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reveluod last won the day on October 6 2015

reveluod had the most liked content!

About reveluod

  • Birthday 07/04/1959


  • Native tongue
  • Fluent in
    Spanish (fluent), Catalan (ok), French (could improve)

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  1. Hey all. Well, though I've also not heard of "active listening" throughout my 30+ years as an ESL teacher, I suspect that I know what Trellum experienced in the class; it was actually one of the core activities that I used throughout my career. To describe (in just a few words, hard for me! ha) what I did: Students will not be able to comprehend strings of sounds (utterances) until they have developed a "sound bank" of their own. This "sound bank" is a set of utterances (usually full sentences) which help the student when trying to recognize sounds that they hear. Just sitting and listening will not contribute to the development of this "sound bank"-- that is a passive activity. Students have to get the muscles moving, and those will be the mouth muscles. Now, this will not be simply repeating sentences over and over again. It will be sound manipulation exercise, meant to strengthen articulation muscles as well as to help overcome obstacles when trying to string sounds together. There will be a great deal of substitution involved, so a basic pattern may be worked upon, creating the base and words will be changed. A very simple exercise might be: It's a book. (chair) It's a chair. (table) It's a table. (cup) It's a cup. The emphasis would be on the rhythm of the utterance, the stringing together of words (it would never be: IT (PAUSE) IS (PAUSE) A (PAUSE) CUP, but rather [IT sa CAP]. No matter how much you wiggle your ears, you will not improve your listening comprehension through passively listening to speech. You will have to produce that speech as close as you can to the expected pronunciation in order to develop that "sound bank" (and not individual sounds, again, utterances!) that you will use to recognize what you are hearing. Perhaps because the student is actively doing something to improve comprehension, the course referred to in the OP was called "active listening", though I find that term kind of misleading and more marketing than descriptive of the process. Kind of like the "Natural Method" which was anything but "natural"....ha. peace, revel.
  2. Hey all. Let's make sure we clearly separate "style" from "grammar". A content site will usually have a general style guide that they wish followed. Part of that style will include a respect for grammar, most of it will involve such concepts as formatting, use of headers and bullet lists and the like. Style is not grammar. Grammar is, as others have pointed out, a complex set of "rules" or "norms" which are sometimes descriptive and sometimes prescriptive. When discussing writing, those norms are usually prescriptive. This means that certain concepts such as noun/verb agreement, verb tense consistency, correct placement and use of modifiers such as adjectives and adverbs, etc, are clearly explained and to be considered "good grammar", they must be respected. When these basic concepts are not respected, then "poor grammar" can be perceived. Spelling, by the way, is not part of grammar. Spelling is spelling. Misspelled words do not have anything to do with grammar, a sentence can be totally grammatically correct and a word can be misspelled within that sentence. That would be considered poor spelling (if it were to occur more than twice!), not poor grammar. By the same token, one grammar flaw does not "poor grammar" make. It would take more than two flaws in grammar, and often a repetition of the same type of flaw (using and adjective instead of an adverb, for example, or blatant verb tense shifting within a block of text). A reasonable editor would not say "you have poor grammar" but rather "you seem to have some issues with this aspect of English grammar", explaining exactly what repetitive issues have been observed. Unfortunately, an editor at a content site will often have simply taken a quick quiz to "prove" he/she understands the basic things that will be problematic, such as comma use or homonym word choice mistakes (they're/their/there and the like, also not "poor grammar" but rather "poor proofreading skills"). These editors will not likely be experts in grammar, per se, but rather will have instructions as to what the content site considers correct or poor grammar. As others have mentioned, it is not something to take personally and, hopefully, it is something that can be learned from and improved upon (if whoever is pointing out "poor grammar" is sharing what brought about such an unpleasant comment). peace, revel.
