Grammar and vocabulary teaching: What a difference a brain makes

CriticElt

In my last post, I argued that Hugh Dellar’s negligent misrepresentation of grammar models of the English language, such as Huddleston’s (2009) or Swan’s (2005), and his inability to provide any clear description of an alternative  “bottom-up approach to grammar” combined to make his advice to teachers useless. In this post, I take a quick look at two texts that discuss aspects of grammar and vocabulary teaching, just to give some indication of how useful an articulate, well-informed discussion of such matters can be. The first is an article that appeared in ELTJ and the second a recent book which you can read a bit more about on Mura’s blog, where he interviews the authors.

Spoken Grammar: What is it and how can we teach it?

McCarthy and Carter (1995) argue that learners need to be given exposure to both spoken and written grammars, and that the inter-personal implications of…

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TEFL Workers of the World, UNITE! … or ATL, UCU or IWW

TEFL Guild

Workplace concerns and workplace representation still represents a major source of disquiet for TEFL teachers.

One of the main problems in presenting a united front for teachers is that we are so disparate. There is no single forum that represents TEFL teachers’ interests nor a common bond which unites us. The transnational nature of the industry is also a major barrier to organising.

However, there is increasingly a consensus that teachers need representation, and that this would benefit the TEFL industry as a whole. So, how do we organise?

… but which one? In an industry which tends not to be unionised, there are a number of choices for teachers. I know…

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How is everyone fine with this?

ELT Rants, Reviews, and Reflections

Recently I was discussing job ads for EFL jobs in South Korea with a friend (who also happens to be a former advisee and hopefully will be a future co-author).  After he’d  read a sampling of ads from a popular “ESL” jobs website he was struck by how few job ads professed any desire for teachers with experience, qualifications, or personal characteristics or anything except a heartbeat and an ability to acquire the appropriate visa. “How is everyone fine with this?” he wondered.

He said he couldn’t get his head around how these language schools seemed not to care at all about experience or anything related to the job itself. The idea of language schools in Korea (and indeed around the world) just looking for a young (White?) face with “the right” accent is nothing new but I thought his question was poignant.

He went on, “How can these school…

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Stand up and be counted – by Adam Beale

TEFL Equity Advocates

I recently started to apply to other academies here in Madrid. Several had been recommended by friends and colleagues and so I decided to send off my CV. I had an interview at one for a senior position, but no luck. I persevered and tried for another of the schools on my recommended list. Within a couple of hours of emailing them I received this response;

Hi there Adam,

Thanks for your email and interest in our schools. We are now holding interviews for the coming academic year 2016/17 between now and early September. Please get back to us and let us know which dates and times are good for you to attend an interview here in Madrid.

Our minimum requirements are that applicants be native speakers, hold a European passport (or have working papers for Spain),  have a degree, the CELTA (or equivalent diploma) and a minimum…

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From the other side of the firewall…

Thinking Change

by Will Cardoso and Divya Madhavan

About two years ago, we finished the respective Master’s degrees we were doing – Will at Bath, Divya at Exeter. While we both enjoyed the relief of no longer having the research and writing deadlines, we also experienced the same rug-being-pulled-from-under-our-feet sensation of almost instantly losing our our journal access while being handed the diplomas with distinctions. Losing the logins that give one access to an intellectual community can make it quite hard to fully celebrate graduating from such a community. In the fields like education and philosophy, we graduate wanting to read more, not less.

The firewall has two sides; the fee-paying students and faculty members who have access, and the former ones (and the ones who never gained access in in the first place) who don’t. The wall paints a particularly poignant image in the case of teachers, like us, because most…

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The Language Gym

CriticElt

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Gianfranco Conti’s The Language Gym is a blog, but really it’s a sales pitch for his book The Language Teacher Toolkit. Actually he’s the co-author but it’s hard to find the other bloke’s name.

There’s another web site too, with a front page that reminds me of Orwell’s 1984. Try it. I think it’s horrific, like you’re trapped, like you can’t get out, like you have to do the work out, like come on, sign up, follow. Conti’s approach to selling sends shivers up my spine.

The book is preposterous. It claims that the tools it describes can successfully help teachers to get learners to transfer knowledge held in some version of working memory to some version of long term memory, and then ensure some version of communicative competence. It’s gung-ho this-is-the-way crap. It’s soaked in half-baked references to SLA theory, and it gets it all wrong.

Conti and his co-author use the distinction between working memory and long term…

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Real Tasks Guide Long’s TBLT

Excellent summary of TBLT from Geoffrey Jordan.

CriticElt

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TBLT stands ELT on its head doesn’t it? What’s a task, anyway? My posts on TBLT have led various people, many of them MA students, to ask me to clear up some misunderstandings. So here I offer bits and pieces from Mike Long’s 2016 article which I hope will clarify his version of TBLT. As usual, I’ve torn his well organised, well written article to shreds and, as usual, count more on his friendship than on his tolerance of academic sloppiness to forgive me for all its faults.

I haven’t put it all between quotation marks, but it’s all his work.

Long opposes coursebook-based product syllabuses. 

Research has shown that L2 grammatical development does not follow an order externally imposed by a teacher or textbook. Instead, learners traverse developmental sequences, often producing utterances reflecting learner-created non-target-like rules in the process. Part of the definition of ‘developmental sequence’ in SLA is that it consists of a

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