Tag: Teaching English

Jumbled sentences: An authentic ELT task?

Jumbled sentences: An authentic ELT task?

Last week, we had the pleasure of welcoming Dr Betty Lanteigne from LCC Klaipeda as a guest lecturer at the university where I work. She gave a talk in our ‘English Linguists Circle’ with the title “Unscrambling jumbled sentences: An authentic task for English language assessment?” and it got me thinking about several questions… and so I thought it might be time for a new blog post. 

(You can read more about Dr Lanteigne’s work in the article I’ve linked to at the end.)

In this post, I’ll be writing about:

 – Are these types of tasks entirely inauthentic?

– For whom could they be helpful?

– How do/should ELT materials writers jumble sentences?

Authentic

Dr Lanteigne first showed us a few jumbled sentence tasks to see if we could unjumble them. It was quite fun(ny): We could do them, but even the ‘correct’ answer gave us rather nonsensical sentences! Here’s one for you to try, and also so you know what I / she mean/s with the term ‘jumbled sentence’:

a want Paris to do you banana take to

This amusement was followed by a quick survey of some voices from the literature that, probably quite rightly, criticise this task type with such unrealistic sentences as being inauthentic, and therefore of low value for ELT. Dr Lanteigne counters that ‘authentic’ can be taken to mean that anything about the activity is real; the people, the text/input, the situation, and/or what learners need to do with the language are aspects that could be found outside of the classroom. And by this definition, she argues, interactions in some contexts where English is used as a lingua franca do, in fact, sometimes include unjumbling sentences. To underline her argument, Dr Lanteinge has collected ‘jumbled sentences’ that she has heard in her time in Dubai and the UAE – sentences used “in the wild”, as she called them, as opposed to having been invented precisely for such unjumbling tasks. Two of the examples she provided were:

  1. How you would feel if it to you happens?
  2. Want taxi Dubai you?
Useful

Dr Lanteigne argues that because such jumbled sentences are authentic in ELF contexts, they can be a valuable part of ELT and language assessment. If someone needs to communicate in an ELF setting, ‘decoding’ such sentences and deducing meaning and knowing how to respond are very important skills; thus such tasks are authentic. This is especially true for English learners in areas where English is used as a lingua franca, such as Dubai and UAE, where Dr Lanteigne was working. I teach EAP (B2+ level) and train EFL teachers in Germany, and many of my students’ career goals are often focused on Germany. Still, the chances are fairly high that they will at some point be in a situation where the person doesn’t speak their L1 and they don’t speak the other person’s L1, and so they may need to use English as a lingua franca, and thus also use these ‘decoding’ or ‘unjumbling’ skills.

Dr Lanteigne has therefore developed some useful testing materials based on the example jumbled sentences she had gathered. These tasks are very interesting, for tests and in lessons, I think: They involve learners showing they can understand the meaning of a jumbled utterance, reconstructing it into a grammatically correct sentence or selecting the correct version from a list, and then responding to it in some way, for example ‘What would be a suitable reaction to this sentence?’. I find this kind of adaptive and reciprocal task valuable, as it moves beyond simply putting words into a correct order, or producing an utterance for no further purpose. And so I’m basically convinced that including tasks like this in my materials for my German students every so often could be a helpful thing to do.

Task Differences

However, you might have noticed, as I did, that there is a bit of a difference between the two example ‘jumbled sentences’ she gave. The first of these examples includes all of the ‘elements’ needed for a grammatically correct sentence in a Standard English. Thus, the task really is unjumbling the words to get to the standard word order for the sentence. Also, the information structure is intact, meaning it’s really just the word order that’s the problem. The second example, though, requires a bit more than that – you need to insert an article, auxiliary and preposition, and rearrange the words to get to a grammatically correct sentence in the standard sense. You might also need some contextual clues, such as who said the utterance to whom, and where. I’d therefore call it something like ‘reconstructing sentences’ rather than ‘unjumbling’, and I feel like these two task-types should be treated as different in any research or discussion on their authenticity and effectiveness.

