EFLIS Newsletter

EFLIS News, Volume 3:1 (August 2003)

by User Not Found | 11/04/2011

EFLIS Masthead.

In This Issue...

A Short Term TEFL Training Course in the Czech Republic
Roll Call as Warm-Up
Considering Computer Technology in EFL Teaching in Kazakhstan
Practical Handbook Introduced For Elementary School English Activities
New Formatting Guidelines For Article Submissions
About This Member Community


A Short Term TEFL Training Course in the Czech Republic

Charles Hall, University of Memphis, cehall@memphis.edu; Gabriela Kleckova, University of Memphis, gabriela_kleckova@yahoo.com; Janet Rees, University of West Bohemia, janetrees701@hotmail.com

Immediately after the 1989 "Velvet Revolution" in former Czechoslovakia, many untrained North Americans were being hired to teach EFL at universities and secondary schools. With initial support from the Fulbright Commission, Professors Eva Valentova and Charles Hall began an intensive three-week TEFL course to provide basic ELT skills for at least some of these future teachers. The course was created as a component of a larger international summer language school organized by the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen, the Czech Republic. Over the years the needs of the participants have changed, and the days of the completely untrained teaching in the Czech Republic are long gone. Now, we clearly offer the program as just a first step in teacher training. The current structure of the course that we present here reflects twelve years of modification and evaluation.

We understand that short-term TEFL training courses are often controversial and viewed by many as demeaning or even detrimental to the profession. Nonetheless, these certificate courses are quite common and serve as a first step in EFL teacher training. Keeping that in mind, we must constantly reassess which materials and topics we wish to include or remove since there are finite limits to what can be learnt in a course of three to five weeks. From the beginning, rather than designing a syllabus that imposes a fixed EFL teaching model, we have worked to introduce the participants to the skills, strategies, and teacher resources that will enable them to continue to grow as teachers.

The course, offered only once a year in July, recruits native speakers of English and advanced non-natives from many countries. There are no formal requirements for admission and participants have ranged from beginning college students to those with advanced degrees. The central parts of the program are

1) basic training in current TEFL methods,
2) structured teaching in an EFL environment,
3) intense social interaction with EFL students, and
4) an authentic second language learning experience.

1. TEFL TRAINING

Five days a week participants (known locally as the "TEFLers") have two TEFL classes. The first class, taught by an American ELT trainer, is a 90-minute applied theory class that deals mainly with methodologies, SLA, grammar, introduction to phonetics, and the role of culture. The second, led by a Czech ELT trainer, is a 90-minute methods class that handles self-evaluation and analysis, lesson planning, and classroom management. While the theory class provides a general background to the EFL/ESL field, the focal point of the methods class is the actual teaching that the participants do in a 45-minute, structured teaching experience with genuine EFL students.

2. TEACHING EXPERIENCE

The participants daily teach a 45-minute class for an ability-based group of 15-18 English learners, who also have four additional hours of formal English instruction daily by experienced teachers from Canada, Britain, Ireland, the United States, and the Czech Republic.

The preparation for each day's teaching is done in the methods class where the TEFLers learn new techniques or create appropriate activities after analyzing what went well and not so well in the previous day's lesson. Through the sharing of successes and failures, participants develop self-confidence and introspective skills.

We use both direct and indirect methods to monitor the TEFLers' teaching. To make the training international, a senior British faculty member who does not otherwise work with the participants conducts a formal observation of each of the participants. The observer then reviews the evaluation with each participant and then with us. In addition, we also receive informal feedback on the TEFLer's progress from the EFL students and from the experienced teachers who teach these classes the rest of the day. If the feedback gives us concern about a participant's ability, we work more intensely with that person to address the students' concerns. Using this system, we have had only one TEFLer who failed to meet the challenges of teaching and could not be entrusted with a class.

3. SOCIAL INTERACTION

Since both the EFL students and the TEFLers are taking part in an intensive three-week course, the TEFLers usually spend many hours outside the formal classroom socializing with their students and other participants in the school who act as cultural guides. The students, who come from up to 20 different countries, informally help the TEFLers with the transition from student to teacher and through the culture shock they inevitably experience. These social encounters (usually in the famous Czech pubs) often provide rich material to be discussed in the two TEFL classes in which the importance of the role of culture in ELT training has dramatically increased over the twelve years we have been doing these courses.

4. SECOND LANGUAGE LEARNING EXPERIENCE

The fourth part of the program places the participants in experientially based "Czech as a Second Language" [CSL] course taught by teachers who speak little if any English. Having a teacher who does not speak their language allows the TEFLers to experience how their future ESOL students will perceive them. Moreover, the experiential nature of the course involves authentic tasks, such as buying tram tickets or ordering a meal, and takes the TEFLers outside the sheltered classroom environment where they themselves must face the real-life demands of coping in an unfamiliar language and culture.

