Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Marvel Classic Comics #9 "Dracula"

(Graded Reader)

I've recently had good luck using comic book versions of classic stories in my ESL classrooms.
The Marvel Classics version of Treasure Island was a big hit.  And the Classics Illustrated version of The Time Machine went over even better.
But having used up both of these ideas, I really struggled to think of the next comic to follow it up with.
My students had been really engaged, and I hated to lose that engagement by introducing a less-exciting story.
So I spent a long time (longer than I like to admit) going through all the classic comics I could find on the Internet (both old issues of Marvel Classics and Classics Illustrated.)

In the end, I didn't find anything that matched the fun, excitement, and pacing of Treasure Island and The Time Machine.
(I spent a lot of time looking at comic book versions of Frankenstein, War of the Worlds, Les Miserables, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Robinson Crusoe, A Tale of Two Cities, The Iliad, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, etc. etc. etc.  And decided against all of them for one reason or another.)
So, in the end, I eventually settled on Dracula.

I suppose I should get into my own history with Dracula.
As a kid, I always found the idea of Dracula to be fascinating.  Partly because he was the most famous horror icon, and all kids are fascinated by horror.
And partly because the idea--the gothic castles in mystical Eastern European mountains, the wolves and bats, the graveyards--was just really spooky.
But the actual novel I always found boring.
I read a couple abridged versions as a kid, which I found disappointing.  At around 22, I did the original by audiobook, and also found it a bit slow and boring.  (Sidenote: I think I'm probably due to re-read the original at some point.  I've always felt a bit guilty about only doing it on audiobook, and I think my attention wandered a bit during some of the slower parts.)

But the boring parts of this book only come from the parts in London.  The first 3rd of the book, in Castle Dracula, is still exciting stuff.
It was at the very least much more exciting and atmospheric than Frankenstein (which was the other classic horror novel I was considering doing).
Plus, I had had good luck using a Graded Reader version of Dracula  with teenagers back in Cambodia.  They had really gotten into the story.

The Review
The Marvel Classics version of this story suffers from the same problems as the original source material.  The opening about being trapped in Castle Dracula is really exciting, but then the London parts are so slow and boring.
But in addition to the problems with the source material, there are also problems unique to the Marvel Classics adaptation.
My best guess is that this is a result of sloppy editing.  They couldn't fit the whole story into 48 pages, so someone starting chopping bits off.
As a result, there are all these plot points that are never explained, or references to earlier events which never happened.
For example, in Transylvania, Jonathan Harker references the cross the landlady had given them as if this was an event the reader should be familiar with.  But it was never shown.

Student Engagement
In both my morning class and my afternoon class, initial enthusiasm for this book was high.  When the students found out we were going to read Dracula next, they were very excited.
Just like I was at their age, I think the students were more captivated by the idea of Dracula than they were by Bram Stoker's actual novel.
Once we got into the slower parts of the story, enthusiasm began to wane.
The morning class actually put up with this better, and they remained somewhat engaged all the way up until the end.
The afternoon class started to complain and lose focus.
When we finished the story, the afternoon class told me, "Don't do a story like Dracula again."
"What kind of a story do you want?" I asked them.
"We want a horror story next," they said.
"But Dracula was a horror story," I said.
"No it wasn't," they insisted

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky May 29, 2018 - The Haury Conversation Noam Chomsky Talks With Toni Massaro
Finished: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury--I actually finished this book ahead of schedule.  We're not meeting having the book club meeting for another 2 weeks.  So I might hold off on writing the book review until after the book club meeting.

Solo: A Star Wars Story

(Movie Review)

So... I've been hating on this movie ever since it was announced.  See HERE for my 2015 rant about why a Han Solo prequel movie is a terrible idea.

In February, I tweeted out the link to a Forbes article: Why I Want 'Solo: A Star Wars Story' To Fail 

But I later felt guilty about tweeting this.  I didn't actually want Solo to fail.  After all, this was going to be part of the Star Wars canon.  And I was a Star Wars fan.  Although I was somewhat dreading the idea of a Han Solo prequel, I didn't want it to fail.  I wanted it to be as good as it could be, and do as little damage to the character and the franchise as possible.

I was still angry about the idea of a Han Solo prequel.  And I was hoping everyone involved in greenlighting this movie would all lose their jobs and never touch anything related to Star Wars ever again.  But now that we are living in a world where the Han Solo prequel is a reality whether I like it or not, I wanted the prequel itself to be a success.  (If that nuance is not too confusing.)

