This is a thorny issue for many of us and will be part of an INSET I’m giving this weekend.
We all have our favourite error treatments/corrections (I’m going to stick to treatment seeing as there’s no guarantee it will stick, no matter what technique one uses).
There was a post by Gianfranco Conti titled 6 Useless Things Language Teachers Do. It was criticized by Geoff Jordan for laying claim to being research based but ignoring quite a bit of research.
I am not an expert but a cursory bit of reading (see below) and a webinar with Scott Thornbury lead me to the probably flawed theory that:
Types of language teaching context and activity can be put on a spectrum going from Linguistic to Content. Grammar translation and rule-based teaching would be at the Linguistic side of this spectrum; immersion and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) would be at the Content side. Task-Based Teaching would be toward the Content side when the focus is communication, and moving closer to the Linguistic side during Focus on Form activities.
Non-intrusive linguistic error treatment is less likely to be noticed, the closer one gets to the Content side, (as with Lyster & Ranta ) and more likely on the Linguistic side.
Multimodal (i.e. not just spoken) forms of non-intrusive error treatment may be more likely taken up, e.g. spoken recasts supported by a written recast on a slip of paper.
There is also the research pointing to acquisition sequences that are impervious to teaching. So, if learners aren’t taking on correction after a few goes, you might leave it. It might need more time to process than you have until the end of the lesson or your learner just might not be ready for it at their current language development stage.
So, what should we do?
Think about your learners. I don’t know them, you do. Are they resistant to correction? You might do some work with them on the errors they are almost right with because low-hanging fruit might lead them to more motivation to solve other errors. Are they going to get annoyed if you interrupt and cue self-correction all the time? Then perhaps you recast (or not) and then work on the error in the next stage of the lesson. Are they going to think you’re confirming meaning? Maybe try a different way of correction.
At the end of the day we all have anxieties about whether we’re doing the best thing. I think as long as we’re trying to pay attention to what we’re doing, have good reasons for doing it then good is good enough.
If you disagree or have more to add, I’d love to hear it.
Lyster, R., & Ranta, L. (1997). Corrective feedback and learner uptake: Negotiation of form in communicative classrooms. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 19, 37-66.
Allwright, D. & Bailey, K. (1991) Focus on the Language Classroom. Cambridge: CUP.
Long, M. H. (2007) Problems in SLA. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Lai, C and Zhao, Y. (2006) Noticing and Text-Based Chat. Language Learning & Technology. Vol.10, No.3, September 2006, pp. 102-120
If you missed this #ELTchat on 21st Century Skills, you missed a corker! The discussion just couldn’t end and some of us are perhaps in a space where we need to agree to disagree or even conduct further research on the topic. The entire chat for the scheduled hour is here but it refused to be tamed so there were further discussions afterward.
Links people might want to look at are:
About digital writing in education. A post I basically disagree with.
The Overselling of Ed-Tech. A post I basically agree with.
Kicking off, I (@getgreatenglish) admitted that I don’t see ’21st Century Skills'(from now I’ll use 21CS) as anything worth teaching. Angelos Bollas (@angelos_bollas) agreed, saying that he’d once heard a great talk by Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto (@TeachingVillage) about this; Matt Ellman (@MattEllman) said there hast to be more to 21CS than edtech; Michael Griffin (@michaelegriffin) also agreed. His pinned tweet on his profile at that point was:
What every 21st Century teacher should do: Be a teacher in the 21st Century.
Rachel Appleby (@rapple18) works as a coursebook writer and has also worked on digital content for publishers, which she said was “a very different medium”. She also said that she believes that using an interactive whiteboard (IWB) is “all about approach – not showing off tech”.
She also said that she loves it when teachers take into account how to use tech, including students’ phones in lessons, which Angelos backed up: “not using tech for the sake of it but knowing what, how, and when to use it in order to achieve learning objectives”. Rachel then added that one good way to start using tech is by integrating it into a standard lesson plan.
As for technology itself, I remarked that IWBs are often used just because they look more aesthetically pleasing than flipcharts.
David Boughton (@David__Boughton) claimed he “can’t do anything faster than write on a whiteboard or mark a paper with a pen”. I can type dead fast (I used to be a television subtitler) but I’d agree that waking up a computer and opening software or browser windows takes time that could often be better spent using stationery.
