Ideas and Benefits of The Flipped Approach

Ideas and Benefits of The Flipped Approach

Last year, I was approached by a deputy director of a chain of schools, quite popular in Delhi, who wanted me to deliver a webinar on flipped approach (henceforth FA), also called ‘flipped learning’, to their teachers pan-India because they had observed me deliver a webinar on ‘communication-rich lessons using the flipped approach’ with the British Council. They even scheduled me for a call with their head of HR, which got me really excited. Unfortunately, it never took off, however, now that I have decided to pen down my thoughts more regularly, this is a good opportunity to share my learning and success using the FA.

Let’s start with how some of us perceive the FA.

I found this on Lesley University’s homepage. It’s simple, to the point and has ‘active learning’ included, though I would not restrict the assignment(s) to just viewing, but add in a couple of quick activities too post-viewing.

For an ELT enthusiast, The Flipped Institutes description would resonate better.

 “Less ‘sit and listen’ equals more ‘do and learn’ — and the flipped model is making class time more enjoyable, productive and engaging for students and teachers.”

From my experience, in a few words,  it is a technique to make my synchronous live lessons genuinely communicative (using the language for real conversations).

How I do it

 

It starts right from filling out the needs analysis and GTKY forms. These filled out forms form the basis of selecting and/or creating content for the course. As our courses are co-constructed with the learners (henceforth Ls/L), I don’t usually have a fixed road map. It’s quite fluid that way. As we progress, we may adapt, skip and/or add topics as per our Ls needs, wants and areas of challenges found on the way.

I use a lot of YouTube video content as a pre-lesson activity which is followed by one or more tasks to check their comprehension or to highlight an important concept.  I rarely need to screencast myself to introduce a new topic. Why reinvent the wheel when your fellow ‘teachers’ on YouTube have done the favour for you? They get the views and you can concentrate on creating pathways to facilitate the content instead of spending time creating it. It’s a win-win situation.

My first couple of business English or ESP lessons almost always deal with writing smart goals, and discussing the way people, especially polyglots, learn languages. In preparation for the lesson, they have to watch a short tutorial on SMART goals and Lÿdiá Machová’s TED talk and complete a short task(s) (writing their own goals/gap-fill/MCQs/etc.).  In the lesson, we discuss (Ls are encouraged to use L1) how they (Ls) have been learning English so far, what they find interesting and challenging, what they think about polyglots’s approach to learning a language and how different it is to theirs. To let them know I understand the frustrations and triumphs of learning a language, I share my ongoing experience of learning their L1 (Thai).

For my IELTS learners, almost all of my lessons have an element of FA. For instance, the other day, I shared a video of a YouTuber cum online IELTS teacher (IELTS Jacky), explaining the different types of writing task II essay and their basic structures. My Ls had to find out the different types, then had to read through a few sample IELTS writing task II questions and guess the type. During our live synchronous session, we discussed, confirmed and clarified the different types of essay. Later, we even discussed the typical essay structure. Just imagine how much time we saved by covering the factual content pre-lesson.

On another occasion, Ls had to watch a video (IELTS Liz) explaining the type of questions to expect in speaking part I. Later, they had to choose three topics from a list of common IELTS speaking topics and create five part I questions from their understanding of the video. During our live synchronous session, we role played part I using those same questions they had created. This not only saves an abundance of our time but fosters autonomy, a sense of ownership and co-construction of content. Furthermore, it adds to my ever-expanding materials treasure trove, as I recycle these questions with other sets of Ls too.

For Ls with limited language abilities and competency, I create customised lessons based on Dr Gianfranco Conti’s sentence builders’ (SB) approach. SBs are a great tool to ensure Ls come to the lesson with a strong awareness of the meaning, pronunciation and structure of the target language, which creates room for a genuine communication-rich live synchronous lesson.