Later, when the  trailers for this movie came out, I thought they looked pretty cool, and I allowed myself to be cautiously optimistic that it might be good after all.

The Review
Good news!  The movie is good.
I mean, yes, I know, prequels suck as a matter of principle.
And yes, I know, it's sacrilege to have anyone other than Harrison Ford play Han Solo.
But... but the thing works.  It starts out with a great action scene and it keeps that momentum going all the way through the movie.  Great action scenes, and very exciting.

I loved the twists at the end of the film, and thought the build up and pay-off in the final climax of the movie was very satisfying.

Alden Ehrenreich actually works as Han to me.  He's got the cocky attitude down perfectly.  And by about 20 minutes into the movie I had completely accepted him as Han Solo.
Donald Glover of course is awesome.

This movie still wasn't necessary.  But, it did show that it is possible to do a prequel, and not completely muck up the integrity of the series.
Perhaps after George Lucas's disastrous prequel trilogy, some of us were a little bit too quick to assume prequels couldn't work as a matter of principal.  But Solo actually works.  Or at the very least doesn't completely ruin the character.

More Positive Points
* As I also wrote before, I agree with Mike Ryan (herehere and here) that Star Wars became a success not because of the Jedis, but inspite of it.  The Jedis and the Force are the most boring part of the Star Wars mythos--the real fun is the space Western and space pirates aspect of the story.  I believe it was a mistake for subsequent Star Wars films to double down on the Force.
The good news is that there's no Force in Solo.  Just all bounty hunters, pirates, and Westerns.  And the movie is better for it.

Negative Points
* L3 did not work.
Droids have long been a problem in the Star Wars universe.  They're obviously sentient, have thoughts, feelings, fears and a desire for self-preservation.  And yet they're treated by everyone in the Star Wars universe as disposable.  And framed that way by the filmmakers as well.  (Think of how many jokes in Star Wars over the years have revolved around a droid getting comically destroyed.  There was even one of these jokes in Solo itself.)
It's a problem, but to tug at this string is going to unravel a lot of the universe, so we fans generally just leave it alone and shove it to the back of our minds.

For this reason, I think it's a mistake to have L3 shine a spotlight on the problem of Droid rights.  It just doesn't work in this universe without opening a big can of worms.
But... if you're going to address this issue, than do it seriously.  Don't just make a joke out a droid fighting for equal rights.  It doesn't work as a joke, and to make a punch line out of the phrase "equal rights" seems to me to be making light of the real struggle of people out there fighting for equal rights in the real world.
That... plus the character just wasn't funny, so it didn't work comedically.

Other Star Wars Reviews
Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith ,
Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens ,
Star Wars: Rogue One ,
Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi ,

Whisky Prajer's review here.  I agree completely with this.

And as always, the guys at Red Letter Media are much smarter than I am.

Rating :
9 out of 10 Stars

Video Review
Video review HERE and embedded below:

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky 2018 (May 30, 2018) - The Fate of Humanity

Sunday, May 27, 2018

A Framework for Task-Based Learning by Jane Willis

(Book Review)

Started: April 3, 2018
Finished: May 9, 2018

Why I Read This Book / General Overview
I read this book as part of the bookclub for professional development that a few of us have got going at work.

We try to stick to the Cambridge recommended reading list for Delta Module 1, (list here).  This book was on the list, and moreover some of the other members thought it would be useful to read.

Personally  I thought it sounded pretty boring.  "A Framework for Task-Based Learning"! How boring could you get?
But boring didn't really matter.  This is a bookclub for professional development not pleasure reading.  So I went along with it.

Once I got into it, I was pleasantly surprised at how readable the book was.  Despite a very boring sounding title, the book is actually very engaging.  Jane Willis has a lot of interesting ideas and thoughts on language learning.  And she is able to write these ideas in a very readable prose.
(Jane Willis , by the way, was the wife of the late Dave Willis, whose book Rules, Patterns and Words I read last year and also found very interesting.  Dave Willis and Michael Lewis were the pioneers of the lexical approach, and Jane Willis also seems to have a similar view--i.e. a distrust of grammar rules, and an emphasis on learning lexical chunks.)

