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TEACHING BY PRINCIPLES
Brown, H. Douglas. 1994 Teaching by principles. USA: Prentice Hall Regents. Chapter 4. Developed by teacher Francisco Amador Garcia. July 2008.
As we know, teaching is not only to have many strategies for the classroom; we have to choose such strategies, techniques, activities, episodes, or methodology from a certain catalogue stored in our minds, internet, books, and many sources teachers have at hand nowadays. Eliciting which technique or strategy to achieve certain goal is based on our personal criteria and experience but, do the strategies work for all people, groups, levels, ages, or classrooms? Of course not. If we decide to include a strategy, we must know why we are doing it; it has to be according to the students, to the objective, to the purpose, and the function we are teaching. Teaching by principles (Brown, H. Douglas. 1994) is a useful set of principles that could lead us to proceed in a logical way in language teaching.
Related mainly to mental and intellectual functions.
Principle 1: Automaticy
"Efficient second language learning involves a timely movement of the control of a few language forms into the automatic processing of a relatively unlimited number of language forms. Overanalyzing language, thinking too much about its forms, and consciously lingering on rules of language all tend to impede this graduation to automaticy" (Brown, 1994, p. 56)
First at all,
I would like to tell what usually happens when I meet some of my former students
in the school or the street. One of them is a second grader who, in the afternoon,
works in a bakery next to where I live at. Sometimes I meet this student in
the evening and he, instead of saying hello or good evening, says aloud "May
I come in?" as a greeting; this because students always ask for permission
that way to enter to the classroom. Some other three students, also second graders
whom I usually meet during the break, always greet me with "This is Jairo's
sweater" and point at their partner Jairo when doing so because an activity
of saying whom the garments belonged to in class. Jairo is one of the most advanced
students of that group (in fact from the school) and, when the activity took
place almost a year ago, he borrowed his sweater to be part of a set of garments
which were used in the activity. I believe that they use the expressions without
thinking too much in the structure, only as something funny (for them) learned
in the English class. In the first case, I am sure that the "May I come
in student" will be able to use the phrase whenever is needed; if he goes
to an English speaking country he will ask for permission to enter as he has
here in the English class. The second three students will probably analyze the
phrase a little more if they would like to say whom another garment belongs
to. They could be correct or incorrect but, they have a background to do it.
Even though both phrases are short and used in the wrong context, they are used
almost automatically. "Through an inductive process of exposure to language
input and opportunity to experiment with output, they (children) appear to learn
languages without "thinking" about them" (page. 55). In fact,
one the main competencies of teaching proposed by Philippe Perrenoud, is creating
situations of learning (Perrenoud, 1998). In order to achieve automaticy, students
need to be placed in situations where they can solve, real or fiction, problems
or tasks. From this, the importance when eliciting strategies for the classroom;
the teacher has to select those strategies which could take students to achieve
the goal, objective or purpose of the lesson. In secondary, we work with the
functional syllabus approach and it is very helpful and clear to plan activities
to achieve the goal; students are exposed to input and asked to use it in order
to accomplish communicative functions and trying, usually, to have in mind the
context where and when it can be used. There is, or has to be, few grammar explanation.
I remember a novice teacher who used to teach how to convert affirmative sentences
into questions by giving numbers to parts of the speech, something like this:
number 1 the personal pronoun, number 2 the simple present to be verb, and number
3 the direct object. Then, he asked the students to change the order to ask
a question: 2+1+3+? Although grammar explanation is not harmful for kids, they
had, first, recognize parts of the sentences, then to give a number to each
part of the sentence, next to change the numbers and at the end, write the question.
Well, it is hard to acquire automaticy this way and it could be the same when
abusing of translation. To acquire automaticy needs time and effort; it is not
only the three hours per week in class but, by using the language in context
in a purposely manner.
