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On the Road with Gary Anderson in Slovakia

Deductive/Inductive…Seductive/Productive Grammar

Gary in action in Slovakia

Gary in action in Slovakia

Along with about a hundred other teachers, trainers, professors and publishers I attended a very nice one-day conference in Slovakia at the end of last month organised by International House Bratislava and held in the Metodicko-Pedagogické Centrum Regionàlne, i.e. the regional methodological-pedagogical centre (sorry, bet you can translate that for yourself).

I gave three talks including the opening plenary on ‘Profiling English Profile’ (but I’ve already talked about the English Profile programme in a preceding blog so won’t write about that again. What I’d like to write about this time was the subject of one of my two other workshops: ‘Interactive Teaching and Learning: Grammar for the Body and the Mind’

The ‘body’ part of interactive teaching/learning grammar had to do with the self-study CD-ROMs accompanying the Grammar in Use series as well as the forthcoming Grammar in Use Classware for teachers – and students! – to use in the classroom with an IWB (interactive whiteboard, right) or with a normal whiteboard and a Mimio® e-beam. Plus a couple of ideas for getting especially kinaesthetic learners to get their bodies into learning grammar: Have students stand up and put themselves in a line in order of, say, who’s taller/tallest for comparative/superlative adjectives, or who got up at what time or ate the biggest breakfast for simple past, etc. Have students cut up the parts of sentences and with separate auxiliary-verbs cards rearrange and turn them into questions.

The ‘mind’ part had to do with the question: Do students learn grammar better deductively or inductively? Before we try to answer that question, let’s review what is meant by deductive and inductive learning/teaching. Deductive means ‘giving’ the rule to students and then having them practice with examples; sort of top down. Inductive on the other hand means providing examples and then ‘guiding’ them to come to the rule themselves; much more bottom up. (That ‘giving/guiding’ distinction, by the way, comes from Martin Parrott’s Tasks for Language Teachers.)

It’s sort of like Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson: Detective Holmes (like my favourite detective Colombo) was inductive – ‘noticing’ (another buzz word in ELT that used to be called ‘language awareness’) clues, making hypotheses and then coming to a conclusion – which always surprised the much more literal, deductive Watson who would think that, say, because the criminal wore high heels and smoked cigarettes, it must be that woman. Holmes au contraire would measure the size of the shoe and the depth of the footprint, look at the brand of cigarette, and perhaps even sniff around for any lingering perfume before coming to his rule – er, conclusion.

So what about grammar? Should students be given the rule and then practice, or be guided with similar examples (and corresponding ‘concept questions’ to check comprehension) – to the rule?

Well, my (bad) joke is that grammar should be taught and learnt…seductively! The teacher needs to seduce students – in a manner of speaking – into learning grammar (or other language skills) in their own way. If you don’t like ‘seductive’, let’s say ‘productive’ – whatever is best for the individual learner. In other words, both deductively and inductively – which is what teachers, as at the IH Bratislava conference, usually say to me when I ask the question ‘Do students learn grammar better deductively or inductively?’. Because of course it depends on lots of things: the type of learner or class and your teaching situation. But also the grammar rule concerned. If it’s quite similar or quite different to their native language, you might want to ‘give’ them the rule – or ‘guide’ them to discover. ‘Guided discovery’ is now how most course books treat grammar – with of course built-in concept questions. And also with Grammar Reference sections in the back for the Dr Watsons among your learners.

I remember a report in the ELGazette back in 1999 that summarized a Teaching of Grammar colloquium held at St Mary’s Strawberry Hill (sounds like a wonderful place to attend a grammar symposium!) in the UK: ‘Advocated guided discovery and consciousness-raising activities in which grammar points are made more salient for learners.’ SLA (Second Language Acquisition, but I know you know that) Professor Rod Ellis was quoted: ‘We can at least be confident that discovery tasks are as good as explanations.’ In other words, both! Deductive and inductive – or seductive/productive.

What do you think? Do students learn grammar better deductively or inductively? What’s more seductive/productive for your learners? Looking forward to reading your ideas…

Gary Anderson, Cambridge ELT International Teacher Trainer


On the Road with Gary Anderson in Italy

Back in (unusually cold and snowy) Paris from the Cambridge ELT sales conference in Sorrento (on the Amalfi coast across the bay of Naples from…Naples and Mount Vesuvius) where I was meeting with colleagues and planning my upcoming travel for the first part of this New Year Twenty Ten. Have a look at my upcoming travel list next to this blog to see if I might be coming to your country.