In terms of readability, I found this book at its most interesting in the more theoretical chapters--when Jane Willis was talking about how languages are learned, and why task based learning is best suited to what we know about language learning.
The middle chapters get into the technicalities of lesson staging, and this is very useful, although less interesting.  (I had problems with my eyes glazing over, and occasionally had to force myself to re-read pages when I realized that I hadn't been paying attention to what I was reading.) But what can you do?  A book like this needs to get into the specifics if teachers are to implement it.  (And again, this is professional development reading, not pleasure reading).

Summary of the Arguments
I was skeptical when I started this book.  In part just because the name "Task-Based Learning" sounds overly scholastic and boring to me.  And in part because I've not been impressed with the Task-Based Learning curriculums I've encountered in the past.
In the past I've encountered task-based learning and project-based learning (similar to task-based learning) curriculums in which the tasks didn't engage the students, and getting through the lesson involved the teacher frog-marching the students through a task that they didn't really want to do.
This made me cynical about TBL and PBL.

But, I've got to say... Jane Willis really won me over.  She makes a really good case for Task-Based Learning.
That's not to say that I don't have a lot of reservations.  I have a few of reservations about this, and I'll get to those down below.

But first, let me talk about what I liked about this framework.
In the opening chapter, Jane Willis lays out the language classroom conundrum very clearly--lots of people learn a foreign language fluently with no classroom instruction, whereas many students spend years in a foreign language classroom and leave unable to speak the language.  (Japan was a perfect example of this.)

Jane Willis goes on to say that in order to successfully learn a language, everyone agrees that the student must have lots of input, lots of motivation, and lots of practice using it.
Willis presents this as fairly uncontroversial--and I think by and large it is.
(Although notably Krashen would disagree about the "use" part.   In Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition, Krashen presents examples of shy students who simply listened quietly in the classroom, and still acquired language competency similar to their more talkative classmates.  It's an interesting argument, and one that lingered in the back of my head while I read Jane Willis.  But I think Krashen is slightly outside the mainstream--most people would agree that some sort of use practice is essential for language acquisition.)
Instruction from a teacher is not actually an essential part of language learning--as Jane Willis has already pointed out, plenty of people learn languages without a teacher.
But, all other factors being equal, good instruction can help someone learn a language faster.  So Exposure, Use and Motivation are essential, and Instruction is desirable.

Traditionally language school classrooms have had a hard time satisfying the three essential elements of Exposure, Use and Motivation.
But Task-Based Learning can meet these requirements.
The students get plenty of practicing using the language as they work on the task together.
Motivation is a bit more difficult for the teacher to control.  But even if the student's motivation to learn the language in general is low, task-based learning can at least give the students motivation to complete the task, and so give them temporary motivation to use the language.

The Input or Exposure part wasn't obvious to me at first.  (Surely Task-Based Learning would be all about production, and not about input, right?)  But Jane Willis actually has some really clever ideas for how to get input into Task-Based Learning.
In some cases the input could be the reading or listening text if the task revolves around working with a text.
But in other cases, Jane Willis has the interesting idea of recording proficient speakers doing the task, and then playing that recording for the students.

So, for example, if you have a "spot the differences between two pictures" task, you could find two colleagues in the staffroom, and record them doing the task.
Then, all the authentic language that proficient speakers use to complete the task themselves could be the input for the students.
Students could also be given the transcript of the recording, and with the teacher look to identify useful language from the transcript.
For closed tasks (tasks in which there is a limited number of correct answers--e.g. "spot the differences") the recording could be played after the task.  For open tasks (e.g. "tell a story about...") the recording could be played before the task.

The instruction part of the task comes at the end.  The teacher highlights useful language for the students.  This could come from the task-recording between the two proficient speakers.  Or it could be highlighting good language that the students are using.  Or it could be feedback on errors the students are making.

(Hopefully that makes sense. I'm trying to just capture the main ideas of the book without re-writing everything. If you read the actual book, Jane Willis goes in to a lot more detail about what a Task-Based Learning lesson would look like, and she also has a lot more ideas on types of tasks that could be used in the classroom.)

What I Liked About Task-Based Learning
So, as I mentioned above, I was initially skeptical of TBL.
But Jane Willis makes some really good points.
Assuming students need speaking practice to acquire a language (and, putting aside Krashen, they probably do), then it's much better to give students a task that will give them a reason to speak.

I mentioned in the past I had had some bad experiences with Task-Based Learning curriculums--namely tasks that the students found boring.
But, everything has to be evaluated against its alternatives.  Even though some teenagers may groan at the idea of being forced to do a comparison task, they will at least find it slightly more motivating than a speaking practice that has no goals or outcomes.
In other words, if the alternative is just to hand students a list of questions and tell them to discuss with their partner (something that, I admit, I've often been guilty of), then Task-Based Learning is the lesser of two evils.

