Rhubarb, rhubarb

Rhubarb, rhubarb.jpgI’m required to give oral tests to my High school students twice a year. The tests are based on material that I’ve taught in my classes. These are received by my students (approximately 40 per class) with levels of indifference to absolute engagement. In light of keeping the students ‘clued in’, I’ve got to have my lesson plans together. I typically use the PPPP schema with good effect. The recent TESOL course I’d taken at SMU had come to be very useful. So many changes for my teaching, being an ELT means you are constantly learning and changing.

But in looking at the oral tests, I knew I had to plan ahead. With regards to priming the students, this, as I’ve found out, should have been done at the beginning of their year. Give the students a big carrot to chase, with a little bit of stick. Having read When? How? Why? by the Saskatchewan professional development unit, I have in, retrospect, learnt how to test properly. But the overall philosophy to the testing is that do they understand the concept? Are they able to compose an answer or question given that they know the concept of the grammar point. It’s one thing to memorise, but it’s another thing to create your own answer. No conversation in English (or any language) stands on it’s own and can be seen as being entirely unique. As I’ve noticed in going from class to class during testing, the students’ answers get better, as they’ve had a preview from other classmates in other classes about the questions. Their answers become more and more ‘canned’.

That is why I’ve only given them what the type of question they’ll get (Past experiences with Have you ever). I have never told them the precise question, then it becomes a matter of memorisation, which, in my opinion is too much like their education system of verbatim regurgitation. As the title of my blog suggests, it’s just repeated words to give the impression of noise. Rhubarb, rhubarb!

A word about classroom furniture: having sat in their class and their chairs for about 40 minutes, the height of the chairs is too low. These students are about my height and are growing lads. After about 40 minutes, the wooden seat pan had left my seat, numbed and sore. I really don’t know how they do it for an hour.

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Audio-lingual, U-RAH, U-RAH!

The Audio-lingual method is one of learning by repetition. That is, having the students repeat the target language, many times.  I hear it was invented by the US military, as a way of teaching its’s soldiers the lingo of the country that they would be based in, let alone the language of the people that they might be fighting. In a Korean classroom, (especially that of an Elementary classroom) Audio-lingua is king, and I’m not talking about Elvis. Students here are expected to read, write and recite the target language.  As a student of the Communicative language teaching method, this is just wrong, as in simply just inane. I can cite that if the context is not set properly, the target language that the student would be saying, means nothing. But what I can get from the students, what is worthy of pronunciation, sometimes isn’t worth the effort at all. They’ve been drilled and drilled with a said response to a question, it can be difficult to get them away from the default response and have them think about a real answer.