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Old 03-31-2008, 02:54 PM
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Smile Students as Grammarians: Discovery Techniques

Hello,

I'd like to share some comments on my most favorite approach to teaching grammar. Since I truly believe in the "magic" of discovery techniques, and love to work with "students-grammarians" as I call them, I often create lessons that focus on letting students discover a grammar rule. I've noticed that, for me, this method works on at least four levels:

1. Because of its "mystery-solving" quality, a discovery-based activity absorbs students' attention better than any of my even most interactive presentation;

2. Because of students' personal involvment in the task, the method helps them remember the rule more easily;

3. Because of its analytical character, this technique shows students ways to approach other unfamiliar grammatical structures;

4. And, most importantly, because of students' relatively independent work that is involved in this type of activity, the discovery method proves to them that they can discover a rule themselves, and so, can be active "explorers" of the language even outside the classroom.

The spark in students' eyes that you see after the "Eureka" moment, and the confidence in their skills that you notice even among those who tend to doubt their abilities make me almost addicted to preparing activities based on discovery method. When we use a grammar book later both to check if our discovery is "right" and to practice the newly-explored rule, students' excitement makes my day (even my week).

I am wondering about your experiences with this method. Do you use it often? Do you find it effective? What seems to be the most difficult aspect of using this technique? I have submitted one of my "discovery" lessons (on the use of the causative "have") and would love to hear your comments.

My best,

Ela
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Old 03-31-2008, 03:35 PM
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Thanks for a wonderful post, Ela! I'll post your discovery lesson in the Classroom Materials section and provide a link to it when I get back from TESOL in a couple of weeks.

Best,

Sue
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Old 04-01-2008, 02:10 AM
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Smile

Sue,

I've created and used quite a few of those so if it turns out that they are actually "usable" by others, I'd love to share more lesson plans. I'm sure that they need some polishing, though, so I'd love to hear some constructive criticism from others.

Hope the conference is going well!

Ela
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Old 04-01-2008, 08:29 AM
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Sam Simian Sam Simian is offline
 
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Wink The best-laid plans of monkeys and men.

Dear Ela,

After having read your posts, I’m really looking forward to reading your lesson plans. Please don’t worry about polishing them ; I’m sure they’ll be well worth reading as they are. Actually, I wish that I had lesson plans to submit. I spend a lot of time preparing for my classes, but I never put together a formal lesson plan. First, I usually think, “OK, what are some activities that would work with this material?” Then, I just start brainstorming a list of things that they can do, and, after crossing off the ones that are lousy, I rank them from the most close-ended activities to the most open-ended. Finally, I try to structure them into something like a PPP (Presentation, Practice, Production) lesson plan. Other times, I just think, “Oh, my gawd, this stuff looks boring! How can I make this interesting? How can I make the students giggle?”

But you know what they say about the best-laid plans of monkeys and men. I often have to improvise because stuff that I thought was gonna be easy turns out to be difficult, and vice versa. And there’s always the, “Teacher, what about …?” type question that you wanna ignore, but you can’t ignore it because it’s so relevant. I, also, often make mistakes on purpose, to keep the students on their toes (It’s amazing how many students will say, “Yes, Teacher!” to anything. Try it.), but, once they get used to it, they delight in catching my unintentional mistakes, as well. The practical upshot of all this is sometimes classes that start at “A” and end up at “” — and I just kind of go along for the ride.

Anywho, I’m anxious to see how someone else does it, but I do have some questions for you: Do your lessons usually resemble your lesson plans? Do you sometimes wonder where your lesson took that interesting turn? If you’ve ever reused a lesson plan, did it work better, worse, or about the same the second time?

Sincerely,
Sam Simian

Last edited by Sam Simian; 04-01-2008 at 08:32 AM.
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Old 04-01-2008, 06:20 PM
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Smile

I'm calling the material that I've submitted a lesson plan, but it just has the key components of the lesson, and, I'm sure, can be expanded and modified in many ways. In fact, I just used a few of my handouts with exercises on the same topic, and arranged them in an order that seemed logical (and one that follows the PPP pattern). I also added some extra comments and instructions to make it clearer for a teacher and students. And so, maybe it's not a typical lesson plan that we'd think of. It just has the skeleton of one.

As for coming to class with a ready lesson plan, yes, I do (in most cases) know what I'd like to accomplish by the end of class, and hope that the materials I'm bringing will help me do that, but I value ideas that just come to me on the spot. Yes, I've often just ignored the "stuff" I brought to class once I noticed that something else might work better at the moment.

As for changes in planning and materials, I must admit that even though I've been teaching ESL for 15 years now and have made and collected quite a few materials I can use with my eyes closed, I do prepare something new almost every time I teach. I think I'm doing it partially for selfish reasons- I don't want to make myself bored and, consequently, appear bored to my students. The spark in my eyes is as important for me as the spark in my students' eyes. I do think, though, that I overprepare, and do hope that I can just relax and use some good old stuff that I preared; materials that seemed perfect only a semester ago. Oh, well..