Materials – jumbled sentences

‘Unjumbling sentences’ tasks, then, could be useful for practising word order, verb forms, colligations, collocations, etc. Helping learners to practise ‘unjumbling’ in their head may assist them in understanding such sentences when heard ‘in the wild’. There are of course different ways of presenting the activity in materials. For example, you could leave in the punctuation, as in the second version below (which many jumbling apps seem to do), and there are many different orders you could jumble the words into, keeping the information structure intact or not (it is often not intact in coursebook/app versions of ‘jumbled sentences’). This really interests me – how do materials writers decide how to jumble sentences? And is this reflective of authentic jumbles? I asked on Twitter just got responses that said ‘alphabetical’ or ‘I use an app/website for that’. I think it would be interesting to think about jumbled orders which are likely to help with specific problems with word order or sentence structure that learners have, for example due to their L1s. In example 1 above, for example, I recognise some word order issues that my German students might have due to interference. This kind of unjumbling, then, could help to remind them of English word order rules – something similar to an error correction task. Since many of my students are studying to become EFL teachers in the German state sector, this kind of activity could be seen as authentic for them – especially with these real utterances, rather than alphabetically ordered jumbled words. The example I’ve invented below focuses on collocations, alongside word order for questions with an auxiliary – but I don’t suppose this is a realistic example of anything any language learner would say; it’s just a collection of words! Although I don’t necessarily think ‘artificial’ is the polar opposite of ‘authentic’, this one is definitely not an authentic example of a jumbled sentence in the way Dr Lanteigne understands the term, and is more akin to the kinds of sentences that are most often criticised in this task type for exactly this reason. Perhaps it still has value in ELT, but again, it would be more interesting to discuss which jumbled orders are most helpful for students in which cases. Since different jumbles would probably check different things, such as lexical, morphological or syntactical knowledge, it probably depends on the specific language point you want to check, as well as students’ L1s. This sounds like something that someone who has more time than me should research 😉

ceilings men legs tall long high like do with 

ceilings? men legs tall long high like Do with 

Materials – sentence reconstruction

With example 2 above, the syntax makes me think this is not an L1 speaker of a European language; at least I don’t know any Indo-European languages that separate the subject from the verb in this way. And, as I said before, reconstructing this sentence to understand the speaker’s meaning is more than just an unjumbling activity – it will require contextual and maybe also cultural knowledge to determine the speakers’ meaning and intention, as well as knowledge of grammar and lexis. Still, as an authentic utterance and thus potentially authentic task, learning to reconstruct it would seem to have value, as Dr Lanteigne argues, especially for learners who are likely to communicate in an ELF context. In order to produce materials that help to train this competence, then, we would either need to collect more authentic examples “in the wild”, or investigate the patterns behind omitted words and ‘jumbled’ word order, in order to create our own artificial, but authentic, examples to work with. Here again, I believe that context is key – depending on the speaker’s L1, the patterns are likely to be different, so we’d need to know a lot about who said what in order to create a suitable sample base of sentences for our materials, and might then also need to select relevant examples for the materials based on the specific learners, their context and reasons for learning English (e.g. where are their future ELF interlocutors likely to come from?).

So what?

I’m slightly torn at this point, though I can’t formulate my evaluative thoughts very well. I’ll try: This sounds like very interesting and insight-rich research to do, and I’m sure the results would be valuable for ELT materials writers. But it does seem to presuppose that such decoding and understanding skills are rather high-level in terms of English language competence and need to be trained. I wonder if that’s always true? I mean, what if a few words, some gesture and context, and a willingness to negotiate meaning are enough for communication in ELF contexts? Do the conversation partners need to reconstruct a grammatically correct sentence in their head to understand or be able to respond? Again, more research… please let me know if you do it! 🙂

Further Reading

Lanteigne, Betty. 20 17. “Unscrambling jumbled sentences: An authentic task for English language assessment?”. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching (7/2). 251-273. Accessible here: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1149764.pdf

Review: Successful Group Work – 13 Activities to Teach Teamwork Skills

Review: Successful Group Work – 13 Activities to Teach Teamwork Skills

FrontCover-360x570.png

Many teacher manuals encourage the inclusion of group work in class activities, naming benefits including increased productivity, creativity and motivation. Still, to make the most of group work tasks and these advantages, teachers and learners must be aware that working in a team involves navigating certain challenges, which some basic training can help with. In her new book, Successful Group Work, Patrice Palmer therefore presents a selection of activities which aim to foster the development of the relevant skills and maximise students’ learning in group tasks.

