The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And Miles to go before I sleep,
And Miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost (from ‘Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening)
While taking any kind of voyage, it’s amazing that we reach to a novel land, and at times we happen to traverse through some ups and downs, a kind of plain route or convoluted trajectory, be it in the physical world where we happen to reach the plain land and express ‘Wow! This is how the world is structrured’ and in a steep hill through convoluted paths with a lot of bends and happen to express ‘Amazingly steep structure. Wow!’ or in an academic world where we explore new insights with enough analysis and critical reasoning. This time we have reached an experience in our blog journey where every blog entry happens to lure you to think for some time to cry with ‘Yes, this is what I am looking for.’
We never get gratified with the academic journey that we traverse. Something new, something innovative always gets formulated, and we want to be familiar with them to sustain ourselves in this world. Some people seem to be ever inquisitive who happen to supply some new thoughts as if they are the regular suppliers, and other good chunk of people happen to devise their own with the help of these thoughts and walk together, and there is a good deal of people who consume them and dwell in this academic world.
Indeed as Frost states in his last stanza, we are lured and convinced so much by some writings, and these blog entries are the true examples. But let’s remember these are writer’s hands-on experiences which unleash new techniques, strategies, insights and thoughts that we need to imbibe and implement adapting to our context with the promises before we sleep. We have to walk miles and miles to reach the zenith of our ELT world where we can sense a true pleasure and state ‘Yes I could reach where I wanted to.’ It’s how we sustain ourselves.
Let’s unleash new ideas now with Christine Pearson Casanave in her ‘On Writing Teachers Researcher Narratives’ where she has encouraged us to create our own narratives with meticulous editing. Similarly, Z. N. Patil and Kiran Patil mention some specific roles of context in comprehension and highlight how foreground and background information creates context for us to understand any text. On another blog entry, Charles Jeffrey Danoff talks about Peergogy on Facebook with his own experience. He also mentions how it can be best implemented in ESL classroom. From Nepal the teacher educator, Tirtha Karki comes up with some practical activities of using short stories in EFL classes. He has explained why and how short stories are useful and unfolded the ‘what aspect’ linking many activities to it. Last but not least, Joya Ssenchowa from India comes up with the idea of multi-grade and multi level teaching. Even if it seems archaic in many contexts, she shows how it can be effectively implemented as in many part of the world this is being practiced, her context being an example.
Let’s travel with these scholars and unleash the ELT beauty with new insights. Thanks
On Writing Teaccher-Researcher Narratives
Christine Pearson Casanave*(email@example.com)
In this short essay, I describe briefly what narratives are, discuss some issues in narrative writing, and make a case that language teachers and researchers can contribute to their own and others’ professional lives by writing and sharing tales of their own lives as language teachers and researchers.
When people construct oral or written narratives, about themselves or others, they are assembling fragments of a life—memories, recent and past events, emotions—into meaningful wholes (Bruner, 1987, 1991; Polkinghorne, 1988). In this sense, narratives really are constructed; they are not truthful and factual accounts no matter how accurate a narrator tries to be. Memories are always imprecise and selective. And when they are written up, either by the person who lived the experiences or by the person who was told the stories, more selection and tinkering happen. In other words, a published narrative, whether in print or online, represents a person’s life only partially. We might learn only what is salient in the narrator’s memories (this in itself is interesting) and only what the narrator chooses to share in public.
That said, personal narratives are not the same as fiction. Truths, no matter how partial, selective, and adjusted they are, are woven into narratives such that readers and listeners can participate to some extent in another person’s life. Insights can be derived from a well-told narrative that can help us reflect on our own lives. I am interested in the lives of language teachers, students, and researchers, and the narratives that they construct about themselves and their work. What motivated my first edited book (Casanave & Schecter, 1997), a collection of personal tales from well-known language educators, was that the authors’ lives were all invisible. I had read their published writing, but could not see them in their writing as people with complicated lives and professional trajectories. I wanted to know more about them—what motivated them, where their interests and passions came from, what paths they followed to become well-known educators, and what challenges they faced in their own teaching, research, and writing. Maybe I could learn something about my own life in the field of language education by reading their stories. But the stories had to be engaging enough to keep me turning pages. Continue reading →
The Role of Context in Comprehension
Z. N. Patil* (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Kiran Patil*(email@example.com)
Language is a key to communication. It works as an instrument in the communication process. Therefore, language skills are essential for any communication to be successful. Language skills include receptive skills and productive skills. Listening and reading are receptive skills, while speaking and writing are productive skills.
