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21 Ways to Say Hello and Goodbye in American English

Hello dear Cool English member. Enjoy our new article.

 

 12 ways to say "hello"

 

 

1) "Hey there" : This is casual, friendly, and familiar. It could be used between good friends or romantic partners in spoken English, text messages, voice mail messages or emails.

 

2) "What's going on?" : This is casual and could be used between friends or acquaintances in an informal situation like a party.

 

3) "Hey! What's up?" : This is casual and could be used between friends, colleagues, siblings, etc.

 

4) "Good morning" or "good afternoon" : These greetings are generally more formal and are often used in restaurants, hotels, shops or at work between colleagues.

 

5) "How are you doing today?" : This is formal and might be used between a professional and a client or customer or between colleagues or a boss and his or her workers.

 

6) "Hey! There she is" : This is usually used in situations when you know the person well and it implies that you have been expecting to see the person or that you are very happy to see the person. Emphasis with pronunciation is placed on "there."

 

7) "How's everything?" : This is simply another way of saying "how are you." It is usually used casually.

 

8) "How are things?" : This is very similar to "how is everything?" and is perhaps more casual than "how is everything?"

 

9) "Good to see you," "great to see you," "nice to see you" : These could all be used informally or casually between business colleagues, friends, or family members. These phrases are often used when you haven't seen the person in a while.

 

10) "What's happening" or "What's happenin'?" : This is mostly used by young people (college age or younger). They might use the phrase to greet their friends when they arrive at a party or when they see each other in class.

 

11) "How's it going?" : This is casual, especially when you shorten it as in "How's it goin'?"

 

12) "Good evening": This is formal and is often used in upscale (expensive) hotels or restaurants to greet guests.

 

 9 ways to say "goodbye"

 

1) "See you later" or "see ya later" : This becomes more casual when you use "ya" instead of "you."

 

2) "See you soon" or "see ya soon" : This is similar to the example above. It can be used to indicate that you want to or plan to meet with the person again soon.

 

3) "Take care" : This could be formal or casual, but is usually used with people you know or care about. You might use this in an email or written letter.

 

4) "Take it easy" : This is not used now, in 2013, as much as it was used in the 1980's and 1990's. However, it is casual and means "take care."

 

5) "Gotta go!" This is used in casual situations when you want to escape the conversation quickly and you don't want to go through a longer or more sentimental goodbye.

 

6) "Talk to you soon" : This is used more often in writing emails or on the phone than in daily spoken interactions. It is usually casual.

 

7) "See you next time" : This is used when you know you will be returning to a specific place and you will see the person when you come back.

 

8) "Catch ya later" : This is used very casually between friends or acquaintances.

 

9) "Have a good one" : This means, "have a nice day" and is used casually, but it could be used between strangers, friends, colleages, or family members.

 

 

Remember, in English there is more than one way to "hi" and "goodbye" !

So now that you know 21 alternatives, try to use them as much as you can.

If you want to make them a part of your vocabulary, try to also listen for them in your daily life.

By hearing them often, you will understand when and how to slip them into a conversation.

 

Good luck and remember to practice every day!

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10 Surefire Tips for Motivating ESL Learners

Teach ESL

The vast majority of teachers have limited knowledge of how to work with English as a Second Language (ESL) learners, also called English Language Learners (ELLs), but at some point in their career almost all teachers will have a student whose native language is not English. Engaging with ESL learners does not have to be an uphill battle — in fact, it should be an enriching experience for the teacher, the ESL learner and the rest of the class.

As with all teaching, going the few extra steps to prepare engaging lessons — namely by injecting your own personal experiences and incorporating those of your students — will do wonders to interest your students in the curriculum. Says one teacher, “Teaching ESL is about 1/3 knowing the ins and outs of the English language, 1/3 being a good communicator, and 1/3 being a good actor. You really need to be excited in this job.” Here are 10 tips for motivating ESL learners and elevating the educational and cultural environment for everyone involved:

Tip #1: Create a cultural dialogue.

This suggestion tops our list because it is offered by every teacher who has worked with ESL students. Learning in an English-speaking classroom doesn’t mean force-feeding American patriotism. It must be a two-way street. Create an environment that embraces your students’ own cultures and backgrounds. Show a real interest. Ask the students to teach you phrases in their own language, especially positive phrases like “Good job,” and use these phrases interchangeably with their English counterparts. Do presentations on their culture’s history, food, and background, and encourage the students to formulate their own demonstrations. Invite the parents into the classroom, even if they don’t speak English, to participate and get to know the entire class. This approach helps teach all your students that having a family that speaks another language is something to be celebrated.

Tip #2: Engage with your students’ special occasions and interests.

On a related note, many American teachers develop special activities for holidays— Halloween, Passover, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and so forth — as well as American pastimes — baseball, lemonade stands, overconsumption. Ask your students to share their own holidays and interests, and incorporate these ideas into your classroom. One of the best ways to get a child or adult talking is to ask them about their personal life. Whipping out a handout that includes something that relates meaningfully to their lives will strengthen their interest in the classroom community and the material itself.

Tip #3: Use scaffolding techniques to help students accomplish tasks.

Scaffolding is the support given during the learning process that is tailored to the needs of your students. Since ESL learners generally need a new kind of support, it can be helpful to think of scaffolding as divided into three categories:

  1. Verbal scaffolding: slowing speech, enunciating words, paraphrasing, rephrasing, using “think-alouds,” etc.;
  2. Procedural scaffolding: one-on-one teaching, coaching, modeling, small-group instruction, partnering, and pairing; and
  3. Instructional scaffolding: use of pictures, regalia, graphs, graphic organizers, audio-visual aids, and so forth.

Being aware of how you use these tools in the classroom can help you better plan for the needs of your students. Eventually, the goal is for the student to figure out the task at hand on their own and no longer need the additional support.

Tip #4: Maximize inter-student interaction.

Cooperative learning is proven to be effective for ESL learners. Students see the teacher as the authority figure, and getting them to speak in front of you or in front of the whole class can be difficult, but they usually feel more comfortable interacting with their peers. Ask your students to teach one another simple playground games, like tag or four square. When planning group or pairing activities, design different groupings depending on the needs and purposes of the lesson. This interaction gives the ESL students a chance to practice English in a less threatening setting. Although they shouldn’t feel threatened at all, because you should always…

Tip #5: Correct errors with compassion.

Your ESL students will make mistakes, and you should let them. After all, we learn best through making mistakes. And if you’re interrupting your students to correct them every five words, they’re going to get frustrated, lose their train of thought, and feel attacked. Give your students time to think and respond, and let them realize they’ve made a mistake and try to correct it themselves. Everyone has opinions, and everyone wants the floor to speak them occasionally. Give them the space they need to formulate ideas.

Tip #6: Speak clearly.

It may seem obvious, but it is important to ensure your students understand what is expected of them. At the start of each activity, go over both the content and the language objectives; with both children and adults, these objectives can be simple and straightforward. At the end of the lesson, review the objectives to ensure they’ve understood everything. One teacher even suggests recording snippets of your class for your own review. He says, “It’s amazing how many times you’ll find yourself saying words that are natural to you, but might throw off the students (think about how many times you say ‘ya know,’ ‘like,’ ‘well, ya see,’ ‘the thing is,’ so kind of extra words with no meaning.” Recording yourself to make sure you’re being crisp, concise, and to the point.

Tip #7: Use hands-on and project-based activities.

This is actually applicable to all teachers in all disciplines: Students like hands-on and project-based activities, and effective teachers use them to help their students engage in learning through exploration. Hands-on activities generally include scaffolding components, and project-based activities often incorporate the students’ own interests and cultural backgrounds. There’s no need to stick to a monotone reading of the textbook. Think outside the mold with the goal of experimental fun. One teacher suggests an activity that involves setting up a “marketplace” in the classroom and asking students to buy, sell, and trade different items. This hits a few key objectives, including inter-student interaction and the practical art of negotiation. A number of teachers suggest using music in the classroom — sing pop songs together, create songs for vocabulary lists, and so forth. If you play an instrument yourself, by all means, bring it into the classroom!

Tip #8: Be adaptable, but maintain high expectations.

A challenge like learning in a new setting is just that: a challenge. It doesn’t mean you should lower your expectations or give out A’s for effort. Outline realistic benchmarks and assessments, and take into account the students’ needs for time, support, difficulty, and product. Adapt the amount of time for completing a task; adapt the amount of scaffolding; adapt the task (for example, by allowing use of a dictionary or simplified instructions); and adapt the type of response such as permitting drawings, a verbal response, or a translated response. Students want to respond to their teachers’ high expectations positively, so if you foster a positive classroom environment while maintaining your high (and realistic) expectations, your students will rise to the challenge.

Tip #9: Encourage students to speak in their native language.

Some teachers make the mistake of telling their ESL students that their native tongue is not allowed in the classroom. But maintaining and developing this native language actually helps their acquisition of academic English. According to a 1996 study by Virginia Collier and Wayne Thomas, dual language models of schooling have a substantial effect on student progress, “enhancing student outcomes and fully closing the achievement gap in second language.” Support of the primary language is therefore critical to helping your students succeed both in your class and in the years to follow, and ideally, instruction occurs bilingually — that is, the “curricular mainstream [is] taught through two languages.”

Tip #10: Seek resources.

When you need advice or ideas, or if you simply want a sounding board, sseek assistance from full-time ESL teachers or even general teachers who are bilingual themselves. Identify and recruit volunteers from your personal and professional life who speak the students’ language. Administrators can even work with community leaders who are involved in community development with immigrant families.

Online Masters in ESL Programs

Master’s degree programs for ESL education provide instruction about how individuals learn English as a second language with regards to writing, reading and speaking. Most programs are available for both inexperienced and veteran teachers and intended for those looking to teach in primary, secondary or post-secondary schools. If you’re interested in teaching ESL in the U.S. or around the world, earning a degree in the field will help prepare you for an exciting and rewarding career. ESL programs are growing in popularity and evolving out of necessity so now is the time to find the right program and get moving on the path to success. Start by clicking on links below to request information from each school about its tuition, classes, and programs.

University of Southern California
MAT: TESOL
University of Southern California - Since 1880, University of Southern California has provided a vibrant culture of public service while encouraging students to cross academic as well as geographic boundaries in their pursuit of knowledge. The Masters in English as a Second Language program at USC allows you to explore and apply research that supports effective English language teaching for linguistically and ethnically diverse students across all content areas.
Click Here
Northcentral University
MEd: ESL
Northcentral University - For almost 20 years, Northcentral University has been a leader of innovation in education and providing online classes, allowing more people the opportunity to earn an advanced degree. Northcentral's Master of Education in English Second Language specialization enhances skills in communicating with speakers of other languages and integrating techniques to successfully instruct students in English proficiency.
Click Here
American College of Education
MEd: Curriculum & Instruction - ESL
MEd: Curriculum & Instruction - Bilingual
American College of Education - For more than 150 years, American College of Education has been committed to providing high quality, affordable educational programs that prepare educators to meet the challenges of 21st century students and schools. The MEd - Curriculum & Instruction - ESLcoursework addresses the need of teachers interested in working with students who are non-native English speakers. The focus is on theories of language acquisition, culture understanding, and teacher practices that meet the need of English learners.
Click Here
Walden University
MS ADLR: ESL
Walden University - For over 40 years, Walden University has been dedicated to increasing educator effectiveness and student achievement. Gain the tools and strategies you need to help meet the growing demand for English language instructors. The Masters in English as a Second Language specialization at Walden University helps you create effective environments for students learning English as a second language.
Click Here
Concordia University
MEd: Curric. & Instruc.: ESOL
Curric. & Inst.: English Language Dev
Concordia University - Founded in 1905, Concordia University has become known for its superior education and enrichment offerings in the fields of education, homeland security and business. The M.Ed. Curriculum & Instruction: ESOL is designed for educators who want to teach English to learners whose native language is not English. The program focuses on students aged elementary through adult, with emphasis on needs unique to ESOL learners.
Click Here
Grand Canyon University
MS: English Language Learning and Teaching
Grand Canyon University - For over 60 years, Grand Canyon University has been helping students find their purpose and achieve their career and academic potential. The Masters in English as a Second Language program at GCU is designed for certified teachers or administrators with an interest in teaching ESL students in the classroom or serving as a district ESL coordinator.
Click Here
University of Cincinnati
MEd: TESOL
University of Cincinnati - Since 1819, University of Cincinnati has provided students a balance of educational excellence and real-world experience. University of Cincinnati Master of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) program prepares you to embrace the concept that different languages and cultures are practiced at home. The program helps you find effective ways to effect this knowledge in your instruction.
Click Here
University of Nebraska at Kearney
MEd: ESL/Foreign Language
University of Nebraska at Kearney - University of Nebraska-Kearney offers more than 170 undergraduate degree options, 20 pre-professional programs, and 45 graduate programs in a variety of fields including education, business, fine arts and humanities, and the natural sciences. The MEd-English Second Language/Foreign Language program focuses on instructional methods, curriculum, and teaching materials that promote the mastery of English in order for students to achieve academically in all content areas.
Click Here
Jones International University
MEd: K-12 ESL Edu
MEd: K-12 ESL: Bilingual Ed
MEd: K-12 ESL: Bil. Ed. Teach Lic.
MEd: K-12 ESL: Teacher Licensure Edu
Jones International University - Jones International University is regionally accredited and offers students a 100% online learning and service model. The MEd - K-12 ESL Education program is designed for licensed educators who are bilingual and interested in pursuing an additional endorsement as a teacher of students who are learning English as a second language.
Click Here
California University of Pennsylvania
MEd: ESL
California University of Pennsylvania - For more than 150 years, California University of Pennsylvania has offered a wide variety of academic majors, minors, concentrations, and other programs while having access to nationally recognized educators, many of whom are leaders in their respective fields. The Master of Education in English as a Second Language (ESL) allows students to apply and develop their knowledge in language, culture, instruction, assessment, and professionalism.
Click Here 
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How to Use Cartoons in the EFL Classroom

By Johanna E. Katchen

When we think of cartoons, we may be reminded of naughty children sitting in front of the television before dinner instead of starting on their homework.  They may be watching an animated mouse committing unspeakable violence on an animated cat, both of whom completely recover by the next cartoon, or they may be mesmerized by futuristic creatures annihilating each other with yet-to-be invented weapons of destruction.  These programs vie for children's attention most mornings and weekday afternoons.  They are after-school entertainment, often violent, that generally has no place in the classroom.

Not all cartoons are violent, however, nor do they all run the usual five minutes.  There are cartoons 20-25 minutes in length made to fit a half-hour time slot, such as the earlier Peanuts stories (for example, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving) or the popular animated situation comedy The Simpsons (on STAR-plus).  These may have worthwhile lessons to teach.  Some of the most popular full-length films, from Disney's Fantasia to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to the more recent Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King are animated.  Classic fairy tales, novels, even Shakespeare plays come in animated versions.  Thus there is quite a variety of relatively good material from which to choose.

Negative Features

Before we plan on using cartoons in our English classes, we would be wise to consider some of the specific language features which make them more difficult for nonnative speakers to understand before mentioning the positive features that make cartoons worth considering for ELT use.

No Clues from Visual Articulation.  One way in which video helps in comprehension is that it often lets us see the speaker's mouth, from which we get clues as to what sounds or sequences of sounds the speaker is producing.  These clues are completely absent in cartoons because we are not watching real people.  The characters' mouths are made to move in imitation of real people, but the subtle movements of lips, tongue, and jaw that help us identify speech sounds even when we cannot hear them are completely missing.

The Use of Children's or Unusual Voices.  Another feature of cartoons which makes them more difficult than other genres for nonnative speakers to understand is the use of children's or unusual voices.  Often the main characters in cartoons are children, so naturally they are given children's voices (skillfully rendered by adults).   Typical ELT listening materials for adult learners and even for young adult learners almost never include children's voices.  This situation probably arises from the assumption that most adults indeed study English to be able to communicate with other adults, and communication with children is felt to be, and often is, incidental or of marginal importance.  The result is that English learners, particularly in EFL situations, have little or no experience in listening to the higher frequencies of children's voices.

Other than children, animals and other imagined creatures also populate cartoons.  What kinds of voices should they have?  Generally, smaller animals are given higher, more child-like voices, whereas larger creatures are given lower, louder voices.  Other features of intonation and voice quality are added to make characters sound big and dumb, big and scary, big and wise, small and helpless, and so on.  Again the nonnative speaker has little experience with comprehending these unnatural-sounding voices, although more and more we are exposed to artificial-sounding, electronically-produced voices from elevators, computers, and other technological devices.

Exaggerated Speech Features.  The speech of these cartoon creatures, including futuristic humans and robots, may be given particular features (e.g., lisping, stammering, hesitations) or geographical dialects to indicate something of the personality of the character.  These paralinguistic features are based on stereotypes the native-speaking society has about the speech of certain types of people, and these characteristics are transferred to the animals.  Native speakers recognize the stereotypes without even applying conscious thought:  for example, a lisping male may indicate effeminate behavior, a slow Southern dialect may be used to indicate laziness and/or less than average intelligence, a New York City accent may be used to portray a con man or wise guy.  Nonnative speakers will most likely not recognize the added message or may interpret it according to the norms of their own culture.  The two cultures may not share the same interpretation of the paralinguistic features.

Thus the nonnative speaker has to deal with the strange-sounding voices of animated creatures and even of adult characters.  For those cartoons in which the main characters are children and the world of children is portrayed, adults are outsiders and their voices are meant to sound unnatural.  In the Peanuts cartoons, adults never speak in recognizable words; they are sounds emanating from an unseen source from the telephone or from the teacher or parent who is never seen on screen.  In cartoons where adult characters have main roles (for example, The Simpsons), they may sound like slightly over-zealous adults (e.g., Homer Simpson's booming voice) or have voice qualities that some humans normally have but taken in cartoons to extremes (e.g., Marge Simpson's grating voice).

Positive Features

Appeal to the Child in Us.  For most of us, children and adults alike, cartoons are appealing.  We feel we are entering a dream, a fantasy world, and that we are escaping from everyday reality.  Cartoons are colorful and amusing.  They are pure pleasure.  Although older folks may prefer Mickey Mouse or Cinderella over the more modern space war types younger people seem to like, they are still entertainment that we enjoy.  Therefore, if we teachers want to use a cartoon or part of one as a stimulus for some language activity in the classroom, we already have the students' willing attention.  Even with students whose native language is English, using animated versions of well-known stories can give the more unwilling students their first exposure to literary classics and perhaps even stimulate them to pick up the book.

Story Line.   Cartoons usually tell a simple story that is easy to follow.  Often the good character is pitted against the bad character of the forces of evil, and the good always conquers the bad.  Because of the length of the typical cartoon, about 5 minutes, the story cannot get too complicated.  Even the 20 - 25 minute cartoon story usually has a simple plot that can be exploited for classroom use, particularly if it is broken down into scenes.  The full-length is too long to show at one sitting; our job is not to entertain students but to give them opportunities to use and improve their English.  If we have a cartoon film we especially like, we can use our favorite scene or two to spark some language activities in class, then let the students watch the rest on their own time in the lab if they are interested.  We could really get their interest if we ended on a cliff-hanger, a point of suspense.

Language.  Although some animated programs, such as full-length films and some TV programs like The Simpsons, are aimed also at an adult audience, most shorter cartoons, the kind shown on Saturday mornings and weekday afternoons, are aimed at children.  The child or creature characters talk in a language the children understand.  They use contractions, elisions, children's vocabulary, and slang terms.  These features, in addition to the strange voices, add to the language learner's burden, but they also provide an excellent opportunity for exposure to slang, ordinary street terms, and children's language.