As every teacher knows (and as Jane Willis herself admits on p.70) it is hard to consistently find topics and activities that always engage every student in the class.  Probably there is going to be some hits and misses with student engagement of tasks when attempting to implement this.  But Task-Based Learning at least has the potential to engage students a lot more than simply telling them to speak about a topic, or do a role-play.

In fact, in the last couple weeks since I've read this book, I've been playing around with activities that have more clearly defined outcomes.  I've been experimenting with a new type of movie worksheet that that is inspired by Task-Based Learning (still a work in progress at this point, but can be found HERE), and I've found that this has increased student engagement.  In my adult classes, for a recent speaking activity, instead of giving them the usual discussion questions, I gave them agree or disagree statements, and they had to decide as a group whether they agreed or disagreed.  And I found that it noticeably increased their enthusiasm and level of energy for the speaking activity.  (That worksheet HERE).

Another thing I really liked about Task-Based Learning was Jane Willis's idea of recording a model of proficient speakers doing the same task, and playing that for the student.
As Jane Willis points out, in traditional classrooms the students either listen to Teacher Talking Time, or they listen to highly scripted conversations from the ESL textbook.
Very rarely do students get the necessary input to have a real conversation in English--the art of negotiating turn taking, of holding a turn or ending a turn, of interrupting politely, or just the general chaos of real conversation (false starts, hesitations, backtracking, talking over people, etc.)
If the students can be provided with authentic input of proficient speakers doing the same task, they get access to input containing all of these features.
In the language analysis section of the Task-Based Learning lesson framework, the teacher can further draw their attention to these some of these language features.

(Note: Jane Willis makes the point that the model doesn't always need to be a native-speaker--a proficient non-native speaker will work just as well.  So I'm following her lead on this by using the term "proficient speaker").

...or at the very least, I like this idea in theory a lot.  I do have some practical concerns about how feasible it is to prepare all these recordings in advance.  Which I'll get to in my next section.

My Concerns About This Framework

Despite liking a lot about this idea, I have a couple of concerns.

1) Dogmatism
I found Task-Based Learning very appealing, but I would have liked this book better if Jane Willis had introduced it as yet another tool in the teacher's toolbox--something you could use sometimes, but didn't have to use all of the time.
But the last two chapters (8&9)got a little bit pushy about selling TBL.
At this point, the book became less informative and more polemical.
I wrote in the margins of page 137 (chapter 9), "Why are you trying so hard to sell me on this?"

Jane Willis appears to believe that Task-Based Learning is the best method of language learning, and that the classroom lessons should always follow the Task-Based Learning framework.

In our bookclub, this was especially jarring, because we had just got done reading Jack Richard's essay "Beyond Methods" for our previous bookclub book .  In that essay, Jack Richard argued that in the past the field was obsessed with the search for the perfect method, but now people recognized that there is a perfect method.
In fact, I think it's quite common nowadays to talk about how we are in the post-methods stage of TESOL.  So in that respect, the strict adherence to one particular method seemed like a step backwards.
(Although someone made the point at our bookclub that we will probably never truly be in a post-methods era.  There is a certain personality type that wants to have a perfect method to follow, and so we'll probably never get rid of the search for the perfect method.  In 100 years, people will still be coming up with new perfect methods to use.)

I don't dislike anything about the TBL framework.  I just think that other methods and techniques could also be valuable.
For example, I'm a big fan of using stories in the classroom--often without a task--simply just listening to the stories for enjoyment.
(Jane Willis acknowledges that extensive reading for pleasure is one of the best ways to learn a language.  But she argues that it's best done outside the classroom.  But in my experience, few students actually do much reading outside the classroom, so I think it's good to devote some classtime to it.)
I also think that some sort of structured grammar curriculum isn't a bad idea.  (Jane Willis makes a bit deal of pointing out that teaching pre-selected grammar points won't work, because the students are only ready to produce grammar points that are at their level of acquisition.  But Rod Ellis, in his book, points out that students can still be taught grammar for comprehension even if they aren't ready to produce it.  And I think it's valuable to have some sort of structured curriculum for the most common grammar points, even if its only for receptive purposes.)
Plus Michael Lewis points out that students can benefit from studying decontextualized vocabulary lists.
Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  There are many other techniques and approaches which would be beneficial in addition to TBL.

