the trouble with coursebooks
- Interesting observing a lesson today which opened with fairly open, personalised conversation and then moved onto the coursebook material for which the opening conversation had been preparing them (thematically-speaking).
Two things happened: the energy level palpably dropped, not so the class became completely flat but so the buzz which had been there disappeared; and the students simply stopped producing much language. My impression was that although it looked as if something was happening, nothing much actually was. The sentence-level contributions they had been making, whether prompted or not, dwindled to silence or mono-syllabic attempts to negotiate answers to two sets of questions on the same listening exercise.
In place of conversation about participants' own families was a series of 'exercises' concerning a (real? made-up? who cares?) family. This is what we mean by materials getting between the teacher and the students - not in a way that damages their relationship, but in a way that renders the interaction so bland and removed from real concerns as to be almost redundant.
It also occurred to me why monitoring pairwork is so unsatisfactory - you just don't hear enough of each conversation, and when you approach students frequently stop or alter what they're saying. This may be another argument for prioritising whole-group work.
In short, whatever language learning took place - and we can assume from the relaxed atmosphere that the conditions were right for learning - did so not because, but in spite, of the coursebook material.
- Help - I need a 250 word synopsis of the IATEFL conference panel
discussion. This is not to go in the conference programme, it's
simply for vetting purposes. We need to describe the structure and
content of the session so they can decide if it sounds OK. Any
ideas how we are going to structure this? Alos, GHraha, when you
get back, I need your IATEFL membership number (or yr