There are several new trends in ELT which are developing right in front of our eyes today.
Those familiar words by Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) have been with me all my life. Knowledge is infinite; there is never any end to our learning new things. Sure, the longer we work the more confident we become. All the answers seem to be on the tip of our tongues even before the questions are asked; all the techniques are familiar; all the coping mechanisms are in place. It is quite possible to conduct the same types of lessons year in, year out. Not only is the national curriculum rather a stable thing; the main grammar themes do not change much either.
After a quarter century of teaching I can share a secret: I have never envisioned myself as a teacher. Like many children, my first dream was that of selling ice-cream (and eating as much as I wished daily). Then I got wrapped up in the dream of making toys; I read all I could find on the subject and tried to create my own dolls with accessories. Through all the ten years of school I was first a participant and then editor of the school newspaper.
In my third year at Moscow university, when I was 19, I was offered a part-time teaching position by my own department to be paid on an hourly basis as a professor's assistant. I got two groups of first-year students, some of them a bit younger, some the same age and some older than I was. This was exactly what a wise student, that inevitable person familiar to all of us as the "class clown", shouted gleefully at our introductory seminar. I asked mildly, " Do you mean that you are ready to come out and teach vocabulary instead of me?" Silence.
Whenever I travel I spend some time learning a few facts about the new place; I also try to learn some phrases so as to be able to say Hello, Good-bye, Please and Thank you in various languages. Today all this is easy, any information is just a click away. Look around you, and you will see most people, especially the young ones, practically glued to a device. Does this mean that everybody is digitally literate? Not necessarily so. I first worked as a translator at a scientific conference at the age of 16.
Today's learners are indeed more diverse than they ever were. With the huge influx of people from other continents we are faced with completely new challenges. It used to be simpler to teach school children just because we have to follow the national curriculum. Thus we have a certain program, a set schedule; our academic year is more or less neatly divided into terms. We know that each year we have to achieve new levels, and to reach the final exams requirements by the time our students finish school. We are also aware of the fact that all classes are mixed-ability ones.
Nina MK, Ph.D.
There is a saying in my country: teachers are the people who continuously sow the Sensible, the Good and the Eternal. And then of course we reap what we sow. The four C’s announced in our May-June topics sound like something worth sowing, reaping and developing. In an ideal world we would teach our students how to communicate in a foreign language, how to establish cooperation, how to collaborate on projects and how to enhance everybody’s creativity. All these C’s presuppose the existence of certain factors.
A wise, very experienced German colleague once told me that while it may be relatively easy to teach students how to build all the types of questions, it is infinitely more difficult to teach them how to understand all the types of answers they may get. This wisdom stayed with me. We teach speaking skills step-by-step, using texts, audios, pictures. Students read a text and compose comments, listen to dialogues and make up their own, look at pictures and describe them. These are all staples, our daily props. We encourage them to produce full sentences, not just Yes-No answers.
TECHNOLOGY IN THE CLASSROOM.
Nina MK, Ph.D.
Here are some cautionary tales about technology at school.