  3. Hey Aureliae and all. Well, as to homework, I had to do a lot of homework as a child and did not suffer any kind of childhood trauma from it (of course, in my childhood, there were fewer distractions.... wasn't allowed TV until the homework was done, but also wasn't allowed to do the homework until the washing up had been done, ha!) Kids are used to homework (although, nowadays there always seems to be some debate or other about if they get too much homework-- poppycock! There's no such thing as too much homework-- just bad homework assignments!) so, giving them exercises to practice at home just seemed run-of-the-mill to them. Of course, since my classes were pronunciation-based, the homework was usually the practice of some drill we had learned in class. They all had little homework counter books (we called them Passports) where they had to write the exercise name and then put a little mark for each time they repeated a particular exercise. So, the homework would be something like "repeat exercise 24 ten times before the next class, not all in one sitting, over the next couple of days". What I was trying to teach to the kids was that doing a little bit of the work every day and keeping a record of it would help them to evaluate their own progress, at least on the practice side. I then could evaluate their work in the next class (and it was not difficult to spot a kid who just put in the marks but hadn't opened his mouth once). Adults had different kinds of homework. One of my favorites was sending all of the adults on scavenger hunts. So, they had to pull from a hat three different shops (this was in New York City, so there were literally thousands of shops to put in the hat!) and try to buy something mundane, like a battery for a Timex watch. Didn't matter what the shop was (and I included Fifth Avenue shops as well as corner stores), they had to go into each of those three shops (they usually had a weekend to do this exercise), ask for the mundane thing and then in the next class report to us what their experience was. Imagine going into a posh jewelry shop on fifth avenue and asking for a Timex watch battery. Once I moved out of the States, it was more difficult to place my adult students into real-life English situations (of course, where I am everyone speaks Spanish!). So I taught them how to use video to study. This was a very complex process, too long to describe in detail here, but it was very well structured for them and they found it enjoyable and useful. Mind you, it was not the simple "watch this movie and come back and tell us about it" kind of exercise at all. It was a very active exercise that, once mastered in class, became basic practice material for most of my adult learners. Just think, there are 168 hours in a week. Say your students sleep eight hours a day, that just leaves us with 112 hours in the week. Of those 112, most of my students spent 2 hours a week with me in class. That means that about 1.7% of their waking hours were spent with me and the other 98.3% were spent outside the classroom. There just isn't enough time in that 1.7 to practice in depth, we've only time to inform, explain, practice superficially and evaluate. All of this is based on the traditional singing/voice lesson. Those types of lessons are often around 30 minutes in length. The student is expected to have warmed up before entering the class. The teacher will listen to the student sing, give some pointers and evaluation, then send the student home to improve based upon those points. The actual work is done in rehearsal rooms, not in the classroom. That's mainly where I'm coming from in terms of my homework attitudes. peace, revel.
  4. Hey all. Let's begin with the historical "source" of the so-called "direct" method, especially in ESL teaching: The English-Only Movement: Myths, Reality, and Implications for Psychology and The Politics of English Only in the United States: Historical, Social and Legal Aspects for example. Once you've browsed those two articles, you'll understand where I am coming from. (Those titles are live links, so just click on them to read!) As others have mentioned, the idea that standing in front of a class of total beginners and expecting them to acquire a new language through the exclusive use of that language in the classroom can become a horrid exercise in frustration. Though there will be occasions in which the use of L2 by itself is "natural" (for example, conversation practice with more proficient students), thinking that any language is acquired through osmosis is pretty much a folk-tale or urban legend. The classroom is not a theatre of immersion, that's what the outside world is for. Though a teacher may not know the native language of the students, or the class may be made up of students from many native languages, stubbornly insisting on using only the native language is the stuff ex-pats earn their living on when travelling in foreign countries. Though they may not know the native language of the country they are visiting, they way-too-often think that just because they are native (English, mostly) speakers, they can be teachers simply by talking to their students. Especially beginning students need clear reference to their own native language in order to understand why that string of sounds in the second language is meaningful. The most direct way of communicating that meaning will be by using the native language; however, there are dozens of techniques available for the experienced teacher to communicate without simply repeating over and again something in L2, hoping that through repetition it will sink in. It is the teacher's responsibility to find those techniques that will lead to understanding. It can be an uphill road, but it is essential. Please, please, any of you who think that English Only is the only way, do read through those above mentioned documents and reconsider your methods. Again, in certain circumstances it may be best for the student (especially if he/she asks for it!) but it is not the end-all of Language teaching and often leads to drop-outs, confusion and frustration, both for the student and the teacher. Use every tool available, and if one of those tools is knowing a bit of your student's native language, don't avoid it because of some L2-only mandate, it's simply foolish. Sorry, I'm kind of passionate about this, seen a lot of people discouraged after having had to go through the English Only experience and not learning a thing (besides the incredible boredom of sitting for an hour or so listening to someone you simply don't understand! ha.) peace, revel.
