Written on April 15, 2013 – 1:54 pm | by Marisa Constantinides
Just got back from Liverpool IATEFL 2013 where I went for my annual inspiration shot – connecting with the profession and the latest ideas and concerns was an incredible experience once again
This year, and for the first time in a long while, I did a joint presentation with Shaun Wilden, co-moderator on the weekly #ELTchat hashtagged conversation on Twitter. We wrote our talk from our homes, in Athens and Oxford, and skyped, shared googledocs, used dropbox, twitter, and email to decide on our content, collaborate on our slides, create our talk.
We rehearsed our talk and our timings only once – just a couple of hours before the actual presentation!!!
So here are the slides accompanied by the podcast created by James Taylor, the third #ELTchat moderator present at this talk . You can also find and download the slides on slideshare and download the podcast here.
Written on March 24, 2013 – 4:55 pm | by Marisa Constantinides
Presenting language in small fragments hoping that they will one day automatically transform into fluent near-native talk may not be enough. My talk at TESOL Greece highlighted some ways in which skilled performers achieve excellence and focused on practical activities promoting holistic language learning using a variety of free online tools.
Photo by Mike Harrison
Fragments of knowledge
The standard practice of the Foreign Language classroom is to present language in fragments, smaller chunks, or grammar McNuggets. Scott Thornbury has invented the wonderful term Grammar MacNuggets, in the linked post on his A-Z blog.
Teachers do so in the hope that these partial views of language will one day be successfully synthesized to form a coherent whole in the learner’s mind, hopefully resulting in fluent output.
Research and experience have proved this inadequate.
Like a computer’s hard drive, all this fragmentation leads to slow processing. None of the applications we use on our PC’s really work well when the hard drive is fragmented.
In the same way, the ‘MacNuggeting’ of language knowledge bytes leads to fragmentation and lack of ability to access language and be able to use it in a natural and fluent way.
Holistic Activities as defragmenters
In this talk, I looked at the profiles of skilled performers, drawing analogies between what they do to achieve a polished and skillful performance and what this implies that foreign language learners ought to do in order to improve their productive skills – their performance skills, in other words, in the target language.
Suggestions for practical classroom activities focused on holistic language practices involving
Sustained talk / long turns
Engaging learners in higher order thinking processes
involving technology which promotes holistic learning rather than iterative practice
motivating learners to acquire language through collaborative and meaningful projects using a variety of Web 2.0 tools.
Skilled performers are both knowledgeable as well as skillful at what they do, so this talk aims to redress the balance in favour of increasing the frequency and focus of productive skills activities to promote more skilled/fluent and accurate language users.
Written on January 3, 2013 – 9:25 pm | by Marisa Constantinides
This post is long overdue but I thought it would make a fitting opening to 2013 as the talk I am reporting is one of the most interesting ones I followed in 2012 and adds to what many colleagues will have read of the work of Dr Stephen Krashen.
Dr Krashen’s talk, ‘Technology: useful tool if used to create and enhance comprehensible input ‘, was one of the plenaries on the second day of ‘Wired in or out’ technology symposium at Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul on December 1 & 2, 2012.
Dr Krashen reviewed his Language Acquisition theory, and talked about the good (as he called it) war between the skill building hypothesis and the comprehention hypothesis, a war which is “good” in the sense that (1) it deals with the core issue of language education, and (2) we are learning from it.
He then quoted some case studies (including his own) and talked about input that is not just comprehensible but compelling as well. He also talked about the value of narrow reading, i.e., reading the same genre or the works of the same author.
Despite the lack of technology in his talk – one handout, no powerpoint! - his presentation inspired and engaged the audience. He is a great speaker, indeed!
Some Notable Quotes
“Twitter and Facebook are underground ways of getting information.They are indeed our underground for sharing and getting information, covering what the traditional journals do not cover. “
“The skill building hypothesis is delayed gratification, while the comprehension hypothesis is immediate gratification”
“Self selective reading is the way to go”
“Teenagers are probably oreading and writing more today than ever in history”
“If you give someone a prize for something that’s already pleasant, you are telling them it’s not pleasant” a quote borrowed from Alfie Kohn.
These are just a few of the great lines which I have included to whet your appetite and get you to listen to the talk itself.
Click on the title of the talk below to download the handout.
On listening to the talk again, I could not help but reflect how truly important narrow reading was for me and how it helped my own language acquisition.
Some unknown instinct drove me to scour the library shelves and go through all the works of every author I chose to read, or listen and transcribe the words of each and every song of each band or singer I loved as a teen. Surely, that is narrow reading and, quite possibly, narrow listening as well, although Dr Krashen used this term in a different way in his talk.
The other reflection I wanted to share with you is one about the notion of ‘compelling’ material, which Dr Krashen suggested in his talk. I cannot help but think how utterly boring or instantly forgettable a lot of coursebook materials can be and how easy it is for the language which they aim to teach to slip away without a handhold on any memorable events, stories or characters!!!
On the contrary, some of the greatest and most successful materials of all time have been those which had powerful or memorable stories in them – never mind the methodology; the texts and dialogues had exceptional memory value. And language acquisition seemed to follow suit.
One final thought which I wished I had raised at the end of the presentation, is the notion of incubation time for writing; which is something I entirely agree with and is indeed what happens to me when I write anything – even these lines are a revision, an addition to the post.
However, in terms of classroom time, this is not what most teachers can do with their learners, allow them indefinite or as-much-time-as-you-need-time in order to produce a piece of writing.
Has Dr Krashen turned against classroom instruction?
In an earlier talk, which you can follow here on You Tube, he talked about classroom instruction being necessary up to the intermediate level, a level needed for learners to be able to deal with their own learning. How will writing be taught then is an interesting question.
