Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A story of two worms

I was discussing the homeless problem with a friend and whether people became homeless as a result of bad luck or bad choices and my friend told me a story. I just wanted to share the story with you, since it struck me that it would be an excellent short reading passage for ESL teachers to use:

The Story of Two Worms

Two worms were together on a leaf. A gust of wind blew them both off. One landed in a muddy puddle and the other on a dry sidewalk. The one in the muddy puddle had plenty to drink and all the nutrients it needed to grow strong. The other nearly shrivelled to death. Again the wind blew and the two worms ended up together again. The worm that came from the puddle said to the other, "I owe my success to intelligence, hard work and charm." 

Friday, April 06, 2012

Two Methods of Learning English

Looking through my students' writing in detail, I noticed that they seemed to be employing two different methods for learning English:

Method 1: Direct translation

Students using this method would first think of how they would say the sentence in their own language, and then they would do their best to translate this into English. The problem is that no two languages are the same. If you use this technique, your sentences may turn out to be totally incomprehensible! Over time, you will learn via the corrections to your mistakes, but you will definitely need to change your learning style at around intermediate level.

Method 2: "Copy and Paste"

As teachers, we often tell our students: "Don't copy and paste!" However, if you think about it, this is the basis of how we learn language as infants. We listen as adults say something, then we repeat it. Slowly, we are able to be more flexible, and adapt phrases and then sentences to mean what we want them to. Even as adults, we hear a funny turn of phrase, like it, and use it ourselves.

So this is certainly a more natural way to learn English. It's not without it's pitfalls, though. Learners hear something and fail to repeat it correctly, so "Give me a hand" becomes "Give me the hands" and so on. As teachers, we need to be patient with these kind of mistakes.

Clearly, to my mind, the second method is better. How can we encourage our students to "copy and paste"? Lots of reading and lots of listening. And always pick out phrases (not only words) from the listening and reading for the students to use. And praise them when you hear them use a phrase that they've picked up. Help them to be flexible with new phrases and adapt them, just like we did when we learned English as infants!

Monday, April 02, 2012

An educational technology blog

I've been going through this blog for the past hour or so:

I would highly recommend it for anyone casually interested in Educational Technology. The author places a strong emphasis on Google products and the Android platform, which I agree are two great areas for educators to explore.

New Quiz: YOUR and YOU'RE

There is another new quiz on Road to Grammar on the topic YOUR and YOU'RE - many learners - and even native speakers - mix up these two ...