My Map To Scale?
by Mark Wilson
Sequence 2: Limits Of Validity
teaching is not just a matter of assuming there are certain
"good things to do in the classroom" and then applying
them uncritically. It is a question of constant watchfulness
and decision-making, prioritising options for optimal effect,
choosing the most appropriate next step at each point. To
a large extent this can happen at the planning stage, but
to a certain extent it has to happen on the spur of the moment
in the classroom itself. Over time, the better I develop my
instincts for such decision-making, the less meticulous I
need to be in planning. These instincts can perhaps best be
developed by questioning the limits of validity of any given
Here is a list of things which are often regarded as "good
practice". For each of them, think of as many ways as
possible of completing the following sentence, then discuss
is/are valid for ....... but not if ..............
getting students to compare their answers
setting tasks and activities
getting students to predict
getting students to read aloud
getting students to explain language points to each other
using dictionaries in class
going over homework in class
the list can be extended, adapted and constantly updated.
It might take several sessions to cover all of it in satisfying
depth. Through such discussion, and perhaps by comparing with
results obtained from previous discussion groups, teachers
come not only to question their own practice but to feel part
of an emerging consensus as to what is and isn't valid in
their particular teaching context. And where controversy arises,
that too is part of the process: simply add a rider to the
framework-sentence so that it reads:
is/are valid for ..... but not if ......; but ..... or .....?"
then explore the controversy in their subsequent teaching.
practice, it is of course useful for the session leader to
have sketched out their own "suggested answers"
in advance, and then to seek an appropriate blend of elicitation
and guidance during feedback. If you would like a set of already
road-tested "suggested answers", contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
results of a discussion on the first item - brainstorming
- might look like this:
is valid for
getting Ss thinking about a given topic as a lead-in
to a task (reading, listening or writing)
- diagnosing how much vocab they already know in a given
- reinforcing/extending what Ss come up with by adding
a collocational element
it goes on too long
- teacher doesn't clearly distinguish between diagnosis
and input (i.e. assumes that what they come up with
is all they need)
- not challenging enough
- teacher automatically puts everything up on board
regardless of how new or useful
- teacher doesn't fix new items on board and get Ss
to copy in notebooks
- T doesn't check that what is written in notebooks
is in fact correct
- teacher doesn't check that all Ss understand (and
hear!) the items that come up
so on for the other listed aspects of classroom practice.
Task Sequence 3: Four Truths Of Teaching
Task 1: For each of the four statements below, discuss:
To what extent is it true? What should be done about it?
What you put in doesn't necessarily go in.
2. What goes in doesn't necessarily stay in.
3. What stays in doesn't necessarily come out.
4. What comes out wasn't necessarily put in.
2: Extend each of the four statements by adding "because..."
|Mark Wilson is a DOS and teacher trainer at International House, San Sebastián. He previously worked in the UK, Indonesia, India and the Dominican Republic.
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