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4. Except when conducting a traditional type of lesson from the front of the room, the teacher/trainee must make sure that he can walk around the room to get to his students without tripping over desks or chairs. This is also true if the students need to move around. The arrangement of the room must allow for this freedom of movement.
5. This is a very important point, especially in the case of trainees who are preparing for some form of practical examination. In the normal teaching situation, both teacher and students have a chance to become familiar with a new arrangement, so that subsequent lessons run more smoothly. The trainee in an examination situation should not use a new, untried arrangement. If he has planned the lesson, and then, seeing the check sheet, realizes that he is not going to be confident using the classroom arrangement chosen, he should either practice it if time allows, or replace it with a familiar arrangement suitable for the lesson.
6. This section refers to very practical, physical, considerations such as lighting, light shining on the blackboard, room temperature, etc. The students also need to be seated so as to be able to see comfortably any information presented.
7. Again, this section is aimed at helping the teacher/ trainee develop a decision-making process by making him aware of the reason for using a particular arrangement.
1 & 2 & 3 & 4. These sections are similar to 82 & 83 of Students, except that the argument here applies to the aids, not to the arrangement.
5. Has the teacher/trainee chosen suitable aids that really help to teach at the particular stages of the lesson they will be used in?
6. Sometimes the use of too many aids or of new aids may detract from the language being taught. The students may have to think more about the mechanics of the aid, than about the language. (See Students $5 and Aids 82.)
& 15. Sometimes information presented by one audiovisual aid does not match the information given by another aid. (In some cases this may be deliberate.) Too often, such problems do not become apparent until the lesson is in progress.
On a more practical level, a teacher/trainee may want to present some permanent information on the board. The lesson plan may also include presentation of further important information on an overhead projector. The teacher may suddenly find this impossible, as the board may also have to serve as the screen for the overhead projector. (See Aids $2 & $12 & $15.)
8. See Teacher 86.
9. A teacher/trainee may plan to use several aids that require electricity, and find that the room has only one socket.
10. See Teacher $1.
11. This is fairly self-explanatory. (See Students $5.) A less obvious example is when a teacher suddenly introduces a new method of marking word stress which confuses the students.
12. The dialogue on the cassette recorder must be set in the correct place; the screen of the overhead projectot must be seen by all the students; care must be taken when preparing an overhead projector transparency so that some sections are not cut off when it is projected.
14. It is inadvisable for a teacher/trainee to use a new aid if he is giving a practical test. (See Students $5.) This section also overlaps with $9 above. The fact that an aid is new to the teacher and students may be a practical reason not to use it in some lessons.
16. This would also include any worksheets which the students have to use. They need to be clear to read, and make clear what the task is. They must not be too complicated.
I hope that teachers, and trainees, will find this checksheet of some use, and that it will help those who use it to develop their own individual decision-making processes about what to use in a lesson and how to organize it. Such a process may then be applied to other aspects of lesson preparation, and to other checksheets that are already in use.
1. The intent of this question is to point out that some very good teachers may not have the personality or presence to successfully carry out a lesson that has been prepared with a certain type of arrangement in mind. Often, a lesson that looks good on paper fails because the teacher is not able to carry it off. The teacher/ trainee who recognizes this before entering the classroom can either change the lesson, or work on changing his style and presence. The latter remedy is especially recommended if the teacher feels that lessons with the chosen arrangement are better lessons. This section applies especially to student teachers building up to a practical test.
2 & 3. (See Students $4.) The students should also be able to see the teacher when he is presenting new information and giving instructions and explanations.
4. This section is to make teachers aware of the fact that the position they are standing in may prevent students from seeing information presented on the blackboard or overhead projector.
5. The teacher/trainee must think about the level of language he uses in giving instructions or explanations, and ensure that it does not confuse the students.
6. The teacher/trainee needs easy access to the students. (See Students $4.) He also needs to be able to get to the various aids as he needs them. (See Aids $8.)
In her article “Interaction in the Language Classroom" (ENGLISH TEACHING FORUM, 16, 4, 1978), Carol Harmatz tackled the question of "how a teacher can transmit the communicative nature of language in a classroom." "The answer," she said, "lies in a healthy give
a and-take between teacher and students and among the students themselves. It is up to the teacher to create this atmosphere." What we want to do here is to look at the difficulties that teachers of advanced language classes face in achieving this "healthy give-and-take." Since advanced students, by definition, have wider, more flexible language skills than lower-level students, the advanced-level teacher has a particularly challenging task in making sure that his students have a sufficient variety of classroom opportunities to use and develop these skills.