You can find out more about the book, including other reviews, here. And here is some more information about the author, Patrice Palmer:

Patrice-Palmr-Portrait-150x150Patrice Palmer taught English for speakers of other languages for twenty years before parlaying her experience into a business. She now teaches online courses, writes English-language-teaching materials and blogs, and designs courses. Palmer received her bachelor of arts degree from York University, Canada. She holds a master of education degree in teaching, learning, and development from Brock University; a second master of arts degree from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto; and an OCELT certification. In addition to teaching college-level communication courses, Palmer has developed English-language curricula for Hong Kong secondary schools and vocational programs.  She also wrote An A–Z Guide: How to Survive and Thrive as a New ESL Teacher and Dream Beyond the Classroom: The Essential Teacher to Teacherpreneur Toolkit.

The activities Patrice presents aim at building a foundation for good teamwork, and can help students to develop skills that will therefore be useful even beyond the classroom setting. They are not aimed specifically at language learners, but can be used in any subject classroom – though the target group of language learners is quite obvious in some activities.

Thirteen activities are presented, which each train a particular skill relevant for successful group work. They seem to roughly follow the ‘Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing’ stages of successful team formation: Some are most relevant at the initial stages (e.g. team building), and some towards the end of a group project (e.g. reflection and evaluation). Patrice’s suggestion is the activities should function as a complete course, training students to work in teams, and should all be worked through before they embark on a group task. Still, the activities can also be used individually, for example to focus on a specific teamwork skill that students need to improve, as they are relevant to different stages of a team task.

Many of the activities require very little preparation, and the instructions include realistic timing suggestions (there are shorter and longer activities) that can help teachers with quick planning. Patrice has provided examples of words, questions, checklists etc. that can be used for the activities, and these could also help teachers to develop their own more targeted version of the activities presented here. The instructions also include ‘debriefing’ questions which can promote fruitful discussions and help students reflect on their learning, which I find a particularly good idea – especially if some students are not keen on group work, this kind of discussion may increase their receptivity to such tasks.

In the appendix, Patrice has also provided some ideas on how to group students (e.g. alphabteically, according to study programme, counting off), which will be an excellent resource for novice teachers and those wishing to ‘spice up’ their classroom groupings.

In general, I was aware of most of the activities presented here, often from business settings, but having concrete ideas for how they can be used in a classroom is very helpful. The book is targeted at secondary / post-secondary learners, but I feel some adult education class groups may dislike the nature of some tasks – I can imagine some of my adult learners (German businessmen!) feeling they’re a bit ‘childish’. Still, explaining the goals of the activity might help here, and especially the activities involving moving around or physically demonstrating group-work outcomes might also loosen up any tense or tired groups of adult learners, too.

In a nutshell: for novice teachers this collection of activities might provide new ideas, and, for any teacher, having them all collected in one place is very handy. The structure of the book is clear, the instructions are easy to follow, and overall this seems to be a convenient resource for teachers wanting to promote the development of useful skills for group work and for life!

7 Days 7 Ways: Continued Professional Development 6) Seminars & Workshops

7 Days 7 Ways: Continued Professional Development 6) Seminars & Workshops

So, day and way #6 in this series on CPD for ELT teachers. So far, most of my ideas for CPD activities were things you could do at home, or at least pretty close to home – most from the comfort of your own sofa! For example:

  1. Blogs (1st March)

  2. Reflection Groups & Learning Networks (2 March)

  3. Magazines & Journals (3 March)

  4. Peer Observation (4 March)

  5. Professional Organisations (5 March)

Now we’ve reached a point where you might just have to leave the house, and indeed travel a little further than normal. Today’s CPD ‘way’ is…

  • Seminars & Workshops

At certain stages of your career, taking a training course can help make significant progress as an ELT teacher. I, for example, did the Trinity College TESOL Diploma after I’d been teaching for a few years, to refresh and upgrade my skills and knowledge. Teachers just starting out on an ELT career could think about doing:

Teachers with some experience, might consider:

These are all internationally recognised qualifications, which clearly has advantages. The main disadvantages are that these courses can be expensive, and that you usually have to find an accredited examination centre to be able to complete them. They are also rather general in their scope and may not always be directly relevant to your own teaching situation; making them slightly less valuable for your CPD.