Additionally, the CLS course permits the TEFLers to discuss their own feelings on what works and does not work for them as they learn Czech and then apply their experience to their own teaching.

Although the program is relatively short, the complexity of the issues and the richness of involvement mark the participants. By the end of program, they have a better idea of whether or not they are capable of committing themselves to a teaching position in a non-English speaking country. Most importantly, through their roles in this program, in which they are trainees, independent teachers, and language learners, the participants learn and practice the rudiments of TEFL methods while knowing that they have just begun their professional development.

School website: http://www.people.memphis.edu/~cehall/summer.html


Roll Call as Warm-Up

Sue Rosenfield, Nigeria, meredebebe@yahoo.com

Teacher trainers almost always urge new teachers to begin each class with a warm-up activity, to get the students in an English 'mind-set.' Indeed, several teacher resource books offer lists of topics suitable for warm-up conversations and suggestions of activities that only take 3-5 minutes.

At the same time, school administrators often require teachers to take attendance each class period. Usually this is a passive, boring activity, which does nothing to increase the students' knowledge of English or of each other (they can all see, for example, that Moussa Ibrahim is sitting in class). Here follows a suggestion to combine attendance-taking and warm-ups, or, more accurately, to use attendance-taking as a warm-up activity.

When the teacher calls the roll, what do the students usually say? Here? Present? Yes? Why limit their response to these few words? Why not choose a category each day and let the students respond with information about themselves in that category?

To start the teacher might say, "Today, when I call your name, do not say 'here;' do not say 'present.' Instead, tell me your favorite color." Another day the subject might be favorite author, place you'd most like to visit, language you'd most like to learn (after English of course!), intended profession, favorite food, favorite weekend activity, or person you admire most.

When I started taking attendance this way students responded favorably. We could make the activity as long or as short as we wanted. Sometimes spontaneous conversation would occur, as when two students discovered that they shared the same favorite author. I would often comment on their preferences, joking, for example, that Salifou, who liked to eat, ought to get together with Mariama, who liked to cook. Sometimes, to 'shake it up' a bit, I would call the roll in reverse alphabetical order, so that the same people were not always responding first. Or call all the females before the males, or vice versa. Or just start in the middle of the attendance list.

Soon students were coming to me with suggestions of categories for roll call. Sometimes, in oral presentations, students would refer to information that had surfaced during these sessions. And always, students would ask me to state my response for the category of the day, so there was a two-way exchange between teacher and students. But the botton line was that we got to know one another better and had a good time in doing so, without losing a lot of class time.

(with thanks to John Fanselow, who inspired this article)

About the author(s): Susan Rosenfeld, Resident Director, Boston University in Niger


Considering Computer Technology in EFL Teaching in Kazakhstan

Sulushash Kerimkulova, Taraz State University, skerimku@yahoo.com

The transition to being an independent country has brought about not only the revival of the native language in Kazakhstan, but the pressure to increase English language learning and computer skills. As the power of computer technology becomes evident, the number of educational institutions and individuals using them has been steadily increasing in Kazakhstan. More and more universities and practically all of the 8,300 secondary schools today have computers for use and have started being connected to the Internet. However, despite this increase and the relatively large technology expenditures over the last few years, computer technology is not being used to its potential and is not integrated yet into the English language curriculum. Thus, its use has not increased the efficacy of language acquisition by the learners.

Investigation was undertaken to find the main concerns of Kazakhstani educators about using computer technology in the EFL classroom as one of the effective and updated means of increasing language acquisition to meet demands. To collect the data, interviews and a survey involving more than 200 EFL teachers from different universities and schools in Kazakhstan were used.

One of the main concerns reported by the teachers was the lack of knowledge and experience in using computer technology. 49% of teachers say they need more knowledge and that they don't consider themselves qualified enough to adequately use computers in instruction. They need to know how to run the machines, how to integrate them into the curriculum, how to organize and effectively manage their students in a technology-based environment. This concern is enhanced by another - lack of adequate training programs to build teachers' confidence and abilities to use computer technology, which is reported by 66% of the respondents. The kind of training , not just availability, seems to also be an important factor, as much of today's educational technology training in Kazakhstan tends to focus more on the mechanics of operating new machinery with little or even no information about integrating it into the curriculum.

Among the most problematic concerns about technology use EFL teachers mention is lack of time to carry out computer activities in the classroom. Schools and universities in Kazakhstan require teachers to spend the vast majority of their school day on actual instruction, which leaves little official time for planning, preparation or learning new things. Furthermore, teachers are practically not given compensated staff development time.

