Sunday, February 23, 2014

Using students' L1

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure to attend the annual IH conference in Barcelona and listen to whole lot of fantastic speakers. One of the sessions that stood out for me in the programme was Philip Kerr’s ‘Using the students’ own language: a toolkit’, a presentation full of practical ideas on how to use L1 in the classroom.

I don’t know about you but during my CELTA training we were told that L1 was not to be used at all inside the class. Students needed to be constantly encouraged to speak English and teachers were taught techniques that were totally independent of students’ L1. Using Turkish (in my case) during TPs was completely forbidden and even though teaching 100% in English seemed like an impossible task at that time, it turned out to be quite possible indeed.

I understand that we, as teachers, have to learn the hardcore way. It’s an undeniable fact that some of us teach in multilingual environments. Besides, if you start teaching in foreign country, chances are you don’t know the language yet or might not be interested in learning it all. The majority of us, I daresay, don’t fall into these categories and using L1 is frowned upon and treated like a dirty little secret by many of us.

The thing I keep asking myself now is why? I’m sure that 99% of people reading this will admit to having used L1 with students in real life, as opposed to TPs. Because it might save a lot of time, speed up activities, make things much clearer or help you with discipline. It might let you play great games with complicated rules that once explained using L1 can be played many times again. Sometimes students simply need a breather and apart from that they will surely appreciate the fact that you’re trying to use their language. And don’t get me wrong here, I’m not talking about explaining grammar rules in students’ L1 or translating every single word but using it with moderation when (absolutely) necessary.

According to Philip Kerr the general attitude to L1 use in the classroom is changing. 
Does that mean classes on L1 use will be included in the CELTA syllabus some time soon?

What do you think? Do you ever use L1 in class?  Why do you do that?

PS Practical ideas on using L1 coming up soon!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Why taking a break from blogging has made me a better teacher

I started blogging in October 2009 and managed to do it regularly for about a year. It was the most exciting and thought-provoking time in my career as a teacher. I learned lots and met a group of fantastic teachers from all over the world who in most cases turned out to be good friends offline as well. But then I had to leave Turkey and start a new life in Spain. I had no internet access for quite a while and due to a whole bunch of major changes, blogging became a thing of the past.

I never stopped lurking though. It was sad to see so many other great blogs go. It was even sadder to see my blog disappear from people’s blogrolls. The time I spent away from it all however, has had its benefits as well.

To begin with, taking a step back made me see a much bigger picture. I know why I want to blog. I realized what I’m really into and what will never make me go wild. Take teaching with technology, for example. I used to dream about IWBs and free youtube videos and now, my main goal is to train myself how to teach without almost any resources.

Life in another country forced me to learn a new language from scratch once more. That gave me yet another advantage as I was once again able to observe how a language is acquired, learned and taught. The whole process raised a whole lot of issues and doubts (was Krashen right?), some of which I hope to blog about soon.

Finally I realized how little I know and how much there is to learn and understand. I became humble.

What I really missed is interacting with people online and meeting them face to face, the rush of adrenaline seeing a comment, the company of like-minded people, their support and kind words.

What I didn't miss is being online 24/7. I've been there and done that. During a TEA conference in Vienna  a few years ago, Hugh Dellar was telling me how he hated Twitter and how people who spent their time there surely had no life offline. I disagreed then but clearly see his point now.

No more two posts a week. No more spending hours reading posts and leaving comments everywhere. If that means no comments on my blog, so be it.
I want to have a life and keep on learning. 
That’s what it’s all about, right?