Evening 11 (Tues 2012-02-21)
1. Controlled Practice (1.5 hr)
This started off with a group (mingle) activity: Labels stuck on walls – “Often”, “sometimes”, “never”. Move to appropriate label and discuss, in response to questions such as:
who used to smoke behind the bike sheds?
who used to go scrumping for apples?
who used to hit a sibling?
who used to ride a pony?
who used to play piano?
Purpose (as drawn on WB by tutor):
- adverbs of frequency
- “used to”
- practice of target language
- generative (what does this mean?)
+ meaningful + intensive pattern practice + restricted practice activity
These aspects were all elicited from prompts by the tutor but I was a bit lost about the whole thing and the categorisations and terminology used. I would’ve liked to have gone slower and got more info on purpose, application and alternatives. Anyway, here I am, reflecting on it afterwards, and trying to make sense of it. I think that it is, in fact, a simple concept obfuscated by jargon.
It just seems to be a type of exercise with fairly well-defined outcomes, as opposed to “freer practice”. (I don’t like that word “freer” – feels like it should have three Es! More free! – seems to be CELTA lingo). Controlled practice activities vs freer practice, eg fluency activities.
Useful for the presentation of language: meaning+form+phonology.
We had a look at picture prompts as a way of practising present perfect simple: she has won a cup, he has cut his finger, and so on.
Then there followed an activity in which we (as pairs or triples) pulled exercise types (eg crosswords, word bingo, giving directions etc) from teaching books and drew them on a kind of word cloud. Our triple ended plucking out anything we could find/define and writing it down – everything in the books seemed to be a controlled exercise of some sort, and we all already knew there are lots out there which could be found in books.
2. Lesson Preparation (0.5 hr)
This was a really useful time for me. I’ll be teaching on Thursday and the tutor gave me some advice which tidied up some of the ragged ends I was worried about.
3. Phonology (1 hr)
An intro to sounds and the phonemic chart. (Oh, don’t we just lurve the schwa!) I was already aware of it, not least because 15 minutes of my upcoming TP will focus on it, but it was a well-presented lesson which I enjoyed. As for its usefulness, I’m not overly convinced. Certainly it would add confusion for younger learners already struggling with alphabets and spellings. For an older learner working independently then perhaps it could be used to confirm pronunciation of an unfamiliar word but you’d have to have a good dictionary which gave phonemes and their translation, unless memorised. If I was connected to the internet I could just go to http://www.macmillandictionary.com/ , plug in the word and hear the pronunciation without the need to know phonemes, IPA symbols etc. There are apps for smart phones and (probably now obsolete) translator devices.
If I was trying to learn another language then this 44-phoneme scheme based on Received Pronunciation would not suffice. If I was in the classroom, teaching, then would I need it? Maybe only for confirming gaps in my own skills. Where you’re trying to concentrate on communication and fluency I think it has limited usefulness. But if I was learning it then I’d probably use OUP’s tool which associates a symbol to an image to aid memorising:
There was a discussion on #ELTchat on this very point which I missed (it coincided with work time) but a transcript is available: IPA: The Theory and Beyond