Thursday, April 30, 2015

You Are A Teacher, So Teach!

Some time ago, when knowledge was limited and made little progress, the teacher managed his own knowledge as he pleased and gave him authority.

Now that virtually all knowledge is in Internet and quickly becomes obsolete there are many students who know more about certain things that the teacher does, so his authority as a teacher cannot be based on what he learned in his Primary Teacher Training Programme and must be searched it in his ability to lead the learning process.

This is more complex situation and not all teachers have succeeded in adapting.

In the past (not long ago!), children had enough with work and determination; Now the school and the labour market make strong pressure on them for a long time, so teachers need to offer also motivation, because effort and will is not enough.

The solution is to listen to those who have to learn, to those who know what excites them and to those who handle so much information from young, because you can learn a lot from them.

The teacher's role has to change. We must give autonomy for learning and we must become the person who guides, who facilitates and who helps to discern the true from what is not.

The school has changed little in its conception of the classroom, teacher, student or type of learning, but society has changed dramatically and with it its raw materials, which are the kids.

“The school was designed in a society that childhood was an incomplete adulthood, whereas now adolescence has its own character and culture-authenticity, people skills, and so is socially dominant and copied and admired by many adults”. (Ismael Palacín, Fundació Jaume Bofill)

But let’s focus on English as a Second Language Teaching.

What Young Learners Dislike in ESLT?
  • Any form of grammar or vocabulary exercises; 
  • Having no control over their learning; 
  • Having to read alone and quietly; 
  • Studying about topics with no immediate or necessary interest; and
  • Being told what to do.
Young learners appear to dislike any form of control or anything which constrains their ability to make autonomous decisions over their continuous guided learning of English. If you force them to complete activities, they will find any reason to not complete them.

Why teachers should try to incorporate projects into lessons? And therefore, why is project so important for young learners?

I have been writing a lot on Project Working and PBL in this blog (you can have a look to some of my old posts about…). But I will give you a short draft on it.

Project work in the classroom, is related to a Task Based Learning (TBL), which evolved from Communicative Language Teaching (CLT). It encourages learners to work cooperatively in groups to solve a real problem. The goal of delivering a solution will inspire learners to use English while doing a ‘task’ at hand.

There are many advantages to use Project Working in your teaching strategies, such as:
  • The students have total autonomy over language production and must use all their linguistic resources to communicate their ideas or solutions to team-members. 
  • The natural context for Project Work develops personalised and more immediate language learning for the students. 
  • Exposure to language will be more varied with language emerging naturally from the context rather than students being told what they are or will study in the course book.
However, we are focusing on Project Work with Young Learners, so what do projects offer that tasks don’t? 

TBL focuses on the solution and communication of the task, while PBL focuses on the end project (either with a presentation or showing off their projects to the class or school).

I suggest incorporating a project based approach because we develop communication in a natural setting and we also motivate young learners to develop personal and immediate interest in a topic that they are studying.

But that’s not all! The project based approach would: 

  • Encourage learners to use L2 as and when required. However, there is understanding that to negotiate the task some learners will revert to their L1 to develop meta-knowledge and ideas of the project; 
  • Be completed either a shorter or longer period of time; 
  • Integrate language and develop social skills (a must for any young learner developing their L1 or L2);
  • Personalise the learning for the students and encourage a sense of achievement unmatched by any other pedagogical approach for language teaching for young learners; and 
  • Have a specific outcome so that learners are able to ‘show-off’ their final products to class, school or parents.
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