Grammar also could be taught with games such as "Cows enjoy politics in April" where students form sentences from scrambled words, "The auction game" where students bid toy money for correct sentences, "The alphabeticon" where students form, or complete, sentences with tokens, or "Tic tac toe" where words are used to invent sentences. Grammar is necessary but, if we always teach it in the traditional manner, could result boring. For me, it is better not to focus too much attention on it; in secondary boring means not meaningful to learn and it is the opposite we are working for. In fact, I only teach first graders at this moment and according to the Common European framework of references for languages (http: / /culture2.coe.int / portfolio / / documents / 0521803136txt.pdf January 2004) developed by the Council of Europe and, according to the time available for study, students who finish first grade should reach as a minimum the level of A1. This is because the "school term has 200 working days (49 weeks), the three weekly sessions (45-50 minutes each) make a total of 90 to 100 hours of study per grade" (Sep 2006, p. 12). A1 level, also named as Breakthrough, with 90 hours of study (COE, 2001), means that students who finish first grade: "Can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him / herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he / she lives, people he / she knows and things he / she has. Can interact in simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help (COE, 2001)". As we can see, the goals are reasonably set; when a student finish the first grade should know to communicate personal information, talk about possessions, the downtown, the family with the help of the other speaker who must be patient and helpful. So, students must reach this first level, at least, but anyone is saying that when finishing this first grade they have to be able to communicate in all situations. What I mean is that the common myth of "I learned nothing in secondary" is incorrect; If a person wants to learn a language, it is greatly related to time of study so, what students learn in secondary is only the base to continue learning during high school and college. Unfortunately, few people continue practicing after leaving school and starting to work. One of my classmates in the university said once: "Speaking English is like playing the guitar, if you do not practice it you will forget it". This lack of practice, or use, of the language tends to erase everything we learned
In this new school year, a thirteen years old girl who comes from Atlanta, Georgia, and who speaks in English better than does in Spanish, is one of my first grade students. It comes to my mind because is not common to have students with the performance of hers. When the first class finished she approached to my desk and introduced herself, truly I did not expect it; I was shocked for a moment and, then, realized that I was thinking in Spanish. What I did, as soon as I could (some students stood around to listen to the talk), was something I call myself "plugging English language" and start to think in English. So, this thinking in my mother tongue really avoided automaticy in such case, and I think it is more or less the same when students first have to analyze grammar structures or rules and then speak; it stops the fluency and it is just the opposite to get that automaticy. As a conclusion of this principle, I would like to say that it is a guide we can work with but, automaticy takes a lot of time and effort in order to be acquired and, due to time, size of groups, students' interests, teachers' practicum as the more important issues, automaticy is not achieved in this level.
Principle 2: Meaningful learning
"Meaningful learning will lead toward better long-term retention than rote learning" (Brown, 1994, p. 57)
is one of the keywords in language teaching but, could it be included in class
and follow the official program in secondary? As said before, we work with a
functional approach; there is an introductory unit and five units in first grade
program (RES, SEP 2006). Each unit's purpose is clearly stated and each one
has two or three well defined functions with sample productions. These sample
productions are specific samples of language to be learned; for instance: Unit
2. Unit purpose: The purpose of this unit is to enable students to give and
obtain information about possessions and to describe actions that are in progress
at the moment of speaking. Function 2.2: Describing what people are wearing
and/or doing at the moment of speaking. Sample production: What are you doing?
/ I am watching TV.
"It is known that learning becomes meaningful as well as we recognize it as important, transcendent or worthy to any situation of existence meanwhile is possible to valuate it as important to learn, incorporate to my life or intellect" (SEP 2005). From this point of view, I can deduce that, what every individual considers worthy to be learned becomes meaningful. Talking about kids, or teenagers, we as teachers have to go a little farther by really incorporating what they think is worthy. We have to start by always specifying and explaining the purpose of each unit, what it serves for, when and where to use language. This is only the beginning; we can not just change our program. In the emotional field, we have to know our learners, not from our own perspective or beliefs but, to talk and find what they think is meaningful. For instance: Kids love to play so, include games. Kids love music so, include songs. We can not change or avoid the functions but, we can introduce some readings about what they like. Our job is to make learning meaningful by presenting it as something worthy and useful to learn, maybe as a tool for reading books in college, for surviving in another country, for a good job, for knowing foreigners, for passing exams, for getting good grades, or even to score. Teachers have to fixate a worthy cause for learning English and observe, ask, or interview students in order to know what it is meaningful for them and associate topics to their interests or background knowledge. In my experience I have seen that some activities do not work in the same manner in all classrooms; in fact, I have worked a little different in Miahuatlan than when I worked in Huatulco Bays. The contexts are very different: In Huatulco most students like reaggaeton music. In Miahuatlan most students like Durango styled music. Students from Huatulco have a constant relation with English speakers, in fact many students work in tourism affairs on vacations. Students from Miahuatlan have little contact with English native speakers. The point is to highlight that what it is considered meaningful can not be generalized and from that the importance of not to trust only in our beliefs or what most people believe.