  5. Hey all. This is a complex subject that can hardly be covered in a simple forum post, but I'll try to be concise for you all. Besides the comments already made, an ESL tutor or teacher should: -- Identify his/her personal strengths (grammar, conversation, writing, pronunciation, etc.) -- Research that strength until he/she knows it better than the back of his/her hand -- Base all information sharing in the classroom upon that strength Once a teacher has identified this strength, the next step is to create a basic class structure that will be used in each and every class. This structure may be: 1. Warm-up (five minutes) 2. Theme presentation (ten minutes) 3. Useful phrases and vocab (ten minutes) 4. Practice exercises (group or pair-work) 5. Evaluation of practice 6. Homework assignment or any basic structure that best reflects the strength of the teacher (the above was my basic structure for communicative classes with little emphasis on grammar, a lot of emphasis on utterance pronunciation and most emphasis on how to practice both in class and outside of class). The point of finding your strength is this: ESL students will usually have a variety of teachers in their "career" of learning English. None of those teachers will give them everything they need, nor should they pretend to do so. If your strength is pronunciation, then go for it, teach everything in your class through that filter. If, on the other hand, you know your grammar and structure, then make sure you get this across to your students in the most motivating fashion you can imagine. No matter what the strength may be, by focusing on it you will be doing your students a favor by showing your expertise in the matter-- demonstrating your "vocation" for teaching ESL. Finally, once you've got your strength and basic class structure down (and the class structure is important, as it will let your students know from the outset just what to expect in each of your classes, allowing them to focus on the material to be practiced and learned and practiced again), make sure you plan more material than you will actually need. If you've slotted five minutes for a warm-up exercise, make sure that the exercise might take ten minutes. Watch the clock, don't allow yourself to go way over time, but having more than enough material makes the time fly for both the teacher and the students. When time flies, students are more eager to come to the next class-- and teacher fatigue becomes impossible. peace, revel.
  6. Hey Aureliae and all. Let me address your different questions. First of all, the idea of imitating "background and circumstances of acquisition in the classroom" is a touchy subject, as the verdict is still not in on exactly what the background and circumstances of acquisition are. Of course, there are a lot of theories out there-- go read up on Krashen's "Natural Method" for example, but it's a tricky thing to pin down. When does actual acquisition begin-- in the womb as the mother speaks to those around her for the first nine months of life? After birth, when the child is exposed to what will become the native language through people talking to him/her, constantly repeating? Or later on, when the child needs to communicate more specifically in order to satisfy wants and needs? Any of these three would be very difficult to implement in a classroom setting (well, the "wants/needs" idea could be easier, as the map exercise example illustrates). Your question of replicating the "home" environment, maybe I've answered that above. I personally don't think it can be replicated. A classroom won't have a sofa, a television, a sister picking on you all the time, a loving mom and dad, a bed time, a dinner time. There's just not enough time or even atmosphere in a language classroom to be using valuable minutes trying to imitate or replicate the "home" environment that might be found in the L2 experience. You mention children in your third question. Up until the age at which they've begun to learn the construct (call it grammar or structure) of their own language, useful words such as "noun" or "verb" or "adjective" in adult classes have little or no meaning to kids. In addition, children "structure" the world around them in more primitive (where "primitive" means "closest to the origin") ways as they are still learning, through observation and practice, just how the world is structured. Simply exposing kids to the new language through L2-only classes can lead to frustration as well. I'm not sure what you understand as the "acquisition method"; however, with kids I'd have to advise that general early-childhood pedagogy has to be employed, even in second language classes. The advantage kids may have is that they usually want to learn and don't consider one subject harder or easier than another if it is interesting and motivating to them. As far as adults being more disciplined and focused, I'd differ a bit on that point of view. Though adults may have clearer ideas of their personal motivations for learning a second (or third!) language (and they should be asked from the outset-- why are you learning Chinese, for work, to talk to your girlfriend's parents, to better understand a particular culture?), they are much more easily distracted by their day-to-day lives than kids are. Adults have to go to work, feed the kids, clean the house, pay the bills. Most haven't done homework for decades and have lost the habit of habitual study. Many will only pay attention to the second language in class, not lifting a finger (or move their tongue) once they've gotten home. And while some believe that adults learn from prior experience, it is often that prior experience that becomes a crippling interference when trying to learn a second language. Naturally, you can't play with Barbie dolls with a group of adults and expect them to be happy with the class; however, focused, communicative, task-based exercise as well as clear instruction as to how to study outside of class will be useful to both adults and children. The classroom is a place for sharing information, practicing a bit so the teacher can evaluate, but most importantly, a place for giving useful, active homework to be done so that in the next class the teacher can see and reward the students for their part of the work (which is 90% of the work in learning to speak a new language). peace, revel.