To summarize, I'd be quite happy doing TBL lessons frequently, but not all the time.  But Jane Willis seems to be arguing that this framework should be used with every lesson.

2) Practicality
So, I really love the idea of having recordings of proficient speakers doing the same task that can be used as input.
And Jane Willis devotes pretty much a whole chapter (chapter 6) to explaining how to make, organize, and store these recordings.
But, I know very few ESL teachers who have time to do all this.  (Many ESL teachers I know are working 2 jobs.)

...that being said, while I was reading this book, I got this crazy idea that I'd like to make some of my own recordings.  I want to go through some of my speaking exercises, and record either myself or my colleagues doing the same task.
If I do ever get organized enough to start doing that, (and I might or might not) I'll post the videos on my youtube channel.

Book Club Posts
In the past, I've tried to keep an active discussion on the book club Facebook page to encourage people to keep up with the book.
But this time around, I really dropped the ball.  I kept up regular posts for 5 days, and then didn't do them until the end of the month.
At the end of the month, I posted one final post, summarizing all of my nitpicks with the book.
It's not much, but for whatever it's worth, I'll post it below.

Post 1
Anyone with long memories may remember the first book we did for this book club was "Rules, Patterns and Words" by Dave Willis.

Well, here's a random connection for you--Jane Willis is the wife of Dave Willis.
I don't know if that means anything to you or not, but I'd just thought I'd through it out there.
Their website is here:

Dave Willis unfortunately died in 2013, so now it's only Jane running the website.

Post 2
p. vi Acknowledgements
Jane Willis starts out her book by writing:
"Initial inspiration and support for task-based learning came from Prabhu in Bangalore..."

Actually, as luck would have it, TEFLology just released an episode talking about Prabhu and the Bangalore project.

XXXX introduced me to the TEFLology podcast a couple years ago, and I've found it very informative. I pick up all sorts of tidbits from these guys.

Post 3
Jane Willis writes:
"Most of us know or know of people who have learnt to speak a foreign language quite fluently without any teaching at all: people who travel and work abroad a lot; people who stay in their own country but who mix with speakers of another language. Even quite young children, who drop out of school, often classed as 'unteachable', become unofficial tourist guides and end up managing to communicate in several foreign languages. They are not always totally accurate, but they achieve a level of language ability that is entirely adequate for their needs."

When I taught in Cambodia, I noticed this.
I taught at a school similar to our schoolwhich targeted the upper middle class families. Parents paid a lot of money for their children to study there. But many of these children of the upper-middle class made very poor progress.

But, if you went to the beaches of Sihanoukville, the poor street children there spoke English flawlessly. Many of them had even picked up native-sounding accents. Simply from interacting with tourists day in and day out.

I always thought it was ironic that the poor children acquired for free the education that the rich paid so much for in private schools.

Post 4
On page 5, Jane Willis talks about some of Stephen Krashen's theories. We read one of Krashen's books previously a few months back.
Actually, if you follow Willis's endnotes on Krashen to the end of the chapter, it looks like she's getting her information on Krashen from Lightbown and Spada's book "How Languages are Learned". Which was another previous bookclub book. So this is a twofer.

But this quote did have me scratching my head a bit:
Willis writes: "Few people now accept Krashen's claim that formally learnt language will never become part of a learner's deployable language." (p.5)

But Krashen never claimed that, did he? When we read Krashen's book a few months back, I thought that Krashen was arguing that it was useful to formally learn some language for situations when you have the time to monitor your output.
Krashen also believed that these formally learnt rules could still be acquired later through input.
I think what Willis should have said is "Krashen's claim that formally learnt language will only become part of a learner's deployable language if it is reinforced by input"

I'm not sure if this is just bad phrasing, or a misunderstanding of what Krashen really believes. (It's notable that she's referencing Lightbown and Spada on Krashen, and not Krashen himself.) What do you guys think?

Post 5
From p.5 again

"... instead of aiming at the unachievable goal of perfection and falling short, might it not be more realistic and useful to spend less time on practising isolated patterns and more time on helping learners to increase their vocabulary (words and phrases being generally far easier to learn) and deploy the language they have?"

This is pretty much what Michael Lewis advocates in "The Lexical Approach".
Flipping to the back, sure enough, "The Lexical Approach" by Michael Lewis is indeed listed as one of the references.