One clear example of how to make something meaningful is when asking permission to enter the class or go to the bathroom; in my class, a student who does not ask it in English can not enter or go the bathroom. It seems cruel but, it is not, most of the times they do it in English without a marked effort. This survival questions also help, besides practicing language, to create a respectful atmosphere in class. Sometimes it is funny because some of them can not pronounce as it should but, at the end, they can and, at the same time, realized on the importance to learn such expressions. This relation between important, or worthy, and meaningful opens a gate to best know students' interests, likes, dislikes, emotions, and feelings because it is the keyword for learning or wasting the language, for learning to use the language in life or just get good grades, to be committed or just pass exams.
Principle 3: The anticipation of reward
"Human being are universally driven to act, or "behave," by the anticipation of some sort of reward-tangible or intangible, short term or long term-that will ensue as a result of the behavior" (Brown , 1994, p. 58)
Extrinsic motivation: Rewards
as we know, are very complex. In my case, I am teaching only first-graders who,
most of them have never studied English before and have graduated from governmental
elementary schools. First I would like to say that I have been teaching for
ten years. I started working at private schools and I have been in governmental
secondary level for four years. I mention this because it is well known that
what motivates these students to learn English is far different. At English
private schools, students do want to learn English for several purposes. In
secondary English is just another subject matter. At this point I want to focus
the attention to secondary school and not to only compare both systems. So,
what motivates most students to learn the language is getting a good grade or
qualification. Some students really work hard to achieve it, by all means; some
memorize the content, some cheat, some only want to be graded by homework, some
study for the exams, etc. The only reward to learn the language goes from 6
to 10. For some youngsters this is not very fulfilling. And they show it, by
being rebellious, by skipping classes, by saying that they understand nothing,
by being noisy or lazy in class, by not doing homework, by forgetting their
textbook or materials, by walking around the classroom, sometimes snapping their
classmates or starting a fight (in extreme cases), etc.
Well, this extrinsic motivation decreases while the school year goes on. Some teachers suggest creating rewards for students who show interest and work hard to learn. Some of my colleagues suggest to make fake checks that can be traded for something in the cafeteria or at a store, to make invitations to lunch, to choose teachers for a day, to make diplomas, to post students' photos on an honor frame in the class or on the bulletin board, to give small presents such as stickers, or bigger ones such as dictionaries or magazines (even tough is a little expensive). I use some of them regularly but what has worked in my classes is the method of cards from the book "Metodo de enseñanza del Ingles" of the English teacher Julio Cesar Villafuerte Garcia. The main idea is to provide colored cards when students participate in class. He suggests elaborating three different colored cards and when a student participates will be given with a card and, depending on the type of participation, the color of the card which means extra points. The value of the green card is one point, the blue one, two, and the orange one, five. The size of the card is 9 cm x 5 cm. made of carton paper. 70 green cards, 30, blue cards and 20 orange cards are needed at least. I modified a little the concept and I use them as following. At the beginning of the class I stand up at the door with a package of green cards. Students come from another class but, before entering to the English classroom, they must say "Good morning. May I come in?" I spend three or four minutes on it. Each student gets a green card at the door and goes to his/her desk. Then, using pop sticks (each pop stick has the name of each student written on it), which are randomly picked up, a student has to answer the question "What day is it today?" If the student answers correctly, gets a green card. After that another pop stick is picked up and the next student has to answer to the question "What's the date?" again if he/she answers correctly gets a green card. Since the fourth unit the question "What time is it?" is included at the beginning of the lesson. The Cards are given by oral participation mostly but, also for writing, listening and reading exercises. These exercises could be from the textbook, games, competition in teams, on the notebook, doing drawings. Before the class ends, when the roll-call takes place, students say aloud how many points they gathered during the class and the number of points are written on the list. It seems very complicated but, it is not. Writing down the points takes maybe three minutes. Then students leave the classroom and go to their next class. The method itself has pros and cons. I will enlist some of them that in my experience, have taken place.
1. A large
amount of language is practiced orally.