Culture. Many cartoons are particularly rich in cultural content.  For example, we may see children considering whether to do something that their parents or teachers would not approve of; the children already know what is and is not permitted in their culture. Or we may see children interacting in school and compare whether they behave the same way as in our students' native culture.  Better quality cartoons have a moral or teach a lesson, such as "cheating on a test is wrong" or "if you cheat you will not only be punished, but you will hurt others, too."  Programs like The Simpsons, aimed at adults, deal with social and moral issues in a humorous yet thought-provoking way; in one episode Marge's successful crusade against cartoon violence also resulted in a ban on showing a famous nude statue at the local museum and brought her into conflict with the American First Amendment right of freedom of speech.

Choosing a Cartoon to Use in Class

Theme.  The most obvious reason for using a cartoon in class is our desire to utilize its content to teach about a topic.  Good cartoons tell a story and have a moral or lesson to teach.  Longer cartoons such as The Simpsons often present topical issues such as TV violence versus censorship or the illegal reception of cable TV, so, like other genres, the video can be part of a set of materials on a topic.  A pointless cartoon or the usual mouse-outsmarts-cat variety probably does not have enough intelligence to come to school.

Language.  Despite silent viewing for prediction or dialogue activities, we usually use a video for its language to provide students with listening input.  Some cartoons contain mostly action and have very little dialogue.  Others contain too many strange voices combined with sound effects that further obscure clarity.

It is probably wise to choose the more simple, old-fashioned type of cartoon, the kind that portrays small children (or animals) talking with one another.  Because the story is usually calmer (few, if any, fights or chases), the characters talk more slowly and without the quality of excited voice (the use of an unusually high pitch).  It is also more likely that in this type of cartoon, the characters will be made to speak more like the way ordinary children do speak to one another.  The Charlie Brown/Peanuts cartoons are very good examples of this more old-fashioned type.  As an added benefit, these stories have very little violence an are so cute and innocent that they offend no one.

Activities2

Good teachers always spend some time introducing the topic of the lesson.  Often our pre-teaching activities bear a relationship to our purpose for using the materials.  For example, when we use a cartoon as part of a unit on a particular topic, such as the Halloween holiday, the cartoon may be only one of a series of materials illustrating various aspects of that topic.

Cloze. Because the language of cartoons is rather unnatural, students need some extra help in comprehending it.  To help students get used to the voices, we can prepare a one-page cloze from the beginning of the cartoon, leaving out only single words or simple phrases, in affect giving students about 80% of the transcript.  After they have had guided practice in listening to a few minutes of the cartoon in this way, they may become more used to the special characteristics of each character's voice.  Upon completing and checking their cloze (a completed version shown on an overhead projector is useful), students can take the parts of the characters and imitate their intonation, voice quality, and expression, making as much noise and having as much fun as they like.

Reading a Transcript.  If there is a story worth understanding, Particularly for longer cartoons, we may want to prepare a complete transcript for one or more scenes and have students take the roles before viewing.  In this way students have a chance to read and comprehend what they are going to hear and they have a chance to speak out the lines themselves.  The teacher can comment on vocabulary or idioms.  Then students can watch without the text.

Performing a Mini-Play. If students have a complete transcript of a story, a cartoon or that of another genre such as a situation comedy, they can act it out in mini-play style.  The advantage here is that they can mimic and learn the proper intonation and expression from the video.  Our students have done this with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.

Comprehension Questions.  Comprehension questions can be given before viewing, with students predicting the answers.  To aid comprehension, questions can focus students' attention on the main points of the story.  In Yes, Virgina, There is a Santa Claus (1974, Wolper Productions, 24 minutes), based on a letter to the editor and reply that appeared in The New York Sun in 1897, a little girl writes a letter to the newspaper to find out if there really is a Santa Claus.  Giving students the following questions before viewing may focus their attention on the main points of the story.

The children's teacher gives them an assignment.  What do they have to do?
Do you believe in Santa Claus?  Do the children?  How do the other children treat Virginia?
Virginia asks four adults if there is a Santa Claus.  What do each of them answer?
Who is Tommy?  What does he suggest that Virginia do?
Who is Mr. Church?  How does he feel about Tommy?
How do the other children feel about Virginia and her ideas at the end of the story?

Because students know that such stories usually follow a pattern of conflict and resolution, they can predict that Virginia's classmates will disagree with her at first but accept her ideas in the end.

Related Reading.  The cartoon Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus mentioned above is based on a famous newspaper article which is printed in most Christmas anthologies.  It makes good background reading before showing the cartoon.  Toward the end of the cartoon, the teacher reads most of that newspaper article aloud, so at this point our students will be familiar with it.

For cartoon versions of the classics, the original books are usually quite long and the cartoon version may take an hour or more, too.  However, a cartoon version could be used as an introduction of lead-in to the reading of a literary piece.  For example, the original Washington Irving The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is about thirty pages long and filled with hard words, many of which are now archaic.  Yet it is a relatively simple story, a love triangle, and one of the men plays a trick on his rival, or was it a ghost?  It both gives the flavour of early Dutch settlements in the Hudson River Valley (upstate New York, USA) a few hundred years ago and tells a great Halloween story that just about all American school children know.  It would be shame for our students to miss out on it because of the vocabulary.  Why not hear the story from a good cartoon?

One particularly good version of the abovementioned story is narrated by Glenn Close (1988, Rabbit Ears Productions Inc., 25 minutes).  Unlike the typical cartoon, here the narrator, who is a famous actress, modifies her voice as she takes the roles of the various characters.  The scenes are presented as a set of still pictures that move only slightly, and the effect is that of a good storyteller with a clear voice who illustrates the story with a set of well-chosen pictures.  Of course, we hope that the students will eventually read the text in the original, and when they do, they will already know the basic story.

A high-quality, full-length film could be compared with the original fairy tale; or two versions of classics, one a cartoon, one a traditional film, could be compared with each other or with the text.  Obviously, these activities require some special skills and could be a part of or an element added to a literature class or form part of a class on video interpretation of literature.  In such cases, English should be used to discuss characterization, animation, and so on.

Teaching about Holidays. Cartoons with a holiday theme may be used to teach something about how that holiday is celebrated in that country or culture.  In East Asia, stations such as STAR-plus show such cartoons around Christmas and also perhaps around Thanksgiving, Halloween, Easter.  For related reading and background on American holidays, see Tiersky, E. & Tiersky, M. 1990.  The USA: Customs and institutions. Third edition.  New York: Regents Publishing Company, Inc.

The Charlie Brown/Peanuts set have addressed just about every American holiday.  In Happy New Year, Charlie Brown! poor Charlie Brown has been given a big assignment over the Christmas and New Year holiday: read Tolstoy's War and Peace and write a book report on it.  Most students can sympathize as they think of the homework assignments they were given over the holidays.  Around his struggles, Charlie Brown's friends are planning a New Year's Eve party, making resolutions, planning whom to kiss when the clock strikes twelve midnight, and finally, of course, they all sing Auld Lang Syne--all the things Americans do for the New Year.

It is also possible to start with a holiday video and build a whole holiday unit around it, as we have done with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving3 (1973, United Features Syndicate, 25 minutes).  Using a reading from Tiersky and Tiersky (1990), students make up role plays about Miles Standish (referred to on the video), and we sing "Over the River and through the Woods" (sung at the end of the video).  Students take the parts of the characters as we read through the transcript aloud before we finally watch and enjoy A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.

Notes

        1. Much of the material in this article was presented at the 15th Annual Thai TESOL Meeting, January 12 - 14, 1995, Bangkok.

        2. Some of the material in this section first appeared in Katchen, J. E., 1994.  Using cartoons to spice up holiday lessons.  TESOL Video News, 4(5), 7, 9.

        3. These activities first appeared in Katchen, J. E., 1993.  Thanksgiving activities with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Video Rising, 5(2), 7.


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In plain English, a war worth fighting

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Kevin Donnelly | February 02, 2008

 

IN her advocacy of new-age and politically correct approaches to English teaching, represented by postmodern theory, critical literacy, gender politics and embracing computers and the internet, Monash University's Ilana Snyder makes no bones about why she wrote her new book The Literacy Wars and who the enemy is.

The opening and closing chapters begin with references to The Australian's campaign for a more traditional approach to English, where the literary classics are centre stage and phonics and grammar play a significant role.

Snyder writes: "However, it was the Murdoch paper's crusade against contemporary approaches to literacy education that motivated me to write the book. It is time to hold them to account."

Parents and the public might like to believe the fourth estate has every right to reveal shortcomings in the nation's education system and to hold those responsible to account for failed experiments such as whole language and critical literacy, but not Snyder. Not only does she label the paper's stance and commentary on English teaching as ideologically driven and misleading, but commentators associated with the paper, including Luke Slattery, Christopher Pearson and me, are condemned as conservative, elitist cultural warriors guilty of manufacturing a literacy crisis.

Notwithstanding its flaws, The Literacy Wars deserves to be read. While attacking so-called conservative critics for getting it wrong, Snyder admits that during the 1970s and '80s grammar disappeared from the classroom.

She also admits there is no evidence that new technology raises student achievement, and accepts the truth of many of the criticisms detailed in The Australian when she states: "The issue of fragmentation of the curriculum is real and there are also problems with political correctness as it has played out in Australian schools."

The Literacy Wars provides a useful summary of how English has developed since the early '70s, including the use of the personal-growth model and process writing, where the child's experience is paramount and creativity replaces formally teaching grammar, spelling and syntax.

But Snyder's treatment of recent literacy debates is confused and one-sided. Take the issue of falling standards. The Australian's criticisms of professional associations and teacher educators relate to the fact, as the result of a dumbed-down English curriculum, that many students enter secondary school without the basics, and first-year university undergraduates have to take remedial classes.

One expects a literacy expert such as Snyder to be clear on the issue of standards; unfortunately she is not. First, readers are told it is impossible to decide if standards have improved or declined: "Reading and writing are dynamic practices, changing over time."

Two pages later, she argues there has not been "a general decline in literacy standards" and, notwithstanding her statement that it was impossible to judge either way, in the final chapter she says: "Allegations of declining standards and literacy crises are not tenable."

As shown by the 2000 and 2006 results in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's program for international student assessment, where Australian students dropped from second to sixth in terms of literacy performance, there is evidence that standards have fallen. Research by Canberra-based academic Andrew Leigh also concludes that "troubling new evidence suggests that literacy and numeracy scores have stagnated or fallen since the 1970s, despite the doubling of resources".

Snyder is also incorrect in attacking Australia's education system for being what she terms "high quality/low equity", an argument, often put by the University of Melbourne's Barry McGaw, that, compared with other countries, not enough is being done to help disadvantaged students.

As noted by Geoff Masters, the head of the Australian Council for Educational Research, the claim is wrong. Masters states, after analysing the 2006 PISA results: "Another indicator of the world-class nature of our education system is the observation that the relationship between socioeconomic background and student achievement in Australia is weaker than the OECD average. In the popular jargon, Australia is a 'high quality/high equity' country."

The failure to take note of research evidence is not restricted to Australia. Snyder condemns the type of testing associated with US President George W. Bush's "No Child Left Behind" initiative, claiming that a back-to-basics approach does not work. According to a report by the Washington-based Centre on Education Policy, released midway through last year, such is not the case. After analysing the data from 50 states, the conclusion is that the majority show improvements in learning outcomes as measured by reading and mathematics test scores.

In the final chapter of The Literacy Wars, Snyder states: "It is time to abandon the language of attack and accusation to concentrate on improving literacy education for all Australian students." It's a pity she does not follow her own advice.

Instead of welcoming public debate led by The Australian, she accuses the paper of manufacturing a crisis to increase sales and simply wanting to promote the conservative Howard government's political agenda. One wonders how those on the cultural Left will deal with Education Minister Julia Gillard's description of herself as an education traditionalist and the Rudd Government's back-to-basics approach to curriculum?

Instead of accepting that critics are motivated by a desire to empower students by giving them a rigorous education, Snyder also argues that those advocating the classics and curriculum are disinterested and driven by a desire to win the class war and to denigrate the work of government schools.

Debates about grammar, according to Snyder, reflect a "clash between proponents of social control and the proponents of social autonomy" and such battles are "as much about the restoration and renewal of traditional hierarchical relations in society as they are about schooling".

Ignored is the argument of David Kemp, a former minister for education under the Howard government, that the best way to help disadvantaged students is to teach them the basics and introduce them to the enduring works of the Western tradition.

Snyder's apparent position that many students are destined to failure due to their disadvantaged background and therefore schools cannot be held accountable for how well they learn, is self-fulfilling and defeatist if taken seriously.

Also ignored is The Australian's role in outing an exclusive Sydney-based non-government school for making students deconstruct Shakespeare in terms of neo-Marxist, postmodern theory. The reality is that politically correct approaches to curriculum affect government and non-government schools alike.

Kevin Donnelly taught English for 18 years and his PhD thesis examines developments in English teaching since the late 1960s. He has been a member of state and national curriculum committees and is a past member of the Australian Association for the Teaching of English.

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Hyperfiction: its possibilities in English


Dr Ilana Snyder
Senior Lecturer
School of Graduate Studies
Monash University
Clayton 3168
Australia
Ph: 03 9905 2773
Fax: 03 9905 2779
Email: [email protected]

 

Abstract

When writers use hypertext - the technology that makes possible nonsequential, fully electronic reading and writing - to produce a fictional narrative, the result is interactive hyperfiction. This article charts what we know about electronic nonlinear narrative: its origins, literary precursors and distinctive features. It also explores the potential of hyperfiction in the English classroom. Finally, it examines some of the difficulties associated with the use of hyperfiction as well as the hype that has surrounded its introduction into educational settings.

Number of words: approximately 4,700

Key words: hypertext, hyperfiction, electronic technologies, computers, narrative, writing, interactivity

 

Hyperfiction: its possibilities in English

 

When the American writer, Robert Coover, published an article in the New York Times Book Review titled The end of books (1992, pp. 1, 23-25), not many people outside of multimedia business organisations and academia knew much about hypertext, let alone the use of hypertext to create interactive fiction. Coover announced the arrival of hyperfiction, a new narrative art form, readable only on a computer, and made possible by the developing technology of hypertext and hypermedia. He also explained how users 'read' these new forms of text and the nature of the experience. The consternation aroused in readers of the New York Times, reinforced by the bold headline, centred on the fear that the birth of hyperfiction necessarily signalled the death of the printed book.

 

Extreme responses to discussions of the changes to literacy practices and narrative form associated with the use of hypertext are not unusual. It seems that belief in the intrinsic value of the printed book is so deeply ingrained in our cultural consciousness and memory that any challenge to its five hundred-year reign is greeted with hostility, even outrage. However, debating whether or not books will disappear with the advent of hypertext seems to be a rather pointless exercise. The relentless hype about the Internet, the World Wide Web and hypertext may lead people to fear otherwise, but the growing presence of the computer and electronic text does not necessarily signal the death of the printed book. The introduction of a new technology of writing does not automatically render older ones obsolete, mainly because no technology has ever proven adequate for all needs. For example, even though printing completely replaced handwriting in book production, it did not spell the end for handwriting. Rather, the boundaries between the two writing technologies blurred. It seems that typesetting, electronic writing and handwriting will continue to coexist and complement each other, at least for the immediate future (Snyder, 1996).

 

What is hyperfiction?

 

Hyperfiction depends on hypertext technology - a structure composed of blocks of text connected by electronic links that offers different pathways to users. Hypertext provides a means of arranging information in a nonlinear manner with the computer automating the process of connecting one piece of information to another. If the structure accommodates not only printed texts but also digitised sound, graphics, animation, video and virtual reality, it is sometimes referred to as 'hypermedia' or 'multimedia'.

 

When writers use hypertext to produce a fictional narrative, the result is interactive hyperfiction. A significant distinction between traditional print narratives and hyperfiction lies in how we approach them. Readers of print narratives usually begin on the first page and, even though they may move backwards or forwards, generally proceed through the text to the end. Their gradual progression follows a carefully scripted route which ensures that they get from the beginning to the end in the way the author wants them to. By contrast, most hyperfictions have no single beginning or end. A further distinction is based on the tangibility of the text. Whereas the length of a work of fiction can be gauged just by holding it, readers of a hyperfiction do not know what the hypertext contains till they load it into their computer, and even then they may never experience its full magnitude. The possibilities for readers to create their own stories are considerably greater in hyperfiction than when reading a print narrative or Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, both of which have highly visible beginnings and endings, as well as other structural limitations.

 

Literary and electronic precursors

 

Although books are a poor medium for participatory discourse, since the beginnings of modern fiction authors have attempted 'to jar or cajole readers out of passivity' (Kaplan & Moulthrop, 1991, p. 11). Literary precursors of hyperfiction include Sterne's Tristram Shandy (1759-67) and more recent fiction such as Cortazar's Hopscotch (1966). Sterne and Cortazar are self-consciously absorbed in both the act of writing itself and the difficult relationships between narrator, text and reader. Both work strenuously against the medium in which their books are produced. Any reader familiar with hypertext will look at such texts anew, and observe that in their resistance to linear narrative they have much in common with hyperfiction. By attacking the convention that a novel is a coherent narrative of events, such texts simultaneously invite and confirm reader-interaction.

 

But whereas Sterne and Cortazar can only pretend to offer their readers the opportunity to take part in the construction of their books, hypertext can demand that the reader participate. In a hyperfiction, no text appears on the screen until a reader summons it with a keystroke or the click of a mouse. Furthermore, the electronic environment gives a stronger sense than does the printed page of the author 'being there'. 'The author is present in the electronic network of episodes that he or she creates and through which the reader moves along associative paths' (Bolter, 1991, p. 134).

 

Hyperfiction develops from a twentieth-century tradition of experimental literature. Dadaism, for example, aimed at destroying the structures of established art and literature, and 'in that breakdown the Dadaists worked in the same spirit as writers now work in the electronic medium' (Bolter, 1991, p. 131). Dadaists often attacked the conventions of the realistic novel that tells its story with a clear and cogent rhythm of events, and in doing so found themselves straining at the limitations of the printed page. Because the linear-hierarchical presentation of the printed book was so well suited to the conventions of plot and character in the realistic novel, 'to attack the form of the novel was also to attack the technology of print' (p. 131).

 

Many other twentieth-century novels, plays and films also critique narrative conventions. In The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969), Fowles gives the book two endings (or three, if you count the one that occurs three-quarters of the way through, which supplies a conventional Victorian outcome). Fowles here highlights the spurious meaningfulness of the fictional world he has created and the indeterminacy of the real one. In Reisz's and Pinter's 1981 film of the novel, the two endings are translated into a film-within-a-film.

 

Because interactive fiction already existed in print and film, the technological challenge for creators of electronic interactive fiction was 'to find a way of turning imaginary worlds lodged in the writer's head into virtual worlds lodged in the computer's memory' (Woolley, 1992, p. 155). The precedent was Adventure, developed in the 1960s at Stanford University's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL). The program was conceived of as an experimental game. A computerised version of role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, Adventure comprises a series of descriptions of fictional locations inspired by Tolkien's fantasy The Lord of the Rings (1954). It maps an imaginary environment into electronic memory and allows its player-readers to explore that space by issuing simple commands. In giving these commands, the reader attempts to negotiate a series of spatial and narrative obstacles to reach some hidden goal. Adventure became a diversion of programmers and computer scientists, 'who built ever more intricate and challenging versions of the game' (Kaplan and Moulthrop, 1991, p. 12).

