Reflecting on some interesting conversations I’ve had with my colleagues and students in the library is always stimulating and helpful when planning my future goals and library activities.
- Conversation 1 (with my colleague, an English language teacher)
L: Teenagers can be difficult to motivate, but I think it’s important to talk to them about their interests and reasons for learning English.
C: I do interact a lot with my students. They have different interests and it’s not easy to cater to individual differences in goals.
L: I think our students are usually engaged with the topics they found personally interesting, like music or sport or films they’re fond of. Also, they are interested in the topics connected with some school subjects relevant to their further education/ future job.
C: The thing is teenagers generally don’t know what they want or need to learn, and they often can’t articulate their needs and goals.
L: You’re right, but then we can consult domain experts, they can help with carrying out a need analysis and identifying target tasks. Students are motivated to learn when they do some interesting tasks in the classroom, lab or school library… One of the best ways to learn English is through a lot of extensive reading and listening, in my opinion. You can bring your students and have a class in the library next week.
- Conversation 2 (with a 4th year student)
L: I can recommend this book of English romantic poetry, you’ll really enjoy Kubla Khan by Samuel Coleridge. Coleridge wrote this magnificent poem one night after he experienced an opium-influenced dream, after reading a work describing Xanadu, the summer palace of the Mongol ruler and Emperor of China Kublai Khan.
S: How interesting! I dunno, I’ve never read English romantic poems…
L: I fell in love with English romanticism during my studies thanks to my professor of English literature who was a translator, too. In one of her memorable lectures she revealed to us how she translated Kubla Khan: that night when she was translating the poem she went through a similar experience as Coleridge because she had taken some medicine to relieve pain and fever caused by the flu.
B: Ha, your story suggests we should take drugs if we want to be great poets, doesn’t it?
A: *I was at a loss for words* Oh, of course not, …. this sublime poem just brought to mind an amazing lecture…
By Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
U Zenaduu Kublaj-kan
sazida divan dvor za pir
gde sveti potok, Alfa zvan,
kroz špilja svod još nikom znan,
u morski hrli vir.
- Conversation 3 (with my colleague, a history teacher)
L: There are a lot of examples of misinterpretations of ideas or concepts in history. There’s no more drastic example of this phenomenon than what has happened to the theory of Karl Marx.
C: Yeah, the prevailing ignorance is the problem, and the fact that so many people are satisfied with a minimum or superficial knowledge of something.
L: I think that of all political philosophies anarchism has been perhaps the most misunderstood and misrepresented by writers from all sides of the political spectrum. As you know the term anarchy is often used as a synonym for chaos and disorder; however, anarchy, as understood by most anarchists, means the exact opposite of this.
C: I must admit I know very little about anarchism… I’ve never talked to students about it.
L: I mentioned the term anarchism to a student the other day, but she told me she was not for chaos and anarchy. Then I explained that anarchy means not chaos, or a lack of organisation, but a society based on the autonomy of the individual, on co-operation, one without rulers or coercive authority, anarchists are for a society organized through a federation of voluntary associations…
C: We don’t talk about such ideas in the classroom, but I always recommend Orwell’s 1984 and Animal farm to my students, … hmm, no wonder these books are not in the school syllabus.
If you are interested to learn more about anarchism you can find some interesting articles here: Infoshop – Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth
My reflections ### My reflections ### My reflections
The only writer to whom you should compare yourself is the writer you were yesterday (T Pynchon)
* I’m happy to have succeeded in making the school library the most democratic space at school, where open discussion and the free exchange of ideas are encouraged. My future goals are: to promote reading, free thinking, learner-centeredness and collaboration.
** English is a compulsory subject in our school. In the library our students have abundant opportunity to interact in English, for extensive reading and listening programmes, and for doing ESP (Aviation English) assignments and tasks. I have already written on this blog about experimenting with some lighter versions of TBLT in the library and why doing tasks is the best way to learn. I wrote then that I’m interested to learn more about task-based teaching as I found it suitable for our students.
***In my context where teacher-centered, PPP model, with plenty of explicit grammar instruction is a prevailing model of teaching, English teachers delivering a TBLT course could face the problem related to learners’ preferences for more traditional approaches. I’ll try to persuade the school management and motivate my colleagues to implement the strong Mike Long’s version of TBLT, by talking to them and explaining the importance of implicit learning (through my presentations and blog posts).
****Mike Long’s version of TBLT based on an analytic syllabus with a focus on form is the optimum version, in my opinion. It is consistent with SLA theory and it is an efficacious and appealing way of teaching English. I’m going to apply the theoretical & practical knowledge I acquired on the online course I completed in July: Task-based Language Teaching (TBLT): From Theory to Practice (run by Geoffrey Jordan, Neil McMillan and Marc Jones, with special guests contributions from TBLT experts Mike Long and Roger Gilabert).
This inaugural TBLT course was organised by Serveis Lingüístics de Barcelona @SLBCoop. I enjoyed their excellent presentations and tutorials, a carefully selected reading material, engaging interactive exercises, thought-provoking discussions, and intellectually challenging output tasks. For further information about the TBLT course please visit the site:
I also recommend this excellent book to English language teachers: Second Language Acquisition and Task-based Language Teaching by Mike Long.
“The relevance of course content to students’ communicative needs and respect for individual differences and underlying psycholinguistic processes is more important for language learning than everyone feeling good about themselves. Students can still be treated with as much delicacy and charm as typically overworked, underpaid teachers can muster, but superficial affective considerations pale in importance for students compared with the self-respect that comes from being treated as rational human beings, associating voluntarily and playing an active role in their own progress in learner-centered, egalitarian classroom.” (Long, 2015)