2. Oral production is evaluated day by day.
3. The teacher immediately notices which students are having problems with the content.
4. Grades are not based only on a monthly exam.
5. Each student knows his approximate grade at any time by knowing how many points he/she has on the list.
6. Obtaining cards encourage participating.
7. Obtaining cards creates daily work habits.
8. Few times students reject an opportunity to participate.
9. Cards, because are something material, create a nice sensation of achievement.
10. Students notice immediately their mistakes and correct them.
11. Cards create the cooperative habit when working in teams.
12. Discipline and bad attitudes are better managed by taking out cards when not accepted behavior occurs.
13. Cards are also given when a student finds me in the corridor or in the street and uses the language.
I would like to support these statements with some personal opinions using this method.
1. The most
important issue is that students practice the language and not only write it,
read it or even translate it.
2. Oral production is evaluated by asking or answering questions, in paired role plays, and when conversations are taking place, it is also checked pronunciation, fluency and, in my case, I prefer to correct mispronunciations at those moments. I really appreciate to qualify oral production and not only writing or reading on exams.
3. After a week or two, students with fewer points of the list ring the bell; they need help. It is important to notice and do something about it because if not, this issue becomes into a con.
4. In fact, getting points in class is much more important than the exam. The exam usually consists on twenty to twenty five points which are added to the list. In class, students who regularly participate obtained more than seventy points in class. So the exam is not as important as participating during the lessons. Besides, in the period of exams, some students could be sick , depressed, have a problem at home or whatsoever situation out of their control which really could affect their performance when answering a paper exam.
5. One of the issues I like most of this method is that whenever students want to know how many points they have in the list, they only have to ask, or if there is enough time, the teacher read the amount of points at the end of the class, or students ask about it when they are giving the cards back before leaving the classroom. It permits to calculate the final grade, and to work in improving it by participating more during the lessons.
6. In the seminar, in Applied Linguistics, our teacher Sam Johnson told us something that I think is very important: "Many (students) are there against their will- prisoners of the system with a love-hate relationship towards English". As it is well-known, sometimes teenagers are not willing to participate. It could be fear to seem ridiculous or not being so cool to their friends, fear to make mistakes, to stand in front of the class, or others (sometimes students can be very cruel to their classmates). The cards are changing those attitudes. If a student is getting several cards her/his classmates, just kidding, try to persuade her/him to borrow some cards to increase their own amount in the list. And what seemed to be a problem at first, turned on a competition to get more cards. Honest to say that students with more cards in the list are chosen as leaders when forming teams.
7. It is not a surprise to me that students' motivation differs from class to class. The changes of mood at their age are constant. Some ordinary day they could not be willing to work and prefer to just see how time passes by but, if a student did nothing or few in a lesson, he/she can not recover the cards that were not gained in that particular class. So, they have to participate regularly to obtain the cards which mean their final grade.
8. As said above, the fear to participate and do it wrong has changed with the cards. Because cards are given by only participating, students do not waste an opportunity to get more cards and, really, I see the effort to answer or to complete the tasks in the classroom. With the use of pop sticks randomly picked up, all students have the same opportunity to participate. Students really take risks to get more cards and the fear decreases a lot. It is not very important if they make some mistakes, the importance lay on being part of the class and practice the language.
9. I think that the cards, because of they are something material, give the sensation of achievement. The qualification or grade is not only an abstract concept, it is something you can handle and keep in your pocket or backpack during the class. It is like working and getting a check. You don't want to waste opportunities for getting more checks. I see it like that.
10. When a student has got a card, it means that his/her performance (correct answers or utterances, pronunciation, meaning, etc) has been adequate (in the teacher's subjective opinion). If the card is not given in those interventions, it means that the performance was low for the level required to answer or the student could not answer and another student is asked the same question or the same situation. This way, students notice what their mistakes were or, if they spoke correctly, or completed a task, how to manage themselves in some communicative situations and be part of it. Maybe in the next intervention he/she figures out their role by the past experience of corrective feedback and improves his/her speech or performance.
11. Forming teams is sometimes a bit difficult. Some students do not get along with some of their partners. Also, some do not want to actively collaborate to complete the tasks. Well, it is simple as this, if a student does not work, he/she does not get cards. The captain of the team is given with the total of cards and all the team decides who deserves a certain number of cards because of the work and effort to reach the completion of the assigned task. This way, usually, all students cooperate in such tasks and one important thing is that, when somebody does not understand a lesson, some of their partners re-explain how it must t be done. I truly believe that leadership rises from these teams whose members collaborate interchanging points of views and explaining at students' levels. Sometimes they understand better from a classmate than they do from their teacher.
