28 March–ELT Springboard’s Next Meeting

Hi again everyone! I’m looking forward to our next meeting in two weeks and I think I’ve got something everyone has an opinion on: TEACHING GRAMMAR. It’s an old article, but many of the issues in Grammar, Power and Bottled Water (Thornbury, 1998) are still with us. Some questions for you to consider while you read:

  • Who “owns” the teaching material we use in our lessons? Academics? Publishers? Teachers? Students? What difference does it make?
  • To what extent have things changed in the last 20 years? Are your coursebooks structured by grammar, notions, tasks, other?
  • How do you structure your lessons when you don’t use a coursebook?
  • How far do you agree with Thornbury’s characterisation of the teaching in the section “Class struggle”?
  • Have we arrived in “Post-grammar”? Do you teach grammar in your lessons? When and why?

I look forward to discussing these topics and others with you on 28 March at 8pm in The Fitting Room (right next to the Bern train station). Please leave a note in the comments to RSVP. See you soon!

Discussion: Testing and Assessment

This Friday Springboard will be bringing teachers together to chat and discuss testing and assessment. I’ve read an article by Dave Allan, which got me thinking about some questions that might be good discussion starters. What do you think? Post your comment below, and we’ll bring them to the discussion!

 

Discussion Questions: Testing and Assessment in Language Training

What’s the difference between testing and assessment?

Which is a better evaluation of a learner’s English capabilities: an objective test or a teacher’s assessment?  Why?

Do learners want to be tested? Why? Why not?

For assessment that involves various processes which go on over time, and measure more abstract traits such as discourse skills, fluency, flexibility and range, how can we give learners clear, formalised reporting on their language competence?

What are some best practices for teachers to integrate testing into a task based, communicative learning environment?

ETAS PD Day

Do you feel like you work to live? Or do you live to work? I often get caught up in the trap of working to live, which is to say, I count the Francs instead of the experiences. In the end, this just makes me greedy, jealous, and unhappy.

On the other hand, when I get to the end of the day and count the “aha” moments that my students had, the improvised activities that went off perfectly, the diligently planned lessons that accomplished all the objectives, or the communication strategies that really helped, it feels so right that I do what I do.

This feeling is magnified after an ETAS event like the one I went to this weekend in Sargans. It was the professional development day for the English Teachers Association of Switzerland. Attending a talk, or participating in a workshop that teaches me about second language acquisition, grammar, corpus studies, classroom management, new technology, or teaching strategies reminds me why I love teaching English.

ETAS events also lets you acquire things that will directly lead to increased job performance and earnings. The networking opportunities might lead to your next great job. The publishers will give you books that make your prep-time shorter. The workshops will give you activities that bring new life to your classroom.

For one woman I met, who had arrived in Switzerland 24 hours prior, the take-away was probably more intangible. The day started with me asking her to volunteer to go up on stage for a presentation of the new website. It was a surprise for her, but helped break the ice. Throughout the day she got inspiration and connected with people like her. What was her take-away? Well, only she can say, but from the glow in her eye at the end of the day, I’d say she felt a big boost of confidence in the start of her professional life in Switzerland.

So in the end, if colleagues complain that they have to do professional development workshops and conferences on their own time, or that they can’t afford to pay the fees, I think maybe they’re forgetting that life is not just about money. Meeting motivated, like-minded people, learning from top figures in the field, and sharing experiences completely convinces me that it’s not about counting francs. It’s about gaining richness!

Were you at PD Day in Sargans? Or another ETAS event? Share your experiences below!

Subjunctive in English

Have any of your students ever stumped you with a question about grammar?

In a recent class, a student asked me why the verb could be either “was” or “were” and I couldn’t give a straightforward answer! Her questions caught me off guard. I knew both were correct, but couldn’t say why.

If I were to hypothesize, I’d say this has happened to all of us. Why? Because we learn grammar inductively in our native language. As we grow up it is necessary that we understand grammar from context without explicit rules. (Whether or not we demand that second language learners learn grammar like this is a topic for another discussion!)

But back to the subjunctive. For whatever reason, I never learned the rules. I even managed to avoid it in my teacher training.

But I can and do use the subjunctive! I was familiar with it despite not knowing the rules. In fact, I’ve used it three times already in this post. Can you find the subjunctives?

It was a joyous “aha” moment when I figured out, thanks to my ELT Springboard colleagues at our last get together, that “were” is used because it’s subjunctive! After some research and study, I now feel confident that I can answer my students’ questions, if they were to come up.   😉

I found this website to be helpful:

http://grammarist.com/grammar/subjunctive-mood/

This quote is from that site. And doesn’t it ring true?

“If you’re confused by the subjunctive mood, don’t worry too much. As with all grammar and usage matters, the rules for subjunctive mood are based on centuries of convention. There’s no deeper reason; it just is what it is. But the subjunctive mood is useful, and it would be a shame if it were to go away.”

If you know something more about subjunctive in English or know of good resources, comment below!