Gary in action using 'Wonderful World' by Sam Cooke

Gary in action using 'Wonderful World' by Sam Cooke

I’m going to have to prepare lots of new workshops for those trips – and will try to find theme songs for each workshop since I like to use songs to set the tone and introduce the subject. And also because, as we all know, students have different learning styles – visual, auditory, kinaesthetic (‘Different strokes for different folks’, as the hippies used to say) – and for auditory learners, music can help them focus and better remember what the workshop or class was all about. For example, when I do a workshop on ‘Speaking: Does Practice make Perfect?’, I like to use the Rolling Stones cover of the old Chuck Berry rock ‘n’ roll song Carol to make the analogy of practicing speaking in the classroom before going out into the real world being like practicing dancing before hitting the dance floor: I’m gonna learn to dance (speak) if it takes me all night and day!

Do you ever have music playing in the classroom as your students arrive? I used to like to have music (usually with English lyrics) playing as it helps students get into the mood for English and can raise or lower (sometimes necessary to calm down kids) their energy level.

I also like to use music to ‘time’ pair work or group work activities as well as serve as background music because sometimes pairs or groups can become distracted from the task if they hear other pairs / groups making too much noise and having too much fun. I especially like to use U2’s With or Without You when talking about self study / independent learning. First, it’s a perfect song for teachers: I’m going to give myself away / With or without you because that’s what dedicated teachers do – give themselves away to / for their students. But also because I find it helps make the point that students have to learn on their own without the teacher, ‘with and without you’, right!? Tell me the truth? Did any of you learn all your foreign language only in the classroom? Of course not! You also did like I did (do) learning French: reading, listening to music and watching TV and movies and, as I used to tell my students in Paris, eavesdropping when they hear foreigners speaking the target language in the street or on the bus or Metro. Anyway, I find the music and Bono’s voice very soothing in the first 3 minutes of With or Without You, which is when I usually stop it – before The Edge comes on with a loud lead guitar solo that really wakes you up.

Many course books come with songs – but maybe especially if you’re teaching tween-agers or teenagers and they don’t ‘appreciate’ the song with the course, you might have them suggest an alternative song in English (but if it’s a rap song, be careful that the lyrics are ‘parent proof’ and not vulgar).

There are of course lots of other ways to use music in the classroom: for pronunciation practice, maybe especially for intonation; listening along while reading the lyrics; to introduce a grammar point (try Led Zeppelin’s Thank You or the classic If I had a hammer for the second conditional); etc.

What about you? Do you use music in the classroom? If so, how? If not, you might try it…And if you have any suggestions for some good songs for my new talks, please send ’em along!

Gary Anderson, Cambridge ELT International Teacher Trainer

PS In the picture next to this blog, I’m using an old song called Wonderful World by Sam Cooke. Can you guess my pedagogical subject that the song is leading into? Might write about that in an upcoming blog…


On the Road with Gary Anderson in Lithuania

Gary in action in Lithuania

Gary in action in Lithuania

At the end of November I made a tour to the three major cities of cold-ish, forest-full Lithuania for Cambridge Days in the capital Vilnius and Kaunas plus a very nice international teachers’ conference in Klaipeda where I met teachers from the Czech Republic, Belorussia and neighbouring Latvia as well as from all over Lithuania. I was giving various talks at each stop including ‘Ain’t Nothing like the Real Thing for Skills’ on the Cambridge English ‘Real’ Skills series and ‘ELT into the Digital Age’ about Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 resources available for teachers and students on www.cambridge.org/elt, Professional English Online and the new innovative ‘collaborative’ site English360.

Plus a workshop entitled ‘Which comes first: The chicken or the egg? Language development or exam preparation?’ in which we looked at the question: Shouldn’t successful exam preparation courses also be solid language learning courses which offer systematic language development, skills work and learning strategies as well as exam tasks, training and tips? I used activities from the Objective series including Objective IELTS (the biggest growing Cambridge ESOL exam in many countries – including Lithuania) as examples of how to do both: to prepare students for exam success while also ensuring on-going language development in all five skills (Remember that the Common European Framework breaks speaking into spoken production and spoken interaction, as tested on Cambridge ESOL exams.).

