One last instalment of "wise words" culled from reading methodology texts and teacher's guides from half a century (or more) ago:

One last instalment of "wise words" culled from reading methodology texts and teacher's guides from half a century (or more) ago:

“We teach grammar through conversation and not, as some school teachers attempt, conversation through grammar.”  (Halbrich, J.O. 1953. Toil and Chat: English for Beginners, p. 93)

“Find your point of contact in the daily experience of the foreigner, and lead him as speedily as possible into touch with the language of daily life…”  (Roberts, P. 1918.  English for Coming Americans: Teachers Manual. p. 19)

“It is not necessary to spend too much time on trying to perfect the pronunciation of elementary students … By spending too much time on the sounds of English in the early stages of learning the language a student will fail to see the wood for the trees; for the key to intelligibility lies more in knowing how to move the voice according to accepted patterns of stress and melody than in making or recognizing correctly the component sounds”. (Stannard Allen, W. 1954. Living English Speech, p. xiii-xiv)

“Learn by Speaking. – Do not merely think the words, but whisper or mutter them; say them as if they were real; act them; language is not a set of words; it is a form of behaviour.” (West, M. 1948. Improve Your English. p. 11)

“Scatter your practices. – Three ten-minute practices are far better than one half-hour. So go over the lesson at odd moments (e.g. in the train, bus, restaurant)”. (ibid)

“Do you write down the meaning of every new word in class and then keep your note-book in the drawer of your desk? Excellent: your drawer will learn a lot of English – but YOU won’t. Every new word must be immediately learnt, memorized and assimilated. Use it whenever you have a chance. And read, read, and read.”  (Spiro D. English for the Brazilian Student: 4. (n.d.) p.2.)

“Audio-visual aids to teaching is a modern-sounding term, which is generally interpreted as the use in education of the cinema, the film-strip projector, the wireless, gramophone, tape-recorder, and so on. All of these can usefully be pressed into the service of teaching English, but they cannot replace the teacher.” (Chapman, L. 1958, Teaching English to Beginners. p.124.)

“The good teacher is one who has succeeded most in loosening the pupil’s dependence on him, and in training a mind capable of nourishing itself.” (Chapman, op. cit. p. 139)

(On teaching grammar inductively) "The attitude of the author towards the learner is not so much that of teacher towards pupil as that of the leader of an exploring expedition towards the members of the exploring party.” (Palmer, H. 1938. The New Method Grammar. pp. v-vi.) 

“What should the pupils feel about all our English lessons, generally?  First, they should feel that each lesson is their lesson, not the teacher’s…. In an English class which is well run, the teacher is only a guide.” (French, F. 1949. The Teaching of English Abroad: Part II The Junior Course. p.31)

Next week, in the interests of balance, I'll post some questionable advice from the same sources!

Comments

Greetings Scott:I'm delighted to have come across your blog!Re: “We teach grammar through conversation and not, as some school teachers attempt, conversation through grammar.”I understand learning the grammar through conversation to mean learning only from examples, and consider this to be too time-consuming to be practical for those who are only able to dedicate 3-5 hours a week to language learning. Especially in cases where the grammar of the learned language varies significantly form the learner's first language, an explanation --preferrably in the student's own language-- is extremely helpful.  For example, learning to correctly use the Catalan weak pronouns "ho", "hi" and "en" would be nearly impossible for native English speakers unless they were first made aware of how, where and why they are used. The same might be said for the various meanings of "used to" in English; many students find the following list of correspondences to be helpful:used to + inf (no longer) = abans + imperfectused to + inf (routine actions in the past, usually expressed with "would") = "solia" (usually expressed with the imperfect)be used to = estar acostumat aget used to = acostumar-se a (esdevenir acostumat a)All the best,Lou

[quote=louhevly]I understand learning the grammar through conversation to mean learning only from examples, and consider this to be too time-consuming to be practical for those who are only able to dedicate 3-5 hours a week to language learning. Especially in cases where the grammar of the learned language varies significantly form the learner's first language, an explanation --preferrably in the student's own language-- is extremely helpful.[/quote]Thanks for your comment Lou. (Your references to Catalan suggest we may be in the same neck of the woods).I agree - some well placed explanations can certainly help raise learners' awareness, although whether they will "stick" is another thing. But if it's all explanation/presentation, it's probably even less likely to stick. I'm of the school of thought that grammar emerges and stablises through plenty of communicative practice plus feedback: that's why I like the quote about the conversation-driven approach.  (Not that the concept of conversation-driven teaching in the 1950s remotely resembles its more recent avatars, e.g. Community Language Learning, or Dogme)

I love the drawer quote. Will definitely use it against my students! I find such funny pieces of wisdom very effective when trying to coax my students into making some effort towards their own learning.Thank you, Scott, and look forward to more of your blog.