Matt raised the point that 21st Century grammar doesn’t make its way into coursebooks very often (for example, reporting speech using “[be] like”). He also mentioned that because his learners can get exposure to the language using the internet he doesn’t need to use authentic materials as much with his learners.
Angelos, Rachel and I stated that lesson planning is still important when using technology, (I’ll clarify that I don’t think you need to write your plan down but just make sure you know what you want to use, how to use it and what the point is).
I stated a dislike for the maxim that we are “teaching kids for jobs that haven’t been invented yet”. If this is the case, what are we supposed to teach them, where does language feature and where does ELT come into all this? Rachel replied that she would be happy if students saw a reason to study English and that motivation was important in order to get them to want to learn using the best possible means because we can’t predict future jobs. David said that he thought English teachers should worry about teaching English, not job (21st Century) skills.
Teacher training was given a going over: Matt stated that reading lists on certificate and diploma-level programmes haven’t been updated for ages. Rachel said that there are different online course providers available for CPD. Angelos said what about having an observed online lesson, which I said was unnecessary because a lot of people still don’t need/want to teach online and the method is easily learnt after the basics of actual teaching. Sue Annan (@SueAnnan) said that it wasn’t necessary in all contexts. TalkenEnglish (@TalkenEnglish ) said that CELTAs don’t take into account different teaching contexts, which took us onto differentiation.
twitter.comI said that differentiation is preached on diploma-level courses. Carrie Stubbs (@StubbsCarrie) said that differentiation is probably overwhelming on a 4-week initial training course. English My Way (@EnglishMyWayUK) said that training for learner-centred approaches would greatly help this.
Laura Soracco (@LauraSoracco) talked about digital literacy as a 21CS. I disagreed, saying they are just L1 literacy skills which can be transferred to L2/digital environment. Matt seemed to agree with me. Laura continued to state her case, and it can be summed up as:
- Not all learners have the text-navigation skills in L1, so teaching it in L2 is useful.
- Managing, storing and producing information digitally needs to be taxonomised correctly.
- These can be integrated into language classes themed on Digital Literacy.
I’m not totally convinced but we agreed to have a bit more of a back and forth.
This is the #ELTChat that refused to die so it looks like next weeks’ chat will be a continuation on a very related theme.
Updated 22 April 2017
Get your learners to match countries to their languages and major cities and their nationality/demonym.
Here is a set of small cards to be cut up (and laminate for longevity?) and spread around the class. Learners work together to match the countries to the languages and cities. I put in some unusual countries that are rarely looked at in textbooks, so it will challenge some learners.
You’d probably want to set it up so that unnecessary L1 is reduced. Elicit questions like “What nationality are people from…?” in a pre-task, or do some hot Focus on Form if you find there is a ton of L1 being used. Pronunciation would be useful to do some form focus with, particularly stressed syllables and possible epenthesis (adding sounds to the pronunciation of a word).
It is Creative Commons licensed so if you want to change the countries/cities/languages, go ahead. Get the PDF here or the editable word document here.
Thanks to Dr. Christian Jones for bouncing ideas around and Michael Griffin for the “nudge”.
Longtime readers know that I am no fan of coursebooks. However, making your own materials can be fraught with danger, usually a typo that you hadn’t caught.
Here is a short Padlet about things to consider when you do it. (Thanks Vedrana Vojkovic for Padlet help. Feel free to add to it, everyone.)
Why do it though?
Books don’t fit every learner. You know your learners, the people in publishing don’t. They know learners.
Books don’t cover half of the things you want to cover. You don’t only teach tense, aspect, modals and conditionals. Adjacency (appropriate/expected responses), backchannelling, fillers, weak forms and other aspects of connected speech are rarely covered in coursebooks. You are also unlikely to cut up pages of books (though a nice resource book is a beautiful thing). Even if you don’t want to ditch your coursebook you might need to supplement it to make sure it suits your learners.
If you have something already, it’s easier to modify than a book spread. You can edit a PowerPoint on your phone these days; getting the Tippex and scissors out first thing on a Monday is a pain.
Any glaring omissions?