06 – The ESL / EFL student brain and how we learn – Stephen van Vlack

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As teachers, we need to be aware of how students are learning. Different brain systems need to work together in order to retain information and, most importantly, integrate it into existing systems. So, what is the best approach for teachers to give the best chance for students to improve? Stephen van Vlack slices open the brain (metaphorically) to show us how the different brain systems interact and the most effective ways for students to improve.

This is one of the more difficult subjects we’ve tackled on MOT, but Stephen breaks it down into an understandable view of how information and perception affects language learning and retention. Read the rest of this entry »

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06a – Extra Interview on How ESL / EFL students learn – Stephen van Vlack

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Here’s another 8 minutes from Stephen van Vlack on how the brain works when we learn – or perceive – new things, including how learning a second language affects the native language.

05 – How to teach English intonation – Dorothy Chun

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One of the most overlooked elements of teaching spoken language is intonation. Yet it’s extremely important for conveying meaning. Traditional methods of teaching intonation tended to be simple listen-and-repest drills.

Our guest for this episode, Prof. Dorothy Chun, has researched using visualisation to teach intonation, where students are able to see the contours of a native speaker and compare it to their own production.

I spoke to Dorothy Chun over Skype, defying the 16-hour time difference, to get the expert opinion on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of teaching intonation.

If you never do any intonation practice, this will be a useful guide for how to introduce it to your classes.

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Dorothy Chun

PRAAT Visualization software (free) (Windows and Mac)

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Language and Colour Boundaries/Perception – blue or green, and how red is your wine?

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The whole “blue/black-white/gold” dress photo that’s been doing the rounds in the last week or so reminded me of a very interesting point about language and perception of color.

As the dress debate went global and multilingual, perhaps not all of the disagreement on the colours may be down to how an individual’s brain is interpreting light information from the eyes. For decades, linguists have gone back and forth over whether the names for colours affect how we perceive them.

“When the orange, orange robin goes bob, bob, bobbin’ along…”

Think about it: red wine, red hair, robin red breast – these are all colour-specific descriptions that are inaccurate at best. Or, at least, they’re inaccurate now. Just a few centuries ago, “orange” as a range on the colour spectrum was simply part of “red” without a named colour category of its own. White wine, black eye… there are many examples in everyday language where the description of colour clearly doesn’t match the reality.

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04 – Questioning the Native English Norm in English Teaching – Jennifer Jenkins

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English as a Lingua Franca – ELF – is English as a shared language (usually) between non-native speakers.

As English becomes more and more globalised, we question whether the Native Speaker model should be the goal in the classroom. Prof. Jennifer Jenkins first broached this idea back in 2000 and was met with excitement and resistance.

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Build the suspense in team activities

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I’m currently teaching at an intensive winter camp for adults. Each week there is an activity where the groups should break into teams and complete a series of activities, often in different locations on campus.

As this requires scores to be consolidated from different locations, I hit on the idea of how to do this in the most efficient way, whilst simultaneously keeping the students involved and excited.

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03 – Effective Feedback on Writing – Ahmar Mahboob

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Hands up if you’ve been properly trained on giving feedback on students’ writing… Yep, not many of us.

Ahmar Mahboob gives a valuable insight into the most effective approach. Below are some links where you can get a more in depth look at his approaches. Is peer assessment any good? How and when should we focus on grammar?

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