12. As said before, students attitudes could be different from class to class. Many times I have faced situations where students are annoyed, sad, involved in extra class or family problems and they are in the classroom but their minds in another far place. Or simply they do not want to work because of laziness or to show off how cool they are fighting against the system. Some bigger students like to bother some shy students or laugh when they are taking the risk to participate. If the class laughs at them (the shy ones) they maybe will not dare to take risks in future interventions and thus, not to practice as it must be. So, when a student, or group of students, show bad attitudes (being nasty to their classmates, saying bad words, being unnecessarily noisy, etc), gained cards are taken out. It subtracts points to the final grade. Unfortunately, I have noticed that some students react worse to this, they get angry and frustrated and, in many cases, they spend part of the class with a worse attitude but, in future classes they will think twice when showing some kinds of bad attitudes towards the class.
13. One excellent idea a colleague provided me with is to reward students who practice the language outside of the classroom or school. It is done according the function we are working with in the classroom, for instance describing places in the city in unit 5, first grade, Reforma SEP 2006. If a student meets me in the corridor or even in the street and tells me something about the places surrounding, he/she gets extra points. What I do is to ask for his/her name, group and list number even tough I know that information, it is just to practice a little more. Some students really like to participate in this manner, others are shy but, it has increased the amount of English and the opportunities to practice it and link it to real life.
qualification is based on rewards, students get used to participate and obtain
something, it creates a pattern of permitted type of answer and discipline,
and it is behaviorism.
2. If time for picking the cards is not scheduled, extra time is needed at the end of the class.
3. If some previous practice is not held, students only work for rewards.
Principle 4: Intrinsic motivation
"The most powerful rewards are those that are intrinsically motivated within the learner. Because the behavior stems from needs, wants, or desires within oneself, the behavior itself is self-rewarding; therefore, no externally administered reward is necessary" (Brown, 1994, p. 59)
is a challenging topic. If we go to the secondary context, where English is
just another subject which the system requires to get the certificate, will
rapidly discover that few students are intrinsically motivated to learn English.
It is some kind of irony that everyone would like to speak English because it
is the language of globalization but, few want to invest the time and effort
that are needed. If a questionnaire about subjects kids like most in secondary,
English could be one of them but, if we ask for the most difficult subjects
English would be again at first places.
The method of cards which I use to evaluate with, is based on extrinsic motivation but, also acknowledgement and praise are part of class; students gain cards according to their performance and at the same time they are praised with affective rewards such as "well done, excellent, very good, etc." in order to motivate them with this public recognition. This at least lowers a little bit the reward-based method of cards of artificial reinforcement." it is essential that extrinsic motivators be backed up by intrinsic motivators If this does not happen, the result is likely to be a reduction in the very behavior we want to promote." (Intrinsic motivation. September, 8th, 2008. http://education.calumet.purdue.edu/vockell/edpsybook/Edpsy5/edpsy5_intrinsic.htm )
It is not only rewards that lead us to motivation. We indeed have to know, investigate and be aware of our students' motives to learn a new language; it can be done at the beginning of school term by asking students' expectations and also duties to accomplish such expectations, how they will do it, what they have to do in order to reach goals, their commitment and obligations they will be under. This way, teachers are able to elicit techniques to include topics students are interested in. For instance: "music is a "marker" of identity and a space of belonging (SEP, 2005. P.42) so we have to include music in which students feel that are expressing their identity, something that make them different from the rest of other groups. If students want to learn English to travel to another country, we have to include some cultural patterns which could attract students' attention. "Classroom techniques have a much greater chance for success if they are self-rewarding in the perception of the learner" (Brown, 1994, p. 59). Here the importance of not being a cold and distant teacher. We have to approach to our students and invest time finding out their interests, motives, emotions, likes and dislikes.