...But then, Michael Lewis is occasionally accused of ripping of Dave Willis (see the TEFLology podcast), so maybe it's more likely that this sentiment comes more directly from Dave Willis (who is the Jane Willis's husband).

Final Post (from the End of the Month)
Sorry. In the past I've usually tried to keep this Facebook page active during the reading of the book, but I dropped the ball this time around.

But now that I'm done with the book, I do have a few notes that I jotted down in my margins about things I was confused or concerned about. Which may or may not make a useful starting point for tomorrow's discussion.

I'll jot them down here and let me know if anyone has any thoughts.

* I liked a lot about the Task Based Learning Framework, but I was a little bit put off on the last couple chapters by how hard she was selling it.
In the last chapter, she seemed to be saying, "This is the new super-method, and if your students want to study a different method, here's some tips for convincing them that they're wrong and TBL is the new way forward."
Did anyone else get that impression?
It's especially notable after we just got done reading "Beyond Methods" by Jack Richards, in which he argues that there is no "right" method.

* On PPP:
I think she's right that it's ridiculous to expect students to do free production with a new grammar point at the end of the P-P-P method.
So I agree with her here.
But I'm not sure that means that it's useless to teach a grammar syllabus altogether.
Rod Ellis points out that students can still be taught grammar receptively even if they're not yet ready to use it in free production. (e.g. they can still be taught to understand the passive voice even if they aren't ready to use it.) This will help aid students' reading and listening skills. And also help them on the grammar test.
For this reason, I wouldn't be opposed to using at grammar syllabus as a supplement to a TBL syllabus. But Jane Willis seems to be only in favor of all TBL all the time.

* Also on PPP:
I've encountered two different versions of PPP over the years. Some people think that in the free production stage, the target grammar must be used. But other people think that in the free production stage, the teacher sets up an activity where the students could use the target grammar, but don't have to.
The first scenario is the one that Jane Willis is attacking. And I agree with her. But in the second scenario, I actually think PPP is okay. All the students can learn the grammar point receptively in the presentation and practice phase. In the free production phase, those students who are ready to use it can attempt it, and those students who are not ready to use it can work on whatever other language they are developing.
What is your understanding of the proper version of PPP? What do you think about Jane Willis's criticisms?

* Okay, one last thing on PPP.
On page 135, Jane Willis writes, "The PPP cycle derives from the behaviourist view of learning, which rests on the principle that repetition helps to 'automate' responses, and that practice makes perfect."
Michael Lewis made the same claim--that the PPP method comes from the behaviorist view of learning.
But there was an article published last year in the ELT journal which refuted this accusation.

(This article was discussed on the TEFLology podcast-- )

In the article, they say that PPP came out of the communicative approach, not the behaviorist approach.
I suppose it's open to debate whether the PPP is more behaviourist in outlook or more communicative in outlook.
What do you guys think?
On the one hand, the PPP method does operate under the assumption that correcting learner's errors today will lead to better accuracy tomorrow.
But on the other hand, while the PPP approach does do error correction, it's usually delayed error correction. Learners are allowed a lot of freedom to experiment with the language during the free production stage. Is this behaviourist or not?

* Nitpick. Page 118. Jane Willis writes: "As we mentioned in chapter 1, if we are visiting a foreign country where we don't speak the language, we take a dictionary or a phrase-book rather than a grammar."
I don't remember that in chapter 1. Did I miss that?
It does, however, remind me of one of Krashen's quotes: "When students travel, they don't carry grammar books, they carry dictionaries"

* Another nitpick--was it just me, or was anyone else confused by the description of the Bingo game on page 122. "Learners can draw their own bingo cards of, say, nine squares. They black out four squares, leaving five blank."
Why do they black out four squares?

* Another concern I have about the TBL framework is that I'm not sure it's giving learners enough exposure to language. I would have no problem using it in class as a supplement to an extensive reading and listening curriculum, but I'm a little bit worried that all TBL all the time (which is what Jane Willis seems to be arguing) will not give learners enough exposure.
Willis seems to recognize this, because on page 139 she writes: "Encourage learners to learn outside class. To increase their exposure and extend their vocabulary, they could borrow readers or magazines or listen to target language radio programmes or cassettes while travelling to school or work."
While... they definitely *could*. But will they? How many of our Young Learners are going to be doing this outside of school?