‘Post-lesson screencasting’ is something I picked up from Scott Thornbury on our GMILE course. On a couple of occasions, he wasn’t able to complete his planned input session, hence instead of going into extra time, he used screencasting to talk through the remaining part and shared the video post the session. We were more than welcome to raise any doubts or questions about the content in our shared forum or ask him personally in the next session. I have found this strategy quite useful especially on days when my learners and I spend time clarifying their doubts or discussing something more important to them than the lesson plan (LP). 😅

A month and a half ago, I had to submit a LP to the British Council (corporate division) in order to get shortlisted for a position. The lesson’s main objective was to help Ls identify the differences between past simple and present perfect. We had the liberty to choose any material we preferred. I could have played safe by selecting a typical content from a typical course book and writing a standard CELTA LP but that would have made me look like a hypocritical preacher of FA. After an hour or two of planning, I screen-casted a short video (two and a half minutes), wrote an audio script and asked my friend to record, created a couple of quick personalised controlled practice activities to highlight the language structure and pronunciation features et voilà! Two weeks later, I was called for an interview and just today, the contract was forwarded (What timing!).

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Going beyond materials, methods, techniques…

Going beyond materials, methods, techniques…

Post the success of the GMILE course with Scott Thornbury, a few of us (8 in total, from Brazil to Japan) decided to continue our journey on Stevick’s work and formed our own little community of practice and have been meeting every Sunday to discuss Stevick’s ‘Working with Teaching Methods: What’s at Stake?’ 1

If this wasn’t enough, I even cajoled my friend cum colleague to meet online to discuss those same chapters. I guess there is a different comfort level when you share with someone you have known a long while and whose work you immensely respect. Coupled with the fact that the colleague comes from the same country and has taught in similar contexts allows me to dig deeper in my awareness and beliefs.

The above two CPD practices reaffirms my belief that knowledge refines when it is actively shared with like-minded individuals. Consequently, I went a step further and volunteered, together with my friend cum colleague (mentioned above), to discuss Earl Stevick’s work along with our thoughts and our experiments with it via the Teacher Connect Time event organised by British Council, India. Staying true to my belief, I write this post to share about the event with you. The blogpost title comes from the event.

Prior to the event, we had floated a questionnaire requesting teachers and/or teacher educators to prioritise the following five categories as per their influence in a language learning classroom.

  • Materials

  • Classroom management

  • Methods & Techniques

  • Learner’s internal characteristics (motivation, self-belief, etc.)

  • Relationship among learners, and between the teacher and the learners in the classroom

66% of them ranked learner’s internal characteristics and relationships in the classroom as the top two factors influencing success in a language classroom, which is consistent with Earl Stevick’s much-quoted aphorism,

Success depends less on materials, techniques, and linguistic analyses, and more on what goes on inside and between people in the classroom.’ 2

Stories provide affordances to connect with people and ideas, hence we decided to lead into the discussion via a case study influenced from our experience but contextualised to our audience. We urged participants to share their thoughts on C’s feelings and its reasons.

We weren’t surprised when they highlighted issues with motivation, relevance, self-efficacy, classroom environment, agency, autonomy, competence, affective filters and a few more. This smoothly led us into the need to understand the ‘inside’ of a learner better. Here are our rationales:

  • to know what hinders or assists their learning

  • to personalise learning

  • to use differentiation in teaching and learning

  • to create a positive environment where learners feel they are an object of primary value in a meaningful world  3

  • to know and be aware of the level of push/motivation they need

My co-facilitator summed it up well,

If we don’t know the learner better, I think, we are disrespecting the learner and the learning process.

Later we urged participants to share one activity they have implemented to know the ‘inside’ of their learners better. Here is a compiled list (not exhaustive).

This begged us to ask, “When should we think about the ‘inside’?”. One of the participants aptly responded,

before, during and after”.