 

Adventure and its descendants continued to evolve through the late 1970s, when interactive text games migrated from academic and corporate mainframes to micro-computers. There the form was married with popular fiction and role-playing games to produce a second generation of text adventures that retained the problem-solving design of the original Adventure. These games were not networks of possibilities to be explored but arrangements of obstacles to be overcome in the progress to a determined goal. Later in the 1980s there emerged a third generation of interactive fiction in which the influence of game scenarios has been less noticeable. The multiple fictions of this third generation are narrative networks capable of differing significantly on every reading.

 

Afternoon, the first hyperfiction

 

Joyce's hyperfiction, Afternoon (1991a), is an intricate web of narratives, places, paths and 'yields', that is, words and phrases whose evocative resonances readers can pursue by using a mouse to highlight them on the computer screen. Afternoon is a fiction that changes every time it is read. It invites the reader to circulate digressively among a matrix of characters and events that are never quite what they seemed on first presentation. 'I want to say I may have seen my son die this morning', an anonymous speaker confides, disclosing a rich field of narrative possibility. However, none of the stories produced by interacting with Afternoon will validate or disprove either the desire or the perception of the speaker.

 

Afternoon is a text scattered with verbal associations. If you select the word 'son' in the first sentence of the story, for example, the text on the screen shifts to a description of the scene in which the narrator, who appears to be male, finds his son's school paper on the 'The Sun King'. The word 'die' in the initial sentence serves as the cue for a different narrative departure. But there is also a third possibility - a default condition. These default transitions, however, do not simply reinstate the fixed page-order of a bound volume. Afternoon is structured in such a way that its elements are assembled in a different order every time you call up a new screen.

 

Hyperfiction fosters both passive and active reading: 'looking at and looking through' the text (Bolter, 1992, p. 40). When reading an episode, you may succeed in looking through the text to an imagined world. Formal structures are both visible and operative in hyperfiction because they are embodied in the links between episodes. At each link the text offers a series of possibilities that you can activate, moving backwards and forwards between the verbal text and the structure as you read. In Afternoon you may get lost in Peter's engaging story of his search for his son. But the need to make choices never lets you forget that you are participating in the making of a fiction.

 

There is no plot as such in Afternoon. Because it is not built on causal sequences, it does not present parallel story-lines. Events are ambiguous, and the story focuses on how the characters might react to such ambiguities. There appears to be a mystery: the narrator's son may or may not have been in an automobile accident. Readers are compelled to follow the father as he tries to establish the fate of his son: in this respect, the father's quest becomes the reader's. The particular episodes you call up will determine the answer you receive. In other words, '[t]he reader's own participation in the story becomes the story' (Bolter, 1992, p. 29).

 

Afternoon differs from printed fiction by not offering any 'single story of which each reading is a version, because each reading determines the story as it goes'; as a result, 'there is no story at all; there are only readings' (Bolter, 1991, p. 124). We could also say that the story of Afternoon is the sum of all its readings, in so far as the story is a structure that can embrace contradictory outcomes. Afternoon is an infinite text which never offers the same page to any reader more than once.

 

Afternoon demonstrates that it is possible to create a text which does not force its readers down one particular route. A corollary is that readers risk becoming lost, partly because the textual landscape is unfamiliar and partly because the narrative is the means by which readers orient themselves. Joyce recognises such difficulties and seeks to overcome them by placing limits on narrative freedom, although in Afternoon he does not provide his readers with a map. In his hyperfiction, WOE, however, Joyce (1991b) includes a map of the text's overall structure and of places still awaiting discovery. It records previous paths and suggests which directions might prove fruitful for exploration.

 

Afternoon is not a random fiction because its author exercises control over the choices his reader can make. Afternoon can be (and sometimes is) a linear story, because occasionally only one path leads from an episode. At other times, it gives its reader dozens of choices, although they are far from random. As a text that changes before our eyes, Afternoon challenges our assumptions about the nature of literature: it represents a new kind of writing. But because it also comes out of a literary tradition, we recognise it as a coherent act of imagination, as a story with characters who interact and conflict.

 

Unlike interactive print fiction, hyperfiction abandons such conventions as chapters and the illusion of a seamless continuity between paragraphs. The virtual text exists only in electronic space or in our memories. As the text re-forms with successive readings, no two readings are alike. By presenting a chameleon text-like surface, hyperfiction is textually subversive. Its structure is 'effectively open to a virtually unlimited range of possible readings, each of which causes the work to acquire new vitality in terms of one particular taste, perspective, or personal performance' (Eco, 1979, p. 63). But hyperfiction also arouses unease if not antagonism in some users. It presents 'an electronic environment alien and inimical to our habitual reading patterns' (Douglas, 1989, p. 94)

 

Extemporising with narrative form

 

We love a good story, told by a skilled narrator, and dictated by the authoritative voice of an accomplished author. Hypertext invites us 'to find an analogue in the electronic medium for narrative line and authorial control in the traditional medium of print' (Bolter, 1993, p. 9). The most effective techniques for achieving a strong story-line in the print medium are linearity, plot, characterisation, textual coherence, resolution and closure. Experiments in hyperfiction, however, diminish these qualities in varying degrees by exploiting the electronic medium's capacity to create open-ended fictions with multiple narrative strands. Any discussion of the changes to narrative form brought about by hyperfiction necessarily involves a consideration of the ways in which writers using hypertext technology have played with these integral elements, and found alternative strategies and techniques for engaging readers' attention.

 

In one sense, each reading of a hyperfiction is a linear experience: confronted with one frame after another, you are still aware of a narrative, however confused it may be. At the same time, a hyperfiction seems to contain more than one voice and to change direction abruptly. Each hyperfiction handles in its own way the conflict between the linearity of the reading experience and the multiplicity of hyperfiction. In Joyce's Afternoon, for instance, some readings represent alternative voices or perspectives on the narrative, with each discrete change kept separate by electronic space. The web of intersecting narrative strands in Moulthrop's (1991) hyperfiction, Victory Garden, offers a mixture of voices and genres: first- and third-person narrative fiction, excerpts from other books, fiction and non-fiction, and quotations from televised broadcasts. Joyce's (1991) WOE is a narrative experiment in which some readings are metafictional commentaries on the narrative and its origins in Joyce's experience.

 

In hyperfictions such as these, a lack of linearity does not destroy the narrative. In fact, since readers always fabricate their own structures, sequences and meanings - and particularly so in hypertext conditions - they have surprisingly little trouble constructing a story as they make their way through the web. Reading hyperfiction, however, can be a very different experience from reading a printed novel or a short story. What hyperfiction forces us to recognise is that an active author-reader fabricates not only meanings but also a text from the kit supplied by the author.

 

Rethinking plot and story

 

Hyperfiction calls into question some of the most basic points about plot and story in the Aristotelian tradition. Hyperfiction interrogates not only Aristotle's notions of beginning and end, but also his assumptions about the sequence of parts and the unity of the finished work (Aristotle, 1959).

 

Hyperfiction apparently dispenses with linear organisation. Although the experience of linearity does not disappear altogether with hyperfiction, narrative chunks do not follow one another in a page-turning, forward direction. Hyperfiction space is multi-dimensional and theoretically infinite: its set of possible network links are fixed, variable or random. Readers can contribute by choosing their own route through the labyrinth; the more active may introduce new elements, open new paths, and interact with the characters or even with the author(s).

 

Many twentieth-century works of fiction explore the tension between linearity and a more spatial sensation of time. Patrick White's Riders in the Chariot (1961) and Janette Turner Hospital's The Last Magician (1992), for example, question the status of sequence in narrative and so too does David Malouf's Fly Away Peter (1982). The protagonists of all three novels are suspicious of chronology and sequence: what they experience is something more akin to simultaneity. The difference between their novels and hyperfictions is that hypertext confers greater freedom and power on the reader. Malouf decides at what point his protagonist's narrative is to branch out; in Joyce's Afternoon, the reader makes that kind of decision.

 

Reconceptualising beginnings and endings

 

The problems posed by hyperfiction for traditional understandings of narrative are particularly apparent in the case of beginning and ending stories. In their brief history, hyperfictions seem to have taken 'an essentially cautious approach' (Landow, 1992, p. 109) to the problem of beginnings by offering the reader a block of text - labelled with something like 'start here' - that combines the functions of title page, introduction and opening paragraph. There are various reasons for this. One is convenience: the disk has to be self-contained so that it can be used on stand-alone machines. Another is the reluctance of some writers to disorient readers at the point of their first contact with the narrative. A further reason is that some believe hyperfiction should change our experiences of the middle but not the beginning of narrative fiction. The rival view is that because hyperfiction uniquely enables us to begin with any one of its parts, we should take advantage of this fact. In order to achieve this end, each chunk of text must be sufficiently independent to generate meanings that can be followed in other chunks of hyperfiction.

 

Although they use familiar narrative strategies to make beginnings easier, hyperfictions challenge readers by avoiding the corresponding devices for achieving closure. It is up to readers to decide how, when and why the narrative finishes. In Afternoon, Joyce makes closure the responsibility of the reader. In a section entitled 'work in progress' we are advised: 'Closure is, as in any fiction, a suspect quality, although here it is made manifest. When the story no longer progresses, or when it cycles, or when you tire of the paths, the experience of reading it ends'. Hyperfictions always end because readings always end - either with a sense of satisfying closure, or from sheer fatigue.

 

Of course, we are not entirely naive about unresolved texts. Print and cinematic narratives provide instances of multiple closure and also a combination of closure linked to new beginnings. Charles Dickens and other nineteenth-century writers whose novels were serialised in periodicals mastered the art of partial closure in each episode. Furthermore, sequences of novels like Durrell's Alexandria Quartet 'suggest that writers of fiction have long encountered problems very similar to those faced by writers of hypertext fiction and have developed an array of formal and thematic solutions to them' (Landow, 1992, p. 112). However, culturally familiar though we are with the absence or denial of closure, we may still find the consequences disturbing.

 

The potential of hyperfiction in English

 

Articles discussing the possibilities for the use of hyperfiction in the English classroom are beginning to appear in the literature. Kaplan and Moulthrop (1991), for example, describe a course in which they used hypertext. They found that the writing of interactive fiction, by raising the possibility of alternative constructions, heightened the sensitivity of their students to narrative features such as point of view, the authority of the narrator and causal sequence. Interactive fiction also seems to help integrate an enriched experience of literature with the practice of writing as a social activity, and enables students to become not merely more perceptive interpreters of fiction, but also creators of it. Interactive hyperfiction, Kaplan and Moulthrop argue (1991, p. 21), has considerable potential for those who teach 'writing through literature, or literature through writing'.

 

The introduction of hypertext into literature classrooms raises a number of pedagogical issues. To treat Afternoon as a literary text, for instance, involves redefining what is meant by the terms 'literature' and 'text'. Such a reconceptualisation entails not only fundamental alterations in the roles of author, reader and text, but also changes in the role of the teacher and in the activities of teaching and learning about literature.

 

The use of hypertext in the English classroom provides another medium for the promotion of collaborative work. The technology offers the option of interactive or collaborative writing. Students can create texts in all manner of collaborative ways: 'trading lines, writing parallel texts that merge, moving independently created sets of characters in and out of communal fictional space' (Birkerts, 1994, p. 160). In his New York Times essay, Coover (1992, p. 24) described how he and his students established a 'hypertext hotel' a place where the writers were free to 'check in, to open new rooms, new corridors, new intrigues, to unlink texts or create new links, to intrude upon or subvert the texts of others, to alter plot trajectories, manipulate time and space, to engage in dialogue through invented characters, then kill off one another's characters or even sabotage the hotel's plumbing'.

 

Working with hyperfiction in the English classroom, however, raises new problems. One identified by many critics is that of getting lost. A hyperfiction can be at one and the same time compelling and confusing. The text is no longer static and stable; the reader may get lost in the maze and not enjoy the experience. All the characteristics of the novel to which we have become accustomed and which we teach our students - 'unity, integrity, coherence, vision, voice, seem to be in danger' (Coover, 1992, p. 24). Further, how do we assess and evaluate and respond to a work that is different every time we read it?

 

There is still an enormous amount that we don't know about hypertext. Hyperfiction's alleged potential to transform the teaching of writing 'whether by supporting familiar goals in fresh ways or by suggesting a whole new approach to reading and writing remains for the most part unexplored' (DiPardo & DiPardo, 1990, p.7). Moreover, early advocates have tempered their initial enthusiasm with some important questions. McDaid (1991), the author of a number of hyperfictions, asks whether hypertext actually facilitates the teaching of writing; whether its effects are good or bad; and whether we can overcome the problem of inequality of access.

 

Recognising the difficulties

 

When hypertext first arrived on the education scene, and with it the possibility of creating hyperfiction, enthusiasts endowed it with utopian promise. They believed that hypertext had replaced linear writing in an evolutionary step towards perfect communication technology. They believed that the mere act of linking multiple interpretations and voices resulted automatically in better communication. Moreover, they believed that hypertext would transform society and education systems, democratise the academy and promote the breakdown of the artificial divisions between the disciplines.

 

By contrast, detractors argued that hypertext portended dark consequences for our culture. They implored people not to submit to a technocratic force and a totalitarian nightmare. They dismissed promoters of hypertext as fetishising novelty. They also argued most vehemently that hypertext offered nothing but confusion and cognitive overload to users. They reminded people that the book was central to culture and consciousness and that they must not give in to the oppression of technology.

 

However, what seems a better alternative to polarised debates about hypertext is to approach the use of this technology in our classrooms, both critically and intelligently.

Eco (1995) reminds us that it's not an 'either/or' situation; we do not have to choose between books and the new electronic technologies. He points out that literacy comprises many media. 'An enlightened policy on literacy must take into account the possibilities of all these media' (p. 91). Eco implores us to not fight against false enemies: 'Even if it were true that today visual communication has overwhelmed written communication, the problem is not one of opposing written to visual communication. The problem is rather how to improve both' (p. 91).

 

Facing an electronic future

 

The historical record shows that many English teachers have tended to resist using the new electronic technologies in their teaching. Of course, there are teachers who have either no, or limited, access to the technology. And even if there are computers available for their students' use, they may not as yet have software such as Storyspace (Bolter, Joyce & Smith, 1990) to make the creation of hyperfiction an option. But there are also English teachers who work in environments that have computer facilities who remain reluctant to use them (Snyder, 1995). They are wary of the use of the technology despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that we face a future dominated by computer culture.

 

However, if the influence of electronic text is to be as pervasive as many are predicting, then English teachers need to think about its consequences for teaching and learning. As Lanham points out, 'it is hard not to conclude that what we are doing now is not preparing our students for the world they will live in, and the lives they will live out, but training them, instead, to be the "clerks of a forgotten mood"' (1993, p. 136). Addressing teachers of writing and literary studies, Lanham poses the question: 'What business are we really in?' (1989, p. 285). His answer is unequivocal:

If our business is general literacy, as some of us think, then electronic instructional systems offer the only hope for the radically leveraged mass instruction the problems of general literacy pose. If we are in any respect to pretend that 'majoring in English,' or any other literature, and all that it implies, teaches our students how to manipulate words in the world of work, then we must accommodate literary study to the electronic word in which that world will increasingly deal. (p. 285)

 

But at the same time, we should remain sceptical of the probably unrealistic early claims made about hyperfiction's radical potential. We must address in systematic ways the difficulties that readers have identified when trying to navigate hypertext or that writers have identified when authoring hyperfictions (Hawisher, LeBlanc, Moran & Selfe, 1996). We should take note of Michael Joyce's (1988, p. 11) concern:

 

It is likely that the potential benefits outweigh nearly all the short run perils, save perhaps the most crucial one. The peril of overpromising threatens not just to sap the resilience of educators, who must wade through the dross and justify the costs. It also threatens the credibility and creativity of innovators, who find themselves having to disaffiliate and differentiate before they can discover.

 

In this article, I have not presented many examples of what teachers are doing with hyperfiction in their classrooms. Although I know that readers of this journal are interested in creative and imaginative ways in which to use the electronic technologies, my aim has been somewhat different. I have set out to chart some of what we know about this new nonlinear narrative form: its origins, literary precursors and characteristics. By considering how hyperfiction differs from the more familiar print literary forms, until now the staple diet of the English curriculum, we may be prompted to re-examine our notions and understandings of narrative. But I also recognise that it's all very well to explore the theoretical potential of hyperfiction, but 'making it work with real readers and writers, in real classrooms taught by real teachers' (Hawisher, LeBlanc, Moran & Selfe, 1996, p. 208) is just as important. However, we'll have to leave the exploration of that task for another article.

 

Bibliography

 

Aristotle (1959) The Poetics trans. L.J. Potts, Aristotle on the Art of Fiction: An English Translation of Aristotle's Poetics with an Introductory Essay and Explanatory Notes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Birkerts, S. (1994) The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age. New York: Fawcett Columbine

Bolter, J.D. (1991) Writing Space: The Computer, Hypertext, and the History of Writing. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

Bolter, J.D. (1992) Literature in the electronic writing space. In M. Tuman (ed.), Literacy Online (pp. 19-42). Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: University of Pittsburgh Press

Bolter, J.D. (1993) Alone and together in the electronic bazaar. Computers and Composition 10, 2, 5-18

Bolter, J.D., Joyce, M., Smith, J.B. (1990) Storyspace: Hypertext Writing Environment for the Macintosh. Computer software. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Eastgate Systems

Coover, R. (1992) The end of books. New York Times Book Review, June 21, 1, 23-25

DiPardo, A., DiPardo, M. (1990) Towards the metapersonal essay: exploring the potential of hypertext in the composition class. Computers and Composition 7, 3, 7-22

Douglas, J.Y. (1989) Wandering through the labyrinth: encountering interactive fiction. Computers and Composition 6, 3, 93-101

Douglas, J.Y. (1992) What hypertexts can do the print narratives cannot. Reader 28, 1-22

Eco, U. (1979) The Role of the Reader. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press

Eco, U. (1995) Apocalypse postponed. R. Lumley (ed), London: Flamingo, an imprint of Harper Collins

Hawisher, G.E., LeBlanc, P., Moran, C., Selfe, C.L. (1996) Computers and the Teaching of Writing in American Higher Education, 1979-1994: A History. Norwood, New Jersey: Ablex

Joyce, M. (1991a) Afternoon, a Story, Computer disk. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Eastgate Press

Joyce, M. (1991b) WOE, Computer disk. Writing on the Edge 2, 2

Kaplan, N., Moulthrop, S. (1991) Something to imagine: literature, composition, and interactive fiction. Computers and Composition 9, 1, 7-23

Landow, G.P. (1992) Hypertext: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press

Lanham, R.A. (1989) The electronic word: literary study and the digital revolution. New Literary History 20, 265-90

Lanham, R.A. (1993) The Electronic Word: Democracy, Technology and the Arts. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

 

McDaid, J. (1991) Toward an ecology of hypermedia. In G.E. Hawisher & C.L. Selfe (eds), Evolving Perspectives on Computers and Composition Studies: Questions for the 1990s (pp. 203-23). Urbana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English.

Moulthrop, S. (1991) Victory Garden, Computer disk. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Eastgate Press

Snyder, I.A. (1995) Toward electronic writing classrooms: the challenge for teachers. Journal of Information Technology for Teacher Education 4, 1, 51-65.

