The problem with teaching language through integrated skills

Many of the books that we use to teach English nowadays, combine the skills. Although this seems to be in vogue, as someone on the ground, I wish there was more time to focus more on one particular skill.

Although integrated skills are meant to reflect the reality of language use, they fail to take into account a learners trajectory. When learning a new language, it takes time to master a particular skill.

Many teachers are not in control of their teaching schedules, and are likely following one that is centrally produced. My experience has been, that lower level learners are left struggling, and those above do not get enough time to practice. This becomes even more apparent when teachers have a finite amount of time to cover a course, and they are under pressure to keep up with everyone else, especially if they work in a large organisation.

Basically, as a practitioner, I believe that the introduction of integrated skills should happen at a later stage when learners have a stronger foundation in the new language.

This is no sentimental hark back to the past, it’s a genuine concern of someone who is teaching day-in-day-out.

Is anyone listening out there? What do you think?

A New Year one month too late?

Hi,

Whereas many people around the world are celebrating the beginning of the new year i.e. 2012 (Gregorian) many people around the world are more used to the Lunar or Hijri calendar. Today, on the 1st of January 2012 (Gregorian), the Hijri (Lunar) calendar date is the 7th of Safar, 1433. This is the second month of the year. The Hijri calendar also has 12 months. In case you are wondering why there seems to be a 600 plus year difference in the calendars, this is simple – both calendars have ‘spiritual’ origins. The Gregorian has origins in Christian tradition whereas the Hijri calendar has origins in Islamic tradition.

Here’s a 1 minute song to help people remember the months of the Hijri calendar. Have a good year ahead!! You could use this topic to create a listening, speaking, reading or writing activity.

Are book publishers killing teacher creativity and student learning potential?

Okay, so how many of you teaching English are using a text from a major
publisher? And how many of you seriously think that you, let alone your students are particularly enjoying the topics under the microscope? I mean, how does someone sitting in a dusty office in the middle of no-where decide what our students are going to learn and talk about. A few years back, I was teaching the topic of spanking to a group of Saudi students. Of course, this had nothing to do with their life experience, and the topic went down like a lead balloon! It
didn’t make for much interesting conversation.

 The other day, I started a discussion with my students about the latest smart phones. I mentioned the iphone, Samsung Galaxy, the HTC desire, the latest Blackberry Bold and a few other ‘in-phones’.

The students ‘pounced’ on the chance to talk about their phones memory size, whether Android beat IOS, and the various functionalities of the phones concerned. It goes without saying, that many of us are also ‘into’ these kinds of ‘in-things’. It was an opportunity to justify positions for choosing particular phones, and of course the resulting argumentation resulted in a lot of ‘talk’ – which of course was the desired outcome.

I find without reservation that most book publishers are way behind on interesting content. At times it feels like we’re stuck within a straight jacket that just does not give us the freedom to be creative. You have to focus on the content so that students perform well on the ‘achievement exam’.

The discussion on smart phones, fitted into the broad categories of technology, communication, computers etc. etc. Themes which are sometimes separated or combined as main topics within books.

My proposal is that within a teaching context, a collection of main ideas or topics should be decided by the teachers, and then teachers left to build whatever content they want around it – subject to the proficiency level of their students. Yes, build the content ourselves. We’re teachers, we’re meant to be
creative!

Collect the content that’s interesting to both sides (teacher and student) and start learning using more interesting content.

Okay, now I can hear many of you saying that if you have ten teachers, producing or acquiring their own content, doing their own thing, in their own class we’re going to end up with a bit of a ‘biryani’ or should I say ‘mix-up’.

If we take the example of travelling, whether you discuss the Bahamas, having a good time at a beach front, a trip to Tokyo or even Dhaka in Bangladesh, the
vocabulary used is going to be quite similar. The lexis students use will be very close.

All content areas have similar core vocabulary. No matter what you talk, read, write or listen about, the same words will be repeated across the classes, again and again.

The main topic or area acts as the starting point for creating content. The specifics of the content are in the teachers and students hands.

To summarise, teachers should have the freedom to choose whatever content they deem appropriate, look for content that is relevant and useful for students, taking into account student experience in their lives, and importantly items which are interesting and current.

Do you eat with your hands?


Hi! Although many of us may eat with a knife, a spoon or a fork, there are a lot of people who eat using their hands.  

Before you start thinking that it is rather disgusting licking your fingers after the end of a meal, research indicates that licking fingers helps the digestive process because it results in the release of appropriate fluids to help break down the food further.  I usually eat with utensils such as a knife and fork, and sometimes use my hands when eating pizza.

However, when in the mood, I’ll eat rice with my hands. Usually at home but even sometimes at weddings in Saudi Arabia. When in the UK (England) and in a public place, I revert to knife and fork. To be honest though, there is nothing like getting your hands dirty with some rice and lentils.  

How do people eat in your culture? Please add a comment below.

How To Write Reviews Of Gadgets – Teaching Ideas

Learning steps:
Step 1: Play the video and just listen to it. Make notes if you want.
Step 2: Try to answer the questions below.
Step 3: If you can’t remember everything, play the video again
Step 4: Try to answer the questions again.
Step 5: Now think about the video. Did you like it? Was it boring or exciting? Was it clear?
Activities:
What three things do you need to write a gadget?
How many steps are there?
Can you remember two steps?
How much does the average family spend on gadgets a year?
After the video has finished:
Write a few questions about the video to ask your classmates/friends/colleagues
What does tech-savvy mean? Are you tech-savvy? Discuss with your classmates/friends/colleagues