In other words, when you:

  • plan a course

  • plan a lesson

  • are in the lesson (incidental learning)

  • reflect on the lesson

We then moved on to the ‘between’ aspect. Language being a social phenomenon, we use it to express what we have in our minds, as a result, the ‘between’ component becomes crucial in a language learning setting. To put it a little too plainly, we don’t make meaning individually and we seek social approval almost all the time. Jane Arnold says it well,

‘…the sense of self is greatly influenced by the individual’s relations with others.’  4

In our humble opinion, it is the teacher’s prerogative to build relationships and a positive classroom environment along with the learners.  A teacher must aim to:

  • resolve any friction

  • build a positive learning environment

  • foster and encourage learning values

  • lose control (not treat oneself as the only source of knowledge/information)

  • foster collaboration and learning from each other (peer learning)

  • provide a confirmation of their learning

So, how do we do that?

Finally, we shared a research study finding on ‘Teacher Confirmation’ practices. Kathleen Ellis defines teacher confirmation as,

the transactional process by which teachers communicate to students that they are endorsed, recognised and acknowledged as valuable, significant individuals’. 5

The study highlights ‘a large, significant indirect effect of teacher confirmation on cognitive learning.’ 6 So, what are these teacher confirmation practices? Inmaculada Leon in 2005 listed specific confirmation behaviours on the part of the language teachers. 7

The teacher

  • congratulates students verbally and non-verbally when they do something well

  • conveys to students confidence in their possibilities with encouraging comments

  • pays attention to what students say

  • makes eye contact and smiles at them

  • shows interest in answering students’ questions

  • shows interest in students as persons

Jośe Pinol in 2007 handed out questionnaires, with items relating to the language learning process, to secondary school students in Spain studying in the EFL context. The teachers were then given an explanation of teacher confirmation and asked to consciously incorporate behaviours listed on Leon’s teacher confirmation scale in their classes. With no other variations in the class content, after six weeks the questionnaires were again completed by students. 8

Notice the three words highlighted in the table. They reaffirm,

Teachers possess the power to create conditions that can help students learn a great deal – or keep them from learning much at all.’ 9

Thank you Soumen Das Choudhury for collaborating and refining my learning.

If there was one suggestion I could offer any language teacher worth their salt, please try learning a foreign language and observe the journey. It has been my best teacher.

Festive Greetings!

References

1 – Stevick, E. (1998) Working with Teaching Methods: What’s at Stake?, Heinle, Cengage Learning: pp 87-89.

2/3 – Stevick, E. (1980), Teaching Languages: A Way and Ways, Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle

4 –  Arnold, J. & Brown, D. (1999)  A map of the terrain. In J. Arnold, (Ed.), Affect  in  Language  Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

5/6 – Ellis, K. (2002) “Perceived teacher confirmation: The development and validation of an instrument and two studies of the relationship to cognitive and affective learning”, Human Communication Research 26, 2: 264-291.

7 –  Leon, I. (2005), La confirmación del profesor de inglés percibida por el alumno e Educación Secundaria. Unpublished MA thesis, University of Seville.

8 – Piñol, J. (2007), La influencia de la confirmación del profesor en el aprendizaje del inglés en ESO. Unpublished MA thesis, University of Seville.

9 – Palmer, P., (1998) The Courage to Teach, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Girish M

What CELTA didn’t, GMILE did.

What CELTA didn’t, GMILE did.

CELTA gave me tools, techniques and approaches but GMILE gave me something that is, if not more, equally important. 

In this post, I reflect on the recently completed course with iTDi.pro: ‘Great Minds in Language Learning’ (what a smart name to promote the course!). It was essentially an 8-Sundays gathering with teachers and teacher educators from around the world, and discussing eight different chapters from the book, ‘Meaningful Action: Earl Stevick’s influence on language teaching’. The sessions were led and facilitated by Scott Thornbury; a book in himself. 

Earl Stevick, who I had never heard of before, has made some tremendous contributions to the field of education and it’s a shame it took me eight years to find him but finally, I did. As the title suggests, the book is an exploration of ‘meaningful action’ for language teaching and learning, and a tribute to Earl Stevick’s work by various scholars and educators. 

Here is what CELTA didn’t tell me but GMILE did. 

“Success depends less on materials, techniques, and linguistic analyses, and more on what goes on inside and between people in the classroom.’’ 1

Apparently, this is no secret and it has been known for a while that to have a happy and a healthy memory of a language learning experience, there is a lot more involved than using the latest technology or methods. It’s just me who has been slow to catch up. In my humble opinion, this quote should be cited in every pre- and in-service teacher training program. 