Snyder, I. (1996) Hypertext: The Electronic Labyrinth. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

Woolley, B. (1992) Virtual Worlds: A Journey in Hype and Hyperreality. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books

© http://www.schools.ash.org.au/litweb/ilana.html

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By Maria Palmira Massi and Adriana G. Merino

Nobody would deny that we are bombarded by the media and visual images. By the mere click of a finger, we can get access to remote lands and far-away people on our TV set or computer screen. Giving visual messages a place in the foreign language curriculum is an interesting and entertaining way to enhance the learner's command of the target language; and the messages available through film offer a refreshing change of routine in the classroom.

 

Until recently, the use of films in foreign language teaching has been down-played because teachers felt they were time-consuming and too difficult to tackle. Yet, with the spread of video equipment and audiovisual resources into educational institutions, the use of films is becoming more common. Good films can serve as a valuable pedagogical aid, both for classroom use and self-study. The ultimate goal is to arouse sensitivity in the learner and to provide a stimulus to stretch his/her imagination and creativity.

 


Why bring the cinema into the classroom?

 

The power of films as a medium is acknowledged by all. It can be exploited in a number of ways. One possible use of film in the language program is to promote new ideas and expand the learner's horizons. In a content-based syllabus, for instance, a particular film can be used to vividly illustrate situations which are unfamiliar or inaccessible and provide the learner with a stimulus which serves as a springboard for further discussion of an issue. Besides, film is an excellent medium for the explicit teaching of syntactic, morphological, semantic, and pragmatic aspects of the foreign language. This goes hand in hand with motivational purposes, since learning objectives are achieved through the performance of different tasks. Another advantage is that language structures and lexical items are used in communicative situations, and propositional messages are fleshed out with quasi-authentic realism. There is also a wealth of non-linguistic and cultural information that can be exploited and focused on with appropriate assignments. Some films can lead into a discussion of psychological and social questions.

There are such obvious advantages in using films that it is easy to forget some possible hindrances. It may be disheartening for the language learner not to understand every single word, but even native speakers may fail in this. The student should be encouraged to get the global idea in the first place, and only in some instances should he/she be asked to concentrate on single chunks of language. From the teacher's perspective, it may be argued that the planning stage is time-consuming and demanding since it requires previewing the film and designing adequate activities. But these pitfalls vanish when we think of the countless possibilities open to us when dealing with films: They allow for constant reinforcement in the acquisition of a foreign language; they provide a good medium for self-study; they offer the learners the possibility of thinking critically as well as using their imaginations. They contribute not only to the development of inferential skills but also to aesthetic appreciation of the storyline and technical aspects of the film such as photography, special effects, electronic tricks, music, direction, production, etc. Apart from being faced with language, the learner is confronted with the socio-cultural environment in which the film is set. In sum, it is obvious that the pendulum swings to the asset side, and the pros outnumber the cons. So, why not give it a try?
 


Where to start...? Selection

 

The selection of films is the most important step in the process and constitutes the biggest challenge. It can be based on thematic content to reinforce and consolidate topics treated within the language syllabus, such as discrimination, moral issues, mass media, ecology, education, and work, or to illustrate language functions and grammatical patterns in real use. Furthermore, associative networks can be exemplified and exploited, such as terminology related to filmmaking (in Attenborough's Chaplin ), banking and stockholding (in Stone's Wall Street ), legal terms (in Demme's Philadelphia), education (in Weir's Dead Poets Society ) etc.

Selection should be very careful especially with respect to accent since some problems may arise. Comprehension may be hindered by dialectal varieties of the language used by the characters. For instance, in Gilbert's Educating Rita, staring Michael Caine and Julie Walters, the professor's accent is, from the foreign language learner's standpoint, clear and understandable, but Rita's cockney may be difficult to understand. Yet, the film may be profitable for advanced groups to illustrate that particular speech community.

When choosing a film, decisions on subject matter should be based on well-thought-out criteria since it may go beyond the learner's linguistic and conceptual competence and may not be in keeping with his/her needs and interests. The students' age and psychological maturity must be taken into consideration when making a choice, and care should be taken so as not to offend the learner's sensitivity. If these factors are overlooked, we may run the risk of having the learner get only a superficial interpretation, missing the underlying message. For example, in the films Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct, and Disclosure directed by Adrian Lyne, Paul Verhoeven and Barry Levinson respectively, sex is the trigger to unravel deep moral issues and psychological traits. These films seek to depict the deepest vices of human existence, such as unfaithfulness, thirst for power, competitiveness, etc. So the learner should be led to go beyond the sex sequences themselves and to probe into other dimensions. That is why these films are not recommended for immature learners.

The duration of the film is another aspect to be kept in mind. Long films such as Spielberg's Schindler's List or Kostner's Dances with Wolves can be used, but thorough planning is required to divide the film into several viewing sessions with pre-viewing and post viewing questions.

 


What's next? Exploitation

 

 Micro-teaching activities should be organized according to thematic issues and linguistic and conceptual complexity in concert with the learner's level of proficiency. Some rules of thumb can be given. The whole film can be brought into discussion to check and promote global understanding of the story, with questions on setting, characters, and explicit and hidden messages. Apart from these traditional viewing activities, freeze-frame techniques can be implemented to highlight some important images. For example, at the onset of the film Chaplin we can see the protagonist portrayed as the mustachioed Little Tramp. This scene can be frozen to elicit answers from the learner as to the way he looks, his physical appearance, and so on. Alternatively, some of the outstanding sequences or key dialogs that constitute the crux of the story can be isolated so as to exploit significant topics. In Philadelphia, we can present some scenes (for example, the dialog between Andrew and the librarian or the exchange between the Counselor and his wife) to illustrate different aspects of discrimination against the leading character, his homosexuality, and his illness. We should foster evaluation of the complete film or parts of it as well as conduct debates on outstanding topics, such as the justice system in Sheridan's In the Name of the Father or technology and mass media in Disclosure.

Another possibility is to select two or three crucial lines from the script and ask the learner to analyze them in the light of the whole plot, For example, in Zemeckis's Forrest Gump we can consider and analyse Mrs. Gump's "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get" or Lieutenant Dan's "We all have a destiny".

All the above activities are focused on thematic issues, but films also give room for exploitation of grammatical and functional aspects of the language. To mention but one instance, Newell's Four Weddings and a Funeral exemplifies a range of functions like expressing opinions, making a pass, expressing condolences, proposing, persuading, discussing, arguing, etc. Likewise, films are a rich source of idiomatic expressions, which, thanks to the context, are easy to grasp and internalize.

In exploiting a film in class, the difficulty does not lie in the film itself but in designing tasks from it. As stated above, the teacher should adapt the films to the learner's level of proficiency and conceptual competence.

 


And to follow...? Integrative activities

 

As in all aspects of learning, it is essential for the learner to integrate past knowledge with new information, extrapolating from what he has gained from viewing the film. The learner can be asked to write summaries to reconstruct the macro structure of the story and see it as a whole. Learners can also write movie reviews giving their opinions about the film. One interesting task is to rate several films using objective criteria identified by the students themselves.

Dramatization of a scene from a film can be quite motivating, especially for those learners with histrionic talents and an adventurous spirit. While doing research about the director or leading characters of a film (and writing a biography) can be implemented with low-level learners, research on big issues can be encouraged with more advanced groups. They can investigate matters such as ecology and the environment (Hitchcock's The Birds ) classical music (Foreman's Amadeus and Rose's Immortal Beloved ), mass media (Howard's The Paper and Redford's Quiz Show ), and the changing role of women in society (in Campion's The Piano , Scorsese's The Age of Innocence , and Scott's Thelma and Louise ).

For advanced levels, we suggest discussion of socio-cultural patterns depicted in a particular film to develop awareness of cultural differences such as in Bertolucci's The Sheltering Sky and The Last Emperor , or differences between generations, as depicted in Stiller's Reality Bites , or Hallstrom's What's eating Gilbert Grape ? From our experience, the organization of round table discussions and debates on controversial issues has proved profitable. In our lessons the students have been eager to discuss issues such as euthanasia (in Badham's Whose life is it anyway? ), love versus money (in Lyne's Indecent Proposal ), marriage and divorce (De Vito's The War of the Roses ), or the role of TV in society (in Quiz Show ). Finally, the learner can be required to appraise the aesthetic value of masterpieces such as Hitchcock's suspense thrillers, Ivory's A Room with a View , and Scorsese's The Age of Innocence , and to analyse the film's technical aspects, such as photography, sound tracks, special effects, direction, and the like.

The possibilities for using film in the foreign language class are endless. Films present slices of life, and as such, provide a realistic, authentic and entertaining way of improving the learner's command of the language. They add fun and involvement to the language classroom. But don't take our word for it. Try it and see for yourself!

 

Maria Palmira Massi is an Adjunct lecturer at the Teacher Training College, Escuela Superior de Idiomas, Universidad Nacional del Comahue, General Roca, Rio Negro, Argentina.
Adriana G. Merino is an Associate Lecturer of EFL at the Escuela Superior de Idiomas, Universidad Nacional del Comahue. She is in charge of ESP courses for Communication Studies students.

 

References

  • Allan, M. 1985. Teaching English with video. New York: Longman
  • Corner, J. and J. Hawthorn, 1988. Communication studies: An introductory reader. Arnold.
  • Lonergan, J. 1985. Video in language teaching. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Schrank, J. 1986. Understanding mass media. Lincolnwood, IL: National Textbook Company.

 

APPENDIX: FORREST GUMP

After watching the film, answer the following questions.

About Forrest

1. If you were asked to describe Forrest, which of the following features would you choose as the most important in understanding him. Why? (You can add some others)

  • stupid boy
  • healthy boy/man
  • good lover
  • intelligent man
  • good father
  • disrespectful person
  • successful person
  • efficient soldier
  • agile sportsman
  • materialist
  • credulous man
  • sympathetic person
  • faithful friend
  • sweet son
About Jenny
  1. Jenny was Forrest's first friend. Why did he trust her so deeply? Why did he never forget her in spite of her unexpected departures?
  2. On many occasions, Forrest told Jenny that he loved her, in one of them, Jenny said, "You don't know what love is " Do you think she was right? Why? Why not?

 

About Bubba
 
  1. Compare Forrest to Bubba. Were they both simple-minded men?
  2. Evaluate their friendship. Did Forrest keep his promise to Bubba.
 
About Lieutenant Dan
  1. Explain the lieutenant's role in the development of the film.
  2. Evaluate Forrest's friendship with him.
About YOU
  1. Do you identify with any of the characters of the film? If so, with whom?
  2. If you were in a battle, would you come back to rescue other soldiers, risking your life as Forrest did?
About the film as a whole

Consider the questions below and debate them in groups. Providea written report.
  1. Forrest was a different boy, who was expected to have a lot of difficulties in "normal" society. However, he managed to succeed and achieve more than many other human beings. Discuss how he survived and triumphed. What is the implication of his success.
  2. Certain aspects of the film seem to be unreal and exaggerated, such as the fact that Forrest ran for three years. Do you think that they are pointless or are they symbolizing something essential in life? Justify your answer.
  3. "In our society, difference is discriminated against." This seems to be one of the big issues illustrated in the film. Is it true? How do we act towards those who are different from us (less intelligent, handicapped, sick, racially different skin colour, believers of a different religion, members of a different political party, etc. ? Do we respect them? Do we ignore them? Do we make fun of them? Do we reject them?
  4. This film reflects part of the history of the USA during the past thirty years. Can the film only be understood by Americans or does it have universal values? Is it a film that makes you think because it hides a simple but important message? All in all, is it worth seeing?
  5. Summarize the essence at the film in just one sentence.
Follow-up

Choose and develop one of the following tasks.
  1. You are one of Forrest's classmates. Write a short paragraph (10-15 lines) describing your feelings about sharing the same class with a person like him. Do you feel uncomfortable? Do you feel pity for him? Do you feel proud of his achievements? Would you be his friend?
  2. Write a review of the film. Include the following: title, director, setting, characters, events, evaluation.

Note: The authors want to acknowledge and give special thanks to second year students from Escuela Superior de Idiomas (Translatorship and Teacher Training Courses), and to Mass Media students at Universidad Nacional del Comahue, who provided the fertile environment for the development of learning activities, some of which are in the Appendix.

© http://forum.state.gov/vols/vol34/no1/p20.htm

© Images:

1)http://www.flickr.com/photos/katzyair/1558741550

2)http://www.flickr.com/photos/laylara/2701410892

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English Teachers, Prepare Yourselves for the Digital Age

By Edward Tanguay, M.Ed. TESOL
Berlin, Germany

May 16, 1997

In this article, Edward draws on his experience of English teaching and Internet consulting to discuss the future of English teaching as the world enters an increasingly digital age. This article was written for English teachers who have a growing sense that the Internet is becoming more and more important for their professional careers. It tells them why the Internet is important to their profession, what they can expect in the years to come, and how they can prepare themselves as English teachers in the digital age.

On a spring day in 1992 in Philadelphia, I pressed my Enter key and listened to the familar string of tones from my modem as it logged into the Temple University computer. This was nothing new for someone who had grown up with computers. But this day was one I will never forget: it was first day I ever logged into the Internet.

As an English teacher, my Internet connection back in 1992 meant that I could send a grammar question out to 500 English teachers around the world and have at least 10 replies in my mailbox the next morning. It meant that I could sit at my desk in Philadelphia chatting with a colleague at Purdue, she typing on the top of the screen and I typing on the bottom, at no cost. It meant contacting the Amerika Haus in Berlin via E-Mail which led to a teaching position at Potsdam University. It meant finding information on almost any topic for the courses I was teaching.

Yes, the Internet is good for English teaching. And it is going to get better--exponentially. In this article, I want to tell you why, and make some forcasts on what the digital age holds for English teaching.

My forecasts for the future of English teaching are based on three hypotheses:

1. That which can be digitized, will be digitized.
2. English instruction can be almost fully digitized.
3. English instruction is more efficient when teachers use a digitized medium.

1. That which can be digitized, will be digitized.

Nicholas Negroponte in his book Being Digital draws a distinction between atoms and bits. A book, for instance, is composed of atoms whereas an E-Mail is composed of bits. The difference between atoms and bits is that atoms take a long time to be sent from place to place and are relatively expensive to duplicate. Bits, on the other hand, can be sent around the world in a matter of seconds and cost nothing to duplicate. If you want to send a book from Berlin to New York, it will probably cost you about $10 and will probably take about 7 days. If you want to send a digitized book from Berlin to New York, it will cost you nothing and will get there in 5 seconds. For English teachers, the benefits are enormous. For the business world, the profit margins are unbelievable. This is why everything that can be digitized, will be digitized.

2. English instruction can be almost fully digitized.

What can be digitized and what can not? Text, pictures, voice, and video can all be digitized. Text can be typed in, pictures can be scanned in, and voice and video can be recorded digitally. But this is not all. Interactive conversations can be digitized. Interactive environments, for instance, a classroom, a train station, or a business meeting can be digitized. Since English instruction consists primarily of text, pictures, voice, video, conversation, and interactive environments, English instruction can be almost fully digitized.


3. English instruction is more efficient when teachers use a digitized medium.

Digitalization increases student-centeredness. If a student writes a digitized document and gives it to you to correct, you can add notes to the document just as you can to a regular paper document. The difference is that the student can then click on your digitized notes, e.g. "use present perfect here" which takes him to an interactive, multi-media lesson teaching him about the present perfect tense and when to use it. Connected to this is a grammar chat room with students and tutors who discuss and answer questions about grammar. The student learns what he needs to know when he needs to know it.

Digitalization increases accessiblity. Particularly in English for Specific Purposes, and more particularly in non-English speaking countries, specific material in English is fairly hard to come by. For instance, let us say you are teaching English at a company here in Berlin which produces flags. They need to learn vocabulary which has to do with flag production. You simply need to log into the Internet and type in the key words "flag production." You will get a number of web sites of English-speaking flag production companies with information on their products. Print these out and use them in your class. Write an E-Mail to the company and ask them to send you a catalog. Ask them what else is available on the Internet regarding flag production. Also, send an E-Mail to the 13,000 teachers in the English teachers news group and ask if anyone has experience teaching English at companies involved in flag production.

Digitalization removes geographical barriers and saves time. For those of you who teach business English here in Berlin, how long does it take you to commute to work? How long does it take your students to travel to class? If both you and your students could switch on your PCs and conduct your English lessons via video conference from your homes and offices, how much total time would it save all of you? And if you could do this, why not add students in Japan and Singapore as well? Digitized English teaching removes the geographical barrier which frees up time for both the teacher and the students.

Digitalization brings like minds together. Back in the 17th century, Leibniz and Newton developed Calculus independently of one another. If they had lived today, they would have met by now in a newsgroup and would already be exchanging ideas via E-Mail. The ease which the Internet provides to meet people with similar interests, professions, backgrounds, and experiences is unparalleled in human history. There are people in the world who are teaching the same kinds of classes you teach, have similar students, and are working on similar projects. The Internet makes it possible for you to meet, communicate, and work on projects together with them.

So what is the function of an English teacher in the digital age?

The function of a English teacher in general is to communicate to students the concepts and skills necessary to function well in situations which involve reading, writing, speaking, listening, and social skills. Anyone who has seen virtual reality interactive-CD language programs such as Who is Oscar Lake can imagine that as these products improve, they will soon be able to convey the basics of language instruction quite efficiently to any student who is privileged enough to have access to a well-equipped computer. And with the exponentially increasing speed at which bits can be pumped through the rapidly multiplying fiber optic cables and satellites of the Internet, more and more English students world-wide will be able to interact with language teaching videos and virtual worlds which will bring them to a relatively high level of proficiency, especially since other people will be running around through these virtual worlds as well, talking to each other, getting help from each other, and practicing language functions in contextual situations. These services will be paid for through advertising--students will learn the phrase "I would like a Coke, please" because Coca Cola sponsors the program. This means that high quality computer language instruction will be free for anyone who has a fast enough Internet connection.

When I mention these visions to English teachers, some of them are afraid that computers will someday replace English teachers. This will not be the case. There will always be a human on one side of English teaching and another human on the other, it is just that the computer between us is getting more and more effective, which improves our teaching and improves the students' learning abilities. Humans are powerful and computers are powerful, and together, they are are extremely powerful.

My point in this article is that if you are an English teacher, you need to get more and more involved with computers in order to continue to improve your teaching skills. The following are my suggestions for English teachers in order to prepare themselves for the digital age (ranked in order of importance):

1. Get access to a computer with an Internet connection.
2. Learn how to search for information on the World Wide Web.
3. Learn how to send and receive E-Mail.
4. Learn how to join and participate in news groups, and find colleagues with similar interests.
5. Learn how to attach documents and other files to E-Mail.
6. Learn how to create, publish, and update a home page.
7. Learn how to type with both hands without looking at the keyboard.

Future visions of English teaching:

1997: Instant Interactive Publishing: Publishing an article on English teaching will be a matter of clicking your mouse button, and your readers will be able to respond to and discuss your article immediately. The article you are now reading was originally written for and published in the ELTAB-B Newsletter, a small, paper publication for a local Berlin teachers association. In order to publish it, I had to save it to a diskette, print it out, put both in an envelope, write the address, lick the stamp, take it to the post office, and pay for the postage. After a day it arrived at the editor's office. She had to bring it into the her word processor, reformat it, print it out, send it to the publishers, wait until it was printed, take the newsletters to the post office, and of course, pay the publishers and the post office.

