I presented at the 2018 KOTESOL conference on teaching delimiters (definite & indefinite articles). I have posted my workshop notes on my website on a new page for teaching delimiters:
I have also posted the PPT slides on my website:
I presented at the 2018 KOTESOL conference on teaching delimiters (definite & indefinite articles). I have posted my workshop notes on my website on a new page for teaching delimiters:
I have also posted the PPT slides on my website:
Beginning college students may be unclear about the types of materials that they can refer to in papers, so it is necessary to provide an overview of different types of sources, and why some are preferred, possibly acceptable, or not suitable for college papers (e.g., research papers and essays). These generally fall into the category of general, popular sources, which are usually not suitable for college papers (but with exceptions), and academic papers. However, some better quality, higher level non-academic sources are typically used, especially for first-year (and second-year) papers. These will be referred to as professional sources here.
See also: Academic versus non-academic writing
Sources can be categorized as academic, professional, or popular by the following criteria.
These in turn affect factors like tone, style, and the type of venue where it is published.
For more on these types of sources, see the following pages on the English Wiki.
See alo the following pages on the English Wiki Youtube channel.
For college term papers, research papers, or essays, students may be told to use academic sources. However, real bona fide academic sources may be too difficult for most college students to understand and use meaningfully for a paper. They may only begin to deal with real academic sources in their third or fourth year of college, and it is mainly graduate students that begin to engage with real academic sources regularly. Students are also told to avoid popular or general sources, but there are some popular sources that are better than others, which can be used.
I find this two-way distinction confusing and unhelpful. Instead, in my courses I use a three-way distinction:
These can be distinguished by the following criteria.
These in turn influence the writing tone and style, and where and how the material is disseminated. For more, see my wiki page on this, and my Youtube video, an introduction to evaluating sources.
In spite of its obvious strengths, some have criticized communicative language teaching (CLT). Some have said that it does not apply well in an East Asian context, and that it does not apply well to some courses such as content based instruction or writing instruction. To some degree, these criticisms may be unfair; for example, East Asian students can learn to embrac inductive style learning. But a few shortcomings do exist in CLT, which I propose to remedy with a somewhat expanded paradigm.
Cognitive communicative language teaching (CCLT) is how I describe a synthesis of techniques into a more integrated approach that is situated within the framework of cognitive, social, and learning psychology, which subsumes principles of the psychology of learning and cognitive approaches to grammar and linguistics. This framework thus includes cognitive grammar and communicative language teaching (CLT). The communicative component is situated within a social psychology or socio-cognitive framework. This will allow teachers to contextualize language teaching to their students’ particular needs, levels, and socio-cultural context.
This framework subsumes and goes beyond the current communicative language teaching (CLT) approach in several ways. It is concerned not only with communicative competence, but other learner needs as well, especially in contexts like East Asia, where English is an entirely foreign language, not spoken often outside the classroom. Students need some level of communicative ability, but more often they may feel other more important needs as well, or teachers can offer the unmotivated learner other intellectual benefits beyond L2 competence as rationales for learning. These might include the ability to better learn content area knowledge in their fields via English, cultural awareness, or becoming a better global citizen.
More notably, it goes further than CLT by indicating goals for curricula or lessons. Instructional goals are not just in communicative competence, but also helping learners improve in learning autonomy, specifically, their intrinsic sense of autonomy; in improving learners’ sense of achievement, accomplishment, or growth; and in improving in some form of interpersonal connectedness in the L2 or via the L2. These goals come from Self-Determination theory in psychology, and are important for improving learners’ motivation toward the L2, especially given the problems of English teaching in the East Asian context.
Incidentally, a few scholars may have juxtaposed the terms cognitive and communicative, but this CCLT framework is more comprehensive and ambitious in its approach. The communicative component, for example, is to be framed within a larger socio-cognitive framework of human communication. The goals of learning and teaching are framed within the students’ cognitive needs and interest in learning a language, be it L2 mastery or sufficient L2 competence for personal or professional goals, or intellectual growth, or cultural understanding and being a better global citizen. Finally, lessons and curricula are framed within motivational theory and should be designed to promote learners’ sense of competence, growth, learning autonomy, and (possibly) social connectedness.
