From The Carnival To The TEFL Logue

Larry Ferlazzo’s ESL Carnival for November recently went up and I’m happy to report that I made the deadline, thanks to a heads up in time from Larry. Each post had something unique to offer, but my personal favorite was the video activity from Seth Dickens. I had to laugh at the video itself because somehow I feel like I have had that very conversation, with people who want to be helpful but just don’t seem to have the will to communicate in whatever language.

Watch and see if you have too:

The gist:get your students to watch without sound and create a short dialog about what they predict the people are saying. Then of course watch with sound to check.

What’s extra neat: Seth even explains how to remove the sound electronically, with just a Photobucket account and his instructions. Don’t expect a summary here! Go read the post.

Guess the Google was another one I liked: your basic, good old guessing game with a modern twist.

It’s not from the carnival, but Larry recently linked to an article about the role of effort versus “natural ability”, or more accurately, how learners’ ideas and experiences about the role of effort and natural ability affect their academic performance. In a nutshell, those who are used to hearing “you’re so smart” are more likely to give up when the going gets tough than those who have been praised for their effort.

This is a good thing for language learners, because of course unlike natural ability, effort is something you have control over. Praise needs to be done a little more carefully with adults – if it is too over the top it can come across as patronizing or insincere, or worse, it can seem like you are treating them like children. It depends on you and what you’re comfortable with, but I think a “Well done – I can see you worked hard” as opposed to “You really have a gift for learning languages” might be a good place to start.

Adults aren’t quite have the blank slates that kids are, but what you do as a teacher still matters, as does their effort. Of course, some people are actually just good with words or languages, and others will have to do more work to keep up, so assume that every piece of good work is thanks to effort or conversely that every lack of progress is due to lack of effort.

Looking over my submission to the carnival made me wonder something else: do TEFL Logue activities seem too grammar-focused? I mainly draw on my own experience of what I’ve been expected to teach, and try to share what what I wish I would have had as a new teacher. In my case, when I had a syllabus (which was most of the time) there was not much room to bring in, say, more functional language and less grammar. And while practicing functional language as a dialog is communicative itself, I found it harder to find communicative and fun grammar activities.

I don’t imagine that most readers come here specifically for classroom activities, but rather for information generally, and the activities are a plus which add to the mix. But how does your teaching context fit what the TEFL Logue offers?