Now, what I also did, was right before I printed this article out and took it to the post office, I uploaded it to the Internet and posted it to various English teaching lists and news groups, which immediately made it available to thousands of teachers around the world (which cost nothing). What this means is that by the time the members of ELTAB-B here in Berlin receive their paper newsletter and are reading this article, the online English teaching community will have been discussing it via E-Mail for two weeks, triggering conversations in teacher's lounges from Japan to Australia, and perhaps encouraging others to write related articles. Many will have written me back, visited my home page, and contacted me regarding other English teaching interests. In addition, this article is always available online--it will never go out of print. Nobody will ever have to "request a reprint" and wait a week and spend money to get it. They simply have to log into the Internet and type in http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~tanguay/english-teachers.htm which will bring this article up on their screen in seconds, ready to read, respond to, print out, or send to other colleagues via E-Mail with comments.

1998: Online Education: Universities will offer full English courses online. Class texts will be available via download, class lectures available via streaming audio and video, students and teachers will interact via E-Mail and online teleconferences. For an example of such a multimedia class, visit the HCCS Technology Center in Houston at http://198.64.57.10/tgcccc/hccs/rb1360.htm.

1998: Custom English Teaching News: Push technology software will provide you with the ability to have an up-to-date custom, interactive news source right from your desktop which will send you English teaching news only on the subjects you want. You simply enter your interests one time and the software will roam the web for you sending you articles which are of interest to you. For an example of push technology, check out http://www.pointcast.com. With this software, I get daily news delivered to my PC everyday from two Internet magazines, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

1999: Instruction on Demand: Anybody with a credit card and an Internet connection will be able to choose from numerous online English tutors and get instant instruction or help via video conference. The database available to them will contain a picture of the teacher, a short video of their teaching style, nationality, teaching background, degrees, areas of expertise, and price per time unit. Video conferencing via personal computer is already a reality and quite affordable. Information about inexpensive video cameras for video conferencing can be found at http://www.connectix.com. Free trial software to run video conferences can be found at http://www.vocaltech.com.

2000: Interactive TESOL Conferences from Your Living Room: English teachers will attend and participate in International TESOL Conferences live from their WebTV in their living rooms. News on the development of WebTVs can be found at http://www.ruel.net/webtv_news.html.

2001: Virtual English Instruction: Streaming Virtual Reality over the Internet will provide English teachers with the ability to simulate any type of teaching environment. The English teacher in Berlin and the English student in Japan will both put on their virtual reality helmets and walk together through a virtual New York, pointing out the sites, buying items, riding the subway, and more. Various functional situations such as being accosted by a stranger, asking for directions, and meeting people can be practiced as much as the student would like. You can visit a virtual New York today at http://www.planet9.com/vrmnhtn.htm.

* * *

The World Wide Web is currently doubling itself every four months and getting faster. This is going to have a tremendous impact on the way we teach English. Prepare yourself for this by developing skills today which will improve your English teaching in the digital age.

© http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~tanguay/english-teachers.htm
 

Edward Tanguay
Berlin, Germany
E-Mail: [email protected]
Personal Web Site: http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~tanguay

 

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Listening: Top down and bottom up


By C
atherine Morley, Teacher, Teacher trainer, Mexico

In 'real-life' listening, our students will have to use a combination of the two processes, with more emphasis on 'top-down' or 'bottom-up' listening depending on their reasons for listening.

  • Top down vs. bottom-up listening
  • In the classroom
  • Top-down listening activities
  • Bottom-up listening activities
  • Conclusion
© http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/468646950/sizes/s/

Top down vs. bottom-up listening
Imagine the following situations:

Over lunch, your friend tells you a story about a recent holiday, which was a disaster. You listen with interest and interject at appropriate moments, maybe to express surprise or sympathy.

That evening, another friend calls to invite you to a party at her house the following Saturday. As you’ve never been to her house before, she gives you directions. You listen carefully and make notes.

How do you listen in each case? Are there any differences?
With the holiday anecdote, your main concern was probably understanding the general idea and knowing when some response was expected. In contrast, when listening to the directions to a party, understanding the exact words is likely to be more important – if you want to get there without incident, that is!

The way you listened to the holiday anecdote could be characterised as top-down listening. This refers to the use of background knowledge in understanding the meaning of the message. Background knowledge consists of context, that is, the situation and topic, and co-text, in other words, what came before and after. The context of chatting to a friend in a casual environment itself narrows down the range of possible topics. Once the topic of a holiday has been established, our knowledge of the kind of things that can happen on holiday comes into play and helps us to ‘match’ the incoming sound signal against our expectations of what we might hear and to fill out specific details.

In contrast, when listening to directions to a friend’s house, comprehension is achieved by dividing and decoding the sound signal bit by bit. The ability to separate the stream of speech into individual words becomes more important here, if we are to recognise, for example, the name of a street or an instruction to take a particular bus.

In reality, fluent listening normally depends on the use of both processes operating simultaneously. Think about talking to your friends (in your first language) in a noisy bar. It is likely that you ‘guess’ the content of large sections of the conversation, based on your knowledge of the topic and what has already been said. In this way, you rely more on top-down processing to make up for unreliability in the sound signal, which forms an obstacle to bottom-up processing. Similarly, second-language listeners often revert to their knowledge of the topic and situation when faced with unfamiliar vocabulary or structures, so using top-down processing to compensate for difficulties in bottom-up processing. On the other hand, if a listener is unable to understand anything of what she hears, she will not even be able to establish the topic of conversation, so top-down processing will also be very limited.

In the classroom
In real-life listening, our students will have to use a combination of the two processes, with more emphasis on top-down or bottom-up listening depending on their reasons for listening. However, the two types of listening can also be practised separately, as the skills involved are quite different.

Top-down listening activities

Do you ever get your students to predict the content of a listening beforehand, maybe using information about the topic or situation, pictures, or key words? If so, you are already helping them to develop their top-down processing skills, by encouraging them to use their knowledge of the topic to help them understand the content. This is an essential skill given that, in a real-life listening situation, even advanced learners are likely to come across some unknown vocabulary. By using their knowledge of context and co-text, they should either be able to guess the meaning of the unknown word, or understand the general idea without getting distracted by it.
Other examples of common top-down listening activities include putting a series of pictures or sequence of events in order, listening to conversations and identifying where they take place, reading information about a topic then listening to find whether or not the same points are mentioned, or inferring the relationships between the people involved.

Bottom-up listening activities

The emphasis in EFL listening materials in recent years has been on developing top-down listening processes. There are good reasons for this given that learners need to be able to listen effectively even when faced with unfamiliar vocabulary or structures. However, if the learner understands very few words from the incoming signal, even knowledge about the context may not be sufficient for her to understand what is happening, and she can easily get lost. Of course, low level learners may simply not have enough vocabulary or knowledge of the language yet, but most teachers will be familiar with the situation in which higher-level students fail to recognise known words in the stream of fast connected speech. Bottom-up listening activities can help learners to understand enough linguistic elements of what they hear to then be able use their top-down skills to fill in the gaps.

The following procedure for developing bottom-up listening skills draws on dictogloss, and is designed to help learners recognise the divisions between words, an important bottom-up listening skill. The teacher reads out a number of sentences, and asks learners to write down how many words there would be in the written form. While the task might sound easy, for learners the weak forms in normal connected speech can make it problematic, so it is very important for the teacher to say the sentences in a very natural way, rather than dictating them word-by-word.

Some suitable sentences are:

  • I’m going to the shop.
  • Do you want some chocolate?
  • Let’s have a party!
  • I’d better go soon.
  • You shouldn’t have told him.
  • What are you doing?
  • There isn’t any coffee.
  • What have you got?
  • He doesn’t like it.
  • It’s quite a long way.
  • Why did you think you’d be able to?
  • Can you tell him I called?

Learners can be asked to compare their answers in pairs, before listening again to check. While listening a third time, they could write what they hear, before reconstructing the complete sentences in pairs or groups. By comparing their version with the correct sentences, learners will become more aware of the sounds of normal spoken English, and how this is different from the written or carefully-spoken form. This will help them to develop the skill of recognising known words and identifying word divisions in fast connected speech.

Conclusion

Successful listening depends on the ability to combine these two types of processing. Activities which work on each strategy separately should help students to combine top-down and bottom-up processes to become more effective listeners in real-life situations or longer classroom listenings.

Further reading
Anne Anderson and Tony Lynch (1988). Listening. Oxford University Press
Jack Richards, Designing instructional materials for teaching listening comprehension, in ‘The Language Teaching Matrix’, Cambridge, 1990
Mary Underwood (1989). Teaching Listening. Longman
Penny Ur (1984), Teaching Listening Comprehension, Cambridge.
Magnus Wilson. Discovery Listening – improving perceptual processing. ELT Journal Volume 57/4 (October 2003).

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Teaching Politically Correct Language

Maryna Tsehelska

The importance of teaching EFL students politically correct English is no longer argued. Students who study English as second language today should be aware of the importance of efforts towards inclusiveness and acceptance of diverse lifestyles and ethnicities in English-speaking cultures. This issue is important for those who want to be able to function in English-speaking academic and business settings. Teaching politically correct language in the English classroom not only provides important information for learners but also gives them an opportunity to become aware of important cultural issues.

Historical roots of political correctness

Politically correct speech became a matter of hot debate in the 1980s, when many native speakers of English became sensitive to biased terms and phrases that exist in the language. In the previous decade, activists of the feminist movement made the first attempts to diminish differences between men and women in society. They criticized the existing language and culture as "male-dominated" and "patriarchal." The history of society, as the feminists argued, was written from the male point of view ("it's HIStory, not HERstory").

The English language was also considered to be full of male-dominating patterns. Utterances like Every teacher plans his lessons referred to teachers in general, and words with the stem "man" (e.g. mankind, chairman) were used to denote both sexes. Feminists criticized these items as sexist; all patterns referring to men only were called "sexist, old-fashioned language." Sexist language was opposed by "modern non-sexist or inclusive language" that suggested gender equality and neutrality.

Inclusive language suggested avoiding the use of male pronouns in the cases when the gender of a person is unknown. Utterances like Every student has to pass his exams were replaced by phrases such as All students have to pass their exams or Every student has to pass his or her exams. Today we can even see the phrase Every student has to pass their exams--which violates traditional rules of subject-verb agreement but conforms to new rules of gender neutrality. General terms containing the segment man, such as mankind and man-made, were made inclusive by using synonyms such as humankind and artificial.

Later, the names of jobs and occupations were revised to become sexually neutral. Speakers of English have found new ways to avoid sex markers: flight attendant (since the terms steward and stewardess are no longer used), sales person (salesman and saleswoman have been outlawed), police officer (instead of policeman) and chairperson or chair (instead of chairman) (Zabotkina 1989).

While teaching politically correct language, a teacher should clearly differentiate between sexist language, pejorative language and taboo language. Sexist language is a term that labels the use of male-dominated phrases suggesting that members of one sex are less able, intelligent, and skillful (the examples cited above); pejorative language is the use of words or phrases disapproving or suggesting that something is no good or of no importance (labeling nationalities, aged people, etc.); taboo language includes words or phrases which are likely to offend somebody-certain words referring to sex or sexual organs, excretion, and people's nationality or race can be particularly offensive. (Cambridge International Dictionary of English 1995). Avoiding these words and phrases means using politically correct language.

Aspects of political correctness

In the late 1980s, the rules of political correctness (PC) began to be applied to a broad range of issues-such as race, age, sexual orientation, abilities. As people became sensitive to bias on the basis of race, gender, age, and sexual orientation, they tried to minimize the negative impact of language that reflected these biases.

The tendency toward "deracialization" in English provided new names for nationalities and ethnic groups. The words Negro, colored, and Afro-American were replaced by African American; Oriental or Asiatic became Asian or more specific designations such as Pacific Islander, Chinese American, Korean. Indian, a term that refers to people who live in or come from India, was differentiated from terms used for the native peoples of North America such as American Indian, Native American, or more specific terms like Chinook or Hopi.

Changing attitudes about aging made people aware of words that reinforce stereotypes (decrepit, senile) and the need to avoid mentioning age unless it's relevant. Terms like elderly, aged, old, and geriatric were replaced by older person, senior citizens or seniors (Zabotkina 1989).

New non-pejorative terms began to be used to name people with disabilities or illnesses. Blind people were called visually challenged; the deaf were called people with hearing impairments. The terms challenged, differently abled and special were coined to describe people with clinical diagnoses or mental disabilities. Today these words and word combinations are preferred by some people, but they are often ridiculed and are best avoided (Zabotkina 1989).

Tasks for teaching political correctness

The subject of politically correct English links historical, cultural, social, and linguistic issues. Since it also addresses current language usage, it appeals to language learners and teachers engaged in the study of English as it is actually used by native speakers today. Thus, politically correct English can be an interesting and useful subject of study for the ESL or EFL classroom. The tasks that follow can be used in the ELT classroom to help fairly advanced students explore this topic.

Warm-up activity

1. Ask your students to identify issues that people are especially sensitive to (they may name gender, age, ethnicity or nationality, religion, physical appearance).
2. Show your students pictures of different people and ask them what these people are sensitive to, what language strategies they can use to avoid offending these people. Present examples and suggestions on the board. Identify patterns, e.g. dropping -ess from authoress, manageress, actress, replacing -man/man with person/people, etc.

Task 1

The following phrases use sexist language. Rewrite them to make them inclusive.
1. A teacher should be tolerant with his students.
2. A child needs the love of his parents.
3. An actress is usually nervous before the show.
4. Mary is a camerawoman.
5. The committee elected a chairman.
6. Man is destroying our planet.
7. Today man-made fibers are used for manufacturing stockings.
8. This substance is not known to man.

Task 2

Although well known, the following proverbs are not politically correct. Try to change them.
1. Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
2. He who cannot obey cannot command.
3. A man's home is his castle.
4. Every man has his hobbyhorse.
5. He is happy that thinks himself so.

Task 3

Column A represents traditional names for different races and nationalities, and column B gives the politically correct version. Match the names from column A with column B.

A
B

1. Oriental
2. Colored
3. Australian Aborigines
4. Torres Strait islanders
5. Whites

a). Native Australians
b). Native Hawaiian
c). Asian
d). Caucasians
e). African Americans

Task 4

Many people are sensitive about their abilities, age, culture, and appearance. Make the following phrases sound inoffensive to the persons being spoken about.
1. She is looking after her insane mother.
2. The program offers long-term care for the elderly and immediate care for the mentally retarded.
3. A new clinic for the care of geriatrics is being proposed.
4. He is as blind as a bat.
5. My neighbor is as deaf as a post.
6. Jane is an emotional cripple.
7. Fat people need to go on diets.

Tasks for further investigation

The movement for political correctness has both supporters and critics. This makes it a good topic for discussions, debates, and other exercises in critical thinking skills. Below are several topics for further investigation or discussion. They may not be familiar or appropriate for all settings, but they may help teachers think of politically correct issues that would be relevant to their students.

1. Terms referring to racial, ethnic, or indigenous groups of people. Sensitivity toward race and ethnicity is also reflected in language changes that have been motivated by political correctness. For example, in most common usage today Asian has replaced Oriental. However, there is not always universal agreement or understanding about which terms are favored, polite, or neutral in a particular setting. For example, some people prefer to use the term Native American while others prefer American Indian, and still others prefer First Americans.

Have your students design and conduct a survey of their classmates, neighbors, and friends who represent various racial and ethnic groups to collect information about this issue. Then, they can report their findings to the class.

2. Terms used to disguise unpleasantness. In an attempt to mask the truth or to hide unpleasant realities, governments or other special interest groups sometimes create euphemisms or expressions to put a more positive light on a situation. If blind sounds offensive, substitute visually challenged. Genocide may be referred to as ethnic cleansing. Sometimes, the new terms seem awkward, funny, or even offensive. Again, there is unlikely to be agreement on whether such terms are good or not. Consider this opinion from Dr. Kenneth Jernigan (1999), a leader for more than 40 years in the National Federation of the Blind in the United States:

The blind have had trouble with euphemisms for as long as anybody can remember…. The form has changed (in fact, everything is very "politically correct"), but the old notions of inferiority and second-class status still remain. The euphemisms and the political correctness don't help. If anything, they make matters worse since they claim modern thought and new enlightenment.

Jernigan (1999) quotes a resolution passed by the National Federation of the Blind that says that using politically correct euphemisms instead of "such straightforward, respectable words as blindness, blind, the blind, blind person, or blind persons…. implies shame instead of true equality, and portrays the blind as touchy and belligerent."

Ask your students: Do you agree or disagree with Dr. Jernigan? Explain why. Have students try to find other similar examples of euphemistic speech.

3. Political correctness in languages other than English. Politically correct changes are also occurring in languages other than English as a reflection of growing tolerance, inclusion, and other changes in modern societies.

Ask your students: What examples of politically correct speech can you identify in the native languages of your classmates or community? Have students create a list of examples.

4. PC point of view. Write the statements below on the blackboard.

a. PC speech is an important issue in modern society and reflects a growing respect for others.
b. PC speech is just a form of conformism and does not represent a meaningful change in attitudes.

Ask your students which of the two points of view most closely reflects their opinions? Ask them to explain, giving examples to support their opinions.

Conclusion

Politically correct changes are occurring in English (and in many other languages) as a reflection of the ideas of tolerance and inclusion. In order to produce competent users of English, we owe it to our students to explore this phenomenon and to give them opportunities to become proficient users of tolerant and inclusive terms in particular situations.

References

Cambridge International Dictionary of English. 1995. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Jernigan, K. 1999. The pitfalls of political correctness: Euphemisms excoriated. National Federation of the Blind. http://www.blind.net/bpg00005.htm
Zabotkina V. I. 1989. New lexis of modern English. Moscow: Vysshya Shkola.


Marina Tsehelska has been teaching English at Kryvyi Rih State Pedagogical University for ten years. During that time she completed a dissertation in Linguistics and became chair of the English Language and Methodology department.

 

APPENDIX: Answer Key For Exercises
Task 1
1. Teachers should be tolerant with their students.
2. A child needs the love of his or her parents.
3. Actors are usually nervous before the show.
4. Mary is a camera operator.
5. The committee elected a chair.
6. Humans are destroying our planet.
7. Today artificial fibers are used for manufacturing stockings.
8. This substance is not known to the human race.
Task 2
1. Early to bed and early to rise makes people healthy, wealthy, and wise.
2. A person who cannot obey cannot command.
3. Humans' homes are their castles.
4. Everyone has his or her hobbyhorse.
5. They are happy that think themselves so.
Task 3
1c, 2e, 3a, 4b, 5d
Task 4
1. She is looking after her mentally challenged mother.
2. The program offers long-term care for senior citizens and immediate care for the
developmentally challenged.
3. A new clinic for the care of older people is being proposed.
4. He is visually challenged.
5. My neighbor has hearing impairments.
6. Jane finds it difficult to express her feelings.
7. Overweight people need to go on diets.

© http://exchanges.state.gov/forum/vols/vol44/no1/p20.htm

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Effective Ways to Use Authentic Materials With ESL/EFL Students

Charles Kelly, Lawrence Kelly, Mark Offner and Bruce Vorland
http://aitech.ac.jp/~ckelly/ | http://aitech.ac.jp/~lkelly/
http://aitech.ac.jp/~offner/ | http://aitech.ac.jp/~vorland/
Aichi Institute of Technology (Toyota, Japan)

This paper explains how authentic materials can be effectively used in the ESL classroom. Each pair of students is given a copy of the authentic material accompanied by a set of questions about the contents of the handout. Students work together with a partner to extract pertinent information that is necessary to answer the questions.

The Authentic Materials

Background

We have been using authentic materials for over 10 years and have found that they complement English classes by enlivening the class and creating a more positive attitude toward learning. We now have an extensive collection of materials that include menus, maps, newspaper inserts, store advertisements, travel brochures, catalogs, phone books, real estate pamphlets, and various pamphlets of sightseeing and tourist information. We have found that using sets of materials are particularly appealing. A set could include a map, a travel guide, a menu, and a store advertisement from the same town -- all of which are interwoven, immersing the student in a multidimensional English experience.