This website (in its current form) has just started in Sept. 2015, and relevant contents and future research will hopefully follow over the coming years.
The community of language teaching professionals, educators, and linguists need to convey to the public, parents, school systems, and education ministries of the governments the need for communicatively oriented language teaching in East Asia.
First and foremost are the facts that traditional language instruction have failed the students. Teaching to tests has failed the students, and the tests themselves are poor measures of real English proficiency. The Korean College Scholastic Aptitude Test, or suneung and the TOEFL and TOEIC are not adequate measures of real English ability. Teaching to these tests simply makes students memorize information that they cannot use. The test-oriented teaching methods fail students most of all when they find themselves unable to cope with college courses taught in English at East Asian universities; when they cannot cope with academic texts – research journals, books, and textbooks in English – that are necessary for college courses; when they cannot cope with English texts or media or real life situations requiring English in their later careers and professional situations. CLT, especially a cognitively oriented variety, can better prepare them for even receptive uses of English (reading, comprehension skills) in life, for the following reasons.
One of the greatest obstacles of a second language is the lack of mental efficiency, the amount of extra processing time and effort it takes, in doing any kind of task in an L2 – be it a production task (writing, speaking) or a receptive task (reading, listening). The learner must use more conscious working memory to process both the language and the contents conveyed by the language, which can be slow and tiring. Only hundreds of hours of meaningful practice can help to alleviate this burden. Only with meaningful exposure, practice and use can the learner develop some degree of automaticity in the L2. Meaningful use of the L2 can be accomplished with communicative tasks in the classroom; it cannot be accomplished with behavioristic learning methods and rote studying methods (i.e., large scale memorization and traditional teaching/learning methods).
A goal of a cognitively oriented CLT, as I envision it, is also learner empowerment and autonomy – teaching the learner to learn on his/her own outside the classroom by engaging with authentic materials, e.g., books, online materials and media in the L2. Learners can get far more meaningful exposure to the L2 through authentic materials, more than in the limited classroom time that they would have. This would be better for developing authenticity and intrinsic motivation for learning the L2, especially if they have the freedom to choose their learning materials.
If students want to do better on language tests, it is best if they not study for the tests, I would argue. That is, if they study too hard for the tests, they are less likely to do well. If they want to develop real English skills, confidence, and a genuine understanding of English, then it is best if they do not study specifically for these tests, but for the sake of English for their own enjoyment and learning (not just learning English, but learning other things through English media). Self-empowered study can boost their mental efficiency and lower their sense of stress, and the burden and stress of L2 processing, and they can boost their confidence by learning from authentic materials.
See also my blog post exploring more rationales for CLT in East Asia.
The dilemma of teachers wanting to promote communicative competence in the L2 is that students’ and parents’ goals may not agree with this. In fact, the whole system may be resisting this. So how can teachers press on with their desired goal? We don’t have to sacrifice this goal, but we can cast this into a larger cognitive framework, which includes:  cognitive rationales for language learning, and  cognitively oriented goals in language learning that can supplement the goal of communicative competence. I will come back to rationales later as a selling point for CLT, especially a cognitively oriented CLT. In this post, I will say more about other valid goals that teachers can invoke, that will complement and enhance the competence goal. Even if students are not interested in competence, these other goals can help promote competence, motivation, or other important life skills.
College and career preparation. If students understand that they need English for college courses and for on-the-job purposes in their future careers, this might help them to engage in English learning. This has to be presented not in a condescending or preachy manner, but through activities that pertain to college contexts, their major fields of study, or future job and workplace situations.
