Saturday, December 16, 2006

Sharing ideas – topics for articles

Here are some suggested topics for areas we could develop in our language classrooms and then into articles for a Journal. Journals need regular contributions from teachers and other m embers of staff across all the disciplines. This list applies mainly to English teachers, though (2), (5), (7), and (8) below could be adapted for use in Math and IT. Topic 10 below, could assist both Arabic and English teachers. Many more topics could be added from all disciplines.

Any of the following topics could be modified to suit a teacher’s area of expertise and/or interest.

1. Dictation exercises
Dictation may sound old fashioned these days, but some have found that it helps students form sentences by recognizing them when dictated. The voice naturally contours sentences in ways that help understanding. Meeting English sentences only when written means that students have to rely on their own knowledge of the structure of a sentence, and although the written sentences can be held up for more scrutiny, than spoken ones, the latter possess this quality; that the message/meaning of the sentence comes out more strongly than it can sometimes do in the former.

2. Peer observation
A group of teachers could get together to identify one another’s lessons, and then come together to write the exercise up in a joint effort. This type of exercise, I suggest, would be particularly helpful in dealing with classes of repeaters whose motivation is less than it perhaps should be. We all have our ‘ways’ of doing things, and although we are all experienced teachers, everyone can learn something from the way another person does something.

3. Teaching VTL
There are always different ways of teaching almost anything; vocabulary can be taught using data from concordances, by using the vocabulary in context and by some form of drilling for pronunciation, for example. In addition, words that need to be learnt can be taught in ways that combine all the ones mentioned. Groups of teachers could pool their efforts in ways that would expose their students to words in different types of ways.

4. Giving feedback on students’ writing projects – written vs oral feedback
Students appear not to gain much advantage from feedback on their efforts to write essays in English, it seems. Whether this is due to lack of motivation once a project has been written, or whether it is due to other factors such as the ways feedback is given is not clear.

5. Widening students’ schemata
Widening students knowledge of the world has recently been the subject of workshops in the PD Programme. Every teacher is aware that improvements can and should be made in this area, and yet often, little attention is paid to it.

6. Advantages of students blogging
Blogging gives students ways to show off their abilities to the world online. There is something encouraging and rewarding about seeing one’s own words in a medium that is broadcast to others. It can increase motivation to write more, and in ways that are nearer to what is required in students’ studies. However, though blogging is very popular among the users of the Internet, it is probably true to say that it is not as common in the language learning environment.

7. Helping students to create website
Similarly, and although many students will already have websites, the use and advantages of them for language learning is an area in which much could still be done.

8. E-learning
Many universities have programmes of tuition that rely on electronically delivered lessons. The Net is awash with information about such programmes, and studies could be made to acquaint teachers with them.

9. What students know about text cohesion and coherence in their own essays
Teaching students to write texts that are cohesive and coherent is one of the most important things writing teachers do in the language classroom. Time and time again, however, students persistently produce texts that are neither cohesive or coherent. The use of anaphoric reference in many students’ work is less than proficient. When questioned, many students are at a loss how to correct or improve cohesion in their essays. Both are vital but are possibly not dealt with in the same conscious way as grammar is, for example. Every student knows the word ‘grammar’ and what it refers to, but how many are aware of coherence and cohesion as things to be learnt. We may all teach them, of course, but in ways that are hidden from students habitually being told their grammar is wanting.

10. Influences of Arabic on students’ writing in English
Since we have native users of Arabic in our midst, we should learn how students’ native language affects their ability to learn and use English.

Robert L. Fielding


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