When authors write books or speakers deliver speeches, they use language creatively. This process requires an author or a speaker to employ their productive skills. The language produced is then delivered to readers or listeners in the form of a book or a talk. The author and the speaker are called ‘creators’ or ‘senders’ of messages encoded into language.
When a reader reads a story or a listener listens to a speech, they receive messages expressed in novel ways. So, the reader and the listener are called ‘receivers’ of messages dressed in language. The receiver then processes this language. This processing helps them understand the meaning of what is being said or left unsaid by the sender. This process employs the receiver’s interpretive skills.
There are many situations in which we utilize our receptive skills specifically for a reading purpose. Reading a story, a newspaper article or a script of a play are some ordinary examples. Similarly, there are many situations in which we employ our receptive skill of listening. Listening to news on television, to a debate or a speech delivered by a celebrity are instances of exercise of the receptive skill of listening.
The four language skills are important. Therefore, when we learn a new language, we must develop all the four skills. Usually, most learners begin learning a new language with the help of receptive skills and gradually start practicing their productive skills. Remember, extensive practice of receptive skills leads to improvement of productive skills. In short, the linguistic inputs that we receive through listening are stored in our minds for later use. This language is essentially utilized at a later point in time to produce new messages expressed in novel combinations of language elements. This reiterates the fact that one must first be a good listener or reader before one becomes a a good speaker or writer. That is why they say that a good writer must be a good reader first and a good speaker must be a good listener first.
No doubt, speaking and writing skills are important. However, we cannot ignore the importance of reading and listening skills. The better you receive ‘new language’, store it and process it appropriately, the better you ‘create’ new language. Needless to add, the better you create your language, the easier it is for you to convey it to your addressees. This helps them to interpret it easily and effectively. This facilitates successful communication.
When a speaker or writer says something about people, places, objects, processes, events, situations, etc., s/he creates a specific context. The context may be explicit or implicit. Subsequently, listeners and readers reconstruct a context from what they hear or read. This process is called ‘reconstruction of context’. It depends on many factors. Therefore, many times it is convoluted and complex. If the sender fails to provide clear, complete and comprehensible context information in his/her message, the message can have multiple meanings. In such situations the receiver often misunderstands the message or interprets the message in a way that there is a mismatch between speaker’s/writer’s intention and listener’s/reader’s interpretation.
There are different types of context: physical context, psychological context, and linguistic context. Physical Context relates to the activities that we perform. It illustrates the activities that are performed, the place where and the time when those activites are performed. As example, the sentence “I read a book.” offers information about the activity performed. However, the place and time information is missing from this sentence. On the other hand, the sentence “I read a book at the library every afternoon” has clearer contextual information. It instructs us about the activity performed (reading a book), the place where it is performed (the library), and the time when it is performed (every afternoon). Continue reading →
Implementing Communicative Language Teaching in an ESL Classroom with Peeragogy on FacebookCharles Jeffrey Danoff * (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Peeragogy is a way to describe peer learning and peer production. For the past few years, I have been working with others to research how peers learn and how they learn best. Teaching English as a Foreign Language has long had an indirect peer component with many methodologies, especially Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), making use of pair work as students work together to complete assignments to improve their English language skills. As Jack Richards wrote in “Communicative Language Teaching Today” (2006):
“Communicative language teaching sets as its goal the teaching of communicative competence. … With CLT began a movement away from traditional lesson formats where the focus was on mastery of different items of grammar and practice through controlled activities such as memorization of dialogs and drills, and toward the use of pair work activities, role plays, group work activities and project work.”
To try and take that one step further in early 2014, I had my students try to develop a place online where they could learn English from one another online with as little teacher intervention as possible. Ideally they would take ownership over the activity and continue using after their participation in our school ended.
My class had 4 students at the time: a young man from Saudi Arabia, a gentleman from Brazil and 2 ladies from Thailand.
I gave the students each copy of the “Peeragogy in Action” portion of the Open Book (http://openbook.okfn.org/). It was over their level, but I have found success with giving students texts that are too difficult for them and then forcing them to figure it out in pairs or small groups. It does not work with all classes, but if you have a group that is willing to push themselves it works. Continue reading →