The problem of access to appropriate technologies is reported by 39% of EFL teachers and includes limited hardware and software, high cost of equipment, access to the Internet and inadequate location of technology.

Different attitudes of teachers towards computer technology seem to also be an influencing factor. The use of computer technology in language teaching is considered by many Kazakhstani educators as an "art", demonstrated by advanced educators, but not yet as a "technology", embraced for use. While some teachers view computer use as a valuable tool for instruction, others consider it as a threat to their role of educators. While some of them express enthusiasm and willingness to take on the new challenge, others, who have consumer expectations stemming from the former Soviet centralized system that computer technology "will be sent" to them "from above", will wait until computer technology in ELT becomes an established standard. But the research makes it clear enough that teachers who are familiar with computers are more confident about using them for instruction and report more positive attitudes about the instructional effectiveness of computers than those who are not.

As the result of the research, some approaches were outlined to help to deal with the teachers' concerns, overcome the existing barriers and enhancing computer technology integration in EFL teaching. In the situation described above, certain administrative efforts can and must play a definite facilitative role in technology integration. The linchpin of administrative policy could be a set of initiatives that develop and support technology and help teachers in their activities.

Investing in technology is essential. But more essential is investing in the human resources. "It's not how much technology you have that counts, it's what you do with it". The focus of administrative policy, which is now mainly on hardware investment in Kazakhstan, should change to teacher preparation, development, support and constantly growing demand on the teacher's time. Teacher training is found to be a critical component for the successful implementation of computer technology and it can play an important role in fostering favorable attitudes towards computers. A good staff development training program should be developed. It can include:

  • hands-on computer workshops, which has proved to be the most effective training method;
  • "train -the -trainers" strategy - approach, by which the most enthusiastic and motivated to learn teachers are given intensive training and become responsible for teaching and training their colleagues;
  • workshops with peers, which were reported as one of the preferred types of training;
  • follow-up support and coaching, which is as essential as is the initial learning experience.
  • Another approach for the educational institutions that want to function more effectively is to find ways to give teachers time to develop personal confidence and expertise through experimenting with new technologies, sharing experience, planning and debugging lessons that incorporate technologies, attending workshops and training sessions.

Increased focus on teachers, including time and money to allow them to learn to use technology, support for their professional growth, respect for the complex nature of learning and the many demands facing teachers today, and research on how technology affects teaching and school change are the necessary components for taking advantage of learning technology and optimizing its use by EFL teachers. Certain steps have already been taken in this direction and nowadays we have certain prerequisites for computer technology integration into the EFL teaching in Kazakhstan.


Practical Handbook Introduced For Elementary School English Activities

Daniel Droukis, dandro@jcom.home.ne.jp

Introduction

In April of 2002 Japanese elementary schools were given the option of teaching English in grades three through six as part of the new "Period of Integrated Studies". In preparation for this, a handbook was published outlining what teachers and administrators should consider if they choose to adopt English activities as part of the school program. The handbook provides an interesting insight into the plans for introducing English into the elementary schools.

What is the purpose of English activities?

It is emphasized that English "lessons" will not be taught in the schools but there will be "activities" which, "foster interest and desire in the students and to promote contact with people of other cultures so as to encourage the desire to use English" (MEXT 2001:123). The activities should be done in a way that encourages the student to focus on using spoken English. Teachers are advised to have the students, "listening and speaking while being physically active and not sitting" (MEXT 2001:123). The activities therefore must promote activity rather than passive learning.

The guidelines for elementary schools indicate that, "it is essential that the students develop an interest in English, hear it and have satisfaction in being able to express themselves using it" (MEXT 2001:126). When considering the content of activities the teachers need to ascertain what the students want to say and introduce items that are found in the students' daily lives.

Select Basic and Useful Expressions

Teachers are advised to select expressions that are often used. I can only wonder when the children are going to get the opportunity to use these expressions unless they consist of classroom directions, which the teacher would use in every activity. It would seem more natural to give the students the expressions they need to make the activities more personal by showing them how to say what school they go to, what they like their age etc. If the students can be taught these expressions, they can relate better to the language because they are saying something that has a direct connection to their lives. Once, in a junior high school class I was teaching many years ago I asked some students how they were. Without exception they answered, "I'm fine, thank you. And you?" It wasn't until one brave soul raised his hand to ask; "What does "I'm fine, thank you. And you?" mean?", that I realized they had been learning a lot of English but were not able to connect it to the real world. Therefore, we need to seriously consider what expressions and vocabulary will be useful for young people.