Principle 5: Strategic investment
"Successful mastery of the second language will be due to a large extent to a learner's own personal "investment" of time, effort, and attention to the second language in the form of an individualized battery of strategies for comprehending and producing the language" (Brown, 1994, p. 60)
One of the real problems I have faced in secondary is that many students do not even open their textbook, or notebook, after leaving the class. When I ask them about the past class, many just stare at me or look for other classmates' help. This lack of some students' commitment creates different levels inside the same class; they do participate in class but, few ones study the lessons at home. I had to do something about it; first thing was, as suggested by a classmate in the seminar, to give some extra points to those students who use the language outside of the classroom. Second thing was to have vocabulary quizzes at the beginning of class. Third one, to give permission to go to the bathroom if students say: I have been learning... And say some issues learned in the class. This way, the role of the learner is a little more active in and outside of the classroom. " language teachers are focusing more intently on the role of the learner in the process." (Brown, 1994, p. 59). What I am trying to do is to include more activities centered on students and also to keep them working. To do so, besides Multiple intelligences theory, the VAK model is a great tool for teachers. VAK stands for Visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. They are learning styles. "The original VAK concepts were first developed by psychologists and teaching (of children) specialists such as Fernald, Keller, Orton, Gillingham, Stillman and Montessori, starting in the 1920's." (VAK learning styles. http://www.businessballs.com/vaklearningstylestest.htm September 11th, 2008) Most people learn in different ways and the VAK model help us to have a balance of types of activities in the classroom. The time in class has to be the most profitable as possible. So, some students learn more by seeing, others by listening to, and others by doing something. We have to provide opportunities for everyone by balancing our strategies and trying to reach the maximum of students' learning styles. The time will be better invested if activities are according to students preferences. They will notice their progress because they will see activities as easy ones to perform.
Principles characterized by a large proportion of emotional involvement.
Principle 6: language ego
"As human beings learn to use a second language, they also develop a new mode of thinking, feeling, and acting-a second identity. The new "language ego," intertwined with second language, can easily create within the learner a sense of fragility, a defensiveness, and a raising of inhibitions" (Brown, 1994, p. 61)
of fragility in the language classroom has a lot to do with secondary environment;
the diversity in class is astonishing. The socioeconomic differences within
the class are highly marked; some students come from small towns, others from
cities, there are wealthy students, poor ones, from middle class, some ones
who have not attended a play, a movie theater, a museum, or have not had access
to other cultural sources. Although wearing uniform is required as a strict
requirement, these socioeconomic differences are still prominent. When asking
about elementary schools they come from, we easily realized on the well defined
patterns of this issue. Students who come from private schools have a marked
advantage because they have studied English for three or more years. They instantly
become in the advanced students of the class. Another thing that could help
to increase this sense of fragility is mocking in class. The new language could
sound funny and students tend to laugh at funny pronunciation, or mispronunciation,
during speaking tasks. Another thing is that students who have always being
the most advanced but have never study English could struggle with their own
self-perception; they become shy when trying to develop in the new language.
There could be many more examples of these situations where the teacher has
to show and promote respect. It is a must in secondary; the students could have
the sense of being silly or unable to learn the language. Unfortunately when
it happens it is some kind of lost; we lost students, they reject participation,
they could create a wall between teacher and themselves, they are rebellious,
they bother students, etc. "Learners feel this fragility because the strategic
arsenals of their native-language-based egos, which are normally well developed
and resistant to attack, are suddenly- in the perception of the learner- obsolete"
(Brown, 1994, p. 61). The role of the teacher as a warming and friendly person
will help a lot to break this sense of fragility. "Help such students to
understand that the confusion of developing that second self in the second culture
is a normal and natural process. Patience and understanding on your part will
also ease the process" (Brown, 1994, p. 62).
One of the issues that I do not like about the proposed methodology in the Reform to basic education (RES, SEP, 2006) is that lessons have always to begin with texts, oral or written, and students have to do something with the texts. This is called "concrete experience". Then, the teacher focuses on the aspects of the language taken from the function and the students make a "reflexive observation" of language where students analyze how it works. After that and, by doing the reflection, is supposed that students advance to a stage where they internalize the language. It is called "abstract conceptualization". Then, students have to practice with the language, from controlled to free tasks. This stage is called "active experimentation". So, the process begins with the exposure of students to texts, they analyze them, internalize the language in their own words, and finally experiment with the language. Well, the process sounds logic but, first at all, the sequence mostly takes care of the linguistic intelligence, what about the other learning styles? Also, for kids who have never studied English and who domain of few, or nothing, of vocabulary what would happen if we start with a text? What I believe is that the sense of fragility will increase, leaving them without tools to face the situation. According to SEP, they have to do what native speakers do by taking them as the experts in the use of language (RES, SEP, 2006). I do no argue that expert speakers' speech has to be included in the class, what I am saying is that students must have paradigmatic fields in order to comprehend and produce language. I truly believe that, in most cases, this methodology will lead to translation-abuse classes if teachers do not promote strategies for reading and understanding texts. If we always begin with texts the class could turn boring and mechanical; the same process again and again. The good thing is that this methodology is only a proposal and we have the opportunity to work with approaches or methods we think are the most appropriate for students, content, tasks, and context.