Since I promised in a preceding post on extensive ‘pleasure’ reading to talk about intensive reading, let’s look at that very important skill which I know students need to prepare them for university studies (my daughter who is studying psychology at a francophone university in Canada has to read lots of articles in English) and for the real world of professional life (my son who is working as a sports journalist in Paris has to read a lot in English about US/UK sports) – as well as do well in exams!

There’s been lot of talk at conferences and in recent ELT literature about why students who of course can read in their native language don’t transfer those skills they learn (my wife teaches her 8 year-old French pupils to skim and scan) into the target language? And people use these reading sub-skills in real life. For example, I’ve got a movie-buff friend who never reads complete film reviews because he thinks they’ll influence his judgement of the film and/or give away too much of the plot – but I know he skims them to see what the reviewer thinks overall and then has to go back to scan to find when and where the film is playing.

During the workshops in Lithuania, we looked at what for me are the five steps in intensive reading:

  1. Orienting yourself to the text and predicting from extra-textual elements (title, headline, pictures, graphs).
  2. Identifying main ideas (skimming, like taking the best part off milk).
  3. Reading (mustn’t forget this!).
  4. Identifying details and specific information (scanning, like a medical scanner searching for certain information; have your students use their finger when doing this – or pen or pencil if it’s an exam).
  5. Going beyond the surface meaning (inference) and follow-up (doing something with the text like talking or writing about it – or answering exam questions!).

I – we, if you too are interested in the subject – must read a new book by Cambridge on the subject: Reading in a Second Language: Moving from Theory to Practice by William Grabe in the Cambridge Applied Linguistics series. And maybe that’ll be the topic of my first blog for 2010 – recently published books from Cambridge to read in the New Year… For now, Best wishes for a happy holiday season to all!

Gary Anderson, Cambridge ELT International Teacher Trainer

PS. If you’re teaching teenagers and would like some additional ideas about dealing with reading for them, look at my article ‘Be Sensitive to…both Intensive and Extensive Reading’ at on the English in Mind resource site. 

Since I promised in a preceding post on extensive ‘pleasure’ reading to talk about intensive reading, let’s look at that very important skill which I know students need to prepare them for university studies (my daughter who is studying psychology at a francophone university in Canada has to read lots of articles in English) and for the real world of professional life (my son who is working as a sports journalist in Paris has to read a lot in English about US/UK sports) – as well as do well in exams!

There’s been lot of talk at conferences and in recent ELT literature about why students who of course can read in their native language don’t transfer those skills they learn (my wife teaches her 8 year-old French pupils to skim and scan) into the target language? And people use these reading sub-skills in real life. For example, I’ve got a movie-buff friend who never reads complete film reviews because he thinks they’ll influence his judgement of the film and/or give away too much of the plot – but I know he skims them to see what the reviewer thinks overall and then has to go back to scan to find when and where the film is playing.

During the workshops in Lithuania, we looked at what for me are the five steps in intensive reading:

  1. Orienting yourself to the text and predicting from extra-textual elements (title, headline, pictures, graphs).
  2. Identifying main ideas (skimming, like taking the best part off milk).
  3. Reading (mustn’t forget this!).
  4. Identifying details and specific information (scanning, like a medical scanner searching for certain information; have your students use their finger when doing this – or pen or pencil if it’s an exam).
  5. Going beyond the surface meaning (inference) and follow-up (doing something with the text like talking or writing about it – or answering exam questions!).

I – we, if you too are interested in the subject – must read a new book by Cambridge on the subject: Reading in a Second Language: Moving from Theory to Practice by William Grabe in the Cambridge Applied Linguistics series. And maybe that’ll be the topic of my first blog for 2010 – recently published books from Cambridge to read in the New Year… For now, Best wishes for a happy holiday season to all!

Gary Anderson, Cambridge ELT International Teacher Trainer

PS. If you’re teaching teenagers and would like some additional ideas about dealing with reading for them, look at my article ‘Be Sensitive to…both Intensive and Extensive Reading’ at on the English in Mind resource site.

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2 Responses to Older posts

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