Here the inside relates to a range of terms, such as learner’s motivation, beliefs, identity, self-concept, emotions, agency, autonomy, ideal and possible selves, etc.,  while the between relates to the relationship among the learners, and between the learner and the teacher. 

To be fair, CELTA did talk about and highlight the importance of rapport building in a classroom, which I believe is one of the key ingredients of a successful course recipe. Hence, in this post, I would like to indulge in the ‘inside’. 

The ‘Inside

Language is a part of our identity. We use it to express our thoughts, ideas, and emotions. When we are learning a foreign language, we aren’t only learning its rules or skills, we are also altering our self-image, because language is part of our social being.

“Every time learners speak, they are negotiating and renegotiating a sense of self in relation to the larger social world” 2

In the language learning process, beliefs play a huge role in determining the final outcome. It could be the beliefs we have about the language itself (it’s too complicated/fun/useless/etc.) or the process of learning (I must converse with a native speaker to learn the language/I should do grammar activities to improve my accuracy/etc.) or, as Jane Arnold 3 points out, in chapter 2, the most important belief is about oneself; whether we believe we are good at language learning or we believe we are making progress and can learn the language will ultimately play a huge role in our progress. A learner who believes s/he can’t learn the language is right. S/he can’t unless s/he changes this belief. 

An extension of beliefs is self-concept. It includes our behaviour, abilities and our unique characteristics. As learners, if we have a positive self-concept, we would be able to put in the necessary efforts to improve in a foreign language. As we improve and notice the progress, our self-concept is validated and we continue to make progress. Littlejohn, A4 explains in his book  how ‘Feelings of success fuels motivation, as achievement enhances self-image and confidence in an upward spiral in which increased levels of achievement-enhance motivation which in turn leads to further increases in achievement.

Unfortunately, the vice-versa is true too. With a negative self-concept, we would continue to struggle with our feeling of inadequacy and eventually without much progress would quit learning. The inner dialogue learners have is crucial. If they come to believe that they are not good language learners or this isn’t possible for them, then it is highly likely they won’t succeed at learning the language due to poor self-image. Thankfully, beliefs are dynamic and can be altered. 

As teachers, we can influence our learners’ self-concept and beliefs. Teacher confirmation plays an important role in fostering self-esteem. Here are a few specific confirmation behaviours 5 for us teachers. We appreciate learners (verbally or non-verbally) when they do something well, extend a vote of confidence in their possibilities with encouraging comments, give heed to what they say, make eye contact and genuinely smile at them, show genuine interest in responding to their queries or questions, take an interest in them as individuals. 

When a teacher accepts, respects and/or appreciates learners’ contribution, it validates their ideas and motivates them to invest further. They feel valued and are willing to risk more of their identities. It also reduces affective filters and makes them well-disposed to process the classroom input. This has a domino effect. Due to the stronger emotional connection built around the new language, they are now able to store the new language successfully and probably transfer it to their long-term memory. The more they process and comprehend, higher are the chances of their further classroom contribution, which in turn boosts their confidence and self-efficacy. The cycle continues….. The environment we create and the validation the learners receive creates a strong foundation to build a strong language learning path.

‘Teachers possess the power to create conditions that can help students learn a great deal – or keep them from learning much at all.’ 6

How did Mr Scott Thornbury practise what the book presents?