* I've noticed in the computer lab during PBL lessons that some teachers are really hands on and helping the students a lot, and some teachers stand back and help as little as possible.
Personally I like to stand back. Although that's more of a personality thing than an ideological thing.
But I found it was interesting that Jane Willis was also endorsing this:
p.54 "Resist the temptation to go round and help (or should we say interfere?), for example by correcting pronunciation or suggesting better ways of doing the task.... Try not to stand too close to groups. If you do, they will tend to ask you for words they don't know rather than trying to think of another way of expressing their meaning for themselves."
What do you guys normally do in your PBL lessons?

* Like Michael Lewis and Krashen, Jane Willis also thinks that Teacher Talking Time is useful for the students, and shouldn't be discouraged.
On page 87-88, Jane Willis writes: "The pre-task phase... gives learners exposure to topic-related talk, probably mainly from the teacher. Contrary to prejudices about 'teacher talking time', this can be very useful. Most learners want to know what the lesson will be about, so should be trying fairly hard to understand what the teacher is discussing with them. As we saw in 1.3.1, it is this grappling with meaning that helps input become intake."

* Another old debate--the use of Mother Tongue in the classroom. I was just in a discussion with a teacher yesterday who believed strongly that Vietnamese should be banned from the classroom because the students needed to start learning to think in English.
But Jane Willis writes on page 49:
"Banning mother-tongue use altogether might not be advisable. A study carried out recently in Turkish secondary school classes with 12-year-olds revealed that in circumstances where the mother tongue was totally banned in group talk, the resulting interaction tended to be shorter, more stilted and less natural. Many weaker students gave up after a very short time."
My own anecdotal experience, however, is that when I started enforcing English only in my classrooms, the weaker students initially got quieter. But after a few weeks, they started to benefit from hearing all the English their classmates were using, and then they started picking up these phrases themselves.


Handout for Book Club
I usually try to make a handout for discussion questions for bookclub.  This month, because I was feeling lazy, I just recycled the same questions from my Facebook post above, and put them on a handout.  It's on Google drive: docs, pub.

Video Review
Video Review HERE and embedded below:

(I also had mentioned this book on the  vlog--The Books I'm Currently Reading)

Link of the Day
Noam Chomsky - Workers’ Self-management and Anarchist Strategies

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Spotlight English

I stumbled upon this website in my Internet wanderings.
It turns out, I know some of the people involved in this production.  Like my old friend Adam Navis.  (I've previously linked to Adam's stuff here and here.)

Looking at the Spotlight team, there are a few other names I recognize.  (Nobody else I know well, but friends of friends.)

Initially, I was going to post this as another "Hey, I Know that Guy!" entry, and just make it a comment of passing interest that we both ended up in ESL.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this could be a valuable resource.

Students are constantly asking me how they can study listening outside of class.  And I'm always embarrassed to admit that my knowledge of independent study resources is very thin.

This can be a great website to recommend to students outside of class.  So I'm also going to add this to my resource list and index this with my listening resources, and my independent study resources.

The website for Spotlight English is here, and their youtube channel is here.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Atlantis: The Lost Empire Movie Worksheets

(Movie Worksheets)

(I already posted my review of this movie last week.  Now here are the actual worksheets I used.)

Google Drive Folder HERE


Part 1 (docs, pub), Part 2 (docs, pub), Part 3 (docs, pub), Part 4 (docs, pub), Part 5 (docs, pub), Part 6 (docs, pub), Part 7 (docs, pub), Part 8 (docs, pub), Part 9 (docs, pub), Part 10 (docs, pub), Part 11 (docs, pub), Part 12 (docs, pub), Part 13 (docs, pub), Part 14 (docs, pub), Part 15 (docs, pub), Part 16 (docs, pub), Part 17 (docs, pub)

More movie worksheets.  (For an explanation of why I think it's useful to use movies in the classroom, see here,  here, and here.)
As I wrote at the end of the Princess Mononoke post, my new job has required me to cut these worksheets down to the bare minimum.  So they are just the script and the missing words.

In my class, I use the following stages.
1) I hand out the worksheet.  I check the meaning of the words in the box by saying the definitions (in the mixed up order) and the students yell out the word.  Before watching the movie (while I'm setting up the computer) the students are encouraged to read the worksheet, and try to predict the answers.
2) We watch the movie one time with the lights off
3) I turn on the lights.  The students try to write in the missing words in the script
4) We watch the movie a second time with the lights on.  The students check their answers.  I pause the movie after each answer to check that everyone got the right answer.
5). I answer any questions the students have about the vocabulary.  Students raise their hand and can ask me about any word that they want.

