESL' on Google, you can always see Dave's name. Yes. I have encountered the same situations that Dave talked about in his article: 'teachers are afraid to get involved in technology'. Whenever I talk about utilizing computers to language teaching or other new perspectives on CALL, some teachers' responses are 'oh! that's too difficult for me' or 'Well...I don't know...I am sure that's good for teaching...but...'

I can still remember the excitement that I had when I learned about CALL the very first time. I can't describe that feelings...but I remember at that time I just couldn't wait to tell my boss about it.

I am actually very good at browsing websites though...but knowing ways to incorporate computer into language classroom is actually quite a new experience for me. I really can't wait to bring what I know about CALL back to Taiwan; I believe that by using technology in classrooms can make me a very cool teacher.

I believe most students nowadays have experiences on the internet, at least sending emails or using word processor. Like me, I sit in front of my computer at least 8 hours a day...I don't buy envelops and stamps anymore; instead, I use e-mails and e-cards to contact friends. Even now I am abroad now, 16 hours away from home, I can still use webcam to see my parents; it's just like home. It seems like internet just brings your loved person closer; communication is easier ever!! I mean... if most students are like me, rely heavily on technology, how can teachers know nothing about computer and internet?

So... come on!! We teachers need to keep learning new things...for nothing, just to keep catch up with our students.

CALL for Teachers of Ethnic Communities

CALL can certainly help supporting indigenous or less commonly taught languages such like Arabic, Korean, Chinese, Hungarian...and etc. For this semester, we are doing a CALL project which is going to provide teachers who teach less commonly taught languages new perspectives on CALL.

However, it is really quite depressing that not many schools have sufficient technology facility to support. Or teachers still prefer traditional teaching (eg. use textbooks, blackboard...). It, therefore, becomes so difficult to build something...i mean..if we do not know what our clients want, how can we have something terrific come out??

Anyway...if you accidently see this blog and you are also teaching languages other than English, you may find something very interesing and helpful in this community CALL for Teachers of Ethnic Communities . Please come by and let's have a talk!!

CMC-does writing training help speaking proficiency?

These days I've been thinking how blogs can help learners develp their speaking proficiency; since I knew the term CMC (Computer-mediated-communication), I read a lot of articles describing about how computer can provide global communication, enhance students' motivation, improve students' writing skills...and etc. Let's just not talk about the chatting tools! what about e-mails and blogs??? Yes, I do believe that they both can improve students' writing skills when globally communicate with others. What about their speaking ability???

It is proposed by Braine in his article 'Using Lans' that when students write in the target language, they actively think about the content(Fotos &Browne (ed.), 2004); i would say this is quite similar to the way how information is processed and given out in speaking tasks. Hmm...does that mean that training students to write can also improve their speaking???

Just like now...I am writing something..and at the same time I am kind of speaking to myself... speaking and writing and both kind of 'creation' and 'language output'.

I would say the output for both kind of communication can be similar; in writing forms, we can use symbols to express emotions :p we can kind of exaggerate our language by using CAPITAL LETTERS or changing the spelling (eg. you are soooooooooooooo beauutiful!!).

However, when giving output, we need to understand input first, especially in speaking task. To be able to understand someone is a prerequisite; listening and speaking, however, are very different.

So...I would like to assume that trainging students to write may not necessarily help them in spekaing; or probably may not 100% helpful???

Monday, September 20, 2004

Reflection on Commnets- create positive monitor for students

Thanks for Prof. Warden's comment on my views on error correction. Cuz I want to make some links in my reply, I choose to post my another view here (still not quite familiar with the interface ><) Firstly of all, I am glad to see your research paper regarding to writing error correction. I agree with you. In Asian cultures such like Japan, Taiwan, or China, error correction is viewed to be very important; this is because teachers strictly focus on grammar and vocabulary instruction. I think the interlangauge hypothesis (Selinker, 1982) is mainly talking about spoken errors. I would like to reflect on Krashen's the monitor hypothesis that claims that when learners have more time to 'plan' their spoken output, they are likely to perform better. In other words, although learners know the rule, in the very quick turn taking conversation, they still make errors, which can be an evidence that they may just 'learn' the rule rathe than 'acquire' it.

In my opinion, no matter written or spoken errors, I do believe 'practice makes perfect'. In written task when learners have time to plan their output, explicit instruction is definately important. And...if we are talking about spoken errors, well, I would still anticipate my students to know how to use correct words or grammar; probably it can be 'positive monitor' when they are talking in the target language

Saturday, September 18, 2004

correcting students' errors??

i've just done a very little research on Selinker's (1972) interlanguage hypothesis, which hypothesized that L2 learning pattern is very similar to the L1 learning sequence; learners follow a certian learning stages to give hypotheses about the target language and test them in order to reinforce the knowledge. This hypothesis seems to suggest us that 'learning sequence can't be changed' and therefore when learners make errors, we should take those errors as learning steps, rather problems.
Well, if that's the case, then...what are language teachers for???
According to Krashen's idea, teachers should always respect students errors and only let studnets to correct their own errors. Joe (one of my classmates) also said that he found correcting studnets' errors never works! and today... when i was browsing linguistic logs, I came across David and Scott's idea exchange, which was very interesting as well.
I don't know... I guess I still belive explicit instruction about the target langague is still important. I mean whenever my students make errors, I just can't ignore them. I think I would like to give a try...although it probably will not help.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

my first published article

Today's my lucky day!! I've just got my first article published on an on-line TEFL journal. Though it's a very small journal, I still felt quite excited to see my name (Chinese Name) on the web. Haha. ^^ Well, that article is about how language teachers can use corpus in vocabulary classrooms. Well, cuz i'm doing CALL (Computer-Assisted Language Learning), definately need to write something about computer lo~ anyway..if you guys are interested, please take a look and feel free to give me comments.

first time using blog

my first time using blog... actually i just want to try how this works...and probably i can make friends. Since i'm not a native speaker of English, i'm not very used to write something in English...haha~ BUT! for knowing how this works (so i can write an article about how blog can help learning a second or foreign langauge), i just gave a try!