  • he addressed each participant by their name and remembered their nationality and current location (we were 18 of us from Japan to Brazil)
  • he always opened the zoom room 10 minutes prior for small talk (It wasn’t empty talk. He would recollect utterances from the previous conversations)  
  • he encouraged everyone to participate and sometimes nudged the quiet ones to contribute 
  • he never declined/rejected/opposed our responses/viewpoints; in fact, a couple of times my answers didn’t match the questions but Scott accepted it and validated it by highlighting its importance in another context 
  • he actively asked for volunteers to co-present on any of the chapters covered in the course
  • he gave constructive feedback only after I had insisted him
  • he didn’t preach, rather shared his experience and knowledge 
  • he kept the last session open by asking us to select a chapter for discussion 
  • he didn’t have a time-limit for participants to share their views, in fact, on a couple of occasions, he had to screencast the remainder of the session’s presentation (the man likes to talk 😉 ) 
  • he validated each one of us by responding appreciatively to our contributions in the discussion forum
  • (the best part) his humility, his genuine smile and his ‘ughhhhhhhhhhh’s too 😉 

From the book to my classroom

  • pay attention to how my learners feel or what they say in the classroom  (‘I feel nervous/excited’ / ‘You know today…,’ /  ‘I’m sorry. I don’t understand’)  
  • limit correction and increase positive reinforcement 
  • let them observe and comment on their achievements, be it however small 
  • remember they are learning the language for a purpose, find that out, felicitate it and validate it
  • intermittently, during lessons ask how they are feeling 
  • during reflection, ask when they felt least or most motivated during the lesson 
  • during reflection, ask what they could do today which they couldn’t earlier (be it however small) 
  • during reflection, focus on what they have achieved over what they could have or didn’t 

The materials, the content, the techniques, the methods are lifeless tools; it is the people in the classroom who add life to it and give it meaning. It should never be the other way around. 

Disclaimer: I did my CELTA in 2013, so I may be out of touch with the updated version of it.

References 

1 – Stevick, E. (1980) Teaching Languages: A Way and Ways, Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle

2 – Norton, B. and McKinney, C. (2011) ‘An identity approach to second language acquisition’, in Atkinson, D. (ed.) Alternative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition, London: Routledge, pp. 73-94

3 – Arnold, J., (2013: 29/30) ‘Meaningful Action: Earl Stevick’s Influence on Language Teaching’, Cambridge University Press

4 – Littlejohn, A., (2008) ‘The tip of the iceberg: factors affecting learner motivation’, RELC Journal, 39 (2): 214-25

5-  Léon, I., (2005) ‘La confirmación del profesor de inglés percibida por el alumno en Educación Secundaria,  unpublished MA thesis, University of Seville

6 – Palmer, P., (1998) The Courage to Teach, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers 

 

How is learning Thai improving my teaching?

How is learning Thai improving my teaching?

I moved to Thailand a couple of years ago to be with my Thai wife. I started (and am still) learning the language with the help of a course book (Benjawan Poomsan Becker series), then tried a couple of language institute courses (not worth naming) and finally decided it would be better to chart my own learning journey. The purpose of learning was, and still is, to improve the quality of my life in Thailand, to be able to communicate with my in-laws and to build stronger rapport with my learners.

During learning, I have been observing and reflecting on my language acquisition process which has led me to introspect and question my beliefs on how a language is learned and what goes on in and among learners while they are learning. Of course, each learner being an individual entity, it is difficult to generalise but the introspection has challenged some of my core beliefs and has ushered changes in my teaching. Here are a few of them.

Teaching Listening

Before

Previously, I didn’t teach listening rather I tested listening through course book listening (gist/detailed/inference) tasks. The most unfortunate part was the fact that when my learners were unable to get the correct answers I wasn’t able to help them identify the stage where they lost out. All I told them was, ‘We need more practice’.

Now

While learning to listen to a foreign language a lot of things are happening simultaneously. We could break it down into the following stages:

Decoding – we ‘translate’ input into the sounds of the language

* (in English, those would be the IPA sounds we are trying to catch: /b/ + /ʌ/ + /t/)

Lexical search – we search for words which match or nearly match these sounds

* (we join the sounds together to identify words: /b/ + /ʌ/ + /t/  = but)

Parsing – we recognise a grammar pattern in a string of words and fit to a linguistic context

*  (‘but you told me’… we know it is a past situation and it contrasts the information it preceded)

Meaning building – we make sense of the utterance after having ‘broken’ the speech flow

* (‘…but you told me..…’ – speaker is complaining about something the listener said earlier