Teaching Methods

There are two possibilities in doing these activities with students; team-teaching, where the Japanese homeroom teacher and a foreign teacher (Assistant Language Teachers=ALT) work together in the classroom or the single-teacher, where the Japanese homeroom teacher conducts the lessons alone. Whether a school or school system adopts the team-teaching method or chooses to have the classes done by the homeroom teacher will depend on the availability of ALT's in the area. No single method is required at this time so the schools will be free to choose the method that meets their needs.

Precautions

When teaching with an ALT it is also important to consider what should be avoided. Firstly, teachers are encouraged not to translate everything into Japanese. It is considered to be important that the students have the feeling that they generally understand what the ALT says even if the details are not completely understood. In doing this it is hoped that the Japanese teacher will eventually use less Japanese as the year progresses.

The teachers are also strongly advised against pronouncing any words in katakana (Japanese phonetic alphabet for foreign words). If katakana is used, it will encourage the students to mispronounce words and produce incorrect sounds. Teachers are also discouraged from forcing memorization or overly correcting small mistakes. Students who are timid about speaking should not be forced into activities but activities should be done in a way that allows the more timid students to participate freely.

Creating a Yearly Activity Plan

When considering recommendations for initiating the program, an understanding of available activity types is necessary. MEXT wants teachers to consider a variety of activity types. Included are the following:

Activities exposing students to the sound and rhythm of English. (Through songs, chants etc.)
Activities exposing students to English words and expressions. (Through games etc.)
Activities exposing students to English expressions. (Focusing on situations ie. Shopping)
Activities which help students develop a familiarity with English through actual experiences (Cooking etc.)
Activities focusing on self-expression in English. (Theater etc.) (MEXT 2000:146)

These activities will be meaningful in exposing the students to English or allowing the student to actually use the language. How well this will prepare them for English they will experience in junior high school remains to be seen. If the students are able to bring knowledge of the language to the junior high school years, then I will have to reconsider my plans for communication classes in grades seven through nine (Japanese junior high school).

Selecting Topics

In selecting topics it is advised that teachers consider seven areas from which to choose the topics. Topics that are familiar to the students such as play, food or items found around the house would be one area teachers could select. Another group of topics would be those that relate to the developmental stage of the students and could include hopes, dreams and future work. The seasons are an area that students could easily relate to and thus teachers could work on activities for students. The local community could also be used as a topic. The students could be encouraged to introduce their hometowns. The final suggested topic is school itself. Topics related to school subjects the students are familiar with could be a springboard for activities. These topics will have to be considered along with the grade levels. Some topics will not work as well with the younger students.

Conclusion

We seem to be entering new territory in the Japanese education system. How many school systems will choose to have English activities as part of the Period of Integrated Studies? If we in junior high school have more students who have a greater exposure to English, how will our classes be affected? I am wondering if I will someday have a great difference in the level of English ability for the students coming to my junior high school classes. There seems to an interesting mix of potential activities for the students to do in this new period of study. Since the guidelines leave a lot of room for flexibility I hope that the schools take advantage of this and make language use fun. The Practical Handbook for Elementary School English Activities could be a very useful guide to those working at the elementary school level. It also gives others at the junior high school level an indication of what experiences the students may have had before entering junior high school. Until now, my classes have been a novelty for the first year students. I do worry that this will not be the case in the future and that instead of making my job easier the exposure to English will mean the novelty has worn off and that the students will come to class with a fixed idea that they either like or hate English. In any case it will be interesting to see what is said of the program when the current school year ends. Hopefully, the majority of the students will have a positive attitude toward English.

Reference Practical Handbook for Elementary School English Activities.

Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. 2001.


New Formatting Guidelines For Article Submissions

Dear People,

Due to the new e-format, we now have some simple formatting guidelines for your submissions. Please send your 200-1000 word articles in a single spaced Word file. Remember that topics can include classroom action research, successful classroom practices and techniques, description of teaching conditions in a particular country or region, conference reports or reviews, or book reviews. As soon as we learn more particulars of the new style, we'll let you know.

Thanks a lot, and we'll be looking forward to your valuable contributions as always.

Leslie and Marina.


About This Member Community English as a Foreign Language Interest Section

TESOL's English as a Foreign Language Interest Section facilitates idea exchanges on global and specific EFL/ESL issues, bringing together professionals who have had/intend to have EFL/ESL experiences in different countries, and provides an international network on teaching positions and professional interests worldwide.

Leaders

Gary Butzbach, Cochair, alcrabat@mtds.com
Sally Harris, Cochair, ssharris@nwc.edu
Jane Hoelker, Chair-Elect, jane.hoelker@zu.ac.ae
Leslie Bobb Wolff, Coeditor, lbobb@ull.es
Marina Gonzalez, Coeditor, minushki@yahoo.com

Community e-list: Sign up at http://www.tesol.org/getconnected/