Developing learning strategies. Students have often been taught English poorly here, and need to learn better learning strategies, not only for English but for other skill areas as well. They need to understand that a heavy emphasis on brute-force rote memorization of vocabulary and grammar rules will not work. The Oxford inventory (by Rebecca Oxford) of L2 learning styles can be a good start for discussion. Teachers need not administer it, but use this as the basis for discussion of better learning strategies. This leads to the next point.
Empowering learners to learn independently. Many learners are still dependent on college or hagwon classes (private cram schools or language schools in Korea) for learning, when they can learn more on their own; and they still depend on commercially produced textbooks, grammar books, or vocab books that are boring and that rely on ALM, PPP, or GTM approaches. From intermediate levels, they should start learning on their own, outside of the classroom. At intermediate and especially at advanced levels, they can learn more outside of class than in class. This involves teaching them to learn on their own by exposing themselves and engaging with authentic materials, such as books, online videos, popular music, and TV shows. This can be far more motivating than classroom learning. Some of the strategies in Oxford’s inventory pertain to independent learning. This is especially helpful in places like Korea where English is entirely a foreign language.
Critical thinking skills. Students can be taught about critical thinking skills in the L2, and the fact that they gain important academic and life skills like this, I would surmise, will in the long run help their motivation or appreciation for English. This can include understanding logical fallacies, constructing persuasive and logical arguments in writing and in presentations, reading between the lines and inferencing skills, constructing counter-arguments, and being responsible citizens who possess (I think Carl Sagan coined this term) “baloney detectors” to detect bogus arguments in politics or elsewhere. Likewise, students can be taught to question assumptions, e.g., learning to recognize and question sexist influences and messages in advertising that objectify men and women (I once did this in an ESL writing class in the US).
The above points lead to matters of social and cultural awareness, which I will discuss next time. These are selling points to students, which can help them appreciate their English classes, and these types of lessons can get them more into communicating in English, when the lessons deal with interesting issues and skills that generalize to their lives outside of the classroom.
This is a follow-up on my previous post on the role of CLT (communicative language teaching) in East Asia.cclt.logo
The CLT/TBLT paradigm has encountered resistance here – perhaps not so much direct opposition, as far as I know, from the government, educators, or the public, but probably more of simply ignorance and apathy about it, and a resistance to change. Parents, private academies, and others just assume that the traditional methods (ALM and GTM) are okay, since they are mainly concerned with test scores and grades, rather than meaningful learning. If a teacher gets a TESOL certificate and learns about CLT, but then gets a job at a private academy or cram school (hagwon), their supervisors will insist that they teach using ALM/PPP and/or GTM. The parents seem to expect that, too, since the parents want their kids to get good scores, so they can enter the better universities and get good jobs. A very sad situation.
However, increasingly the realities of life crash against this mechanical process. More college courses are taught in English, and the kids are not ready for that, despite all the years of cramming English and behavioristic learning. Increasingly, they will have to speak and write English on the job, at least in some fields. But this is not true for all fields. Some may realistically not have to write or communicate much in English, but will need passive skills — reading and maybe listening to English at times in their fields.
So the first challenge is how to sell the benefits of CLT to the public, to the Education Ministry, to educators, and to students. (I’m using CLT as an umbrella term for CLT in its various forms, and for TBLT). The second challenge is meeting the needs of students who really are not going to need higher communicative skills in English. Their motivations and needs are different. Teachers trained in CLT naturally aim for communicative competence, but honestly, some students will not be interested in it, or may not have such a strong need for it. Those who are interested may have other valid reasons for learning English, like needing to comprehend English materials, learning content area knowledge in English (e.g., in college courses), and such. Others are not interested, simply because the system has killed their motivation — this poses a third challenge for CLT here.
That is why I think it will help to situate CLT within a larger cognitive framework. A cognitive framework can provide important rationales and methods for communicative learning, even for those who sense no need for communicative competence. It can provide learning rationales and goals for teaching and learning English in addition to communicative competence. And it might help reach those who have been burned by the system, by addressing their motivational problems within the framework of social-personality psychology.
