Saturday, 27 April 2013

Input and Output and Content Based instruction

I agree that providing lots of input is essential in second language acquisition. However, I do not think that output is less important or that we can completely rule out grammar.

It is true that we become fluent in L1 without knowing the grammar rules. However, learning a second language seldom replicates the conditions in which we learn our mother tongue. Even in total immersion situations, there’s always the factor of L1 interference, which becomes more prevalent the older the learner.

Anyway, let’s suppose we can learn a second language in the same conditions we acquire our mother tongue. According to the Inputs and Outputs piece, a child would begin to speak only when it can produce accurate output, when, in fact, we know that we all start by uttering barely recognisable sounds that evolve into fluent speech by the feedback from the listeners, who constantly model, reinforce and correct. I believe that the process of acquiring a language always presupposes the presence of an interlanguage, which doesn’t necessarily reflect the internalisation of mistakes but, rather, the attempts at reaching competence in the target language.

What can we do to make our students’ outputs effective instead of damaging (as the author indicates is possible)?
  • Providing scaffolding appropriate to the level so that learners can develop learning strategies that will eventually enable them to become autonomous learners.
  • Encouraging students to take risks. You can’t learn anything without leaving your comfort zone and risking making mistakes.
  • Working on weak areas by modelling, giving feedback (teacher and peer), providing plenty of opportunities to revisit problem areas and tackling them from different angles.
  • Exposing students to lots of relevant, meaningful, appropriate input, the sort that is neither too easy as to lead to boredom nor too difficult as to result in frustration.
And I think that this is where Fredricka Stoller’s piece on Content-Based-Instruction comes into play. I totally agree that content should be the meat and not just simply the shell.

In the last few years, we have been carrying out cross cultural projects with our students. They connect with peers in other countries who are learning Spanish as a second language. Working together, they choose a topic of interest to them (F.S.’s meaningful content). For example, last year, the topic of one of these exchanges was bullying. Prior to their live communication via Skype, the students in both countries researched the topic in relevant web pages and through feedback from peers in different schools (information gathering) Then they processed the information collected to share it with their partners (information processing and reporting) The grammar they needed emerged naturally through the completion of the task at hand (grammar in context). Meaningful output took the form of written texts and visual artifacts (for example, using Glogster) which were posted in their wiki. Oral output occurred during the video conference. Skype conferences can be recorded, so after the live meeting, students had the opportunity to watch the recordings and listen to how native speakers were using the target language.

I am convinced that the fact that students were learning the vocabulary and grammar they needed for a clear, meaningful purpose made it the more memorable. And, of course, much of this wouldn't have been possible without the presence of technology, which gives us access to lots of authentic native content and the chance of connecting with native speakers of the target language.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

LTMOOC: My Introduction

Hi there! My name is Maria Rosario Di Mónaco. I’m an EFL teacher from Rosario, Argentina, so my native language is Spanish. I’ve lived in this town all my life though I’ve had the chance to travel abroad a couple of times (wish I could do more of that!) 

For over 25 years now, I’ve run an EFL private institute in my hometown. We teach all ages and levels, from beginner to upper intermediate. Basically, we cater for those students who want to reach a high level of English and cannot afford to attend bilingual schools. 

Ever since I graduated as an English Teacher, I’ve been committed to my professional development. I sometimes feel that I’m a bit of a “course-a-holic”. It was face-to-face back in the years when the internet was not around. These days, it is mostly online. Every summer holiday, I make a point of joining at least one of the EVO sessions and, on one occasion, I co-moderated one of them - Enhancing Lessons. I’ve also taken several courses on CALL, Instructional Design and Moodle. 

It was in one of the groups I belong to, Multiliteracies, that I first heard about this course. I had once intended to join a MOOC but couldn’t find the time to pursue it. The topic of this MOOC sounds particularly appealing plus I’m curious to see how the platform works. Above all, I value the opportunity to connect with like-minded people from different corners of the world. That’s why I’m here, though I’m not sure I will be able to do much - no “course-time” now, with classes having started just a month ago and still so much to organise and sort out. 

About my interests, I love music, books, swimming and travelling. On a professional note, I’d like to connect to people who are interested in cross cultural projects so that I can offer my students the possibility of connecting to peers in different parts of the world and developing their cultural awareness.