IMAG0611What you might like to do, then, is find seminars or workshops being offered closer to home. For example, the university close to where you live might be offering relevant seminar courses, or a publisher might be offering a workshop on implementing their latest materials. Some professional organisations also organise one-day workshops or blocked seminars over weekends, for example. The best way to find these, I would suggest, would be through membership of a national or local teaching organisation, and through a Google search – here, you can be as specific as you like in what you’re looking for and should aim to find something that really inspires you and you feel is relevant to your own stage of development as a teacher. 

For those of you are still hoping you can do most of your CPD in nyour pyjamas on the sofa…. 🙂 There are of course distance-learning courses, for example offered by The Open University. And nowadays there are really a lot of online courses and webinars that you can take part in.Check out, for example:

  • www.futurelearn.com“a private company wholly owned by The Open University, with the benefit of over 40 years of their experience in distance learning and online education. [They] have 84 partners from around the world. These include many of the best UK and international universities, as well as institutions with a huge archive of cultural and educational material, such as the British Council, the British Library, the British Museum, and the National Film and Television School. [They] also work with a range of internationally renowned organisations [to] offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.” (quote from their website)   I recently completed a FutureLearn course on “Professional Practices for English Language Teachers” and found it a really good way to refresh my ‘basics’ and get in touch with the latest research on methodology. I also made some contacts with other participants and was therefore able to extend my PLN.IMAG0668
  • www.evosessions.pbworks.com –  The Electronic Village Online (associated with TESOL) “TESOL experts and participants from around the world engage in collaborative online discussions or hands-on virtual workshops of professional and scholarly benefit. These sessions bring together participants for a longer period of time than is permitted by land-based professional development conventions and allow a fuller development of ideas than is otherwise possible. Sessions are free and open to anyone around the globe. It is not necessary to be a TESOL member or attend the TESOL Convention in order to participate. All you need is access to the Internet. Choose a session from this year’s offerings, listed below.  And please inform your colleagues about this unparalleled professional development opportunity!” (quote from website) These ‘sessions’ and discussions are available online and free to access. I’ve just had a quick look at one and am already excited to see more!!

I would like to end on a note of caution; We must remember not to fall into the trap of thinking that only ‘formalised’ training seminars, webinars or workshops are useful for our CPD! Nonetheless, we must remember them when we’re thinking of ways to develop professionally, as they really can give us a boost of inspiration and insight. Ad especially now so many are available for free, and/or close to home, we’d be silly not to make use of them!! 

Let me know if you do a webinar or online course you think others would benefit from – post the link / details in the comments below!!

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post, please tell others! If you haven’t, please tell me! 🙂

7 Days 7 Ways: Continued Professional Development 5) Professional Organisations

7 Days 7 Ways: Continued Professional Development 5) Professional Organisations

For those who are keeping up, this is blog post #5 in my series on CPD for ELT teachers. If you’ve missed the previous days’ posts, you can find them by clicking these links:

  1. Blogs (1st March)

  2. Reflection Groups & Learning Networks (2 March)

  3. Magazines & Journals (3 March)

  4. Peer Observation (4 March)

And now for number five:

  • Professional Organisations

Teaching can sometimes be a rather lonely pursuit, especially for ELT teachers away from home  in foreign countries. It can also be a rather homogenising experience, if you’re teaching in a specific context and only really have contact with teachers in the same situation as you. In both situations, I think many ELT teachers might miss out on the chance to hear about the current debates, research, trends, methods/approaches, etc that are being shared around the world. I believe that some sort of networking and sharing of ideas beyond a teacher’s immediate context is a key aspect of professional development.

