Humanising Language Teaching
Pilgrims apologises to all our readers, and I personally wish to express my regret for the non-appearance of the May 2004 and the July 2004 issues of HLT. This year will only have seen four issues, rather than the usual six.
The reason for this unfortunate situation was my illness from April to August, an illness that left me without juice for anything as exciting and energy-demanding as getting a shapeful issue of HLT together. There was no one to replace me, as the summer months have everybody at Pilgrims working flat out on our training programmes.
I feel bad about letting a large readership of valued colleagues down, especially as "site abandonment" seems to be rife on the Web. You must have been to sites that say something like "this site was last noticed by its web master on Jan 4th 1999".
The good news, however, is that this September issue is a bumper one, almost a double issue.
If you want to find out about two up-to-the-minute books, either go to Ideas from the Corpora to read snippets from Ron Carter's Language and Creativity: the art of common talk, yet another meaty offering from the Carter and McCarthy research into the Cancode corpus, or go to Teacher Resource Book Preview to check out exercises from Lindstomberg's Language activities for teenagers. You will find you can use these in your next secondary level classes.
Under the rubric Short Article several people have written about special periods in their teaching life, periods that have left them somehow changed. Have a look at Virginio Gracci's One year's experience teaching a girl with Down's syndrome or Marie Pierre Beaulieu's Dealing with conflict: changing the way I see myself and reality, or the poignant words of a teacher moving into the third age: A teacher's retirement song.
Story-telling must be one of the most central means of teaching in a person-centred way, story-telling where the relationship between the teller and the listeners is the marrow of the activity. If this area interests you than visit Major Article 6, Alan Maley's Once upon a time: the conspiracy of narrative and Short article 3 where Ann Leonori shares stories her students have written in class: Students tell their own childhood stories.
Alan Maley and Brian Tomlinson seem tired of the way main stream publishers bring out contrived and controlled readers, written within strict lexical and grammatical guide lines. They are launching a new, free "readers" venture on the Web and appeal for people to write the texts: Writers needed for WWW readers.
Should teachers be assessed, patted on the head, terrorised or helped by government inspectors? Listen to what a French colleague has to say on this ( France has a fairly virulent inspection system) What have school inspectors done to me, inside? (Short Article 4)
This issue focuses on two areas of major concern to most teachers: mixed level classes and preparation for exams. Seth Lindstromberg offers his thoughts: Towards better results with mixed proficiency classes: use of flexible tasks, while HLT is happy to welcome Judy Churchill back for a third time: Exam success, EQ or IQ.
How practical is this issue? Is there is a great deal of stuff you can use tomorrow in class.
Lesson Outlines offers you exercises in the musical area ( Gill Johnson), the logical-mathematical realm ( Marie Agrell) and the visual-spatial domain, with four exercises offered by Paolo Torresan, a teacher of Italian as a foreign language from Venice University.
Short article 7 deals with questioning techniques: When closed teacher questions are more useful than open ones, while short article 9 looks at one-to-one teaching: The humanistic lesson: student primacy in a world of meaningful interaction. Ruth Hamilton's Dogme in Action which is Major article 4, is an account of a set of lessons she gave, inspired by Scott Thornbury and the "Dogme EFL Group".
Course Outline is a misleading heading for what you will find there in this issue, which is a list of the books produced by some 50 EFL resource book writers, all of them associated with Pilgrims, books written in the 28 years from 1976 to 2004. You will find a huge wealth of ideas for your classroom in among the pages of these slim volumes.
As I have said before in this column, HLT is not mainly a periodical- it is much more of an archive, or a quarry. Despite the lamentable absence of the new numbers that should have come out in May 2004 and July 2004, visitor sessions in August 2004 remained steady at around 540 per day, much what they were at the same Northern Hemisphere holiday period in 2003.
If you are in the Northern half of the world, let me wish you a happy return to your classes, and if you are in Chile, South Africa or New Zealand, cheer up! Those long summer days free of classes are only three short, ever-warming Spring months away!