One of the most challenging skills for students to develop is the ability to speak at length coherently. While the Ask-Answer-Add method is fantastic for teaching and practicing conversation patterns, high-stakes exams, such as TOEFL iBT, Pearson Test of English, and IELTS, essentially require students to deliver monologues.
Therefore, the question becomes how do we have students practice delivering extended speech in an engaging manner?
Peer review is an important an beneficial step in the writing process if done effectively. The question then becomes how can you do it effectively? Today I’ll provide three examples: Checklists, Write Like a Reader and Paramedic Editing.
If you work at a large institution, you have access to experienced teachers, in-house workshops, seminars and (possibly) travel assistance for presenting at, or possibly, attending conferences. Additionally, your line manager has probably assigned you a mentor who can answer the day-to-day questions like “What happens if I need a new CD?” as well as fill you in on the “culture of the school” or the “unwritten rules.”
Yep, if you work at a school with a growth mindset, you will always be reminded that a teacher is a learner first and foremost and, therefore, will always be challenged to improve not only their content knowledge but also their pedagogy. In this type of school, in-house professional development workshops will be mandatory and there will be competition to see who can generate the highest turn-out for workshops.
Do you do things because that is how they have always been done?
What’s the first image that comes to mind when you hear “Academic Reading?” Personally, I have flashbacks from my undergrad days lugging around the 1,000 page plus Norton Anthology of English Literature.
When I ask my students, they typically use words like “boring, business” and/or “scientific” to describe what they have to read in their IEP/Test-Prep classes.
That the material they have to read is uninteresting or even boring doesn’t really surprise me: honestly, who really wants to read academic texts?
Teaching speaking sounds easy until you actually try it. Some of the myriad issues that inevitably pop up are:
Which dialect should the instructor teach? Most people will instinctively say “their own” but what if an American teacher is teaching a room full of students preparing to study in the UK? Should the American instructor really teach “sidewalk” instead of “footpath?” How about “crosswalk” instead of “zebra crossing?”
Of course you want your students to use “real English,” but how do you teach slang? Similar to dialect, whose slang do you teach? What about cursing?
The first time I can remember telling a class skimming and scanning were important was about seven years ago. I was teaching TOEFL iBT prep in Hanoi, Vietnam and was trying to explain just how important it was for the students to be able to get the “gist” of what they reading (skimming) or find key words/details (scanning) in a passage. If I remember right, I even held up the sheet below in an attempt to “prove” I was right.