Let me just outline some of these cognitive rationales here, and talk more about them in future blog posts. In brief, some reasons for CLT in an EFL context like this are:
In brief, some additional cognitive goals for learning as follows:
A cognitively oriented approach to CLT could help us to realize these kinds of goals and rationales. I will expand on these ideas and talk about the above points more specifically in some future blog posts.
A criticism that I have heard of communicative language teaching [CLT] is that it does not apply well in East Asia (in my case, Korea). A couple of reasons for this are given or implied. I would like to address these criticisms here.
One type of reasoning that I think was underlying the criticism I heard from one teacher at a previous workplace is that it is foreign to the educational culture here. The middle school, high school, and college culture emphasize passive student learning from lectures, deductive transmission of knowledge from teachers to students, and non-interactive learning. However, to imply that East Asian students cannot learn and benefit from inductive and interactive learning methods due to cultural constraints is wrong. In fact, it seems to insult the intelligence of East Asian students, who are cognitively no different than we are, just because of cultural constraints. I have seen my students embrace interactive learning in my university classrooms. They have found it to be a refreshing change from their previous classroom experiences, and they have adjusted quickly and learned well. Some have commented on how much they appreciated the approach – either in final course evaluations, or unsolicited comments in the classroom.
The second argument is a more sound and valid one, which I heard from a conference talk by a well known applied linguist. At the recent KATE conference (Korean Assoc. of Teachers of English), Eli Hinkel noted that a problem of CLT in Korea is the EFL context (English as a foreign language – a totally foreign language in the environment / country and not used naturally outside the classroom). This would, I assume the argument would go, work against teachers’ attempts to have students learn communicative English in the classroom, when there are few opportunities for meaningful communicative use of English outside the classroom. One way of answering that is to adjust the goals and expectations of language teaching, even in CLT, to the EFL context, which I will talk about in a future blog post.
Korean students today will sometimes use English in certain contexts – when they deal with non-Koreans in Korea, at work, or when travelling or studying abroad. Most of all, they will have to deal with real English at the university in Korea. In Korea and other East Asian countries, there is an increasing trend toward English-medium instruction [EMI] in college classrooms, that is, regular courses taught in English. At Korea University, for example, about 45% of undergraduate courses in various majors are taught in English. This is also a trend at other Korean universities, and in other nations. For Koreans, in their academic or professional lives, they will have to deal with English as the global language of their professions. So in CLT/TBLT classrooms, the tasks and activities could be more tailored to the actual situations where they will use English in their lives – e.g., classroom situations, and various professional contexts. These could include college and graduate school class lectures and activities, business meetings, business travel situations, team projects, and others.
In my next post (in c. one week or so), I will talk about realistic goals for CLT instruction in an EFL environment like in East Asia.
The process approach to writing focuses on teaching students a systematic approach to writing, and such classes may involve a lesson where students introspect on their writing process – their pre-writing strategies, their drafting and revision process, and other aspects of their writing. Many students can find this helpful for identifying some of their problems, and for learning to use more prewriting techniques. It is also designed to get them to treat writing as a multi-step process, to revise more systematically, and to focus on more important content-level issues in revision rather than on mechanical and grammatical details.
My approach goes further by addressing the problems they have with writer’s block and procrastination, which often have similar roots. These may be because the have chosen a topic that is too broad, and they cannot figure out how to start because it is overwhelming. In this case, a brainstorming technique could help identify a more specific topic. This could be because the topic is properly specific, or too specific, and they lack sufficient information, and need to gather information and ideas first.