Principle 7: Self-Confidence
"Learners' belief that they indeed are fully capable of accomplishing a task is at least partially a factor in their eventual success in attaining the task" (Brown, 1994, p. 62)
states that self-confidence is a partial factor but, I think is one of the most
important; in fact when students work in teams it usually happens that a leader
comes up. What I have noticed is that those leaders use to help their classmates
and participate in activities in a relaxed manner. I think that this confidence
increases more and more by teaching informally and in their own words to other
Also, teachers have as challenge to increase this self-confidence by creating an adequate learning atmosphere where. We can use tools such as Neuro-linguistic Programming in order to promote self-confidence in classroom; teacher Jose Gonzalez, E.S.T. 61, Santa Maria Huatulco, Oaxaca, has a slogan which names his project: "Speak English. Learning English is fun". In my class I use "I like English" and, in fact, the legend is on a rubber stamp posted on cards which are used as rewards for working in class; if it works for advertising companies, why not in the classroom? Also, we have to make students feel they are capable. " , give ample verbal and nonverbal assurances to students" (Douglas, 1994. P. 62). This one of the main talents which teachers should have as proposed by Marty Dawley (Dawley, M. What to do with failing students. http://iteslj.org October, 12th 2007) ; being warm and strict at the same time, to provide evidence in order to make students recognize success and failure, to be honest and direct, to offer respect and encouragement, to acknowledge growth, and to be a resource. Self-confident students will participate more in class and this practice will be clearly reflected in achieving goals. "Students can establish a sense of accomplishment that catapults them to the next, more difficult, step" (Brown, 1994, p. 62).
Activities have to be from easy to difficult ones; if activities are too difficult, students rapidly will get frustrated. It is common in secondary that after seeing something as very difficult, the student "builds" the defensive wall and, unfortunately, this energy sells and becomes contagious among students. Our lesson plan has to be carefully done step by step, from easy to complex, and always having in mind the purpose of the function, and the differences of our students.
Principle 8: Risk-Taking
"Successful language learners, in their realistic appraisal of themselves as vulnerable beings yet capable of accomplishing tasks, must be willing to become "gamblers" in the game of language, to attempt to produce and to interpret language that is a bit beyond their absolute certainty" (Brown, 1994, p. 63)
has to do a lot with our profession; we, the teachers, have the responsibility
to encourage students to participate actively by providing support, guidance,
and patience. "If learners recognize their own ego fragility and develop
the firm belief that, yes, they can indeed do it, then they are ready to take
risks" (Brown, 1994, p. 62). Risk-taking in the classroom language leads
students to get involved in activities, to practice more, to cooperate with
classmates, to learn by correcting mistakes and reinforcing knowledge. As said
before in the analogy of the guitar, students must practice with language. It
does not matter if they make mistakes, or they are not fluent enough, or if
they mispronounce words, or change word order; what matters is that they have
a contact with language.
The classroom has to be a respectful environment, kids rapidly feel fragile, uncool, or ridiculous in front of the class. We also could lower anxiety by telling an anecdote of how we made mistakes when learning English or something funny related to language learning. It is needed appraisal and encouragement in the classroom as well as some kind of reward, intrinsic or extrinsic.
Principle 9: The language-Culture connection
"Whenever you teach a language, you also teach a complex system of cultural customs, values, and ways of thinking, feeling, and acting" (Brown, 1994, p. 64)
Principle 10: The native language effect
"The native language of learners exerts a strong influence on the acquisition of the target language system. While that native system will exercise both facilitating and interfering effects on the production and comprehension of the new language, the interfering effects are likely to be the salient" (Brown, 1994, p. 66)
Principle 11: Interlanguage
"Second language learners tend to go through a systematic or quasi-systematic developmental process as they progress to full competence in the target language. Successful interlanguage development is partially a result of utilizing feedback from others" (Brown, 1994, p. 67)
Principle 12: Communicative Competence
"Given that communicative competence is the goal of a language classroom, instruction needs to point toward all its components: organizational, pragmatic, strategic, and psychomotor. Communicative goals are best achieved by giving due attention to language use and not just usage, to fluency and not just accuracy, to authentic language and contexts, and to students' eventual need to apply classroom learning to previously unrehearsed contexts in the real world" (Brown, 1994, p. 69)