Discourse instruction – we connect the utterance to the larger context using background knowledge which compensates for gaps in understanding

* (…but you told me..…’ Imagine, we manage to decode only these four words in the entire sentence but we are aware that the speaker and listener are in a romantic relationship and the speaker is sad and crying. This might lead us to guess that the speaker is highlighting a lie the listener told the speaker earlier or they are breaking-up)

©️Listening as Modelling, Contification, Dr Gianfranco Conti

Now, right from the beginning of the course, I either explicitly or through scaffolding highlight the importance of listening and identifying sounds in English. I indulge them in various listening activities. Some are highlighted below.

  • Listening and transcribing short dialogues (one liners)
  • Decoding (utter a sentence with pronunciation error(s) and learners pick out the error)
  • Shadow reading (listen to a proficient speaker and repeat)
  • Delayed Dictation (listen, pause and rewrite)
  • Close pairs (learners listen to similar sounding words {accept vs except/called vs cold} and spot the correct spelling)

Designing a more synthetic syllabus

Before

Being a novice teacher, I relied heavily on course books. They provided a structure and easy materials. I thought language is learnt by breaking it down into grammar and functional language topics, and we communicate by bringing those pieces together bit by bit.

Now

Grammar is low on my priority list, especially when I am planning a course for my A1/A2 learners. I concentrate on high frequency chunks and patterns used in real-world communication.  For example, one of the first few important chunks I picked up while learning Thai was, ขอ_____หน่อยได้ไหมครับ (Can I have…, please?) /ขอโทษครับ___อยู่ที่ไหนครับ (Sorry, where is the…..?) / เท่าไหร่ครับ (How much?) The idea is to provide learners language they can immediately put to use outside the classroom and which is relevant to their personal lives. This makes them feel competent and boosts their motivation significantly.

For my exam-prep classes, especially TOEIC, the course book is used sparingly to consolidate or clarify grammar concepts and to provide test question practice.  Most of my materials comprise YouTube videos (short-films or short talks), blog posts, movies (‘Office Space’ is my favourite), songs, audio clips (famous movie dialogues), news articles (matching the test themes – health/hospitality/investment/etc.)

During classes, as I delve deeper in conversations with my learners, we tend to reveal our real personalities and characteristics. This not only builds trust but also allows me to understand my learners better, which in turn facilitates my selection of the materials for the class. This segues smoothly into my next point.

Having a Meaningful conversation

Before

I was taught during my teacher training that at the end of the lesson, learners should be able to produce the target language (henceforth TL). So, almost all of my lessons would end with some kind of production task (role playing/speed dating/writing a short text/etc.). That was evidence that my learners have understood and ‘can’ use the TL. However, the next day or the next week, a lot of my learners wouldn’t be able to reproduce the TL. Something was missing, apart from my inexperience and lack of awareness.

I vividly remember this one occasion where I was facilitating a class of adults at A2 proficiency level. The course book had a text of a passenger buying a bus ticket at the ticket counter. So, it was obvious to me to end the lesson with a ‘buying a bus ticket’ role play. Never did I ask myself if these learners have ever or would ever buy a bus ticket in their town or the ones around by conversing in English? I wonder how the ticket attendant would react if a local resident were to converse in English to buy a ticket. I dread to think what might happen next.

Now

In my Thai conversations with my in-laws, we talk about religion, politics, culture, current affairs, media, etc.,  all the *PARSNIPs topics you can think of, because our conversations are authentic. We share our true emotions and personal viewpoints. It is a part of our lives. Our conversations are cognitively and emotionally charged. That’s what makes them meaningful.

So, now when I plan my lesson activities, I carefully think of its authenticity, relevance, emotional connect and plausibility. Here are some examples:

  • share a time in the past when you felt excited/nervous/guilty/exhilarated/disappointed/etc (allows them to talk about past situations and use vocabulary for emotions)
  • present a social media marketing plan for the product you are trying to sell (one of my learners sells Cranberry Cornflakes online and is also a media analyst for a local firm)
  • close your eyes, imagine yourself in the near future speaking English fluently and confidently. Now, draw or write: where you are, what you are doing, describe the surroundings, how you feel (inspired from NLP visualisation technique).