We recently made a study of classroom interaction in university classes here, with the aims of (1) identifying the kinds of pedagogical successes or failures attributable to discourse tactics and (2) suggesting strategies to improve language learning at this level. We recorded and examined a variety of advanced-level classes, all involving teacher-class discussion.
Ratio of teacher-student utterances
The most sobering fact to emerge concerned the ratio of teacher utterances to student utterances. Ms. Harmatz has suggested that “the majority of class time should be devoted to the students' speaking in English" and that "the teacher already knows the language and should control the time that he or she uses it." Probably most language teachers are aware of the danger of talking too much and feel they are reasonably conscientious in avoiding this and striving continually to stimulate student utterances. Yet, in our investigation, teachers produced about two-thirds of all utterances in class—the same proportion that research has consistently shown to prevail in school lessons throughout the general curriculum.
The findings of Sinclair et al. (1972) show a T-P-T. T-P-T, T-P-T pattern in teacher-pupil interactions in English school classrooms. This 2-1 ratio of teacher-pupil utterances reflects a highly frequent cycle in which the teacher asks a question, a pupil answers it, and the teacher provides evaluative feedback before asking another question: T: Those letters have special names. Do you know what it
is? What is one name that we give to these letters? P: Vowels. T: They're vowels, aren't they? T: Do you think you could say that sentence without having the vowels in it?
(from Coulthard 1976) It has been suggested that this is a normal classroom procedure
for two reasons: firstly, answers directed to the teacher are difficult for others to hear, and thus the repetition, when it
occurs, may be the first chance some children have to hear what their colleague said; secondly and more importantly, a distinguishing feature of classroom discourse is that many of the questions asked are ones to which the questioner already knows the answer and the intention is to discover whether the pupils also know.
(Coulthard 1976) Our taped classes, though, were not characterized by this “distinguishing feature." Advanced language students are not so likely to be, in Harmatz's words, “reduced to machines that are expected to give a predicted response.” For it is in the nature of things that as learners become more advanced, the teacher's role becomes less didactic. In these circumstances, teacher utterances tend to be not so much questions "to which the questioner already knows the answer," but rather questions or comments thrown out to invite opinion where wholly objective answers are not available, e.g., in discussing a multiple-choice question on a text: T: Ulli said that you can't assume that all seals are
slippery, and the text doesn't say so. Are there any
comments or reactions to this? S: They are wet, and I guess they are slippery. T: O.K., let's accept that, if seals are slippery, it's go
ing to be easier to pull them out on the end of a
harpoon. T: Is that enough evidence for rejecting D?
Sinclair et al.'s second suggested reason for the T-P-T sequence (i.e., to elicit answers that the questioner already knows") did not, then, seem to apply frequently to the advanced class discussions on our tapes. But we must say the same, too, about their first suggested reason. For, rather than repeat a student's answer in order that other students might hear what had been said, the teacher tended to rephrase the answer: T: Can we put this into other words: "the thing most
suitable to his wishes"'? S: "The thing he needs." "The thing he wants to
buy." T: Yes. “The thing he wants to buy most." "The
thing he needs most." Frequently, this rephrasing of the student's answer took the form of a considerable expansion, with the apparent aim of clarifying the point for the class: T: “Brands''? six lines from the end: "the amount
of different brands“? Anyone explain “brands"?
Gabi? S: It's the name of the firm, like ... “Maggi" and so
on. T: That's right. That's right. This is the manufactur
er's name for his individual product. “Soap powder" is a general term, but there are many brands:
"Omo,” “Daz," "Tide," and so on. This tendency to expand (as opposed to correct) the student's answer seemed to be a continual attempt to
keep weaker students involved and informed. In other words, the feedback provided by the last utterances of the T-S-T pattern frequently had the effect of elaborating or rephrasing the student's response in order to keep the rest of the class in touch with the steps of an involved or abstract discussion.