  7. Hey Nathan and all. Good method you've got there. Watching your other videos (5 months and 6 months progress), I'd comment that your pronunciation is pretty good, fluid and very understandable. The more you speak like that, the more you'll understand what others are saying to you. I'd highlight something I noticed-- Nathan not only looked at the words in the vocab book, he painted them. When I was studying Spanish on my own, before moving to Spain, I'd read (actually reread) books I'd already read in English (mostly Steven King novels, addict I). When I had to look up a word I didn't know, I'd highlight it in my dictionary. If I looked it up again, I'd find it quicker and I'd put a red dot next to that same word. If I still had to look it up again, a third time, I'd stop, put down the book I was reading, and copy that word and its translation five or ten times into my vocabulary notebook. Another thing Nathan comments is that he nearly always reads aloud. Since Spanish is represented phonetically (that is, each letter has one sound, some.... only a few .... with two sounds), reading aloud is an excellent way to get your mouth moving around complete sentences. That's the best way towards listening comprehension. Once you're able to pronounce full sentences with ease, you'll find yourself understanding when others blurt out those same full sentences. Enhorabuena, your personal method seems to have "worked" for you and, you're right, it could be of use to others with the same level of motivation (wanting to learn your family's native tongue, wanting to be able to communicate with loved ones, etc). You're on the tack when you say that, once living in a Spanish-speaking country you'll be fluent in just a few months. Doing more or less what you described, before moving to Spain, meant that within a few weeks I was communicating and within a few months I was feeling pretty comfortable speaking and making new friends in the language. Paz, amigo. revel.
  8. These are all valid comments; however, the word "teacher" is very general. I taught ESL for 32 years in a number of contexts. From private classes to groups of up to 50 students (thank the gods that big group only happened once-- it was grueling!), I would have to consider myself more of an "informant" and "coach" than an actual "teacher". I'll give you all an example. In more than one occasion, I had been team-teaching with another teacher, dividing the material into two general categories: grammar and speaking/listening. Though I consider grammar an important foundation for language learning, and have taught my share, I was usually assigned the speaking/listening part of the team work. In almost every case in which students had me for their listening/speaking, they would gripe about the contrast with the grammar classes. Naturally, speaking/listening, or communication, or whatever you want to call it, gives leeway for much more creative and even fun activities than grammar. On the other hand, in so many instances, the grammar teacher of the team stood before the board, made charts and gave lectures, which naturally tended to bore the pants off the students. Though grammar and structure are kind of the "maths" of language learning, there is no reason for the teaching of that material to be stand-in-front-of-the-board-and-lecture boring stuff. Even when I was required to teach grammar, I found that the same fun, interesting, improvisational activities helped my students to understand all that basic, foundation material, despite its "boring" nature. So, though a teacher may be helpful in language learning, that teacher must also make the effort to ensure that the presentation of any and all of the material be appropriate for the age group, catch their interest and motivate them to want to come back for more. Simply having a teacher who explains things to you will not be stimulating (unless you really love grammar!). I'll add that I became fluent in Spanish without a teacher, probably because I'm a linguist and find learning language fun, interesting and somewhat easy. Though a teacher may have been able to explain and inform, in my case it was the immersion into the Spanish culture that got me speaking in just about a year. peace, revel.
  9. Hey all. This is not an uncommon exercise for ESL students, and I have seen it on tests. The thing is, it is how a professional writer will often go about structuring or composing his/her writing. Too many think that a writer sits down, invents a title, writes the first word and finishes with the final word and everything comes out in the right order. Nothing farther than the truth! A good writer will probably begin with some theme in mind and construct some type of controlling statement. From there, he/she will often jot down a number of ideas that are to be included in the work. These ideas will not necessarily come out of our heads in any particular order; in fact, they can often be rather intuitive and stormy. Consequently, the writer must go back over those notes and put them into the order that will best represent the main theme. In addition, as others have mentioned above, that order will necessarily contribute to the flow and eventual understanding of the writing on the part of the reader. It can be called logical or whatever; however, the most important aspect will be that it flows in an understandable fashion. What good is writing is the reader doesn't understand it? So, the test question aside, I would encourage anyone wanting to improve their writing in English to do just what the question asks. Jot down a number of ideas and put them into the best, communicative order. Such practice not only improves writing skills, but will help you overcome anxiety when such a question is posed. Again, it is not an unusual practice when writing, it's rather the norm. peace, revel.