That’s why I though post #5 in this CPD series would be a good time to provide a few links and tips that will help ELT teachers find this big world of ELT beyond their teaching situation and get them ‘networked’ with other teachers, to facilitate inspiration and continuous development as a teacher. The list does not pretend to be complete; please add further links in the comments below. 

IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language)

http://www.iatefl.org/                           IMAG0245

If I could only recommend one organisation, this would be it. I’ve been a member for a number of years and the conferences and publications have been a constant source of inspiration and professional development opportunities. Double thumbs up from me!

Based in the UK. They say about themselves: “With over 4,000 members IATEFL is one of the most thriving communities of ELT teachers in the world. Our mission [is] to “Link, develop and support English Language Teaching professionals” worldwide”.

As a member, you get a bimonthly copy of the ‘Voices’ mini-journal/newsletter with information about research and events going on in ELT around the world, a free copy of ‘Conference Selections’ with summaries of presentations given at the latest annual conference, free membership in a Special Interest Group with newsletters and events, a cheaper registration rate for the annual conference, and cheaper subscriptions to some of the leading journals in the field (e.g. ELT Journal).

Their next big annual conference is going to be in Birmingham in April 2016, find out more here: IATEFL Birmingham 2016

Each month, they provide provide a free webinar held by a famous name in the field. For details of the upcoming webinars (on topics such as coursebook evaluation, intercultural training, teaching with technology) see here: http://www.iatefl.org/webinars

TESOL International Association

http://www.tesol.org/home

They see themselves as a “global and collaborative community committed to creating a world of opportunity through teaching English to speakers of other languages.”  And say about themselves: “For nearly 50 years, TESOL International Association has been bringing together educators, researchers, administrators, and students to advance the profession of teaching English to speakers of other languages. With more than 12,000 members representing 156 countries, and more than 100 worldwide affiliates, TESOL offers everyone involved in English language teaching and learning an opportunity to be part of a dynamic community, where professionals like you connect with and inspire each other to achieve the highest standards of excellence.” See here for a brief introduction: http://www.tesol.org/docs/membership/tesol-brochure.pdf?sfvrsn=2

The host a large annual conference of which I have only heard good reviews (see: http://www.tesol.org/attend-and-learn/international-convention), and provide publications and an online resource-bank, and guidelines for best practice in ELT. They also create a newsletter and have lively online discussion groups on specific interests within ELT. Webinars and online courses complement their busy programme of symposiums and conferences (though the time-difference makes webinars slightly problematic for those living in Europe!).  See here for the full programme: http://www.tesol.org/attend-and-learn/online-courses-seminars  and  http://www.tesol.org/attend-and-learn/symposiums-academies )

If you visit their website you will see that the homepage is very ‘busy’ and not always easy to navigate, but I think this simply reflects the variety of services and activities TESOL International Association offer and are involved in. If you have the time to click through, you will definitely find something that is relevant for you – whether you are a student, teacher, teacher-trainer, materials writer, etc. Definitely a thumbs up from me!

Teaching English – British Council

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/ IMAG0667

This is slightly different from the other associations listed here as it is mainly an online community. That makes it especially interesting to those who cannot travel to conferences, etc, and/or don’t have much spare cash to spend on memberships and travel costs. Why register with TE? They say: “Registration on this site is totally free and allows you to interact with other users as well as add comments and download certain material. You can:

  • build your own profile in an international online community;
  • access our tools for teachers;
  • join monthly online workshops;
  • watch our teaching tips videos;
  • sign up for a variety of teacher training courses;
  • join in discussions with teachers around the world.”

They offer free webinars and instructional videos and articles, as well as training courses and workshops, both as self-study and with a trainer (see: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/teacher-training ). There is also free access to a number of journals and research publications via the site (see: http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/publications ). Again, double thumbs-up!