Often, though, it is due to psychological barriers. They may have internalized negative voices of criticism from past teachers or parents, which paralyze them and cause anxiety when trying to do an assignment. They may suffer from perfectionism, which makes them worried about what the professor will think about their writing, or the grade they will get, the poor quality of their draft, or such. They could be stressed or burned out, and may need a break, or may need to break the task into smaller, more doable chunks. They have to accept that a seemingly poor, incomplete draft is simply a necessary first step to a process of revision and improving the paper. In the short term, they may learn to focus on brainstorming and prewriting techniques to get them over the obstacle of the assignment at hand. Over the long term, they need to instrospect on the sources of their blocks and confront them.
In my writing class, I have students discuss these issues in groups and then we discuss them together as a class. Then they write a short paper evaluating their writing process and their difficulties. In short:
This should focus on not what they think they should do, but what they really do, and why. This can be a good opportunity for class discussion of motivational problems and psychological barriers to writing or learning, especially if they have had bad educational experiences, or have come from high-stress learning environments, which have hurt their self-esteem.
The following is a handout that I have used for this unit.
I once wrote a little poem for the elements of the periodic table. I wrote it, hoping to use it with non-native English-speaking professors who needed practice with scientific or academic English. I never found a suitable audience to try this on, though, so I might as well put it out here. This was inspired by Tom Lehrer’s song, ‘The Elements,’ and if sung, should be sung to his melody (actually, I know nothing about music, but his tune seems apropos). Unlike his song, this poem arranges them in order of the periodic table. Feel free to use this for scientists to practice their chemistry pronunciation, or for just geeky fun. A more entertaining song of the elements in correct order is available here.
For academic English teachers, songs or poems like this would be useful for English stress patterns and consonant assimilation (blending) patterns. I recently revised this a bit after two of the newer elements were given permanent names.
There are 118 elements in the periodic chart – we’ll see if we can tell them apart.
We’ll sing this song to help you remember, maybe you’ll get them down by next December.
Well, there’s hydrogen, helium, lithium, and beryllium,
boron, carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen,
Nasty old fluorine and pretty neon, and sodium, which in Latin is called natrium.
There’s magnesium and aluminum, which the Brits call aluminium,
silicon, phosphorus, sulfur, chlorine, and argon,
And potassium, which in Latin is called kalium.
There’s calcium, scandium, titanium, vanadium and chromium and manganese
And we have the magnetic elements of iron (or ferrum in Latin), and cobalt and nickel.
We have copper and zinc and gallium and germanium
and arsenic, which can make you quite sick
and selenium, bromine, krypton, rubidium and strontium,
and yttrium, zirconium, niobium, molybdenum and technetium,
ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, silver and cadmium,
and indium, tin, ántimony, tellurium, iodine and xenon.
And after cesium and barium we have the lanthanide or rare earth series:
lanthanum, cerium, praseodymium, neodymium and promethium;
Our friend samarium makes our speaker magnets, and the rest are a bit humdrum –
europium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium, and holmium
erbium, thulium, ytterbium, and lutetium – that concludes the lanthanides.
And through the rest we continue our ride,
With hafnium, tantalum, tungsten, rhenium and osmium and iridium;
Our friends platinum, gold, and mercury;
Then thallium, lead, bismuth, and polonium
and astatine, radon, francium, and radium
Next we have the actinides, they’re pretty exotic, radioactive, or quixotic –
There’s actinium, thorium, protactinium, and uranium,
neptunium, plutonium, americium, and curium,
berkelium, californium, einsteinium and fermium,
mendelevium, nobelium, lawrencium and rutherfordium,
dubnium, seaborgium, bohrium, and hassium,
meitnerium, darmstadtium, roentgenium, and copernicium.
How about a couple more? They’ve added flerovium and livermorium.
Had a mouthful? There’s more, with longer names in store
Newly synthesized ones with names provisional, made by means quite collisional –
ununtrium and ununpentium, ununseptium and ununoctium.
That’s what we have so far, 118 elements that we’ve made or discovered.
Check back later, more will be added or uncovered.
Maybe they’ll find unobtainium, or an island of stability
But for now I think 118 are plenty for you and me.
(Kent Lee, Oct. 2013)