It would be interesting to find out how he envisages classroom instruction today, even in very broad terms.
Later, at the end of the symposium, Dr Krashen was kind enough to say a few words to me in a short interview.
Stephen D Krashen You can download some of the books freely as well as recent research articles
Every year, since I started blogging in 2009, I have made a point of writing an Edublogs Awards nominations blog post; I have got so much out of my own nominations that I always want to pass it on to someone who is getting started or who has contributed to my learning
Shellt Terrell @ShellTerrell She has lessons for us all!
Best group blog
This has to be www.eltchat.org It’s a blog maintained by its moderators but the content is co-created through the conversations of dozens of twitter teachers which are then
written up into summaries by a wonderful collection of ELT bloggers!!
Best edtech / resource sharing blog
Nik’sLearning Technology Blog because he always shares new technology tools but he includes highly reflective posts and discusses and evaluates them; combines technology with sound pedagogy
Best twitter hashtagblog
#ELTchat because it connects hundreds of ELT teachers every week on Twitter and keeps contributing to their development in a free and autonomous way; because it has created a PLN which is supportive and shares knowledge in a connected world.
GrahamDavies – who recently left us. He left so much behind which is still of
great value to all teachers who want to learn about ICT both through his
blog as well as his website and groups he created around his diverse
Do vote for them or your favourite bloggers because through their reflections we all learn to be better educators
Written on November 1, 2012 – 1:12 am | by Marisa Constantinides
Is she coherent?
Watch this much discussed video of a young beauty pageant contestant answering a question posed by the judges.
1. Is Miss South Carolina coherent or not?
2. Read this text and say if it is coherent. Try to answer the following questions:
Where was published?
Who authored it?
What was the author’s purpose for writing it?
These children can be said to have two three or more mother tongues neither language is foreign to that child even if one language is a foreign language for the vast majority of people in the childs birth country. On average in Europe at the start of foreign language teaching learners have lessons for three to four hours a week. The Welsh language is also compulsory up to the age of 16 although a formal qualification is optional..In some countries learners have lessons taken entirely in a foreign language for example more than half of European countries with a minority regional language community use partial immersion to teach both the minority and the state language..In 1995 the s White Paper on Education and Training emphasized the importance of schoolchildren learning at least two foreign languages before upper secondary education.
Scroll down to the end of the post view the answer.
Review the following definitions and choose the best one (or the one you understand best):
Robert De Beaugrande and Wolfgang U. Dressler define coherence as a “continuity of senses” and “the mutual access and relevance within a configuration of concepts and relations” . Thereby a textual world is created that does not have to comply to the real world. But within this textual world the arguments also have to be connected logically so that the reader/hearer can produce coherence.
Coherence is the quality of meaning unity and purpose perceived in discourse. It is not a property of the linguistic forms in the text and their denotations (though these will contribute to it), but of these cover forms and meanings interpreted by a receiver through knowledge and reasoning. As such, coherence is not an absolute quality of a text, but always relative to a particular receiver and context. A description of coherence is usually concerned with the links inferred between sentences or
utterances. It is often contrasted with COHESION, which is the linguistic realization of such links (Halliday and Hasan, 1976).
coherence n coherent adj
the relationships which link the meanings of UTTERANCES in a DISCOURSE or of the sentences in a text. These links may be based on the speakers’ shared knowledge. For example: A:Could you give me a lift home? B: Sorry, I’m visiting my sister.
There is no grammatical or lexical link between A’s question and B’s reply (see COHESION) but the exchange has coherence because both A and B know that B’s sister lives in the opposite direction to A’s home. In written texts coherence refers to the way a text makes sense to the readers through the organization of its content, and the relevance and clarity of its concepts and ideas. Generally a PARAGRAPH has coherence if it is a series of sentences that develop a main idea (i.e. with a TOPIC SENTENCE and supporting sentences which relate to it).
Ideas for Teaching Coherence
As definition 3 points out coherence in conversational exchanges includes less explicit links but written texts do although coherence refers more to the way ideas are related to one another
Cohesion is generally easier to teach as it involves lexical and grammatical links but coherence tends to be more difficult and it would probably involve quite a lot of recognition and analysis work on the information structuring of the genre you are training your learners to produce.
Activities which might encourage recognition and awareness raising – a few ideas:
ordering paragraphs into texts or sentences into paragraphs
inserting sentences from a list of relevant/irrelevant ones into a completed or incomplete text
completing a text where first – last sentence or first – last paragraph are given
discussing how ideas in texts are connected to each other – e..g. comparison & contrast ; cause & effect
appreciating how well written pieces are put together and analysing how the writer has achieved this effect.
Find a great collection of lesson plans here on a variety of aspects of coherent transitions in writing; although intended for K-12 students, ELT teachers can find a great number of ideas which can be easily adapted to the ELT classroom.
Please share your own ideas or links in a comment; if you have written a relevant blog post or found a great link, I hope you will!
Answers to thinking tasks
1. Not! (with all sympathy for this young contestant who blanked out in front of the cameras..There are follow-up videos where she explains all, in case you might want to use this in a lesson)
It is an irrelevant response to the topic of the blog post. Grice’s maxix of Relevance is flouted.
There is no internal coherence in the paragraph; although the sentences are connected by topic, it is not obvious how the ideas in the sentences are connected to one another .
The text, is a random collection of sentences, probably copied from various education sites and blogs that have to do with foreign language teaching – a stray and random collection. This is what blog spammers do: to get their sites listed, they put together paragraphs from various pages on the web and post, in the hope bloggers will not notice.
Interestingly, the mind of the reader who reads this text, attempts to find/discover some coherence in this text, simply because it has the shape and layout of a paragraph; hence we expect it to be coherent.