Thursday, 7 July 2011

What? No books?

Martin Sketchley writes interesting morsels on his blog ELT Experiences and shares on twitter as @ELTExperiences.

Recently I came across a brave video of him teaching his class with his pants down - not literally, I assure you...but for a lot of teachers not having a table to lean on or a book to prop us up, 'dogme' means the same thing. Dogme is a bit of a buzzword at the moment, and seems to be the Marmite opposite to Web 2.0. You either like one or t'other.

Personally, I can't see the point of slagging one approach off, when maybe next week another angle of attack will work just as nicely! For example, my students rely heavily on their books...when I want them to become a bit more independent I often move books (open) to the far end of the room. Same with electronic dictionaries (I hate them with a passion!). If students want to have a peek, they can, but it is just enough of a nuisance to go and do so, that a remarkable flash of inspiration or memory comes to the rescue. Funny how that works. However, they'd find it very hard to join up their learning without a book at all (and find it intimidating). I do not have enough tricks up my sleeves to bedazzle every lesson, either.

Marmite jarsImage via Wikipedia"Teacher uses twitter shock". A lot of people don't get twitter. I don't get how they don't get it - for work at least. How else would I have come across Martin's ideas & found a new way for my business class to get their brains going a bit quicker? Followed a short link to his video on my phone while I was waiting for train, and filed the idea away for a very rainy day. That was Monday evening, and I wanted my students to 'hurry up' and activate a fluency issue which has been slowing them down/tripping them up. Namely, using /to/ or /ing/ after certain verbs (which they were familiar with - mined a reading passage for them, sorted them, reviewed as homework, did pair work...)

I enjoyed the view from the other end of our classroom table, handily next to the coffee & biscuits. I offered them a verb from our list, and asked them to move to the /to/ side or the /ing/ side of the board (or the middle, one or two take both of course). I enjoyed the "I'm right/you're wrong" that this produced, and the kudos it gave the less able students who had done their reviewing properly versus those that had not done it thoroughly.

Once the grammar was agreed (checked at the annoyingly distant book if necessary - I was tempted to charge for this/add an element of time perhaps) students were then challenged to quickly come up with a suitable sentence using the verb properly. I didn't say anything, but pulled a face or used my body language if I heard something a bit out of place - encouraged them to look at their listener, to listen to each other closely, & to be competitive/nick each others threads.My plan was to do this  for about ten minutes, but they got so animated I let it run - standing up they were gesturing a lot more than usual, interrupting each other, and reacting much more forcefully. They were visibly annoyed when we ran out of words!

Fortunately, Martin does not run out of words. Check out his blog some time - your students won't notice but you might get an extra cup of coffee out of it!