  10. Hey all. I'm going to share my three decades of ESL teaching here with you. Listening is a passive activity. There are hardly any muscles involved in listening. No matter how hard you wiggle your ears, you will not be able to understand better. Comprehension comes from recognition of sounds. Look at that word: recognition. That is re-cognition. The sound must be available in your bank of sounds before you will accurately hear it and combine it with the surrounding sounds to find meaning. Thus, any good listening comprehension practice will begin with your mouth, your pronunciation. Here's an example. My real world name is very difficult for Spanish people to pronounce (I live in Spain!). Consequently, when a friend calls out to me on the street, I may hear something, but since my name has not been pronounced "correctly" (the way I am used to saying and hearing it), I often ignore that greeting. Thus, if you have many pronunciation issues, when you listen to native pronunciation you will find it nearly impossible to recognize what is being said, because it is being pronounced in a different manner than you are used to. Your ears will ignore it and you won't understand. Being practical, then, here's an exercise you can try: Choose a very short dialogue from a film or TV show or whatever may interest you. Very short means between two and three minutes long.... no longer! (Don't sit down to watch an entire film!) Watch the scene with your subtitles on and read along with the dialogue. Watch again and only move your mouth, lip-syncing the dialogue. Watch again and whisper along with the actors. Watch again and don't move your lips. Turn off the subtitles and try to repeat simultaneously with the actors. Hit pause after each sentence and try to repeat it with the same rhythm, intonation. Repeat the scene again, and again. Turn the subtitles back on and read along. Close your eyes and listen to the scene, moving your lips to the sounds. Always move your lips when you are listening. Those are muscles you can strengthen, teach the proper articulations. Once you've gotten the hang of those two or three minutes, take a rest, buy yourself an ice cream, pat yourself on the back. You've just done an active listening exercise. Like any exercise that is meant to help you improve, you should repeat it on a regular basis. If you set aside ten to fifteen minutes a day to do this exercise, you should begin to feel improvement not only in your listening but also in your speaking. Finally, don't move away from that two to three minute scene during a week. Keep at the same scene. By the end of the week, you should be able to evaluate your progress. The next week you can choose another movie, show, podcast, whatever. It doesn't matter the source you listen to: what matters is that you repeat the exercise, you keep it short and, above all, move your lips! Hope this helps. It helped my students much more than all those dull listening exercises on CDs that came with their lesson books. peace, revel.
  11. Hey all. First, I would point out two ideas: · Writing is an art apart from speaking · Writing is rewriting I am a professional writer, as well as a veteran ESL teacher of over 30 years. It's actually difficult to respond to this thread in just a few words: reams have been written on writing, both for native English users and for those who use English as a second (or third!) language. The complexity of writing in English aside, I would offer a couple of concepts that I consider essential in writing. The first would be organization, the second would be word choice. When organizing your writing, you are actually organizing your thoughts. You may begin with a "controlling statement", almost like a title, something like "Writing in English requires organization and correct word choice." (That would be a sample controlling statement for this post, for example!) You may begin with a title, like: Organization and word choice in English writing. However you begin, you will follow this initial idea with a quick list of thoughts you wish to explain. At first, it doesn't matter the order this list is in. What is important is to brainstorm a number of thoughts that you wish to communicate. Note them down. Then you can do the 2x2 priority system to put them in order-- look at the first idea, compare it to the second, decide which should come first, then compare the first with the third. Any idea that is out of place should be put in its place. Once you've gotten that list, you may want to jot down several words that are relevant to each of your ideas. I will insist, there is no such thing as fancy words in English. English is a very rich language, with between 600,000 and 900,000 words available for our use. That is where word choice comes in. Word choice means choosing exactly the word that communicates your idea. This can be an adjective that clearly elicits an image in the reader's mind. It can be an active verb that gives motion to the writing. It is not enough to use the 1000 or so common words employed in everyday language. Each topic will need its own, specific words to support the ideas. If a word you've noted seems too common, look for another, but you shouldn't just use a word because it seems impressive.... check its meaning and make sure your reader (your audience) won't be scrambling for a dictionary to understand your writing! These are just a couple of ideas that should be applied to writing. Excellent grammar and spelling are a given, if a writer does not control grammar and spelling, no amount of composition or word use will overcome the disappointment and loss of trust in his/her authority when grammar or spelling get in the way. Think of it like a musician who is always hitting the wrong notes. No matter how great the song is, the listener will cringe. Grammar and spelling are our notes and should be used properly, long before other aspects, such as theme, development, etc are tried on for size. So much to say about this, but this is a good start at least. Hope it was useful. peace, revel.
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