I didn’t post a Delta Diary update last week as I discovered that this week had two weeks to complete one unit. EASY…right? Well as always I ended up filling the time I had rather than taking the time I would normally have. This wasn’t just a random happening, instead I chose to take an extra day off and spread my work load more. However, I also found certain units took longer than usually to read which added to the impact. This week also saw the start of revision from previous inputs and so the beginning of the end…or at least the end of the beginning (soon it will only be a month until my exam for unit one)
This unit we looked over task 1, 2, 3 and 4 for paper one which we’ve already looked at before. We went over some of the tips and advice to ensure that you get full marks for the activities. Partially this was repeating the same points we had looked at previously but it also included looking at more material that we had covered, reinforcing some of the key points (always give and example and extra information) and some more practice tasks. Very useful.
Spoken discourse and speaking
In many ways Spoken discourse complimented and backed up the input from “speaking” but addressed different aspects. Where as spoken discourse looked at more unique features of speaking and was directly applicable to task 3 in paper one, Speaking looked more at teaching speaking and theories about how this could be best achieved. So complimentary but not conflicting.
Speaking is just vocalising grammatical constructions isn’t it?…er. no, not at all (but I’m sure you knew that already).
Like written discourse, spoken discourse looks more at a “Genre” approach to viewing texts where certain different features are used or not. Yet again we see the CLOGS framework appear (It get’s around doesn’t it!)
However, it’s not just about what language features we use in different places. The act of speaking (Usually interactional and in real time) means that certain features emerge that we don’t get in written grammar. We might repeat things to make sure people have understood what we are asking. We might give (and look for) visual clues to show (lack of) understanding, and instead of going from A to B we may going all around the park touching on a whole host of different topics
So we can just give students some topics and some resources and let them talk right…well maybe. There is certainly some benefits to this but maybe there is more we can do to help students with speaking.
In many cases it seems to be a similar “encounter, raise awareness and then produce.” but it also pointed out the importance of helping students to understand the cultural and contextual context so that students can understand how the meaning might be different and how they should speak and listen differently for the different situation.
So it isn’t just a case of saying “SPEAK!” and then nothing happens (we also looked at some common reason that students don’t speak as well)
I sometimes wonder if reading is the most taken for granted skill, generally it is the skill that most of my students find easiest as it is receptive and doesn’t occur in “real time” and also occurs a lot in the class around the world (your more likely to have done reading than listening/speaking/writing at a guess). All this means that it can end up being neglected. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I wrote a blog post about reading and I don’t think I see as many on reading as other topics ( a quick look at the #eltchat hashtag on twitter starts to back my claim up!)
There was an interesting debate raised about whether we can/should teach “reading skills/strategies” (and if there is a difference between the two) but I thought the interesting comment in the text about reading strategies that students sometimes don’t think to use the strategies that they do in L1 when it comes to the target language (hence the very slow, read every word, look up every word to make sure you know it exactly…etc approach that we sometimes see.)
One of the points that it came back to again in reading was…Genre (surprise!)
If students aren’t aware of the features of this genre then it can lead to miss understandings of the meaning and intention of the text from the author.
At this point in the course I know that I’ve covered a lot and learnt a lot but I also feel a bit like the main lesson has been how to write for the exam and to phrase things in an “acceptable way” perhaps this is enhanced by not doing Module two at the same time (where you certainly need to apply these ideas in the classroom). However I am thinking much more about cultural and contextual issues that can block understanding and communication within the “four skills” and I’m definietly trying to take an approach of teaching skills and strategies more rather than just testing students capabilities.
The end of this unit means I am now over half way through the input and, as of this Wednesday I have only 5 more weeks before my exam :S Time flies