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Started by ddeubel in Websites / links / access to new resources / communities.. Last reply by Nadeem Nawaz Jul 16, 2019. 102 Replies

We are now in our 3rd edition of "Site of the Day"! Hundreds of the best sites for teaching/learning. See #1 and…Continue

Tags: collection, list, web 2.0, resources, websites

ABCs - Alphabet Resources or Ideas?

Started by NEWS NOW in Teaching and Methodology. Last reply by Amelia Meirizka Jun 20, 2019. 73 Replies

I guess the alphabet is our bread and butter.Got any good ideas for teaching it or using it…Continue

Tags: children, abc, kids, phonics, reading

Learning Designs

Started by Elise in Teaching and Methodology Mar 27, 2019. 0 Replies

I was wondering what you all thought of learning designs pertaining to English language teaching? What are the ways in which you design your lessons to achieve better learning in your students?Continue

A NEW way to teach PHRASAL VERBS so that your students understand and remember them

Started by Andromeda Jones in Teaching and Methodology Dec 31, 2018. 0 Replies

Phrasal verbs are a verb + preposition, adverb or particle. Teaching…Continue

Tags: prepositions, teach, verbs, phrasal


Sport and Language Learning

I've been an athlete most of my life. Also a coach and one who's thought a lot about how to "develop" one's talent as an athlete.

This has served me well as a language teacher. Becoming proficient or even excelling at a sport bears most of the same developmental patterns that one should step through to become proficient in a language. There are no short cuts!

Furthermore, we teachers should note that we don't really "teach" a language - rather we provide the conditions through which a learner might practice the skill that is "speaking a language". We should focus on performance not product (knowledge of the language itself). In essence, a teacher is a coach, a coach that guides their protege through the various stages of learning a language.

A number of years ago (during my own first TEFL certificate), I read a very powerful essay comparing learning to play football to learning a language, "The 5 Step Performance Based Model of Oral Proficiency" by Rebecca Valet. I recently pulled it out of a box and dusted it off. Even more relevant today,  as I see so much of the "teaching English" realm being ruled by schools and businesses that espouse study methods and approaches that take short cuts and rule by teacher fiat not student proficiency and practice.

Let's use the metaphor of football and look more closely to see what it says to us about teaching and learning a language. I'll use some examples using EnglishCentral, the video based site I'm presently helping to build.

How to Become a Great Football Player (or language learner)

Stage 1: Watching

In this stage, there is the dream of fluency. The player watches others and sorts out things in their head. They become motivated and try to figure out the language for themselves. They learn very basic terminology through observation and self study (like a learner would the necessary basic vocabulary and structures to start off). Touchdown, kick off, tackle etc... These and the more tacit features of playing the game are learned through the silent period of intake and simply watching. Key, key, key here is that the student is motivated to spend the time and mental effort to make progress. Without the motivation - the dream and end of success in mind - this stage will show little progress and instead a false sense of progress might develop based on false measures. A second key is comprehensible input. The student should just watch the real game - not play tapes with confusing explanations, not highlight reels with actions out of context. Keep it authentic and simple.

{Students watch videos on EnglishCentral}

Stage 2: Learn The Rules

Without knowing the rules, the football player has no bases or convention to organize observation. In this stage, the player begins playing but in broken practice. The coach explains the rules and corrects players that make errors, as they happen. Rules are explained and corrective feedback is given students on the spot. The game is learned "in situ" - while happening.

{Students begin recording and imitating native speaker speech. Students click on each word and learn definitions. Students use videoclip lists to see how the same words are used differently by speakers}

Stage 3: Skill Practice

Football players will never develop properly if they only practice the game with interruption. (stage 2). They need to focus on many of the skills and master them. These skills will enable them to be complete players. Practice focuses on key skills and the coach gets students to practice them over and over, ad nauseum. This prepares the students for game performance and also ingrains and habituates the skills. They become unconscious so come play day, they are automatic and instant.

{Students on EnglishCentral learn at the correct level. Vocabulary is studied in context and developed as speech is recorded. Corrective feedback of speech is given}

Stage 4: Simulated Performance

Here we have practice games, uninterrupted scrimmages. Students test themselves against friends and peers (so it is controlled in some sense). But there is a focus on getting ready for game day, the real test, so practice is without a lot of support or direct coaching. Everything is "live" and done as a whole. Only afterwards, does the coaching staff debrief the players and offer correction and advice for improvement.

{Students record whole videos in real time and practice, trying to "be" that speaker}

Stage 5: Game Day

The players are all ready. They take to the field and perform. They learn on their own accord, what they need to work on, what they can do well. They do well or they fail. They are in the "real" world and either succeed or fail. In all cases, they return to work on skills, to scrimmage, to practice. There is no perfection for the athlete, just a constant battle to keep up. During the season of many games, there is less practice and focus on skills needed - reality suffices. But once not in the regular season, it is back to the basics again.

{Students stop learning on EnglishCentral and get out there in the real world, speaking English with real people through skype or on the street, by email}

Remember - in football or language, it's a game of inches. So says Al Pacino in his classic speech!

Speak this speech on EnglishCentral or take the Famous Speeches course.

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