Choosing Authentic Materials

There are several important points to consider when choosing authentic materials. You should make sure that you have enough copies of the materials to be used so that each student or pair of students can have a copy to use. It is best not to use material with too many pages, unless the pages are clearly numbered for easy reference. If you plan to use the same materials in more than one class, it is important that they be hardy enough to withstand a lot of handling and they should be easily refolded and put back together. Materials with multiple pieces or pages that fall out or come apart should be avoided. Also, keep in mind that some materials are more easily dated than others. For example, last season's catalog does not have the same impact as a current one which is filled with items which the student could actually order. A menu, on the other hand, can be used as long as the prices remain contemporary. Students are generally uninterested in special events, for example an Expo, that have already past. Remember to choose material that is appropriate for the students' level. However, a certain amount of adjustment can be made depending on the type and level of questions used in the accompanying question handout.

Using Authentic Materials

When we first began using authentic materials, we handed out materials to each student and had them work individually. However, experience has shown that having students work in pairs is a better approach because they tend to be more enthusiastic and work harder. We give each pair the authentic material and a question handout. Interestingly, the student with the stronger command of English is not necessarily the one who is able to extract the most information from the material. Students of different abilities tend to complement one another and, as a result, do not get bogged down easily. Students tend to contribute individual strengths to the completion of the task. We usually tell students that question handouts will be collected since this keeps them more focused on the completion of the exercise. The teacher's personal anecdotes and other background information should be shared before the students begin concentrating on the material.

After the authentic material has been distributed, we give a brief explanation and point out, for example, the importance of the table of contents in a pamphlet or the legend in a map. We point out small print and other parts of the material that are easily missed. We have found that pointing out Japanese words and products raises the level of interest in the material. This is a good time for the teacher to explain measures, abbreviations, and difficult words and expressions.

While the students are working on the assignment, we help them by answering questions and commenting on their work. This is also a good chance to give hints to those who are stuck on a particular question.

Once the allotted time is up, we collect the material along with the question handout and go over the difficult questions with the class. If the handouts are to be factored into the students' grades, it is a good idea to make sure they have a chance to work with various partners over the course of the semester.

Putting the Question Handout Together

For the authentic materials to be effective, the questions must be well constructed to (a) give the students the opportunity to practice English, (b) help the students gain confidence in their English ability, (c) expose the students to cultural differences and customs, and (d) help the students develop their ability to find pertinent information quickly.

Tour Questions

The first part of the question handout should contain easy multiple choice or fill-in factual questions. These questions give the students a 'tour' of the material and exposes them to a variety of question types. The students gain an overview of the material as they answer these initial easy questions and this makes them feel confident enough to tackle more difficult questions later.

Cultural and Personal Choice Questions

The second part of the handout should contain questions that can be used to bring attention to cultural differences in packaging, sizes, and pricing. Authentic materials often contain references to cultural events such as holidays, and questions can be used to bring these to the students' attention. Questions which require one word or written answers could be used at this stage. Furthermore, students are familiar enough with the material at this point to answer personal choice questions. These questions usually require the students to choose items from the material or a course of action based on personal preference. These often lead to lively discussion because students must agree on what answer to write.

Challenging Questions

The third part should have questions that are more challenging and time consuming. Because of the differences in abilities (and sometimes luck), the time it takes students to complete a question handout can vary considerably. The more challenging questions at the end of the handout tend to work as 'equalizers' and slow down faster students so slower students can catch up. Questions can involve reading the small print, be especially detailed, or involve deductive reasoning. When students are working on the challenging questions they often begin to compare their progress to that of their neighbors'. Deliberately misleading 'red herring' questions add to the competitiveness while developing the students' critical thinking.

Types of Questions and Sample Questions

Multiple Choice:

  1. How many Navel Oranges can you buy for a dollar? a) 3 b) 4 c) 5
  2. Which is the cheapest? a) orange juice b) grapefruit juice c) tomato juice

One Word Answer:

  1. What country are the seedless grapes from? __________
  2. On the back page it says Chilean Asian Pears for $1.00 each. What do you think "Asian pears" are called in Japanese? _________

Written Answer:

  1. Why are the strawberries on the back page called California Strawberries?
  2. How do you order coupons on the Internet for this store?

Lists:

  1. You want to make sandwiches for your family. What would you buy?
    1. Stone Ground Wheat Bread - 2 loaves - $4.00
    2. _________________ - _______________ - $ ______
    3. _________________ - _______________ - $ ______
    4. _________________ - _______________ - $ ______
    5. _________________ - _______________ - $ ______
  2. You are having a party for five friends at your house. You can spend only 50 dollars. What would you buy for the party?
    1. Cape Cod Potato Chips - 4 six ounce bags - $6.00
    2. _________________ - _______________ - $ ______
    3. _________________ - _______________ - $ ______
    4. _________________ - _______________ - $ ______
    5. _________________ - _______________ - $ ______

Factual:

  1. How many large brown eggs can you buy for $1? _________
  2. How much are two jars of Mayonnaise on page 7? $ _____

Analytical (multi-step):

  1. How much do 10 ears of Florida Super Sweet Corn and 2 pounds (lb.) of Fresh Ground Round cost? $ ______
  2. Which costs more, one lb. of Fresh Boneless Shark Steaks or one lb. of Whiting Fillets? ________

Personal Preference:

  1. Look at the back page. What fruit would you like to eat? __________
  2. What flowers do you want to give to your mother on Mother's Day?
    ________________________________ $ ______

Conversion:

  1. How many ounces are there in a two liter bottle of Pepsi One? ____
  2. How many grams of Florida Red Potatoes can you buy for five dollars? One pound is about 453 grams. _________

Red Herring:

  1. One Florida Juice Orange costs $2.00.  True or False  (NOTE TO TEACHERS: The advertisement says one bag is $2.00.)
  2. Which is cheaper, one lb. of Whiting Fillets or one lb. of Crunchy Clam Strip? ________

Obvious:

  1. What is the name of this store? _____________________
  2. What month is the Mother's Day Sale? ______________

Challenging:

  1. Find something that is cheaper in Japan than in the USA. ________.
  2. What can you buy in a glass jar that is usually sold in a plastic bottle in Japan? _________

Activities

There are other methods of using authentic materials. Some of these can be used as a supplement to the question handout, or on their own, for variety. Here are four examples of effective activities with brief explanations.

Word Search

The students search for parts of speech such as adjectives on a given page or search for certain categories of things. An advantage of this activity is that students do not need identical copies of the authentic material.

Crosswords

The teacher prepares a crossword puzzle using words from the handout. The questions for the handout can also be presented as crossword clues. Crossword generating programs found on the Internet make this easy.

Personalizing

The students write a list of purchases for an imaginary party using a supermarket handout, plan a trip using a travel brochure or plan a meal with a menu. The students could also be asked to fill out a mail order form with an imaginary order of purchases for family members, boyfriends, girlfriends, and themselves.

Pair Practice

The students ask and answer the printed questions on the handout and are encouraged to ask their own questions. The students can role play the parts of customer and clerk either following a sample conversation provided by the teacher or making up their own.

Internet

The Internet can be used to provide authentic material as well. The teacher can search for sites that focus on a specific topic, make questions, and post them online. These online lessons can be completed by the students on their own. Although the Internet has many advantages, it cannot replace the hands-on, three dimensional quality of real materials brought into the classroom by the teacher.

See the following URLs for examples of online lessons:

Conclusion

When used effectively, authentic materials help bring the real world into the classroom and significantly enliven the ESL class. Exposing the students to cultural features generates a deeper understanding of and interest in the topic. On one hand, the students develop their ability to zero in on relevant information, and on the other, they learn how to disregard what is not relevant. As students pool their individual strengths they gain confidence in being able to function in an English-speaking society.

The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. VIII, No. 11, November 2002
http://iteslj.org/
©http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Kelly-Authentic.html
 
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Cohesion in Academic Writing

 Good writing needs to be as clear as possible so that the reader can easily follow sentences, ideas and details. One of the most important aspects is to show the connections and relationships between ideas. Using particular types of words and phrases, known as 'cohesive devices', to link individual sentences and parts of sentences, helps the reader to follow the movement of ideas without any difficulty. They help the writing to flow naturally, without unnecessary repetition.

 


  1. Referring backwards

    The reader needs to know who and what is being referred to in a passage of text. But it's not good to repeat the same phrase too often, so we use words such as

    • it, he, she, they etc.(pronouns)
    • this, that (demonstratives),
    • the (definite article)
    • previously

    to refer back to people /things mentioned earlier in the text.

    Example:

    The Australian prime minister has called an early election. The date was selected to coincide with the start of the Olympic Games. This decision was based on the views of his ministerial advisers, who predicted that voter confidence in the government's policies would be strong at this time. ... As previously mentioned, decisions on the timing of elections are based on predictions of voter confidence in the existing government.

    Comment:

    The date refers back to an early election. This decision refers to the prime minister having called an early election. His refers to the Australian prime minister. As previously mentioned refers to all of the earlier information about the selection of election dates.

  2. Looking forwards

    We often use words and phrases warning the reader to expect new information. This helps make a smooth transition from one point to another. Such phrases include: the following, as follows, below, next, subsequently

    • Example (i): The following dates have been proposed for the forthcoming election: September 8, September 15 and 3 October.
    • Example (ii) The results of the analysis of voter confidence are shown in Table 1 below.
    • Example (iii) The next issue to be discussed is the influence of the media on voter confidence in the government.
  3. Repetition and avoiding repetition

    To keep the reader aware of the focus of attention, we sometimes repeat the same word or phrase. But we also try to avoid too much repetition by using words and phrases with similar meaning (synonyms).

    Example :

    The government's election campaign commenced with a media blitz outlining a series of election promises. This beginning to the campaign sparked numerous media commentaries.

    Comment :

    The word campaign repeated in the second sentence continues the topic of the first. Replacing commenced with beginning adds variety but also keeps a focus on the topic of attention.

    Transitional devices/Connecting words

    Academic writing usually deals with complex ideas. To enable the reader to follow your thoughts and the connections between them, they need to be clearly and smoothly linked. To join ideas and sentences, we use a number of connecting words and phrases, such as the following few examples:

    • and, but, so (to add, contrast, show cause and effect)
    • although, because, whilst (to qualify, show cause and effect, signal concurrency)

    Example:

    Although the government was elected for a three-year term, the Prime Minister decided to hold an early election. Meanwhile, the opposition parties, which had anticipated this move, had been planning their own election campaigns, but they had not expected such immediate public support.

  4. Repeated/parallel structures

    Repeated (or parallel) grammatical structures often indicate that statements are closely related.

    • Example (i): When editing your writing, notice what you have repeated, what you have omitted and what you have not expressed clearly. (Notice how what is repeated here.)
    • Example (ii): As President Kennedy once said: 'And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.' (Notice how Kennedy changed the order of ask, you, can and do in the last part of the sentence - thus emphasising his point.)

    Example:

    The following passage in the centre column shows how the various cohesive forms work. The cohesive forms are in bold, and explained in the columns on the left and right.

    1. This parallel list of plural nouns - books, lectures, tutorials - emphasises the similarity of these things

    Most people in the English-speaking world used to think that the student's mind is an empty bucket to be filled by books, lectures and tutorials. 1 Nowadays 2, physiologists and 2 psychologists tell us that the brain doesn't work in this 3 passive, accepting manner.

    2. Nowadays - a connective word to signal the present, in contrast to the past, used to think, in the first sentence. and - also a connective signals addition

    3. this - refers back to the idea of an empty bucket to be filled by books etc.

    5 to learn, to write, to make sense - parallel structures, using the infinitive form of the verb, emphasise the links between ideas

    6. first - a connective to signal the start of a sequence

    8. certain - repetition of a word to emphasise the point

    9. all of which - relative phrase referring back to certain preconceptions etc.

    On the contrary 4, to learn and to write 5 is, first 6, to make sense 5 for ourselves of our new experience in terms of our old. So 7 you need to be aware at the outset that, even to subjects you have never studied before, you can bring certain preconceptions, a certain amount of knowledge, and a certain 8 facility with language - all of which 9 can get you started. The most baffling of essay topics can soon yield some meaning if you take the initiative and begin to ask questions - of yourself, of the essay topic, of your books and lectures, and of the department you are writing for. 10

    Adapted from G. Taylor (1989) The Student's Writing Guide for the Arts and Social Sciences.

    4. on the contrary - coordinating phrase to signal a contrasting idea

    7. so - coordinating connective to signal consequence

    10. of yourself etc - parallel structure of + noun phrase

    Common errors

    Examples of common errors
    Explanation and suggested version

    Overusing connectives

    Example: If people stopped drinking, they might be able to prevent liver cirrhosis. However, governments permit the production and sale of alcohol. So, the government should help in preventing this disease. Nevertheless, government resources are limited.

    It is important not to use too many connectives and to vary their position in sentences i.e. not always at the start of sentences. Example: If people stopped drinking, they might be able to prevent liver cirrhosis. The government should help in preventing this disease because they permit the production and sale of alcohol. Government resources, however, are limited.

    Missing subordinators

    Example: She went to work. Although she felt sick.

    Subordinators (although, because, whilst, while) cannot be used with only one clause. They join two clauses together

    Example: Although she felt sick, she went to work.

    Faulty parallel structures

    Example: Houses play an important role not only to provide a place to live, but also for giving a sense of security.

    You need to use parallel forms with the expression 'Not only ... but also'. In this case, to provide and to give. Example: Houses play an important role not only to provide a place to live, but also to give a sense of security.

Exercise 1:

Analyse the following paragraph for cohesion (reference, conjunctions and parallel structures). An answer is provided below.

The Wind and the Sun

The Wind said to the Sun, "I am much stronger than you." "You are not," replied the Sun. "I can prove my strength," said the Wind. "See that man? I will blow off his hat and coat. Watch me do it now!" He blew with all his might, but the harder he blew the more the man wrapped his coat around him. Then the Sun had a turn. His happy beams calmed the air, warmed the earth and made the man feel so hot that he took off his hat and coat. It is better to be gentle than rough.

Aesop's Fables, 1967

Strategies to improve cohesion

  1. Select a piece of writing (textbook or journal articles) from your area of study.
  2. Take a paragraph and underline all the different forms of cohesion used (reference, connectives and parallel structures)
  3. Which forms are the most common?
  4. Choose a couple that you think are effective and practise using them in your own writing.
  5. Try to use a variety of ways to show the relationship between your ideas.

Useful references on cohesion

Taylor, G. (1989). The Student's Writing Guide for the Arts and Social Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Jordan, R.R. (1990). Academic Writing Course. London: Collins.

Answers to Exercise 1:

The Wind and the Sun

  1. Reference

    The Wind - I - you - my - the wind - I - me - He - his might - He

    The Sun - the Sun - the Sun - his

    That man - his - his - him - the man - he -his

    Blow off his hat and coat - it

  2. Connectives

    and, but, then

  3. Parallel structures

    calmed the air, warmed the earth, made the man - past tense verb phrase

© http://www.services.unimelb.edu.au/llsu/resources/esl/gram003.html

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Extracts and links to articles and essays on using games in the EFL/ESL classroom

From 'Games for Language Learning'

by Andrew Wright, David Betteridge and Michael Buckby
Cambridge University Press, 1984.


'Language learning is hard work ... Effort is required at every moment and must be maintained over a long period of time. Games help and encourage many learners to sustain their interest and work.'

'Games also help the teacher to create contexts in which the language is useful and meaningful. The learners want to take part and in order to do so must understand what others are saying or have written, and they must speak or write in order to express their own point of view or give information.'

'The need for meaningfulness in language learning has been accepted for some years. A useful interpretation of 'meaningfulness' is that the learners respond to the content in a definite way. If they are amused, angered, intrigued or surprised the content is clearly meaningful to them. Thus the meaning of the language they listen to, read, speak and write will be more vividly experienced and, therefore, better remembered.

If it is accepted that games can provide intense and meaningful practice of language, then they must be regarded as central to a teacher's repertoire. They are thus not for use solely on wet days and at the end of term!' (from Introduction, p. 1)

From 'Six Games for the EFL/ESL Classroom'

by Aydan Ersoz
The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. VI, No. 6, June 2000.


'Language learning is a hard task which can sometimes be frustrating. Constant effort is required to understand, produce and manipulate the target language. Well-chosen games are invaluable as they give students a break and at the same time allow students to practise language skills. Games are highly motivating since they are amusing and at the same time challenging. Furthermore, they employ meaningful and useful language in real contexts. They also encourage and increase cooperation.'

'Games are highly motivating because they are amusing and interesting. They can be used to give practice in all language skills and be used to practice many types of communication.'

From 'Creative Games for the Language Class'

by Lee Su Kim
'Forum' Vol. 33 No 1, January - March 1995, Page 35.


'There is a common perception that all learning should be serious and solemn in nature, and that if one is having fun and there is hilarity and laughter, then it is not really learning. This is a misconception. It is possible to learn a language as well as enjoy oneself at the same time. One of the best ways of doing this is through games.'

'There are many advantages of using games in the classroom:

1. Games are a welcome break from the usual routine of the language class.
2. They are motivating and challenging.
3. Learning a language requires a great deal of effort. Games help students to make and sustain the effort of learning.
4. Games provide language practice in the various skills- speaking, writing, listening and reading.
5. They encourage students to interact and communicate.
6. They create a meaningful context for language use.'
.

From 'The Use of Games For Vocabulary Presentation and Revision'

by Agnieszka Uberman
'Forum' Vol. 36 No 1, January - March 1998 Page 20.


Using Games

'Many experienced textbook and methodology manuals writers have argued that games are not just time-filling activities but have a great educational value. W. R. Lee holds that most language games make learners use the language instead of thinking about learning the correct forms (1979:2). He also says that games should be treated as central not peripheral to the foreign language teaching programme. A similar opinion is expressed by Richard-Amato, who believes games to be fun but warns against overlooking their pedagogical value, particularly in foreign language teaching. There are many advantages of using games. "Games can lower anxiety, thus making the acquisition of input more likely" (Richard-Amato 1988:147). They are highly motivating and entertaining, and they can give shy students more opportunity to express their opinions and feelings (Hansen 1994:118). They also enable learners to acquire new experiences within a foreign language which are not always possible during a typical lesson. Furthermore, to quote Richard-Amato, they, "add diversion to the regular classroom activities," break the ice, "[but also] they are used to introduce new ideas" (1988:147). In the easy, relaxed atmosphere which is created by using games, students remember things faster and better (Wierus and Wierus 1994:218). S. M. Silvers says many teachers are enthusiastic about using games as "a teaching device," yet they often perceive games as mere time-fillers, "a break from the monotony of drilling" or frivolous activities. He also claims that many teachers often overlook the fact that in a relaxed atmosphere, real learning takes place, and students use the language they have been exposed to and have practised earlier (1982:29). Further support comes from Zdybiewska, who believes games to be a good way of practising language, for they provide a model of what learners will use the language for in real life in the future (1994:6).'

'Games encourage, entertain, teach, and promote fluency. If not for any of these reasons, they should be used just because they help students see beauty in a foreign language and not just problems that at times seem overwhelming.'

When to Use Games

'Games are often used as short warm-up activities or when there is some time left at the end of a lesson. Yet, as Lee observes, a game "should not be regarded as a marginal activity filling in odd moments when the teacher and class have nothing better to do" (1979:3). Games ought to be at the heart of teaching foreign languages. Rixon suggests that games be used at all stages of the lesson, provided that they are suitable and carefully chosen.'