How about you? Do you overprepare and keep looking for something new?

Ela
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Old 04-02-2008, 12:37 AM
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Default more on lesson plans

I'm looking forward to Ela's plan on the causative 'have' -- causatives are part of the adult ESL model standards for level 5 in CA and each semester I struggle to present/teach it to my students. This grammar subject is a good example of how I plan a lesson: I gather the materials I have accumulated over the years and pull out what worked best last time and try to arrange it in the best order for learning. I have internalized the WIPPEA method used by my first resource coordinator: Warmup, Introduction, Presentation, Practice, Evaluation, and finally Application, and plan a lesson accordingly.

I make all sorts of notes on "my" worksheet or textbook, and add to them each time I use them. I like to have good examples of the grammar ready, something that engages the attention of the students. (For example, for a warmup for the passive, we discuss 'man/bite/dog' vs dog/bite/man' vs bite/man/dog' etc.) Keeping the notes really help with shortening the time I need for preparation the next time around. They include additional info not in the text, and answers to questions I anticipate being asked.

Getting back to the thread, I really like using discovery techniques, but find that I have to be careful to reinforce the goal of the lesson as my students (adults) always want to know what they are 'learning' and what the point of it is. (They are free to leave anytime they want, and they will if they don't think the time they are spending in class is useful to them!) Swan's How English Works uses discovery techniques as he lists examples and then asks the students to examine them and figure out how different constructions work or what their meaning is. But I have to 'translate' the British English.

One point that hasn't been mentioned yet, but is always part of the shifting equation, is that each class is different! Just because something doesn't 'work' one time doesn't mean that it won't with another set of students. Nevertheless, I just try to keep working towards the 'perfect' lesson, explanation, activities: the clearest, fastest way to help my students improve their English.
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Old 04-02-2008, 06:40 AM
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Question Ela, I have a question for you.

Dear Ela,

Yeh, I almost always prepare more than I need. (People often tease me about the huge bags I cart around —“Hey, ya think ya got enough stuff there?”) Part of the reason is, as I mentioned, a lesson can go down in flames, so I always try to have backup lesson/material A, backup lesson/material B, backup lesson/material C, etc. The other thing, as you mentioned, is I always introduce new stuff because I want to make the class interesting for me, too. (That one of the reasons why I’m baffled by teachers who do page 1, and then they do page 2, and then they do page 3, etc. Wouldn’t it be more pleasant to just shoot yourself in the head and end it?) And I agree with you that the teacher’s enthusiasm — your enthusiasm — is contagious. (Every good teacher that I ever had seemed to love teaching, and most of the bad ones looked at it as if it were a burden).

I should probably start a new thread for this, but I enjoy this sense of a discussion that’s beginning, so I have a question for you, Ela (and others): Why/How did you get into teaching? (Maria and Sue, it seems as though this thread is gaining some momentum. If this new direction — “Why/How did you get into teaching?” gets much of a response, let’s transfer it to a new thread, but I hope that we can leave it here for now.)

Sincerely,
Sam Simian
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  #8  
Old 04-07-2008, 09:42 PM
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Default Sweet Reward but....Time Eater??

I like discovery based lessons. However, I have always found that they take quite a while to do because immersion in the content is so important. Also, you have to keep guiding and encouraging until the students figure out what you want them to. Then, the rewards are great. But, darn, it seems to take a while to get to a point that I had been squirming to make for the previous 45 minutes!

At the college where I teach, we have less than 45 hours to cover about 8 major grammar topics like past modals, passive voice, determiners/articles, tricky SVA, etc. We also have to spend serious review time on verb tenses, gerunds and infinitives, and a few items taught at the previous level. Obviously, there is no question of "mastery", so I aim for familiarity, general comprehension, and enough understanding so the student can self-correct with some guidance.

Whether or not I cover the material, it is on the departmental final exam. Consequently, we work at breakneck speed. For those of you who employ discovery techniques, can you share some typical lessons (no formal plans needed!) and an idea of timing?
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Old 04-18-2008, 11:28 PM
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Default Ela's Lesson on the Causative "Have"

I've attached Ela's Lesson on the Causative "Have" to this message. It also available in Teacher-Created Materials under UUEG Chapter 15:
http://azargrammar.com/materials/uue...hrCreated.html

I apologize for the delay in getting this posted to the website. I've been slowly digging my way out of work piled up from being gone for 2 weeks.

Ela,

Please send us more of your wonderful grammar discovery lessons. I promise to get them published more quickly next time!

Thank you so much for sharing your materials.

Best,

Sue
Attached Files
File Type: doc LessononCausativeHave.doc (48.5 KB, 17 views)
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  #10  
Old 04-19-2008, 02:40 PM
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Default Awesome, Ela!

I just checked out your lesson, Ela. I love the built-in discovery!

Thanks for sharing this,

Maria
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