 

Local Organisations

Wherever you live, there might be a smaller professional organisation you can join. This would of course have the benefit that the workshops, conferences, etc. provided would not be as far away from you, and may be more relevant to your specific teaching context. This kind of national or local networking can be particularly rewarding, as it can be easier to really get involved than within large international organisations. Their conferences are naturally smaller than those of the international associations mentioned above, but that also means that the costs are lower, and the events are less overwhelming for new teachers / students. I’m sure a quick Google search would find most such national/local organisations for teachers nowadays, but specifically for ELT teachers you might want to take a look here at this list of more organisations (all of which are affiliated with IATEFL) in your country, here: http://www.iatefl.org/associates/list-of-associate-members

A couple that I know of and have heard good things about are:

TEA (Teachers of English in Austria): http://www.tea4teachers.org/joomla/

German Association for Teachers of English (GATE): http://englisch-und-mehr.de/wp/

MELTA (Munich English Language Teachers Association): http://www.melta.de/

 

Most of my inspiration for CPD and my search for innovation, ideas and impulse for reeflection has come from being a member of IATEFL and other professional organisations; and indeed, most of the people in my PLN I met through this membership. So I would highly recommend joining such a professional organisation as a big boost for your CPD!!

Please share your experiences and further relevant links below! 

If you liked what you read here, please tell others! If you didn’t, please tell me! 🙂

 

 

Polite Language Practice

NOTES FOR TEACHERS

1) Get students to read “Would you be so kind” or a similar text (best done at home) & to make a note of key phrases. The text “Would you be so kind?” can be found here: http://www.karriere.de/service/would-you-be-so-kind-108655

2) In class, brainstorm the phrases they can remember and discuss which are interchangeable, e.g.:
Could you please / Would you be able to please / I’d be grateful if you could…
I’m afraid that  / I’m sorry, but / We regret that..
Sorry to / I apologise for …

3) Also discuss various ways of showing distance to make utterances more polite, e.g.:
past tenses = I was wondering, I wanted to ask..
Maybe / Perhaps,
‘seems’ (e.g. “there seems to be a problem”)
conditionals – would / could (instead of will/want or can)

 4) See how many ways your students know of saying “please” and “thank you” and collect some polite responses to ‘thank you’, e.g.:

You’re welcome  / Not at all  / Don’t mention it  /  (It was) my pleasure

Note: Steps 2, 3, and 4 could be done in smaller groups who then present a poster with their results to the class. It depends on whether your students are likely to have encountered the language before and you simply want to elicit, or whether this is the first time they’ve looked at polite langauge in this much focus. You could also spread these language study sessions over a few lessons and lead up to the role-plays below more slowly.

5) Give the situation role cards (below) to pairs and get them to practise acting out the whole situation, interacting as politely as they can, using the language studies above. You could leave the posters up, or a quick list of phrases on the board so that they can refer to them during their practice role-plays.

If you have a lot of time and / or the students are finished quickly, you can give different pairs a chance to practise different situations

6) As a closing step to the lesson, get some pairs to act out their role play as examples in front of the whole class. Ask the whole class to pay attention to which language items from above they have employed and to use that to give a ‘politeness rating’ (e.g. points out of 10) for the langauge used. If there’s time, you can then discuss ways to make the conversation even more polite. This works best if you’ve been able to record the conversations to re-play and discuss.

SITUATIONS FOR ROLEPLAYS

Ask your neighbour to turn their music down.
Complain about your meal in a restaurant.
Ask your boss for a pay rise.
In the theatre, someone is sitting in their seat. Ask them to move.
On a plane, someone is sitting in their seat. Ask them to move.
You’ve lost your wallet. Ask a colleague for some money to buy lunch.
Ask a teacher for help with something.
You’re waiting to use a ticket machine. Ask the current user to hurry up.
Ask someone to move their car out of your way.
Ask if you can push into the front of a queue.
Ask for a deadline extension for a piece of work.
Ask to use someone’s mobile phone.
You left your umbrella in a classroom and need to interrupt a lesson to retrieve it. Ask nicely.
You’ve lost your wallet. Ask someone for some money for the bus home.
Complain about the wine in a wine bar.
Complain about the cleanliness of your hotel room.
Your taxi driver seems to be taking the longest route. Ask / complain about this.
You are vegetarian but your friend has cooked steak and chips for you. Explain politely why you can’t eat it.