Sometimes this task of rephrasing a step or putting it into perspective was performed quite blatantly: T: Did you as a group notice that? These two groups
did, apparently. That the it in D refers not necessarily to the skin, but the entire seal. "When the seal is brought home. ..." Did you notice that in D? This is the point that both groups have made here, and I just wanted to make sure that you were
with us before we go on. Got that? But usually this rephrasing step was a function of the T-S-T pattern, which was regular and durable for long stretches, even to the extent of resisting disruption: T: What about “details" in line 4? “Give him some
details to make his choice easier." Seems to me
there might be a better term. S: "Information." T: "Information." "Some information." T: Er-"details." Why not "details"? Why reject
that word? S: "Detail" is only part of “information." T: Yes, that's ... S: Because "information" is a bigger, global term
here. T: Yes, that's right. “Information" seems more com
plete, doesn't it?
The effect of this pattern in oral work is, of course, to minimize contributions from students. The pattern was more dominant in analytical work (such as discussing multiple-choice questions or interpreting texts) than in freer, conversation-like activities.
We feel that teachers of advanced language classes that frequently engage in collective discussion or analysis might take a look at the pattern of their own discussions. Where a T-S-T pattern seems to predominate, the students' contributions could be maximized by at least three tactics:
1. Where a student makes an utterance that needs expansion or rephrasing for the benefit of weaker students, the speaker himself could be encouraged to do this. After his initial utterance, a discreet pause or a short question (“Could you explain that?'') should be enough to elicit a further contribution from the speaker, and, possibly, supportive contributions from other students, too.
2. In discussion, the teacher should withhold his opinion almost all of the time. His general aim should be, not to say "that's right" to the first student to express an effective viewpoint that the others can hear and understand, but for as many as possible of the students to
question and modify each other's suggestions in arriving at a majority viewpoint on this or that issue. In this kind of work, the teacher, as competent speaker, is best engaged in eliciting, rather than confirming, students' opinions..
3. Getting students into the habit of asking questions and challenging each other's opinions will lead to greater student-student interaction-one of Ms. Harmatz's important dicta.
In the taped discussions, the following examples of teacher-student correction were fairly typical: (1) S1: I think you could give more details only if you had
a more general information.
Yes, all right.
here. S2: Maybe the customer has already got some infor
mation, because it's a product he's interested
in ... (etc.). (2)
S1: I don't think that seals are slippery.
(etc.). In these and numerous other instances in the discussions, the teacher, having heard an error, intervened to supply the correct form, and the next speaker either ignored this in order to pursue his point or took the teacher's utterance at its literal value as a contribution to the discussion. What these examples have in common is the fact that the student speakers failed to recognize that the purpose of the teacher's utterance was to correct an error.
This was a consistent feature of the taped discussions, and we feel that correction technique is a potential problem with any learners whose advanced language ability and maturity go hand in hand. Though language teachers are far from being a shy breed, it is probable that many of us unconsciously differentiate between young learners and not-so-young, and are more deferential towards the latter. The age, maturity level, social status, education, and verbal fluency of students are all factors that enter into the teacher-student relationship. And not many of us, we feel, would prompt, elicit, intervene, and correct in exactly the same way for a class of teenagers as we would for a group of adults of the same ability level. Teachers of older and/or advanced
students are probably less dogmatic than teachers at other levels in making their students repeat corrections in class.
As Ms. Harmatz puts it, "to provide correction and not criticism is sometimes a delicate task." She suggests: "In order not to inhibit a student don't interrupt while he's talking. Be patient, and correct a mistake afterwards, as if the whole class had made the error, so that everyone can learn." In general, of course, teacher interventions must be selective, and some errors must slip by unchecked in the quest for conversation-like activity and continuity. Furthermore, "on the spot" correction is not the only way to handle errors. More and more teachers nowadays distinguish between "fluency" exercises-featuring communication activities without error correction-and “accuracy" exercises containing formal language study and attention to errors. But it seems that especially older advanced-level learners still long to be made aware immediately of their errors (probably as a result of past learning methods). And many teachers, as a matter of policy, supply “on the spot" corrections for what are felt to be more important errors. Whatever the teacher's policy, the evidence of our taped discussions suggests these guidelines for advanced-level classes:
1. Teacher and class should discuss and agree on an error policy at the outset. At the start of the first few classes, the teacher could remind the class of the arrangement they had made in this explicit way. This approach will allow the teacher to shed all unspoken worries about whether older or fluent speakers will resent or welcome interventions or open corrections.
2. It is important, too, to agree on a method of making corrective interventions count, whether they occur in all exercises or exclusively in "accuracy" exercises. Some sort of signal could be used so that students can recognize a corrective intervention when they hear one. For example, teacher and class could agree that a short phrase like "Repeat, please" signals (a) that the student's last utterance was erroneous, (b) that the teacher's utterance is a correction, and (c) that the student should repeat it:
S1: I don't think that seals are slippery.