*My learners are adults and we spend considerable time building trust before being comfortable to indulge into sensitive topics

Creating oppportunities for retrieval practice  

Before

At times, it would baffle and frustrate me when my learners weren’t able to recollect or failed to use lexis or grammar structures, as pointed out above, we had already covered during the course; sometimes, even when the TL was covered just a day prior. It led me to think that they weren’t putting enough effort into learning the language, which wasn’t necessarily true.

Now

There have been several occasions during my conversations in Thai with my in-laws or my wife, where I have horribly struggled to recollect  words: วัฒนธรรม (culture) and พยากรณ์อากาศ (weather forecast) are just two examples, which I have used and heard a few times in the past or when I would make the same grammatical structure mistake over and over again. I don’t know how long it took me to automatise this มันเป็นไปไม่ได้ (It isn’t possible.) structure. I, now, can clearly understand and relate to my learners frustration of trying to recollect words or frame sentences using the TL previously covered

For a lexis or a grammar concept to stick in our heads, we need to encounter it several times (see Hermann Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, 1885) and, also, it needs to be presented through different skills of language (reading/writing/listening). This makes retrieval practice (RP) activities highly essential. Some of the RP activities I employ are:

  • retrieval practice challenge grids (inspired by Gianfranco Conti’s work)
  • instilling the TL in my regular conversations with them
  • exit ticket (Ls share one thing they learned in the class before they leave the room)
  • consolidation activity (end of the week, Ls are indulged in a activity which would urge them to use the language covered that week)

 

For my A1/A2 learners, I write a customised course book and in each of the lessons the TL is presented in three skills (L/R/W – speaking is done with me in class) through various activities. Inspired by Dr GianFranco Conti’s E.P.I (frequent and extensive exposure to and production of key patterns through all four skills).

Following a principled eclectic approach

Before

I would go through a lesson in the course book and write a lesson plan following one of the approaches (PPP/TTT/Task-based/Text-based/TPR…..) learnt during my pre-service training.

Now

While learning Thai, I have not been acquiring language in a rigid pattern and from a constant source. I started learning Thai by following a language course book and picking up key phrases (and a long list of vocabulary, which I wouldn’t advise anyone to do) and learning the Thai script. I even enrolled for a language course at a couple of language institutes (was disappointed with their approach, hence didn’t continue and promised not to enrol for these courses again). Then, I slowly started reading short children stories, watching movies and TV series on Netflix, having long conversations with my in-laws, transcribing movie/TV series scenes, writing short personal texts or picking up key phrases and creating my own sentences.

It dawned on me, I enjoy learning what appeals to my personal interest, is of utility to me and is from varied sources.

When planning a lesson, I ponder over my learners’ needs, purpose, relevance, cognitive abilities, emotional factors, and motivation for learning. My lesson plans are shorter and have a lot of room for flexibility. I like what one of my course mates (on a professional development course I am on with iTDi.pro) had written in response to this question ‘Is your approach eclectic and principled?’ The metaphor she used is apt to describe my thoughts too. She says, “There is no method that fits everyone and can be applied everywhere. The methods are on the menu at our disposal and depending on the day, the season and the ‘customer’, we can pick up different elements of it and create a new variation; a meal never tasted before. Best recipes are not published in famous cookery books either; the content, ideas and principles come alive and become meaningful in the act of teaching, adapting, rejecting and risking” Thank you, Kata Ujvarosi.

Having said that, at the end of the day, the learner is more important than any specific approach.

Final thoughts

When we already have acquired a language, we unconsciously undermine the difficulties associated with learning it. Learning a new language puts us at par with our learners and can provide an insight on the challenges we face. I would encourage teachers to embark on a journey of learning a language, preferably their learners.

At the end of this year, I plan to take a Thai for Non-native proficiency test at Chulalongkorn University (CU-TFL), so wish me luck.

Cheers!