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.
It contained around 20 students from 3 different departments. It wasn’t levelled so I had some almost complete beginners with bilingual students whose parents were English and Australian. The students were aged between 19 and 30 with varying study and work experience.
The official course aim was to improve their oral English but also to make sure that it was enjoyable, as some of the students were quite shy due to lack of English speaking practice.
Usually most candidates come after six years of learning English as second language in middle school. The lack of individual attention during that period is responsible for their problems in using the language. Therefore a diagnostic test (both written & oral) is a pre-requisite to plan the contents of a course of improving language skills to fulfill their aims and objectives. I record their strengths and weaknesses under headings like Grammatical/ Organisational /and Pronunciation. I mark them as Individual features (with names of students) and recurring Common traits .
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.
A teacher's role has significantly changed through the years with the emergence of technology. Electronic devices connected to the Internet exist everywhere and are used for a variety of tasks, from the most trivial ones to the most complicated. And of course the classroom could not be an exception to this reality. Our students learn how to use tablets, computers and smartphones from a very young age and they cannot imagine their everyday lives without these devices.
"We don't write materials for our sessions. There are paid professionals for that, instead we design them" said my trainer.
Now imagine you wish to plan a training session based on an in-class experiment, won't you need to build on what you already collected during the experimental practice?
"Research the topic you want to give a training session about, then copy the necessary documents and design how you wish to present it. you may wish to design them in a fill-in gap form, a loop, a jigsaw reading" said one of my colleagues.
Nina MK, Ph.D.
Instead, we assess students on the four skills at various points during the term. There are usually two speaking assessments – one in the style of a mini presentation, and the other as a pair or small group dialogue.
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.