'Games also lend themselves well to revision exercises helping learners recall material in a pleasant, entertaining way. All authors referred to in this article agree that even if games resulted only in noise and entertained students, they are still worth paying attention to and implementing in the classroom since they motivate learners, promote communicative competence, and generate fluency.'

From 'Learning Vocabulary Through Games'

by Nguyen Thi Thanh Huyen and Khuat Thi Thu Nga
'Asian EFL Journal' - December 2003.


'Games have been shown to have advantages and effectiveness in learning vocabulary in various ways. First, games bring in relaxation and fun for students, thus help them learn and retain new words more easily. Second, games usually involve friendly competition and they keep learners interested. These create the motivation for learners of English to get involved and participate actively in the learning activities. Third, vocabulary games bring real world context into the classroom, and enhance students' use of English in a flexible, communicative way.'

'Therefore, the role of games in teaching and learning vocabulary cannot be denied. However, in order to achieve the most from vocabulary games, it is essential that suitable games are chosen. Whenever a game is to be conducted, the number of students, proficiency level, cultural context, timing, learning topic, and the classroom settings are factors that should be taken into account.'

'In conclusion, learning vocabulary through games is one effective and interesting way that can be applied in any classrooms. The results of this research suggest that games are used not only for mere fun, but more importantly, for the useful practice and review of language lessons, thus leading toward the goal of improving learners' communicative competence.'

From 'Using Games in an EFL Class for Children'

by Yin Yong Mei and Jang Yu-jing
Daejin University ELT Research Paper. Fall, 2000.


Why Use Games in Class Time?

* Games are fun and children like to play them. Through games children experiment, discover, and interact with their environment. (Lewis, 1999)
* Games add variation to a lesson and increase motivation by providing a plausible incentive to use the target language. For many children between four and twelve years old, especially the youngest, language learning will not be the key motivational factor. Games can provide this stimulus. (Lewis, 1999)
* The game context makes the foreign language immediately useful to the children. It brings the target language to life. (Lewis, 1999)
* The game makes the reasons for speaking plausible even to reluctant children. (Lewis, 1999)
* Through playing games, students can learn English the way children learn their mother tongue without being aware they are studying; thus without stress, they can learn a lot.
* Even shy students can participate positively.

How to Choose Games (Tyson, 2000)

* A game must be more than just fun.
* A game should involve "friendly" competition.
* A game should keep all of the students involved and interested.
* A game should encourage students to focus on the use of language rather than on the language itself.
* A game should give students a chance to learn, practice, or review specific language material.

From 'Index Cards: A Natural Resource for Teachers'

by M. Martha Lengeling and Casey Malarcher
'Forum' Vol. 35 No 4, October - December 1997 Page 42.


'In an effort to supplement lesson plans in the ESL classroom, teachers often turn to games. The justification for using games in the classroom has been well demonstrated as benefiting students in a variety of ways. These benefits range from cognitive aspects of language learning to more co-operative group dynamics.'

General Benefits of Games

Affective:
- lowers affective filter
- encourages creative and spontaneous use of language
- promotes communicative competence
- motivates
- fun

Cognitive:
- reinforces
- reviews and extends
- focuses on grammar communicatively

Class Dynamics:
- student centered
- teacher acts only as facilitator
- builds class cohesion
- fosters whole class participation
- promotes healthy competition

Adaptability:
- easily adjusted for age, level, and interests
- utilizes all four skills
- requires minimum preparation after development


Publication Details:

'Games for Language Learning' (2nd. Ed.)
by Andrew Wright, David Betteridge and Michael Buckby.
Cambridge University Press, 1984.

(To read the articles below in full, click on the titles.)

'Six Games for the EFL/ESL Classroom'
by Aydan Ersoz.
The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. VI, No. 6, June 2000.

'Creative Games for the Language Class'
by Lee Su Kim.
'Forum' Vol. 33 No 1, January - March 1995, Page 35.

'The Use of Games For Vocabulary Presentation and Revision'
by Agnieszka Uberman.
'Forum' Vol. 36 No 1, January - March 1998 Page 20.

'Learning Vocabulary Through Games'
by Nguyen Thi Thanh Huyen and Khuat Thi Thu Nga.
'Asian EFL Journal' - December 2003

'Using Games in an EFL Class for Children'
by Yin Yong Mei and Jang Yu-jing.
Daejin University ELT Research Paper. Fall, 2000.

'Index Cards: A Natural Resource for Teachers'
by M. Martha Lengeling and Casey Malarcher
'Forum' Vol. 35 No 4, October - December 1997 Page 42.

© http://www.teflgames.com/why.html

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Lexis: The New Grammar?

Lexis (Linguistics) the total bank of words and phrases of a particular language, the artifact of which is known as a lexicon (Wikipedia).

How new materials are finally challenging established course book conventions

Paul Meehan

Course materials are, at long last, showing signs of moving away from the prescriptions of the traditional course book. A sea change has taken place in recent years in the way language teaching and learning is viewed, and course book writers are beginning to reflect this. The "natural English" syllabus (Oxford University Press, 2003), compiled by Ruth Gairns and Stuart Redman, is a good example of this, for it chimes in with more contemporary theoretical perspectives, which view the acquisition of lexis as the driving force behind language learning. This represents a challenge to the traditional assumptions behind generations of course books underpinned, as they have been, by inherited and highly durable grammar-centric notions of language learning (arising from a written model of the language based on the grammar of written English).

This grammar bias is clearly misplaced if one considers that most language learners need, primarily, to communicate through spoken English. What is more, the notion that improved communicative skills are to be achieved through gradual exposure to increasingly complex grammar structures, item by item, as the structure of the traditional course book requires, creates a distorted perception of language learning; and the consequent measure, that this perception gives rise to, for assessing linguistic competence and progress made (i.e. the extent of the student's mastery over these structures) is a false yardstick.

Research findings, as Scott Thornbury points out (1), endorse this view, for they highlight the fact that syllabuses based on written models do not match the frequency and distribution of grammar as it is used to talk. For example, in conversation the present tense outnumbers past tenses by around four to one; simple forms outnumber the continuous forms by twenty to one and the past perfect features highly infrequently. Thus, by adhering to the canons derived from a written standard of English, course book designers have, until quite recently, tended to perpetuate a skewed set of language study priorities - resulting in disproportionate emphasis being placed on comparatively marginal grammar items, to the detriment of those elements that yield much higher returns in terms of learners' communicative needs.

The natural English syllabus provides a counterweight to these engrained course book traditions, by shifting the balance away from the priorities of a written model of the language, with its overemphasis on structures, towards lexis and the needs of the L2 speaker. The syllabus currently focuses on intermediate and upper-intermediate learners, and the framework was established by analysing the performance of a cross-section of intermediate learners, over a range of communicative tasks, in comparison to low advanced/advanced learners. The aim was to expose the kind of language required to push through the intermediate barrier to the levels beyond. The findings confirmed the need for more critical evaluation of grammar input; suggesting a focus shift, away from peripheral areas of grammar (tense shift in reported speech, for example) (2) towards a more systematic study of vocabulary as used in spoken discourse - featuring a broad spectrum of language, not fully represented in course books, and made up mainly of long or short phrases, collocations, lexical phrases and idioms, vague language and spoken linkers.

The findings that inform the natural English syllabus, and its accompanying study materials, do not really represent new knowledge, just that course book writers are finally catching up. The Lexical Approach theorists have long been aware of the limitations of following a written model-based syllabus and advocated the primacy of lexis over grammar structures as far back as the early 1990s (3). The principal tenet of this approach is that the language native speakers use, whether in a formal or informal situation, is not original (i.e. it is not uniquely created for that context); but is built up in readymade, prefabricated chunks - which the speaker/writer selects from his/her lexical store (featuring, in the case of an adult native speaker, tens of thousands of chunks) and assembles together to construct what he/she wants to say. And it is precisely these chunks, in their multiple forms, that are the constituent elements of the range of language natural English has pinpointed as the key to developing the student's communicative capabilities.

Now that these realities of language use and linguistic behaviour are finally having a significant influence on the output of mainstream course book writers, it will not be long before we see the widespread effect of these materials in EFL/ESOL classrooms across the world. The shift in study priorities will mean that greater emphasis will be placed on providing language learners with the range of tools need to build up their own effective lexical store and communicative repertoire. In practical terms, this will entail developing greater awareness of lexis, and enhancing acquisition and usage skills through receptive skills work, text analysis, gap fills, communicative tasks, classifying and matching exercises, etc. The recently updated and expanded Innovations series (Thomson Heinle 2003) constitutes one of the standard-bearers of the new wave of study materials. Written by Hugh Dellar, Andrew Walkley and Darryl Hocking, this range of course books is conceived primarily from a lexical perspective. Credit for innovation must also be given to the Cutting Edge series (S.Cunnigham/P.Moor, Pearson Education/Longman) which first emerged in 1998 and features a strong lexical strand running through it.

With course materials now in the process of freeing themselves from inherited blueprints and conventions and embracing new outlooks on language learning that downgrade the traditional importance given to the study of grammar, the nature of classroom culture and practice will, inevitably, be called upon to adapt. The challenge will be to wean those teachers, and students, schooled in the traditions that have evolved from a grammar-centric view of the language off excessive dependence on grammar structures and rules - and encourage them to reappraise their expectations and understanding of language learning and teaching.

Notes:

  1. from: Syllabus Design: What's wrong with grammar, 2002 - OUP website
  2. was found to be largely redundant since native speakers and high level learners report speech in a number of acceptable ways, not involving tense shift
  3. principally, Michael Lewis; for further details see The Lexical Approach, the State of ELT and a Way Forward, LTP 1993

© Paul Meehan 2003

 

 


Paul Meehan is a London-based EFL/ESOL teacher and freelance writer.© http://www.englishclub.com/tefl-articles/lexis-new-grammar.htm

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Language Learning Strategies: An Overview for L2 Teachers

Michael Lessard-Clouston
z95014 [at] kgupyr.kwansei.ac.jp
Kwansei Gakuin University (Nishinomiya, Japan)

First published in Essays in Languages and Literatures, 8, at Kwansei Gakuin University, December 1997.

 
 
This article provides an overview of language learning strategies (LLS) for second and foreign language (L2/FL) teachers. To do so it outlines the background of LLS and LLS training, discusses a three step approach teachers may follow in using LLS in their classes, and summarises key reflections and questions for future research on this aspect of L2/FL education. It also lists helpful contacts and internet sites where readers may access up-to-date information on LLS teaching and research.

Introduction

Within the field of education over the last few decades a gradual but significant shift has taken place, resulting in less emphasis on teachers and teaching and greater stress on learners and learning. This change has been reflected in various ways in language education and applied linguistics, ranging from the Northeast Conference (1990) entitled "Shifting the Instructional Focus to the Learner" and annual "Learners' Conferences" held in conjuction with the TESL Canada convention since 1991, to key works on "the learner-centred curriculum" (Nunan, 1988, 1995) and "learner-centredness as language education" (Tudor, 1996).

This article provides an overview of key issues concerning one consequence of the above shift: the focus on and use of language learning strategies (LLS) in second and foreign language (L2/FL) learning and teaching. In doing so, the first section outlines some background on LLS and summarises key points from the LLS literature. The second section considers some practical issues related to using LLS in the classroom, outlining a three step approach to implementing LLS training in normal L2/FL courses. The third section then briefly discusses some important issues and questions for further LLS research. In the fourth section the article ends by noting a number of contacts readers may use to locate and receive up-to-date information on LLS teaching and research in this widely developing area in L2/FL education.

1. BACKGROUND

Learning Strategies

In a helpful survey article, Weinstein and Mayer (1986) defined learning strategies (LS) broadly as "behaviours and thoughts that a learner engages in during learning" which are "intended to influence the learner's encoding process" (p. 315). Later Mayer (1988) more specifically defined LS as "behaviours of a learner that are intended to influence how the learner processes information" (p. 11). These early definitions from the educational literature reflect the roots of LS in cognitive science, with its essential assumptions that human beings process information and that learning involves such information processing. Clearly, LS are involved in all learning, regardless of the content and context. LS are thus used in learning and teaching math, science, history, languages and other subjects, both in classroom settings and more informal learning environments. For insight into the literature on LS outside of language education, the works of Dansereau (1985) and Weinstein, Goetz and Alexander (1988) are key, and one recent LS study of note is that of Fuchs, Fuchs, Mathes and Simmons (1997). In the rest of this paper, the focus will specifically be on language LS in L2/FL learning.

 

Language Learning Strategies Defined

Within L2/FL education, a number of definitions of LLS have been used by key figures in the field. Early on, Tarone (1983) defined a LS as "an attempt to develop linguistic and sociolinguistic competence in the target language -- to incoporate these into one's interlanguage competence" (p. 67). Rubin (1987) later wrote that LS "are strategies which contribute to the development of the language system which the learner constructs and affect learning directly" (p. 22). In their seminal study, O'Malley and Chamot (1990) defined LS as "the special thoughts or behaviours that individuals use to help them comprehend, learn, or retain new information" (p. 1). Finally, building on work in her book for teachers (Oxford, 1990a), Oxford (1992/1993) provides specific examples of LLS (i.e., "In learning ESL, Trang watches U.S. TV soap operas, guessing the meaning of new expressions and predicting what will come next") and this helpful definition:
...language learning strageties -- specific actions, behaviours, steps, or techniques that students (often intentionally) use to improve their progress in developing L2 skills. These strageties can facilitate the internalization, storage, retrieval, or use of the new language. Strategies are tools for the self-directed involvement necessary for developing communicative ability. (Oxford, 1992/1993, p. 18)
From these definitions, a change over time may be noted: from the early focus on the product of LSS (linguistic or sociolinguistic competence), there is now a greater emphasis on the processes and the characteristics of LLS. At the same time, we should note that LLS are distinct from learning styles, which refer more broadly to a learner's "natural, habitual, and preferred way(s) of absorbing, processing, and retaining new information and skills" (Reid, 1995, p. viii), though there appears to be an obvious relationship between one's language learning style and his or her usual or preferred language learning strategies.

 

What are the Characteristics of LLS?

Although the terminology is not always uniform, with some writers using the terms "learner strategies" (Wendin & Rubin, 1987), others "learning strategies" (O'Malley & Chamot, 1990; Chamot & O'Malley, 1994), and still others "language learning strategies" (Oxford, 1990a, 1996), there are a number of basic characteristics in the generally accepted view of LLS. First, LLS are learner generated; they are steps taken by language learners. Second, LLS enhance language learning and help develop language competence, as reflected in the learner's skills in listening, speaking, reading, or writing the L2 or FL. Third, LLS may be visible (behaviours, steps, techniques, etc.) or unseen (thoughts, mental processes). Fourth, LLS involve information and memory (vocabulary knowledge, grammar rules, etc.).

Reading the LLS literature, it is clear that a number of further aspects of LLS are less uniformly accepted. When discussing LLS, Oxford (1990a) and others such as Wenden and Rubin (1987) note a desire for control and autonomy of learning on the part of the learner through LLS. Cohen (1990) insists that only conscious strategies are LLS, and that there must be a choice involved on the part of the learner. Transfer of a strategy from one language or language skill to another is a related goal of LLS, as Pearson (1988) and Skehan (1989) have discussed. In her teacher-oriented text, Oxford summarises her view of LLS by listing twelve key features. In addition to the characteristics noted above, she states that LLS:

  • allow learners to become more self-directed
  • expand the role of language teachers
  • are problem-oriented
  • involve many aspects, not just the cognitive
  • can be taught
  • are flexible
  • are influenced by a variety of factors.
(Oxford, 1990a, p. 9)
Beyond this brief outline of LLS characterisitics, a helpful review of the LLS research and some of the implications of LLS training for second language acquisition may be found in Gu (1996).

 

Why are LLS Important for L2/FL Learning and Teaching?

Within 'communicative' approaches to language teaching a key goal is for the learner to develop communicative competence in the target L2/FL, and LLS can help students in doing so. After Canale and Swain's (1980) influencial article recognised the importance of communication strategies as a key aspect of strategic (and thus communicative) competence, a number of works appeared about communication strategies in L2/FL teaching2. An important distinction exists, however, between communication and language learning strategies. Communication strategies are used by speakers intentionally and consciously in order to cope with difficulties in communicating in a L2/FL (Bialystok, 1990). The term LLS is used more generally for all strategies that L2/FL learners use in learning the target language, and communication strategies are therefore just one type of LLS. For all L2 teachers who aim to help develop their students' communicative competence and language learning, then, an understanding of LLS is crucial. As Oxford (1990a) puts it, LLS "...are especially important for language learning because they are tools for active, self-directed involvement, which is essential for developing communicative competence" (p. 1).

In addition to developing students' communicative competence, LLS are important because research suggests that training students to use LLS can help them become better language learners. Early research on 'good language learners' by Naiman, Frohlich, Stern, and Todesco (1978, 1996), Rubin (1975), and Stern (1975) suggested a number of positive strategies that such students employ, ranging from using an active task approach in and monitoring one's L2/FL performance to listening to the radio in the L2/FL and speaking with native speakers. A study by O'Malley and Chamot (1990) also suggests that effective L2/FL learners are aware of the LLS they use and why they use them. Graham's (1997) work in French further indicates that L2/FL teachers can help students understand good LLS and should train them to develop and use them.

A caution must also be noted though, because, as Skehan (1989) states, "there is always the possibility that the 'good' language learning strategies...are also used by bad language learners, but other reasons cause them to be unsuccessful" (p. 76). In fact Vann and Abraham (1990) found evidence that suggests that both 'good' and 'unsuccessful' language learners can be active users of similar LLS, though it is important that they also discovered that their unsuccessful learners "apparently...lacked...what are often called metacognitive strategies...which would enable them to assess the task and bring to bear the necessary strategies for its completion" (p. 192). It appears, then, that a number and range of LLS are important if L2/FL teachers are to assist students both in learning the L2/FL and in becoming good language learners.

 

What Kinds of LLS Are There?

There are literally hundreds of different, yet often interrelated, LLS. As Oxford has developed a fairly detailed list of LLS in her taxonomy, it is useful to summarise it briefly here. First, Oxford (1990b) distinguishes between direct LLS, "which directly involve the subject matter", i.e. the L2 or FL, and indirect LLS, which "do not directly involve the subject matter itself, but are essential to language learning nonetheless" (p. 71). Second, each of these broad kinds of LLS is further divided into LLS groups. Oxford outlines three main types of direct LLS, for example. Memory strategies "aid in entering information into long-term memory and retrieving information when needed for communication". Cognitive LLS "are used for forming and revising internal mental models and receiving and producing messages in the target language". Compensation strategies "are needed to overcome any gaps in knowledge of the language" (Oxford, 1990b, p. 71). Oxford (1990a, 1990b) also describes three types of indirect LLS. Metacognitive strageties "help learners exercise 'executive control' through planning, arranging, focusing, and evaluating their own learning". Affective LLS "enable learners to control feelings, motivations, and attitudes related to language learning". Finally, social strategies "facilitate interaction with others, often in a discourse situation" (Oxford, 1990b, p. 71).