Other notes:

Because the whiteboard in my classroom was located on one of the sidewalls, I found that whenever I put vocabulary up on the whiteboard, I would have to turn my back to the students, and consequently I began to lose their attention.
In an effort to keep myself located at the front of the room, I started doing vocabulary on the computer instead.
I wrote the vocabulary on Google Slides during the class as I attempted to answer the questions.  This kept the students focused on the screen at the front of the room.
It also had the bonus that I could use the same slideshow next lesson to review the vocabulary.
The vocabulary on these slides are the ones the students wanted to ask about.  They do not reflect my attempts to select the most salient or teachable vocabulary.  So I don't recommend anyone else use these.  You would be better of to create your own based off of which words your students have questions about.
Also, these were done in real-time in the classroom, so I didn't have time to think carefully about the definitions.  I just wrote down the first thing I could think of.
But for whatever it's worth, below are the ones I made.  It starts from part 7, because before part 7 I did all the vocabulary on the whiteboard.
Part 7 (slides, pub), Part 8 (slides, pub), Part 9 (slides, pub), Part 10 (slides, pub), Part 11 (slides, pub), Part 12 (slides, pub), Part 13 (slides, pub), Part 14 (slides, pub), Part 15 (slides, pub), Part 16 (slides, pub), Part 17 (slides, pub)

I used this site here as my basis for the movie script, although I adjusted it whenever I thought it was in error. 

I tried to stick to 3 pages of script per lesson.
Because I was breaking the script up by page length, and not by natural breaks in the movie, often the movie worksheets stops and starts at odd moments.
But in practice, when I was actually showing the movie, I would play enough to give contexts.  i.e. I would start the movie at the beginning of the scene each time, even if the movie worksheet only started halfway through that scene. Also on the other end, sometimes I would let the movie play a little longer if the worksheet ended in an awkward break.
More; "Hey, I know that Guy!"

...actually it's the same guy as last time.  Just a few days after I posted Monday's link, I find out he's got a blog:
10 Things Hanoi

For my own take on Hanoi, see HERE.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Modal Verb Discussion Questions

(TESOL Worksheets--Modal Verbs)
Google: docs, pub
[Discussion questions based on modal verbs.  Students complete tables in groups.]

Talk about your school days:
What must you do?
What mustn’t you do?
What can you do?
What can’t you do?
What don’t you have to do?

Talk about your work:
What must you do?
What mustn’t you do?
What can you do?
What can’t you do?
What don’t you have to do?

Talk about your home life:
What must you do?
What mustn’t you do?
What can you do?
What can’t you do?
What don’t you have to do?

Talk about driving in your country:
What must you do?
What mustn’t you do?
What can you do?
What can’t you do?
What don’t you have to do?

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Gerund Discussion Questions

(TESOL Worksheets-- Gerunds)
Google: docs, pub
[Freer production for a lesson on gerunds.  These questions are cut up, and posted around the room.  Students walk in pairs and discuss the questions.  The questions were taken from this website here--I've adjusted them somewhat.]

What do you always avoid doing until the last minute?

What are some things you enjoy doing every day? How about every week?

Is there anything you have stopped doing recently?

Think about your childhood. What activities do you miss doing?

What activities do you often discuss with your friends when you hang out with them?

What is something you are thinking of doing next year?

What is something you love doing, but don’t have enough time for?

Is there anything you have started doing recently?

What do you like doing on the weekend?

What is something you can’t stand doing? (can’t stand=hate)

Remembering to do things is sometimes hard. What is something you have a hard time remembering? (hard time= difficult)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Human Bingo For Gerunds

(TESOL Worksheet--Gerunds)
Google: drive, docs, pub
[A standard Human Bingo game.  Similar to Find Someone Who.  Students need to walk around the class and find someone who can answer yes to the questions.  If they can get a yes, they can cross out a box.  They need 5 in a row to win.]

Find someone who…
is crazy about exercising
doesn’t like cooking
is addicted to checking their phone
is fond of driving fast
is worried about eating healthy
enjoys watching sports on TV
is afraid of failing their test
is good at playing soccer
likes reading books in their free time
hates doing their homework
is good at singing
is tired from working
likes swimming
enjoys listening to K-Pop
thinks that watching sports on TV is boring
is interested in volunteering
is afraid of getting in a car accident
loves wearing fancy clothes
enjoys watching movies
is obsessed with playing video games
hates writing long emails
loves spending time with their family
dreams about becoming famous
likes waking up early