ELT Traveller box

about teaching English to young learners, web tools and iPad teaching


2 Comments

Teacher Development – 12 things I learned in 2012

It’s time to wrap up the year. This is only a short post about 12 precious things I got to know this year. They are useful for me, I hope they can be so for other teachers as well.

12

1. Keep being a lifelong learner > I started the year with a great news, I passed Delta Module 2! Studying for the complete diploma is really changing the way I teach. More important it is an excellent way to reflect on what we teach. So keep studying!

2. Join free online courses for teachers > This year I experienced my first online course.  I joined a couple of EVO sessions in January. I took part in the Young learners and teenagers SIG course and the Digital storytelling for kids one. It was a great experience, I learned a lot about webtools, I had the chance to listen to and even chat with great ELT speakers, and I met a lot of nice teachers around the globe.

3. Integrate technology in the classroom > I started to use free webtools with my students regularly. We realized a series of cool projects from storytelling to interactive presentations and short class videos. I enjoy being an #edtech teacher! 🙂

4. Read ELT blogs > I discovered so many interesting ELT blogs about every aspect of teaching English. This year I started to be an avid reader of them. I regularly read interesting posts from famous ELT authors and publishers to a variety of ESL teachers. It’s a great help for everyday lessons, but also a rich methodology support.

5. Join online webinars > there are a series of free webinars for teachers held all around the web. I enjoy following the British Council Teaching English, or MacMillan Interactive series.

6. Write, and don’t be afraid! > The biggest challenge of the year was becoming a real ELT writer.  Early in March I had the chance to write a proposal and contribute to a couple of publications for the Italian market. I’ll soon be the author of three ELT books on skills! I can’t really say how I feel about this, but I learned to face challenges and never step back.

7. Love linguistics > I admit I have always been a linguistics lover, a kind of little nerd. Not so proud about this, but this year I realized how important some theoretical linguistics aspects can be in supporting everyday teaching. Knowing what’s behind, can be the key to understanding language acquisition.

8. Sharing is caring > Best lesson ever! In 2012 I have started sharing. Ideas, lesson plans, fears and successes. I analyzed how isolating and a bit selfish our job can be, and I realized the power of being part of a community of professionals that enjoy sharing just because they care.

9. Start blogging > I thought it was the time to start writing and sharing all the things I got in my “teacher box”. Blogging helps me reflecting on practices and experiences, it is a great chance to fix and share all the good (sometimes bad) things a teacher lives.

10. Start building a PLN > I joined Twitter more than a year ago. I think it is one of the most powerful tools for building your PLN (Personal Learning Network).

11. Participate in #eltchat  > Every Wednesday I enjoy following the chat on Twitter, often without really contributing to it, I’m still too shy! But it’s  a great way to learn and discuss key ELT topics.

12. Introduce literature to YLs > I would say this is one of the last things I learned in 2012. Literature to pre-teens has always scared me, but in the last part of the year I started integrated it in my lessons. Still testing different approaches. But authentic texts such as Lewis, Stevenson, Shakespeare are now part of my regular teaching.

I’ll take away these 12 gems with me in 2013.

Happy New Year!

holiday 2013


Leave a comment

Teaching listening to teenage learners #1

Using top down strategies

The more you can predict, the easier it becomes to understand” (Lingzhu, 2003).

Shadows - by @eltpics

Much of my teaching has been with Italian teenage elementary learners (CEFR A1-A2) in quite large classes (around 30 pupils). Because of the number of students the situation has not always been simple for listening activities and most of my learners often complain about how frustrating listening can be. One of them has recently made the following comment: “ When I listen to a story in Italian I’m able to understand everything before the end, when I listen to it in English I feel I don’t understand anything!”. I then asked him: “How do you listen in Italian?” All the class reacted with a choral “I don’t know!”. Younger teenage elementary learners often completely avoid the role of context and co-text in L2 even if they unconsciously use them in L1. This was the principle motivation behind my choice to investigate how to train elementary learners to predict in listening class. This is the first of a series of articles about the analysis of top down/bottom up strategies when listening, the issues for learners, and some suggestions for teaching.

Top-down and Bottom-up processing

According to Richards (2008) two different kinds of processes are involved in understanding spoken discourse. These are often referred to as bottom-up and top-down processing. Both processing are applicable to reading and listening.

Bottom-up processing (BUP) refers to the use of the listener’s linguistic competence. Therefore, the direction of bottom-up processing is from language to meaning.

Top-down processing (TDP), on the other hand, refers to “the use of background knowledge in understanding the meaning of a message” (Richards, 2008:7). Background knowledge refers to the knowledge of the world that the listener has developed in his/her life. It may be previous knowledge about the topic, situational knowledge, or knowledge stored in long-term memory about the events and the links between them (Richards, 1990). Richards refers to this background knowledge as schemata and scripts that a listener activates to understand a text. Top-down processing consequently goes from meaning to language.

In order to have successful comprehension both bottom-up and top-down processing are needed. According to Richards (1990) bottom-up processing alone is often not sufficient for comprehension, so the listener should be able to make proper use of top-down processing.

I will now focus on some approaches to the teaching of top-down processing and predicting content in particular, therefore bottom-up processing will not be further discussed.

Top-down processing: subskills

As stated above, in using prior knowledge about people and events comprehension proceeds from the top down. Examples of top-down processing subskills include:

  • assigning places, persons, or things to categories;
  • inferring cause-and-effect relationships;
  • anticipating outcomes
  • inferring the topic of a discourse
  • inferring the sequence between events

(Richards, 1990:52)

A good strategic listener is usually able to select and plan which subskills will activate in a particular situation. I have noticed that in second language learning top-down processing ability in listening is not very well developed. In this respect I believe the ability to predict content plays a key role.

Predicting content: context and co-text 

According to Goh (1998), predicting enables the listener to anticipate the next part of a text, such as a word, a phrase or an idea. Therefore, the process of prediction involves listeners in selecting useful information from their own general experience and knowledge in order to identify text content (Lingzhu, 2003). Continue reading