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RE: [dogme] Grammar - a dirty word!

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  • Olwyn Alexander
    Even though I haven t even been lurking very effectively in this discussion for a while now the grammar question has provoked me to leap back in. I ve always
    Message 1 of 4 , Nov 1, 2001
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      Even though I haven't even been lurking very effectively in this discussion
      for a while now the grammar question has provoked me to leap back in.

      I've always had a suspicion (based on intuition with absolutely no research
      data to support it) that the grammar McNugget label and the antipathy
      towards it in this list stemmed from what could be called the International
      House Method ('whatever that might be') and the CELTA. Many basic general
      English teachers I've spoken to seem to see the classroom as theatre where
      the Direct Method of displaying grammar points to low level students is
      about putting on an interactive play that will keep students entertained for
      however long the class lasts. There seems to be a lot of artificiality in
      the way grammar points are presented and practised, not least in the
      teachers' way of talking to the students.

      This I think is one of the fundamental differences between general English
      and English for specific or academic purposes. A colleague of mine, Sue
      Argent, recently summed it up as 'skill in using' rather than 'knowledge
      about'. In 'skill in using' classes the students have tasks (usually writing
      tasks) and the teacher feeds in the appropriate language as they need it.
      This is certainly my preferred way of learning things (e.g. computer
      technology), a kind of 'just in time' approach to grammar.
    • Luke Meddings
      Hi Olwyn I think you correctly place this artificiality in its historical context; it is a persistent influence and one whose negative effects need to be
      Message 2 of 4 , Nov 1, 2001
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        Hi Olwyn

        I think you correctly place this 'artificiality' in its historical context; it is a persistent influence and one whose negative effects need to be taken into account - as well as its positive ones. The humorist and architectural critic Osbert Lancaster (bear with me) used phrases such as 'Variegated Bypass' to describe bastardised architectural styles, in this case the one in which the energy behind inspirational Arts and Crafts design was dissipated over the years in the endlessly repeated mock-Tudor houses of suburban Britain. The point is not whether or not people like this sort of design, but that it is sometimes hard to trace the original inspiration behind a much-copied and repeated form.

        One explanation for the high value placed on entertainment in Variegated IH (teacher training and teaching) is its role in masking the fact that a 4-week course is woefully inadequate as teacher training. This mask works both ways: the students are (arguably) less likely to notice the teacher's lack of expertise if there are sparks flying in all directions, while the teacher is (perhaps) likely to feel less nervous about the whole enterprise if somehow distracted from the job in hand. A teaching colleague sighed recently, 'my students have done all my games.' To which I replied, 'study the history of the Arts & Crafts movement.' No, I didn't, I said: 'they don't want more games, they want more words.' There is a sort of received wisdom that TEFL is 'about' games.

        Luke



        *********** REPLY SEPARATOR ***********

        On 11/1/2001 at 10:05 AM Olwyn Alexander wrote:

        >Even though I haven't even been lurking very effectively in this
        >discussion
        >for a while now the grammar question has provoked me to leap back in.
        >
        >I've always had a suspicion (based on intuition with absolutely no research
        >data to support it) that the grammar McNugget label and the antipathy
        >towards it in this list stemmed from what could be called the International
        >House Method ('whatever that might be') and the CELTA. Many basic general
        >English teachers I've spoken to seem to see the classroom as theatre where
        >the Direct Method of displaying grammar points to low level students is
        >about putting on an interactive play that will keep students entertained
        >for
        >however long the class lasts. There seems to be a lot of artificiality in
        >the way grammar points are presented and practised, not least in the
        >teachers' way of talking to the students.
        >
        >This I think is one of the fundamental differences between general English
        >and English for specific or academic purposes. A colleague of mine, Sue
        >Argent, recently summed it up as 'skill in using' rather than 'knowledge
        >about'. In 'skill in using' classes the students have tasks (usually
        >writing
        >tasks) and the teacher feeds in the appropriate language as they need it.
        >This is certainly my preferred way of learning things (e.g. computer
        >technology), a kind of 'just in time' approach to grammar.
        >
        >
        >To Post a message, send it to: dogme@...
        >To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to: dogme-unsubscribe@...
        >
        >Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
      • Olwyn Alexander
        Luke, You ve put your finger on the precise feeling I had when I d finished my CTEFLA (as it was in 1992). I taught for a summer in a private language school
        Message 3 of 4 , Nov 1, 2001
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          Luke,

          You've put your finger on the precise feeling I had when
          I'd finished my CTEFLA (as it was in 1992). I taught for a
          summer in a private language school and when someone asked
          me how I'd enjoyed it, I said I felt I'd spent the summer
          playing games - rather unsatisfactory in fact. I wasn't
          convinced the students had really learned much.

          I launched immediately into EAP at that point, leaving
          general English (thankfully) far behind, but a nagging
          guilt complex stayed with me for several years, viz I
          wasn't being 'communicative' enough, meaning I wasn't
          playing enough games.

          Now I'm a grown up (eclectic) teacher and can choose what
          to include in my classes: I think I have a lot of laughs
          with my students and some pretty serious discussion but we
          rarely play games.

          Olwyn

          On Thu, 01 Nov 2001 11:07:09 +0000 Luke Meddings
          <luke@...> wrote:

          A teaching colleague sighed recently, 'my students have done all my games.'
          To which I replied, 'study the history of the Arts & Crafts movement.'
          No, I didn't, I said: 'they don't want more games, they want more words.'
          There is a sort of received wisdom that TEFL is 'about' games.
          >
          > Luke

          *********************************************************
          Ms Olwyn Alexander
          Course Director
          Intensive Advanced English Courses
          School of Languages
          Heriot-Watt University
          Edinburgh EH14 4AS

          email: O.Alexander@...
          phone: +44 131 451 8189
          fax: +44 131 451 3079
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