These suggestions would go some way, we feel, towards solving the kind of correction problem that was revealed in our taped discussions, and which may be a handicap in other advanced-level discussion classes. It has to be admitted, however, that this approach is more amenable to grammatical, lexical, and phonological er. rors than to errors involving the “speaking rules of the language. This introduces another difficulty that the tapes revealed.
range of language varieties and (b) teaching useful and practical language for discussing and describing them are also becoming widely available (e.g., Crystal and Davy 1975; Brown 1977; Sexton and Williams 1981).
While we agree with Ms. Harmatz, then, that "the majority of class time should be devoted to the students' speaking in English," we recommend, too, that teachers of advanced-level classes seriously consider devoting much of this class time to discussing varieties of authentic language use.
Authentic language varieties
No one can reasonably be considered competent in the language until he is able to cope with a wide range of situations. In referring to a learner as an advanced student, we perhaps unfairly assume that high ability in class situations is transferable to other situations. To put it another way, it is not automatically true that a student who is able to express views on capital punishment in a discussion will also be able to get along in the informality of everyday conversation. Examination of our taped discussions showed that teacher and students alike constantly gravitated to a model of language use that we may term “informational.” Broadly speaking, this is the language of the textbook and the grammar course, and its use very easily arises in the context of foreign-language classes. As Ms. Harmatz says,
Teacher/student roles have traditionally been viewed in the following way: The teacher, as the giver of information, does so from a superior position and is the initiator of classroom activities. The student, on the other hand, receives information from an inferior position and is a passive fol
lower of classroom activities. A teacher is often unaware that his own use of language, and his expectations about the kind of language he wants his students to use, are
far away from the real, informal kind of English which is used very much more than any other during a normal speaking lifetime. ... It surprises many to realize that most people do not speak like their teacher ... and that there is far more variation in the standard forms of the language than their textbooks would lead them to expect.
(Crystal and Davy 1975) How can advanced-level students be helped from limited, informational language use to flexible, informal language use? An effective way is to expose them frequently to real language in a variety of situations. An advantage of using authentic listening materials is not only that they can counter learners' ignorance of stylistic variation, but also that they can be the basis of advanced-level discussion classes. Neglect of informal features of language will inevitably result later in misunderstanding in language situations. The only English that many students ever hear is that of their teacher and of professional readers in commercially produced language-laboratory courses and world-service radio.
To expand their experience of other language varieties and to sensitize them to "that real, informal kind of English which is used very much more than any other," students need to learn how to analyze language varieties and to comment on grammatical, lexical, and stylistic features which characterize them.
The problem of sources for this advanced-level exercise is not as difficult as it used to be: authentic materials are becoming increasingly available. And techniques for the dual purpose of (a) familiarizing students with a
On occasions, confusion arose when the teacher seemed to assume that students were able not only to detect a shift in the discourse pattern, but also to recognize it as the start of a new phase in the lesson. Suffice it to say that this confusion did not arise when new phases were explicitly signaled, e.g.: I want you to do two things now that we have finished
that. Let's now look at some of the phrases that are listed
here, because afterwards I'm going to ... You see how we've put it together. Now let's move
on to another kind of ... The use of less explicit markers (now, right, O.K.) could be introduced later. B. Prompting:
There was a certain amount of overuse of prompts (as an expedient for helping along shyer or less-skilled students). This is an aspect of the teacher-student utterance ratio that we looked at earlier. It is probably best handled by exercising the same restraints we suggested then, and, in certain exercises, by turn-taking. C. Initiating Class Activities:
We feel it is important for the teacher and class to discuss the raison d'être' of a new exercise. As we have seen, Ms. Harmatz is also opposed to the dogmatic type of teacher who works "from a superior position and is the initiator of classroom activities" without regard to student preferences and opinions. One way to get students, as she puts it, “to participate actively and to assume responsibility for learning is to ask them to make suggestions about, and even to manage, activities themselves, with the teacher in a background role as "language advisor." If he feels this is an abdication of his responsibility, the teacher could compromise by suggesting activities himself and asking students whether they think they would enjoy this one or that one, and whether they would like to try it.
Judged on the basis of our tapes, an effective way is for the teacher briefly to summarize the purpose of a
1. EDITOR'S NOTE: raison d'être: a French phrase in English meaning “reason for being"; hence, justification, purpose.