A more detailed overview of these six main types of LLS is found in Oxford (1990a, pp. 18-21), where they are further divided into 19 strategy groups and 62 subsets. Here, by way of example, we will briefly consider the social LLS that Oxford lists under indirect strategies. Three types of social LLS are noted in Oxford (1990a): asking questions, co-operating with others, and empathising with others (p. 21). General examples of LLS given in each of these categories are as follows:

Asking questions
  1. Asking for clarification or verification
  2. Asking for correction
Co-operating with others
  1. Co-operating with peers
  2. Co-operating with proficient users of the new language
Empathising with others
  1. Developing cultural understanding
  2. Becoming aware of others' thoughts and feelings (Oxford, 1990a, p. 21)
Although these examples are still rather vague, experienced L2/FL teachers may easily think of specific LLS for each of these categories. In asking questions, for example, students might ask something specific like "Do you mean...?" or "Did you say that...?" in order to clarify or verify what they think they have heard or understood. While at first glance this appears to be a relatively straightforward LLS, in this writer's experience it is one that many EFL students in Japan, for example, are either unaware of or somewhat hesitant to employ.

What is important to note here is the way LLS are interconnected, both direct and indirect, and the support they can provide one to the other (see Oxford, 1990a, pp. 14-16). In the above illustration of social LLS, for example, a student might ask the questions above of his or her peers, thereby 'co-operating with others', and in response to the answer he or she receives the student might develop some aspect of L2/FL cultural understanding or become more aware of the feelings or thoughts of fellow students, the teacher, or those in the L2/FL culture. What is learned from this experience might then be supported when the same student uses a direct, cognitive strategy such as 'practising' to repeat what he or she has learned or to integrate what was learned into a natural conversation with someone in the target L2/FL. In this case, the way LLS may be inter-connected becomes very clear.

2. USING LLS IN THE CLASSROOM

With the above background on LLS and some of the related literature, this section provides an overview of how LLS and LLS training have been or may be used in the classroom, and briefly describes a three step approach to implementing LLS training in the L2/FL classroom.

 

Contexts and Classes for LLS Training

LLS and LLS training may be integrated into a variety of classes for L2/FL students. One type of course that appears to be becoming more popular, especially in intensive English programmes, is one focusing on the language learning process itself. In this case, texts such as Ellis and Sinclair's (1989) Learning to Learn English: A Course in Learner Training or Rubin and Thompson's (1994) How to Be a More Successful Language Learner might be used in order to help L2/FL learners understand the language learning process, the nature of language and communication, what language learning resources are available to them, and what specific LLS they might use in order to improve their own vocabulary use, grammar knowledge, and L2/FL skills in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Perhaps more common are integrated L2/FL courses where these four skills are taught in tandem, and in these courses those books might be considered as supplementary texts to help learners focus on the LLS that can help them learn L2/FL skills and the LLS they need to acquire them. In this writer's experience, still more common is the basic L2/FL listening, speaking, reading, or writing course where LLS training can enhance and complement the L2/FL teaching and learning. Whatever type of class you may be focusing on at this point, the three step approach to implementing LLS training in the classroom outlined below should prove useful.

 

Step 1: Study Your Teaching Context

At first, it is crucial for teachers to study their teaching context, paying special attention to their students, their materials, and their own teaching. If you are going to train your students in using LLS, it is crucial to know something about these individuals, their interests, motivations, learning styles, etc. By observing their behaviour in class, for example, you will be able to see what LLS they already appear to be using. Do they often ask for clarification, verification, or correction, as discussed briefly above? Do they co-operate with their peers or seem to have much contact outside of class with proficient L2/FL users? Beyond observation, however, one can prepare a short questionnaire that students can fill in at the beginning of a course, describing themselves and their language learning. Sharkey (1994/1995), for instance, asks students to complete statements such as "In this class I want to/will/won't....", "My favourite/least favourite kinds of class activities are...", "I am studying English because...", etc. (Sharkey, 1994/1995, p. 19). Talking to students informally before or after class, or more formally interviewing select students about these topics can also provide a lot of information about one's students, their goals, motivations, and LLS, and their understanding of the particular course being taught.

Beyond the students, however, one's teaching materials are also important in considering LLS and LLS training. Textbooks, for example, should be analysed to see whether they already include LLS or LLS training. Scarcella and Oxford's (1992) Tapestry textbook series, for example, incorporates "learning strategy" boxes which highlight LLS and encourage students to use them in L2/FL tasks or skills. One example from a conversation text in the series states: "Managing Your Learning: Working with other language learners improves your listening and speaking skills" (Earle-Carlin & Proctor, 1996, p. 8). An EFL writing text I use has brief sections on making one's referents clear, outlining, and choosing the right vocabulary, all of which may be modelled and used in LLS training in my composition course. Audiotapes, videotapes, hand-outs, and other materials for the course at hand should also be examined for LLS or for specific ways that LLS training might be implemented in using them. Perhaps teachers will be surprised to find many LLS incorporated into their materials, with more possibilities than they had imagined. If not, they might look for new texts or other teaching materials that do provide such opportunities.

Last, but certainly not least, teachers need to study their own teaching methods and overall classroom style. One way to do so is to consider your lesson plans. Do they incorporate various ways that students can learn the language you are modelling, practising or presenting, in order to appeal to a variety of learning styles and strategies? Does your teaching allow learners to approach the task at hand in a variety of ways? Is your LLS training implicit, explicit, or both? By audiotaping or videotaping one's classroom teaching an instructor may objectively consider just what was actually taught and modelled, and how students responded and appeared to learn. Is your class learner-centred? Do you allow students to work on their own and learn from one another? As you circulate in class, are you encouraging questions, or posing ones relevant to the learners with whom you interact? Whether formally in action research or simply for informal reflection, teachers who study their students, their materials, and their own teaching will be better prepared to focus on LLS and LLS training within their specific teaching context.

 

Step 2: Focus on LLS in Your Teaching

After you have studied your teaching context, begin to focus on specific LLS in your regular teaching that are relevant to your learners, your materials, and your own teaching style. If you have found 10 different LLS for writing explicitly used in your text, for example, you could highlight these as you go through the course, giving students clear examples, modelling how such LLS may be used in learning to write or in writing, and filling in the gaps with other LLS for writing that are neglected in the text but would be especially relevant for your learners.

If you tend to be teacher-centred in your approach to teaching, you might use a specific number of tasks appropriate for your context from the collection by Gardner and Miller (1996) in order to provide students with opportunities to use and develop their LLS and to encourage more independent language learning both in class and in out-of-class activities for your course. As Graham (1997) declares, LLS training "needs to be integrated into students' regular classes if they are going to appreciate their relevance for language learning tasks; students need to constantly monitor and evaluate the strategies they develop and use; and they need to be aware of the nature, function and importance of such strategies" (p. 169). Whether it is a specific conversation, reading, writing, or other class, an organised and informed focus on LLS and LLS training will help students learn and provide more opportunities for them to take responsibility for their learning3.

 

Step 3: Reflect and Encourage Learner Reflection

Much of what I have suggested in this section requires teacher reflection, echoing a current trend in pedagogy and the literature in L2/FL education (see, for example, Freeman & Richards, 1996, and Richards & Lockhart, 1994). However, in implementing LLS and LLS training in the L2/FL classroom, purposeful teacher reflection and encouraging learner reflection form a necessary third step. On a basic level, it is useful for teachers to reflect on their own positive and negative experiences in L2/FL learning. As Graham suggests, "those teachers who have thought carefully about how they learned a language, about which strategies are most appropriate for which tasks, are more likely to be successful in developing 'strategic competence' in their students" (p. 170). Beyond contemplating one's own language learning, it is also crucial to reflect on one's LLS training and teaching in the classroom. After each class, for example, one might ponder the effectiveness of the lesson and the role of LLS and LLS training within it. Do students seem to have grasped the point? Did they use the LLS that was modelled in the task they were to perform? What improvements for future lessons of this type or on this topic might be gleaned from students' behaviour? An informal log of such reflections and one's personal assessment of the class, either in a notebook or on the actual lesson plans, might be used later to reflect on LLS training in the course as a whole after its completion. In my experience I have found, like Offner (1997), that rather than limiting my perspective to specific LLS such reflection helps me to see the big picture and focus on "teaching how to learn" within my L2/FL classes.

In addition to the teacher's own reflections, it is essential to encourage learner reflection, both during and after the LLS training in the class or course. In an interesting action research study involving "guided reflection" Nunan (1996) did this by asking his students to keep a journal in which they completed the following sentences: This week I studied..., I learned..., I used my English in these places..., I spoke English with these people..., I made these mistakes..., My difficulties are..., I would like to know..., I would like help with..., My learning and practising plans for the next week are... (Nunan, 1996, p. 36). Sharkey (1994/1995) asked her learners to complete simple self- evaluation forms at various points during their course. Matsumoto (1996) used student diaries, questionnaires, and interviews to carry out her research and help her students reflect on their LLS and language learning. Pickard (1996) also used questionnaires and follow-up interviews in helping students reflect on their out-of- class LLS. In a writing class, Santos (1997) has used portfolios to encourage learner reflection. These are just a few examples from the current literature of various ways to encourage learner reflection on language learning. As Graham declares, "For learners, a vital component of self-directed learning lies in the on-going evaluation of the methods they have employed on tasks and of their achievements within the...programme" (p. 170). Whatever the context or method, it is important for L2/FL learners to have the chance to reflect on their language learning and LLS use.

 

An Example of LLS Training

Let me give one example of implementing LLS training within a normal L2/FL class from my experience in teaching a TOEFL preparation course in Canada. After studying my teaching context by considering my part-time, evening college students (most of whom were working) and their LLS, the course textbook and other materials, and my own teaching, I became convinced that I should not only introduce LLS but also teach them and encourage learners to reflect on them and their own learning. To make this LLS training specific and relevant to these ESL students, I gave a mini-lecture early in the course on the importance of vocabulary for the TOEFL and learning and using English, and then focused on specific vocabulary learning strategies (VLS) by highlighting them whenever they were relevant to class activities. In practising listening for the TOEFL, for example, there were exercises on multi-definition words, and after finishing the activity I introduced ways students could expand their vocabulary knowledge by learning new meanings for multi-definition words they already know. I then talked with students about ways to record such words and their meanings on vocabulary cards or in a special notebook, in order for them to reinforce and review such words and meanings they had learned.

In order to encourage learner reflection, later in the course I used a questionnaire asking students about their vocabulary learning and VLS in and outside of class, and the following week gave them a generic but individualised vocabulary knowledge test where students provided the meaning, part of speech, and an example sentence for up to 10 words each person said he or she had 'learned'. I marked these and handed them back to students the next week, summarising the class results overall and sparking interesting class discussion. For a more detailed description of this classroom activity and a copy of the questionnaire and test, see Lessard-Clouston (1994). For more information on the research that I carried out in conjunction with this activity, please refer to Lessard-Clouston (1996). What became obvious both to me and my students in that attempt at LLS training was that vocabulary learning is a very individualised activity which requires a variety of VLS for success in understanding and using English vocabulary, whether or not one is eventually 'tested' on it. Though this is just one example of implementing LLS training in a normal L2/FL class, hopefully readers will be able to see how this general three step approach to doing so may be adapted for their own classroom teaching.

3. REFLECTIONS AND QUESTIONS FOR LLS RESEARCH

Important Reflections

In my thinking on LLS I am presently concerned about two important issues. The first, and most important, concerns the professionalism of teachers who use LLS and LLS training in their work. As Davis (1997, p. 6) has aptly noted, "our actions speak louder than words", and it is therefore important for professionals who use LLS training to also model such strategies both within their classroom teaching and, especially in EFL contexts, in their own FL learning. Furthermore, LLS obviously involve individuals' unique cognitive, social, and affective learning styles and strategies. As an educator I am interested in helping my students learn and reflect on their learning, but I also question the tone and motivation reflected in some of the LLS literature. Oxford (1990a), for example, seems to describe many of my Japanese EFL students when she writes:
...many language students (even adults)...like to be told what to do, and they only do what is clearly essential to get a good grade -- even if they fail to develop useful skills in the process. Attitudes and behaviours like these make learning more difficult and must be changed, or else any effort to train learners to rely more on themselves and use better strategies is bound to fail. (Oxford, 1990a, p. 10)
Motivation is a key concern both for teachers and students. Yet while teachers hope to motivate our students and enhance their learning, professionally we must be very clear not to manipulate them in the process, recognising that ultimately learning is the student's responsibility4. If our teaching is appropriate and learner-centred, we will not manipulate our students as we encourage them to develop and use their own LLS. Instead we will take learners' motivations and learning styles into account as we teach in order for them to improve their L2/FL skills and LLS.

The second reflection pertains to the integration of LLS into both language learning/teaching theory and curriculum. The focus of this article is largely practical, noting why LLS are useful and how they can or might be included in regular L2/FL classes. These things are important. However, in reflecting on these issues and attempting to implement LLS training in my classes I am reminded that much of the L2/FL work in LLS appears to lack an undergirding theory, perhaps partially because L2/FL education is a relatively young discipline and lacks a comprehensive theory of acquisition and instruction itself. As Ellis (1994) notes, much of the research on LLS "has been based on the assumption that there are 'good' learning strategies. But this is questionable" (p. 558). As my own research (Lessard-Clouston, 1996, 1998) suggests, L2/FL learning seems to be very much influenced by numerous individual factors, and to date it is difficult to account for all individual LLS, let alone relate them to all L2/FL learning/teaching theories.

The related challenge, then, is how to integrate LLS into our L2/FL curriculum, especially in places like Japan where "learner-centred" approaches or materials may not be implemented very easily. Using texts which incorporate LLS training, such as those in the Tapestry series, remains difficult in FL contexts when they are mainly oriented to L2 ones. How then may FL educators best include LLS and LLS training in the FL curriculum of their regular, everyday language (as opposed to content) classes? This final point brings us to this and other questions for future LLS research.

 

Questions for LLS Research

Following from these reflections, then, future L2/FL research must consider and include curriculum development and materials for LLS training which takes into account regular L2/FL classes (especially for adults) and the learning styles and motivations of the students within them. While Chamot and O'Malley (1994, 1996) and Kidd and Marquardson (1996) have developed materials for content-based school classes, it is important to consider the development and use of materials for college and university language classes, especially in FL settings. On the surface at least, it would appear that the language/content/learning strategies components of their frameworks could be easily transferred to a variety of language classroom curricula, but is this really the case? One model to consider in attempting to do so is Stern's (1992) multidimensional curriculum, which allows for the integration of LLS and LLS training into its language, culture, communicative, and general language education syllabuses.

A pressing need for further research involves developing a comprehensive theory of LLS that is also relevant to language teaching practice. Moving beyond taxonomies of LLS, various types of studies into LLS use and training must consider a wide range of questions, such as: What types of LLS appear to work best with what learners in which contexts? Does LLS or LLS training transfer easily between L2 and FL contexts? What is the role of language proficiency in LLS use and training? How long does it take to train specific learners in certain LLS? How can one best assesss and measure success in LLS use or training? Are certain LLS learnt more easily in classroom or non-classroom contexts? What LLS should be taught at different proficiency levels? Answers to these and many other questions from research in a variety of settings will aid in the theory building that appears necessary for more LLS work to be relevant to current L2/FL teaching practice.

In considering the above questions concerning LLS and LLS training, a variety of research methods should be employed. To date much of the LLS research appears to be based in North America and is largely oriented towards quantitative data and descriptions. In fact, one report on more qualitatively-oriented LLS data by LoCastro (1994) sparked an interesting response from major LLS figures Oxford and Green (1995). While calling for collaborative research in their critique, Oxford and Green's (1995) comments in many ways discourage such work, especially for those who do not work within North America or use a quantitatively oriented research approach. However, as LoCastro points out in her response,

...there are different kinds of research which produce different results which may be of interest. Research dealing with human beings is notoriously fuzzy and shows a great deal of variation. (LoCastro, 1995, p. 174).
I would concur with this observation. In listing the above questions and calling for more research on LLS, I also hope that more case studies, longitudinal studies, and learner's self-directed qualitative studies, like the one by Yu (1990), will be carried out and will receive greater attention in the literature in L2/FL education.

4. HELPFUL LLS CONTACTS AND INTERNET SITES

As readers may want to take up my challenge and address the issues and questions for research I have outlined here, in this final section I focus on where they may find additional information and resources to help them in their LLS teaching and research. In addition to checking the sources listed in the reference section at the end of this article, there are a number of contacts which readers may find useful for obtaining more information on LLS, LLS training and/or research, and in networking with others involved with or interested in LLS within various aspects of L2/FL education. Three such contacts are noted here.

 

Where Can I Get More Information?

1. The Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) Learner Development National Special Interest Group (N-SIG), formed in 1994, encourages learner development and autonomy, which involves and encompasses LLS. It publishes a quarterly, bilingual (English-Japanese) newsletter called Learning Learning and organises presentations at the annual JALT conference each autumn. For more information one can access the Learner Development N-SIG homepage or contact the co-ordinator:

http://www.ipcs.shizuoka.ac.jp/~eanaoki/LD/homeE.html

 

Dr. Jill Robbins
Doshisha Women's College
English Department
Tanabe-co, Tsuzuki-gun
Kyoto-fu 610-03 JAPAN
Email: [email protected]
2. The International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) Learner Independence Special Interest Group (SIG) has an international network of members who are interested in learning styles and LLS, learning centres, and related topics. In addition to publishing a newsletter, Independence, it occasionally holds related events. For more information either visit the Learner Independence SIG home page or contact the co-ordinator, Jenny Timmer, through email to IATEFL at: <[email protected]>.

http://www.man.ac.uk/IATEFL/lisig/lihome.htm

3. The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition (CARLA) at the University of Minnesota publishes a newsletter, The NESSLA Report (the Network of Styles and Strategies in Language Acquisition) and maintains a Second Language Learning Strategies website. In order to subscribe to the newsletter, contact CARLA as follows:

http://carla.acad.umn.edu/slstrategies.html

 

CARLA
Suite 111, UTEC Building
1313 5th St. S.E.,
Minneapolis, MN
5514 U.S.A.
Email: [email protected]
The area of LLS is a major but quickly developing aspect of L2/FL education, and interested teachers and researchers are advised to check the internet sites listed here for the most up-to- date information on this topic. In accessing these WWW pages one will also find links to related sites and organisations5.

 

Conclusion

This paper has provided a brief overview of LLS by examining their background and summarising the relevant literature. It has also outlined some ways that LLS training has been used and offered a three step approach for teachers to consider in implementing it within their own L2/FL classes. It has also raised two important issues, posed questions for further LLS research, and noted a number of contacts that readers may use in networking on LLS in L2/FL education. In my experience, using LLS and LLS training in the L2/FL class not only encourages learners in their language learning but also helps teachers reflect on and improve their teaching. May readers also find this to be the case.

 

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank my students for their input on LLS and LLS training, and Birgit Harley and Wendy Lessard-Clouston for their input on the issues presented in this overview and for their helpful comments on earlier drafts.

 

Notes

1. The Author: Michael Lessard-Clouston is Associate Professor of English, School of Economics, Kwansei Gakuin University, 1-1-155 Uegahara, Nishinomiya, 662 Japan.

2. See, for example, the work of Bialystok (1990), Bongaerts & Poulisse (1989), Dornyei & Thurrell (1991), Kasper & Kellerman (1997), McDonough (1995), Poulisse (1989), and Willems (1987) on communication strategies.

3. For more examples of specific types of LLS training, refer to the works listed in the reference section. Oxford's (1990a) book, for instance, offers chapters with practical activities related to applying direct or indirect LLS to the four language skills or general management of learning.

4. For recent discussions of this issue and others related to autonomy and independence in language learning, see Benson & Voller (1997) and the articles in Ely & Pease-Alvarez (1996).

5. The contact details provided in this section are current as of autumn 1997.

 

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