Evening 25, Tuesday 2012-04-24
I sense that we’re on the home straight now. We’re two-thirds of the way through the course and we’re starting to look at things which are more to do with managing lessons than the actual lessons themselves. For instance, the second half of tonight’s lesson looked at the syllabus and the different directions it has taken as it’s evolved over the years…
1. Teaching Modal Verbs (75 mins)
The tutor kicked this off by describing a scene and getting us to speculate: a guy drives through a red light – why? The idea was that we’d use “might” or “ought” or “could” etc in our reasoning. Perhaps a learner of English would but few of us trainees actually did. Oh well…
We looked at some examples of sentences with modal verbs and had to come up with rules for their use.
Sorry, but these rules really grate with me. I really can’t see the point. So we came up with six rules – what are we meant to do with them? I struggle to believe that a student will refer to the “rules” when producing written or oral language. Doesn’t it all just overload the poor learner? Perhaps it’s just me – a reflection of my own struggles to analyse the language and produce rules.
So we looked at context and functions (prediction, promise, advice, obligation, possibility, speculation, ability and so on) and concluded that it’s all a bit of a minefield. We were asked “what does this mean when deciding what to teach?” The others seemed to come up with smart technical answers but not durbrain here.
2. Preparation for TP + Break (30 mins)
I’m not teaching next Thursday so this was a break for me.
3. Syllabus (75 mins)
To introduce the topic the tutor started the lesson with a variation of “guess the word” exercise, as illustrated on the left, which she thought would be more PC than “hangman.” She’s probably right, and it would be more fun, but I’m not really sure what the learning benefits might be. If just used as a warm-up then I guess it’s fine. Working in pairs we also had a shot at coming up with words that could be made from the letters of “syllabus” and then compared with the other pairs. I came up with “abyss” which seemed strangely appropriate for the mood I was in after the modal verbs session 🙂
We looked at types of syllabus, as described by Penny Ur in 1996. A pretty dry subject. She lists at least ten different types. I expect that in the intervening years a few more will have come and gone. What we have now is apparently “Multi-strand” – a bit of everything, not a cultish flavour-of-the-month.